Tag Archives: Getty Museum

Who Was That Lady?

Athena or Hera or Demeter or Aphrodite or Someone ElseSay good-bye to this ancient Roman goddess before she leaves her present home in The Getty Villa in Los Angeles. She will return this Sunday to her birthplace, Sicily, where, we hope, she will be better treated than before when she was left buried like an old tin can for several millennia. Having seen how nice she looks when cleaned up, the Sicilians suddenly want her back, so back she goes.

Her name is Aphrodite or Hera or Demeter or Athena, depending on the now-missing identifying objects she once held, and on the now-missing headpiece she once wore. Maybe the Sicilians can kick around in the dirt and find something to I.D. the lady.

You can see that Jane Doe — Giovanna Cervus in Latin — is a doughty hunk of woman. Eight feet at least, without shoes. The picture above includes a field trip kid for scale.

Mostly she’s made of limestone, but her head, arms and feet are marble. Marble, intones the informational card on her pedestal, was an expensive Greek import and so was saved for the nicer bits.

We’re also told that close inspection reveals faint traces of pink and blue pigment in the crevices. No such close inspection was vouchsafed this member of the public. The alert museum guards forbade pedestal clambering. Peer as we might from the allowed distance, nothing pink or blue was revealed to our sight. But we take the coloration as a matter of faith from the Getty curators who have never lied to us.

The statue was carved sometime around 400 B.C. Or 400 “B.C.E” to you godless heathens out there. It’s well preserved — not too badly weathered, that is — so we guess the Sicilians valued Ms Unknown Goddess and took good care of her for a while, until they forgot where they’d put her.

Maybe she's Miss Etna 400 B.C.


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.

Enormous Foot of Louis XIV, Part II


We took Madame NiceWork to the Cast in Bronze show at The Getty Museum of Art. While she orbited the freestanding items and buzzed by the ones pressed against the wall, Mlle NiceWork and I sketched some of our Baroque favorites.

I undertook a study of a bust of Louis II de Bourbon, known to friends as “Le Grand Condé” because of his big condé. The bronze was cast in 1688 by Antoine Coysevox (pronounced “faugh faugh faugh”). The shoulder pad of his armor is a lion’s head.

I also drew the left foot of King Louis XIV (photo two posts prior), just because.

I considered doing a drawing of a really striking statue of an almost-nude girl wearing only a shawl over her head and shoulders, her hands tightly clutching her upper arms and legs pressed together in an attempt to stay warm. The bronze, by Houdon, is titled — I kid you not — “Shivering Girl.” (La Frileuse). I was too tired to draw anymore, though, and so I left the poor kid, teeth chattering, on her pedestal.

For another post about gallery sketching try THIS ONE.

Enormous Foot of Louis XIV

The French now regret breaking up the giant statue.

We returned not many hours ago from the Getty Museum of Art where we had reduced ourselves to a pleasant state of footsoreness while circling the many French statues on display there in a new exhibit. The show is called “Cast in Bronze” because most of the work in it is made of that metal. We know because we stood next to an ill-behaved visitor who rudely rapped on one of the busts with his knuckles until reprimanded by a guard. The sound produced before the intervention was clearly the Bong of Bronze.

Almost every conquering figure, proud glaring bust, narrative alto relievo and cute lil mantelpiece miniature is Baroque, the grand and jazzy art style which writhed, burgeoned, strutted and roiled all over France during the 17th and 18th centuries until the peasants revolted in 1789 and pretty much smashed everything nice. Most of the stuff in the show is what the rioters didn’t get to.

In color, the pieces are an unrelenting gleaming noir. In size the statuary ranges from doorstop to bigger than the largest breadbox ever conceived. The most monumental statue, an equestrian Louis XIV, was unable to attend having been broken to pieces and scattered by representatives of the Enlightenment. But the one bit that remains of le Roi Soleil is awfully impressive just sitting there by itself: An enormous royal left foot (énorme pied gauche royal) of solid bronze.

See? That’s it up there. Gumball machine to show scale.

For another NiceWork post about French art at the Getty (French drawings, to be specific), you should click HERE.

Advertising Art

Look! It's Urban Light!Museums, along with every other institution, are taking a hit in these straitened times; or so I dimly gather from Tweets, weblogs and half-read newspaper articles. Museum investments (the interest on which keeps the Monets on the wall) have taken a hit. Donors, too, having taken hits themselves, are not donating at those gracious levels that make curators do their little victory dances after successful fundraisers. Worst of all, economic distress has resulted in museum employees being layed off.

All tough news. I don’t know what I’d do without art museums. Schmooz tycoons? The section in my Rolodex where I list all the wealthy art-collectors  who I can drop in on for a bit of cultural uplift is pretty thin. Empty actually.

The Dürer bug scares me.So I was pleased to see these clever ads for two of my art-gawking mainstays: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and The Getty Art Museum. I fervently hope the ads return whatever they cost with a stampede of new art-hungry visitors and museum gift shop spenders.

These particular posters which I spent long minutes studying — I assume there are others placed strategically around the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area — curve about one side of cylindrical advertising pillars, sharing space with notices about new movies and places to make one’s skin silky smooth. The pillars themselves stand in the Calabasas Commons, a somewhat upscale mall where women shop for overpriced clothing while their bored husbands stand around abjectly on the sidewalk taking pictures of pillars with ads for local art museums.

May the notices call as strongly to the monied hordes as they called to me.

Hand of Joseph

Hand of Joseph the Patriarch

The hand of Joseph. Wall mural at “Captured Emotion” exhibit of Bolognese Baroque painting at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA. Detail of Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, Carlo Cignani, about 1670–1680

Getting Getty

e gave ourselves a break from all the unpacking (mostly finished) and all the organizing (barely begun) to explore “the Getty.”

That is, the J. Paul Getty Museum. It’s a vast art exhibit housed atop what in the Midwest we would have called a towering peak, but which only counts as one of the “foothills of the Santa Monicas” out here. The collection, such as we saw of it, left us gasping — or was it the elevation above sea level that left us gasping? Alreading living half again as high above the all that nice oxygen we had grown accustomed to in the Old Country, we had climbed by car, by foot and finally by tram higher still to an altitude where the Santa Ana winds barely had enough O2 molecules to form a breeze.

Fortunately we forgot to bring cameras — they would only have gotten in the way of gawking — and so to illustrate this post I scanned an item I bought at one of the many Getty gift shops: a little notepad printed to resemble an Italian illuminated page.

It’s a tie-in to one of the numerous changing exhibitions: Faces of Power and Piety, a display of hand-written and illustrated books from the very late middle ages. There’s an example to the right. It’s a portrait of the guy who commissioned the little prayer book. I say commissioned because the work was done by a professional artist. No monk stuff here. We’re on the cusp of the Renaissance and folks with cash are starting to take over the art business. Folks like J. Paul Getty, come to think of it.

Well, there were lots of other displays — some changing shows, some more or less permanent — in the multiple venues surrounding the plazas and fountains and gardens. I won’t try to describe them any more than I’ll attempt to describe the campus. The place itself has been described to me many times, but nothing prepared me for the wow-inducing views of L.A. and the Pacific, or even for the audacious architecture. Another reason it was fortunate we had left our cameras behind. Photos wouldn’t capture the place any better than words: you’ve got to be in the place to see it.