July 29, 2008

Studio pin-ups from Germany

The little pictures and postcards that artists hang on our studio walls create a visual guide to our artistic DNA. Over in the corner, or above our desks, images (often paint-smeared) are haphazardly taped to the wall as both reference for visitors and technical reminders to ourselves. I was chatting with a weary gallery owner about studio visits recently. "You know, the studios all blur together," she said. "They have the microwave, the coffeemaker, and the Dürer image of the bunny pinned up on the wall." Well, Dürer lovers, the Museum of Biblical Art is presenting a chronological presentation of Dürer's innovative graphic work, borrowed from the Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt, Germany. In the NY Sun, Lance Esplund admits that, thanks to the Met, New Yorkers are rarely at a loss for Dürer prints, but it's a pleasure to see so many of his prints in one setting. "Part of the pleasure of experiencing a large gathering, such as this, is seeing Dürer's range in black-and-white; seeing how many unbelievable blacks and grays he can concoct; seeing how many qualities — marble, sky, fur, feather, leaf, fruit, bark, male and female flesh — all within a single print, with which he can imbue the white of the page." Esplund points out. "Dürer is such a great draftsman and colorist that his black-and-white prints have more light, more color, than many artists' full-color compositions. Dürer understands that line is emotive; that it can vibrate and quiver; feel liquid, velvety smooth, and coarse, even scratchy. Like Leonardo and Titian, he understands that contours must energize their surroundings, and vice versa. And like Michelangelo and Raphael, he understands that power is a matter of inventiveness and clarity." Read more.

At the same time, the Neue Galerie presents an exhibition focusing on another common studio pin-up, Max Beckmann's "Self-Portrait with Horn," which was painted in 1938, just after Beckmann fled Nazi Germany to seek refuge in Amsterdam. The exhibition has other paintings and drawings by Beckmann, as well as portraits and self-portraits of that era from the Neue Galerie collection by such artists as Otto Dix, George Grosz, and Christian Schad. In the NY Sun, Maureen Mullarkey reports that the show provides a good opportunity to see Beckmann's work in context. "The third-floor room in which their work is grouped is not large. Nevertheless, the selection is powerful, a fitting sequel in quality, if not in size, to 'Glitter and Doom,' the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 2006 benchmark exhibition of German portraiture from the 1920s."

"Albrecht Dürer: Art in Transition," organized by Mechthild Haas and Paul Tabor. Museum of Biblical Art, New York, NY. Through Sept. 21.

Max Beckmann: Self-Portrait with Horn,” Neue Gallery, New York, NY. Through Sept. 1.

Related post:

German history paintings: Dix, Grosz, Beckmann, Meidner and Steinhardt

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