Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Day at the Wadsworth Atheneum

Yesterday I spent the day doing one of my very favorite things in the whole world. A nice, long, unhurried visit to a museum with sketchbook in hand.

My husband and I had a meeting we needed to attend together in Hartford in the morning. Then, since my husband's office is literally just a block away from the Wadsworth Atheneum he dropped me off there and picked me up at the end of the day.

I arrived just at noon and here's how the day began:

A quick sketch with a uniball vision pen while waiting for lunch to arrive in the museums restaurant, The Russell.

Here's the first course, mushroom & onion soup, a basket of crusty bread and iced tea.

Now for the entree, a tuna melt and pasta salad.

As soon as I was finished with my delicious and relaxing lunch, I headed up to the third floor to the Atheneum's famous Hudson River School collection.

But first a word about museum sketching. Always get permission first. The Wadsworth requires that you fill out and sign a form and has specific requirements for sketching. Second, don't be intimidated by all the great art. Remember these will be small quick sketches, aim to capture composition and value structure two of the most important elements in any work, you can learn a lot from concentrating just on these. Third, relax and have fun.

Using Graphitint pencils (sign up for eBates it's free, and shop online at Dick Blick to purchase these and earn cash back!) in a FO 2970 maruman sketchbook I did a small study of Frederick Edwin Church's Rapids of the Susquehanna, 1846.

Graphitints are a dry media, the only thing allowed in the museum for sketching, but they are water soluble so when I got home I was able to take a brush and water and lay in a few washes.

Next, I turned my attention to a huge painting, Thomas Cole's Mt. Etna from Toarmina, 1843. Same sketchbook, but this time using a Sanford Design 2B pencil.

After, enjoying browsing around on the second floor this very powerful piece, Under and Over by Adolph Gottleib, 1959 caught my attention.

This was done with an Ebony Design pencil, with the red and sienna added at home using some watercolor pencils.

Finally, by the Avery Court Fountain I sketched this Giacometti sculpture, City Square, 1947 with an Ebony Design pencil.

With several sketches done, it was time to switch hats and become a photographer to capture some of the beautiful works of art that spoke to me on this particular day.

Here's are the first few,

JMW Turner, I love the dramatic spotlight effect and the depth of the water in the foreground.

See some of my other posts on JMW Turner here, here and here.

The tranquility and simplicity of Monet's waterlilies is always a delight.

Claude Lorraine's St. George Slaying the Dragon is quite large and majestic. I sat in front of this one for quite a while to take it all in.

Pissarro's Spring landscape with Flooded Fields has such incredible light, the photo doesn't do it justice, you need to see this one in person.

I love all things medieval and so the medieval rooms are some of my favorites, and yesterday I found these gems speaking to me:

( If you also love angels and medieval things than you'll want to visit The most unusual company this side of the 15th century and The only museum in the world where you can take the exhibits home without getting arrested, An Englishman in LA.)

These reliefs from the first half of the 15thc caught my eye right away, especially since we are in the middle of lent. Each angel (they were part of a larger series) holds a symbol of Christ's passion. They are similar to the Bridge of Angels in Rome.

This angel holds the imprint of Christ's face, on St. Veronica's cloth. Those of you who participate in the Stations of the Cross during Good Friday services will be familiar with this. If not the story is here.

This angel with solemn expression, holds the pillar where Jesus was scourged.

Next, I came across this delightful carved wooden sculpture with polychrome (colorfully painted) of the archangel Gabriele

Below is a detail from a lovely and delicate 15th c Sienese Madonna and Child, which reminded me of earlier works by Cimabue.

I ended my day in the Renaissance galleries where I found these two delights:

A glum little putto, above, and a magnificent angel by Fra Angelico below. You might like to read about Fra Angelico liquor here.

Well, there you have it! A final stop in the gift shop where I purchased a postcard book of Hudson River School Paintings ended my most enjoyable day. Thanks for joining me, we'll have to do it again sometime soon.

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