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A Review of the French Modern Masters at MFA Houston Feb 3 2007


Saturday, Feb 3, 2007 was the membership opening for a collection of French modern Master painters at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston Texas. MOMA otherwise known as the Museum of Modern Art in New York is undergoing some renovations and has lent these pieces out to Houston.

The day was bright, sunny, but really cold and I joined a large group of members already standing outside the doors at 9:45. The museum personnel took pity on us and let us stand inside the set of double doors just to keep warm. When we finally got in, there was a mass rush for the escalator and the show. Later on, I could see the line extended down the escalator—and this was a day just for the members.

The show will be up until early May and is well worth seeing.

MFA has a nice collection of Modern Art Painters but this was a treat. There were several galleries with each room completing a theme  or era. There was an appropriate quote on the wall—and I believe the quotes were the actual artist’s handwriting. I splurged and bought the hard back copy of the collection for later study.

What I found interesting was:

  • these masters spent a lot of time learning the basics. They went to the museum and copied other works or studied under other painters or went to school.
  • their families were amazingly helpful. Mrs. Cezanne posed, Mrs. Manet, Mrs. Monet, and assorted uncles, room-mates, aunts, cousins etc. It’s hard to tell if they were simply indulgent or caught in the moment.
  • self-portraits or portraits of artists in their working studio with their works near them were a recurrent theme.
  • they deliberately sought out series work. They painted frequently and the same subject, and the same type of subject repeatedly. Van Gogh said he tried to find something as interesting as his sunflowers and decided that cypresses were appropriate. One of the paintings shown was done while he was in the mental hospital. 
  • They were not afraid to use their own sensibility in color. The most successful were the ones that were most daring in their use of color.
  • They were not afraid to adapt ordinary subjects and use their own inventive technique in interpretation. Thus van Gogh mixed the colors on the painting.  

That said, I feel encouraged to seek out a series, and perhaps to experiment with a self portrait.

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