Yesterday I took my son to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Periodically, we like to go look at beautiful…..or interesting art. It is not always that art is fun, and pleasant. Sometimes, I find art dark, because it reflects the mood or the interior of the artist, and not all of us have lived through wonderful times and have wonderful stories to tell. Yesterday, I was discussing the exhibitions with my 12 year old. Some of them were really dark, and he wanted us to move on quickly. We did. But when we ended up in this exhibition of Yoshimoto Nara, a Japanese artist that I have not heard of before, my son was fascinated. SO was I. Some of Nara’s paintings of children and animals looked both sweet….and sinister. But I saw some kind of spirit in each of them….I saw human nature. I am posting several of the paintings here, including a remake of his drawing studio. Enjoy!
Just wanted to share with you some pictures I took in the Bellagio Garden. The turtle and most decorations are made of flowers 🌸. They change the theme five times a year. This has just been built on May 29th 2021 and it’s the theme for the summer 2021. It’s really beautiful! 14,000-square-foot space built with flowers, trees, and plants!
If you are in London and a history lover, this is a place that you must visit. I went in a summer afternoon and I wish I took the whole day, because the museum is so large and so interesting. I think it’s one of the greatest museums in the world!
Do not expect the museum to be on a big street, it isn’t! Its location is not on a little street either (as it’s Picasso’s museum in Barcelona), but it’s not placed on a big avenue. I used my Google maps to find it.
The address is Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom.
When you get there, there will be a line. They, of course, do security screenings and your belongings will be scanned as well as you. But the line goes fast, you wont be there for an hour; the wait is nothing like the wait for some Disney rides :).
The museum is open daily 10.00-17.30. Open late on Fridays until 20.30.
The museum is free, but there are some collections that you have to pay for (if you would like to see them!). I suggest purchasing an audio guide (there is a place to rent these, as you get in the big hall).
This picture show part of the big hall, after the entrance
The guide is very useful if you don’t have anybody else to explain the different exhibitions and to give you a tour. I used it not only to learn about the exhibitions, but also to learn about particular objects that interested me. You see, each display case has a number. If you click on your audio guide on that number, it will tell you a lot more than the written explanations on the displays (if any).
A bit of history
The British Museum was established in 1753. It first opened to the public in 1759 on the site of the current building. So yes, it’s that old! In fact, the British Museum is the oldest museum in the world!
The museum started with the collections of the Irish physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. He was a London-based doctor and scientist who married the widow of a wealthy Jamaican planter. He did not wish to see his collection broken up after death, so he bequeathed it to King George II. At that time, Sloane’s collection consisted of around 71,000 objects of all kinds. But since 1753 the collection grew to 8 million objects.
One of the funny facts about the British Museum is that it has been home a lot of cats over the centuries. They say that the most famous guard at the British Museum was a cat :). The cat name was Mike and he patrolled the gate from 1909-1929. When he died, the museum staff mourned him and his obituary was featured in TIME magazine.
The British Museum is popular in the entertainment industry. You might not know but many movie scenes were filmed here. The first movie scene ever shot in the Museum was for The Wakefield Cause, in 1921. Blackmail, by Alfred Hitchcock was also shot here and so were scenes from the Hollywood masterpiece, Day of the Jackal. Most recently, the museum was featured in the movie Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014).
Three of the most popular exhibits at the British Museum are the Oxus Treasure, the Rosetta Stone, and the Elgin Marbles.
What I liked
HM!!! I am going to talk about only what I have seen, because I didn’t get a chance to visit all!
I stopped in front of the Rosetta Stone for a while and I imagined all these people making the inscriptions. What was it like then? Who were these people? They sure left us something so we can understand them.
The Rosetta Stone has ancient hieroglyphs carved onto it and its discovery was instrumental to the translation of Ancient Egyptian writing. The stone is dating from 196 B.C. .
The Egyptian Galleries, Room 4
This room houses sculptures and artifacts from about 3,000 years of ancient Egyptian civilization. The exhibition is magnificent. The gallery is located next to the museum’s main entrance.
Room 4 is one of the largest exhibition space and it display only 4% of its Egyptian holdings. That is because it is the place for monumental sculptures…and when I say monumental I really mean it. Everything is gigantic…
This is the colossal statue of Amenhotep III also known as Amenhotep the Magnificent, was the ninth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Look at how small people look in comparison to it…
And this is the head of the same Pharaoh Amenhotep III. This statue is dating from around 1370 BC…
This is a giant bust of Rameses II, also known as Rameses the Great. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom. This is why his successors called him the “Great Ancestor”.
Standing in front of these statues made me think about these people in real life like. What was it like to be a Pharaoh? What is amazing? : ).
And there are so many other great things in this room…….but I should’t put up more pictures. You just go and see : ).
The Elgin Marbles, the department of Greece and Rome
The Parthenon Marbles, the Elgin Marbles are a collection of medieval, marble Greek Sculptures. These sculptures were brought to Great Britain in the early 1800s by the Earl of Elgin, who acquired them from the Parthenon Temple in Athens.
These sculptures were part of the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens, built between 447 and 438 B.C.
This exhibition is extraordinary …..large, many mummies. It is situated on the 4th floor.
I was looking at these mummies and I was thinking what life would have been like along the River Nile several thousand years ago. It does not take an effort of imagination to conjure back the ancient times. People, like today, believed in afterlife and the mummification was an extraordinary funerary tradition of preparing the body for the afterlife.
They also have the pictures of the CT scans of the inside the mummies’ coffins.
I was humbled while reaching the mummy of the Gabelein man. Humbled by being a human, in front of another person that exited so long ago and that now is on display in a museum….
They named this mummy “Ginger”. They said he is called this way because of his….red hair? He is placed in the fetal position which was the most common form for Egyptian burials of the time.
What I would do when I will go again
I would map the exhibitions, because I went in blind and not knowing even the floors where certain exhibitions were. This place is massive and it helps knowing where what you’re interested in is located.
I would go there earlier, not late afternoon. You can spend so many hours in the museum…
I would read more in advance about certain pieces. The mummies, the Elgin marbles and the Egypt exhibitions I have seen are so amazing and I would want to know more before I stand in front of these pieces.
Miller was born in 1907, in Poughkeepsie, New York. Old fashion, old style! Most of us didn’t live during these times, when this woman was a fashion icon. Most of us didn’t hear the rattle of gun and didn’t feel the fear of war. But she did and she led a life that many times was out of the comfort zone of regular people. She knew how to wear elegant clothes and also muddy boots. Her photography has informed the world about the horrors of WWII and has also inspired fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen, Gucci’s Frida Giannini and Ann Demeulemeester.
Why am I writing about her?
Because I was inspired by her metamorphosis, from a young girl that had a career in modeling, to an accomplished photographer and then to a war correspondent. Because I appreciate the bravery of a human, male or female, who is able to get out of his comfort zone to do things that would make a difference in our world. Because I like photography and because maybe not many people know that she was a part of the Surrealist movement, just as much as Man Ray, who is considered the pioneer of it.
Her father’s daughter, New York and Vogue
Her father was a bricklayer son. He was of German descent and his own passion was photography. He decided that his daughter was the perfect model and he photographed her since babyhood. He taught her about the technical aspects of photography. They had a close relationship and some say that this is perhaps why she didn’t hold long relationships with other men….
At 19, she became employed by Vogue. She was one of the most sought – after models and she was challenging the stereotypical images of women in the society of that time.
Her photo was used in an advertisement for Kotex menstrual pads and it was the first time that the image of a human being was employed for such a product. Needless to say that the ad ruffled a lot of feathers given the lack of permissiveness of the times. It is funny to look at the above photography now and think about the reactions that it caused back then.
Paris and Surrealism
In 1929 she travelled to Paris to meet Man Ray, a surrealist artist and photographer. She turned up at his table at Le Bateau Ivre café and she became his apprentice and lover. Together they lifted photography to surrealist art. They discovered the technique called “polarization” which then became Man Ray’s trademark( this is the overexposure of the photographic film in the camera through which you give photos a ghostly, glowing look). If you want to know more about this technique here is a link : how to solarize photos.
They worked three years together and they took extraordinary photos of each other. She became Man’s obsession and even if he photographed countless celebrities (among which are Wallis Simpson, Virginia Woolf, Picasso, Chanel) she was the one that was his muse. In their pictures of each other, you can see their erotic connection.
Photo:Man Ray, WikiCommons
Between New York, Egypt and Paris
Jealousy broke Miller and Man apart. She moved to New York during the Depression era and she started a business with her brother Erik. Here she fell in love with a rich Egyptian, Azis Eloui Bey. He came to NYC to buy equipment for the Egyptian national railway. They got married and together they moved to Cairo.
Here she took some of her most striking black and white photography. This above photo is one of them.
But I guess her wanderer spirit could not be tamed. By the end of the decade she will separate from Aziz and move to London. Here she’ll meet the love of her life, Roland Penrose.
London and WWII
I think what shines about her is her work and courage. In London, while married to Penrose, Miller embarked on a new career in photojournalism as the official war photographer for Vogue.
Unafraid, she took pictures of many important events during the war.
If you remember from one of my previous articles about St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of the worst things that happened to London and Britain during the war was the Blitz. This was a campaign of bombing (almost daily bombing!) of London and Britain by the Germans.
Miller was there, with her Surrealist eye. She brought the tragedy of destruction in front of people’s eyes. If you see her photos, you can feel her empathy for the ones suffering, you can feel her compassion for the destruction that was going around. Her pictures were featured in Vogue asa way to show the American public the terrible tragedy Britain was enduring and also in the hope to influence the United States to enter the war.
I can’t bring myself to put many of her war photographies here, because they are sad. But, here is one of a bombed chapel.
Besides photography she also did combat journalism, sending cables from the most dangerous places.
She reported from St. Malo, which was garrisoned by German troops. This was a vital point for Germany’s defense along the Atlantic coast. While it was heavily bombarded by the Allies she violated the terms of her accreditation as a woman journalist and of course, covered the combat. As a consequence, she was later put under house arrest by the US army, but she was again not deterred to go cover further battles.
She went to Buchenwald and Dachau, two German concentration camps. The thought of these places makes my body hair rise and makes my body feel cold.
She also reported from the 44thEvacuation Hopital, Normandy, after D-Day.
Miller was the first person to enter Hitler’s Munich apartment as American forces were liberating the city. Here is a photography of her in his bathtub. Notice her muddy boots soiling the Hitler’s pristine white bathmat.
Then she spend time documenting the aftermath of Nazi rule, singling out female victims and perpetrators.
After the War, Miller suffered from what now might be recognized as PTSD, drinking heavily and retreating into depression. She lived in the UK with her husband , Penrose, and son. She died from cancer in 1977.
Her story inspires. I am inspired by her courage to be there in a war zone. I am inspired by her strength in the face of adversity, by her quest for truth and justice. Having worked with Syrian refugees myself, as I have a book project on the back burner, I have a glimpse of how emotionally difficult it is to be there for people that have lost close to everything. I hope that day by day, we all become better and we do our bit to make a good change in this world.
This is a story of creation, rejection, madness, broken heart, pursuing your dreams. This is a story of life.
Camille Claudel, Auguste Rodin and Constantin Brancusi are three sculptors, of 19th century, each of them distinct, but also connected through their art. Claudel and Rodin were also lovers.
Camille Claudel (1864-1943): a woman genius, a broken lover, victim of her family’s betrayal
Camille was born in France, in December 1864. She is best known as the mistress and the muse of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin and I am not sure why this relationship overshadowed her remarkable talent and work.
Since early childhood she loved sculpting. She went with her brother Paul Claudel (who later became a known poet, playwright, essayist of the first half of the 20th century France) digging for clay in the woods nears their house. She used to be a rebellious girl, one that wanted to pursue her dream of doing what she loved: being a sculptor. In the end her rebellious spirit was punished but you will see how as this story follows.
Right from childhood, she felt the urge to model with clay. She used to do clay figures in her family’s barn. Her father brought the sculptor Alfred Boucher to see her work and of course, he saw her potential. Boucher pursued her father to move the entire family to Paris and there Camille started studying at the Académie Colarossi. That is because the more famous École des Beaux-Arts remained exclusively for men until 1897. Yes, that is right, this academy, which is one of the most famous art schools in the world and which was founded in 1648 by Cardinal Mazarin, was a men only school. But Académie Colarossi was forward thinking and here female artists were not only admitted, but where they were also allowed to draw from the male nudes (this was highly controversial at that time!).
In 1882 Claudel rented her own studio space in Paris, which she shared with three British sculptors Jessie Lipscomb, Amy Page, and Emily Fawcett. That is because neither of them could afford to pay the rent on their own. They were mentored by Alfred Boucher, but he had to leave Paris for Italy. He asked his friend Auguste Rodin, who by then had established a strong reputation as a sculptor, to take his place and teach this group of women.
Photo:Camille Claudel and Jessie Lipscomb
It was in 1883 when Camille met Rodin. She started working in his workshop and she became one of his pupils and also his muse and lover.
In the meantime, while her father continued to support her life choices, the rest of her family condemned her and forced her to leave the family home. This was so very sad!
Camille thrived artistically, she become recognized for her ingenuity in the portrayal of emotion and human nature. She was an innovator, working in different mediums and her creations were driven by her own individual experience.
In order, the sculptures are: La petite chatelaine, The Waltz and Sakuntala
Camille’s relationship with Rodin lasted for 10 years. These were times filled hard work, misunderstandings and disappointments on both sides. She worked with him on some of his most famous pieces, The Kiss(1882) and on The Gates of Hell (1880-1890). But after a 10 years affair, their relationship fell apart as Rodin refused to separate from Beuret and marry Camille. Rose Beuret was one of his first women assistants that became his loyal companion. They lived together for a long time and he didn’t marry her until his last year of his life!!!
Their separation marked Camille, and you can see that in her artworks. Some of them display emotional sorrow. She continued to work and to exhibit until 1905. Some of the most famous pieces The Gossips (1897-marble, onyx, bronze), The Mature Age (1899- bronze) and Clotho (1893, plaster) evoke her sophisticated style and her ability to work with difficult materials like onyx and marble. Below are the pictures for each, in this order.
I feel sad when I think what happened to Camille in her later life. As she was approaching the age of fifty, just one week after the death of her father, she was committed to a mental asylum.Doctors tried to reason with Claudel’s family that she was by no means insane, but the family wanted Claudel out of their lives. For the following 30 years, she lived in isolation at the asylum of Montdevergues. She abandoned sculpture completely.
She died alone in 1943 at the age of 78.
Rodin(1840-1917) : facing rejection and standing your ground
An older Rodin
Rodin did not have an easy life either.
This is a sculptor that had a huge influence on modern art, but he did not become established until he was in his 40s.
He was born in Paris and as a young boy he struggled to follow complicated lessons in his math and science courses. That is because he had an imperfect eyesight. So he started drawing, things that he saw or that he imagined.
In his young years he developed skills as an artist, and began taking formal art courses. At 17 he applied at École des Beaux-Arts, but he was denied admission.He then decided to pursue art in his own way and by the mid-1860s he’d completed what he would later describe as his first major work, “Mask of the Man With the Broken Nose” (1863-64). This piece was rejected twice by the Paris Salon due to the realism of the portrait!
“Mask of the Man With the Broken Nose” (1863-64)
Talking about what is socially accepted! Talking about times, places and cultures and about how all these shape the way we think!
His work, “The Vanquished”(1876) that was first exhibited in 1877, encountered serious accusations that sculpture appeared so realistic that it was directly molded from the body of the model! That is because the realism of his work contrasted so much with the work of his contemporaries!
“The Vanquished”(1876), Rodin
His originality came from his talent, he captured the body and the soul! His style of work was also unique. Instead of copying traditional academic postures, Rodin preferred his models to move naturally around his studio, even though they were naked. He made their sketches in clay and then fine-tuned these. They the models were cast in plaster, bronze or carved from marble.
Rodin continued to be rejected in various competitions for monuments to be erected in London and Paris, but finally the success of The Age of Bronze (a life size nude male in bronze) established his reputation as sculptor at the salons of Paris and Brussels in 1880. He was then 40 years old.
Throughout his life, Rodin created several iconic works, including “The Gates of Hell”, The Age of Bronze,” “The Thinker,” “The Kiss” and “The Burghers of Calais.”
The Gates of Hell, were created for a museum that the city of Paris planned to build: the Museum of Decorative Arts. Although the museum was never built, Rodin worked on this sculpture for the last 37 years of his life. This sculpture is beautiful and depicts scenes from Dante’sInferno. The original plaster is displayed at Musée d’Orsay in Paris and 3 other original bronze casts are found at museums in Paris, Philadelphia and Tokyo.
Photo: The “Gates of Hell”, Rodin, source Creative Commons
His work his beautiful. I like that he challenged the conventional thinking and the way sculptures were produced at the time. I think it’s only through challenge that we are able to advance, so we should all strive our best to follow our individual ways of creation.
Although at first rejected by the official academies because of his originality, Rodin became a sculptor of success. By the time of his death, he was likened to Michelangelo.
Brancusi(1876-1957) – a life journey from rural Romania to a world- renowned sculptor
I am not sure how many of you, if you’re not an artist, have heard of Constantin Brancusi. He was a sculptor and his work is recognized worldwide. Just last year, Christie’s sold Brancusi’s culture “La Jeune Fille Sophistiquée” (1928/1932) for a record-breaking $71 million. I walked past some of his masterpieces almost everyday, because they are displayed in the city where I was born.
I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by his work. I walked past some of his masterpieces almost everyday, because they are displayed in the city where I was born.
Photo by Edward Steichen of Brâncuşi’s workshop in Voulangis, FranceConstantin Brancusi(1876-1957)
Brancusi was born in 1876 in rural Romania. His father was a peasant, and if you go visit the village where he was born, they have preserved his house. The village is called Hobita. Sometimes there are artistic festivals there, in honor of his work.
Brancusi grew up distinctly outside of the traditional Western European narrative and like Rodin, challenged the art world to reconsider what sculpture really was and what it did.
Although for a while he was Rodin’s student, he and Rodin had different approaches. Brancusi’s goal was to capture the essence of his subjects—which included birds in flight, a kissing couple—and render give them life in sculpture with minimal formal means. The history has it that cubism was the creation of two artists – Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso – but let’s not forget Brancusi. He created in the Cubist style.
His tendency towards simplification made some call his work abstract. But it wasn’t abstract, it was very much alive and you can tell the story of his work by looking at it.
I think that like any artist, it is frustrating when your work is misunderstood, because your work is your soul and your. He said:
“They are imbeciles who call my work abstract. That which they call abstract is the most realistic, because what is real is not the exterior but the idea, the essence of things.” —Constantin Brancusi
Brancusi’s work resides at the Centre Pompidou, the Tate Modern, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But his most famous pieces resides in a city in Romania, Targu Jiu. Below are the photographies of 3 monumental pieces, as taken by a very talented photographer and friend, Ionel Scaunasu.
Photo credit: Ionel Scaunasu
The endless column is is a 98-foot-high (30 meter) column of zinc, brass-clad, cast-iron modules threaded onto a steel spine. This sculpture was commissioned by the Women’s League of Gorj to honor the soldiers who defended the city of Targu Jiu against a Germans during World War I. In the 1950s, the Romanian communist government planned to demolish the column. How appaling!!! Thankfully this plan was never executed!
Photo credit: Ionel Scaunasu
The table of silence is a circular stone table surrounded by twelve hourglass-seats, which symbolize time. The seats are not located close to the edges of the table.
Photo credit: Ionel Scaunasu
The gate of kiss….where one can kiss their loved ones….
The gate is made of travertine and is gigantic. The pillars are decorated with a circular motif, two half-circles separated by a decorative line that runs to the ground level. Some art critics say that this motif represent eyes looking inside the gate, while others see a couple kissing in it.
These three pieces, the column, the table and the gate are arranged along an axis stretching from the floodplain of the Jiu River. During five decades of communist rule the landscape drastically changed around them. The sculptures remain emotionally charged places, there not only symbols of Brancusi’s talent but also places that encourage you to reflect about life and your purpose in it.
I didn’t mean this to be an art lesson. But I think it turned to be one, as well as a lesson and an example of perseverance to always follow your dreams and to always do what suits you best. From small you can become big, from unknown you can become known.