Monday, June 30, 2014

Cleveland Museum of Art

Last month Kenneth and I were able to check out an amazing exhibit featuring one of our favorite artists, Vincent Van Gogh at the Cleveland Museum of Art! Neither of us had ever been to the Cleveland Museum of Art before and we were excited to check it out. The drive from Columbus to Cleveland was a bit long (two hours and forty-five minutes) but it was definitely worth it!

The CMA is one of the nicest art museums I've ever visited, and definitely the biggest! We planned our visit to check out the Van Gogh exhibit but ended up walking through the entire museum. We spent five and a half hours exploring modern and ancient artwork from all over the world including Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. I wish we were closer to the museum as I'd love to spend more time in several galleries just enjoying the artwork and soaking up the creative atmosphere. General admission to the museum is free, although some special exhibits (like the Van Gogh exhibit) do cost.

The exhibition, Van Gogh Repetitions, featured many examples of Van Gogh's répétitions, what he called his paintings and sketches that repeated similar compositions from his completed works. The artist created his repetitions as part of his artistic process. He wrote to his brother Theo in a letter and explained that this method was "an opportunity to improve and clarify his initial composition". There are slight differences in color and composition in a series of repetitions, but the overall composition is so similar that for a long time Van Gogh scholars considered them to be copies made by Van Gogh or fakes made by forgers.

Kenneth and I arrived at the museum shortly after the start of the daily guided tour through Van Gogh Repetitions. The museum docent did a wonderful job explaining the differences in series of paintings and how scholars were able to determine in what order the paintings were finished. He also gave us more insight into Vincent's life as a poor artist. We learned fascinating tidbits of information like why Van Gogh might have painted on burlap instead of canvas (at one point he lived with another artist who sold burlap, which was cheaper than canvas and always on hand).

Photos were not allowed of Van Gogh Repetitions, so the photos in this post related to Van Gogh are of advertisements about the exhibit and items available in the CMA gift shop. The above photo is of two sketchbooks I bought with prints of two of Van Gogh's paintings that inspired Van Gogh Repetitions, which was a collaborative effort between the Cleveland Museum of Art and Phillips Collection. The painting on the left, Large Plane Trees, belongs to the Cleveland Museum of Art's collection and was created plein air (painted on sight, outdoors) in May of 1889 while Van Gogh was staying at an asylum near Saint-Rémy in Provence. The painting on the right, The Road Meanders, belongs to the Phillips Collection and was also painted in 1889, but in Van Gogh's studio. The museum docent pointed out slight differences in the composition between the two paintings. Vincent added more people to the scene in the second painting, and altered his color palette slightly. The brushstrokes on The Road Meanders are more controlled as well. 

Our tour guide took a quick poll, asking us which painting we preferred. Almost everyone raised their hands for Large Plane Trees, including Kenneth and myself. It's hard to tell in my photo of these sketchbooks, but in person Large Plane Trees is much brighter to me (check out a photo of Large Plane Trees here and a photo of The Road Meanders here). I love the large, quick brushstrokes and the vibrant greens, dark blues and gold in the first painting. If one looks closely at Large Plane Trees, there are small red diamonds that show through thin areas of paint. Van Gogh painted this piece on red fabric, rather than canvas or burlap.

Kenneth and I both found ourselves preferring Vincent's first paintings in several different series of répétitions. The rapid brush strokes and bright colors give the paintings a more passionate appearance. It makes me wish I could step through the frame and into the lively scene Vincent captured. 

I'm so glad we were able to see this exhibit! The exhibition was so popular with CMA visitors that it was extended by an additional week (ending June 1st, 2014 instead of May 25th)! Barbara King wrote an excellent article, Van Gogh Teaches Us How To Keep Life Interesting for NPR just before the exhibition was held at the at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

We also were able to view the exhibit, Treasures on Paper from the Collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art when we visited in May. This exhibition showcased over seventy of the CMA's prints and drawings, all on paper. The artwork ranges from the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries. Some of the artists included in the exhibition included Albrecht Dürer, Edgar Degas, Rembrandt van Rijn, Théodore Géricault, Peter Bruegel the Elder and Michelangelo. We even saw a watercolor painting by Vincent Van Gogh, Landscape with Wheelbarrow.

In addition to nearly all of the paintings in Van Gogh Repetitions, most of my favorite pieces were in the Impressionist galleries (number 222). We saw works by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Georges Seurat. The photo above is The Pigeon Tower at Bellevue by Paul Cézanne. 

Other favorites include Peregrine Falcons by John James Audubon and many of the gorgeous in stone, metal, and ivory sculptures in the Indian and South East Asian Art collection.

Just before the end of our first visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art, we stopped in Gallery One. Gallery One is an interactive gallery which uses art and technology to help visitors explore the museum's permanent collection. We started out at the Collection Wall, a 40-foot long multi-touch microtile screen (the largest one in the US!). The Collection Wall (pictured above) allows visitors to interact with 4,100 works of art, including downloading existing tours or creating their own to use on their personal iPads and iPhones in the museum.

In addition to the Collection Wall, there are also three interactive areas for children and six interactive displays geared towards adults and students. The Cleveland Museum of Art has also created a museum app called ArtLens. ArtLens can be used in the museum, in Gallery One and at home to explore the museum's collection. In the above photo Kenneth is checking out one of the interactives in the children's area. When the user draws a shape on the touch-screen, part or all of the shape is matched to an artwork in the museum's collection. It was slightly addictive to see how complicated of a shape could be made and matched to a real art object! 

I hope to visit the Cleveland Museum of Art again in the near future! It's such a large museum, I think all visitors would benefit from multiple visits (our feet were pretty sore after trying to see it all in one day!). The museum offers a lot for visitors in the form of tours, programs and new exhibitions. I'd love to make it back this summer to see Yoga: The Art of Transformation which runs from June 22nd to September 7th of this year.

You can learn more about the Cleveland Museum of Art and all of their upcoming exhibitions by visiting their website, reading their awesome blog, or following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Check out more of my photos from our May visit to the museum, below!