Keeping the batteries charged

Looking at the work of the masters is one way I stay energized. I saw two exhibitions at NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art last month:
Paul Cezanne’s 29 paintings of his mistress, Madame Cezanne and the breath-taking tapestries of Pieter Coecke van Aelst.

Cezanne painted the “Madame” pictures over a period of 20 years in the latter part of the 19th century. Individually, each painting is powerful in its own right. But viewed as a collection, they offer a glimpse into the head of one of the great painters of the modern era as he evolved his vision and technique. It’s like watching him think out loud – a good reminder that making art is NOT done by the numbers; there’s no roadmap. Rather, it’s searching, experimentation, searching, experimentation and, every once in a while, discovery.

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Coecke’s tapestries are overwhelming in many ways. While the artistry is fairly common to the time – mid-16th century – the scale and craft of the objects themselves are audacious. The tapestries average 15′ x 30′ in size; they took up to 2 years each for weavers in studios in Brussels to make; and they were so expensive to craft, only the kings of Europe had the money to commission them and the palaces in which to display them. My reaction upon walking into the Met’s gallery where they hung was a bit like when I first saw the Grand Canyon: you can see it in a photograph, but being in its physical presence is jaw-dropping.

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