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Curse, Legacy or Both? Ingres chronicled an era with his luminous portraits of
the rising bourgeoisie, but he didn't exactly relish the thought
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, the classical French master of the 19th century, professed to abhor the painting of portraits. "I cannot stand them anymore," he wrote a friend in 1841. "It is not to paint portraits that I returned to Paris." "Cursed portraits!" he wrote another friend six years later. "They always prevent me from undertaking important things..." The ambitious undertaking stemmed from a modest...
May 30, 1999
A Seat of Honor in American Design; Ray and Charles Eames, their life, their
work and their optimism
WASHINGTON - Charles (Eames) and Ray Eames designed the form-fitting chairs that are so ubiquitous now we forget how dramatic and modern the invention once seemed. They housed their offices in an old auto garage on Washington Boulevard in Venice, encouraging the new fad for transforming factory lofts into galleries and studios. They influenced modern architecture by building a box-like steel and glass home on the Pacific...
June 7, 1999
The Mexican Elections: A
Theater of the Absurd Before Electoral Reform
BETHESDA, MARYLAND - Once the shock wore off, it only took a few moments reflection to deduce what had happened. Fausto Zapata had obviously staged a Mexican theater of the absurd to influence the presidential succession. Pundits looked on Secretary of the Interior Mario Moya Palencia and Fausto's boss, Secretary of the Presidency Hugo Cervantes del Rio, as the two leading candidates for selection by Luis Echeverria. Many...
July 2, 2000
Spain: A Democratic Miracle
That Stills Sets a Peaceful Standard
WASHINGTON - That evening in the movie theater hallways served as a kind of metaphor for Spain at that moment in history. Not only did it demonstrate the enormous will of Spaniards for change, but the spirited laughter at old jokes, from a movie shelved for almost four decades, underscored how isolated Spain seemed in those days. Spain was a pariah in Europe, blackballed from pacts and...
November 19, 2000
Alfred Stieglitz, Revisited
WASHINGTON - A National Gallery of Art exhibit spotlights 'the single most important figure in American art in the first half of the 20th century'. To prove this, Sarah Greenough has put together an exhibition that combines Alfred Stieglitz's photographs with the paintings, watercolors, drawings and photos of his American disciples and of the European masters that he championed. Stieglitz and his tiny galleries introduced Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Rousseau, Paul Cezanne and Constantin Brancusi to America. Also reconstructed is a temporary installation that Stieglitz photographed...
January 27, 2001
for the senses
BARCELONA - In this sophisticated Spanish city, three celebrated palaces of music are a feast for the eyes as well as for the ears. Painters such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro and architects such as Antonio Gaudi have given this city a reputation as a center of European art. Less known is its role as a musical metropolis. But Barcelona, the capital of the Spanish region of Catalonia, has produced as many virtuoso musicians as artists, and its three houses of music - the Liceo, the Palau de ...
October 13, 2002
fooling the eye and centuries of art lovers
WASHINGTON - The National Gallery exhibition 'Deceptions and Illusions' delves into the history of trompe l'oeil painting. Hoodwinking the customer - even the museum director - is the main point of the exhibition, "Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil Painting," which is on view at its sole venue, the National Gallery, until March 2. Trompe l'oeil is a French expression that means "deceive the eye," and it is used to describe a genre of painting in which the artist tries...
November 1, 2002
avant-gardist, dramatically reframed
WASHINGTON - Instead of a shy recluse, Edouard Vuillard was bossy, according to new scholarship at the heart of a vast retrospective. Edouard Vuillard was never really neglected. But art historians tended to look on him as a flash that flickered out before the end of the 19th century. This view was held even though Vuillard, who died in 1940 at 71, painted well into the 20th century. In recent years, however, Vuillard has been treated with more seriousness and studied with greater intensity. The first fruit...
February 15, 2003
empathy of an architect
BERLIN - Jewish Museum and Felix Nussbaum House illustrate the talent of Daniel Libeskind, who is redesigning the World Trade Center site. Symbolist: Daniel Libeskind is known for design that refers to a building's meaning, purpose. Memorial: Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum Berlin, patterned after "a compressed and distorted" Star of David, receives an average of 2,000 visitors a day. Walled in: Long corridors and empty spaces are a disquieting feature at the Jewish Museum...
April 6, 2003
retrospective leaps over race's barriers
WASHINGTON - The tension between Romare Bearden as an African American artist and Bearden as a universal artist infuses the mood of the exhibition. It is natural for African Americans to take pride in Bearden, and the District of Columbia, which has a majority black population, is touting the National Gallery show as the cornerstone of a 10-week cultural festival called "Blues & Dreams: Celebrating the African- ...
September 24, 2003
In the 1990s, while I was covering the United Nations for the Los Angeles Times, Madeleine Albright approached my table at a banquet in New York. My wife hugged her warmly, exclaiming: "Madeleine, you're doing a wonderful job as U.N. ambassador!" "Yes," Albright replied, "but Stanley doesn't think so." I grinned foolishly. I kept recalling that encounter as I read this engaging memoir of a remarkable foreign-born woman who came here as a refugee child and later negotiated the political thickets of Washington to become this nation's first female secretary of State...
September 28, 2003
Madam Secretary: A Memoir
by Madeleine Albright
Frivolity before the revolution
WASHINGTON - The small genre masterpieces of the French painters of the 18th century are so frothy, so delightful, so charming and sometimes so naughty that it is hard to associate them with such weighty themes as philosophy and revolution. But an extraordinary exhibition of these paintings, currently at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, makes the persuasive case that these great artists, no matter how frivolous their subjects often seemed, reflected the philosophical ideas of the Enlightenment that coursed through France during these decades and laid the groundwork for the French Revolution...
October 21, 2003
Dancing With the Dictator
WASHINGTON - A little more than 50 years ago, the United States signed a pact with Generalissimo Francisco Franco allowing U.S. military forces to use air and naval bases in Spain. The agreement was a momentous event for Spain, and its repercussions still matter. For Americans, however, the pact, though significant, was a minor moment in the Cold War. U.S. historians barely mention it. The 50th anniversary passed in September with hardly any notice in Washington...
January 4, 2004
American Policy Gave Hussein Reason to Deceive
WASHINGTON - If Saddam Hussein had few or no weapons of mass destruction, why did he act as if he possessed arsenals of them? Why did Iraqis harass U.N. inspectors, bar their entry into certain buildings and sneak trucks out the back gates of compounds if there was nothing to hide? Analysts have been quick to suggest reasons. A prevailing view is machismo — Hussein was trying to conceal his weakness, not his strength. Some experts, such as former weapons inspector David Kay, have said that scientists, seeking to enrich themselves with funds for phony projects, hoodwinked Hussein, not the inspectors. But one factor, just as important as the others, has been overlooked. U.N. inspections were undercut from the start by U.S. policy...
February 8, 2004
The Opening Volleys
The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq have ignited so much confusion, controversy and cant that myriad books are sure to descend upon us for many years, all promising to shed light on the morass. Here are three of the first, all very different...
February 13, 2004
Allies: The U.S., Britain, and Europe in the Aftermath of the Iraq War
by William Shawcross
The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq
by Christopher Scheer, Robert Scheer and Lakshmi Chaudhry
Secrets and Lies: Operation "Iraqi Freedom" and After
by Dilip Hiro
Strikes a New Pose
WASHINGTON - During the Renaissance, the city of Florence was infatuated with the biblical story of David and Goliath. Florentines liked to think of themselves as youthful and strong and ready to defend their home against the power of larger Italian city-states. Rich and prominent citizens decorated their palaces and public buildings with wonderful statues of David. The most famous, of course, is Michelangelo's colossal marble sculpture. But there were other great ones as well. One of the finest - older, smaller and crafted in bronze - was made by Andrea del Verrocchio in the late 1460s for the powerful Medici family. Americans have a rare chance to see this work in a restored state and an altered pose...
February 24, 2004
Courts and Kings
WASHINGTON - During the last years of the 20th century, scholars managed to break the code of the hieroglyphics of the ancient civilization of the Maya people. Perhaps 85% of the writing on Maya artwork and monuments can now be deciphered. The new knowledge has led to new understanding. A Maya exhibition, which just opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, is one of the first gifts of the new scholarship. "Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya" places some of the finest pieces of Maya art into a coherent and focused story about the life of the kings and courts that ruled the splendid city-states in what is now Mexico and Central America during the height of Maya civilization from the years AD 600 to 800...
April 12, 2004
Timeless Exhibition with Exquisite Timing
WASHINGTON - In an era when American newspapers and television bristle with images of Islamic terrorism, another side of Islam is on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington - a show devoted to the calm and mesmerizing beauty of Islamic art. The exhibition, "Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Victoria & Albert Museum," was not put together for political reasons. It has a more mundane genesis. The Victoria & Albert in London has closed its Islamic rooms for reconstruction. While the revamping goes on, the museum has agreed to send a small but exquisite portion of its 10,000 Middle Eastern objects on a worldwide tour...
August 29, 2004
Miró - Calder reunion
WASHINGTON - For almost a half-century, the American sculptor Alexander Calder and the Spanish painter Joan Miró looked on each other as good friends. When apart, as they often were, they sometimes exchanged a letter or postcard of greeting. "A good smack on the butt for you," wrote Calder in French in 1934. "A hug, kisses, and see you soon, you big stud," wrote Miró in Spanish in 1945. They liked to embellish the postcards. Miró, for example, added underarm hair to the portrait of a Spanish dancer. But one thing they never did. Their correspondence has no discussion of theories or techniques or movements of art...
November 21, 2004
A Fontainebleau period
BALTIMORE - Revolutionaries of their time, the Barbizon painters fell out of favor with the rise of Impressionism. The Walters show in Baltimore brings to light works not exhibited in decades... The oldest museums in America have their storerooms full of paintings that were the rage in art more than a century ago but are now out of fashion. This gloomy repose is often the fate of the 19th century Barbizon painters of France. Their paintings were once prized by collectors all over the world, but the Barbizon painters had the misfortune to work just before the Impressionists came on the scene. These younger painters eclipsed them long ago.
December 26, 2004
Spain's Window on the Soul
MADRID - A rare exhibition at the Prado proves portraits reveal as much about the painter as the painted. It's the face of the country's artistic legacy... The Prado is a difficult museum for a visitor to manage, for it is filled with spectacular mountains of great art. No other museum in the world can rival its enormous collections of Spanish artists such as El Greco, Velázquez and Goya...
January 16, 2005
A Familiar Tale of
Uprising and Bloody Suppression
WASHINGTON - Mau Mau burst upon the imagination of the world half a century ago, when newspapers and magazines published lurid photos accompanied by accounts of crazed savages slaughtering white settlers and their families in the Arcadian and romantic British colony of Kenya in darkest Africa. The images of an irrational black onslaught were reinforced by the publication in 1955 of Robert Ruark's bestselling novel "Something of Value," which was made into a movie starring Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier. To European and American ears during the 1950s, the words "Mau Mau" conjured up chilling terror. Historians and academics have chipped away at these images ever since...
January 16, 2005
Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire
by David Anderson
Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of the End of Empire in Kenya
by Caroline Elkins
An Artist in Her Own Light
WASHINGTON - A survey of Berthe Morisot's paintings reestablishes her prominent place at the Impressionists' salon table... Traveling exhibitions of [Berthe Morisot]'s work are not common. But one has opened at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Called "Berthe Morisot: An Impressionist and Her Circle," the show includes 45 works by Morisot and 30 by her Impressionist friends and family. They are the heart of a collection that her grandson and his wife bequeathed to the Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris... Morisot was one of the first French Impressionist painters, the only woman to exhibit at their initial show in Paris in 1874...
February 13, 2005
A Richer Portrait
WASHINGTON - The life of Amedeo Modigliani is the stuff of clichéd myth and operatic tragedy: A handsome Italian artist weakened by too much hashish and alcohol, Modigliani died penniless in Paris of tuberculosis in 1920 at the age of 35. His last love leaped to her death from a fifth-story window a day later. While alive, he never sold enough to exist without the charity of friends. Yet, from the moment of his death, the fascination for his life and his work has soared...
March 29, 2005
His Shadowy City of Light
WASHINGTON - No one depicted Montmartre's lurid world like Toulouse-Lautrec. But a National Gallery show brings this tragic artist's influential peers back into the colorful picture... In the last years of the 19th century, Montmartre, a poor Paris neighborhood high on a hill, burst into a frenzy of popular song and dance, creative art and decadent high jinks - a frenzy with wonderful imagery that still lingers in our minds. We owe most of those images to the works of the diminutive and doomed artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec...
May 8, 2005
Dalí As You've Never Seen Him
WASHINGTON - It may seem excessive, but there are three museums commemorating the life and work of Salvador Dali in the northern area of Catalonia not far from the French border, but what was his life if not excess? The museums are a little off the main American tourist routes in Spain, but they are well worth the trouble to find. The three brim with art and kitsch and reflect the many sides of the artist. Here is a look at them...
May 15, 2005
Europe's Dawn, In Art
PARIS - Coming upon a remote Romanesque church from almost 1,000 years ago is one of the pleasures of traveling through the countryside of Europe. But these structures, put up when the tribes that had destroyed the Roman Empire were emerging from their Dark Ages, are almost bare, their sculptures, reliquaries and manuscripts often squirreled away in diocesan and regional museums in distant towns. It is hard to get a good sense of this unusual art...
May 30, 2005
A Pearl of Poetry and Paint
WASHINGTON - In the last years of the 16th century, Emperor Akbar, the illiterate Mughal ruler of India, ordered his finest calligrapher and his workshop of artists to craft a luxurious edition of one of the great works of Persian poetry, known as "The Pearls of the Parrot of India." The book had 31 full-page illustrations painted with delicacy and beauty. For many years, looking at most of them has been a private experience, limited mainly to scholars. That, after all, is the nature of a rare book...
July 10, 2005
Pearls of the Parrot of India
(The Walters Art Museum, Khamsa of Amir Khusraw of Delhi)
by John Seyller
It works well. Tweak it.
WASHINGTON - Right-wing critics want to use reform as a club to beat the independence out of the world body... American politicians have urged U.N. reform for decades. Lately, the cries have become so loud and incessant that it is hard to imagine what will satisfy the critics. Abolish the veto for all nations save the United States and elect John Bolton as secretary-general? Strange as it seems, even those steps might not be enough — not for critics whose demands for reform mask a deeper goal. They will not be satisfied unless the U.N. submits to the will of the United States...
November 6, 2005
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