Monday, December 31, 2012

Eureka! Boy led horse to San Francisco's de Young Museum!

Two weeks ago this morning I posted about my month-ago-yesterday visit to MOMA in New York, Finding what I wasn't looking for. I wrote:
I was hoping that I would also get to see an old favorite from MOMA's collection, Picasso's Boy Leading a Horse (1905-6), a painting I've mentioned twice before on this blog. Alas, it wasn't on view at the end of November...
Well, guess what?

I visited San Francisco's de Young Museum yesterday, and found where MOMA was hiding the canvas. Yes, I'd figured it out before showing up to see The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism, but the monumental, Rose Period canvas doesn't need surprise to deliver dramatic effect, time after time after time.

I could have known last month that the painting was on local (to me) loan, as the de Young show opened to the public on 15 September; but I hadn't paid close attention, figuring that I'd visit during the holidays when I'd have time off from work. Regrets if you didn't get to see the show yourself by the time these words hit the intertubes: yesterday was the exhibition's last day in San Francisco.

Glad as I was to salve last month's specific disappointment, the Paley Collection exhibit included beautiful work I don't ever recall seeing at MOMA in New York, including a ravishing Degas drawn in charcoal and pastel, Two Dancers (1905).

I can't say I'm an ardent fan of Degas' work ... in fact, I'll even admit that I start to go cross-eyed when a museum gallery mounts canvas after Degas canvas depicting female dancers performing, rehearsing, at the barre, adjusting their shoes, taking a curtain call, etc., etc., etc.

Two Dancers cut right through my Degas defenses. Judge for yourself, at left.

The curator's note for this piece claims that:
Of all his paintings and pastels, nearly half depict dancers. [...] When asked why he made so many drawings and paintings of dancers the artist replied, "It is only there that I can discover the movement of the Greeks."
I could just about see what Degas meant in those charcoal lines, on paper from which color is almost entirely absent.

Drawn in the same year Picasso began Boy Leading A Horse, both works give a window onto artists' fascination in the early twentieth century with the tension-in-stillness of classical form. (How much more dramatic the connection between Picasso's boy and horse because the boy is grasping reins that do not appear in the painting? It's as if they had melted into the centuries between the classicality -- is that a word? -- of the image and the century in which Picasso painted his canvas, as if the reins had been mere twists of hemp, while the figures were painted in enduring stone.)

If there had been museums in Heraclitus' time, might he have observed that one can never step into the same exhibition twice?

Thanks to Matthew Felix Sun for his photos...

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Finding what I wasn't looking for
Art bliss at MOMA
The Steins Collect at SF-MOMA

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