Tag: National Gallery

Van Gogh vs Picasso

Van Gogh  Almond Blossom 1890  Picasso  Jacqueline with crossed hands 1954

Van Gogh and Picasso are two of the most recognizable names on the planet. Countless books and millions of words have been devoted to their lives and work. Their art changed the way people see the world around them. This fact is no small feet and these men were 2 in 107,602,707,791There weren’t billions of people waiting in line for  Picasso Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris in Toronto or for Van Gogh: Up Close in Ottawa but at times it felt like there was. The big names bring the big crowds. For me this is a mixed blessing. I love the fact that people are going en masse to experience art and taking the time to truly look at things but it can make viewing the art troublesome. This summer has been a spoils of riches for the art going public, with two blockbuster shows just four hours away from one another. So, this past week I made my pilgrimadge to spend time with two of the icons of western art.

Picasso Nude in the Garden 1934

The first exhibit I attended was Picasso at the AGO. The show highlighted over 150 works from the Paris Museum (which is currently being renovated). This collection comes from the artist’s personal holdings. They were the one’s he kept for himself. I have been to the Picasso museum in Barcelona but never to the one in Paris. I was familiar with the majority of the works in the show through books and my old art history lectures. The collection contains many seminal works that cover all the major phases of his career. The two major impressions you are left with are: Picasso is endlessly inventive and all Picasso’s are about Picasso.

Picasso L’Atelier de la Californie (The Studio of La Californie) 1956

Even when Picasso is channeling Matisse in L’Atelier de la Californie it is still about Picasso. This would have to be one of the highlights of the show for me. Painted two years after Matisse’s death, the homage is both spot-on and sublime. Picasso leaves a patch of blank canvas in the center to mimic the loss and accentuate the process of painting.

It is the process of painting that is front and center in Van Gogh: Up Close at the National Gallery. This exhibition is comprised of 40 works that focus on Van Gogh’s relationship with nature. No major works are present but even a minor Van Gogh can hold you under its spell. For a man who only painted for 10 years of his life, completing roughly 900 paintings, he accomplished an incredible body of work. His style is unmistakable; bold colour, thick paint, post-impressionist brush strokes and a window onto the world that is both embracing and slightly leery at the same time.

Van Gogh Tree Trunks in the Grass 1890

Van Gogh invented a style, perfected it over a short period of time and then put it too rest.  In his work you can see the influence of Japanese block prints along with the work of the Impressionists.Van Gogh added expressionism to the list; breathing vitality into every brushstroke. No other artist can attempt to do what he did;  they will all be compared to him and eventually come up short.You can’t help but be overcome with a sense of joy with a hint of tragedy when you stand in front of a Van Gogh.

Van Gogh Dandelions 1890

So, which one is better Picasso or Van Gogh?

Two men couldn’t be further from one another personality wise. Van Gogh was socially awkward, insecure, whose idea of romance was loping off part of his ear to  impress a girl and started out life wanting to be a priest. Picasso had no such aspirations. Picasso suffered for nothing. He was incredibly confident and successful. Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime where Picasso had people lined up around the block clamoring for his work. He could trade paintings for houses. Both men were consumed by art, creating it constantly and rapidly. Paintings would be completed in a day or in the case of Picasso (late in his career); he’d do a painting in the morning, have lunch and then do another one in the afternoon. Picasso outlived Van Gogh by 55 years but what Vincent accomplished in his short career is astounding. They are both giants of the art world and both worth seeing.

Of the two exhibitions: Van Gogh is the better painter but Picasso has the better paintings.


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Christian Marclay: The Clock

My window of opportunity was winding down and I knew that time was of the essence. The screening of Christian Marclay‘s The Clock  at the National Gallery in Ottawa would be ending at the beginning of August and I knew I would regret not experiencing it, even if for only a brief moment.

The Clock is a fully functioning time piece that tells time, in real time. The fact that it is made up of thousands of movie and television clips strung together for a continuous twenty-four hours is what separates it from your average Timex. It took the artist three years to collect and assemble the multitude of scenes that feature a clock or timepiece on screen. The clips are arranged in sequence for 12 am. till 11.59 pm.

The end result is a wonder to behold. Familiar faces and scenes string together to create mini narratives, strange juxtapositions and wild mood swings. The Clock explores pop cultural conventions while deconstructing time itself. We live in the age of the remix. Cutting, splicing and combining media works has become the 21st century’s version of the collage. Christian Marclay has created a true masterpiece.

If this work is showing anywhere close to where you are, go see it. The future is now. You’ll be amazed at how fast time flies when you’re watching the clock.

Happy Canada Day

Alex Colville To Prince Edward Island 1965

Here’s one our country’s most iconic images painted by an east coast legend. I couldn’t stop thinking about this  painting while watching Moonrise Kingdom.