R.A.H. (againstathorn) wrote,

The Chazen Museum of Art

While in Madison this past Saturday we paid a visit to the Chazen Museum of Art. All week I’d been anxious about seeing their collections. My primary interests were the American and European galleries on the second floor which feature works from 5th century B.C. to the 19th century. There was also a small but impressive exhibit called The Loaded Image: Printmaking as Persuasion on the main floor, but we’ll get to that later.

The first thing I noticed upon reaching the second floor was a beautiful painting of a woman in an elegant yellow dress. From a distance I thought it might’ve been a Sargent, but it was actually a work by Charles Sprague Pearce called The Shawl. Out of all the paintings at the Chazen I think Rani admired this one the most. The woman is in one of those pensive poses which I’ve come to identify with late-19th century painting. She’s not as distraught as one of Dewing’s ladies, but if you murked up the paint a bit and added some nondescript negative space then it’d be a serious contender. This particular gallery also features Jean Baptiste-Camille Corot’s Orpheus Greeting the Dawn or Hymn to the Sun which reminds me of his Dante and Virgil at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Over the past year Corot has quickly become one of my favorite 19th century French painters outside of the Orientalists.

The museum featured some excellent European landscape painting, my favorite being a small work entitled Moonlight on the Coast by a Norwegian artist Johan Christian Clausen Dahl. Also of interest were Theophile de Bock’s Landscape with Sheep and Eugene-Louis Boudin’s Etretat. I must mention the dock scene painting Waals-Eilandgracht with Bridge and Moored Tjalk Barges by Piet Mondrian, which is notable simply for not being a De Stijl piece. One might also notice a work called French Landscape by American painter Gaine Ruger Donoho. It has a nice composition but the painting itself is way too large. This is one of those cases were the work would’ve been more effective it were executed in smaller, more intimate canvas.

Next up we had some American landscape works from the Hudson River School. Bierstadt’s The Boating Party and Gifford’s Mount Washington from the Saco River: A Sketch are both handsome pieces but nowhere near the caliber of their best work. By far the most impressive painting of this genre was landscape from William Louis Sonntag, a HRS artist whom I wasn’t even aware of yet. For whatever reasons I love landscaped which include little wooden dams. I’m a sucker for those little wooden dams. At any rate, I’ll be seeking out more works by Sonntag.

The Chazen also has a nice collection of Italian works. My favorites included a piece attributed to Salvator Rosa, Figures under a Cliff, Pietro Paolini’s eerie Young Man Playing a Viola, a captivating depiction of Lucrezia Romana by Giampietrino, and also an Adoration of the Shepherds painting by Giorgio Vasari. Compared to the other Vasaris I’ve seen, this one is an oil panting on wood as opposed to canvas, and with that in mind I tried to see if any of his grid lines were visible through the glaze. It’s a nice piece though like most Vasaris the figures look a bit wooden and out of proportion. For those you who don’t know Vasari, he was a 16th century Italian painter who is best known for his biographies on other painters, and part of that kind of comes through in his work.

Another work that caught my eye was Claude Joseph Vernet’s Sunrise which bears the same mood and atmosphere as his Morning at the Art Institute of Chicago. The colors and vantage points are the same but the compositions and subject matter are entirely different. Whatever I case I couldn’t help but look at Sunrise without feeling as if I’d seen it before.

On the wall to the left of Sunrise is a Venetian scene which looks like it could be a Canaletto or a Guardi but it’s actually a piece attributed Michele Giovanni Marieschi. Further right you’ll find three more paintings of what appear to be capriccios, though if you look closer you’ll notice that the two on either side are “roman ruins” works by French painter Hubert Robert while the middle canvas is actually a common harbor scene, attributed to Italian painter Francecso Simonini. Sneaky.

Other paintings of note were Christian Bell’s Meeting of the Austrian and Prussian Commanders and the playful Colonnades of Versailles by Giovanni Boldini. Again, I think the latter would’ve been more effective on the smaller scale. Outside the galleries there was also an excellent selection of early-American furniture. Especially nerdy individuals will note the reproduction of Charles Wilson Peale’s George Washington, probably based off the piece in the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts.

I must mention that on the 2nd floor there was an entire gallery sectioned off for maintenance. This particular gallery is apparently where they showcase their Russian paintings from the Joseph E Davies collection. In lieu of this I checked out the collection online when I got home, which in no way compares to seeing the works in person, but unfortunately it would have to do. I would’ve loved to see Klaudii Vaslievich’s Fall of Novrorad, Arkhip Ivanovich Luindzhia’s Night of the Dnieper, and Il"ya Yefinmovich Repin’s Zaporozhtsy's Reply to the Sultan. Oh well, maybe next time. At least I got to view the Russian icons at the other end of the floor. I was disappointed to find out that none of the Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky’s seascapes were even out on display. Such a loss, just keeping them tucked away in storage.

Speaking of which, according to their website the Chazen has a very nice George Inness and Robert Blacklock, neither of which were on view. Those two would work well cattycorner from the Jean Baptiste-Camille Corot painting. Just a suggestion. Oh, and Johannes Bathololamaus Duntze’s Alpine Landscape needs to be out as well.

As I mentioned earlier, the downstairs area had a special exhibit, The Loaded Image: Printmaking as Persuasion, a display of prints from the 16th century to present. There is a theme to this particular selection of work but to be honest I wasn’t too interested. At any rate it’s a nice selection of prints—even some of the more modern works like Raymond Louis Gloechler’s Return of Earth stood out as very strong. I also enjoyed Honore Daumier’s Repos de la France, Albrecht Durer’s Ill-Assorted Couple, and the excellent Battle of St. James at Clavijo by Martin Schongauer. On either side of the Schongauer piece there are prints from Goya and Callot which are meant to depict the horrors of war, which immediately brought to mind the Belligerent Encounters exhibit that is currently showing at the Art Institute of Chicago. My favorite piece of the exhibit was without a doubt the little copper engraving by Albrecht Altdorfer, Horatius Cocles Leaping into the Tiber River. Now that is an incredible work of craftsmanship.

So there you have it. That’s many Eurocentric review of the Chazen Museum of Art. Next time I’ll make it a point to see more of the other collections. Great museum. If you ever find yourself in Madison I highly recommend checking it out. Oh yeah, and it's free!

Tags: museums, wisconsin 2011
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