Sunday, April 19, 2015

Shakespeare's Birthday

Today, we (which includes Louisa, Peter, Griffin, Sophia and assorted other young people) enjoyed an afternoon at the Shakespeare Library and Theater.  One of the very fun things was doing a reading from Shakespeare in the theater.  The picture above is from the t-shirt I got from my participation. I read some of Phoebe's lines from "As You Like It."

"Think not I love him, though I ask for him.
Tis but a peevish boy---yet he talks well--
But what I care for words?  Yet words do well
When he that speaks them pleases those that hear.
It is a pretty youth--not very pretty---
But sure he's proud--and yet his pride becomes him.
He'll make a proper man.  The best thing in him
Is his complexion; and faster than his tongue
Did make offense, his eye did heal it up.
He is not very tall--yet for his years he's tall.
His leg is but so-so---and yet 'tis well.
There was a pretty redness in his lip,
A little riper and more lusty red
Than that mixed in his cheek:  'twas just the difference
Betwixt the constant red and mingled damask.

Picture below is me reading that piece. I look very casual and was wearing a t-shirt that said, "Canst thou bring me to the party?"  I made to the party and enjoyed the fun.

 The young people were particularly encouraged to participate and they did.  Sophia especially enjoyed it.  They also had  music, appearances by "The Queen" and a lot of other activities. Great fun!  We stayed much longer than we had anticipated and will go back next year. Happy Birthday Shakespeare.  Griffin asked why we were going to a birthday party for someone who was dead.  Well, to honor him and his work!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Art of the Medieval World: Cathedrals and Beyond

 I began something new and exciting a week ago.  It is a Smithsonian Associates course on Art of the Medieval World.  It goes for six sessions, with an hour and a half presentation each time.  I am particularly excited about it because it is a part of a bigger commitment to a certificate program in World
Art History.  I will need to complete 10 courses, at least 4 core courses and 6 electives.  Art of the Medieval World is a core course.

The first session was an overview, covering Medieval Art across 1000 years (300-1300 AD).  The lecture is led by Dr. Judy Scott Feldman who is, needless to say, a very knowledgeable expert and a good public speaker.  She had us enraptured and taking notes.  I think about 50 are in the class.  Above I show the Chartres Cathedral, which was shown at the beginning of the program and which I saw almost exactly two years ago in France.

I cannot possibly explain all that was covered, but wanted to remember some high points.  For example, Chartres Cathedral has rose and lancet windows that are not only beautiful but let light in that is colored and ever-changing and creates an atmosphere that can be described as an image of heaven.  In Medieval times, the people were more concerned with divinity than with naturalistic in the classic style of the preceding period and the Renaissance, which followed.  As an example, images of Mary, mother of Jesus, are portrayed in a stylized way and looking directly at the viewer, whereas in Renaissance art she appears as a real person.  This has a lot to do with the purpose of the art. In Medieval times, it was an aid to reflection, meditation, and prayer was.

We also learned about the patterns in Celtic art, which is a Medieval Art form, and how the stylized patterns are meant to be contemplated.  Again, the viewer is directed toward a more inward thought process.

Well, I see my understanding is incomplete.  This week's lecture was on "Early Christian Art" and I hope to post about it soon.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Three Magi by Rubens

One of the special exhibits currently on display at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) is three paintings by Peter  Paul Rubens.  I had read about these paintings in the Washington Post, but forgot to look for them when I was recently at the NGA with a friend.  Earlier this week, I went downtown to go to a sketching group at the Luce Center, but there was a power outage and the museum was closed.  After checking a couple of other spots, I decided to see if the NGA was open and it was, so I looked these paintings up.  It was well worth it.

They are beautiful portraits, done about 1618, in Antwerp, Belgium.  I got more than beautiful art, though, as read the museum notes.  These paintings are an example of a specific tradition regarding the portrayal of the three wise men: Balthasar, Gaspar, and Melchoir.  They represent three ages of man (young, prime, and aged) and three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa.)  

It is interesting to know that Rubens was commissioned by Balthasar Moretus.  At the time, Moretus ran Plantin Press. which was Europe's largest printing press.  Morteus had two older brothers, named Gaspar and Melchoir.  Knowing that added another layer of meaning.

I was drawn to see these, not only because of their beauty, but because this is the first  time these three paintings have been shown together since 1881, when they were sold at auction.  The portrait of the oldest, Gaspar, belongs to the Museo de Arte de Ponce, in Puerto Rico.  The middle-aged Melchoir belongs to the National Gallery of Art and the young king Balthasar is the property of the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp.  The National Gallery of Art received the Melchoir painting in 1943 as a gift from the Chester Dale Collection on the condition that it would not travel or be displayed at other institutions.  So, this particular exhibit was rare. I may look at them again before the exhibit closes July 5.