The Easel

10th December 2019

The Baltimore Museum of Art Made a Pledge to Buy Art by Women. Is It Just a Stunt?

Just 4% of artworks held by the Baltimore Museum of Art are by women artists. <Blink> The museum now proposes a “canon correction” – in 2020 it will only purchase works by women. Women’s groups seem underwhelmed. Curators can propose new directions, but “museum committees review them, and the board of trustees approves them.” Such changes to acquisition processes “can take years to reach a verdict”.

MFAH Gonzalez retrospective brings exposure to an important Latin American voice

González rarely paints from real life, instead mining images from press clippings. These are re-worked in a way that gives them a Pop sensibility. Their focus, however, is not consumerism but the endless violence and social tensions of her native Columbia. Little has improved over the decades, so this retrospective does not “end with sunshine”. She makes, she says, “underdeveloped paintings for underdeveloped countries.”

A great wave of Hokusai

Hokusai’s works are mostly on paper, susceptible to light damage and thus rarely shown. This Washington show reflects his main themes – reverence for nature, Mt Fuji, the details of daily life. It also indicates what a creative oddbod Hokusai must have been. In addition to his paintings and prints – which got better as he aged – he also produced a book of illustrated dance moves and books of his doodles that he titled “manga”.

3rd December 2019

At the deCordova, unearthing a connection with the “beautiful and frightening flow of water”

Land art doesn’t get much attention. The classic work of the genre is probably Robert Smithson’s 1970 Spiral Jetty, a meditation on man’s relationship to the environment. Andy Goldsworthy is an eminent current land artist. His latest piece focuses on the relentless power of water. “[His] work, to me, has always been about letting go – accepting that for all our hallmarks of progress, we’re both temporary and vulnerable”.

“John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal” at The Morgan Library & Museum, New York

Sargent’s oil portraits brought him fame and fortune, but they took work. By 1907, after more than a thousand of them, he had had enough. Charcoal drawings were a compromise – single sitting pieces that would mollify insistent clients. Quick these pieces may have been, but they are portraiture “at its finest … [that] discloses and elaborates upon the human spirit.” More images are here.