Perspective, Pigments, and Pandas | Getting Real

Posted in Blogs, Visual Art

April 18, 2014

Sometimes, I just need to get real.

I don’t mean as in get a better grip on reality, although sometimes that can be a good thing. I mean that even with all the gazillions of images of paintings that are available on the internet, I love to get out and see actual paintings. And by paintings I mean paintings that were done by masters of their craft more than 56 minutes ago.

Last fall, Mr. Badger and I did just that. We read about an exhibition of John Singer Sargent’s watercolors that was being shown at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mass. We said, “Let’s go…and while we’re in the neighborhood, why don’t we go to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. While we’re at it?”

The exhibition of Sargent’s watercolors was made up of two separate collections, one owned by the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the second group owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  Together, there were more than 100 watercolors. The MFA also has an extensive collection of Sargent’s oil paintings, including the transcendent Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.

Painting by John Singer Sargent; MFA Boston; photo by Anne Belov

Painting by John Singer Sargent; MFA Boston   (photo by Anne Belov)

The six-foot tall blue and white Chinese porcelain vases (a matching pair, no less) that are depicted in the painting sit flanking the painting. It’s the first thing you see when you walk into that gallery. Many painters carp and complain about painting “white stuff,” whether it’s fabric or flowers.  No one ever did it better than Sargent. Except maybe for Whistler.

Nah, I think Sargent was better at it.

One of the other treats in store for us in Boston was the murals that Sargent (him again???) painted in the third-floor entry hall in the Boston Public Library. (Have I mentioned how much I like Sargent? Or Boston?) It took some time to figure out where they were, and despite the fact the lighting hadn’t been changed since Sargent completed the murals, it was a veritable visual feast.

Going to 19 museums in 19 days (and mind you, some of those 19 days were travel days, which means more than once we went to more than one museum in a day) is not for the faint of heart. The Metropolitan Museum of Art on New York City’s upper east side has killed less obsessive people, I’m sure. But, hey! They had a bunch of Sargents’ so I was a happy, if footsore, camper.

I’ll have to save the rest of my creative revelations for some other posts. But let me leave you with this thought: life is fleeting and if you have a passion for something, don’t let too much time go by before going and experiencing that object of your enthusiasm in real life. I recently have had a reminder of just how fleeting life is.

Portrait of Madame "P" by Anne Belov

Portrait of Madame “P” by Anne Belov

Go get real, with the real thing. Oh, pardon me, I have an appointment with some pandas.

Anne Belov paints, writes, makes prints, and is the founder of The Institute for Contemporary Panda Satire. You can find her paintings at the Rob Schouten Gallery, her cartoons on The Panda Chronicles, and her new book coming out soon.

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