Sunday, June 07, 2009

Perfect ending to a lovely day

Came home to this awesome view!

Today we met my brother and his family and my son Ben in Columbia to go to the Turner to Cezanne show at the Columbia Museum of Art. In honor of my brother and his wife's 39th anniversary we gathred at their house for a fabulous brunch of tomato pie, sausage casserole, quiche, biscuits, grits and mimosas at my brother's house cooked by my dear sister in law Jan.

Then onto the museum where we had a personal guided tour of the collection(only 20% of the total Davies art) with the executive director of the museum and learned many interesting facts about the paintings from him. The paintings are now owned by the National Museum of Wales where they can be seen online. The collection is considered one of the "finest impressionist collections in Europe."

The paintings were collected by the Davies sisters in Wales. Their grandfather was a coal tycoon robber baron and left them half a million pounds. Devout Methodists Gwendoline and Margaret Davies spent their lives trying to help the people of Wales and gifted Wales with their art collection. The sisters also put considerable effort into the arts of Wales and helping World War I soldiers recover from the war through art. They were allowed to recuperate in a large home surrounded by the sisters art collection.

The sisters were spinsters because their stepmother who also happened to be their mothers younger sister told them that anyone who married them would marry them only for their money. So the sisters contented themselves with collecting ...and did they collect! Their collection included everyone of artistic importance from Turner through Cezanne with the notable exception of Gaugin. The Gaugin they thought they bought was actually attributed later to one of his followers Seguin.


Why would two very religious spinsters from Wales collect Impressionists? Because they were cheaper! The painters that were acceptable art of the time were much more expensive. They could get more bang for their money by buying Impressionists paintings...some were acquired for only 1000 pounds. The piece de resistance of the show ...a large Renoir, La Parisienne was acquired for 5000 pounds. One of the more realistic paintings they bought for more money painted by the then prominent Messonier Innocents and Card Sharpers...a tiny painting of card sharks amazing in its detail, color, velvet fabric that seemed as if you could touch it...no longer important...but the less expensive Impressionists now a fabulous fortune couldn't buy!

The complex colors of the Turner oils were marvelous and his tiny postcard sized watercolor studies fascinating. In them is the birth of the impressionists...suggestions of people rather than exacting reproductions of the other major artists of the times. Odd to think of Turner sitting at Margate passing the time sketching away.

The development of tubes of oil paint allowed painters a new freedom to roam the country side and paint what we now call "plein aire" something before that was at best extremely difficult when the artist had to grind and mix his own oils.

Of course my favorite was the single Van Gogh Rain–Auvers painted about a week before his death.A sad story about this painting. Van Gogh committed suicide because he did not wish to be a burden on his brother Theo's new marriage. He believed that could not Theo be happy his marriage would be IF Vincent continued to need the financial support of his brother. A thoughtful man to worry about his effect on the new marriage but what a sad start to Theo's marriage.

The painting is a wonderful landscape in ochres and blues and pale greens of a view of the fields from the asylum he was in. Three ominous crows or ravens are in the painting. The impasto of the oils is thick and creates almost a carved surface. The lines in it create a patchwork of motion and color and cross hatched with lines to represent rain.

Then there was the set of three beautiful Monets...Palazzo Dario a scene of a gondola and a palazzo and of course the ever present water, one of the famous series Waterlilies and the parliament with Charing Cross Bridge...all containing water. Luminous colors ...the paintings glowed as if lit from within. Interesting Monet fact...every morning he had his gardener arrange the waterlilies in patterns...then he would go out and pick the ones that he would paint for the day....

Berthe Morisots At Bougival of her daughter and nanny in a field was just wonderful...her mesh of grass created with her multitude of brush storkes...and i ould go on about the paintings...

Oddly my favorite part of the exhibit...how often can you come with in an inch of an Impressionist painting? if the exhibit was at the High we all would have set off the alarms! But not in Columbia...alot of guards in every room AND glass over every painting gave us the freedom to be so close to the paintings.

Our tour was followed by champagne and fabulous sandwiches(portabello were my favorite!) in a room covered with trompe l'oeil based on the book The Secret Garden.

And then back to my brother's house to spend an hour or two on the patio filled with conversation....great day....

If you ever have a chance to go to the Columbia Museum its just a few miles off I 26 on your way to the Low Country of Charleston...easy to find ...parking...and some wonderful paintings in their wide ranging permanent collection such as a Canteletto and a Botticelli fresco (NOT under glass)...bytw its the only Botticelli fresco outside of Europe...truly amazing...the collection includes modern artists such as Motherwell Moore and Rauchenberg ......


3 comments:

Dana W. Fisher said...

It sounds like a wonderful day, Maggie. Wish Columbia was closer. I love the Impressionists. The sisters' story reminded me of the Cone sisters who were friends of Gertrude Stein and ended up owning tons of Cubist works for similar reasons.

YankeeQuilter said...

Ok, now I feel like I need to get off my butt and get up to the exhibit. Sounds like a great day...

SCquiltaddict said...

too late...yesterday was the last day BUTTT you can go see the other 80% in wales...