Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Experience

After a slow start, we finally made it to the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. I had piled my children and wife in the car and took the drive to the city. It was a very hot Fourth of July and we thought, “What better way to spend it then inside an air-conditioned museum?” We figured most people would be at the beach and we were right. The ride was great as there was no traffic. We found the parking garage easily and parked very close to the entrance. We entered the museum from the garage and we were on our way to exploring the museum.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870. The museum is located in Central park along Fifth Avenue in New York City. There are around two million works of art in the museum covering five thousand years. The building is a quarter of a mile long. The museum started with the design by architect Calvert Vaux with his collaborator Jacob Wrey Mould. Critics believed the structure would be out of style by the time they finished building it. The style was High Victorian Gothic and 20 years later it was redone in the Beaux-arts on the façade by Richard Morris Hunt. Hunt never saw the completion of his work, but his son Richard Howland Hunt oversaw the completion. The museum was completed in 1902 and has continued to expand.
We started in the Greek and Roman Art section. There we saw many statues laid out in the hall. My children decided that we were following Percy’s adventure, from the movie The Lighting Thief. We saw every god and goddess that was in the books and movie made of marble. The children marveled at the details and how smooth they were. We discussed how long it must have taken someone to create such a wonder. It was an awesome site to stand in the middle of the room and look around at all the statues as if you were right there in ancient times. The next pieces of art we admired were the Roman Funerary Art. There were urns and sarcophaguses made of marble, limestone and terracotta. One such piece was a marble sarcophagus with garland. The reason this piece stood out for us is because it was never finished. The piece was never completed because no one purchased it so the final details were never finished. My wife and daughter were interested in all of the exquisite jewelry. I guess some things never change. My son and I particularly enjoyed the chariot and all of the weapons. It is hard to believe that Roman soldiers could fit in such small chariots. There was so much to see. We could have spent hours looking at the pottery collections alone. It was amazing to look out over the great hall and took in the overall scene. We had some lunch in the café before continuing our journey. We thoroughly enjoyed the special exhibits including the Robert Lehman collection, the Picasso exhibit, the American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity and the Tutankhamen’s Funeral collection. The Tutankhamen exhibit is the one we were most excited to see as we are interested in mummies and the pyramids.
The one piece that stood out for me was a painting from the Peter Paul Rubens Workshop. It was oil on canvas painting that was the size of a picture window. The name of the painting is “Wolf and Fox Hunt” ca. 1615-21. Peter Paul Rubens was born into the family of a Calvinist. He was brought up and educated in the Catholic faith. At the age of fourteen (1591) he entered the household of a Flemish princess as a page, and began to study painting first under Tobias Verhaecht and then under Adam van Noort. Finally he studied under Otho Venius. In 1598, he was accepted as master in the Lukas Guild. He continued, however to work in Venius’s workshop until 1600. Rubens went to Italy in 1600 and by 1603 he was sent to Spain on a diplomatic mission. Ruben produced a series of hunting scenes from 1615 through 1621. "Peter Paul Rubens and Workshop: Wolf and Fox Hunt (10.73)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/10.73 (October 2006). Ruben was a prolific Flemish Baroque painter. He emphasized movement, color and sensuality.

Between the size and the exquisite detail, this painting makes you feel that you are right in the middle of the hunt. The wolf’s baring their teeth trying to defend themselves from the attacking dogs evokes emotion in the viewer. You are almost not sure who to root for. The plaque stated that Ruben may have only painted a portion of the painting. Some critics go so far as to say that he may not have had a hand in the painting at all. I looked at the sections supposedly painted by Ruben but could not make any determination as to whether he painted it or not.
Ruben’s large studio produced paintings which were popular with nobility and art collectors throughout Europe. This is probably why he painted such a scene. The reason was never made clear in any of the places where I researched. Perhaps it is because this painting was done by the studio and is not considered Ruben’s own work. It may be that Ruben was such a great teacher that even the experts couldn’t tell the difference between the work of the teacher and the students.
We had a wonderful outing and my children are even developing an appreciation for art. I am very glad to be taking this class.
Source: Peter Paul Rubens and Workshop: Wolf and Fox Hunt (10.73) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful Mike...I'm so glad you took the family. They will never forget that experience... maybe you can make it a semi annual event for them... The Rubens piece you highlighted is powerful and you considered the right questions....

    Well done!