NYC trip, Sept ’10

road trip: NYC:: Sept 23-27 2010

A View from the Williamsburg Bridge

Saturday, 25 September, ca. 9:15AM::  “Well hello, old friend…”  Crossing the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan and looking across the East River for the first time in about a year and a half.  First stop, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Triumph of Henry IV

Here is a photo of a Peter Paul Rubens oil sketch.  I’m really drawn in by the way the forms and colors are built up in the center and sort of fade out into the periphery.  A close look reveals some of these background figures to be still in transit from one place on the canvas to another.  It seems he may have still been shifting figures around within the composition at the time he stopped working on this.  This painting had a palpable impact on me in the Museum, and continues to influence the handling of figures in my own current work.  The info for this painting is shown below:

Rubens painting info

Ugolino and His Sons

Here is Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux’s (1827-75) marble sculpture entitled Ugolino and His Sons.  It is quite possibly my all-time favorite.  In addition to the obviously masterful representation of human forms, this is just loaded with emotion.  If you walk around the sculpture and study each figure, there are a few emotional states going on.  The prevailing emotion, however, seems to me to be agony.  The subject of this work is derived from canto XXXIII of Dante’s Inferno.  The traitor Count Ugolino is imprisoned, along with his sons and grandsons, and left to starve to death.  Before the inevitable starvation is complete, as the story goes, Ugolino partakes in a bit of cannibalism.  This sculpture captures the moment before, where he is contemplating his betrayal, imprisonment, and appetite.

As usual, the Met Bookstore had more treasures than I could a). Afford & b). Carry around all day throughout Manhattan.  Choosing just one book was easy this time though, as I found what is just about the perfect research book for my project.  It is a study of facial expressions from an artist’s standpoint.  Lots of pictures.  Here are a couple of sample pages below:

As I slowly meandered from the back to the front of the Museum, on my way out, I heard a deep rumbling that grew into a loud series of claps, bangs, and booms.  It was not until I reached the main entrance room that I discovered what appeared to be some kind of crazy Pow-Wow going on.  I have no idea what it meant or who the participants were, but it was fun to watch.  I tried looking it up on the Met’s website later, but no luck….

Next, I went to the Whitney Musuem of American Art.  I was particularly interested in their current show, the information for which is listed below along with a quote that was printed on the entrance wall. 

Charles Burchfield was an Ohio/New York artist working from the early to mid 20th century.  Friend and colleague Edward Hopper described his work thusly: “The work of Charles Burchfield is most decidedly founded, not on art, but on life, and the life that he knows and loves best.”  He is most well-known for his watercolors of mystical, transcendental landscapes, often evoking a spiritual experience.  This exploration of nature is sometimes juxtaposed with an interest in the industrial landscape, which he often executed in oil.

Burchfield also worked sometimes as a designer in New York successfully, but viewed this body of work independent from the art he produced (he once referred to his designs as “hack work”).  He eventually quit his day job as a designer to paint full time and moved out of the city.

This show doesn’t really apply to my project this semester, but it sure was a treat.  Below are some images from the show:

Freight Cars under a Bridge (detail), 1933

Black Iron, 1935

The First Hepaticas, 1917-18

An April Mood, 1946-5

One room of the exhibition was covered in a reproduction of some of the wallpaper that Burchfield designed.  His paintings and drawings in this room were displayed on this backdrop, as seen in the photo below:

"Sunflowers" wallpaper, 1921

After my museum visits, I returned to my temporary home and did some analysis.  I took images of many of the faces included in the works I had seen earlier, then classified them into groups according to the basic emotions they display.  Below is an example from the “Joy” group.

Finally, I met up with a model that I had worked with previously a few years ago, to get some good drawing time in.  I tried to focus on quick gestural drawings, with attention to body movement and expression.  See below from one of the sketches from this session.


About AlexEConrad

Fine artist. Freelance designer.
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