Saturday, April 28, 2012

Katherine Bradford at Edward Thorp Gallery

By Kyle Gallup

Midsummer Night, 2012, Oil on canvas, 61 x 69 inches
Upon entering Katherine Bradford’s show at Edward Thorp Gallery it’s easy to see why so many painters love her work. Her color shines like a beacon across the canvas, illuminating her stories, both whimsical and mysterious. Her approach to painting feels open and considered, never automatic.

The lush surfaces reveal under-painting and a sense that she is searching for her subjects, allowing them to reveal themselves slowly through the painting process and within their own invented time. The layering becomes part of the narrative and gives the work depth and spontaneity.
Ship Blue/Red, 2011, Oil on canvas, 32 x 28 inches.
I admire how Bradford is able to balance abstract elements with figurative images, both sharing equal time, neither losing their distinctive differences while adding a fluid interrelatedness. One example is “Ship Blue/Red.” A bright, emblematic red shape of paint thrusts down into the middle of the canvas from the top-left edge and crosses paths with the lacy transparent mast of a passing ship momentarily anchored by a black hull on the bottom edge of the painting. This is a bold yet delicate picture.
Superman Responds, Night, 2011, Oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches.
In other works, opaque whites and pinks share space with modulated darks and light up all the other colors. There are sassy orange and yellow dots, and aqua blues that become sky and sea. Gravity free, small floating or falling superheroes are suspended in richly painted grounds or fly through space from one end of the canvas to the other.
Long Flight,  2011, Oil on canvas, 66 x 84 inches.
Ships come into being both flat and with volume, magisterial, and brightly lit. The shape’s edges navigate the ground color from which they emerge.

Bradford is exploring different pictorial ideas from one picture to another but for me, the narrative aspect to the paintings is what unifies them. She’s a visual storyteller with a celestial sense of light and a deep reservoir of ideas.
Sargasso, 2012, Oil on canvas, 56 x 66 inches.

Kyle Gallup is an artist who works in collage and watercolor.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Denver Art Museums - Part 1

By Charles Kessler

“Once Upon a Time” race to support the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
I went to Denver to see the new Clyfford Still Museum (which I'll discuss in detail in another post) and discovered a city that's sunny (averaging 300 days of sunshine a year), young and pedestrian-friendly, with lots of bars, restaurants and street activity -- at least in Downtown Denver. During my two days there, I came across a large festival promoting the legalization of marijuana, and a scavenger hunt race in support of the Matthew Shepard Foundation where college-age kids dressed in costumes. People took it all as an everyday occurrence.
Daniel Libeskind's 2006 addition to the Denver Art Museum.
All the art museums, except the Museum of Contemporary Art, are part of a large Downtown Cultural District that includes, among other things, Civic Center Park (originally designed by Frederick Law Olmstead in 1913 and currently undergoing renovation); the seven-story Denver Art Museum (designed by Gio Ponte of Milan and completed in 1971); The Denver Central Library (Michael Graves, 1995); two buildings by Daniel Libeskind, a 4-story addition to the museum used for contemporary art and a condominium across the plaza from it (both completed in 2006); and the recently opened Clyfford Still Museum (designed by Brad Cloepfil and his firm).
Interior, Libeskind's 2006 addition to the Denver Art Museum.
The new Libeskind wing for contemporary art is an absolute disaster, not so much as architecture, although a case can be made for that, but as a museum. That it's so over-the-top flashy wouldn't matter so much if the interior was reasonably suitable for exhibiting art; but the architectural conceits make it impossible to install work properly.  Walls tilt and go off at odd angles (often creating useless spaces); light is wildly uneven; and a flamboyant stairway and atrium unnecessarily take up a lot of room and are major distractions. I can't talk about the quality of their 20th-century collection because nothing looks good in that space.
1971 Denver Art Museum.
The original fortress-like museum (above) is no great shakes either, but at least its seven floors are serviceable as exhibition space, if dark and graceless. Their collection, however, is first rate, especially their Asian, Native American, and Pre-Columbian art. In fact they have the best collection of Costa Rican Pre-Columbian art I've ever seen -- who knew? They're also supposed to have a major collection of western American art, but I know and care little about it, and can’t judge. The rest of their collection is hit or miss.
Pre-Columbian art study collection.
Northwest Coast Indian Art with a c.1850 Tlinget house partition in the back.

Like a lot of museums now, they make a great effort to reach out to people and educate them about the art. Every floor has at least one "activity center" -- a cozy living room type space with videos, books and other materials where the public can sit and learn about the art, or simply rest up. The guards are very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. If I asked them a question, not only did they know the answer, but they would ask me what I saw and make sure I didn't miss any of their favorites. Nice.
One of several "Activity Centers" at the Denver Art museum.
Despite all this, and despite a popular Yves Saint Laurent retrospective (until July 8th), there weren't a lot of people there. I'm beginning to think that I'm biased by the crowds attending New York museums. In comparison to those hordes, nothing appears well attended.

Interior of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver.
The Denver Museum of Contemporary Art is located on the other side of Downtown, in LoDo, Denver's hip historic warehouse district. It's only about a mile or so from the other museums and is easily reached via the free 16th Street shuttle bus. It's another difficult space, not anywhere as bad as the Libeskind addition, but still difficult because the ceilings of the central galleries are proportionally too high, and other spaces, which go around the periphery like a corridor, are too narrow to easily function as galleries.  The MCA is more an alternative space or kunsthalle than a museum because they don't have a permanent collection. They do have a terrific roof cafe/bar with a happy hour Fridays that lasts until 10:00. Now that's something NY alternative spaces could adopt! Hear that New Museum???

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Art of the Americas Wing, Boston MFA

By Charles Kessler

The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston is one of the largest and best encyclopedic museums in the United States. Considering how great the collection is, and in spite of their best efforts (many free days, open until 9:45, free live music, knowledgeable and extremely helpful guards, one of whom walked me to a painting I asked about), their attendance isn't all that good. The MFA attendance for last year was 911,216 — way down the list in 54th place, less than half that of San Francisco’s M. H. de Young Museum, which isn’t nearly as important.
European Painting Gallery, Boston Museum of Fine Arts
The museum’s original 1909 building was designed by the architect Guy Lowel in the neoclassical style. Typical of its day, it was, and still is, a dark and uninviting place. Maybe that’s a reason why the museum isn’t as popular as its collection warrants.

In 1981 the MFA tried to fix the uninviting design.
The Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.
They changed the entrance and opened a large new space designed by I. M. Pei to house the museum's contemporary art collection, as well as a cafe, restaurant, gift shop and a space for temporary exhibitions. This space went to the other extreme — it's too bright and busy-feeling, even when it's empty. (I don't know why, but it seems most museums' contemporary spaces are that way — probably to show they're a groovy and happening place.)

On November 20, 2010, after five years and $504 million, the MFA opened a 121,307-square-foot, four-level new wing for the Art of the Americas. This time they finally got it completely right — at least they got the exhibition galleries right. The entry-courtyard to the new wing (below), however, is an overly grand 12,184-square-foot, 63-foot-high glass-enclosed courtyard (about equal to the space for exhibitions) with a restaurant that's dwarfed by the space, and no art except for a large, green Gilhouly sculpture. 
The Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Family Courtyard seen from the Art of the Americas Wing.
(Why do museums feel they need these kinds of soaring, extravagant spaces? Are they imitating the Guggenheim? Is it for patron events?)

While I think the courtyard is ridiculous, the exhibition area of the new Americas Wing can’t be better. In fact, it’s kind of a relief to get away from the courtyard and enter this quiet, intimately proportioned, well-lit space. Each floor has a central spine, with rows of galleries (53 in all) on either side, which makes it easy to locate where you are, and also allows for a great variety of displays.
MFA Floor Plan with the Americas Wing on the right in blue.
There’s some criticism that the space isn’t architecturally interesting enough, that there are no surprises or risks taken. Well that’s fine with me — I think "great" (i.e., showy) architecture, at least when it comes to the interior, is a distraction that usually overpowers the art. Visual variety can come from the art installations, and the MFA does an excellent job in that respect.
Replica of a 19th-century salon exhibition.
Unlike Renzo Piano’s addition to the Gardner, the London architectural firm of Foster and Partners designed a truly restrained, perfect space to exhibit a wide variety of art.
Wall with Thomas Sully, The Torn Hat, 1820, oil on canvas.
This new wing is unique in that it houses the art of the Americas (plural); it's not an American wing like the Met's new galleries. The installations ascend chronologically with Pre-Columbian on the bottom (the basement actually, although it doesn’t feel like it ) and 20th-century American on top, with Native North American, African-American, and what we usually think of as American Art (the colonial portraiture of John Singleton Copley and Gilbert Stuart, the silverware of Paul Revere, the Hudson River School of landscape painting, etc.) in between.
John Singleton Copley, Portrait of Paul Revere, c.1768-70, oil on canvas, 35 x 28 ½ inches
John Singer Sargent, The Daughters of Edward Darley Bolt, 1882, oil on canvas, 87.6 x 87.6 inches.
The teapot Paul Revere is holding and the two large Japanese vases depicted above are on display next to their respective paintings. Talk about the strength of the collection!  

Thomas Eakins, The Dean's Roll Call, oil on canvas, 1899,  84 x 42 inches and detail.
John Singleton Copley, Watson and the Shark, 1778, oil on canvas, 72 x 90 ½ inches -- ya gotta love it!
Instead of period rooms which mostly waste space, there are periods walls:
American Gothic Landscape Revival, early 19th century
Their collection of Pre-Columbian art is superb -- who would have guessed?

Mayan burial urns, earthenware, 650-850 - about two feet high.
The weakest floor is the contemporary art.
I don’t agree with the premise of an Art of the Americas Wing. I think it's an arbitrary distinction. Why not have a wing for all French art from the Lascaux caves to the present? Or just art from 1900 to 2000? (Not a bad idea actually!) What does Pre-Columbian, Native American or South American art have to do with each other or with Colonial American art or the Hudson River School or any of the work usually called American art? None of these are detectable in Sargent's The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, for example, but the influences of Degas and Velazquez's Las Meninas are — influences Sargent himself acknowledges.

Even though American artists prior to the 20th century had a conflict between their democratic ideals and the Old World royal and religious art they thought was decadent, they nevertheless admired and learned from that art, and adopted it as their own. In fact there really wasn’t an American School in the way there was an Italian, French, Dutch or English School until Abstract Expressionism in the 1940's and 1950's. (Ironically, many of the Abstract Expressionists were influenced — or so they claimed — by Native American art.) Except perhaps for 19th-century landscape painting, American art was provincial and consisted mostly of moralizing allegories, pompous historical subjects or the soft porn of idealized nudes — all with an emphasis on showy virtuosity. American art needs to be seen in the context of the European art from which it derives.

The MFA finally got the space right with this new addition, but they got the curatorial concept wrong.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Renzo Piano’s Addition to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston

By Charles Kessler

Renzo Piano’s addition to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with the original Venetian-style palazzo on the right.
Isabella Stewart Gardner was one of the great patrons of the arts in the early 20th century and  counted the artists James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent and the writer Henry James among her friends. Because she disliked the dark, cold, institutional spaces typical of the American museums of her day (the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, for example — a short walk from the Gardner), she designed her home/museum to look like a 15th-century Venetian-style palazzo with three stories of galleries around a central courtyard filled with flowers.
Courtyard of the Gardner Museum Palazzo.
When she died in 1924, she left the museum a one-million-dollar endowment (a huge amount in those days) with the stipulation that everything be permanently exhibited the way she left it, including the garden. If her wishes were not honored, the property and collection were to be sold, and the money given to Harvard University.
Titian, The Rape of Europa, 1559-1562, oil on canvas, 73 x 81 inches (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum).
The Gardner Museum is a magical place to look at art, and the collection is one of the greatest in the country. Among the well-known works in the collection is Titian’s The Rape of Europa, John Singer Sargent’s El Jaleo, Fra Angelico’s Death and Assumption of the Virgin, Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait, Aged 23, and Piero della Francesca’s Hercules. Unfortunately the museum has become most famous for a robbery that took place in 1990 when work by Vermeer, Rembrandt (three paintings), Degas (five drawings) and Manet was stolen and never recovered. Several empty frames hang in the Dutch Room gallery awaiting the return of the missing works.

I haven't been to the Gardner in fifteen or twenty years. I tried going a couple of years ago, but the line was so long I gave up. I was more determined this time (and the line wasn’t long for some reason) because I wanted to see the new $114-million, 70,000-square-foot new wing designed by Renzo Piano. In addition to the amenities people have come to expect with museums — coat checks, ample bathrooms, a gift shop, and a place to eat (this one with the risible name “CafĂ© G.”) —
"Cafe G," the restaurant in the Gardner Museum addition.
they built a 300-seat cube-shaped concert hall, a 2000 SF special exhibition gallery to be used mostly for contemporary art, a visitor welcome area called the Richard E. Floor Living Room, a large greenhouse, and apartments for artists-in-residence.
Exterior of Renzo Piano's Gardner Museum greenhouse.
Critics have universally acclaimed the addition as "chivalrous," "respectful," "a kind of homage to the old," and said it "honors and complements" the museum. Piano himself said “our decision was not to compete at all.” And even Jed Perl, who opposed the expansion, referred to it as “obsequiously deferential.”

Am I crazy?  How could they possibly claim the Piano addition was any of these things? This factory-modern addition is an aggressive, obnoxious assault that's bigger, brighter and flashier than the buff-colored Venetian palazzo which it overwhelms. While I’m glad the buildings are different — it's good to differentiate the new from the old — why does the distinction have to be this drastic? The whole effect is jarring and discordant.
The new (and only) entrance to the Gardner Museum.
Here's an example of what I mean. The original entrance was right across from Frederick Law Olmsted’s beautiful park the Fenway, and you entered into a small entry-room in the palazzo and then walked into the beautiful courtyard. Now the entrance has been re-oriented to Evans Way, a side street to the east; you have to go through Piano's glitzy, somewhat corporate space in order to enter the palazzo through a glass tunnel (see photo below). It's a very different experience — fun and flamboyant maybe, but it subverts the genteel intimacy of the Venetian palazzo. 
Glass tunnel entrance from the new addition to the palazzo.
And are the new amenities and functions really necessary anyway? Museum director Anne Hawley said "The greatest argument for expanding the museum was to move misappropriated programs into purpose-built spaces, so we can ensure the restoration and conservation of the historic museum spaces." But the ONLY thing the expansion did in that respect was move concerts out of the Gardner’s tapestry room, which for decades had hosted them and other events, allowing the tile floor to be cleaned. Couldn’t they have closed the gallery for a period to clean the floor and do whatever else they had to do, and continue with the concerts in the original, eccentric, beautiful space when they were finished? Or not have concerts?

They already have an off-site greenhouse that actually grows the plants; this new one is purely for show. And while it might be nice to have a comfortable and pleasant restaurant and "living room" for R and R, are they really needed? And why do they feel it's necessary and appropriate to show contemporary art?

More important, what are their priorities? I know it's easier to raise money for buildings than for conservation or maintenance, but there is terrible water damage staining the walls from the corroding the metal work,
Water damage from the rusted skylights.
and their signature painting, Titian's Rape of Europa (considered one of the best paintings in the USA), is badly in need of a cleaning, as are many other paintings. New and better lighting is needed. I know it’s been a long time, but I remember the Gardner as being filled with light. The galleries are much darker now, unpleasantly so — and I went on a very bright day. I think they must have added a scrim over the windows to protect the art; but if you need to do that, you also need to invest in proper lighting.

There's a bigger issue at work here: often the priorities of museum professionals and the original benefactors are different. Professionals want to “grow” the museum by adding impressive new spaces, adopting new purposes for its mission, increasing attendance and membership, raising money — these are the things that advance their careers.  But places like the Gardner, the Frick and, until recently, the unfortunate Barnes, aren't suitable for this kind of growth, and it almost always detracts from the original experience. The people who built the collections weren’t interested in "growing the museum." Their passion was for the art.

This is the first of three posts on new museum developments. My next post will be on the new Americas Wing of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Miscellaneous Art Notes

By Charles Kessler

Rembrandt at Work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of the Artist, ca. 1663–65, oil on canvas, 45 x 37 inches (Kenwood House, London).
I returned to the Met after reading Roberta Smith’s masterful appreciation of the great Rembrandt self-portrait that the Met has on loan from Kenwood House, London (until May 20th). It is indeed a great painting, and I have nothing to add to her superb article other than to note that the perfect circles depicted on the wall behind Rembrandt that she writes about aren't circles but instead, because the wall goes back at an angle, they are ovals (circles in perspective) — an even more challenging thing to draw.

I think Rembrandt depicts himself with his right hand in his pocket —a wonderful nonchalant gesture especially in contrast to his careworn facial expression — but I can't be sure because the reflections on the glass make it almost impossible to see the lower part of the painting. This is just what I was discussing in the previous post. One would think that, for their signature painting, Kenwood House could spring for the few hundred pounds that "Museum Glass” would cost.
You can see the reflection of the guard in the glass as if it were a mirror.
Also, while at the Met, I went back to the Steins Collect exhibition and managed to sneak a better photo of the dog in Matisse’s Tea, 1919. I think it's more noticeable in this photo that the dog's right eye is brown, and the other eye is mostly black.
Henri Matisse, Tea, 1919 - Detail of the dog.
And finally, while I'm on the Steins Collect and color, I noticed I made a mistake saying Mme. Matisse's glove in the Woman with a Hat, 1905, was blue. It looks blue in the photo, but it's green. Just want to set the record straight.

This Side of Paradise at  the Andrew Freedman Home, the Bronx:
Opening of This Side of Paradise.
Last Wednesday was the packed opening of this enormous (32 artists) group exhibition on the Grand Concourse and 166th Street (until June 5th). It was made up of well-known artists (such as Mel Chin, Sylvia Plachy and John Ahearn) as well as unknown artists (at least to me). Most of the artists had their own rooms and made site-specific installations. It's an impressive exhibition, well worth the trip all the way uptown.
The Andrew Freeman Home, The Bronx
The Andrew Freedman Home is a fascinating place in itself. In 1924, multi-millionaire Andrew Freedman bequeathed the 100,00 square foot building and estate to be used as a retirement home for the rich elderly who had lost their fortunes. He left enough of an endowment so the home had all the luxuries: white glove dinner service, fine dining, a billiard room; as well as a grand ballroom and wood-paneled library — both of which have been restored. (Apparently Freedman felt sorrier for people that lost their money than for people who never had any.) By the mid-eighties the building fell into disrepair and it’s now mainly vacant; but they’re working on other uses — this art exhibition being one of them. (Someone — I can't remember who — told me that Peter Frank said, "This is the best crummy space since PS1." Good line.)

Norte Maar Benefit:
Last Monday evening, April 2nd, Norte Maar held a benefit in Chelsea at the Mitchell-Innes and  Nash
 gallery on West 26th Street
. It was not only to raise funds but also to honor Julie Martin of E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology) They had tap dancing; a performance of David Tudor’s Rainforest I (1968) performed by Composers Inside Electronics (see photo below); and a preview of a terrific ballet, The Brodmann Areas, choreographed by Julia K. Gleich. You can see the full ballet April 12 - 15th at the Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn. Click here for more information.
Composers Inside Electronics channeling the electronic output of David Tudor’s Rainforest I through different objects rather than a  loudspeaker.

John Chamberlain - Choices at the Guggenheim:
John Chamberlain, Glossalia Adagio, 1984, painted and chromium-plated steel (Philadelphia Museum of Art).
I don't think Chamberlain came up with a viable way to use color in sculpture. His color still looks applied to the surface and arbitrary; and color still makes his sculptures seem weightless. I must admit, though, that Chamberlain showed more range and variety than I expected — but I expected very little.

What's with these crowds? Could Chamberlain be that popular? Amazing!
Line to get into the Guggenheim John Chamberlain exhibition.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Steins Collect

By Charles Kessler

E. 81st Street looking toward the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The weather was glorious — the type of weather that reminds New Yorkers of 9/11. Rather then spend the day outside like a normal person, art-nut that I am I decided to go to the Met and check out The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde (until June 3rd). When I went before, it was so crowded I couldn't see it, let alone enjoy it. And there were so many other art activities going on in New York at the time I really wasn’t able to give it the attention it deserved. This time I slowed down, and I’m glad I did. Not only are there some great paintings, but it was enlightening to see some modest work by famous artists, and some personal work too (gifts, casual drawings, studies, small paintings).
The Steins in the courtyard of 27 rue de Fleurus, ca. 1905. From left: Leo Stein, Allan Stein, Gertrude Stein, Theresa Ehrman, Sarah Stein, Michael Stein (The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).
This is more than a show about an art collection, significant as the art is; it’s also about the art collectors, the Steins: Gertrude Stein, her brothers Leo and Michael, and Michael's wife Sarah. They were well off, but not so rich they could buy whatever they wanted, so they mainly collected inexpensive work by artists that were relatively unknown at the time (the turn of the twentieth century).

The siblings Leo and Gertrude Stein shared a studio at 27 Rue de Fleurus where they hung their collection and he painted and she wrote. They were great networkers (famously introducing Picasso to Matisse in late 1905), opening their studio every Saturday to anyone with a reference. As a result hundreds of people were exposed to the avant-garde art of the time.

The Met exhibition includes films, photographs and letters of the Steins. Soon after the entrance to the show is a mock-up of Gertrude and Leo's studio with a series of wall-sized projected slides of the studio from contemporary photographs. This gives a pretty good idea of what it was like: it was small (460 square feet), the work was hung floor to ceiling, and there was very little furniture. It must have been an intense and mind-boggling experience for their guests.

Leo became progressively deaf and eventually he could not participate in the Saturday salons, so, in 1912, he decided to get his own space. He and Gertrude divided the collection (amicably except for a fight over a Cezanne) with Leo taking the Renoirs, Gertrude taking the Picassos, and the two of them sharing the rest. Soon the visitors to the salon, now hosted by Gertrude alone, were mostly literary people rather than visual-art people.

I like seeing familiar paintings in a different setting because I discover new things about them. 
Henri Matisse, Woman with a Hat, 1905, oil on canvas, 31 ¾ x 23 ½ inches
(San Francisco Museum of Modern Art).
For example, this time I was able to identify more of the imagery in Matisse’s Woman with a Hat, a painting that's still shocking even though it's been around for more than 100 years. When I saw it before, I'd spend so much time gawking at that outrageous hat and colorful 19th-century French outfit that I never took the time to figure out all that was going on. It always looked like an unidentifiable mishmash of clashing colors to me. I think I've figured it out now, at least some of it. The sitter (Mme. Matisse) is wearing a long blue glove, and her arm is extended and bent inward. She's holding a light blue fan that is painted with flowers, and it's opened out almost to her neck. I'm not sure what the green vertical stripe below her hand is -- maybe a walking stick; and I still don’t get what the pointed area on the right side of her dress could be. It's either part of the fan, or Mme. Matisse is incredibly buxom.
Henri Matisse, Tea, 1919, oil on canvas, 55 x 83 inches, (Los Angeles County Museum of Art).
Another painting I learned something about, one that I used to look at a lot when I lived in Los Angeles, is Matisse’s Tea, 1919. It was said to be Diebenkorn’s favorite painting in the County Museum, and it certainly is charming. You have to love the painting just for that adorable dog. What I noticed for the first time is the dog’s right eye is dark brown (not black) while his left is black with just a speck of brown. This, I think, makes the dog’s eyes seem softer and even more lovable. Matisse is a subtle one!
Matisse, Tea, 1919, detail of the dog
By late 1905, early 1906, Matisse was generally acknowledged to be the leader of a new school of painting, Fauvism. The Steins (mischievously?) made sure Picasso saw Matisse’s Woman with a Hat when he came by to dine with them. Picasso, who was working in a neoclassic manner at that time, must have felt his work was pallid in comparison. This painting and another painting Picasso would have seen at the Steins, Matisse’s Blue Nude (below), spurred him on to begin his Demoiselles D’Avignon. In fact, Picasso’s Head of a Sleeping Woman can be thought of as a vertical version of Matisse’s Blue Nude.
Henri Matisse, Blue Nude, 1907, oil on canvas, about 36 x 55 inches (Cone collection, Baltimore Museum of Art).
Pablo Picasso, Head of a Sleeping Woman (Study for Nude with Drapery),  summer 1907. Oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 18 3/8 inches (Estate of John Hay Whitney).
An interesting thing about Picasso's Head of a Sleeping Woman is there’s an unpainted border around the edge of the entire painting. As a result, the paint seems to lay on top of the surface and the image appears to start at the surface (the canvas) and come forward into the viewer’s space. I discussed this phenomenon before in regard to Demoiselles D’Avignon and Monet's Water Lilies.
Picasso, Head of Sleeping Woman, detail.
Finally, there are two trends here having to do with exhibitions in general and this show in particular. There's a tendency lately, with blockbuster exhibitions, to hang work high, presumably to make it easier to see in a crowd. It doesn't bother me because I'm relatively tall, but it might be a problem for short people when they finally make their way to an individual painting. The other trend, an entirely positive one, is the increased use of the non-reflective, almost invisible "Museum Glass." Regular glass, even glass that claims to be non-glare, reflects light and can be very distracting, especially if the painting is dark. (I remember an exhibition of Rothko's late brown paintings where some of the paintings were covered with glass, and they looked like mirrors.) I noticed that The Steins Collect exhibition made extensive use of this glass. Wondering if the Met went to the trouble and expense of changing most of the glass in this show, I called them and asked about it. They said they wouldn't change the glass of borrowed work but "Museum Glass" is the trend now. That’s great news!