Walters Art Museum Has 2 New Exhibitions

Walters Art Museum (formerly Walters Art Gallery even though it was a museum not a gallery) has two new exhibitions.

Carlo Crivelli

Who? That is the point of the exhibition. There are many very good artists who never became famous because of various historical flukes. Leonardo Da Vinci was a contemporary who had the good fortune to be in Florence which was a center of Italian art because of the sponsorship of the Medici family. Other artists were doing good work in other parts of Italy such as Italy’s east coast where Crivelli did his work, but their work was never promoted in the same way.

As Joneath Spicer, the curator of the exhibit and the curator of the Walter’s Renaissance and Baroque Art, says, you can have someone exceptional arise anywhere, not just in the major cultural centers such as Paris, New York or Florence.

Madame de Pompadour

Not someone you would normally think of when you think of art exhibits. Besides being the mistress (and a very influential one at that) of Louis XV of France, she was an artist. Most people had thought of her only as a patron of the arts. However, Susan Wagner, the Walters Art Museum curator for the exhibit, was doing research in the Walters’ collection and found etchings that had been done by Madame de Pompadour. It had been thought that these etchings had been lost.

Prior to this, art historians had doubted that she was a serious artist. These prove that she may not have been one of the greats, she was very good and should be considered a serious artist. In addition to her work, there are vases and porcelains that quite likely were owned by her. One is probably created by Crivelli, the focus of the other exhibit.

The exhibits run through May 22nd and 29th respectively.…

Holographic Museum

Holography is different from 3D or Imax. Remember back to the very first Star Wars movie. Luke gets the two droids and he is playing with R2D2 when suddenly a holographic image of Princess Leia is projected. It was also used in the Iron Man movie.

3D vs. Hologram

With a 3D movie, it looks more 3 dimensional than with a regular movie. If you move around though, you still see the same thing. With the holographic image as you walk around it, you see different sides of the image. So in the Star Wars movie if you were to walk around the projection of Princess Leia, you would see for example first her left side, then her front, then her right side and then her back. It would be like you were walking around a real person.

It works by recording the light scattered from whatever you are creating an image of. You take a laser beam and split it and shine one part at the object or persona and the other part at the recording medium. The light bouncing back from the object is also sent to the recording medium and creates an interference pattern. This is then used to create the holographic image.

New York Holography Museum

There was a museum in New York City dedicated to holograms. They had a display space that was very small but very worthwhile seeing. It was somewhere near FAO Schwartz. In looking online there was apparently another museum or the main location for this one in Soho.  Unfortunately it wasn’t able to raise enough funds to survive. It closed in 1992. The collection has been placed in storage.

There were some amazing images and walking around them like you were walking around the real thing (although without the correct colors) seemed like something out of the future.

Amazing Microscope Hologram

The most amazing image of all was the microscope. As I am walking by it, I thought it was interesting and then I had a brainstorm. If you can walk around an image like it is real, could you walk around the microscope and look through it like it was real?

I moved my eyes so that they were lined up like I was really looking through the microscope. Sure enough, you could see the image through the eye piece just as if you were looking through a real microscope.  Once I did that and commented on it then everyone around me came to look through the microscope. I looked for other similar tricks in the other holograms but that is the only one I remember.

It turns out there was a holography museum in Chicago as well and it also went under but one anonymous donor paid to have the collection kept intact for future posterity.…

Impressionist Ring Master – Paul Durand-Ruel

If you have never heard of Paul Durand-Ruel, you should have. Without him you may never have heard of the Impressionists. They may have been a failed sideline in art history. There is an amazing exhibition right now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art dedicated to this gentleman and the exhibit is well worth the price of admission.

Why? Because he was the first person to believe in the artists who became known as Impressionists and promote their work, an extremely large number of paintings went through his gallery and the paintings on display all were in his gallery at one time or another.

Why? Because museums around the world loaned paintings for this show and also private collectors. So some of the best impressionist paintings in the world are gathered under one roof so to speak and a number of the paintings that are in private collections have never been shown in public before.

Durand-Ruel’s father was an art dealer and gallery owner. Paul Durand-Ruel started working in the business and when his father died, he took over. The gallery dealt in the best establishment painters of the time. These were the painters who typically exhibited at the Salon, the large exhibit each year for the best painters in the country.

In the 1860s Durand-Ruel championed the works of a group called the School of the 1830s: Corot, Courbet, Daubing and Rousseau. Their work wasn’t yet accepted by the establishment.

Some of the Impressionists submitted paintings to the Salon, but were laughed at and rejected. Then in 1870-1 there was an uprising in Paris and Durand-Ruel took his family to London and opened a gallery there. In London he met Monet and Pissarro  who were also avoiding the turmoil in Paris and France. He became convinced that they were on to something and that it was going to change the art world.

At this point, Durand-Ruel took a large risk. He agreed to buy all their current paintings and their future paintings. He also provided a number of them a stipend to live on so they could concentrate on their painting. When he got back to Paris in 1872 he also bought a lot of paintings of Sisley, Degas and Manet.

1874 Show

Since the establishment wouldn’t accept them, the Impressionists put on their own exhibition in 1874. The establishment came, but to laugh and ridicule. The term Impressionist was actually used at this time as a statement of derision and only later came to be seen in a positive way.

1876 Show

Durand-Ruel than took a very large gamble by organizing a second exhibition of Impressionist artists in 1876, but this time in his own gallery. Meaning he was now even more directly tied to this new art movement and the patrons who bought the more traditional art from his gallery could have stopped coming which would have ruined him financially. Few if any paintings sold from this second show

1883 Monet Show

In 1883 he hosted an exhibit of 60 Monet paintings and not one sold. On top of this, there was a financial downturn in France around this time and Duran-Ruel was on the brink of going under.

1886 – United States to the Rescue

Durand-Ruel was saved by art lovers in the United States. He did an exhibition in New York in 1886. It was so successful and he sold so many paintings that he immediately organized another one. He then opened a gallery in New York. Durand-Rule and the Impressionists had turned the corner and were heading for success.

1891 Monet Poplars

Durand-Ruel held an exhibit of 15 of Monet’s poplar paintings in 1891. This time, the French and European art world was beginning to appreciate this style of painting and all sold out.

Marketing Inventions

The prices of the paintings were now beginning to rise and because Durand-Ruel had purchased them at low prices, he was now becoming wealthy and no longer had to worry about money. He could also control the market because he owned such a large percentage of the most important artist’s paintings. The artists could now make more money on their new paintings as well.

But, there are questions as well. This was the industrial age and these artists turned out art at an amazing rate. Durand-Ruel bought 1,500 Renoir’s, 1,000 Monet’s, 200 Manet’s, 800 Pissarro’s, and for Sisley, Degas and Cassatt, 400 each. While people consider the Impressionists to be romantic individualists, they were exceedingly productive in a way few artists are today. Plus, the works were of a size that met the demands of the time and maintained a style and were brandable.

This is one of the best exhibitions we have seen in quite a while. Go see it!…

Baltimore Museum of Art

The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) has just completed a major renovation of the American Wing. They did a wonderful job. For years you could only go in through the new wing, not surprisingly right by the gift shop. Now you can also enter through the original main entrance which is quite grand and imposing. It takes you right into the American Wing.

Chronological and Contextual Organization

It is generally light and inviting. A number of the rooms were taken from history houses of different time periods so you could see how people lived and what the styles were at different times. But then they have larger rooms with paintings and sculptures in them. They generally have them organized chronologically by room. Even some of these large rooms were taken from or modeled on large mansions from the Baltimore area.

In addition to paintings and some sculptures, you get a sense of the era because there will also be exquisite period furniture. Tables, chairs, desks, cabinets, etc. There will also be wall lights and chandeliers and mirrors. It is very well done.

Since the pieces usually have come from different people’s homes, they decided to set up the new exhibit as if you were visiting someone’s home. So it has the furniture, lights and art all in a natural setting.


The museum has an amazing collection of silver. There were a number of great silver smiths in Baltimore and many examples were on display. Many were amazingly intricate and very impressive. The one that was not on view was temporarily at Pimlico Race Track. It was the trophy that goes to the winner of the Preakness. Actually the winner gets a smaller replica and the original goes back to the museum.

While the rooms with pieces from the 1600s, 1700s and early 1800s were interesting, the late 1800s and 1900s were perhaps more interesting because it represents life more like today and therefore perhaps more relatable. However, it was fascinating looking at the older paintings around Baltimore and seeing scenes with some buildings that still exist, but it shows them in country settings and now they are in the middle of the city.

There is one room with a lot of Tiffany glass including two large columns on either side of a large stained glass window. They take your breath away.

Picknell’s Paysage

One piece of art is particularly arresting, especially the longer you look at it. It is William Picknell’s Paysage, or A Winter’s Day in Brittany. Part of its appeal might be because of its size. It is probably four feet high and five feet wide. But besides its size, it is just a magnificent painting. You can see it on the blog page of the BMA. It depicts a man on a horse going down a dirt road in the country. The road has some tall pines along it on the left and some in the distance, but of a type that looks kind of like a loblolly pine where there are no branches on the lower two thirds of the trunk. There looks to be fields on either side of the road and it is a wet dreary day. The road has puddles. You feel like if you touched the painting it would be wet.

But, then go up close and look and you will be surprised. The surface of the painting is very rough. The artist used a pallet knife to put most of the paint on. Pallet knives come in a variety of shapes that allow the artist to get different effects, but typically some look like tiny mortar trowels and others look like dinner knives. You use them typically when you want to get a heavier paint layer than you can with a brush. It also allows you to get different textures than you can with a brush.

So then stand back and what looked like blobs of paint becomes a very realistic painting that is full of life and vitality.…