Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Favorite Paintings from Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest) (Szépművészeti Múzeum)

The cosmopolitan capital of Hungary had a wonderfully unique atmosphere and if I had not been there for a wedding, I surely would have enjoyed the lovely city more.  Even so, between rehearsals, pre-wedding reception and the ceremony itself, I managed to savor a little bit of the city, including the rich Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest) (Szépművészeti Múzeum).

As one of the former twin capitals of dual monarchy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Budapest had accumulated a huge heritage of world art.  The two most impressive works I saw there were masterpieces by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) and Anthony van Dyck, two giants in the art history.

The portrait of the Venetian Doge Marcantonio Trevisani, showed a sharp looking old man in understated sumptuousness. His gaze, directly towards the viewer, was a bit sad, with tear in the eyes.  His lips drew back, as if holding back some secret or concern.  His right hand, clinching a silk handkerchief, reinforced the discomfort of his own thoughts or state of mind.  Despite the detailed depiction of his embroidered golden cape and funny-looking Doge's cap, and his rich maroon-colored velvet rope, we could hardly tear our eyes away from his penetrating and compassionate gaze. According to the museum's website, the original painting was destroyed in the fire of 1577. "The Budapest work is an autograph replica or variant after the burnt painting. As in all of his portraits, Titian fulfils the requirements of representation, while he equally concentrates on the accuracy and suggestivity of the characterisation. With a painting technique based on the combined effect of colour and light, the Venetian master is able to depict the living, breathing man."

Portrait of the Doge Marcantonio Trevisani, c. 1553, oil on canvas, 100 × 86.5 cm
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), (c. 1489 - 1576)

Anthony Van Dyck, using the techniques and sharp observation not dissimilar to those of Titian, gave us a double portrait below with dizzying virtuosic forces - particularly the myriads shades of black and grey on the beautiful yet stern looking silky dresses of the sitters, and the silly yet undeniably delicate laces and cartwheel ruffs.

Portrait of a Married Couple, c. 1620, oil on canvas, 112 × 131 cm
Sir Anthony van Dyck, (1599 - 1641)

Again, despite all these external marvels, we found the two sitters very real.  Their show of wealth was honoring their rich married life together, in the most pious way.  Their hands holding together, symbolized their sanctified vow.  Their facial expressions were characterful - he was solicitous, while she anxious, almost in fear.  She sat in the armed chair stiffly, shrank a bit, with obvious discomfort, while he put left arm around her to provide some support, as if preventing her from falling into pieces.  Their posture demonstrated both their relationship on personal level and the accepted, rather strict social structure.  Yet, despite all the constrictions and the overt somberness, there was tranquility from the landscape on the left and warm from red curtain on the right of the canvas, behind the solid mass of the old couple, in the center of the canvas and fill it up almost completely.

And this concluded my journey to the old Austro-Hungary Empire in 2002.

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 42: My Favorite Paintings in the National Gallery, London
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 40: My Favorite "Sculptures" at the Imperial Crypt (Kapuzinergruft), Vienna

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

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rooftop Vegetable Garden in Shenyang, China

Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 9414 Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 0431

Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 0814

When I visited my parents in May this year, I was quite impressed by my father's rooftop vegetable garden.  Well, it was not really rooftop but I don't have a better word for that.  The vegetable garden was on a balcony, connected to the loft level of their three bedroom flat.

There were strawberries, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, green onions, lettuces and other vegetables and fruits on the balcony, lovely arranged in various pots and boxes, with obvious care. 

Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 0813

Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 9867

Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 9869 Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 0811
Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 9891 Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 0432
Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 9894 Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 0819

I was quite impressed by the bounty - when I was a kid, I did grow corns for fun but they were very small and not really edible, largely due to lacking fertilizer.  It's mid-summer now and I hope my parents are enjoying the fresh vegetables from their own garden.

Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 9871

Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 8921

The garden was not only useful but visually appealing as well, particularly with the ever-changing light.

Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 0809

Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 9405

Rooftop Vegetable Garden _ 9412

Label: Shenyang, Shenyang Trip 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

My Favorite "Sculptures" at the Imperial Crypt (Kapuzinergruft), Vienna

DSCN1717 _ Kapuzinerkirche und Kaisergruft, Wien, 7 October
Kapuzinerkirche und Kaisergruft, Wien

The Imperial Crypt (Kapuzinergruft) of the Capuchin Church in Vienna is the burial crypt for the ruling Habsburg family.  Wikipedia states that "the bodies of 145 Habsburg royalty, plus urns containing the hearts or cremated remains of four others, are deposited here, including 12 emperors and 18 empresses. The most recent entombment was in 2011. The visible 107 metal sarcophagi and 5 heart urns range in style from puritan plain to exuberant rococo."

My visit to the crypt was definitely an unforgettable experience.  Seeing the resting places of so many well-known historical figures, in their glorious or pitiful sarcophagi was alternately disturbing or moving.  Many of those sarcophagi could also be considered as pieces of art, and the best of them were the humble and/or piteous ones, often with predominant figures or symbols of death and decay.

The most iconic one was that for Kaiser Kaiser Karl VI. (1685-1740).  His large metal sarcophagus was a testament of his own greatness and humility.  The three-dimensional sculpture had a monumental upwards sweep, yet it was contained at the four corners by the crowned skulls - the crowns he had carried proudly on his head before his death.  The skull with the Holy Roman Empire was often the symbol of this royal crypt, staring at viewers with unrelenting intensity.  The startling contrast between the worldly wealth and glory, and the inglorious, creepy and bleached skull invoked many emotions, even amongst indifferent viewers.

Kaiser Karl VI. (1685-1740)

Source: de.wikipedia.org, Welleschik
Kaiser Karl VI. (Charles VI.) (1685-1740)

The other favorite of mine was the sarcophagus of another Holy Roman Emperor, Kaiser Leopold I (1640-1705), which was much plainer comparing to the one for Karl VI.  Instead of sweeping gesture towards heaven, the rather flat lid had was humbly adorned, with a quietly enduring crucified Jesus at its center.  It also had skull on the side, but it wore no crown.  It its place, the laurel wreath of Caesar.  Perhaps this was even more glorious than earthly gold?  This one moved me profoundly with its piety and its delicate and understated execution. 

Kaier Leopold I. (1640-1705)
Kaiser Leopold I. (1640-1705)

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 41: My Favorite Paintings from Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest) (Szépművészeti Múzeum)
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 39: My Favorite Paintings at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien (Vienna)

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

Thursday, July 26, 2012

New Subway System in Shenyang, China

I have included some photos taken on the platforms of Shenyang Subway system (first two lines, with at least another 8 lines to come) in my earlier blog, Art in the Streets of Shenyang, China, such as the picture below of the lovely Shenyang Library Station, with inscriptions of "Book" in various styles, adorned the lamp covers:

Library Subway Station, Shenyang _ 0148

In general, these two lines run smoothly and the stations and cars were clean and well designed and maintained.  One could leisurely wander about some stations at off-peak hours, while the transfer station or rush hours, one really needed to watch his own steps, and an extra safe measure was the glass partitions separating tracks from the platforms.

Shenyang Subway _ 9299 Shenyang Subway _ 0115

Shenyang Subway _ 9304

Shenyang Subway _ 0124

Shenyang Subway _ 9321

Shenyang Subway _ 9308
Transfer Station

Shenyang Subway _ 0127
Rush hour

The cars were obviously designed for short commutes, with more standing space and holding poles and less seats and many doors spaced through the lengths of the cars:

Shenyang Subway _ 0135

Shenyang Subway _ 9306

Inside the car and on the platforms, there were plenty helpful monitors and signage, indicating approaching/boarding/departure information, destinations and the incoming stops, in simplified Chinese and English:

Shenyang Subway _ 9320

Shenyang Subway _ 9326

Inevitably, one would encounter some poorly translated English, which was quite endearing:

Shenyang Subway _ 9324

Finally, I took these photos below at the end of the platform where I could see part of the tunnels:

Shenyang Subway _ 0122

Shenyang Subway _ 0120

Label: Shenyang, Shenyang Trip 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Another Batch of Drawings in Ink and Watercolor

Last weekend, I did more drawings to better utilize my time, while waiting for my painting ideas to mature and my paints to dry.

I was mostly interested in creating certain atmosphere than trying to present a detailed snapshot of scenery.

Watercolor Storm 1 _ 8274 - 500  Watercolor Storm 2 _8275 - 500
Watercolor Storm 1 & 2

Ink Drawing Storm _8276 - 500
Ink Drawing Storm

Ink Drawing - Pillar _ 8273 - 500
Ink Drawing - Pillar

Ink and Watercolor Lilies _ 8288 - 500
Ink and Watercolor Lilies

Below is the compilation of these five drawings:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Favorite Paintings at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien (Vienna)

One of the most important art museums in the world, Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, boasted large and excellent collections of Egyptian and Greek & Roman antiquities, sculpture and decorative arts - including the lost and found gold salt cellar by Cellini, manuscripts and coins and paintings by masters from schools of Italian, Dutch and Flemish, German, Spanish, French and English.

The museum had great collections of works by Venetian masters, such as Titian and Veronese, and a highlight from this collections visited San Francisco's De Young Museum early this year.  They were marvelous and piqued my desire of return to Wien (Vienna) soon; however, I was more drawn to its less flashy, more melancholic works by masters from the northern countries.

Pressed hard, I pick these two Dutch paintings below as my favorite.

DSCN9905 _ Die Malkunst, um 1666-68, Johannes Vermeer van Delft
Die Malkunst (The Art of Painting) - Holland
Johannes Vermeer van Delft | um 1666/1668

This intricately arranged and beautifully tinted interior genre painting above by Johannes Vermeer was an allegory of the art of painting. The model posed as Clio, the Muse of history, who inspired the painter and proclaimed the glory of painting in the old Netherlands, personified by the antique map of Netherlands of its 17 provinces on the wall, and also immortalized in the book of history she was holding. The very detailed execution bore all the hallmarks of this wonderful realism yet stylish painter.  The interplay of blue and yellow hues danced from left on the heavy, half-drawn curtain, to the model and her book and trumpet, the easel and the sketched headdress, all the way to the map. The artist was presented as a gentleman in his finery of black, white and red, with an obvious high social standing deserved by all artists in an idealized world.

DSCN9923 _ Jäger im Schnee (Winter), 1565, Pieter Bruegel d. Ä., KHM
Jäger im Schnee (Winter) (Hunters in Snow (Winter)) - Netherlands
Pieter Bruegel d. Ä. | 1565 datiert

This very clearly defined painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder created a most tangible feeling of clear winter chill.  The tired hunters and exhausted dogs, wading through deep snow on a slope, pointing to a tranquil village below, with bridges, cottages and frozen lakes, decorated with tiny skaters, all painted in a delightful folksy way.  The preparations of a pig to be singed on the left background added more details to the village life.  The lone result of the hunt, a fox hanging over a hunter's shoulder, and the drooping postures of the men and the hounds added melancholy to this chilly picture.  However, the chilling atmosphere in the temperature did not depress.  The snow, in pale yellow glow, was enveloping, all the way to the peaks in the far distance, gave the picture a unity and brightened sense.  The people, fatigued hunters aside, frolicking, rather nonchalant in the cold, was quite life-reaffirming.  Even the bare trees were granted some brave birds, with one of them gliding gracefully in the cold air.  Every detail, all virtuosic and consistent, was delightful and created a unified world, permanently suspended, or frozen, in time and space.

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 40: My Favorite "Sculptures" at the Imperial Crypt (Kapuzinergruft), Vienna
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 38: My Favorite Paintings at Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

Paper Boat Installations

Continuing my installation effort, I assembled a fleet of paper boats and deployed them on a dry deck.   I used this grouping of the paper boat to explore the relationship of individuals and collective identity, and order and chaos:

Boats Installation _ 8239

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- Congregation - My New Art Installation
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- Making Art With Mother in China
- Paper Boats, Chairs Installations and More

Label: My Installation

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Favorite Paintings at Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

The Last Judgment, Left wing, Paradise - 1504, Oil on Panel - Hieronymus Bosch (van Aken, Jheronimus)  (1450-1516) - Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien The Last Judgment, Central Panel - 1504, Oil on Panel - Hieronymus Bosch (van Aken, Jheronimus)  (1450-1516) - Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien The Last Judgment, Right wing, Hell - 1504, Oil on Panel - Hieronymus Bosch (van Aken, Jheronimus)  (1450-1516) - Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

I've visited several famed art academies in the fine art capitals - Firenze (Florence), Venezia (Venice), and the wonderful city of Wien (Vienna) - all of them had at least one amazing iconic piece - Firenze had Michelangelo's perfect David, Venezia had the enigmatic Tempest by Giorgione and the prophetic triptych of Last Judgement by Hieronymus Bosch was the Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien's most recognizable piece, amongst other wonderful paintings by European masters, such as a series of exuberant small-scale oil sketches by Rubens, Dutch painting of the 17th century, represented by Rembrandt to Ruisdael and De Hooch, and works of Italian, French and Spanish schools by Botticelli, Titian, Murillo, Claude, Tiepolo and Guardi.

The Last Judgement's left panel was "Paradise" and the right panel was named "Hell".  In the left and central panels, human and fantastic figures took their places along side rather decorative figures of god, angels and saints, while the right panel was nothing but figures of grotesqueness, who also occupied the most part of the central panel, representing a post-apocalyptic world being judged by the god sitting above.  Both the left and central panels had orderly hierarchy in the sphere of god and also pleasing and comforting to see, with the lovely pale green and blue palettes, porcelain doll figurines, etc., despite the fact that even in the "paradise", a certain dark undertone was quite visible, represented by the fighting dark clouds and the malevolent chase of Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden.

Of course, it was the nightmarish scenes of the damned caught most viewers' imaginations.  The burning landscape, a controlled or organized chaos with many virtuosically weird and somewhat comical figures, was quite intriguing and funny and drew the viewers in with seductive force, until the viewers recognized themselves amongst the tortured and damned and the scenes became unbearably repugnant. No one would forget this most visceral horror.

The Last Judgment, Left wing, Paradise - 1504, Oil on Panel - Hieronymus Bosch (van Aken, Jheronimus)  (1450-1516) - Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

The Last Judgment, Central Panel - 1504, Oil on Panel - Hieronymus Bosch (van Aken, Jheronimus)  (1450-1516) - Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

The Last Judgment, Right wing, Hell - 1504, Oil on Panel - Hieronymus Bosch (van Aken, Jheronimus)  (1450-1516) - Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

Many other works were very fine but I'd choose "The Judgement of Paris" by Peter Paul Rubens as my second favorite there.  The topic was always a fascinating one for me, but the reason for this pick was based on its impressive and lucid execution.  I always enjoyed his sketches more than his "finished" paintings, because they revealed much more his personal touches.  The atmosphere here was romantic and highly charged.  Despite the rather idyllic setting, the composed posture of Paris, and the voluptuousness of the three goddesses, the barely hidden menace threatened to swallow everything and everyone.  Lovely and terrible.

The Judgement of Paris, 1606, Oil on Canvas 340x450mm, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) - Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 39: My Favorite Paintings at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien (Vienna)
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 37: My Favorite Sculpture and Painting at Strahov Monastery, Prague

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