Monday, March 18, 2019

Women Artists Lectures for Women's History Month - March 18 and 25

In honor of Women's History Month, I will offer 2 lectures on women artists in history through Learning in Retirement, Temple Beth El, Stamford, CT:

Monday, March 18th at 1 pm: Women Artists from Antiquity to the 18th Century 

Monday, March 25th at 1 pm: Nineteenth Century Women Artists

To register for classes, please contact Learning in Retirement:

Fee: $10 for registration; $6 per course.

I look forward to seeing you there,

Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange, LLC

Monday, February 18, 2019

"Translation for Writers" with poets Ann Cefola and Ann Lauinger, and art historian Beth Gersh-Nesic, Sunday, February 24th at 4 pm, Bronx River Books

Translation for Writers
Bronx River Books
37 Spencer Place, Scarsdale, NY 10583

Sunday, February 24th at 4 pm.

Did you take a second language in school but never had much use for it? Even if you know a minimum of another language, you can enrich your own writing and publishing credits through literary translation. Learn about the many opportunities in the growing field of global literature. We share it all: the Good, the Bad, and the Transcendent.   Come join us!

Ann Cefola – Poet and author of Free Ferry (Upper Hand Press, 2017) and Face Painting in the Dark (Dos Madres, 2014); translator of The Hero (Chax Press, 2018) and Hence This Cradle (Seismicity Editions, 2007); recipient of the Robert Penn Warren Award.


Ann Lauinger – Professor of Literature, Sarah Lawrence College; poet and author of Persuasions of Fall (The University of Utah Press, 2004) and Against Butterflies (Little Red Tree Publishing, 2013); translator of Pierre Ronsard and Filippo Naitana; and recipient of Agha Shahid Ali Poetry and Ernest J Poetry Prizes.

Beth Gersh-Nešić – Director of the New York Arts Exchange, art historian, author with the poet Jean-Luc Pouliquen of Transatlantic Conversation About Poetry and Art (CreateSpace, 2018), translator of André Salmon on French Art (Cambridge University Press, 2005), and contributing writer to and Smarthistory.  She teaches art history at the College of New Rochelle.

Looking forward to seeing you there,
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director and owner
New York Arts Exchange

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Last Call: "Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today," through Feb. 10th -extended hours Sat. and Sun.

Édouard Manet, La négresse (Portrait of Laure), 1863. 
Oil on canvas, 24 × 19-11/16 in. (61 × 50 cm). 
Collection Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turino.
Photo: Andrea Guerman, © Pinacoteca
Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turino.

Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today, on view in the Wallach Art Gallery on Columbia University's new Manhattanville Campus, explores a topic in art history that has been sorely neglected. Despite scores of scholarly writing on works of art that feature black models as maids, nannies, and slaves, art historians have often failed to describe the iconography of the women of color in these scenes.  Posing Modernity corrects this implicit racism and then goes further to explain the meaning of black women in art from the mid 19th century through 21st century art.  Over 100 objects loaned from 40 international collections by white and black artists depict the image of black women in paintings, sculpture, drawings, photography, and film. The curator Denise Murrell, Ph.D. centers her thesis on the concept that the black model became a marker of modernity during the emergence of modern art in the 19th century and 20th century, particularly in the work of Edouard Manet and Henri Matisse.  To underscore this analysis, the curator included contemporary works that appropriate Edouard Manet's Olympia (1863) and other contemporaneous images of 19th century black models.

In Manet's masterpiece, we see the model Laure, posing as the courtesan's maid. The Portrait of Laure, rarely seen outside of its Italian collection, demonstrates the notion of "modernity" described by this exhibition. Here the image of a woman of color comes alive through Manet's new technique of quick strokes and reduced contours. Her multicolor turban exoticizes her identity, while her clothes describe a Parisian in contemporary society. She is part of the modern city that brings people from different countries together in cosmopolitan centers thanks to the industrial revolution. For more information about the model Laure, please read my article for Bonjour Paris.  There is also copious scholarly material in the sumptuous exhibition catalog for the Wallach Art Gallery exhibition.

Édouard Manet, Baudelaire’s Mistress(Portrait of Jeanne Duval), 1862. 
Oil oncanvas, 35-7/16 × 44-1/2 in. (90 × 113 cm). 
Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum), Budapest. 
Photo: CsanádSzesztay, 
© The Museum of Fine Arts Budapest/Scala / Art Resource, New York.

We also learn about black women who belonged to higher ranks of society though birth or celebrity.  The Haitian actress Jeanne Duval, known as the inspiration for many of Charles Baudelaire's poems, was a Creole mixture of French and black ancestry. Her stormy relationship with the poet lasted on and off for 20 years. In this portrait by Baudelaire's close friend Manet, we may see the signs of degeneration from syphilis, which caused Baudelaire's death in 1867. Some sources claim she died as early as 1862 (the year of this portrait) or as late as 1870.  The strange dark marks that represent her eyes may refer to her blindness at the end of her life.

Frédéric Bazille, Young Woman with Peonies, 1870. 
Oil on canvas, 23-5/8 × 29-9/16 in. (60 × 75 cm). 
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. 
Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Frédéric Bazille's Young Woman with Peonies (1870) captures the greeting of a flower vendor.  She holds her peony out to us in order to engage our attention. Bazille died during the Franco-Prussian War later this year.  His work reminds us of the early days of Impressionism, before their first major exhibition in 1874, with its lush vivid colors redolent with sunshine from his native Montpellier.  Here a young woman who seems to come from the Caribbean, suggests the changing landscape of modern commerce, as people from all walks of life came to France in order to make a new life through self-made entrepreneurship.  Again, the model wears modern French dress and an exoticizing scarf on her head.

Edgar Degas, Miss Lala at the Fernando Circus, 1879.
 Pastel on paper, 18-1/4 × 11-3/4 in. (46.4 × 29.8 cm).
 J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. 
Courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Calif.

Miss Lala was Anna Olga Albertine Brown, born in Stettin, Prussia (in today's Poland), on April 28, 1858.  Therefore in Degas's painting Miss La La at the Fernando Circus (1879), she was only 21.  An acrobat, trapeze artist and "female cannon," Miss La La acquired an international reputation for her astounding feats, most notably hanging from high above the audience holding only a mouthpiece in her teeth, dangling rope  Miss La La was also known as Anna Kaire or Ogla Kaire. She married the American contortionist Emmanuel Woodson in 1888.  The couple had 3 daughters and developed the act The Three Keziahs. The last record from her life is an application for a US passport in 1919. 

Henri Matisse, Creole Dancer, 1950
Paper on paper, 205 x 120 cm.
 Musée Matisse, Nice
Source: Wikiart Fair Use

From the galleries that feature 19th century paintings, sculpture and photography, we move on to numerous paintings and drawings by Henri Matisse, crowned by a superb collage entitled Creole Dancer (1950), which may refer to African-American modern dancer Katherine Dunham.  

Charles Alston, Girl in a Red Dress, 1934.
Oil on canvas, 28 × 22 in. (71.1 × 55.9 cm). 
Collection Harmon and Harriet Kelley Foundation for the Arts, San Antonio.

In the same galleries with Matisse, we find the 20th-century American black models interpreted by modernist African-American artists. Two contemporaries, William H Johnson (1901-1970) and Charles Alston (1907-1977) were born in North Carolina and moved to New York in their youth during the Great Migration.  They both became part of the art scene in New York but in different African-American contexts.  Johnson became part of the Harmon Foundation which supported African-American art through its award for distinction within the African-American community.  The Harmon Foundation also arranged for exhibitions.  Alston refused to become a part of this organization, because he considered it a form of segregation.  He became the first African-American instructor at the Art Students League in 1950, remaining there through 1971, and he exhibited in numerous exhibitions, including a group show in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1950. His first solo exhibition took place at John Heller Gallery in 1953. He founded Spiral with his cousin Romare Bearden and Hal Woodruff in 1963, a group that addressed segregation in contemporary American society.  Alston's Girl in a Red Dress (1934) may be a portrait of Bessie Smith, whom he drew several times.  His murals, financed by the WPA, are still on view in Harlem Hospital.  Other murals were created for Golden State Mutual, the American Museum of Natural History, Public School 154, The Bronx Family and Criminal Court, and Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn.

William H. Johnson, Portrait of Woman with Blue and White Striped Blouse, ca. 1940–42. 
Tempera on paperboard, 28 × 22-1/16 in. (71.1 × 56.0 cm). 
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., 
Gift of the Harmon Foundation.
Image courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

William H. Johnson enjoyed the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance and knew numerous major artists, white and African-American, throughout his active career.  He left New York in 1927 to study in Paris, then in the South of France.  There he met a Danish artist, Holcha Krake (1885-1944), whom he married in 1930, after returning to the US in 1929 and deciding to settle in Denmark in 1930.  In 1947, grieving from the loss of  Holcha, who died of breast cancer, his erratic behavior was diagnosed as syphilis-induced paresis. Sent back the the US, he spent the last 20 years of his life in Central Islip State Hospital. In his Portrait of a Woman with Blue and White Striped Blouse, Johnson demonstrated the influence of the School of Paris, particularly his appreciation for Matisse and Amedeo Modigliani.

Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet to Matisse to Today is one of the best exhibitions of 2018.  Please note that the Wallach Art Gallery is located on Broadway at 125th Street, on an angle with 129th.  They have extended their hours on Saturday and Sunday to 8 pm. The gallery is easy to find when taking the #1 Subway to 125th St.  Parking can be found in the area either in parking lots or on the street. In the case of the latter, later in the day may be the best time to find a spot.

Next month, Posing Modernity moves to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris to become part of Black Models from Géricault to Matisse (March 26-July 21, 2019).

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy 2019 - Last call for top exhibitions closing in January

Dear friends,

Wishing you joy, good health and peace of mind in the new year!

Here are my top choices for the exhibitions closing in January:
"Everything is Connected," Met Breuer, closing January 6
Delacroix, Metropolitan Museum on 5th, closing January 6
Tintoretto, Pontormo, and "Frankenstein," Morgan Library, closing January 6
Current exhibition, Scandinavia House, closing January 12
Charles White, Museum of Modern Art, closing January 13
Architecture in Yugoslavia, post WWII, Museum of Modern Art, closing January 13
Yasumasa Morimuri, Japan Society, closing January 13
Jan van Eyck, The Charter House at Bruges, Frick Collection, closing January 13
 August Macke and Franz Marc, Neuegalerie, closing January 21
Lillian Porter, El Museo del Barrio, closing January 27
Harry Potter, NY Historical Society, closing January 27

Beth New York
aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director and owner
New York Arts Exchange

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Yuletide Greetings with a Christmas Quiz for YOU!

Season's Greetings and Merry Christmas to all who celebrate Christ's birthday on December 25, 2018!

And for everyone, whether you celebrate Christmas on December 25th of the Gregorian calendar or the Julian calendar (January 7th on the Common calendar) or not at all, here are four masterpieces that tell the story of Christ's birth with a New York question for you: 

Which work of art comes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection?

(Stumped?  Click on the captions to discover the answer.)

May your Holiday Week be Merry and Bright!
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director and owner
New York Arts Exchange

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Holiday Season 2018 - The Must-See Exhibitions Closing Soon!

Met Museum's Annual Christmas Tree with Neapolitan Baroque Crèche

T'is the season to be jolly, naughty and nice, especially in the numerous museums and galleries that enrich our New York -centric lives. Please note that most of the exhibitions on this list will close in January 2019.  

Jan van Eyck and Workshop, Virgin and Child with St. Barbara, St. Elizabeth and Jan Vos, 1441-43

The Charterhouse of Bruges: Jan van Eyck, Petrus Christus, and Jan Vos, closing January 13, 2019

Eugène Delacroix, Self-Portrait, 1837

Crowns of the Vajra Masters: Ritual Art from Nepal, closing December 16, 2018
Delacroix, closing January 6, 2019
Armenia!, closing January 13, 2019
Celebrating Tintoretto, closing January 27, 2019

Everything is Connected: Art and Conspiracy, closing January 6

August Macke and Franz Marc, closing January 21, 2019

Hilma af Klint, installation at the Guggenheim

Hilma af Klint, closing April 23, 2019

Chagall, Lissitzky and Malevich, closing January 6, 2019
Martha Rosler, closing March 3, 2019

Stanley Kubrick, closing January 6, 2019
Rebel Women, closing January 6, 2019

Liliana Porter, closing January 27, 2019

Frédéric Bazille, Young Woman with Peonies, 1870

Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University -
Manhattanville Campus, Broadway and 125th Street:
Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today, closing February 10, 2019
Listen to an interview with the curator Denise Murrell, Ph.D. on "All of It," WNYC.

Studio Museum of Harlem: closed for renovation. 
Maren Hassinger Monuments in Marcus Garvey Park, 127th Street

Harry Potter, through January 27, 2019
Billie Jean King, through January 27, 2019
Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow, through March 3, 2019
Betye Saar, through May 27, 2019

Ou Senses: An Immersive Experience, closing January 2, 2019

Bodys Isek Kingelez, closing January 1, 2019
Charles White, closing January 13, 2019
Architecture in Yugoslavia, closing January 13, 2019
Bruce Nauman, closing February 2019 - at MoMA Manhattan and P.S. 1
Judson Dance Theater, closing February 3, 2019
Brancusi, closing February 18, 2019

Jacopo da Pontormo, Visitation, 1528-29

Tintoretto's Venice, closing January 6, 2019
Pontormo, closing January 6, 2019
Frankenstein at 200, closing January 6, 2019

Jan Groth, Inger Johanne Grytting, and Thomas Pihl, closing January 12, 2019

Yasumasa Morimura, Portrait (Futago), 1988

Yasumasa Morimura, closing January 13, 2019

Modern Art for a New India, closing January 20, 2019

Andy Warhol, closing March 31, 2019

Andy Warhol, closing February 17, 2019

Sarah Lucas, closing January 20, 2019

Metaphysical Masterpieces 1916-1920: Morandi, Sironi and Carrà, closing June 15, 2019

Toyin Ojih Odutola, Paris Apartment, 2016-17

Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn, through February 3, 2019

Norman Lewis, closing January 27, 2019

Egon Schiele, closing March 2, 2019 
(Gallery closed December 21, 2018-January 1, 2019)

Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT:
Small-Scale Sculpture, closing January 27, 2019

Death is Irrelevant, closing August 2, 2019

Hudson River Museum,Yonkers, NY:
Maya Lin, closing January 20, 2019

Extreme Jewelry, closing January 27, 2019

Magazzino Italian Art, Cold Springs, NY:
Arte Povera, ongoing

Edward Hopper House, Nyack, NY:
Angela Fraleigh, closing February 17, 2019

The Brant Foundation, Greenwich, CT:
Francesco Clemente, closing April 1, 2019

Wishing you a very happy and healthy Holiday Season, Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director and owner
New York Arts Exchange, LLC

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Judith and Hanukkah 2018: Chag haBanot, the Festival of Daughters

Chag haBanot, The Festival of Daughters, 
1  Tevet 5779/December 9, 2018

In the North African countries Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, Jewish women celebrate Chag haBanot, the Festival of Daughters, on the night and the day of the first full moon following the beginning of Hanukkah, usually 1 Tevet.  This occasion honors  Judith's triumph over the invasion and attempted annexation of her little village Bethulia by Nebuchadnezzar's chief general Holofernes, The story can be found in the  Apocrypha, the Book of Judith.  

Carlo Francesco Nuvolone, Judith with the Head of Holofernes, c. 1650

Typical of biblical female characters, Judith wields her power through seduction and subterfuge - bait and switch.  In this case, this widow has waited for the village elders to save the citizens from death or conquest.  Holofernes has cut off the water supply in order to pressure the village into surrender.  Inpatient and angry, Judith changes into magnificent clothes (inappropriate for one who mourns), enlists her maidservant as her chaperon and together they present themselves to the sentries guarding the encampment of Holofornes' army.  With a sack of wine and cheese in hand, Judith claims to have crucial information for the general.

Jean-Antoine-Jules Le Conte de Nouy, Judith, 1875

What harm could women do among such fierce men?  The guards lead the women to Holofernes' quarters where Judith proceeds to ply this formidable foe with plenty of cheese that delivers a mighty thirst for plenty of wine.  Thoroughly drunk as he lounges in regal style for his meal, Holofornes decides to arrange himself for Judith's pleasuring, completely unaware he facilitates Judith's scheme. Ready for sex or slumber, Judith seizes this opportunity to grab Holofernes' sword, chop off the general's head, quickly stash the severed part in her sack, and depart with her maidservant.  The assassination defeats Nebuchadnezzar's forces. From then on, Bethulia knew only peace and prosperity thanks to Judith's heroic deed.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1620

Here are a few customs for Chag haBanot:
  • Women gather at the synagogue, touch the Torah, and pray for the health of their daughters.
  • Women plan and participate in a feast on the eve of 1 Tevet.
  • Cheese dishes are featured for the festive meal.
  • Mothers give gifts to their daughters.
  • Bridegrooms give gifts to their brides.
  • Disagreements among women are reconciled.
  • Women of all ages dance together.
  • Women give their inheritances to the next generation.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and her Maidservant, 1612-13

In Christian art, Judith personifies the Church in terms of Fortitude, Justice, Humility, and Chastity. During the Counter-Reformation, Judith's selfless action became a source of inspiration to stay faithful to the Church, 

Alessandro Botticelli, Judith and Her Maidservant, 1472

Caravaggio, Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1598-99

Cristofano Allori, Judith and the Head of Holofernes, 1613

Valentin de Boulogne, Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1626

Donatello, Judith and Holofernes, 1460

As a symbol on the Hanukkah menorah (Hanukkiyah), she parallels the courage of the Maccabees to fight against tyranny and for religious freedom.  I believe that the choice of Judith for Western European hanukkiyot seems less threatening than the figure of Judah Maccabee, whose story reminds the Jewish people of rage and rebellion. Judith in Christian and Jewish contexts signifies goodness triumphing over evil.

Italian, Anonymous, Judith on a Hanukah Menorah (Hanukkiyah), late 16th-17th century

German, Johann Adam Boller, Judith on Hannukiyan c. 1705-32, 
Jewish Museum, NY, gift of Frida Schiff Warburg

German, Johannes Valentin Schüler, Judith Hanukkiyah, Jewish Museum, Frankfurt

Happy Hanukkah to all with best wishes for Chag haBanot - tonight: the last candle
Chag Urim Sameach (Best wishes for the Festival of Lights) -
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange