This portrait from 1889 depicts one of Paul Gauguin’s closest friends, the Dutch painter Jacob Meyer de Haan, in the pose of a thinker. The painting includes two books that reflect Meyer de Haan’s preoccupations with religion and philosophy: John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Thomas Carlysle’s Sartor Resartus. Carlysle’s central character is called Diogenes, after the Greek philosopher who searched by lamplight for an honest man, and the prominent lamp shown here may extend the reference. This work was originally intended to form part of a decorative panel for the door of an inn at Le Pouldo — a small coastal village in France where both artists stayed — and was to be hung next to a companion self-portrait by Gauguin that is now in the collection of the National Gallery in Washington, DC.
Where else but the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art could you see a preserved Snowman in the middle of a summer heat wave? I ask yez.
Damn You, Reflective Glass Case
Snowman (2016) a sculpture composed of an actual snowman encased in a glass-door freezer, by Peter Fischli (Swiss, b. 1952) and his longtime collaborator David Weiss (Swiss, 1946–2012). This Snowman is an updated version of a 1987 site-specific work by Fischli and Weiss that was commissioned by a German thermic power plant whose energy—in the form of heat, paradoxically — was used to keep the snowman perpetually frozen. Though a snowman is, as Fischli observes, a “sculpture that almost anyone can make” simply by rolling three spheres of snow and setting them atop one another, Fischli and Weiss’s Snowman is dependent on a technically complex apparatus for its year-round subsistence. Over the course of three decades of collaboration, the two artists explored and exploited contradictions such as this one and investigated the extraordinary potential of ordinary objects and situations.
Snowman Sculpture Head Detail
Snowman is part of Peter Fischli’s Artist’s Choice presentation in the sculpture garden, which also includes a selection of other works in MoMA’s collection alongside Fischli’s original pieces.
After resigning from his forty-seven year tenure with The Saturday Evening Post in 1963, Norman Rockwell (1894 – 1978) embraced the challenge of addressing the nation’s pressing concerns in pared down, reportorial style. The Problem We All Live With (1963), his illustration for Look magazine, is based upon an actual event, when six-year-old Ruby Bridges was escorted by US Marshalls to her first day at an all-white New Orleans school. Rockwell’s depiction of the vulnerable but dignified girl clearly condemns the actions of those who protest her presence and object to desegregation.
White Dress Worn By Model Lynda Gunn
Rockwell commissioned this white dress, and two others like it, in different sizes from a local Stockbridge, Massachusetts seamstress. He was not sure yet of the age or size of his model, and he typically posed several people in the same role before deciding who best fit the part. For the child in The Problem We All Live With, he ultimately selected his neighbor, Lynda Gunn.
All Photos Taken at The New York Historical Society in Manhattan.
Jasper Johns began to incorporate a cross-hatch pattern in his paintings after seeing it on a car: “It had all the qualities that interest me — literalness, repetitiveness, an obsessive quality, order with dumbness, and the possibility of a complete lack of meaning.” Using encaustic, a method of paint that suspends pigment in hot wax, Johns created lush, layered paintings with richly textured surfaces.
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait Between the Clock and The Bed
Between The Clock and The Bed (1981) reference’s Self-Portrait Between The Clock and The Bed (1940 – 43), one of artist Edvard Munch’s last works.
Jasper Johns Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art NYC. Edvard Munch Photographed in the Met Breuer, NYC.
When The Blue Window (1913) was first reproduced in the May 1914 edition of the journal, Les Soirees de Paris, it was titled La Glace Sans Tain, or “The Mirror Without Silvering,” referring to a device known as a Claude Mirror: the dark, red-framed square in the picture. Many artists used one of these slightly convex. dark-tinted mirrors to clarify their compositions; a scene reflected in it is less colorful than life, its compositional elements accentuated. Something close to that effect is visible here in the structured vertical and horizontal bands and the cool blue palette that Matisse painted over other layers of color, some of which are still visible. As he simplified forms, he reinforced them with incising and scraping, seen here, for example, in the cloud at the top left.
While living and working in Paris, from 1948 to 1954, Ellsworth Kelly (1923 – 2015) developed an abstract vocabulary of line, form, and color and began is career-long investigation into how figure and ground are perceived in nonrepresentational painting. He became interested in the way that painting engages with the architectural space that it inhabits; rather than attempting to simulate three-dimensional perspective in a composition, he instead considered the wall to be a kind of ‘ground’ and the painting itself a figure on it.
In Orange Green (1964), made the following decade when he was back in New York, he established the figure-ground relationship on the canvas itself through the careful balance of two areas of color: the truncated orange egg-shape is the figure and the bright green color that surrounds it functions as its background.
This curious personage, with four small spindly legs supporting a visage of stunned eyes and a quizzical smirk, or handlebar moustache, offers a satiric take on the work’s grim title. Inspired by a Zuni war god sculpture that Klee saw at an ethnological museum, Mask of Fear(1932) was painted on the eve of Hitler’s assumption of power in Germany.
The two sets of legs suggest that two figures might be supporting, and concealed by, this monumental carnival-style mask, an arrangement that might understood in light of Klee’s assertion that “the mask represents art, and behind it hides man.”