When rumors that the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) might sell its treasured paintings to balance the city’s ledgers first surfaced in May, I wrote a defense of the museum on cultural grounds.
The Steins Collect Metropolitan Museum of Art Van Gogh: Up Close Philadelphia Museum of Art Van Gogh: The Life By Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith (Random House, 953 pp., $40) Nobody in the history of culture has known more about the art of persuasion than the avant-garde painters, sculptors, writers, composers, choreographers, and impresarios who transformed European art from the end of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century.
Matisse’s The Painter and His Model—in the exhibition devoted to his work at the Eykyn Maclean Gallery in New York—is a candy box of a composition, a hymn to rococo excess. Set in a room in Nice overlooking the Mediterranean, Matisse’s fairytale canvas is jam-packed with incident, a crowded interior rendered with oil colors thinned to the translucency of watercolor. The light is soft, suggesting honey or champagne.
Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917 Museum of Modern Art Renoir in the 20th Century Philadelphia Museum of Art The astonishing variety of modern art, by turns bewitching and confounding, has been brought into the sharpest imaginable relief by exhibitions this summer in New York and Philadelphia. At the Museum of Modern Art, “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917” highlights the audacious asceticism that the painter whom many regard as the greatest artist of modern times was pursuing immediately before and during World War I.
The Language of Forms: Lectures on Insular Manuscript Art By Meyer Schapiro (Pierpont Morgan Library) Romanesque Architectural Sculpture By Meyer Schapiro (University of Chicago Press) I. When Meyer Schapiro died ten years ago, at the age of ninety-one, he had a place in American intellectual life that was extraordinarily large and also rather mysterious. Quite a few of the people who mentioned his name with a quickening excitement, a catch in their voices, had probably not read a single one of the exacting essays about medieval art on which his scholarly reputation rested.
I. THERE IS A PARADOX AT THE heart of any cultural institution. It is that the men and women who dedicate themselves to these essential enterprises exert a fiscal and administrative discipline that has nothing whatsoever to do with the discipline of art, which is a disciplined abandon. I imagine that for anybody who founds or sustains or rescues or re-invents a museum, an orchestra, or a dance company, this tension between the institution and the art comes to feel like a natural paradox. There is always a balancing act involved, which helps to explain why the very greatest institution-builder
Elie Nadelman: Sculptor of Modern Life, Whitney Museum of American Art In the art of Elie Nadelman, sobriety and enchantment are strangely, wonderfully entangled. Nadelman, who died in 1946 at the age of sixty-four, gave sculpture’s ancient mandate to turn real space into dream space a modern vehemence and an adamantine logic, but also a flash of what-the-hell insouciance.
"Matisse Picasso," the exhibition that has now arrived at the Museum of Modern Art after packing in the crowds at Tate Modern in London and the Grand Palais in Paris, begins as a sort of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for culture vultures, a study in male bonding in the artistic stratosphere that features the somewhat older, more formal Matisse and the younger, unabashedly bohemian Picasso. Later on, when the show really gets going, museumgoers are supposed to be agog at what amounts to a clash of the titans with avant-gardist sparks flying, a High Modernist love-hate-love kind of thing.
I. Picture books are the first books that any of us know. Before we can decode words or even letters, we are clutching their covers and awkwardly turning their pages. These books are our introduction to the mysteries of metaphor, to a combination of paper and printer's ink that can take us anywhere, reveal anything, whether fact or fiction or some mix of the two. You might say that picture books, even when we are too young actually to read them, are our primal reading experiences.