Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Anders Zorn exhibit at the Gardner

In Wikstrom's Studio by Anders Zorn

There is a terrific show of Anders Zorn's work at the venerable Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  Up until now I've only seen one or two pieces of his work scattered about but this show has a good collection of his paintings all in one place.  I have to confess that I normally can't stand looking at portraits or paintings of people and have been known to avoid exhibits of people paintings.  It's not that I don't appreciate it as an art form it's that I just have never liked that genre. But this is Anders Zorn!  A few paintings grabbed me plus there's no denying his virtuosity and talent. As a mass transit user I particularly enjoyed his omnibus paintings, everyday people doing everyday things. I've often thought of how many great paintings could come out of my subway rides if I only painted people it could be an endless subject.  One of my favorites was a painting called "Natteffekt" it's of a woman in a red coat with a thick fur collar and she looks like she's had one heck of a good time and the party is still going on for her.  She's a bit disheveled, lipstick seems a smear, maybe she's had a bit too much wine but no matter she's enjoying herself.  I could be reading the painting all wrong but that's what comes across and I love it for just that reason.

I spent a lot of time looking at Zorn's backgrounds which are fantastic.  I love his loose but confident brushwork, the bold strokes that describe a chair, window, shoe or collar with one strong swoop of paint and masterful ease. He'd thrash a few lines here and there and voila a table and chairs in the background or view out an bus window...just terrific.  I appreciated the insight into his process when they grouped a number of the omnibus sketches near the finished painting. He experiments with composition, people looking one way, then another.  The woman carries a round box (hat box?) then Zorn settles on a square box.  They have the same expression as subway and bus riders have today with the exception that everyone now seems glued to their cellphones.  The people on his bus have their eyes cast off somewhere, they are in their own world, pensive.

But my favorite painting was the one above "In Wikstrom's Studio"  The image above does not do it any justice except to give you an idea of what it looks like.  I stood in front of this one a long time first because I was crazy for the brushwork, the color values and "story". The model doesn't know we are there observing her, is she getting ready to model or getting dressed after modeling? All the colors and values are very close. Her dress seems to be stone like all that's around her and out of this garment "pedestal" a slightly pink, warm blooded woman emerges. Perhaps because Spring starts tomorrow (after our blizzard of today!), the daffodils and tulips are coming up despite the beating they are taking but I see this painting and her as Spring-like, life gently emerging from all that dust, stone and clay with the hint of green in the tree in the back.  I really loved this painting and will go back to visit it and the rest of the exhibit again.  Perhaps my only regret is that they did not have more watercolors of his on display, I love his watercolors! This is not a one visit show.