Little did I know when I set off for a weekend trip to see the panels from the Ghiberti doors exhibiting at the High Museum in Atlanta, June 2007, that I would see much more than expected. Calling upon my former skills in English essay writing, I realized this museum journal would need to cover not one but three inspirational exhibitions. Alongside the Ghiberti panels was a wonderful exhibit of mostly portraits by Cecilia Beaux(1855-1942) and a monumental photography show of Annie Leibovitz's work. Thus I will attempt to tempt you to see each of these artists either here or in some future museum exhibit. In the pictures above I reference the book, The Gates of Paradise Lorenzo Ghiberti's Renaissance Masterpiece, and Cecilia Beaux's brilliantly pensive portrait, "A Little Girl."
Lorenzo Ghiberti at 22 years of age, won first prize to construct gilded bronze reliefs for the east entrance doors of the Baptistery of Florence in 1425. Michelangelo later named these incredible expressions of art "The Gates of Paradise." Currently the High Museum of Atlanta is exhibiting three of the restored panels which will later return to Italy for permanent display inside the cathedral in Florence.
First, upon exiting the elevator, I found the Ghiberti panels clearly centered in the Skyline Gallery surrounded starkly by modern art. Inside the intimate and protected viewing space three panels are illuminated depicting "Adam and Eve", "Jacob and Esau", and "David". The immaculate cleaning after 600 years has brought these jewels to light and to life again.
In the "David" panel, a horrific battle is depicted by a dazzling configuration of men and horses in every angle showing enormous depth of space by the masterful use of relief. The young Lorenzo takes no prisoners in his skillful story telling of the young David who defeats the mighty Goliath. Even youthful eyes today could get lost in the glory of hand to hand combat with a universal imagination for human violence.
The middle panel, "Jacob and Esau", shows another side of human drama that reveals family, betrayal and forgiveness. Seeing the grouping of men and women throughout the formal gatherings recalls a desire to remember the Bible story that teaches us another part of human drama and pain. This Renaissance master knew his human anatomy par excellence and one can only be awed by the fluidity of materials draped over the wearer and careful revealing of what's underneath it all. The meditative scenes grab our interest as if to invite us to hear their conversations and confessions.
Finally, an elaborate unveiling of "Adam and Eve", the creation, the fall, and the beginning of man and woman through the story we all know so well in Genesis. As we witness the relationship of the spiritual and material depicted in human and natural forms, angels and even God the Maker, the viewer is immersed in a human attempt to reveal a monumental idea. Once again the artist uses his craft to remind us of a world that is ever mysterious and grand and one worth pausing for remembrance. Clearly The Ghiberti collaboration gives us more than the eye can see.
For my second exhibition, let's jump forward to the 19th century, where women were not considered real artists and they certainly hadn't managed to establish themselves in a career that would exclude their presence. Cecilia Beaux was an early or pre- impressionist painter who left us with important portraits that were thoughtful, skillful and personal. Cecilia Beaux studied with teacher, William Sartain and yet benefited from a distance from Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy. Like the youthful Ghiberti, Ms Beaux worked with even more resolve to prove her acceptance in the art world dominated by men and clearly a world of patriarchal values. I could see her progress from the young, academic painter to the mature artist honoring her subject with personal color and expression true to her calling.
Next to Cecilia Beaux's paintings were the diverse and often monumental photographs by Annie Leibovitz. The first thing that I noticed was her wide range of subject matter- famous people's portraits- Scarlet Johansson was my favorite, to mountains, animals and even small family like snapshots. Each subject carried a weight and meaning as well as intense interest. I read her comment about being rather quiet and more visual when connecting with her kids. She was just enthralled with the process of looking at them. That truthful confession made sense to this artist, as we are never really off work and we tend to compose all the time in our minds.
Leibovitz gives us a body of work that reveals a diverse range of emotions and is a joy to experience. In today's world, she is accepted as an artist not only as a woman but a photographer who creates a world of valued art, often expressed in black and white.
With her portraits, monumental landscapes, and very personal family moments, the viewer is given much to look at and explore and this show is an exciting exhibit of the fine art of photography.
From the Renaissance Ghiberti "Gates of Paradise", to Cecilia Beaux and finally Annie Leibovitz, I was able to experience monumental art expressed with great vision, courage, and beauty.
After July 15, the Ghiberti Door Panels are traveling to the Art Institute of Chicago July28- Oct 13, 2007 and then to The Metropolitan Museum in New York, Oct 30- Jan 13, 2008.
Brandon show dates: July 12 - August 11, 2007
Brandon was accepted into a juried Member/Associates exhibition at the Geary Art Gallery in Darien, Ct. from July 12 - August 11, 2007. The "small works" show is sponsored by the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club of New York.
Geary Art Gallery, 576 Post Road, Darien, Ct. Brandon Painting- "Three Graces"
The photo of Cecilia Beaux's "A Little Girl" is copyright by Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia.