One to Another

November 30, 2009

11/29/09 MoMA – Mirror.

Filed under: 2-Precedents, 3-Museum visits — pendantportraits @ 9:38 am

I began my afternoon at MoMA with “100 Years of Portraiture,” a gallery talk by Larissa Bailiff. In fact, during the one-hour excursion, we looked at portraits by just six artists: Warhol’s Golden Marilyn, Marisol’s LBJ, Spuerri’s Kichka’s Breakfast (a “snared painting”), Kahlo’s Fulang-Chang and I and Self-portrait with Cropped Hair, a Brancusi sculpture, and Picasso’s Three Musicians. Of note, money did not change hands between the artist and subject in any of these works (to the artist for creating the work or to the model for posing for the work).

Fulang-Chang and I, a companion set, was directly relevant to this project. To the right of the painting by Frieda with her beloved pet is a mirror in a matching, yet larger, frame. The wall text states that Frieda gave the work (both pieces) to a close friend (Mary Sklar) saying that she could simply look in the mirror if she wanted to be with Frieda.

In the nearby Self-portrait with Cropped Hair, Kahlo asserts her capacity to be without Diego. She writes, “Look, if I loved you it was because of your hair. Now that you are without hair, I don’t love you anymore,” a lyric from a Mexican song. I commented, “She is Samson to her own Delilah.” Rather than strength, she chooses to take away her love. In fact, Kahlo did not cut her hair; she didn’t need to — she did it in the painting.

There was a lot to see at MoMA today, including drawings from the Rothschild collection and the ever-wonderful permanent collection. The spot for Giacometti’s portrait of Annette, however, was filled by Bacon’s screaming pope.


November 27, 2009

11/27/09 An Evening at the Met

Filed under: 3-Museum visits, 5-Related Topics — pendantportraits @ 9:26 pm

The early evening drive from Yonkers to Manhattan was direct and fast. Jacque parked in the garage, so it was mere steps into the museum, Jesse’s first Met visit.

We began in the exhibition of Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, and then went our own ways, until rejoining for refreshments. I stayed in the Vermeer exhibition for a long while, relishing the density of works in the four small rooms of the exhibition. The Vermeers are like low resolution digital images that look pretty clear from a distance (zoomed out), yet the closer one gets (zoomed in), the less detailed the works reveal themselves to be. The forms are out of visual reach. I purchased the slender soft-cover exhibition publication for the color images and details. The text spends too much time creating a premise for the sexual allusions of the work; however, the discussion of the work’s provenance was interesting. This is only the second time that The Milkmaid has been in the U.S.; John and I saw the work at the Rijksmuseum in 1993.

The Watteau and Music exhibition was also in its final days. The drawings were gems, fresh and light, and beautifully matted with stacked layers, and French lining. The Watteau paintings were both bold and delicate, particularly the ones on copper, and the inclusion of Meissen figurines in the show was the complement that was intended. I bought the catalog for John (which he had requested). It is an excellent publication, so I chose the hard cover.

The Velazquez Rediscovered exhibition was in the adjacent gallery. The featured, recently-cleaned painting, possibly a self-portrait, was exquisite, using paint like a couture designer combines fabrics. The portrait head of the Infanta Margarita Teresa was remarkable.

On our walk to the American Stories exhibition, we passed through the American period rooms, where there were a couple of companion portraits. One entered the American Stories exhibition by passing between an oversized pair of companion portraits.

The American Stories exhibition was a sprawling delight, so many artists without which our American cultural lineage would be incomplete. It was a great show to see with a seven year old. For instance, the opening volley was Copley’s Watson and the Shark paired with Homer’s Gulfstream. The next room in the show dealt with portraits, where I learned from a double portrait of two sisters that a woman’s eligibility for marriage may be signaled by her pose. If she is of age, she may be shown frontally; if not, then, in profile.

The work of Winslow Homer stood out to me, for its embedded meaning and for its powerful projection from a distance. The wall text provided a visual bonus for many of his paintings: photographic documentation of the works as first exhibited or published to compare to the work in their final state.

August 7, 2009

080709 – Boston Museum of Fine Arts – Veronese

Filed under: 2-Precedents, 3-Museum visits — pendantportraits @ 11:44 pm



These companion works are featured in the Titian-Tintoretto-Veronese exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Designed for the family’s palazzo, they are currently owned, respectively, by the Walters Museum in Baltimore, MD and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. It is a treat to see them together.

The catalog has a preliminary drawing of Iseppo and Adriano that shows the ways in which the form evolved. I appreciate the orchestration of the gaze relative to the orientation of the bodies; the play of contrapposto (Porzia) against angelic sway (Adriano); how much the son looks like the father; the psychology of the niche; and the color/tone/temperature shift between the works.

I made two sketches of each work sitting in the midst of the exhibition. I did the sketch on orange paper first, using a bit of colored pencil to enhance the graphite drawing. I returned to the exhibition, and to this pair, to create the second study, which is on paper that I had prepared in advance.

July 18, 2009

071809 – Morgan Library – Memling – Mother and Son

Filed under: 3-Museum visits — pendantportraits @ 1:30 am

I visited the Morgan Library on Saturday of my research trip to New York City. I spent a good share of the limited time that I had looking at the Thaw Collection of plein air landscape works. I couldn’t help myself.

With the balance of time, I visited Mr. Morgan’s study, where I found the interior side panels (wings) of Memling’s triptych of Abbot Jan Crabbe. (The central panel (center left) in which the Abbot is featured at the foot of the cross, is in Vicenza in the collection of the Museum Civico; the exterior wings feature an Annuciation scene (at right) are seen only when the triptych is close, and are in Bruges at the Groeningemuseum.) “The triptych had been most probably commissioned by Jan Crabbe, Cistercian abbot of Ten Duinen Abbey in Koksijde, to mark the occasion of his fifteenth anniversary as prelate in 1472.” (from <> 12/04/09)


His mother, Ann, (left above) and his brother, Willem, (right above) are thought to be the subjects of the side wings, accompanied by their patron saints. I made thumbnail drawings of these under the watchful eye of the guard (photo pending).

July 17, 2009

071709 – Frick Collection – Van Dyck / Gainsborough

Filed under: 3-Museum visits — pendantportraits @ 4:19 pm



PortraitStudy_VanDyck copy

Van Dyck’s portraits of his friends, Frans and Margareta Snyder, are in the Frick Collection. They are displayed with a painting between them. Painted in his early 20’s, Van Dyck uses ‘curtains and columns’ as effective portrait props. The Frick is restrictive (for instance, no one under 10 is allowed in) and the guards are eagle-eyed. And yet, I was able to draw my thumbnail studies with a ballpoint pen. The portrait of Frans was difficult in its subtlety and Margareta’s was rather easy. Its pieces locked together, foreshortening is minimal, and the shapes are clear (the golden bodice, the hands, the white ruff). Van Dyck’s use of purple draperies is unusual (they are usually red). Could this be the result of fugitive pigments? He painted a double portrait derived from these paintings the following year.


GainsboroughPortraits(notPendants)The sketches at left are from portraits by Gainsborough in the Frick. The use of similar motifs makes them appear to be companion works; as far as I know, they are not.

Here’s a museum sketch (at right) by J. S. Sargent after Titian’s Pope Paul III.

July 16, 2009

071609 – At the Met – Rembrandt (Van Beresteyn) / Ingres (Leblanc)

Filed under: 3-Museum visits — pendantportraits @ 1:29 am

July 16, 2009 As part of my Fellowship, I visited New York City for first-hand research.

I went to the Met on the first day. This is the Van Beresteyn pendant pair by Rembrandt.¬† The figure-ground tonal relationships are quietly dynamic in these portraits. Light pools at the bottom, behind the figures’ dark attire, and deepens to velvet-like darkness behind their illuminated heads.


Van Beresteyn pair by Rembrandt 1632

‘Drawing is a way of knowing,’ and I just had to sketch them.


Oleg in the Met’s Nolen Library helped me do a little research. I discovered that there was Dutch portrait pairs exhibition in 1973.

I also found an article in the Art Bulletin LXIV No.2 from June 1982 by David Smith (“Rembrandt’s Early Double Portraits and the Dutch Conversation Piece”). He notes, “the abstract character of the public mask of decorum best explains the abiding preference for pair portraits¬† – companion pieces – over double portraits in European marriage portraiture. For in pair portraits, it is usually the common focus of a couple’s attention that chiefly ties them together. Pendants also solve the compositional problems that formal portraits tend to present.”

I knew that Ingres’ Leblanc portraits were in the Met collection, and was very glad that they were on view.


The wall text says that these are among the largest private portraits that Ingres ever made, and that this is his only pair. He painted the Leblancs, who were the center of the French expatriate community in Florence, around 1920. Degas purchased these works from the estate of the Leblancs’ daughter, and prized them as among the greatest in his collection. The Met conjectures that these works were intended to hang facing one another (rather than side by side), because of how the light is organized. That’s something that I hadn’t thought about. It seems to me that this may also account for why Madame Leblanc is on the left, which is atypical.

July 6, 2009

070609 – SCAD Museum

Filed under: 2-Precedents, 3-Museum visits — pendantportraits @ 3:38 pm


Today I had one-on-one time with the Wright of Derby companion portraits (Greatorex and Burnham) in the SCAD Museum collection (see below). Wright’s mastery of temperature and tonal nuance is a delight. I made pencil studies, focusing on Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Greatorex. Her dress is distinctly green and his coat is midnight blue. The museum text notes that Mr. Greatorex is from Riber Hall, Matlock; in addition to being a manufacturer of nails, he was an amateur musician and is shown with his bassoon. They are described as ‘typical Derby patrons’ and as ‘prosperous but not aristocratic.’ Wright lived 1734 – 1797.

The inclusion and presentation of the bassoon may account for the atypical placement of the wife on the left.




Near right, Mrs. Anthony Greatorex by Wright of Derby, early 1790’s, oil on canvas, 30 x 25″ (SCAD Museum Collection).

Middle right, Mr. Anthony Greatorex by Wright of Derby, early 1790s, oil on cavnas, 30 x 25″ (SCAD Museum Collection).


Portrait of Jonathan Burnham of Shirland, Derby by Wright of Derby, ca. 1790, oil on canvas, 30 x 25" (SCAD Museum Collection).


Portrait of Alethea (or Hannah) Burnham of Shirland, Derby, by Wright of Derby, ca. 1790, oil on canvas, 30 x 25" (SCAD Museum Collection).


Blog at