Saturday, March 11, 2017

Oskar Kokoschka

I had been to The Netherlands on work. Pradipto who works for Philips in Hamburg had invited me to visit him and his family. I had a delightful stay at their place for a few days. His daughter, a girl of about three then, became an instant friend.

One evening, Pradipto took me out to see Hamburg by night. It was just wandering about without a clear plan. We went to the street where The Beatles performed before they became world famous. One of the surprises for me was the familiar logo of Der Spiegel visible in the night atop a building far away. I had been reading the online edition of the magazine for years by then and realised, sheepishly, that I never knew that it was published from Hamburg. The building we saw was its headquarters.

My friend took me to a sort of monument in the open. Just a set of walls and steps. On one of the walls was a picture that looked vaguely familiar. More by its style than by the painting itself. I walked closer to it and saw that it was by Oskar Kokoshcka!

Art Abroad VIII

Monday, March 06, 2017

At the Apex of the Glass Pyramid

A lifelong (about fifteen years, I guess) ambition fulfilled. Paris and The Louvre!
Let us get it out of the way. No, I was not disappointed by Mona Lisa - La Giaconda (pronounced something like la szhakOnda) as the French call it. I had already read so much about it, including people's disappointment when they saw it, ("It is so smaaaaaall!") that I had a fair idea of what to expect. Seeing it for real in the dim (to protect the treasure from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays) light was thrilling and satisfying. I had bought 1600 ASA (ISO) film at a hefty price just for the purpose and it paid off. Renting a radio device and headphones, walking into the area marked off by a metal strip embedded in the wooden floor around the niche where it is hung and listening over the headphones to the story and glory of la Giaconda was a pleasure!

The greater pleasure was actually to see Leonardo's Madonna of the Rocks and the huge charcoal study he made for it, the huge canvasses of the Romanticists, Eugene Delacroix's Raft of the Medusa, for instance, and Venus de Milo and so on.

The Raft of the Medusa was an eye opener. Having seen it only in books, the sheer size of it and its impact were totally unexpected. I sat on the wooden bench in front of it and gaped at it for as long as I could without seriously compromising the time I had for the whole museum. That left me wondering. What is an adequate length of time to see the whole museum?

To have something of the Louvre with me apart from the memories and the photographs, I bought a mini guide to the museum. Once in a while, I take the book out and go through it to travel back in time and walk through my garden of memories.

Art Abroad VII

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Vincent's Fire

As soon as I came to know that I would be visiting The Netherlands, I made a to-do list. The first item on the list was "Visit Vincent van Gogh Museum"
To be completely truthful, it was not a physical list but it existed only in my mind. As an aside, does a list that exists in the mind have a physical existence? Are phrases like "in the mind" and "a physical version of it" the result of arbitrary dichotomous thinking?
Visit I did. It was a long-standing ambition, ever since I heard of van Gogh and fell in love with his paintings, fulfilled.
It is a building with a modern design. Spacious and great for exhibiting van Gogh's works. These paintings were gifted to the museum by the wife of Vincent's brother Theo, Johanna. The museum has some of the most famous and more mature works of Vincent and is a pleasure to see them all together. While the raw power of his brush strokes and his unique vision can be discerned even in good colour prints, seeing them for real is an experience beyond compare.
I entered the first floor of the museum and took in the overall look of the hall. As I moved inside I could see a painting come into view from behind a pillar. It is a painting depicting an old house the cooking fire in which is visible through a window.

(Cottage at nightfall) From that distance and in that lighting, it looked as if someone had lit a red LED there to indicate the fire. I was captivated and went straight to the picture and peered at it. It appeared to have been made with a single stroke of a rough brush carrying red paint. In my imagination that has remained THE brush stroke in art.

Vincent was on fire when he painted that!

Image: Courtesy

Art Abroad VII