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'Painters in Paris' at Metropolitan Museum
The modern art collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art began in 1947 with the acquisition of Pablo Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein. She was said to have sat for the Spaniard eighty times. And yet Picasso at one point obliterated her face and later painted it from memory. This painting was a forerunner of his Cubism movement, where he painted what he thought he saw, not what he actually saw.
One can see the similarities between African art and the portrait of Gertrude Stein. Her face is mask-like, with heavy lidded eyes. Picasso was also influenced by the Iberian sculpture of his native Spain, and the Roman sculpture he saw when visiting Holland in 1905.
Picasso had a number of periods that his work represented, notably, the Blue and Rose periods. In this exhibit was "Blind Man’s Meal" from the Blue period (1901-04) and "The Actor" from his harlequin or Rose period (1904-06).
Picasso was influenced by Henri Matisse and no one is better suited at painting nudes than Matisse, especially Odalisques. "Reclining Odalisque" is such a great painting with his use of brightly colored fabrics and the overuse (but I’m not complaining) of his favorite color (red).
Rousseau, who also made a distinct impression on Picasso’s work has the painting "The Repast of a Lion" (1907) shown here. It is a jungle theme with a lion devouring the head of another animal. (Perhaps there is some other significance to the painting besides "repast" meaning "meal").
Modigliani’s painting, "Reclining Nude" (1917) was appropriately chosen for the cover of this accompanying catalog. He does such a wonderful job capturing the fluidity of the female nude. Like a river flowing across the canvas, the model extends beyond the artist's view.
Balthus is a curious artist in that he seems to be fascinated by young girls and he likes to watch them. Let’s face it, this voyeurism is not new to the world of art. You only need to look at works by Degas (ballerinas) or Renoir (bathers) to see that this is more the norm than the exception to the rule. Balthus has two paintings in this exhibit that I think border on being exploitative. They are "Therese" (1938) and "Therese Dreaming" (1938).
Don't get me wrong, I'm in awe of the talent that was represented in this exhibition. It doesn't get any better than that!
The tables are turned and Gertrude Stein writes "Picasso."
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