Nov 22

Claude Monet at the LUME

This is Camille Pissarro’s “The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning.” Or part of that 1897 work, anyway. Circumstances, and shooting from the hip, and just trying to get the part I wanted. And the point is to say, guess what we saw today?

That’s the clue, and so was the headline, I guess. But the answer is, the impressionists!

Here’s part of Monet’s “Water Lily Pond.”

But the museum trip wasn’t about paintings directly, but rather a digital introduction and interpretation. Art in the 21st century, remixing the old masters. (More on that tomorrow.) And getting photobombed in the transitional elements of the show.

There’s a part where you can take your picture on an iPad, and select a filter — a big hit pre-Instagram, I’m sure — and then have it displayed on the art wall. Here we are.

This is a small work of Paul Cezanne, “Landscape at Auvers.”

Cézanne was an innovator and influenced countless modern artists as he sought to both reflect nature and show his own response to it, whatever that meant at the time. His mentor was Pissarro, but he would eventually move away from the impressionist movement.

Edgar Degas is also an impressionist, but he also worked in sculptures, and this one is on display at the LUME. The one on the right, I mean.

This is “Dancer Moving Forward, Arms Raised” which was found in Degas’ studio and cast in bronze in 1920, a few years after his death.

Here’s another painting of Camille Pissarro’s. This is an oil on canvas, circa 1865. Pissarro is sort of the elder statesman of the impressionists, and the neo-impressionist movement. Oh, and also post-impressionism. Talent, longevity and a willingness to grow allowed him to cover a lot of 19th century bases. Now, if you aren’t particularly an art connoisseur, you might not be familiar with Pissarro, so let’s just say this. Over the course of four-plus decades, all of the artists of the era — Cézanne, Gauguin, Renoir, Seurat, van Gogh — were all influenced by the man.

Pissarro was a contemporary of Armand Guillaumin, and this is one of his works, the 1877 “Quai d’Austerlitz.” It shows the left bank of the Seine River in Paris where Guillaumin worked nights for the Bridges and Roads Department. Later he won the lottery, and decided to spend his time on landscape paintings. Excellent choice, moving on to things you love.

And this is Pierre-August Renoir’s “Bouquet in a Vase.” Big broad, rapid strokes. I wonder how long this sort of canvas took to complete in the hands of a master.

And since Claude Monet is the name on the event, here’s a Monet. This is “Charing Cross Bridge, London” a turn-of-the-century oil on canvas. You can tell without even reading the placard that this is Monet’s London.

He spent the Franco-Prussian War there, and he painted almost 100 paintings of the Thames during his time in smoggy London Town. Monet spent a lot of time playing with the light and the smoke and fog that gave the Big Smoke its reputation.

Group picture time! (This is just before the gift shop. Every thing in its place.)

I’ll have more from this fun Newfields exhibit tomorrow.

After dinner we went back to Newfields for Winterlights, and a quick walk through of the famous Lilly House. I was surprised to see this part of the house. They lifted this idea directly from my Pinterest page.

Here are some of the Winterlights. The big blue tunnel near the grand finale.

The weather was perfect. Everyone at Newfields was having a great time and full of the initial holiday cheer of the season. There will be a video or two from the lights show tomorrow, too. But it’s late, and, for now, I want to leave you with one final impression.

Jun 22

Visiting with Vincent

This was written for a Tuesday. Not today, but two weeks ago. And that’s going to be the way of it around here for the next few weeks. But it’ll be worth it. All of this covers two weeks of travels and, hopefully, makes up for the two-week break I took on the site. So cast your mind back two weeks …

We stopped to pick up a quick sandwich after a morning of finalizing packing, and running an errand and before the day’s treat, and this was the art next door.

Everything can’t be art, because if everything is art then nothing is, really, art. Art, in a simple form for a simple way of thinking about it, like mine, should be transportive. That could take you to another place, to the artist’s way of thinking, or just at a slight remove from your own place. Everything can’t be art, but art can be … distractive.

But not everything that distracts is art. Just because you used something evocative of modern art techniques on the side of an oil change place doesn’t make it art. That you put eyes on it probably does. That it was commissioned seals the deal.

Anyway, that was at lunch, a hasty chicken sandwich on the go in Indianapolis, as we were actually on our way to see some post-impressionism from Vincent van Gogh:

Step into a digital world of art at THE LUME Indianapolis and explore the combination of great art and cutting-edge technology at its finest with floor to ceiling projections of some of the most famous paintings in the world. A must-see cultural experience created by Australian-based Grande Experiences; the first year’s show features the paintings of Vincent van Gogh as well as featurettes inspired by the work of Van Gogh.

Nearly 150 state-of-the-art digital projectors transform two-dimensional paintings into a three-dimensional world that guests can explore while walking through 30,000 square feet of immersive galleries. THE LUME Indianapolis has 60 minutes of digital content that runs continuously and simultaneously in all the digital galleries.

This is not a movie with a start and end, or something you would sit to watch from one viewpoint, but rather a constant loop of beauty that is designed to be a walking experience, seeing the art up close and all around you. Guests should wander throughout the space, taking in the experience from every angle.

We’d put this off, because of Covid, but we had time on this particular Tuesday before we had to get to the airport and the exhibition was closing at the end of the month, so this timing worked out just right. And seeing this was absolutely worth the experience.

The music there is Le Carnaval des Animaux (or The Carnival of the Animals) by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It’s a 14-movement composition, and he wrote it as a joke, forbidding public performances during his lifetime out of fear that it would harm his reputation as a serious composer. Here, it got used for its whimsy.

So while you contemplate the adaptation of van Gogh’s famous oil-on-canvas The Starry Night, I must tell you I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the exhibit. I’d seen one little bit of text and maybe one image and thought we were just going to walk through Starry Night for a while, which would have been perfectly fine. He painted that in June 1889, inspired by the pre-dawn view from his window at the the asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. (The village in the painting’s foreground is imaginary.)

I have an original, one-of-a-kind, reproduction of Starry Night in my home office. I just have to turn my head a bit to the right to see it. At once evocative of the van Gogh masterpiece, and altogether different. It really is lovely.

He’d admitted himself into the asylum the month before, after his December 1888 breakdown and the whole ear thing that people want to remember. That part of his life comes up a fair amount from the exhibit, but that’s not the whole man, nor the whole of what we saw.

Wheatfield with Crows is often thought to be van Gogh’s last painting, but the museum named after him in the Netherlands says that’s a myth. Nevertheless, you get a sense of more of van Gogh’s unsteadiness in the final year of his life — and the music here helps convey that. He said the fields below the stormy skies expressed “sadness, extreme loneliness,” but the countryside was meant to be “healthy and fortifying.”

It is dark in the exhibit. There’s a gunshot, or some such loud sound, and the frozen oil on canvas crows fly away and disappear, because they are digital. And Chloe Hanslip, meanwhile, is sawing away at Benjamin Godard’s Violin Concerto No. 2. It gives it a certain edge. But when those crows jumped, that was startling.

This isn’t just a light show projected on the walls. There’s stuff happening on the floors, too. At times you’re walking in, and on, van Gogh’s paintings and sketches.

Many of van Gogh’s early works showed Dutch landscapes and his native culture. Windmills show up a fair amount in all of that, and also in much of his work from Paris. He could see windmills from his apartment there.

Most of his windmills are displayed in museums around the world today. (An important one was lost in a fire in the 1960s.) Who doesn’t like windmills?

And who doesn’t love Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major?

We had that in our wedding. My lovely bride has it as one of her ringtones.

There is also an interactive component to the exhibit. You can zoom in to study brushstrokes using a frustrating technology that tracks your hand motions, and you can take pictures and apply a postimpressionist filter. (This concept would have been a wonderfully novel trick before Instagram, of course. It just feels normal, now, though.) We’re all painters! And subjects …

Interspersed with the recreations of van Gogh’s art there were plenty of other digital elements, including some context about his time in various other parts of Europe, and things he’d written. I don’t know if I’ve ever identified with a quote as readily as this one. It is the English translation of a passage from a letter van Gogh wrote, in 1885, to Anthon van Rappard who was a friend and mentor. They were critiquing each other’s work, discussing their progress, and their contemporaries, and the regular stuff of living a life. And then, eventually …

That’s my process for … most everything … in that one sentence. Anyone who has spent more than 90 seconds on this site, or probably just around me, could recognize it.

The work in question, painting the peasants, is such laborious work that the extremely weak would never even embark on it. And I have at least embarked on it and have laid certain foundations, which isn’t exactly the easiest part of the job! And I’ve grasped some solid and useful things in drawing and in painting, more firmly than you think, my dear friend. But I keep on making what I can’t do yet in order to learn to be able to do it.

The artists who worked on the creation of this traveling installation were obviously having a great time. You didn’t have to bring interpretive weather into a master’s work to see that, but it doesn’t necessarily hurt, either. And here’s more of Hanslip playing Godard.

For whatever reason, I’ve never thought much of still life. Kitchen table art just seems like, well, those plastic tablecloths on so many of the kitchen tables of your youth. But this, perhaps because it was on more than one plane, and oversized, is really captivating. I stood there staring at the white in the apples at my feet, but I was transfixed by the reproductions of the cracks in the oil.

That was late in the afternoon. The exhibit seemed to close a bit early. Everyone knew it but us, and so they all left. We had maybe 20 minutes alone with the whole thing. In a way that’s easy to feel and difficult to describe, it seemed like a big gift: a private moment looking at the brilliant work of people inspired by a master.

It wasn’t all digital. They also had an actual van Gogh on display, this is Landscape at Saint-Rémy, and I hope this does it a bit of justice.

As of this writing, it is in 13 U.S. cities and seven more in Europe and a few other places besides. If you can see this immersive exhibit, you should definitely make the effort.

After that wonderful experience, we had another one, at the airport. Two airports, in fact!

But more on that tomorrow.