Cell phones are such marvelous things today. All the photographs I will be showing you from our trip were taken on my phone and uploaded to the computer (no trick, I just e-mailed these to myself). Quite a bit of editing can also be done right on your phone, but I choose to edit my pictures on my computer. I'm used to it, know what I want or need to do, and I can see it better!
The two paintings I'm showing you today are in the National Portrait Gallery and may not be what you expected to see at all. No presidents here (the presidential portrait I was most interested in had a photography ban - always ask at the information desk on the main floor what that particular museum's photography policy is - that way you won't be embarrassed by a looming guard bellowing, "No photography allowed!" in front of tour groups of middle schoolers and somber, well-dressed people talking in whispers).
Anyway, the first painting was a pleasure to finally see in "real life". I've admired it for quite a while and you know I am not a "horsey" person. I've always been amused that the painter did not chose the horses' "best side" (shades of a fabric strip I had with a similar view)! Here we are presented with the hindquarters of these four footed animals; it's a view not usually featured. So why do you think the artist deliberately chose to do that? Think of most of the horse portraits and horses-in-paintings you know. Horse portraits are usually just the horse - a valuable, beautiful racer or a proud, strong stallion. Then there are those paintings of children with their ponies, military men waving swords on rearing stallions (wouldn't you rear if your rider was flapping a sword around? I know, I know. Horses are trained for warfare, but really . . . ?). Bucolic scenes with horses in the fields and battle paintings with horses - well, horses in battle. Does this painting fit any of those categories? Who are the riders? What exactly is the point of this painting?
I like it because I admire the light and shadows. The colors are strong, and if you know your color theory, look at which colors the artist chose to use and where. I wish I had the talent to be able to paint this piece, and I love the point of the scene. Oh, remember to click on the images so you can really see them and notice that I take a picture of the museum's exhibit card (otherwise I'd forget, you know I would). You'll want to read those.
This painting is by a favorite artist, but I had forgotten he had painted it and had never known the story behind it. I was very happy to reacquaint myself with the former and learn the latter. This painting is very Art Nouveau to me, and I love both the Art Deco and the earlier Art Nouveau styles that were so successful in the early 20th century (although, note the date this work was done). This is the kind of painting which makes me think of possibilities for quilt and embroidery designs. Although seemingly a simple design, there is more complexity here than I had noticed in the first quick glance. Benton turned this into a metaphor by adding the two bent heads of wheat, the curved lines of the leaves, and then the abrupt break in that one stalk. The plants are grouped into similar but not identical groups. The cut rows in front are regimented but again, not identical. Lots of lessons here! Those little things make one really look at this painting not just glance and pass it by.
What I'm trying to show is how my museum visits have changed over the years. First, I went with my mother and brother to every museum in shouting distance, and I did enjoy looking at the pretty pictures. Then I was an art student looking at the exhibits with the serious eye of one who wanted to learn how-to (that person is still within me). Now I not only wonder how-did-she/he?, I also look for things I can use: the little lessons in a large piece that can be translated into something entirely different, or bits and pieces of larger things (like buildings) that can be lifted and used in a different context all together.