Monday, February 20, 2012

Museum Hopping in San Francisco!

 February 10th and 11th, 2012

Well, it's been a long couple of months. Between illnesses, surgeries and a death in the family, I was looking forward to a few days in San Francisco and the comfort and joy I always find in museums. A day and a half of walking around the city,  fresh air from the sea and culture galore was chicken soup for my soul!

I started my day off at the Legion of Honor- one of my favorite places in all of San Francisco!

Visiting the museum on a weekday is the best. Even though it was mid-day on a Friday, the museum was blessedly empty and it was a pleasure to be able to wander, take pictures, just sit and really "look." - like I was taught to do in Florence.

The weather was spotty, but I persevered- motivated in large part by a special and exclusive exhibit of Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Medussa,  a Baroque masterpiece that is on loan from the Musei Capitolini in Rome!

Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Medussa. 1640s. Carrara marble. Musei Capitolini, Rome.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Portrait of Costanza Bonarelli. 1637-1638. The Bargello, Florence.

Medussa is stunning and dynamic! She is full of the turmoil, energy and drama that Bernini captures in his best works! Seeing a Bernini in San Francisco takes me back to Florence and his Costanza at the Bargello! Sigh*

After meditating on Medussa, I spent a few hours walking around the museum and "looking." Here are some of my favorite pieces from the permanent collection of the Legion of Honor:

Cycladic Figure, marble, 2500 BCE

Massimo Stanzione. Woman in Neopolitan Costume. Italian. Oil on Canvas. ca. 1635

Master of Cappenberg. The Flagellation and The Crowning with Thorns from a Passion of Christ series. Oil on panel. German. ca. 1500-1530.

Spanish Ceiling. Painted, gilded, and composed wood. 1482–1503. Palacio de Altamira, Spain.

Benvenuto Cellini and workshop. Portrait Bust of Cosimo il Primo, Grand Duke of Tuscany. ca. 1548–1553. Pentelic marble.

Never say that Medicis aren't international stars! 

Beautiful skylight gallery with Rodin's sculptures

Auguste Rodin. Les Troi Ombres (The Three Shades). Bronze. French. 1898.

Gabriel Metsu. Woman Playing the Viola da Gamba. Oil on panel. Dutch. 1663.

Elizabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun.  Hyacinthe Gabrielle Roland, later Marchioness Wellesley. Oil on canvas. French. 1791.

Konstantin Makovsky. The Russian Bride's Attire. Oil on canvas. Russian. 1887.

This is my favorite painting from the Legion's permanent collection. I am always and ever intrigued by its subject and fairy tale quality. Not to mention the mastery of its artist!

William Adolphe Bouguereau. The Broken Pitcher. Oil on canvas. French. 1891.

James Tissot. Le Dimanche Matin (Sunday Morning).  Drypoint. French. 1883.

Georges Seurat. La Tour Eiffel. Oil on panel. French. 1889.
Georges Seurat. La Tour Eiffel. (detail) -as you can see at the top, la tour is not quite finished!

Claude Monet. Water Lillies. Oil on canvas. French. ca. 1914-17.

Claude Monet. Grand Canal, Venice. Oil on canvas. French. 1908. I was just there!!!

Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Mother and Child. Oil on canvas. French. 1895.

A recent acquisition! Odilon Redon. Vase of Flowers. Oil on canvas. French. 1901.

Giovanni Baldini (Italian):  Portrait of Mrs. Whitney Warren, Sr. Oil on canvas. 1908. and Portrait of Mrs. William Kissam Vanderbilt II (nee Virginia Graham Fair). Oil on canvas. 1905.

Auguste Rodin. Compositions of Right Feet. date unknown. Plaster and Clay.

Auguste Rodin. The Thinker. Cast bronze. French. 1904.

Lincoln Park Golf Course outside the Legion of Honor

View of the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog

After such a full morning of walking and looking at art, I decided to treat myself to another of my favorite Burmese restaurants in the Richmond District:

Mandalay: California Street, San Francisco

I ordered a Thai Iced Tea, Lunch Special #3 and a side of Coconut Rice!
The lunch specials come with soup!

Lunch Special #3: Mango Chicken and Two Samusas! Yum, Yum, Yum!!

After lunch I headed to the De Young to see the Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
I had some time to wait before I could go in, so I decided to walk around the other galleries and check out another special exhibit: 

Here are some of my favorite pieces from the American Galleries:

The painting I was obsessed with as a child: John Singer Sargeant. Caroline de Bassano, Marquise d'Espeuilles. Oil on canvas. 1884.

John Singer Sargeant. La verre de porto (A Dinner Table at Night). Oil on canvas. 1884. 

Robert Henri. Lady in Black with Spanish Scarf (O in Black with a Scarf). Oil on canvas. 1910.

Selden Connor Gile. Spring. Oil on canvas. 1928. 

 Chiura Obata. Mother Earth. Ink and colors on silk. 1912 (reworked in 1922, 1928).

I also peeked into a special exhibit called Art of the Anatolian Kilim: Highlights from the McCoy Jones Collection. These kilim- which are decorative or prayer rugs- are a part of the De Young's amazing permanent textiles collection!

Here are a few details of my favorites. I think I'd like to crochet a blanket in these colors!

Florine Stettheimer. Still Life with Flowers. Oil on canvas. 1921.

Albert Bloch. Nacht I. Oil on canvas mounted on hardboard. 1913.

 John Koch. The Bridge. Oil on canvas. ca. 1950. I love this piece. You can see the clear influence of Hokusai's 36 Views of Mount Fuji. The subject of the painting is not the figures in the room, but rather the bridge you can see in the distance through the open window :-)

I also peeked into the African galleries.  Diety Figure from a Shrine. Wood, pigment, brass, cloth. Igbo People, Nigeria. Late 19th/early 20th century.

Kanaga Mask. Wood, Paint, Fiber, Fur, Animal Hide. Dogon Peoplel, Mali. 20th century.

Since this post turned out so long, I'll write another one about the Venetian Masters Exhibit tomorrow!

Here is tonight's home cooked dinner:


My second successful Potato Gratin!

Research about my Grandmother's Family

With my Grandmother's recent passing, I've had the task of doing some research about her family. She rarely mentioned them, as they died when she was little more than a girl and the memories of them were very, very painful.

She was a Holocaust survivor. At thirteen, her father sent her to visit family in Moscow for the summer. The family was very special. They had adopted her father after his entire family was killed in a Polish pogrom during World War I- when he was just a boy.

The year she came to Moscow was a tragic one. It was June, 1941.

Within a few days of arriving in Moscow, my grandmother received a missive from her father in Berdichev (Ukraine) telling her to stay in Moscow and not return home. That was the last time she heard from her family. The family who adopted her father- the child of a pogrom, adopted his daughter- the child of a war.

George Segal. The Holocaust. Public Sculpture outside the Legion of Honor. 1984.

Before the war, Berdichev was called the "Jerusalem" of Ukraine. There were thousands of Jews living there, a vibrant metropolis of religious and secular culture. Synagogues. Yiddish Theaters. Yeshivas. Children playing in the streets. People living their lives without harming anyone else.

It is easy to see why such a city was a priority for the Nazi Gestapo. Within three months, all the Jews in Berdichev were arrested, herded into a ghetto, and quickly exterminated.

Since my grandmother's funeral, where I gave a speech to honor her life, I have been thinking about what I discovered about her family and what I read about the horrors that occurred in Berdichev. What we know about the hundreds of thousands of Jews that were played with and tortured like they were nothing is very, very little. Of her family, I only found her father in a Soviet catalog of names and in someone's testimony at the Holocaust Museum in Israel. It's horrifying to think how her family was gathered up and slaughtered like animals. How her mother, sisters and baby brother remain anonymous in a mass grave. 

 Page of Testimony from Yad Voshem

As I stood at the Holocaust memorial outside the Legion of Honor, I felt grateful that my grandmother survived and that I could tell the story of her family.  Whereas before this sculpture made me ache with fear and horror, it now seems a welcome memorial to the unnamed innocents. A powerful way to honor and remember the dead. A caution for the future. 

The man who stands holding the barbed wire fence stares out at me with resignation, in accusation, in defeat, in suffering, maybe also in hope. "What will you do about me? About us?" He seems to ask. It's a bleak image. The stark white of the figures on concrete makes them anonymous. Forgotten. A fill in the blank. They could be anyone. They could be me. My family. My friends and loved ones. They could be you.

In his dedication of this memorial, the artist George Senegal, writes: 

"We will never forget the genocidal slaughter of six million Jews, including one and a half million children, in the Nazi Holocaust 1933-1945.

"We will never forget the apathy of a world which allowed that Holocaust and the deliberate murder of millions of other people to happen. 

"We will never forget the martyrs of that evil abyss in history. Nor will we forget those Jews and the righteous of all faiths who resisted and fought that evil. 

"In memory of those martyrs and fighters, we pledge our lives to the creation of a world in which such evil and such apathy will not be tolerated."