Saturday, April 25, 2009

Brush'strokes of Genius

The Portland Art Museum has an exhibition of "La volupte' du gout: French Painting in the Age of Madame de Pompadour". Which roughly translates into...the voluptuous art of the era of Madame de Pompadour (the official mistress and in her case, official taste-maker of Louis XV).

My wife and I both hadn't been to the Portland Art Museum for many years, which is really shameful, considering what a wonderful experience it really is. This showing drew us both, but also re-introduced us to the museum as a whole. We will not be strangers in the future.

We looked at all the different galleries (not just the Pompadour exhibit) and they featured, ancient artifacts, sculptures, modern installations...but it was the paintings that really hit me. I have somewhat of an art background, but just going and enjoying the varied eras and styles was, well...very very cool.

The "Pompadour" showing was like the cherry on top. We ended there after going through and looking at everything else. It also got me thinking about my perception of art.

We started in one of the galleries that featured Chinese and other Asian art. There was a Zen painting of Mount Fuji done by a 20th century Japanese artist. It was simple, one brush stroke to make the mountain, one to depict a cloud going across in front of it. Two beautiful brush strokes and the entire scene was created. You knew what you were looking at, and understood what the artist was showing you, all with black washes on paper...amazing.

The flip-side to that was a huge painting in the Pompadour exhibit called "The Abduction of Europa" by Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre. A large (8 foot by 9 foot) glorious painting, featuring beautiful colors, incredible detail, and flowing subject matter all in the lush style of the Madame de Pompadour age. You literally had to sit down in its presence.

The Japanese Zen to the French Voluptuousness, opposites yet equally beautiful, two brush strokes as opposed to tens of thousands of brush strokes. You might say they're "apples and oranges". I say that's perfect! Apples and oranges make a great still life, and feel free to use as many brush strokes as you want...that's what art is.

A simplified take on art, but one with a message: Visit the Portland Art Museum.

The pictures are from the Portland exhibit.

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