Sunday, February 28, 2016

Westward I Go

For New Yorkers, whether born and raised or appropriated, after a certain amount of time Manhattan becomes the center of the universe. Die-hard Manhattanites resist going to Brooklyn, and will never go to Queens, the Bronx, or Staten Island. So can you imagine going to New Jersey? Well, my dear readers, this post serves as an announcement that I have once again changed residencies. I have embarked on that journey far across the Hudson River to the land known as Jersey City. Westward Ho indeed! Now, to just about anyone else in the entire world, this move may seem like nothing--the JC waterfront literally looks out on the World Trade Center and lower Manhattan--but the NYC-centric mindset is a powerful force for those of us who live(d) here. I had become very accustomed, living on the Upper West Side, to doing things like heading to Riverside Park to read a book, eating a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese at Tal Bagel on Saturday mornings, and shopping in a local grocery market called Broadway Farm. I had a 12-minute subway ride to work, and on beautiful days I could walk home in 30 minutes. Readers may even recall my discovery of the building I was living in having been designed by my great-grandmother's brother, the architect George Bagge! Alas, circumstances regarding my residency (i.e. the owners decided to sell) forced me into finding a new home. I confess I would never have considered Jersey City on my own, even if it is currently less expensive by NYC standards. When I was growing up, JC was one of the worst cities in the tri-state area. Not anymore, I can tell you. The restaurants, galleries, and boutiques popping up everywhere have ensured Jersey City's status as the new hipster zone. Some are even calling it the "new Brooklyn," and even The New York Times picked up on the story! (Who knew I would ever be so hip?!) daily commute is going to be much longer, but I am anticipating catching up on more reading. And I am lamenting the loss of all the NYC conveniences I have grown to love, but it will be nice to spend less on groceries. There is, though, a most wonderful turn of events about this relocation: AA and I are now living together. We are residing in a beautiful unit in the CANCO Lofts. The picture above shows you the south facade of the building, which was one of five that in the early part of the 20th century were factory warehouses for the American Can Company. The building was converted into condominiums just a few years ago. You can read more about this building as one of the new great places to live in that same NYT article linked above. And, in case you're wondering, bklynbiblio is not going to change its name. As I mentioned a few years ago when I moved to the UWS, this blog was born and christened in Brooklyn, so no matter where I go, its heart will always be in Brooklyn.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Art Details: 6 to 10


Image Credits: All images taken by bklynbiblio/Roberto C. Ferrari. Top to bottom:
  1. Dying soldier from east pediment, Temple of Aegina, Greece, late 5th century BCE, marble, Glyptothek, Munich.
  2. Frederic, Lord Leighton, The Music Lesson, 1877, oil on canvas, Guildhall Art Gallery, London.
  3. Jean-Léon Gérôme, Moorish Bath, 1870, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
  4. Claude Monet, Boulevard des Capucines, 1873-74, oil on canvas, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City.
  5. Botticelli, Madonna of the Magnificat, late 15th century, oil on canvas, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

MWA XXXVIII: Gainsborough's Boy

The picture you see here is one of those images that has been reproduced so many times that you know it instantly, even if you aren't sure who it is or who painted it. This is Thomas Gainsborough's Blue Boy, painted in 1770, from the The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. I have never seen this picture in person, because I have never been to this institution--yet! But like anyone who has seen it I have always been fascinated by the boy's overtly confident, almost cocky, facial expression and pose, and the vibrancy and bravura of the blue garments that Gainsborough painted. I chose this work for February's Monthly Work of Art because I recently read Martin Postle's short book on Gainsborough. Rather than do my own interpretation of this painting, then, here are the words of specialists who know much more about this than I do.

This painting "was Gainsborough’s first attempt at full length Van Dyck dress--knee breeches and a slashed doublet with a lace collar--which is based on the work of Anthony van Dyck, the 17th-century Flemish painter who had revolutionized British art. ... Though clearly indebted to Van Dyck, Gainsborough’s painting technique was entirely his own. Whereas Van Dyck applied color in discrete patches composed of short consecutive strokes, Gainsborough presents a chaos of erratic color and brushstrokes. The shimmering blue satin is rendered in a spectrum of minutely calibrated tints--indigo, lapis, cobalt, slate, turquoise, charcoal, and cream--that have been applied in extremely complex layers of vigorous slashes and fine strokes. At the proper distance, the diverse pigments crystallize into an illusion of solidity." (online catalogue entry)

"The Blue Boy is Gainsborough's most famous picture, and his most enigmatic. Through its elevation to iconic status in the twentieth century this picture, more than any other, has served to promote the artist's image as a romantic painter of chocolate-box cavaliers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The painting is a parody. The boy in question was not the offspring of an aristocrat but the teenage son of a prosperous Soho ironmonger, and a person friend of the artist. His costume was a popular form of fancy dress which ... was otherwise restricted to the ephemeral realm of the masquerade, then a popular form of entertainment in the capital. ... X-rays have revealed that Gainsborough painted The Blue Boy upon a discarded, cut-down canvas, which further suggests that this was not a straight-forward portrait commission but an impromptu jeu d'esprit." -- Martin Postle, Thomas Gainsborough (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2002), 46.