Thursday I had a doctor’s appointment in Houston. I normally schedule these to include a trip to the art museum to see the latest exhibits and to check in on my favorites—Matisse’s bronze backs in the Cullen sculpture garden and the European impression wing; I’ve stopped by the Menil on occasion too–but the Menil is closed and the MFA is open by appointment. Not knowing how long a doctor’s appointment will last, I contented myself with a walk through Herman Park.
While it is not as large as Central Park in New York City, it is not small either. There is a golf course, a zoo, a small railroad, bikes for rent and many long trails and pathways for walkers and runners. The bird population is plentiful ranging from ducks and geese to pigeons and I’m sure others–but those were the ones I saw begging on the pathways. It reminded me of student days in Madison where no-one dared sit near the path–they would be covered with birds seeking bread.
This tree near the ticket booth for the zoo has always fascinated me. Although it is full size, to me it looks like a bonsai tree—something a few of my medical school classmates and I tried during student days—not money involved in raising one from a tiny sapling dug from the side of the road somewhere and destined for mowing. My bonsaid morphed into miniature roses when I did my residency—but they stayed behind when we moved to Texas.
It was warm—no–HOT—and this fountain looked deliciously appealing. Two paddleboats circled around it, the passengers laughing as they encountered the spray. Had I been more appropriately dressed and with a companion blessed with a good pair of calves, I would have joined in.
This isn’t the official name–but I always run by this painting to say hello.
And then there is Matchstick Man which used to greet everyone in the Sculpture Garden across the street from the MFA in Houston but has since been moved indoors–and now is somewhere hidden in its archives.
I think I like the bold color, the simple clean and unfussiness of this painting.
A retrospective of Degas from his earliest paintings to his final photographs is at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston until Jan 16. I had been to the exhibit in December but was pleased to return again to inspect the incredible range of work he completed.
Most of us think of his work as the ballet dancers or perhaps the women bathing but there was a lot more. He was born into a wealthy family, his father a banker and was able to afford private art school in France. He spent time with his aunt and her family in France and also spent time in New Orleans. He painted a lot of portraits but they are all in very unusual poses or they are occupied with a task such as playing a guitar or judging cotton. He made lithographic prints and monoprints with colored inks when the bank failed and he needed to support himself.
Always his paintings reveal something of human nature–the ballet dancer putting on her stockings, the bather straining to wash her toes. His preliminary sketching was detailed and intimate and then there is such a range of different techniques–one using essence–letting paint sit on newsprint until the oil is soaked away and then thinning with turpentine. And who would think about wetting tracing paper and dissolving pastels in water to paint with?
Of course he knew Delacroix and Manet–Matisse bought one of his unfinished paintings after his death and used it as inspiration for some of his work. He knew the impressionists but preferred his studio work although he did produce some lovely plein air landscapes for a London sale–again–he needed money.
His last works were in photography and not surprisingly many self portraits—but not the usual self portraits–they were in interesting poses as though someone opened a door quickly and took a casual photograph–or it was of two or more people and again not in formal poses.
At the end of the exhibit before we left, I had each of us choose our favorite piece. It was hard but I chose the Beggar Woman–an early painting very realistic—but then there wer some charcoal drawings that at first glance were just black outlines of limbs–but on closer inspection were delicately modeled musculature. Sherry chose the washerwomen ironing a shirt with one of them yawning and Jeanelle chose one of the bathers. We all really liked the sculpture of the girl trying to reach her toes to wash them.
We ate Mexican food and then spent a few minutes perusing the shelves of Texas Art Supply–I did not need a single thing and I came away without spending a penny—-but then there’s another exhibit at the MFA to see—-and the Menil
more photos of the day including our favorites are here: https://sylviaweirphotos.smugmug.com/QuiltGroups/A-day-with-Degas/
Today i dropped in at the MFA in Houston to see the newly hung show of a select group of paintings by Monet.
It has been up just two days and there were quite a few people there including several groups of school children armed with discussion sheets and pencils and a teacher/chaperone who cajoled them into looking at yet another grouping.
The show was grouped by area of the Seine River; Monet was from a shipping company and was in the family business as a youngster but left to become a painter. He spent some time in London and also in Paris but spent a great deal of time painting various spots along the Seine. The Seine freezes over in the winter and when the ice breaks up there are huge ice floes that crash into the riverbanks. Some parts of the Seine are quite placid enabling sailing regattas but Monet found the fleeting quickly turning boats too challenging to paint and so he concentrated on those tethered in the port.
Some of the paintings are quite dark with a very small palette of color; viridian green and gray; others are more typical of what we expect; soft pastels that shimmer. Most of the pieces are best seen at a distance of many feet; a challenge when there are people inspecting the paintings from only a foot or so away.
I ran out of time before I could look at the contemporary art display adjoining Monet’s but did manage to collect a few postcards==but none of my favorite one of two boats moored with the bows pointing at the viewer.
After my dermatology appointment in Houston, I spent a lovely afternoon in the Museum for Fine Arts. Today’s special exhibit was Houghton Hall, the estate of Sir Walpole. For those who are interested in Downtown Abbey, this show highlighted some of the fabulous furniture, china, silver, and paintings of the 1700’s. Sir Walpole was evidently a very large man, requiring special furniture to be built to hold him. Some of the chairs were upholstered in a red plush velvet that matched the designs of the carved wooden back chairs. There were two japanned (lacquered) card tables with matching chairs. The tables had four little bowl like depressions at each place—I suppose for the betting chips.
There was a mockup of the marble dining room and the library–both of which were absolutely immense–easily 25 feet or more in height. It was reminiscent of the giant redwoods –you had to crane your head up to see the top—and all the people touring looked like miniature people.
Drawings of the house design, inventory lists of house contents—plus some interesting books from the library. One book was written by a physician on a trip to Jamaica where he catalogued and drew plants and animals of the area. I suppose he was the only scientist on the voyage and since there couldn’t have been a lot of medical things to do–he occupied himself with observing the world around him.
Most of the paintings were sold to Russia–I think it was to pay off the heavy mortgage. However, there were pieces by Artemisia, Gericault ( a grouping of horses that had no back legs), and Sargent. I always thought that the portraits of people were of them wearing their Sunday best—but it turns out, that like Van Gogh, the draperies were frequently provided by the painter. One painting of Sybil Turner-a family friend–included a shawl which he gifted to her upon completion of the painting. They took breaks from the sitting and painting by playing piano duets.
An interesting exhibit–monumental in size.