Posted by: nastypen | October 15, 2006

Art glut and the agony of d’ feet

I went home and I collapsed on the couch.  I am VERY tired.  I don’t have the energy to check my mail.  I wrote this blog entry earlier and my eyelids weighed 75lbs.  I decided to sleep and woke up four hours later to finish this: 

I am massaging my feet.  They are tired.  I am tired.  I woke up early to have another walk to the museum.  I bathed and dressed in more layers because I was told it might be cold out.

It was 4 degrees Centigrade.

Whoa.  It was nippy.  I could see my breath turn into vapor.  It has been YEARS since I last experienced this I was walking by Washington DC’s Constitution Ave towards the National Gallery of Art.  There were joggers.  There was a group of senior citizens on their way to the Vietnam Memorial.  A couple of squirrels were fighting, their tufts darting about.  I was on my way for some art.


And what an art experience it was.  I planned for a morning at the art museum and a couple of hours at the Smithsonian.  Last time I was here, the family did not have time to go to the National Gallery.  So, it was my first time.  I went to the East Building of the National Gallery of Art and marveled at I.M. Pei’s architecture creating a modern counterbalance to a stately Western building of the National Gallery.


I arrived early.  I was sitting on the cold….extremely cold steps waiting for the museum to open.  I sat in front of Henry Moore’s massive sculpture entitled “Knife Edge Mirror.” 


There was a small crowd by the lobby.  One gentleman asked me, “Sir, is the Henri Rosseau show in this building or at the next?”


I told him I was a tourist too.


He smiled and said something strange, “Well, you look quite knowledgeable with your booklet and glasses.”  The booklet was a sketch pad.  I was hoping to draw in the museum.  But that didn’t happen.


When they opened the museum, I was one of the first one in.  I know.  I’m such a geek.  I don’t care.  Everyone rushed to the Rosseau exhibit.  I was just at awe with the architecture. 

Hey, It is a mobile by Alexander Calder!


Cool!  My art history professor would be so proud of me that I still remember these things.  Hey, I wanted to work as a curator among other things.  It would be nice to tell the context and narratives of these works of art.

Then I noticed a small corner that had a couple of museum staff.  I decided to check that corner out and was so shocked to see that the museum has a collection of artworks from one of my most favorite artists of all time, Amedeo Modigliani.

I was gagging because it is always different to see the real thing.  I bought all these books about him, had to watch a bad movie about him and there they were, his paintings were staring back at me.  I was fortunate enough that photography is allowed in most exhibitions.  Although I brought my digital camera along, it seemed faster to take pics using my mobile phone camera. 

I just had to have my photo taken with some of my favorite works of Modigliani who was one of the ultimate Bohemian.  I posed next to the Portrait of Monsieur Deleu.

I look like him a bit.  He has this smirk and disapproval in his face and Modigliani captured these succinctly.


I am next to the “Woman with Red Hair.” 

Modigliani was one of the most influential artists at the onset of modernism in art.  His portraits were not similar to the traditional portraiture system in the pre-modern art history.  None of those stuffy and stern faces with voluminous ruffles of wealthy art patrons.  Modigliani’s subjects were more of the real people.

Modigliani portraits were not about capturing the exact likeliness of the subject.  He conveys a story of character of his sitter.  A coquettish flick of the hand on an otherwise blandly dressed woman with fiery red hair; she tilts her head towards the painter and her eyes are of smoldering coal.  What story will she whisper from that seemingly guarded smile of hers?

This is “Nude on Blue cushion:”


Modigliani’s nudes caused scandal in Paris.  One of his major shows earned a police censorship with the exhibit hall’s glass windows were barricaded because some people complained of pornography.

Perhaps this is a portrait of Modigliani’s lover?  I am not sure, though.  But I am sure on how tragic the two were.  It is clichéd to be a starving artist, but that was what Amedeo was.  He died of tuberculosis or consumption in a shabby Parisian hospital for the derelicts.  His wife, heavily pregnant at that time, jumped off a building after his death.

I was paying homage to the great masters that swim in my imagination as I pour over the several art history books I encountered in my life.

I saw an early Pablo Picasso work:


and a sample of art from his noted rival, Henri Matisse


Henri Matisse was unflinching in his choice of striking colors that earned him and his ilk the label fauves or “wild beasts” by art critics in France during his day.

I had to sit down when I saw this:


Pablo Picasso’s “Family of Saltimbanques” shows of a portrait of circus performers, probably at a rare of time of pause to discuss some matter?  I am drawn by that little boy in blue staring out forlornly.  Despite Picasso’s cemented fame with his brave and revolutionary cubist art, his earlier works have a sense of quiet melancholy to them as opposed to the warmth and dynamism of his later works.

There was a room that showed Matisse’s giant cut-outs. 

I was having an art glut and I had this massive smile on my face like I was all doped up.  All of this art works, the experience of going through galleries of several influences of mine, and I see their actual works FOR FREE (yes, no fees needed.  I paid a fortune going in Tokyo art museums and here I was like a drooling moron happy that I see these things and my wallet is safe)

And I was just in one building.  I trooped to the larger building with collections of Renaissance art works, medieval tapestries, sculptures, drawing, etc.  I still feel heady from the experience of getting lost in rooms with more rooms opening up for me with works as diverse as El Greco, Goya, Titian, Gauguin, Whistler, Sargent, Cassat, Van Gogh, Breughel, etc.  And what an etcetera it was. 


This blog entry is not an exact exultation of today’s activities.  It does not even capture the emotional upheavals I experienced as I subject myself to a glorious art glut.  The American people have no idea how fortunate they are.  A lot of people take decades to see these heights of humanity.

I saw the only Leonardo Da Vinci painting in America.  It was so small but a big crowd milled about it staring intently into the face of young Florentine woman with ringlets framing her lovely face as she gazes with aloof eyes not really connecting with the viewers.  It is as if she knows that she is being gawked at and she almost icily welcomes the adulation.

People were ooh’ing and aaah’ing at the usual paintings by familiar names.  There was a line to take a photo of Van Gogh’s self-portrait.  Although I am still basking in the afterglow of witnessing such exquisite art, but it took one small and slim painting in a corner that I almost missed.

When I saw it, I was dumbstruck and staring.  It was a painting of one of my favorite artists Heironymous Bosch entitled “Death and the Miser.”  It is a slim painting where an old scrawny man was on his bed and death is at his door with a spear poised at him.  At the foot of his bed, there was a chest with a huge bag of gold coins.  So, it does not really matter of the accumulation of wealth for death really is one of life’s VERY VERY FEW consistencies. 

I don’t want to be a miser, essentially a slave to material accumulation.  Although, I admit, it was a major financial risk that I go on this trip.  But more than six hours of absorbing these art works is just another “worth it” notch in my depleted bank account.

I saw this guy sketching at the museum. 

I wanted to do that but I have no time to sit down.  I have to go to ALL the rooms.  Of course, that didn’t happen, too.  So, all the more reason to come back to this place one day in the future. 

All the artworks call out to me to move my fat ass in the direction of art again.  They reminded me what was the point of my passion; it is not really having works framed and in galleries and earning money from it; it is something more basic than that.

I’ll tell you when I start to paint again.  My hands are itching to do something else than brochures and newsletters.  But for now, I am massaging my feet.  My poor feet are collateral damage to this endeavor. 

I keep in mind on the experience I initially had entering a circular room with the portraits by Modigliani usher me to a universe of possibilities and passion.

It has been a good day.



  1. Hey! Thanks for uploading pics! The more you describe them, the more I feel at a loss over what I would like to pursue for a Ph. D., if ever that happens. And the more I feel at a loss in my life right now just looking at those fantastic works of art!

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