Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Room of One's Own

Apologies for the lack of blog posts in the past two months. I've switched jobs and so with all my efforts directed at "life" there has been little time for "play." Until now! 

I recently visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibit "Rooms With a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century," which depicts interiors with windows by 19th-century European artists. The show explores the open window as a favored concept of Romantic painters. The pieces span from the early 1800s to the 1860s. (To place these works into historical context, parts of Europe were recovering from the ravages of the Napoleonic Wars while in others there were liberal revolts that gave rise to the age of nationalism.)

There were many pieces in this exhibit that struck me as incredibly intimate and thought-provoking for a variety of reasons:


1. Caspar Daniel Fredrich's "Woman at the Window", 1822

There is such a deep intimacy to witnessing this peaceful moment. I feel as though I have just walked into this room where this woman is standing and am afraid to interrupt her. Yet, I'm utterly enthralled with watching her watch something outside. She is leaning forward and slightly turned to get a better look out of the window. What does she see? Is she expecting someone or is there something happening outside? In addition to my curiosity of what is drawing her attention, I enjoy the green palatte of this piece (better seen in person than on a screen) and the complimentary hues of her green dress, the green walls and shutters, and the lighter shades of green seen through the window.



2. Adolph Menzel's "Sleeping Seamstress by the Window"

This sweet little image is of the artist's sister. She was too busy working to pose for him, but he was lucky and captured her at an opportune time of unguardedness when she drifted off to sleep. The theme of intimacy of this show is epitimozed in this work because what is more serene and private than that of a sleeping form? I imagine that she was too busy to pose for her brother because she has too much work to do, and in working so hard she has exhausted herself. So she takes a brief reprieve to put her work down and shut her eyes in the warm sun of this day.


As an alternative to the pieces that allow us a peek into private moments, there are those that allow you to almost step into the scene and take a place in the moment the artist has chosen to depict:


3. Caspar Daniel Fredrich's "View from the Artist's Studio, Window on the Left", 1805-06

This is the river Elbe from Friedrich's studio in Dresden. This piece is more than simply showing the perspective of the Elbe from the room. It is a juxtaposition of the near view of the window and wall and the far view of outside the window as well as the balance between the dark interior and the bright outdoors. This simple work is a metaphor for the Romantic's unfulfilled longing for possibilities; of what is beyond the window, what is beyond the confines of his life, what he hopes for, what he wants, what he portrays on the confined space of his canvas within the confined space of his studio.


4. Carl Ludwig Kaaz's "View from Grassi's Villa toward the Plauensche Grande near Dresden," 1807

This piece surprisingly is my favorite. I felt a true sense of realism.  As I approached it on the wall, I simultaneously felt as if I was approaching the window. I was transported to Dresden, looking out on this quiet serene countryside, feeling the breeze, and hearing the rustling of the trees. By stepping into the artist's world, I became not a viewer of this work but its subject. I imagined that the artist is standing behind me capturing me as I peer out the window because something caught my attention and drew it away from my book, which I've set down on the window sill.  In that instance I felt like Fredrich's "Woman at the Window" in which a private moment is captured before it disappears. 

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