Hello, Summer, my old friend. So here it is, Memorial Day weekend. Time to pull together a few loose ends and start packing. As you may recall, I signed off last week from the rooftop at the Met, on my way to see Van Gogh: Irises and Roses.
At The Met
The ‘Van Gogh’ is a small show consisting of four paintings tucked away in the Lehmann wing, a delightful part of the museum flooded with natural light. The paintings date from May of 1890, when Van Gogh was getting ready to leave the hospital at St Remy in Provence and head back north. This is the first time in 125 years that they have been exhibited together.
Thanks to Van Gogh's lifelong habit of documenting his work in letters to his younger brother, Theo, an art dealer in Paris, we know a great deal about the mindset of the artist, about his ideas pertaining to form and color. It was this strong fraternal bond between the two men that sustained Vincent throughout his life, both intellectually, emotionally and financially.
To read his letters to Theo, asking him to send paints and canvases, is heart-wrenching. The man whose work would command astronomical sums after his death, could not even afford to purchase the simple tools of his trade.
In his last letter to Theo (written May 11 or 12, 1890) before leaving St Remy for the north, Vincent mentions the irises and roses. Best to let him speak for himself. “I’m working on a canvas of roses on a bright green background and two other canvases of large bunches of violet irises, one against a pink background in which the combination of greens, pinks and violets creates an harmonious and gentle effect.” But the effect he described would not last, as I will explain in a moment.
"By contrast, the other violet flowers (ranging to carmine and pure Prussian blue) stand out against a striking lemon yellow background with more yellow tones in the vase and the surface on which it stands, creating an effect of fantastic, ill-assorted complementary colors, the contrast of which is mutually enhancing."
Van Gogh had said that paintings fade like flowers. How prescient he was! In the painting to the left, the white roses and cloth had beenpink. This painting, now in the Met's collection, had belonged to Van Gogh's mother; at her death in 1907 it was noted the roses had lost their color. As has the background and vase in the canvas with irises (see above). While still beautiful, it would not have pleased the exacting Van Gogh.
The fault was not in Van Gogh's eye or his understanding, but in the inferior quality of the light-sensitive 'red lake' pigment he was using. Consequently, the violet in the canvases has faded to blue and the pink to white. A pity. Van Gogh once declared Delacroix 'the greatest colorist of them all,’ but, nowadays, many would say the same of him.
At The Frick
A few week ago, I had mentioned paintings at The Frick that told the story of Don Quixote de la Mancha. Paintings that were the basis for the extraordinary tapestries that have been on display these past few months. As the rights and distribution department at The Frick has generously shared a number of their photographs, I wanted to do the same. So, here they are, in all their glory and without comment, as they have legends below describing them. ( And there's a Turner for your enjoyment, one I never fail to re-visit.)
Charles Coypel (1694-1752) "Don Quichotte servi par les filles de l'hôtellerie" Huile sur toile 58 x 72 cm MJAP-P 2379 Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André – Institut de France © Studio Sébert Photographes
When You Need a Break
The charming paintings by Coypel belong to the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris, a great favorite. Especially when lucky enough to snag a table on the terrace overlooking the garden. But should you be at The Frick, best to walk down the block to the Brasserie Cognac East at 70th Street and Lexington Avenue.
So, gals and guys, it's time for me to say adieu. Summer is nigh, and BonitaBabs is off on a holiday, heading for Paris. Perhaps lunching at the Musée Jacquemart-André. New York slows down in the summer, with the denizens heading for the beaches or the mountains, so I wont be posting, not on a regular basis, until after Labor Day. But I'll be thinking of you...in all the old familiar places.
Until then, I'm wishing you good times and good friends with whom to share them. Before you go, remember: sharing is caring. Merci beaucoup.