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Monday, November 8, 2010




At the Hermitage, Amsterdam  

JULY 22, 2010

Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam

[Click on images to increase their size]

Matisse, The Red Room (Harmony in Red), 1908

Matisse, Woman in Green, 1909

Matisse, Game of Bowls, 1908

Matisse, Dance, 1909

Matisse, Music, 1910

van Dongen, Lady in a Black Hat, 1908

van Dongen, Lucie and her Partner, 1911

Rouault, Spring, 1911

Marquet, Port of Hamburg, 1908

Guerin, Female Nude, 1910

Chabaud, Square in a Town in Provence, 1910

Chabaud’s ‘Square in a Town in Provence’ (above) was one of my favorite paintings at the exhibition in the Hermitage in Amsterdam this summer. Let us review the circumstances of my coming upon it. I walked for hours that day through Amsterdam on my way to the Hermitage, on a gray and overcast morning. The Museum itself, as can be seen in the photograph posted at the top, is an old Dutch institutional building on the shore of the canals, gray and muted. Holland is a land of muted colors. The light, even in summer, is opaque and does not exalt color. Outside the Museum it was overcast and the prevalent color was the green of the canals and the gray and dark brown of the Dutch gables throughout the city. In this surrounding, I came upon Chabaud’s painting of a square in a town in Provence. The Mediterranean, sunny and bright Provence, where a great number of the painters exhibited around me had gone to live, precisely in order to see the colors in the bright sunlight. And that sensation of contrast was replicated in the painting, where the absolute black of the shadows and the bright blue of the sky beyond are sharply contrasted to the white of the walls and of the ground. The entire right lower portion of the painting is a shining patch of sunlight circumscribed by the equally blinding black of the shadows. When looking upon this painting, one can feel the sensation of relief of moving into the shade from that bright sun, where the black appears cooling and refreshing. I felt the heat of the burning Mediterranean sun. I was beckoned towards the dark figures standing about and chatting in the darkness of the tree's shade. This outburst of light and beckoning shadow, on a rainy day in Holland, became unforgettable in my mind. [Click on the image for viewing]

Derain, Landscape with a boat by the bank, 1913

Derain, Portrait of a Girl in Black, 1913

Picasso, Absinthe Drinker, 1901

Picasso, Dance of the Veils, 1907

Picasso, Farm Woman (full length), 1908

Picasso, Factory (Horta de San Juan), 1909

Jawlensky, Landscape with red roof, 1911

Laurencin, Bacchante, 1911

Kandinsky, Winter Landscape, 1909

How is this painting of Kandinsky’s (above) a “winter landscape?” Aren’t winter landscapes predominantly grey and dark, or blindingly white snowscapes? Where is the desolation of winter here? Why is this so much of a colorful landscape if it is meant to be winter? Irony? And yet, in every snowflake, in every crystal icicle, in every frosted window, colors are reflected and shine. That is, one could say, what the festiveness of the holiday season is about, the brightly shining colors everywhere, in the winter landscape. Colored lights are never brighter than when seen against the winter’s dryness and the cold dark nights. Here, in this painting, the colors are on the sides of the mountain, on the roofs of the buildings, on the snow by the road and on the sky above. Everything is color, and the reason it seems so real is that, at a certain moment, even over a snow bound landscape, the colors of the sky and of the lights and of the various reflections can create a landscape that Spring would envy. The quotidian cold and dark of winter enhances our need for color. One such colorful moment, perhaps of an evening in December, or a morning in February, can generate such emotions as are etched forever in memory. This painting is a record of such emotions. [click on the image for viewing]

Malevich, Black Square, 1932

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