Tuesday, September 13, 2011

a date with Caravaggio

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario

Time was running out, Caravaggio was leaving town, well at least his paintings were. The exhibition was ending on the 11th so last Friday, on the 9th, I hightailed it off downtown for Teresa Day (regular readers might recall a recent Jonah Day, same idea only now it was my turn).

The National Gallery of Canada (here in Ottawa) had a summer long exhibition of Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome. The exhibition was an exploration of how one brilliant and temperamental artist changed the course of art history in a career that spanned less than two decades. Five years in the making, the exhibition brought together a dozen of Caravaggio’s masterpieces along with more than 40 paintings by other great artists of his time who looked to him for inspiration.

As for an actual date with Caravaggio -  well that would have been way too scary. I learned that he was successfully sued for libel, had a hot temper, he killed a man in a brawl, escaped from the authorities looking for him, later seriously wounded another man, was imprisoned for this but escaped a month later, went into exile at the home of an old friend and while there was able to further his art career by completing some prestigious and lucrative commissions! Upon leaving a tavern one night, Caravaggio was ambushed and violently attacked, an attack from which he never full recovered. Basically the sort of guy your mom warned you about!

Only some 70 works by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio still survive, and those are rarely sent on loan by their owners. Not one of his paintings is held in a public collection in Canada. I consider myself most fortunate to have seen this exhibition.

Well it was a grand day - I toured Caravaggio's work, watched a film of his bio, scooted through the galleries permanent collections and feasted my eyes on originals by Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Cezanne, the Group of Seven...etc. etc...On and on it went. Yum, yum... I get visually weary of seeing great art reduced to posters, other print media and the internet. It is quite refreshing to stand in front of originals - to soak in the true colours, the size, the brush strokes. I also enjoyed experiencing the progression of art history as I viewed Caravaggio's art from the 1600s right on up to the contemporary work of today. After I left the Gallery, I walked a short distance down Sussex Dr. and popped into a few private art galleries, more wonderful art.

And I bought a rock! Isn't this 'Ruby in Fushite' lovely? It is only three inches long but oh the patterns and colours...I bought it at a groovy wee shop on Sussex called Jade. They sell gem stones and jewelry. This particular rock 'spoke to me', I could see all sorts of abstract paintings in the patterns so I treated myself and brought it home to inspire me. 

Ruby Fushite

And I met a kindred spirit - the woman working in the store. When making my purchase, I shared that I could already see this rock inspiring a future series of abstracts. Her face lit up and she got quite excited. She started to enthusiastically talk about a Russian painter friend that lived with her and her family for a year. He apparently painted her a gorgeous watercolour abstract. Later, after being hired to work in this store, she found a stone that contained the exact colours and patterns of the painting. How cool is that? We had made a connection. We went on to spend many minutes looking over the rocks together and oohed and ahhed at their beauty. I told her how such patterns shocked me with their beauty, like the patterns found in wood. She looked at me and exclaimed, "Oh don't get me started on wood grain, I love wood grain patterns." And suddenly we were off on that topic for a while. Yup, a kindred spirit alright...had a great visit...

I should have asked her if she was into cloud watching! (would have never got out of the store, LOL). This sunset makes the sky look on fire.

So what else has been happening? Gee, we have had a bear visit a couple of times. He/she mangled and chewed an old apple tree located about 30 feet from our house. The bear was determined to get all of the apples. The tree has now been 'pruned' rather harshly but it should survive this. I do wonder if there might be a problem with all of the bark damage where the bear seriously chewed the surface. I hope not. The woods are full of fallen acorns for a bear to consume and it seems like he/she has moved on. Of course when walking in the woods these days, I am being more alert to any sounds of breaking twigs, anything that signals that the dog and I are not alone...Interesting notion though, the idea of having to consume lots of calories in the fall, like a bear does, in order to make it through winter. I think I would be up for the challenge... :-) Did I mention I baked an apple crisp this afternoon?...hehe...

I have had some time wasted dealing with the property where my parents lived. There has been some trespassing activity that needed attention, we had an pitiful offer come in (got to toss that one back, we didn't even try to negotiate, I have never done that before but it felt good) and I have spent hours emailing our agent (whose performance I am having to start to 'manage') as well as emailing/talking to my sister. Unfortunately it isn't all cloud watching and art around here.

And woo-hoo last night was opera night! Another trip downtown, this time to the National Arts Centre for an Opera Lyra production of Pagliacci (Anyone thinking of the Seinfeld 'Pagliacci' episode with Crazy Joe Davola as the clown? I forget all sorts of things but something like a TV sitcom episode stays stuck in my mind. Sheesh...) The opera was fabulous as usual and folks, Joanna G'froerer - principal flute player was in the house. Wee-hee! Every year we have front row, centre, season's tickets and from here I can lean over and look down into the orchestra pit. Being in the presence of Joanna, so renowned and so talented that she is, is a real treat. Okay, I am a flute player, not in her realm of course but gosh, to hear her play live, just feet from me, well I get goose bumps I tell you!

This has turned into a long post so my announcements and such shall have to wait. More tomorrow...


Barbara Goodsitt said...

Cool post! Your have been one busy lady! I enjoyed reading about all your activities...

Teresa Mallen said...

Thanks for taking time to read this Barbara. Normally I am a homebody and getting downtown twice just a few days apart, well gosh that is a big deal for me!

Jennifer Rose said...

i really want to see an opera live, the music can be emotional enough hearing a record of it, hearing it live would be amazing :)

love that warm red/orange sky, gorgeous

what a cool looking rock, always great to find someone else that can enjoy something like you can :)

and Caravaggio sounds like a bad boy, I would have been in trouble :p

Ann said...

What a spectacular rock! It looks almost other-worldly. So cool that you met a kindred spirit at the shop! The sunsets are gorgeous too. I am jealous of your museum and opera visit, but not the bear. We occasionally get bears around here that will wander into town. They usually end up at a fast food restaurant's dumpster or attempting to break into a vending machine on campus. Wouldn't want to meet one in the woods though.

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Jennifer Rose, if ever get the chance to see an opera, do go! Honestly there isn't anything not to like - a live orchestra plays incredible music, there is theatre, drama, great acting, fabulous sets and costumes and then the singing on top of that! Live is nothing like seeing it on DVD or on TV. I can highly recommend the experience.
As for Mr. Bad Boy, I just didn't have the room to recount all of the details. He takes that whole tempermental artist thing to great heights! :-)

Hi Ann, yes bears can be quite destructive when they find a food source. In my experience, one bear just kept on walking and was not fazed a bit. Another time, my husband, our dog and I inadvertantly startled a bear as we didn't see it in the bushes. He/she growled in defense so we quickly left it alone. The third incident took place alongside a river on a mountain trail in Vermont. The bear was very content, sitting in the typical Panda pose, shoving into her mouth lots of large leaves from a nearby bush. I think it was female given her size and her rather feminine head. Anyway, we watched for a few moments. She was totally content to eat her leaves. We then quietly left. Fortunately our dog was on a leash. While I do realize that a bear could easily kill me the incident rate of black bear attacks on humans is very, very low. I am at greater risk of harm every time I drive my car, ride a plane or meet a human in a dark parking lot. Just keep that in mind if you ever do meet one! :-)

Elizabeth A Patterson said...

Wonderful, Teresa! And thanks for the reminder of a fantastic trip Wayne and I took to Ottawa, where we saw the Renoir Portrait Exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada... in 1998, or somewhere around there.