Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Van Gogh, Cezanne and Beyond and my Art Cube

Does too much excitement make you forget...or am I getting old?

A few weeks ago, during our visit to San Francisco, I had the opportunity to fulfill a dream in my life- to see the works of the great Masters of Art- Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin. and the rest. While my wife was shopping at Costco, I saw an advertisement that the works of the post-impressionist masters are displayed in the de Young Museum at the Golden Gate Park. My wife was unable to come with me; she had to pack our things for our flight back home later that night. Good thing that my newly married sister, Mary Elizabeth, who also loves art, was kind enough to accompany me to the Musee d Orsay exhibit.

The Musee d Orsay is a strain station created for the Paris International Exposition of 1900 which was transformed into a museum by world renowned architect, Gae Aulenti. It first opened to the public in December 9, 1986 with its goal to highlight the art of the western world from the period 1848 through 1914. Its collection, one of the world finest, is composed of paintings, sculpture, drawings, decorative arts, furniture, photography and architectural work from this period consolidated from the collections of the Louvre, Jeu de Paume and Modern Art Museum in Paris as well as major gift from private collectors, artists and their heirs. Their collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings represents the finest survey of its kind in the world.

The museum was full when we arrived late in the afternoon. One has the option for an audio guided tour, but since we were pressed for time we skipped this one. The exhibit was entitled, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne and Beyond: Masterpieces from the Musee d Orsay, which was the second part of the two part exhibition, the first showcasing the Birth of Impressionism.

In this exhibit, eight signature paintings by Cezanne, such as the Bathers, were shown, illustrating his pioneering exploration of pictorial structure. Great works of Van Gogh were also featured, including, a Self-Portrait, the colorful Bedroom at Arles and my sister Mary's favorite, Starry Night over the Rhone. I kept trailing a learned "art critic" who was avidly explaining the paintings to her friends. I learned so much from her, like how the chair in Van Gogh's Bedroom at Arles was blocking the door, the simplicity of the floor and the who the pictures were in the frames. She said that Van Gogh was in depression during this times and ostracized himself from the world which led to his eventual suicide.

One of my favorite pointillist painters, Georges Seurat was also featured. My favorite was Model in Profile. His paintings are light and dreamy from afar, but when you go near the painting, you'll notice that all the strokes are in dots. It must have taken him a long time to finish one painting considering that a hundred thousand dots would be required for one work. Paul Gaugain's influential position is also represented through ten of his superb works like the Portrait of the Artist with the Yellow Christ and the Tahitian scene Arearea. Toulouse-Latrec also makes an appearance with bold The Lady Clown Cha-U-Kao and the contrastingly intimate, The Bed.

Other artist prominent artists featured in the exhibit include Monet, Signac, Denis, Moreau, Bonnard and Vuillard (the Le Nabis), and Henri Rosseau. His Snake Charmer was mystifying. Expansive canvases by the Nabis created a tapestry-like environment, filling the gallery space with the gaiety painted light and flat patterned color. It was truly a visual treat.

Riding a cab on our way home, I saw Ludwig van Beethoven's statue in front of the California Academy of Sciences building. We told the cab driver to stop cause I need to have myself pictured beside my musical idol. We alighted, and my sister took some pictures- which brings us back to my first statement. At the back of the life-like statue, I placed the Art Cube which I purchased from the Museum store before posing for pictures. I never got it back.

On our way to the airport for home, it suddenly dawned on me that the Art Cube was left at the Golden Gate Park. I sat at the pre-departure area dismayed and rode the plane for 16 hours thinking and dreaming about life, my wife and kids, the paintings and the Art Cube.

When we arrived two days later, my sister posted on her FB wall- "dorky brother, we found your cube"....