Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure — My Notebook

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure The SFMOMA has just reopened after three years of renovation. As a member of SFMOMA for many years, I am very excited of its new look and expansion. Due to work, I was only able to visit the museum twice on Thursday nights. Both visits were […]

via Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure — My Notebook

Looking East at Asian Art Museum–How Monet, van Gogh and other Western Artists were influenced by Japanese Art and Culture

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If you live in San Francisco or travel here for a visit, this is an art exhibition that you will enjoy very much.  Asian art is not as commonly appreciated by most Americans, but the Impressionists are more popular.  You may be interested  to know that in the late 19th Century, a generation of artists and collectors embraced Japanese art, and created the trend called Japonism.  Impressionists and post-impressionists including van Gogh,  Cassatt, Degas, and Monet were much influenced by the Japanese art and culture.

In this exhibition, there are many paintings that you can pair the art work of the Western artists with the Japanese artists.  I usually don’t take pictures in the museum, but this time I was encouraged by the museum’s request:  SNAP and SHARE.  So, I did my part.  I took many pictures without flash and shared with you all.  Very often, artists inspire one another, but it is interesting to learn how they were inspired by other cultures without even having visited those countries.  We have social media nowadays and technology.  But what kind of communication did they have at that time?   Art has become the subject, as well as the media in communication.  Art has existed since the beginning of civilization.  It  never stops to inspire, to cultivate, and to appreciate.

I know very little about Japanese Art though I visited Japan many years ago through a work-study program in the university.  Ten years ago, I attempted to study Asian Art at the Asian Art Museum, but failed to complete the course due to work.  This exhibition has re-ignited my interest in this area.  I looked up some information via the internet and bought some books.  There are some interesting articles I found.  Take a look if you are interested.

Monet’s collection of Japanese prints: what are the historical and cultural factors, and how these two cultures met.  If you like, let us study a little and hold a discussion group, just to have fun.  Meanwhile, these photos I took told us lots of information.  The exhibition is still on till February 7. Don’t miss this opportunity.  See you there!

I also found this You Tube video from Asian Art Museum very educational.

Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting

Renoir_396 (396x259)Renoir_396 (396x259)In July this year I attended a conference in Philadelphia.  On the last day of the conference before flying back to San Francisco,  I was glad that I had a few hours left to see this exhibition which I  had unfortunately missed in London on May 31, 2015, which  happened to be the last day of this show Inventing Impressionism in the National Gallery, and the first day of our UK vacation.  In Philly, the show was called  “Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting”

Paul Durand-Ruel was a visionary art dealer and the champion of the new Impressionists who were subject to severe art critics and rejection. After the Impressionists had  become famous internationally, during the time of economic downturn, Paul Durand-Ruel was literally saved by the Impressionists whose paintings were particularly loved by the rich Americans.

In this extraordinary exhibition, there were paintings from museums all over the world including Musee d’Osay, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Metropolitan Museum of Art etc. They were paintings of Monet, Renoir, Degas, Manet, Pissarro.  Although I had seen many Impressionists’ work in various  museums in the United States and Europe, it seemed to me that these were the extraordinary arising from the ordinary.  My favorites are these three Dance paintings of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The Dance at Bougival was the one I had not seen before.  The other two: Dance in the Country and Dance in the City, which I saw some years ago at Musee d’Osay have always been my favorites.  To me, it was an emotional moment to see the three reunited.  These three paintings were bigger than life-size.  My eyes were glued at them for a very long time. I thought, when will they meet again after the show?  When will I see them again?

Hey, my friends! Bored by my self-muttering?  Let’s have some fun.  Here’s a trivia question for you.  What music did you hear?  Please share with me!

Diego Velazquez’s Las Meninas , a Masterpiece of Beauty and Puzzle–My Spain Trip #6

My dream to see this painting had finally come true!   This is one of my few “most desired to see” paintings.  My trip to Spain last year was one of my most satisfying one.  I did have the opportunity to visit three of the most famous museums in the world, and see three very important works of art while traveling.   Lucky me!

A visit to Prado Museum in Madrid was one of the most exciting programs in the itinerary.  We joined a guided tour.  Though the docent was excellent, I drifted away from the group when we came to this gallery where Las Meninas was placed. I was able to see this beautiful painting only a few feet away whereas my fellow travel mates were listening to the docent at the back.  My attention was completely absorbed into this amazing piece of art, imagining that I was among this group of individuals drawn by Diego  Velazquez who created a puzzle out of this picture.  No wonder this has become one of the most important paintings in the Western World!

Diego Velázquez’s masterpiece Las meninas (ca. 1656),

Museo Nacional del Prado

890px-Las_Meninas,_by_Diego_Velázquez,_from_Prado_in_Google_Earth (556x640)

Blake Gopnik , Washington Post staff writer, called Las Meninas an encyclopedia of artistic greatness, in his article: The Velazquez painting ‘Las Meninas’: An encyclopedia of artistic greatness. Gopnik said: “Las Meninas never stops giving: Every time you think you’re done, the picture insists that everything you’ve thought was wrong, and that you’ll have to start over from scratch. And instead of putting you off, it makes you enjoy that relentless perplexity.”

“The painting shows a large room in the Royal Alcazar of Madrid during the reign of King Philip IV of Spain, and presents several figures, most identifiable from the Spanish court, captured, according to some commentators, in a particular moment as if in a snapshot.[2] Some look out of the canvas towards the viewer, while others interact among themselves. The young Infanta Margaret Theresa is surrounded by her entourage of maids of honour, chaperone, bodyguard, two dwarfs and a dog. Just behind them, Velázquez portrays himself working at a large canvas. Velázquez looks outwards, beyond the pictorial space to where a viewer of the painting would stand.[3] In the background there is a mirror that reflects the upper bodies of the king and queen. They appear to be placed outside the picture space in a position similar to that of the viewer, although some scholars have speculated that their image is a reflection from the painting Velázquez is shown working on.”   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Meninas

 “Measuring “ten and a half feet by nine feet wide” (96), the painting’s near life-sized figures, along with its “spatial construction,” creates a sense of overwhelming realism, emphasizing complexities, such as literary-like symbolism, that confuse the viewer.”  (Natalia Rivera: Diego Velazquez’s Las Meninas ).

There are many intellectual discussion and interpretations of this painting. I am interested in the theory of Michel Foucault.

Michel Foucault devoted the opening chapter of The Order of Things (1966) to an analysis of Las Meninas. “We have pictures not simply of what things looked like, but how things were made visible, how things were given to be seen, how things were shown to knowledge and power.” Jonathan Rajchman, Foucault’s Art of Seeing.

After reading a few interpretations of this painting, I can’t help asking the same question like everybody else: What is this painting about?  Is it about power?  Whose power?  The Monarch’s power, or the people’s?

There is another very natural question: Who stands in front of the painting?  Most will say “the King and the queen?  No, I would say:  It is me, you and me! “The viewers complete the art’ ~ Marcel Duchamp.

Finally, I cannot end this post without referring to Picasso’s Las Meninas which is a series of 58 paintings that Pablo Picasso painted in 1957 by performing a comprehensive analysis, reinterpreting and recreating several times Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez. The suite is fully preserved at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona and is the only complete series of the artist that remains together. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Meninas_%28Picasso%29

We did see Picasso’s Las Meninas (all the 58 paintings of this suite).  Which one do I like best?

Although I am a big fan of Picasso, my answer is :  No doubt Velazquez’s Las Meninas is the greatest work of art in western cultures.. Picasso is my favorite artist but his Las Meninas is not my favorite painting.  My goal is to post Picasso’s most famous painting Guernica at the Museo Reina Sofía, Queen Sofía Museum next time.  Stay tuned, my friends.


Pablo Picasso, The Maids of Honor (Las Meninas, after Velázquez) (Les Ménines, vue d’ensemble, d’après Velázquez), La Californie, August 17, 1957, Museu Picasso de Barcelona

How David Hockney, sees the world, with the use of technology

My Notebook

David Hockney: A Bigger Exibition

San Franciscans are indeed blessed with many opportunities of appreciating interesting art shows.  Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco  (de Young Museum) ‘s “David Hockney, a Bigger Exhibition” is closing today, January 21, 2014. I finally had the chance to see it yesterday.  David Hockney is one of the best known living artists, renowned for his mastery of drawing, oil painting, printmaking, art design, photo collage, and the use of camera and video-making, with the help of technology.

I had seen a PBS interview of David Hockney back in October, 2013 when the show just began. I would like to share with you this video from PBS to get an overview of this exhibition and then two articles of art review…

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The Tales of Hoffmann – San Francisco Opera – Jacques Offenbach – from “Barcarolle” to “Can Can”

The Summer Opera season has just started in  SF Opera.   Tonight we watched The Tales of Hoffmann.  The music, the singing, the costume, the set, were all beautiful.  This is the trailer from SF Opera.

The Tales of Hoffmann Trailer from San Francisco Opera

Jacques Offenbach, the Composer


Les contes d’Hoffmann (in English: The Tales of Hoffmann) is an opera by Jacques Offenbach. It was first performed in Paris, at the Opéra-Comique, on February 10, 1881.

The libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on three short stories by E.T.A. Hoffmann. E.T.A. Hoffmann himself is a character in the opera just as he often is in his stories. The stories upon which the opera is based are Der Sandmann,Rath Krespel, and Das verlorene Spiegelbild.

The opera contains a prologue, three acts and an epilogue. Offenbach did not live to see his opera performed, since he died on October 5, 1880, just over four months before its premiere. Before his death, Offenbach had completed the piano score and orchestrated the prologue and the first act. Since he did not entirely finish the writing, many different versions of this opera emerged, some bearing little resemblance to the original work. The version performed at the opera’s premiere was that by Ernest Guiraud, who completed Offenbach’s scoring and wrote the recitatives.

 Barcarolle —  the most famous aria

The most famous aria from the opera is the “Barcarolle” (Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour), which is performed in Act 2. Curiously, the aria was not written by Offenbach with Les Contes d’Hoffmann in mind. He wrote it as a ghost-song in the opera Les fées du Rhin (which premiered in Vienna on February 8, 1864 as Die Rheinnixen). Offenbach died with Les contes d’Hoffmann unfinished.

Ernest Guiraud completed the scoring and wrote the recitatives for the premiere. He also incorporated this excerpt from one of Offenbach’s earlier, long-forgotten operas into the new opera.

The Barcarolle has been incorporated into many movies including Life Is Beautiful and Titanic.

The most famous aria Barcarolle  ….sound familiar?   Yes, we all played it when we were children!  It is beautiful and has different ways of presentation.   I found this one played with mandolins, guitar, double bass and piano.  Enjoy!

Barcarolle, J.Offenbach, ATTIKA “Musica Poetica” official version

 “Barcarolle” was originally composed for soprano.  Let us hear these beautiful voices:

Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca sing “Barcarolle”

Finally, please don’t forget, that Offenbach has another very popular piece widely used in movies all over the world: Can Can.  This video uses the images from the artist Toulouse-Lautrec  who is famous for his Moulin Rouge paintings.  Enjoy!

French CanCan – Jacques Offenbach (Orphée aux Enfers)

I would like to end this post with a very interesting quote from Thomas May who wrote in the program book for SF Opera.  He said that Hoffman has become Offenbach’s signature work but it has actually made a big shift of his style from light-hearted comedy. He quoted David Littlejohn’s comments: “as if the world’s most popular comedian had a try at playing Hamlet just before he died, and pulled it off successfully.”

Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 words – “Who is coming for dinner tonight?” and “Who is cooking for dinner tonight?”


Photo Credit Courtesy of Michelle Weber

In response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 words, this is a story about a man and a woman.  The title of the story is:

“Who is coming for dinner tonight?” and

“Who is cooking for dinner tonight?”

Liz and Ed met at the Best Culinary Academy.  Before Liz enrolled in the Academy, she was an A+ high school senior.  Instead of going into a regular college like the University of California system, she wanted to be a chef.  She has been a big fan of the Food Network, and never missed an Iron Chef show.  Her favorite Chef is Bobby Flay.

“Wow, if I become a chef and work in Bobby Flay’s kitchen,….not only will I be able to learn more from this celebrity chef, I may one day become….”  , Liz thought.

Ed, on the other hand,  received a degree in culinary arts and was a member of the fifth graduating class of the French Culinary Institute.  Bobby was on the first graduating class.   Ed  and Bobby were alums but they did not know each other.  Ed later became a stock broker while Bobby went back to the kitchen after having been tired of the stockbroker work.  Three years later, Ed did the same thing as Bobby.  He was tired to be a stockbroker and thought he would be a better chef than a stockbroker.  By that time, Bobby had already become famous and was an iron chef on the Food Network show.  Ed was not as fortunate.  He went on and became a teacher at the California Culinary Academy.  Here, he met Liz.

Love at first sight?  Not at all.  Ed did not like women who aspired to become a chef.   He told himself:  “Never marry a woman chef.  She cannot even cook for her husband.  And I am not going to cook for my wife!”   Well, see what happened.

The Food Network has a new show named “You think you can cook?”.   Although Ed is already a culinary teacher, he did not have experience working in a kitchen on television.  He went to consult with his boss Ron, a senior executive of the Academy.  Ron said, ” Get a good sous-chef to help you.”  Ed did have a sous-chef, but he had to take care of  family business, and did not have time to participate in the TV show”.  After much consideration Ed approached Liz who was one of her best students.

“Are you interested in assisting me in the next cooking show?  It’s Bobby Flay’s show, and we will be able to meet with him.”

“What?  Bobby Flay?  Of course.  I would love to be your show-partner”.

So Ed and Liz worked together and experimented with a number of recipes with different ingredients.  The day of the show came.  They went to the studio.  Here they met Bobby Flay.  Nobody knew that this was a special show.  Bobby Flay was  on a secret mission: to challenge the contestants in different kinds of cooking – BBQ’s, Pies, Pizza, desserts and more.  Ed and Liz and other contestants thought that they were going to the studio to shoot their profile for the show.  What they did not know was that Bobby dropped by for a surprise visit and challenged them to an unexpected “cook-off”.

In the episode where Ed and Liz were the contestants, Bobby dropped by Ed’s house without announcement.  He asked Ed and Liz to prepare a dinner with a special ingredient:  mango!  Ed remembered one of Bobby’s popular recipes

“Grilled Jerk Chicken with Mango Cilantro Salsa”.

“Hey, Liz.  I have an idea.  Since we live in San Francisco, let us design a recipe that reflects the diversity of the population here.

The special ingredient “mango” is now a starring of a new recipe:  it is called “eat mango like a lady or gentleman”, and “fried rice with chicken and mango”  which has an Asian flavor but a Western approach.  How did these two special dishes fare?  Well, Bobby liked them.  Ed and Liz won!  Since then, they made lots of shows together.

Coming soon!

 “Who is coming for dinner tonight?” and a companion show ” Who is cooking tonight?”

What happened then?  Ed and Liz fell in love.   They then got married and were happily ever after.  What is their favorite dish that they eat at home? ” Fried Rice with Mango and Chicken”.  This is not bad, ladies and gentlemen!  Try a bite.  Yum, Yum!  But then who is cooking at home?  Who knows, and who cares?

If you are interested in Ed and Liz’s favorite dish, here’s the recipe : Fried Rice with Mango and Chicken

By the way, their newest show has become the most popular one on Food Network.  Check it out: “Ladies and Gentlemen: Do you know how to eat mango like a lady or a gentleman?”

~ The End~


The names of the fictional characters in this story are all fictions, with no true information or references to any persons.


The Chefs picture:  Photo credit courtesy of Michelle Weber

Source of information about Bobby Flay’s background and shows: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Flay

The fictional food show’s title “you think you can cook” is inspired by Rachael Ray’s show “so  you think you can cook”.


The fictional “secret mission” of Bobby Flay’s show is inspired by his show “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” http://www.foodnetwork.com/throwdown-with-bobby-flay/index.html


The story, the fictional titles of the TV food shows “Who is coming for dinner tonight” and “Who is cooking tonight”, and “Ladies and Gentlemen: do you know how to eat mango like a lady or a gentleman?”, the  photos of the two dishes and recipes, “Fried rice with chicken and mango” and ‘ladies and gentlemen…” are properties of the author of this story~©DenRecipe