Les Acres Vertes est L’Endroit à Être

Wrong way, you fool!

The Getty Museum filled two rooms with wonderful landscape drawings — inks, charcoal, washes, watercolors, pencil, pastel, you name it — produced by various French talents from the 16th to 19th century, called it “Capturing Nature’s Beauty,” then threw open the doors and proudly invited the public, including your reporter, to see what they had done.

They done good. Some of the loveliest drawings of manicured gardens and the gutsiest drawings of impossible tangles of trees and bracken you will ever see. From Nicolas Poussin — whose baroque painting of the four seasons graces the covers of Anthony Powell’s four volume Dance to the Music of Time — and his pal (whose name I forget because I failed to bring my note/sketchbook) all the way up to the time of Pissaro, Van Gogh and Seurat.

In between we find a not-exactly-a-landscape-drawing by Gustave Doré called “After the Shipwreck” though it looks more like “About Ten Seconds Before the Shipwreck.”

Doré is banned at Yale for illustrating Dante with a picture of Muhammed in Hell!

Photography was allowed, but the dim room lights (dim to preserve the delicate artwork) called for a better camera and a better cameraman than I. But here we have an attempt to bring you photographic evidence of this case containing sketchbooks

Book em, Daneaux

…and even that I had to goose in Photoshop to make anything appear. I include the photo because time and again I have used this weblog to exhort all who would listen to carry sketchbooks when they visited art galleries. (HERE, for instance.) These hardworking French artists would insist further — and with Gallic passion — that you visit nowhere (“N’allez nulle part, imbécile!”) without a handy blank book to doodle in, even such very tiny books such as you see above. I brought the lens closer to show you the one on the right:

That's a little more than sketching, I think. It's a finished work almost.

It’s a pocket sized sketchbook carried around by the redoubtable Rosa Bonheur who, among her many accomplishments, painted a famous portrait of Buffalo Bill. She was so enthralled with his Wild West Show. a popular feature of the Exposition Universelle in Paris, 1889, that she dragged Mr Bill to her studio and made him sit for her. She wasn’t the only painter knocked out by Bill: Paul Gaugin went to see the Wild West Show repeatedly and even bought a ten gallon Stetson.

I know all this arcana because I read Jill Jonnes’ terrific book about the great Exposition and Buffalo Bill and Thomas Edison and the building of the Eiffel Tower: Eiffel’s Tower. A great fast-paced read, full of odd information, and very funny. I laughed plenty and not unlike Maurice Chevalier. I would say to Ms. Jonnes what Queen Victoria (also a Wild West fan) said to Annie Oakley: “You are a very clever girl!”

You have only until the 1st of November to visit this wonderful drawing exhibit at the Getty, but you can buy the Jill Jonnes book any old time and read it at your leisure.

Eiffel’s Tower
And the World’s Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count
by Jill Jonnes
Viking Books, Hardcover, 368pp.

For another post about French art (specifically BRONZE art) you needs must click HERE.


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