Georgia O’Keeffe, The Beyond, NC Art Museum

Georgia O’Keeffe was one of the most influential artists in America.  Known as the “mother of American modernism”, she’s most famous for her paintings of flowers and her landscapes of her adopted home of New Mexico.  The recent exhibit at the North Carolina Art Museum did a great job of showcasing her art as well as the art of young painters who have been inspired by O’Keeffe.  Here we’ll focus on O’Keeffe’s work and will touch on the works of the other artists in a future post.

O’Keeffe was born in Wisconsin in 1887 and, after several years teaching throughout Virginia, South Carolina and Texas, she moved to New York in 1918 after meeting photographer Alfred Stieglitz.  Stieglitz promoted and exhibited her art and the two developed a personal relationship that eventually led to their marriage in 1924. Though they remained married until Stieglitz’s death in 1946, the couple separated when Stieglitz began an affair with photographer Dorothy Norman.   The infidelity was the impetus behind O’Keeffe’s move to New Mexico.

georgia o'keeffe

O’Keeffe career spanned many decades and, despite failing eyesight, she continued working well into her nineties.  She passed away in New Mexico at the age of ninety-eight and her ashes were scattered at her beloved Ghost Ranch, her home since 1940.

While O’Keeffe’s long career saw her work cover a great many subjects, there are a few for which she is best known.  Her flowers earned her early fame, possibly helped by art historians who felt her flowers were metaphors for female genitalia.  I guess if people can see the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast, anything is possible.

georgia o'keeffe- petunias- 1925

While married to Stieglitz, O’Keeffe spent time at his home at Lake George as well as in New York City.  Her modernist paintings from this period are quite interesting.  Her work was inspired by her surroundings, both at Lake George and in the City.  This painting of the Radiator Building is a great example of her work from the period.  The dark colors and sharp angles are a big change from her flowers.

georgia o'keeffe- radiator building, night, new york- 1927

After her move to New Mexico, her the land around her became her focus.  She loved New Mexico and her art shows it.  Landscapes, animal bones and even rocks became the subjects of her paintings.  This is probably the time period O’Keeffe is best known for.  I’m not sure what I like best from this period.  The landscapes are great but the paintings of animal bones are very surreal and appeal to me.  Here’s Horse Skull with Pink Rose.

georgia o'keeffe- horse skull with pink rose

My Backyard, from 1937, is a prime example of her New Mexico landscapes.

georgia o'keeffe- my backyard- 1937

A couple other O’Keeffe works that were part of the exhibit caught my attention.  First, an untitled sculpture stood out because O’Keeffe wasn’t known for sculpture.  The one on exhibit was striking.

georgia o'keeffe- untitled sculpture

Finally, her abstract paintings were quite stunning.  I really like abstract art and O’Keeffe’s were great.  I loved her Abstraction Blue from 1927, but I was especially drawn to the title piece of the exhibit, The Beyond, from 1972.  O’Keeffe was in her eighties at this point, and her eyesight was failing.  This painting was one of her last oil paintings and is beautiful.

georgia o'keeffe- the beyond- 1972

There were many interesting paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe exhibited as part of The Beyond.  There were also many paintings and sculptures by artists inspired by O’Keeffe.  I’ll highlight some of them in the next post.

 

 

 

The Royal Palace of Coimbra

For many years, the Portuguese royal family lived in Coimbra.  The first king, Afonso I, is buried in the Santa Cruz Monastery, and the city was the home of the Portuguese House of Burgundy.  Their home was the beautiful Royal Palace of Coimbra, now the Old University of Coimbra.

University.jpg

The University is one of the oldest universities in the world.  Originally established in Lisbon in 1290, the university was originally moved to Coimbra in 1308.  The university was moved between Lisbon and Coimbra several times before moving permanently to Coimbra in 1537, where it was permanently installed in the Royal Palace.

There are several beautiful spaces in the palace that harken back to the days when the Royal family lived here.  The Great Hall of Acts was once the Throne Room of the Royal Palace and the room where, in 1385, King John I was proclaimed king of Portugal.

Great Hall

Portraits of the kings of Portugal line the walls of the Great Hall.  Interestingly, there are a few exceptions.  The three Hapsburg kings- Phillip I, Phillip II and Phillip III- are not to be found here.  From 1581 until 1640, these three kings, Spanish by birth, ruled Portugal.  The Hapsburg rule ended when John II, Duke of Braganza, claimed the throne as the great great grandson of King Manuel I.  The rule of the Hapsburg dynasty is still, after many centuries, still a sore point with many Portuguese.

Another great space in the palace is the Private Examination Room.  This was originally the king’s private chamber and sleeping quarters.  As a part of the University, the room was where doctoral candidates underwent a private oral examination.  Portraits of the University’s rectors line the room.

Private Exam Room

The Arms Room houses the weapons of the Royal Academic Guard.  Today, the weapons are used only during formal ceremonies such as the formal beginning of classes and the investiture of a new rector.

Arms Room

There are plenty of other great spaces to explore at the University beyond the walls of the Royal Palace.  The Joanine Library and Saint Michael’s Chapel are not to be missed.  The University is a great place and well worth the time you’ll spend exploring.

Lines and Shadows

These two photos- one of the Atrium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the other of The Grove Arcade in Asheville, North Carolina- have a similar feel.  I like the way the light coming through the overhead windows create a shadowy grid in both pictures.

At the Met, the shadows fall high on the structure and emphasize the openness of the atrium.  The shadows seem to cast a protective net over the atrium, protecting its occupants from the outside world.  You’re still aware, though, that despite the beautiful natural light, the park-like feel of the atrium is, in fact, artificial.

Art Museum
Atrium, Metropolitan Art Museum, NYC, 2004

The Grove Arcade is a much different space.  The shadows fall directly below and onto the floor, and the heavy lines of the shadows seem to guide you along the arcade, while the narrower cross shadows direct you to the shops on either side.

The natural lighting gives the arcade a much larger, more open feel, which, as you can tell from the photo, is not the case.  The arcade is long and narrow, and would be quite dark if not for the overhead windows.

grove arcade i, asheville, 2008
Grove Arcade, Asheville, 2008

I find the juxtaposition of the natural light and greenery with the man-made structures quite interesting.

Candida Höfer in Mexico, NC Art Museum

German photographer Candida Höfer has been exhibiting her large-scale photographs of building interiors since 1975.  In 2015, she toured Mexico, photographing beautiful spaces of iconic Mexican buildings including the National Museum of Art in Mexico City, Teatro Juarez in Guanajuato and UNESCO World Heritage Site Hospicio Cabañas in Guadalajara.  Her photos constituted the Candida Höfer in Mexico exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

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Hospicio Cabañas, in Guadalajara, 2015, by Candida Höfer

An interesting aspect of Höfer’s photographs is that the interiors are usually devoid of people.  Considering that the buildings are very busy public structures, she’s presenting an unusual view of them.  Another aspect of her photography is that she usually shoots the interiors straight-on rather than from an angle.  This provides a formal a formal composition to the spaces.

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Teatro Juarez, Guanajuato, 2015, by Candida Höfer

Not all of her photos are large format or large scale.  This photo of a simple doorway is a great counterpoint to the majesty of her larger photos.

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Passage II, 2015, by Candida Höfer

As a photographer, I find a lot of inspiration in Höfer’s work. Being a bit of an introvert, I’m much more comfortable photographing buildings than people.  I also started college as an architect student before changing direction.  Höfer’s photos give me a quality and beauty that I can strive for in my photography.

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National Museum of Art, Mexico City, 2015, by Candida Höfer

The exhibit was organized by Galería OMR in recognition of the Mexico-Germany Dual Year and is touring the United States.  While the exhibit is over at the North Carolina Art Museum, it moves next to the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York City, where it will be on exhibition from February 2nd through March 16th.  If you’re interested in photography, you’ll like the exhibit.

 

 

Cynthia Daignault, Light Atlas, NC Art Museum

We had the opportunity to view Cynthia Daignault’s wonderful large-scale artwork, Light Atlas, as part of the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit, the Beyond, at the North Carolina Art Museum.  Daigault is an American painter known for multi-part installations of paintings that follow a theme.

cynthia dagnault- light atlas 2015
Light Atlas by Cynthia Daignault

Light Atlas began when, during a conversation, Daignault realized that she could name the works of 100 men whose work defines America, but couldn’t think of a single woman whose work did the same.  In 2014, she started off on a year-long journey to explore America and to create a record of her experience.  She traveled along the outside border of the country, stopping every 25 miles to document, through sketches and photos, what she saw.  The trip covered 30,000 miles and created a virtual 360-degree portrait of the United States.

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Detail of Light Atlas by Cynthia Daignault

Daignault used her sketches and photos to create 360 small paintings that show all aspects of America, both the beautiful and the, at times, mundane.  It’s an interesting work of art and one the proves the adage that the whole is greater than the parts.  Light Atlas could easily keep your attention for hours, which, in these times of short attention spans, is not an easy task.  If you have the opportunity to view Light Atlas, it’s well worth the time.

cynthia dagnault- light atlas- section
One section of Light Atlas by Cynthia Daignault

George Rickey, Three Red Lines, NC Art Museum

One of the North Carolina’s Art Museum’s newest pieces, Three Red Lines is a kinetic sculpture by American Sculptor George Rickey.  The graceful red arms slowly move back and forth in an arc.  It’s a beautiful sculpture and the slow arcs of the arms can be mesmerizing.

During World War II, Ricky worked worked in aircraft and gunnery systems and became interested in mechanics and movement.  He combined his art training with his love of mechanics to create large kinetic sculptures that moved with air currents.  His work has been exhibited around the globe including in Germany, Japan and the Netherlands.

The work, along with sculptures by Spanish artist Joan Miró and American artist Ellworth Kelly are on loan from the Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.

george rickey- three red lines

Our Lady of the Pillar, by Eça de Queirós

José Maria de Eça de Queiros is considered one of Portugal’s greatest writers.  He’s most famous for his novel The Sin of Father Amaro, first published in 1875.

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National Library of Portugal [Public domain]

Our Lady of the Pillar, originally published in the Gazeta de Notícias in 1895, is a fantasy story set in Seville Spain in the fifteenth century.  Don Rui de Cardenas, a devotee of Our Lady of the Pillar (the Blessed Virgin Mary), falls in love with the beautiful Dona Leonor, the young wife of wealthy nobleman Don Alonso de Lara.

Although Don Rui is smitten with Dona Leonor, he can’t so much as catch her eye as they enter the church.  He gives up on his love and devotes himself to honoring Our Lady of the Pillar.

Don Alonso, meanwhile, hears that a young man has been pursuing Dona Leonor and, being quite jealous, has her removed to their estate at Cabril, some ways outside Seville.  Don Alonso, enraged at a misperceived infidelity by his young wife, holds her at knife point and forces her to write a letter to Don Rui, professing a love for the young man who, in reality, she has never really noticed.

Don Alonso has the letter delivered to Don Rui, in an effort to lure the young man to the estate, where Don Alonso’s plan is to murder him as he enters Dona Leonor’s bedroom.  I don’t want to give away the story, so I’ll just say that the story takes a fantastic twist at this point.  This short story is well worth reading and is one of Eça de Queiros’ best works.

Our Lady of the Pillar is a free download at Project Gutenberg.   Enjoy.

Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s First King

Much has been made of Portugal’s influence on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.  Rowling was living in Porto when she began working on her wonderful series of books, so it’s no wonder that Livraria Lello, the beautiful bookstore in Porto, inspired Diagon Alley’s premier bookstore, Flourish and Blotts, as well as Hogwart’s wonderful moving staircases.

Another potential Portuguese influence on the Harry Potter series may be the legendary Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal.  Born in Guimarães in 1106, Afonso Henriques was the son of Henri of Burgundy, a French noble, and Teresa of León, the daughter of King Alfonso VI of León and Castile where Portugal was, at the time, a county.  While Afonso Henriques was not a wizard, his French and Galician parentage could make him Portugal’s “half-blood Prince”.

Afonso Henriques
Statue of Afonso Henriques in Guimarães

Afonso Henriques took the first step towards Portuguese independence in 1128,  when his army defeated Galician forces, led by his mother and her lover, Count Fernando Peres de Trava, in the battle of São Mamede.  Afonso’s fight to make Portugal an independent kingdom reached an important point in 1140 at the battle of Valdevez, when Portuguese forces defeated the army of Alfonso VII of León.  The victory led to Alfonso VII recognizing Portugal as a kingdom with the Treaty of Zamora.

Sao Bento Detail 4
The battle of Valdevez depicted on the wall of São Bento Railway Station in Porto

The victory over Alfonso VII’s army was an important step towards independence, but it wasn’t until 1179 that Portugal was recognized as an independent kingdom, and Afonso as king, when Pope Alexander III issued a papal bull recognizing the kingdom.

Afonso Henriques, now Afonso I, made Coimbra his residence, where he funded the construction of the Santa Cruz Monastery and the Sé Velha, or old cathedral, and is buried in the Santa Cruz Monastery.   Afonso Henriques died in 1185, after leading Portugal for 46 years as the country’s first king.

Old Cathedral
The construction of the Sé Velha, or old Cathedral, was funded by Afonso Henriques

Understandably, Afonso Henriques is a Portuguese hero and his legend has not dimmed in the 900 years since his birth.  Portugal’s first king is honored with statues and paintings throughout the country.  He has also been the subject of several postage stamps, including this heroic likeness from 1940, which commemorates the 800th anniversary of Portuguese Independence.

Portugal Anniversary