TIO NYC: Surfing The Met + Asia Society!

He is often cited as the father of modern art. His facile, flat style of painting, his brushstrokes loose, broad, and quick, were visible to the eye rather than so finely blended to become invisible. paved the way for the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, and many modern artists.

He is Édouard Manet.

He spent as much time as he could in the cafés, theatres, and dance studios of Paris, inspired by the women, especially ballerinas, he saw there. (Despite his renowned misogyny. Go figure.) And he is credited with being one of the founders of impressionism.

He is Edgar Degas.

Born just two years apart, Manet (1832–1883) and Degas (1834–1917) were essentially frenemies and, at times, full-on antagonists. Two of the most influential artists of the 19th century (and beyond), their work helped define modern painting.

Manet/Degas, an exhibition featuring the work of these two art world titans, is now up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through January 7, 2024. It was our first stop on our tour of New York’s robust cultural scene this fall.

Go here for more about TIO in NYC.

Manet/Degas, more:

“Through more than 160 paintings and works on paper, Manet/Degas takes a fresh look at the interactions of these two artists in the context of the family relationships, friendships, and intellectual circles that influenced their artistic and professional choices, deepening our understanding of a key moment in nineteenth-century French painting,” explains The Met.

History says Manet needed Degas to affirm his radical, defining project: painting contemporary city life. Manet in turn liberated Degas, allowing him to throw out history painting in favor of daily life, which he did repeatedly and with great distinction.

Caveat emptor: This blockbuster of a show, according to The Met, the first major exhibition featuring these two pinnacles of painting side by side, is drawing big traffic. If you choose to go now, it could be worth your while to become a member of the museum, a move that will afford you priority entry. Otherwise waits on the long lines are often a half hour to 45 minutes.

In the end, Manet became known for following poet/philosopher Baudelaire’s call to artists to become painters of modern life. Baudelaire purportedly also said black was the color of the 19th Manet used black as a color, not just as a tone.

As for Degas, his studies and output, especially of the female form, furthered the exploration of the figure and the portrait in all the visual arts.

For more on Manet/Degas, read Holland Cotter’s review for The New York Times.

Vertigo of Color: Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism:

Fauve is French for “wild beast.” Fauvism is the name applied to work produced by a group of artists – which included Henri Matisse and André Derain – from around 1905 to 1910. The movement was characterized by strong, highly saturated, sun-bathed colors juxtaposed to flat areas and fierce brushwork.

“In the early summer of 1905, Henri Matisse invited his young friend André Derain to join him on the French Mediterranean for a few weeks of painting and drawing. Their fabled partnership in the small fishing village of Collioure would forever change the course of French painting. In freewheeling experiments, they explored color and light on the beaches and in the surrounding hills, exercises that led their contemporaries to reconsider the nature of brushwork and the role of color in their practice. When the astonishing new paintings were shown at the Salon d’Automne in Paris, critics derided their radical departure from convention. One critic called these artists les Fauves (literally “wild beasts”).

“So, what were Matisse and Derain doing in Collioure that caused such a stir? They redefined color in the natural world. Rather than painting perceptually, loyal to nature’s hues, they relied on their own sensations, processing color through experience. Experimenting with pinks and lavenders in a forest of cork oak trees was bold and daring. Similarly, primary colors straight from the tube ‘heated’ paintings of Collioure’s port. With Fauvism, color took on a role of its own, and brushwork varied from blended strokes to blocky marks. In the end, the Collioure experiments were less a cohesive discourse in paint than a liberating realignment of color—an important step on the way to modernism as we know it today,” explains The Met.

Unlike Manet/Degas, “Vertigo of Color,” up through January 21, 2024, was a quiet stroll through the magic that happened in a post-card seaside village located on the far western Mediterranean coast of France. Azure waters lap at beaches sin town. Pastel houses lean over narrow lanes that lead to sun-dappled squares.

“Vertigo of Color,” at once as charming as Collioure itself and exciting for movement the venue inspired, with Matisse the titular head.

To sum up: Fauvism emphasized vibrant colors, simplified forms, and emotional impact and still resonates with artists today.

‘Tree & Serpent,” Early Buddhist Art in India, 200 BCE–400 CE:

Buddhism is a faith founded by Siddhartha Gautama—also known as “the Buddha” more than 2,500 years ago in India.

“Featuring more than 125 objects dating from 200 BCE to 400 CE, the exhibition presents a series of evocative and interlocking themes to reveal both the pre-Buddhist origins of figurative sculpture in India and the early narrative traditions that were central to this formative moment in early Indian art. With major loans from a dozen lenders across India, as well as from the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States, it transports visitors into the world of early Buddhist imagery that gave expression to this new religion as it grew from a core set of ethical teachings into one of the world’s great religions…” writes The Met.

Walking through the show, with its serene lighting, felt like a moving meditation, with hero of this beautifully curated story hailed for his compassion and contentment.

For details, check out this review from The New York Times.

And this fascinating article, also from The New York Times, about the challenge of putting a sublime show like this together. The requirements? Deft diplomacy and big muscle and endless paperwork. Evidently took years.

Asia Society: “Meiji Modern, Fifty Years of New Japan,” through January 7, 2024:

The show is a fresh look at the art of Japan’s Meiji era (1868-1912) and a joint venture between the Asia Society and the Japanese Art Society of America.

The show effectively charts Japan’s unique engagement with modernity during the era, through an extraordinary selection of objects – screens, prints, paintings, photographs, textiles, embroidery, sculpture, enamel, lacquer – in American collections, 175 pieces in all.

We found depictions of Meiji rulers in Western clothing and portrayals of American dignitaries in Japanese clothing, including American presidents George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Franklin. Images which underscore new international connections.

Highlighting the active role of art in the construction of the Japanese nation-state, all these works in a variety of mediums roll up to capture the hopes and dreams of Japanese modernization, also its many challenges.

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