Asian Art Museum new exhibition Tomb Treasures #2 : Dancer Figurine and Comment by Yuan Yuan Tan, #TombPleasures

Dancer Figurine

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This is my second post on the Asian Art Museum new exhibition.  This exhibition includes a creative approach which I personally appreciate very much.  It is the “Tomb Pleasures” self-guided tour with contemporary experts.

http://www.asianart.org/regular/tomb-pleasures

Ten contemporary experts commented on ten highlights of the exhibits.  I particularly like the comment on the Dancer Figurine by Yuan Yuan Tan, Principal Dancer of San Francisco Ballet.  She is my favorite ballerina in San Francisco Ballet.  I am very impressed not only by her performance in SF Ballet but also her comments on this exhibit.   Below is the picture I took in the gallery.  It includes the comments from Yuan Yuan Tan on the Dancer Figurine.  She said: “Certainly as long as any other form of human expression, dance is in our very nature to express ourselves and our desire to be understood.  It is a window into another’s soul.  Through the movements and expressions of dancers, we catch a glimpse of their inner monologue:  the joys, agonies, triumphs, and failures that are part of the universal human experience.”

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The female dancer figurine shows a very dynamic posture of the “flying swallow” dance.  It is very bold in its design 2200 years ago!  My reader Adelaide commented on my previous post that she found the dancer figurine very modern.  It is really eye-opening for us.   Apart from this figurine there is an ensemble of dancers in the gallery.  I took a few of these photos and created a short video on Magisto.  I am posting these photos and the video here which is also posted on YouTube.  Enjoy!

 

 

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco — Tomb Treasures, New Discoveries from the Han Dynasty

 

Last week, I visited Asian Art Museum of San Francisco with family and friends, to see this interesting exhibition.  My friends are all world travelers.  Visiting the Museum is one of the best travel programs for them.  In order to share with my friends and readers who may be interested to see this exhibition in future, I took many photos.  The museum allows photo taking without flash.  I am so thankful!

The exhibits include 100 objects which are new discoveries from the tombs of two kingdoms in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 BCE).  The exhibition is a collaboration of Asian Art Museum of  San Francisco and Nanjing Museum of China. There are lots of interesting information included in the gallery captions, the docent tours, as well as the exhibition catalog.  Apart from appreciating the beautiful artworks made two thousand and two hundred years ago in ancient China, I am thrilled that these objects also give us a glimpse of the way of life of the elites in the Chinese society.

I am particularly interested in the figurines of dancers and musicians.  The dancers wear long sleeves garments and show big movements that stimulate our imagination how the dances were appreciated at that time.  The bell set gives us some idea about the musical performance for the elite.  Many visitors may also be in awe seeing the jade suit and the jade coffin of the elite.

As inscribed on the artworks in the Tomb Treasures:  “Everlasting happiness without end” is probably the theme which may evoke visitors’ emotions.

I hope you will visit this exhibition which will end in May this year.  If I have time, I will study a little bit more some of those objects and share the information with you.  Meanwhile, I hope you will like these pictures shown in the gallery and slide show.  Just click any picture and you will see the photos shown in carousel.  Enjoy!

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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.

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

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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.

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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

Girl with a Pearl Earring – Last week in de Young Museum, San Francisco

 We finally got to see this famous painting at de Young Museum today.  I have delayed this visit due to many reasons:  too busy at work and at home; had a vacation in april; waiting for our cousins to come so that we can all go together…

Like the Terracotta Warriors exhibition at Asian Art Museum, which will end tomorrow, May 27, this exhibition is ending this week next Sunday, June 2.  I told myself:  I cannot miss these two exhibitions.  I need to give some priorities to satisfy my interests in art.   Also,  the SFMOMA will  be closed for two years after June 2.  I can’t afford NOT to see this Girl with a Pearl Earring.  Since this is the closing week, there were many visitors.  The line to buy tickets was very long.  As a member, I already reserved the tickets, but still had to wait in a shorter line.

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This is from the museum website  “The exhibition features 35 paintings representing the range of subject matter and technique characteristic of 17th-century painting in the Dutch Republic. Among the works traveling to the United States is the Mauritshius’ celebrated masterpiece Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer and the enchanting The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius. The painting Vase of Flowers by the gifted Rachel Ruysch, one of the few female painters of the Dutch Golden Age, is being restored especially for the American tour.”

I had actually seen most of the other paintings before but my primary interest today is to discuss the “Girl with a Pearl Earring”.  There are so many written reviews on this painting since the release of the Movie in 2003.  I still remember after the movie was released, I went to NYC for a short trip and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has most of Vermeer’s paintings.  In one of the galleries where Vermeer’s paintings were housed, a big group of Japanese tourists took turns to take picture with a very small Vermeer’s painting.

According to a  New York Time post,  “The No. 1 question from visitors to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, according to Emilie Gordenker, is “Where is ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’?” “…this beloved Vermeer painting, the Dutch Mona Lisa, as it has been called, doesn’t reside at the national Rijksmuseum at all but some 30 miles down the road in the lesser-known Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, in The Hague.”  Although this “Dutch Mona Lisa” painting has been very popular for several paintings, it has rose to fame of a “superstar status” after the movie was released.

The novel and the movie are definitely sensational.  What is really behind this beautiful painting?  Who is this young lady?  There is no answer so far.  There is very limited information about Vermeer, and even less about the models.

According to the Guardian, “Exactly why the painting is the source of such fascination is difficult to explain, since very little is known about the painter and even less about his subject. Experts say the mystery is part of its allure. “Sometimes the questions are more intriguing because they can’t be answered,” Melissa Buron, assistant curator of the exhibition at the de Young museum told The Wall Street Journal. “Who was she? What was she thinking? What was her relationship with Vermeer? The mystery is part of its popularity.”

Let us leave the mystery behind for a while, and see if there are pieces of more interesting information about the painting itself.  I found this website essentialvermeer.com very helpful.  I selected a few topics of my interest here.  The following are all extracted from:

 www.essentialvermeer.com

Man in a Turban
Jan van Eyck
1433
25,5 x 19 cm
National Gallery, London

The Turkish Turban in European painting:

“The appearance of the young girl’s turban within the context of Vermeer’s seemingly quintessential Dutch oeuvre should not come as a complete surprise. Other objects of “Turkish” origin may be associated with the painter. Some of the carpets which appear as table coverings in his interiors (contemporary painters rarely represented these precious imports lying on the ground) are of Turkish origin. They must have been appreciated for their evocative floral motifs and the large mass of warm red color which enlivened the otherwise geometrical and cold interiors.

However, we must not believe that anything called “Turkish” in contemporary accounts really came from that country. The term was loosely used to describe exotic imported objects which were much in vogue. In the inventory (29 February, 1676) taken shortly after the artist’s death we find listed among other things: “a Turkish mantle of the aforesaid Sr. Vermeer,” “a pair of Turkish trousers” and “a black Turkish mantle” all in the “great hallway” of his house. Some scholars have suggested that the two tronies in “Turkish dress” found in the kitchen could possibly have been by Vermeer’s hand.”

Who posed for the painting?

“A careful consideration of the Girl with Pearl Earring gives rise to the question of how far the painting is to be taken as a portrait. P. T. A. Swillens, who compiled the first exhaustive study of the artist’s life and work in 1950, believed that one of the most important characteristics of a 17th-century portrait was its likeness and although we can no longer judge of this anymore, the face would not be called a beauty in an aesthetic sense. Swillens writes that Vermeer made no attempt to idealize her.

Contemporary scholars are not in agreement on the subject. According to Arthur Wheelock the painting is an “idealized study” which reveals Vermeer’s “classical tendencies.”

Not a single sitter in Vermeer’s extant paintings has ever been identified, including the young girl in the Girl with a Pearl Earring. Many critics believe that she may have been Vermeer’s first daughter, Maria who would have been about 12 or 13 years old in 1665-1667, the dating scholars have assigned to the painting. However, this painting was certainly not a portrait in the 17th-century sense of the term, but rather a tronie. In any case, she resembles the model in Vermeer’s Art of Painting(see above).”

Inspired by an Italian painting?

Beatrice Cenci
attributed to Guido Reni
1599
64,5 x 49 cm
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Roma

“Nonetheless, Vermeer scholars have proposed a wide variety of Dutch and foreign models including, traditionally, theBeatrice Cenci by the Italian painter Guido Reni.* While such a connection may appear far fetched, Vermeer certainly knew the Beatrice Cenci story which had captured Europe’s collective imagination. He could have easily seen one of the many copies of Reni’s original or engravings which circulated throughout Europe.

Beatrice, the daughter of the rich and powerful Francesco Cenci, suffered from her father’s mistreatment. Violent and dissolute, he imprisoned Beatrice and her stepmother in the Castle of Petrella Salto, near Rieti. With the blessing of her stepmother and two brothers, all of whom shared her exasperation at his continued abuse, Beatrice murdered her father in 1598. She was apprehended and, after a trial that riveted the attention of the citizens of Rome, condemned to death at the order of Pope Clement VIII, who may have been motivated by the hope of confiscating the assets of the family. In the presence of an enormous crowd, Beatrice was decapitated in the Ponte Sant’Angelo in September of 1599, instantly becoming a symbol of innocence oppressed.

It has been hypothesized that the great Italian painter Caravaggio was present at the decapitation and was inspired to paint his Judith Cutting off the Head ofHolofernes. The precise and realistic rendering of Caravaggio’s scene, anatomically and physiologically correct to the minutest details, presupposes the artist’s observation of a real decapitation.

The influential Vermeer writer Lawrence Gowing had proposed the influence of Jan Scorel’s female portraits. The Scorel and Reni influences have been largely set aside in favor of somewhat less exotic connections with the Dutch painter Michiel Sweerts.

* While the Beatrice Cenci is traditionally attributed to Reni, its poor quality in comparison to other works of the master has led many critics to reject it as an autograph work. Instead, it could be by a painter in the immediate circle of Reni, possibly Elisabetta Sirani, who is known for rendering the master’s models in abbreviated and reduced form.”

How big is this painting?

As this painting is so small, and there were too many visitors crowding round the painting, I only stayed in front of the painting for a while.  What did I see and what did I think about?  I think the lighting and shadows painted here have particularly highlighted the Girl’s eyes looking at the artist, and now at the viewers.  Her eyes and her lips which are sexually implied, are very different from other women’s look and behavior in Vermeer’s other paintings.

~Images  from Google~

The mystery will continue, and the painting “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” will continue to be a superstar.  Good luck to your guess and imagination!

 “Everything you can imagine is real.”
― Pablo Picasso

China’s First Emperor’s Warriors are going home! Last week to visit them at Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Part IV – the Waterbirds

As I mentioned in my last post, I am taking a few of my colleagues at lunchtime to see the Terracotta Warriors as it is the last week of the exhibition at the Asian Art Museum.  After the visit today, one of them told me that her favorites are the waterbirds.  If you have read Part II or the second post about this exhibition, you may notice I also said that I found the waterbirds most interesting.  To satisfy my curiosity, I searched and looked around, and found some interesting remarks from scholars and curators.  The following information is extracted from the Asian Art Museum Docent Website

Waterbirds

In 2001 a pit containing fifteen terracotta musicians and forty-six life-size bronze waterbirds was found about three kilometers northeast of the First Emperor’s tomb. The birds, which retain some of their original pinkish paint, were discovered on the banks of an artificial waterway. Some archaeologists believe the pit represents a royal park or sacred water garden. Water was the Qin dynasty‘s chosen symbol because it extinguishes fire, the element associated with the preceding Eastern Zhou dynasty (770–256 BCE).

I also searched for information at  iTunes U.  Press 5 and 6, and you will hear an audio recording about the waterbirds.

Scholars or curators are all amazed at these waterbirds,  not only of their life-size scale,  but also of the different charming poses.  None of them is identical.   Some have leisurely poses as if they are gliding gracefully on the pond,  while some are stretching their long neck looking for food.  There are 6 cranes flanked by 20 swans and 20 geese with 15 warriors surrounding them. 

Apart from the sacred water garden theory, there is another interpretation:  the whole set of waterbirds signifies heaven and earth, which is part of the design of the underground palace.  What is buried on the ground is not really underground,  but represents a replica of the celestial world.  What about the 15 warriors surrounding the birds?  Some scholars think that they may be musicians, and some think they are archers.   It looks like that the music theory does not quite hold because no musical instrument was found.   The archers’ theory is more receptive by many scholars, because bow and arrows were found nearby.  Also, in the ancient days, capturing  birds may represent the arrival of spring, which means the rejuvenation of life.

No matter which theory holds, I think these waterbirds have characters and are attractive to many viewers.  Do you want to see them again?  Only a few more days are left!

Coming Soon

Apart from the waterbirds, I am actually very interested in studying the warriors.  None is identical.  Please stay tuned for the next few posts!