Re-education in Modern Art

Smiling and joy in a sculpture? Stark contrast to the smug, sad or dead-eyed busts we've become accustomed to

Everything is relative, and yesterday was no exception with our visit to the Galleria d’arte Moderna.  With the expectation of geometric shapes mashed into shag carpet, then framed and  hung on a wall to evoke some emotion…I was a little surprised to find none of it.  Once again, no pictures were permitted to capture the day, so the few I have sneakily acquired are of poor quality and composition.

What is referred specifically to is simply the word ‘modern‘ being relative.  It always has been, with cars of the 20’s considered to be modern in design, and pyramids that at one time also would have been considered ‘cutting edge’.  It’s a label that has an expiry date, yet no definitions I have found, indicate just what that best before stamp might be.  ‘Modern’ seems to shift it’s definition from industry to industry, as technology or tastes are slowly replaced with a newer model that accepts the moniker.

The emotion I so expect from a visit to such a gallery wasn’t typical.  I wasn’t angry, disappointed, or inspired to whip up something similar to demonstrate the simplicity of such pieces.  Instead on departure from our gallery visit yesterday, I was quite happy and satisfied.  There was no questioning of each piece and how it was developed.  Only appreciation of those innovators breaking from the traditional painting at a time when Canada was just going through it’s formative stages under the British North America acts.  The ‘Modern’ title relates to the obvious shift in style from exhaustively detailed portraits and religious imagery depicting biblical stories, to pieces that are a little more light-hearted and fun.  Sculptures that are smiling, instead of sorrowful.  Paintings with historical relevance capturing events affecting the day-to-day activities of folks.  Multiple stories all simultaneously underway, denoting Napoleonic occupation or cholera outbreaks with the backdrop of Venezia.

I want to go over and high five the baby!

Adriano Cecioni’s “Le Madre”, mother and child both with smiling faces…happiness neatly frozen in plaster.  Artists such as Giovanni Boldini, Federico Zandomeneghi, Telemaco Signorini, Giovanni Fattori, Giorgio Belloni and Guiseppe de Nittis all had me captivated with their styles and protrayals of subjects.  Amazing pieces that didn’t complicate the final product with textural brush strokes or muting of the images requiring extensive interpretation of just what it was you were looking at.

After almost 3 hours in this mix of portraits and landscapes, we moved on to the dreaded Costume Gallery.  Dreaded only because of what we might consider to be ‘costume’ and a little resistance to wandering through musty hallways full of garments of varying periods.  Once again, not the case and my assumptions were way off.  Melanie was very excited to go from one glass case to the next and point out just what dress would look best on her.  The 1940’s and 50’s pieces we already knew would look pretty good on her.  Small shoe collections from the last century that have been dug from the back of palatial closets, long forgotten.

No pics of the classy lady that might have worn this. If we could have found a way in, Melanie was ready to try it on.

As for pieces that should have been forgotten, some historians felt the need to dig up the bodies of the Medici family to check out what garments they may have been buried in.  Not my cup of tea, but any preservable scrap of cloth was stripped from these 500 year old corpses and laid out for preservation and public viewing in this gallery.  Not the clown costumes that I was half expecting, but much creepier when you read that these half decayed undergarments are now museum pieces.  Odd how skulls stacked into various arrangements back in the Parisian Catacombs was interesting…and the stains on these remnants of fabric are just off-putting.  This was just a minor stop in the Costume Museum, and shortly after seeing these ghastly pieces we found a New Year’s dress for Melanie from the 40’s.

Two museum/galleries down, with another 3 today before heading for parts north of here.  I expect a Silver Gallery to be just that…silver.  Royal Apartments…to be just apartments, maybe decorated in a fashion that I hope Melanie never starts into.  As for the last of these…the descriptors are vague which will make it all the more surprising.  Bring on the redefining, as I do seem to like this country more and more with each passing day.

Now if I could only speak Italian.

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