Philadelphia Museum of Art Visit

Shades of Eternal Night (detail)

I’m getting to museums a lot this month. My friend and I made a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art the other day. It’s certainly the museum I’ve been to the most, but with a museum of that size, there’s alway’s something new to see and they seem to rotate parts of the permanent collection around enough that you can always see something new. I’ve also never been to the museum with my friend, so that adds an extra element of newness. Anyone you go to a museum with will be interested in different works than you and will see the same works differently.

I tried to take a lot of pictures, some less successful than others. You can find almost all of these works on the museum’s website, which thankfully for me, has an interface where you click on a map and it shows you what works are currently on display in the selected room. I wouldn’t have known what a few of these paintings were otherwise as I didn’t take any notes with my photos.

Nocturne by Whistler

A horrible photo of a beautiful painting. The painting itself is blurry and abstracted with hints of landscape elements. I’d love to see a whole exhibit of night paintings.

Peace by Puvis de Chavannes (detail)

A detail of an otherwise quite unattractive painting. The primary foreground figures were very stiff, but these background figures, drawn with much less detail in a freer gesture, had a lot of life and movement to them.

Faust and Marguerite by Hendrik Jan August Leys (details)

Another painting that I mostly was not interested in, but this small section in the background has a great depth to it. Also note the little orange flickers of candles.

Winter Landscape by Cezanne (detail)

I loved the application of color in this Cezanne landscape, but even more striking is the way he has left large portions of the canvas unpainted. One is tempted to think the painting is unfinished, until you really consider the composition. This detail doesn’t really do that effect justice. You can see the full painting here.

After the Bath by Degas (detail)

The abstract and dynamic black stroke here is the head of the woman who is the main subject of the painting. I just wanted to capture the heaviness of the bottom curve.

The Soothsayer's Recompense by De Chirico

I was thrilled to come upon this De Chirico, one of his metaphysical paintings featuring the figure of Ariadne. I didn’t even know the musuem had one of these. Quite representative of the period for De Chirico. I picked up an exhibit catalog in the museum store all about De Chirico’s use of the Ariadne character/myth so I’ll probably be writing more about this at another time.

The Fatal Temple by De Chirico

Another smaller De Chirico. A horrible photo of a very unusual painting. It’s very flat and almost divided into panels.

View through the Large Glass

I just wanted to get a shot of the view through Duchamp’s Large Glass out into the courtyard. As I understand it (from Duchamp biographies I’ve read): Originally, a sculpture by a South American artist Duchamp had some kind of relationship with sat out there. When the Arensberg’s were deciding where to donate their large collection of Duchamp’s works, with the participation of Duchamp himself. Part of the stipulation was that the window seen in the photo above be added to the room so that the viewer could look through the Large Glass at the no-longer there sculpture.

The Crucifixion, with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist Mourning by Rogier van der Weyden (detail)

The Van Der Weyden diptych (of which the above is a detail) is hung in a room with a few rows of small square wooden stools in front of it. It’s an amazingly beautiful painting, that perhaps gives some feel of the religious experience delivered by medieval altarpieces. I just took a detail to try to capture the lush cloth on the garments of Mary and Saint John, as well as the subtle coloring.

Best for last, my favorite part of the museum, is the room (plus one painting at the entrance to the room) of Cy Twombly’s series of 10 paintings, Fifty Days at Iliam.

This series seems to embody so many things I look for and appreciate in paintings/art: sequence, space, limited color, narrative, literary references, text. And, as I mentioned when discussing Newman’s Stations of the Cross, there is wonderful power to paintings shown in this type of enclosed and personal (personal to the paintings, that is) space. So here’s a bunch of photos of the room, individual paintings, and a bunch of details. Here is the museum’s page with images of the full paintings. Click on the first image below, then click on the right side of it to cycle through the rest.

Fifty Days at Illium (room)


Fifty Days at Illium (room)-2


Fifty Days at Illium (room)-3


Fifty Days at Illium (room)-4


Shield of Achilles by Twombly (detail)


Heroes of the Achaeans by Twombly


The Fire that Consumes All before It (detail)


Heroes of the Ilians (detail)


Ilians in Battle (detail)


Shades of Eternal Night (detail)