Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Favorite Paintings at Cincinnati Art Museum

The first American city I lived after graduation from an American university was Cincinnati and its art museum, Cincinnati Art Museum, became my first home museum I have explored multiple times.  This happened after I'd visited some wonderful museums in the US, including Metropolitan Museum in New York City, and National Gallery in Washington, D.C., but a home museum is a home museum and the easy access made it special.

The Cincinnati Art Museum features an unparalleled art collection of more than 60,000 works spanning 6,000 years and boasts of works by Andrea Mantegna, Sandro Botticelli, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Thomas Gainsborough, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Childe Hassam, William Merritt Chase and Paul Cezanne, etc. Amongst works by these renowned masters and other worthy artists, I chose two paintings as my favorites from that museum.

The first choice is a painting by Tiziano Vecellio (Titian) - Portrait of Philip II.  It is a quite disturbing painting.  We see the king of Spain sat uneasily in his armchair, in wonderful slashed gown and chain of knight order, and a crown on head.  But he was hardly regal.  His weasel like feature and his furtive side glance made one wince and cowed.  This is a sickly monarch tormented by some inner conflict.  Only after some mental adjustment, one could move away from gazing into his penetrating eyes and wander about to see the surroundings of this king, and realized the wonderful touches Titian had.  This painting is the manifestation of wonders of those venetian masterpieces - buoyant color palette and lively brushstroke, etc.  It also had the hallmark of the psychological insight of Titian.  It is a marvelous piece.

Portrait Of Philip II, Tiziano Vecellio (Titian) (Italian, b.Circa 1488-Circa 1490, d.1576), Circa 1550-Circa 1551
42 3/16 x 36 1/2 in. (107.2 x 92.7 cm), framed 60 1/4 x 54 1/4 x 5 1/4 in. (153 x 137.8 x 13.3 cm), oil on canvas

The second favorite of mine is a unfinished piece by the French painter Honoré Daumier - the equivalent of a social-realist writers like Émile Zola or Theodore Dreiser.  Even in the unfinished stage, this painting had great beauty to recommend it.  The delicate profile of the character on the forefront, the flowing lines and the moody atmosphere gave me an impression that any extra paint would be unnecessary.  For a painter, it is often hard to judge when to stop.  Sometimes, the inability to complete did result in a wonderfully complete piece as this.  It also revealed, at least partially, the process of Daumier and that always holds special interest for me, therefore, I chose this my second favorite, despite many other more polished pieces.

Orchestra Stalls, Honoré Daumier (French, b.1808, d.1879), Circa 1865
23 1/2 x 33 1/4 in. (59.8 x 84.3 cm), oil on canvas

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 5: My Favorite Paintings at Metropolitan Museum, New York
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 3: My Favorite Paintings at Museum of Legion of Honor, San Francisco

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited


  1. Yes, I also think that King Philip looks somewhat uncomfortable in that painting..hmmm, maybe sitting on a chair for a long time and in only one position just isn’t his idea of a good time. It’s a fantastic piece of artwork though. It makes you wonder what he was thinking while sitting there.