Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Trip to the National Gallery

Continuing to post to my blog has become a concern for me. After my visit to France, what in the world do I have to say? Well, a visit to the National Gallery of Art this past week provided me with an answer to that question, and I will gingerly start posting again. 
     Spending time in Washington, DC is one of my favorite activities. A trip into the city isn't complete without a visit to a museum or two. This week I was able to enjoy the Picasso drawing exhibition at the National Gallery of Art. This show has had me thinking since Monday, much as a good movie will grab onto my consciousness and not let go.
     Included in the work on view are drawings from Picasso's academic training years, as well as art that illustrates his growth using collage materials and his cubist explorations.
     My visit was shared with my friend George. He and I have been attending art exhibits for more years than I would like to admit, and I am always grateful for his company. George is not an artist, but his insights are always a pleasure and his questions usually prompt reflection in me. This time, I was thrilled by a self-portrait that Picasso made when he was a young man, and George asked me what I found appealing about this piece. I have been thinking about George’s question for several days and am going to attempt to answer it more clearly here.
Self-portrait by Pablo Picasso (1901-1902)
     Obviously, this is a more traditional drawing than much of the work well known by Picasso. Picasso had a very traditional training, and his early work reflects that. This piece was made when Picasso was 20 or 21 years of age. What appeals to me so much about this drawing is the bold and confident execution of the work. This piece includes watercolor, and there is a blotch of paint in the hair that apparently did not concern the artist. I find it particularly appealing when an artist has no need for perfection and shows the medium that is being utilized. In this case, Picasso used watercolor, charcoal and a bit of pastel. Perhaps the use of some of my favorite media had a role to play in my reaction to the portrait. The hatching in the background provides a dynamic counter-point to the intense, contemplative gaze, and the touches of color enhance the composition. What usually appeals to me most in a piece of art is the emotional reaction that I feel when viewing it. This image draws me in emotionally precisely because of that intense gaze, while the bold and confident execution makes me linger.
     As for my own work, I am still lingering in memories of France and will be posting some of those paintings shortly… please stay tuned!