Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

Just north of Copenhagen, overlooking the Baltic sea, lies the stunning Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

With its strong collection, amazing view, and inviting layout, the Louisiana instantly made my top three list of favorite museums ever. The only ones I’ve visited that even compare in awesomeness are the Apartheid Museum in Capetown and the Metropolitan in New York. I felt a little like pulling a Claudia Kincaid (in From the Mixed Up Files)—-maybe I’ll go back and move into one of the exhibits. There was this super-cool fort/treehouse type installation. I think that would work.

It’s called  My Home My House My Stilt House by artist Arne Quinze.

Here’s the view from the museum:

I’d been told that in general, Danish museums are very family-friendly. The Louisiana definitely is, with lots of space to run around, outdoor exhibits, and an entire wing devoted to children, where they can make their own stuff. Like this:

My favorite exhibit was a collection of iPads and iPhones displaying David Hockney’s recent digital work. It’s called Me Draw on iPad, and it really blew my mind.

I admire anyone who’s always worked with traditional materials but is willing to try something new. It had never occured to me to try to sketch on my iPhone. He started by sketching sunrises on his phone because he felt the phone’s luminosity made it the perfect medium for the subject matter.

He’s been sketching daily on iThings for a few years now and shares his drawings with friends.

I’m drawn to sketches because I love to see the artist’s hand, which you’d think might feel missing from digital work. Not here. In fact, the most mesmerizing thing about the artwork, besides the fact that it glows, is that you can watch it in progress over and over: the drawings come together in motion as they were drawn, color by color, line by line.

The exhibit also includes a video of Hockney sitting in the museum cafe, drawing the view on his iPad. I could’ve watched it for hours. He says he doesn’t know how to sell any of the pieces and feels they belong on the screen, not on paper, but I would totally have bought prints or even a DVD.

In the exhibit literature, there’s a scan code where you can download one of the drawings onto your smartphone. Check out some of Hockney’s drawings here.

More on Copenhagen soon.

Lady Madonna, Baby at Your Breast

 

Madonna del’latte, Ambrogio Lorenzetti c. 1330
 

I really enjoyed the museums in Siena in part because they were small enough to manage with children, and not so packed. But the best part was their troves of early Renaissance art. I like the early stuff because it’s not so all-fired perfect like the late Renaissance art. During the early period, artists had figured out a few things about perspective, but they hadn’t yet cracked the whole code. 

The art from the early period also seems brighter and more colorful than the later Renaissance. I find myself relating to it because it’s more like what I’d want to create myself. Perfection in artwork doesn’t really interest me that much, probably because I’m living after the invention of photography. So the beautiful but imperfect early Renaissance paintings (as well as pre-Renaissance works) have an almost modern feel to me.

Disclaimer: this isn’t an all that scholarly perspective, so bear that in mind.

St. Bernardino Preaching, by Sano di Pietro (above)—This scene takes place in the same Piazza del Campo from my previous post. I couldn’t find a better image of it, but in real life the colors are much brighter. The building behind St. Bernardino is the color of papaya flesh. 

Datei:Simone Martini 018.jpg

(detail from The Siege of the Castle of Montemassi, by Simone Martini)

The image above is just a tiny bit of a beautiful and famous painting. You can see the artist has made an attempt to show the dimensionality of the castle, but it’s still a bit flat, with an almost cubist feeling. I love it.

Our favorite pieces in the museum were the nursing Madonnas. I had never seen anything like them and was so moved by their tenderness. Whoever thought of Mary breastfeeding Jesus? Evidently plenty of artists have, but I hadn’t. I found the images so intimate, so human. So different from some other Madonnas where she’s looking away from baby Jesus, holding him like she’s not sure whose kid this is but would someone please take him?

Evidently there are a lot of these lactating Madonnas from 14th century Tuscany. According to Wikipedia,  they were “something of a visual revolution for the theology of the time, compared to the Queen of Heaven depictions.”

Madonna del latte, Paolo di Giovanni Fei

“During the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century, a decree against nudity was issued, and the use of the Madonna Lactans iconography began to fade away.”

Sigh. At least they didn’t burn them.

The coolest thing about seeing these paintings was how much my small children responded to them. I think the idea of baby Jesus being so like themselves, so like other babies they know, excited them.

The images above came from wikipedia and wikimedia. They are in the public domain, and the paintings themselves all reside in Siena.

p.s. My post about Pisa was featured on Freshly Pressed (the wordpress front page roundup) this week, so this little blog got a lot of new traffic. Welcome, new subscribers!

Max and Moritz: Great Uncles of the Comic Strip

File:Max und Moritz.JPG

You know the Brothers Grimm, but maybe you haven’t heard of some other famous German brothers: Max and Moritz. They’re some of the most beloved characters in all of German literature.

Published in 1865, Max and Moritz is the story of two naughty brothers whose adventures range from mischievous to vicious. Their darkly comical story is told in a series of seven pranks, and in the end….well, let’s just say they don’t get away with their crimes. It’s not exactly a Disney fairy tale.

The subversive  humor of the book and the boys’ flippancy toward adults represented a departure in the children’s literature of the time, which was strictly moralistic.

The book’s action-filled sequential line drawings are paired with relatively little text. It’s widely believed that Max and Moritz was the direct inspiration for the Katzenjammer Kids, the “oldest American comic strip still in syndication and the longest-running ever.” (from Wikipedia)

The other day I made a date with myself to go to the Wilhelm Busch Museum here in Hannover. The creator of Max and Moritz, illustrator and poet Wilhelm Busch, lived in and around Hannover for several years of his life. The museum is located on the edge of the royal Herrenhauser Gartens. It’s my favorite kind of museum: small, intimate, a beautiful space with really strong exhibits. It houses some of the original Max and Moritz sketches—I love seeing the rough beginnings of things.

Here’s the museum below:

The museum also hosts temporary exhibits of illustration and caricature, and I was lucky enough to catch the show of Lisbeth Zwerger, famed Austrian illustrator. I’ve been a fan of her whimsical fairy tale illustrations for a long time, so it was really interesting to see them in person. Along with German and English editions of Max and Moritz, I couldn’t resist getting Zwerger’s Noah’s Ark, also in the original German—I guess it’ll be good for my language skills.

Also on display, and equally interesting, was a large retrospective show of  influential British carticature artist Ronald Searle. I snapped a quick pic of this machine in the corner of the gallery:

What do you think it is? I’m guessing it’s a hygrometer to make sure the air doesn’t get too damp and damage the artwork, but I don’t know.

I can’t wait to get back to the museum for the next exhibits.

The Max and Moritz image above, which is in the public domain, was found at wikipedia. Information in this post comes from the English and German wikipedia entries for Wilhelm Busch.

A Shiny New Firebird

No, I didn’t get a new car. Charlotte has a new mascot. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is opening on January 2, but right now I’m drooling over the outside of the museum, including the recently installed Firebird sculpture by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

I love the way the orange brick frames the sculpture. I just couldn’t help smiling when I stood next to it. And the light! The light bouncing off it creates these gorgeous constellations on the ground.

 

I am so totally stoked about this museum. Its big ol’ collection includes works by Giacometti, Miro, Picasso, Le Corbusier, Alexander Calder, Warhol, and on and on. I can barely wait for Jan. 2. For more info, click here.