Wednesday, July 14, 2004

July 13 Tues

Colleen and I caught a 7:12 train for Rignano again. We went up the hill across the bridge behind the town and both started painting landscapes of the valley that stretches out back there. It was interesting to see my work next to hers. I started drawing with darks that were too dark, and saw that on a small canvas every brush stroke affects the relationship of the values in the painting. I think for these small canvases I have to be very particular about starting in the right value and being fully aware of the range in temperature and value that I'm working with from the beginning. In addition to size, there is the difference between working on the figure, which is where most of my experience is, and working in landscape. With people form is more important, whereas landscapes are more about color and value.

When we came back in the afternoon I still had time to go to the Pitti Palace. I can't believe the collection there. It rivals the Uffizi in its way, especially considering that the whole thing was open at one time. I left this museum in a kind of ecstasy and walked straight to an art supply store where I bought 3 meters by 2 meters of the same oil-primed linen which we have been working on out-of-doors. I'm planning to start a larger figurative painting, perhaps a self-portrait, in the evenings.

Notes on the Pitti Palace:
Sala di Bona
"Flora" a Roman copy of a 2nd century AD original. I was moved by the particularity, the sensitive individuality of this figure's body. Its proportions were very beautiful, but somehow not typical of idealized statues. It seemed like the body of a girl I might have known.

Bandinelli 1493 - 1560 had a Bacchus standing on the way into the rest of the museum. I found the forward thrusting torso very sensitive, very alive, very sensual--appropriate for Bacchus.

Baldassare Franceschini- Sleeping Love - a distinct style, soft and almost impressionistic. What happens when love wakes up?

Orazio Riminaldi- Pisa 1586 - 1631 Martyrdom of St Cecilia. This large canvas captures a moment when two fates simultaneously descend on the saint, one in the form of the executioner handling her by the hair, sword in hand; the other in the form of the angel descending with a branch and some other symbol to bestow on the bowed figure of the saint. St. Cecilia's expression is calm, as if she looks beyond the events happening to her now with a patient faith or equanimity of mind. A beautifully painted work. The angel in the composition composition recalls Caravaggio's St Matthew and the Angel, as do the strong lights and shadows.

Francesco Furini, Florence 1604 - 1649 Adam and Eve in Earthly Paradise. God makes the third figure in this painting, who seems to be teaching his creatures while they listen with eager submissiveness. The figures have that glowing light we saw with nudes in the Accademia and elsewhere. A high-quality piece. Cavarozzi's St. Jerome, in this room, is also very good, as is Furini's "Ila e le Nynfe".

Ribera! Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew. Unsurpassable realism. The arms of all the figures and the Saint's flailing body create a dynamic abstract composition. There is almost the sense of an explosion happening. Extremely reminiscent of Caravaggio's martyrdom of st Matthew at San Luigi dei Francesi.

Andrea Del Minga 1540-1596 Very derivative of Michelangelo, manneristic. A good example of what happens when artists imitate instead of following their own path.

Filippo Lippi- Madonna and Child A beautiful work. I am reminded again of the coronation of the Virgin in the Uffizi. How much I love the greyish tones of the flesh. I find it very magnetic, almost erotic, somehow.

Vasari- La Pazienza The head in profile is straight from Michelangelo.

Jacopo de Boateri: A Bellini-like Sacra Familia.

Cigoli, Cardi Lodovico- Florence 1559-1613 Ecce Homo

Allori 1577-1621 Judith with the head of Holofernes- What a compelling composition. She is presenting the severed head with one hand, held at about hip-height. Strange to see a head placed like that without the context of a body, at its own height lower in the painting than the heads of the figures, filling a space that otherwise would have made the composition seem empty. You can't take your eyes of it, and her.

Raphael- Portrait of a Pregnant Lady. I read that this was the first portrait of a pregnant woman in the Renaissance. The longer I stand in front of this painting, the more the quality of this work appears to me. Principally, I think it is the strength and quality of Raphael's lines that compel the viewer to look again and again. Compared with Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio's very similar Portrait of a Woman on the other side of the large Del Sarto, which is also drawn very well, you can see the special power of Raphael's composition and line. The difference is amazing, and impossible to grasp intellectually. Raphael's power is miraculous. Throughout this museum there are incredible works of Raphael. His drawing in every case reaches the same unexplicable level of quality. In his unique mastery, he stands as high and as far apart from all other painters as Glenn Gould does from pianists.

del Sarto (Andrea d'Agnolo)1486-1530- I like his use of greys in the shadows, similar to Fillipo Lippi's. In this room there are two huge, almost identical compositions- The Ascension(s) of the Virgin. One is completely subterranean, the other has a view of sky on the left middle portion of the painting, and the figures, all in the same or very similar positions, have been changed, in one case from an old man to a young one, or in another from a man to a woman. Two background figures in the subterranean painting have been omitted in the other, but otherwise the paintings are uncannily similar. This tells me a lot about their concept of a figure painting. There must have been a lot of work put into arranging the figures with drawings on a large canvas, for it to be worth while to repeat the same composition twice like that.

Giusto Sustermans, Anversa 1597 - Florence 1681 What a fabulous painter! Valdimar Cristiano di Denmark- what a sense of character comes through in this painting. He has many fine works in this museum (maybe 20?)

Fra Bartolomeo 1472-1517 Compianto su Cristo Morto This painting is remarkable for the cropped heads at the top and for the bloody sleeves of Mary Magdalene's white garment, which tell the story of her emotion, since her head is bowed and the face barely visible.

There is a beautifully personal portrait of a man and a woman from a 16th century florentine painter, formerly attributed to Del Sarto as a self-portrait with his wife. There is a wonderful intimacy and emotion I have seen little of in the Renaissance.

Sala di Marte
I was filled with awe walking into this room! There are very fine works by Titian, Veronese, Murillo, Fra Bartolomeo, Del Sarto, van Dyck, Tintoretto, and Bronzino!
I love the portrait by Titian (1490-1576) of Dr. Vesalio. A great, great work that I will always remember. Staid, somber composition. Somehow, looking at this man's face I see the face of a doctor, of a person who looks at you with a doctor's experience, his perspective on human life, and, just maybe, the sense of superior knowledge which makes them seem at times arrogant.

From this room, the museum continued to be better and better.

Sala di Apollo
Two incredible Del Sarto Sacra Familie--some of my favorite works by him. Very graceful, three or four figure compositions. Also his quiet, lovely self-portrait.

Nicocolo Cassana's "Guerriero" An unusual painting, somehow. Very wooly, rough-looking character. Hard to see, where it is hung.

Allori's portrait of a young man. Such a beautiful, sensitive face!

La Maddalena!--dark blue sky in corner frames golden hair clasped to breast. What a breathing, beautiful work.
Ritrato Virile! (Occhi Grigie) As arresting as any painting I ever saw. I could look at just this work forever.

Dosso Dossi's (1479-1541) Nymph and Satyr The shock of the satyr's bestial, aggressive expression, the blur and horizontal lines disturbing like Francis Bacon, with animal sharp teeth, contrasted with the nymph's look, inches from this creature, which seems vaguely distressed, but as if she were thinking of something else. The whole thing has a very modern, alienated look, like Gerhard Richter or Francis Bacon.
The same painter's Il Battista with the fire in the sky over the background baptism scene, makes me think of another painter from our time--Annigoni. The dark eyes and the way of painting the background landscape seem very like Annigoni to me. I also see a connection to this artist in terms of the same disturbing quality.

Damiano Massa active 1573 Sacra Conversazione

Sala Venere
Titian's Concerto! This work is tremendous, sublime. It was closing time and I barely got 5 minutes to look at it. It is something fundamentally of the Renaissance. I can't really say why, but I want to look and look and look at this work.

I haven't said anything yet about Rubens' Consequences of War. Like the large Rubens in the Uffizi, it draws me mostly by its brushstrokes moving all over the canvas. I love this about Rubens, his boldness. I want to work that large!


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