She stood with a fan in her hand, her gaze reaching far beyond the fence.
She filled the museum room with grace and poise – a silent contrast to the visitors, all smart phone at hand rushing by, their short attention span turning stillness into boredom.
I was absorbed by her grace. I never asked myself any questions about what she may have been thinking. There was no need.
I stood there, wishing for her serenity to touch me. And as the visitors withered away, it did. I hope it touches you as well.
“Lady with a fan” by Fei Danxu (China, 1801-1850), ink on paper, hanging scroll, Qing Dynasty – a photo I took at the Shanghai Museum in June 2018.
Inspiration: Chinese New Year and serenity.
Detail of a handmade silk carpet from Kashmir (Srinagar), 20th c. (private collection).
In Ancient Greece during the geometric art period (ca. 900 to 700 BC) and still today in Islamic art, the perfection of geometry and the potentially infinite repetition of patterns were one way to represent and attain the divine.
Did you know that in every handmade carpet there is one thread of a different color invisible to the eye? This is a gesture of humility from the carpet maker since only God, in his eyes, could achieve perfection.
More than 3’000 years later, she is still joyous and slightly mischievous.
Terra-cotta statuette of woman with bird face (H: 21 cm) from Cyprus, dated 1450-1200 BC (Late Cypriot II period) – via the Met, NY.
The afternoon wind lifts
the corner of the paper.
The brush dances.
The ink sings my solitude.
For a brief moment,
I escape the rigidity of appearances.
Inspiration: Shodō (Japanese calligraphy)
“Annunciation” by Caravaggio, dated 1608-1609.
For a class I will be giving, I am going in detail through forty or so representations of the annunciation, from early Christianity (3rd c.) to the early 20th c.; and among them, I admit this one by Caravaggio simply stands alone.
Kindly note that underlining this painting does not diminish the beauty, tenderness and even perfection of details in other wonderful representations (the catacombs of Rome, Byzantine mosaics, Medieval illustrated manuscripts, Giotto, Van Eyck, Da Vinci, Cristus, and so many others).
It is simply that Caravaggio gives the viewer so much to ponder through his mastery of painting light and darkness, the gestures, the seemingly simple composition and more. I will write no more and let you appreciate it.
Art via the Musée des Beaux Arts, Nancy.
A delicate fresco and one of the earliest anthropomorphic representations of Buddha dated II-III c. AD — from the South side of the Monastery of Bagh-Gaï, Hadda Gandhara, 10 km of what is today the city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
For some 700 years, Buddha was represented through symbols such as a footprint, an empty throne or a tree. The first anthropomorphic images date from the mid II c. AD in the Gandhara region and around the Indian city of Mathura.
Photo taken at the Musée Guimet des arts asiatiques, Paris.
“La soupe” Picasso, 1902-1903.
The Blue period of Picasso is one of intense silent emotions; exquisite lines with bodies stretched like the ones of El Greco, one of Picasso’s inspirations; and one that saw the young painter gently find a way to depict his own solitude and despair through the portrayal of the most marginalized, such as women in prison.
This monochrome melancholic period started with the suicide of his friend, the Spanish poet Carles Casagemas in 1901, and lasted three years. By 1904, he shifted to what is known as the Pink period, lasting less than two years, where emotions gently made their way through the portrayal of street performers (saltimbanques), yet never in performance but rather focusing on their family lives.
While in the Blue period, Picasso portrayed most people with their eyes closed or turned away and in complete silence, in the Pink and then Ocre periods, they come alive and sounds start to infiltrate the paintings. By 1907, the great transformation occures with angles and the use of primitive patterns, culminating in “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (MoMA), considered the first modern painting in the history of Western art.
Inspiration: “Picasso: bleu et rose,” Musée d’Orsay, Paris (jusqu’au 9 Janvier 2019).
I saw the painting at the above mentioned exhibit. It is generally on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Ottawa, Canada.