Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Louvre visits Minneapolis

As a homeschooling mom of three in this economy, I am fairly certain Paris isn't going to be an option for a while. I was thrilled to hear that the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts had gotten an exhibit from the Louvre. The world's best known museum selected a selection of pieces that represent the evolving understanding of a masterpiece. While we have gone to regional art museums before, we have never explored the halls of such a fabulous one. Despite the massive snow and ice storm that hit us over the Christmas holiday and left a half an inch of glare ice over everything, it was worth braving both the roads and the sidewalks. With help, my mother was able to accompany my family. The best part of the experience was that we were left wanting to do so much more. The MIA is an enormous museum. My family has gone to the building for performances of the Children's Theatre Company, (their main stage is located off the lobby of the museum) though we have never spent any time in the museum itself.

The first room included many sculptures of Antonie-Louis Barye. Many were based on the Lion and the Serpent. The sculpture was able to reproduce and sell many pieces based on the success of the original in his time. It also had the Lion and the Medusa, a painting by Theodore Gericault. The painting was based on an historical event--the shipwreck of the French frigate, Medusa. Of the 147 men placed on the raft, only 15 survived the 13 days until rescue.

I heard people discussing merits of pieces and just a couple of others being extremely critical. I loved listening to some of them, but the others made me cringe. Legitimate critiques of a piece are valid, but it can go too far. Okay, you didn't like a piece--got it. However, debasing a piece (or those who like it) just to inflate your own ego is, well...not nice. Ah, what do I know? When it comes to art--I know precious little. As a history major I didn't need to know much, but I do know what I like. One of my absolute favorite pieces was The Astronomer by Johannes Vermeer. Loved it.

I also really loved Da Vinci's drapery drawing. Presumably used for a study for future work, the drawing was stunning. It was definitely outside most images conjured at the sound of "Masterpiece." Michelangelo Buonarroti's quotation, "Who would have ever said that I made this with my hands?" was a great addition to the display of his drawing,Virgin and the Child with Saint Anne. I also enjoyed Guillaume Voiriot's, Woman holding a booklet. It was a wonderful painting, but I love how the Louvre originally scoffed at it. Ironically, now it is the Louvre's possession and being displayed. Perhaps part of the appeal was the story behind it. I so root for the underdog. The story of the painting below also gave me the warm fuzzies. In Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres' piece, Portrait of Ferdinand Philippe Louis Charles Henri de Bourbon Orleans, Duke of Orleans 1810-1842 he painted a man who died at 30 in a road accident. The man fought a cholera epidemic without resorting to violence. This magnified his contemporary popularity.

As much as people could appreciate art--there was ample history. There were many sculpted pieces representing thousands of years including cylinders from Mesopotamia. Some reflected poorer work likely made in a provincial workshop while others may have been made under the Akkadian Kings. One part explained that art appreciation was a combination of acquired knowledge and personal taste. The more people view masterpieces, the faster they recognize it.

However, with appreciation come the increased likelihood that someone will fake others. Fakes are often intentionally lesser known works because they are less documented and recognized. Some fakes represent great art in themselves and become very famous in their own right. Other pieces exemplified how ordinary objects not intended as "art" are truly beautiful. I was saddened by the first century grave marker for a young boy. Depicted with his mother playing with him, time and culture were transcended to touch the hearts of those viewing it. The exhibit touched on definitions and the evolution of the idea of a masterpiece and works, how those artists who defy the traditional norms can expand art, fraud, re-attribution, and displayed art from around the world. I thought the exhibit was wonderful. As my kids want to come back too, I would say it was an enormous success.

**Cameras were prohibited in the gallery so I did not take the photos pictured in this blog posting. Since the images above are in the public domain, I have used them here.

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