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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 2-4 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."

 

THOSE BOOK EXHIBITS AT CAA

Jacket, Darby English, "1971: A Year in the Life of Color" (University of Chicago Press)

 

I couldn't face all those talks at the annual conference of the College Art Association this year, but as the conference was held in Manhattan, I did mosey on down to the New York Hilton to enjoy the Smithsonian's reception for its alumni and to look at the CAA's book exhibits.   As with the art world as a whole, postmodernism and identity politics for the most part upstaged esthetics, both in the choice of subjects for books and in the way that these subjects were dealt with, but still I found a handful of tomes that interested me and that I would have bought had I a) the money b) the space to put them in and c) the time to do them justice by reading them carefully and all the way through. Read More 

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GLAD NEWS: THAWS’ GEMS AT THE MORGAN

Paul Cezanne (1839 - 1906), The Bathers, ca. 1900. Watercolor over graphite, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2017.29. Photography by Steven H. Crossot, 2014.
Now, for the glad news, both in itself and for its gentle reminder that ars longa, vita brevis. This is “Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection," at The Morgan Library & Museum (through January 7). It’s a whale of a show, with more than 150 marvelous examples of unique masterworks on paper by dozens of artists from the Renaissance to the 20th century – though I have to confess that I didn’t respond to all of them equally. At the very least, I admired all of them, but only a limited number sent me up the wall with delight. (All of which may be another way of saying that the older I get, the more idiosyncratic I become.) Read More 
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THE MANY FACES OF HORTENSE

Paul Cezanne (French, Aix-en-Provence 1839–1906 Aix-en-Provence). Madame Cezanne (Hortense Fiquet, 1850–1922) in the Conservatory, 1891. Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 28 3/4 in. (92.1 x 73 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960.
At first I wasn’t eager to see “Madame Cezanne” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (through March 15). I revere the Master of Aix-en-Provence as nearly a deity, but it’s his landscapes (especially the latest ones) that really set my nerve ends quivering.

Next on my list of most-favorite Cezannes are the still lifes (especially the simplest ones). Last come the figure studies, especially the portraits--which, when you see them individually, all appear very similar.

Add to that the fact that this show consists of 24 oils, 17 pages of drawings and three watercolors, all portraits of the same person—and I began to fear for my faith. Read More 
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THE WORLD IN AN APPLE: CEZANNE IN PHILLY

Paul Cezanne, Pitcher and Plate with Pears (Pichet et assiette de poires), 1895–98, oil on canvas, 19 5⁄16 × 23 3⁄16 in. (49 × 59 cm), Private Collection (Courtesy Nancy Whyte Fine Arts, Inc).
You would think that, with 69 Cezannes in its permanent collection, the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia might feel it had enough Cezanne, but no—it seems to feel that it can never get enough.

Since I feel the same way, I beat feet to Philadelphia to see the Barnes’s latest special exhibition,  Read More 
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FASHION & IMPRESSIONISM AT THE MET

Jean-Frederic Bazille (French, 1841-1870). Family Reunion. 1867. Oil on canvas, 58 7/8 x 90 9/16 inches (152 x 230 cm). Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Acquired with the participation of Marc Bazille, brother of the artist, 1905.
Here is a show that I am the wrong critic for. It is “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through May 27). This show, which purports to offer “a revealing look at the role of fashion in the works of the Impressionists and their contemporaries,” includes some 80 major figure paintings, together  Read More 
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THE BARNES FOUNDATION, PART 1: THE PUBLIC RECORD

Room 18, east wall, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. (c)2012 The Barnes Foundation.
“The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention” is the title of one of my favorite short stories, by Dorothy L. Sayers, but it might just as well be the title of the tumultuous history of the Barnes Foundation, which this spring opened its doors to visitors at its new home in center city Philadelphia. That history begins  Read More 
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THE BARNES FOUNDATION, PART 2: THE PERSONAL IMPRESSION

View from 21st Street. The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. (March 2012). (c) Tom Crane 2012.

I blush to admit that I never responded to the mystique of the old Barnes Foundation in Merion, not at least in the way its most fervent partisans did, though naturally I greatly admired the many virtues of its memorable collection. Maybe that's because I share what Greenberg called  Read More 
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RON LAUDER’S COLLECTION: NOT ALL GERMANIC

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906). Man with Crossed Arms, ca. 1899, oil on canvas.

The kindest way to deal with politics in relation to the Neue Galerie is to think in terms of art-world politics, not the national (or international) kind. This became clear to me while viewing “The Ronald S. Lauder Collection: Selections from the 3rd Century BC to the 20th Century/Germany, Austria and France” at  Read More 
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