Why go to exhibitions?

Having reblogged three posts by other people, it is time to add a post of my own which has been prompted by today’s artdaily.org newsletter. It reported that an exhibition is about to start at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, an excellent establishment which I was fortunate enough to visit eighteen months ago while doing the Dead Leaf Tour as I believe the locals refer to our New England In The Fall Tour.

After a coach tour of the city of Boston, we had a  free afternoon. I don’t know where other people on the tour went but the Management and I knew where we were heading! I’d originally wanted to see the Vermeer at the Isabella Gardner. Unfortunately someone had pinched it so that wasn’t an option.

The Concert by Johannes Vermeer, one of 13 works of art stolen in 1990

According to artdaily.com, at the new exhibition, called Dancing with Renoir, “Renoir’s ‘Dance at Bougival’, one of the MFA’s most beloved treasures, has been reunited—for the first time in Boston since the MFA’s Renoir exhibition in 1985–86—with two of the artist’s masterpieces, ‘Dance in the Country’ and ‘Dance in the City’, lent by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.”

My own photograph of Dance at Bougival

Dance in the City and Dance in the Country

In my opinion, bringing paintings together like this is the main reason for such exhibitions. Many years ago the Management and I were in Amsterdam when a major Van Gogh exhibition was on and there were three of his sunflower paintings hanging side by side. In the words of old exam papers, it allowed us to “compare and contrast” the three paintings.

In a similar way, at last year’s Degas exhibition at the Royal Academy, there were three paintings clearly painted from the same position. “The Dance Lesson” (1879) was loaned by National Gallery of Art, Washington; “Dancers in the Green Room” (1880-94) came from the Detroit Institute of Arts; “Dancers in the Rehearsal Room with a Double Bass” (1882-85) was from the Metropolitan Museum of New York. In fact all three have a double bass – I suspect the same one!

Edgar Degas – The Dance Lesson

Edgar Degas – Dancers in the Green Room

Dancers in the Rehearsal Room with a Double Bass

Even if you’d travelled from Detroit to Washington and New York, you still couldn’t have compared the three paintings the way we could when they were hung together.

In another room at the Degas exhibition, they had his sculpture ‘the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen’. On the walls they had many of the studies for the sculpture indicating where Degas had been in relation to the model. Again, these studies are normally dispersed across many collections around the world.

(N/O/P at 6 o’clock are face on to the model)

Studies at positions D, F and N

If I ever had the opportunity to curate an exhibition I would love to bring together the three paintings of the Battle of San Romano by Uccello. I have seen all three – one still in Florence at the Uffizi, one at the Louvre in Paris and one in the National Gallery in London – but would love to see them reunited again.

Now then, boys and girls, your homework for tonight is to tell me which paintings you would bring together in your imaginary curated exhibition!

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About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website johnpindararts.weebly.com
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8 Responses to Why go to exhibitions?

  1. I really like your writing. And as for bringing some paintings together I would like to see Monet’s Rouen Cathedral paintings all in one place (a few are at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris).

    • The Wikipedia article on these paintings has seventeen, many as you say still in Paris but others in Germany, Switzerland, Serbia and USA. It would be an interesting challenge to someone!

  2. wws2 says:

    Hi John, thank you for following. I agree that it is only through exhibitions that artworks that are now scattered around the world can be brought together and viewed in a mutual context, which can allow us to study, for example, the development of a theme or technique in an artist’s oeuvre. BTW, as a science teacher who spends her time drawing when she can, I admire that you are now an EX-physics teacher following your printmaking passion! Good luck with the OCA course.

    • Thank you for your comments. After a working life as a scientist (in various guises), my life now revolves around my art (also in various guises). I never planned to be an artist when I retired but I did plan to do things with my hands, with my head and with my heart. I’ve found my art ticks all three boxes!

      • Incidentally, is there any significance in your “Woman Walking Slowly” name?

        • wws2 says:

          It reflects the move back into drawing after many years away and the shaky confidence that accompanies a new venture as I start to find my feet. It also relates to the idea that women are often frowned up on for spending time on their own interests. We are expected to be efficient people, occupied with useful tasks like managing a household. I notice that you refer to your wife affectionately as “The Management” – I think that she might understand what I mean…! Best wishes, Glenis

  3. Pingback: Julia’s Class Reduced To Rouens! | notes to the milkman

  4. Pingback: P79 – Research Point – Series Artists | The Milkman Goes To College

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