ART OVERLOAD

Milan, 2 February 2017

Whenever in my wanderings through the world’s art museums I come across pictures such as this one, a painting from the 1600s of the Austrian Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in his Gallery in Brussels
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I ask myself how on earth the viewer, in this case the Archduke, managed to really see any of the paintings he had put on the wall. I mean, when so crowded together like this the paintings just become wallpaper. I don’t fully comprehend the point of paying a multitude of dollars (or probably guilders in the case of the Archduke) for each of your paintings, to end up with an effect that you could no doubt get with a roll of wallpaper bought for a mere handful of dollars down at your local hardware store.

My wife and I had a very close-up example of this effect a few days ago, when we visited the Boschi Di Stefano collection in Milan. A little bit of background is in order. Mr. Boschi and Ms. Di Stefano got married in 1927. Two years later, they started collecting – and collecting – and collecting. Only after Ms. Di Stefano died in 1968 did the collecting peter out. The couple ended up with a collection of nigh on 2,000 works, all from contemporary, mostly Italian, artists. The problem is, they lived in a not terribly big apartment, cut up, as was the habit then, into a bunch of small rooms. No problem! They covered all the walls, everywhere, even in the bathroom, with paintings.

So my wife and I would step into these small rooms and have paintings pressing in on us from all sides.
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In my case at least, my eyes would dart from side to side and up and down, with my brain nervously asking “where do I start?” It took an effort of will to pick out one painting among the masses crying out for attention and just focus on that one for a few minutes, before repeating the process with the next one. Most exhausting.

It was worth the effort, though, for one thing that struck me as I waded through all the paintings was how atypical many of the pieces in the apartment were. Take Lucio Fontana. I’m sure everyone has in mind a “typical” Fontana: this one, for instance, where he elegantly slits a blank canvas
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or this one where he perforates the canvas instead.

The apartment had a number of these, but it also had this

a type of abstraction which I personally had never seen in Fontana.

Or take Giorgio De Chirico. Again, a “typical” painting associated with De Chirico will look like this.

Melancholia
But the apartment instead had this painting by De Chirico. It depicts a gladiator school.
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Not a style I would have associated with De Chirico.

Or how about Giorgio Morandi who you would think, based on the examples you see in museums, just painted bottles like these ones, over and over again.
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The apartment, while also having a bottle painting by Morandi, had a couple of landscapes by him.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a landscape painted by Morandi.

I finish with Enrico Baj, a painter whom frankly I dislike. His “typical” painting is something like this.
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This is his leitmotif: grotesque persons, repeated over and over again, ad nauseam. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw this Baj in the apartment!

More different than from his “normal” style you cannot get.

There were some other interesting pieces in the apartment. This piece, for instance, by one of the Italian Futurists (I forgot to note the name).

Normally, I’m a little wary of the Futurists since they seem to all have been enthusiastic Fascists, and in fact the painting is dated the Fascist way, “IX”, the ninth year of the Fascist Era, but it charmed me.

The couple didn’t just collect paintings. They also collected sculpture. This piece particularly caught my attention.

Happenstance has split the head in a most arresting manner. The label described it as 4th-5th Century AD, so presumably late Roman. Yet, looking at the cut of the eye and the shape of the nose, it didn’t look Roman. To my untrained eye, there seemed to be a stylistic resemblance to the Indo-Greek art which was produced in Ghandara, Afghanistan. Where did our collecting couple find this, I wonder?

The couple did not just collect, they also created. Ms. Di Stefano was an accomplished ceramicist in her own right, and the apartment holds a number of her pieces, among them these delightful little fish dishes
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as well as this horse and rider.
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Yes, it was all lovely, but really too overpowering. We staggered thankfully out of the apartment, walked down the stairs (themselves a nice example of 1930s architecture, as is the whole building)
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and repaired to the nearest bar for a well-earned drink.

_________________
David Deniers the Younger, The Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in his Gallery:

Room in the Boschi Di Stefano apartment: http://www.mondorosashokking.com/L’Arte-Di-Vista-Da/La-Casa-Museo-Boschi-Di-Stefano/
Room in Boschi Di Stefano apartment: http://www.nuok.it/milan/perle-nascoste-nel-centro-di-milano-le-case-museo-12/
Lucio Fontana, Musée d’art Contemporain: http://www.scoop.it/t/art-by-artpaintingparis/p/4030868868/2014/10/31/a-paul-klee-painting-in-paris-art-painting-paris
Lucio Fontana, perforations, Tate: https://www.pinterest.com/addison1235/lucio-fontana/
Lucio Fontana in apartment: my photo
Giorgio De Chirico: https://www.pinterest.com/emiliorossipapa/giorgio-de-chirico/
Giorgio de Chirico in apartment: my photo
Giorgio Morandi: https://www.pinterest.com/raulmihaiadd/giorgio-morandi/
Giorgio Morandi in apartment: my photo
Enrico Baj: https://alchetron.com/Enrico-Baj-760060-W
Enrico Baj in apartment: my photo
Futurist in apartment: my photo
Head in apartment: my photo
Ceramic pieces in apartment: my photos
Stairwell of building: https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/milanostupenda.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/le-case-museo-di-milano-boschi-di-stefano/amp/

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Abellio

I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. http://ipaintingsforsale.com/UploadPic/Gustav Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

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