Saturday, December 9, 2017

Well MET

View at The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York City, New York
December 2, 2017

You simply can't miss walking into the MET Museum this season!

We were lucky and found a parking space on the street a block away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and strolled in early Saturday to see Michelangelo and David Hockney.  Both of these artists deserve the kind of full length portrait that these exhibitions give you, and they do not let you down!

Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise

Walk into the show of Michelangelo - Divine Draftsman & Designer, and make sure that you have enough time to see the artwork - because you may get pushed along by crowds who are visiting the museum on any given day.  The lights are low, and the focus is on sensitive drawings starting with the early days of Michelangelo ( 1475-1564 ) and the artwork of his mentors and students.  Going back in time you realize that to study the human form, to give a drawing proper proportion and accuracy - one would have to be familiar with anatomy - and one way was to dissect a corpse ( which was illegal at the time ).  From the looks of this exhibition Michelangelo was obsessed with the body, especially muscles and flex joints.  The drawings on view range throughout his career and include many architectural drawings and also works of the imagination.

Michelangelo studies for fresco paintings in the Vatican

There are famous portraits; scenes with multiple figures, as well as studies for the fresco paintings now in the Vatican.  This is a very rare chance to look over a body of artworks that are so substantial and that make up part of the canon of Western culture.  There are a few bizarre twists in the present exhibition.  Walking past early drawings by Ghirlandaio there is a painting made by studying a print from Schongauer.  It is said that this painting (below) was made when Michelangelo was 12 or 13 years old.

"Torment of Saint Anthony"

In the past, I have given classes in figure drawing and used some of the Michelangelo drawings in this present show as examples.  Still, it helps to see the real thing - to get close enough to see how the drawings accomplish their goals.  People are lining up to see the sensitive portrayals and the special genius of this artist at work.  One artist studies another, learning to see how the other sees.

Draw from a master

As a designer and architect, you wonder how one man had the chance and knowledge to create all this?  How does one accumulate enough know-how to be a credible architect of the Medici Chapel, or  develop the domes of the Vatican?  There is a wonderful model in wood of one of the domes that you can study in this exhibition, along with many plans for the buildings.

Michelangelo as architect of Medici Chapel

In one section of this massive show of creativity the Met has installed a replica of the ceiling fresco for the Sistine Chapel.  This allows the visitor to make some connections between drawings in the exhibition, and places where those drawings became essential for the artist as his process progressed. Fresco painting is a technique of painting into wet plaster - you don't have much time to complete your work or make a mistake, so you better plan out what you are going to do.

The ceiling at The Sistine Chapel

One of my favorite drawings in this show has Hercules struggling with a lion, and it reminds me that art can have the capacity to move the spirits of us all.  It is really interesting to contemplate how Michelangelo made his compositions, and that he retained all the knowledge of the body to be able to show what it would look like if Hercules was wrestling.

Three Labours of Hercules

So, if you are going to the MET, prepare to stay a while, there are over a hundred works in the present show.  This exhibition is mostly about drawing, and the experience is intimate.  There are a few sculptural works included, to serve as a reminder - but the impact remains.  In the second part of my post I will walk down the hall and visit the artwork of David Hockney, so stay close!

Michelangelo portrait of Mr. Quaratesi made around 1531-34