NYC-ARTS

S2020 E486 | FULL EPISODE

NYC-ARTS Full Episode: April 2, 2020

A selection of NYC-ARTS Greatest Hits: a conversation about French painter Eugène Delacroix, a transformative figure in the European painting of the 19th century; followed by a visit to the stately colonial Bush-Holley House in Greenwich, Connecticut.

AIRED: April 02, 2020 | 0:27:47
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TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

>> Next on "NYC-Arts," a look

back at some of our favorite

segments, featuring the best in

arts and cultural events in our

area.

♪♪

>> Our own "Basket of Flowers"

was, perhaps, one of the most

unloved paintings in the

collection.

But once it was clean, which

took a year, an entirely new

painting was revealed.

We can see volume, color, space,

a kind of a flickering, dancing

brushwork and color that we

could've suspected was there and

we ought to have known was

there, because it's what we've

come to expect from this artist.

>> The Bush-Holley House today

portrays two stories in its

history.

The house began life as a home

for prosperous merchants in the

18th century and then gained

recognition later as a boarding

house for American artists and

writers.

Today, it's a National Historic

Landmark and one of 18 sites on

the Connecticut Art Trail.

Since acquiring Bush-Holley

House in 1957, the

Historical Society expanded the

site by building an archive and

research library to house some

wonderful collections of

Greenwich history and then

transformed a barn into an

education center.

♪♪

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts" is

made possible by...

Additional funding provided

by...

"NYC-Arts" is made possible in

part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank, "First"

refers to our first priority --

the clients who walk through our

doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree -- be a bank whose

currency is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing on

our minds.

♪♪

♪♪

>> Good evening, and welcome to

"NYC-Arts."

I'm Paula Zahn at the

Tisch WNET Studios at

Lincoln Center.

It's been my pleasure, along

with my colleague

Philippe de Montebello, to bring

you the very best of arts and

culture in the tri-state area.

Whether it's music, dance, film,

theater, the visual arts,

classic or contemporary,

well-known or newly discovered,

"NYC-Arts" have provided unique

access to the people and places

that represent the richness of

our arts community.

In this program, we'd like to

share with you some of our

favorite segments.

We hope they are some of your

favorites, as well.

♪♪

>> Good evening, and welcome to

"NYC-Arts."

I'm Philippe de Montebello, on

location at the

Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Currently on view is an

exhibition celebrating the work

of a major artist of the

19th century, French painter

Eugène Delacroix.

What you see behind me are works

which demonstrate the arc of his

prolific four-decade career.

They illustrate his early years,

which were dominated by yearning

for both fame and freedom.

A later period is marked by the

splendor of his murals and

embracing the traditional

subjects.

Also on view are paintings which

show the glory of his

retrospective exhibition in

Paris in 1855 as well as his

final works, in which he grew

more interested in landscape and

the creative role of memory.

Delacroix was a transformative

figure in the history of

European painting, who shaped

what we think of today as

Modern.

His choice of daring subjects

and compositions, his vivid

palette and expressive brushwork

set in motion innovative ideas

that influences such vanguard

figures as Manet, Van Gogh, and

Gauguin, who followed in his

wake.

The exhibition is organized by

the Metropolitan Museum of Art

and the Musée du Louvre in Paris

and is the first retrospective

in North America devoted to the

artist.

I recently had the opportunity

to speak with Met curator

Asher Miller, one of the

organizers of this remarkable

exhibition.

So, Asher, thank you for

welcoming us in the exhibition.

And given that Delacroix is one

of the towering figures in all

of the Western European art, how

can this be the first ever

retrospective in North America?

>> Well, the answer is very

easy.

Without the participation of the

Louvre, which is the greatest

repository of his works in the

world, one couldn't do what

we've done here, which is to

show quite as many paintings,

drawings, and prints in the

richness and depth and scope

that we have.

>> Delacroix is, of course,

frequently called the star in

the whole Romantic movement.

And at the same time, a lot of

the Modernist artists, whether

it's Manet, Van Gogh, and so

forth, claim him, in a sense, as

their ancestor.

All of his subjects, with the

exception at the end of his

career, his landscapes and his

views from Morocco, are from

history, from the Bible, from

literature.

How does that translate as

Modernist for painters who are

concerned with modern life?

>> Well, in the same way that

Delacroix chose his subjects

based on his own personal

inclinations, his own tastes, he

employed his materials in a way

that later artists admired.

He's often thought of as the

great colorist of the

19th century.

And I think, for visitors who

are aware of that alone, they

might be surprised to find that

his paintings are not always as

colorful as the paintings of his

successors -- Gauguin, Van Gogh,

Degas, in particular.

But what he really did was to

liberate color from its

subsidiary role in painting as a

mere descriptive element of his

pictures.

>> Because it doesn't fill in

contours and lines.

>> That's right.

>> A little bit, as you'd think

of Neoclassical painting.

>> That's right.

>> So, it's not the subject

matter that's modern, it's the

treatment of the subject matter.

>> Precisely.

And in addition to color -- or,

I should say, alloyed with

color -- is the way it's applied

to the canvas.

Delacroix was not afraid to let

the brushwork show.

And, in fact, he was very keen

to have his paintings look as

sketch-like as possible, which

is to say not unfinished but to

reveal his process.

>> Tell us a little bit of

something about the condition of

the pictures or sort of way in

which they were painted.

Because one suspects these

pictures were actually a great

deal brighter in the early

19th century.

>> That's very much the case.

For example, one of the great

revelations to those of us

who've been around the Met for

some time, was our own

"Basket of Flowers," which

Delacroix painted in 1848-1849,

at a moment when he decided to

tackle the genre of still-life

painting.

And the painting was, perhaps,

one of the most unloved

paintings in the collection.

But once it was cleaned, which

took a year, an entirely new

painting was revealed.

We can see volume, color, space,

a kind of a flickering, dancing

brushwork and color that we

could've suspected was there and

we ought to have known was there

because it's what we've come to

expect from this artist.

>> That's what the critics wrote

about when they saw it at the

Salon, yes.

>> Precisely.

>> So, tell us a little bit, for

the benefit of our public, what

do we mean by presenting at the

Salon?

>> In the 19th century, the

French state organized an annual

exhibition.

It was juried by members of the

Academy.

Delacroix employed the Salon as

one means to make a reputation.

He didn't ascribe to any one

aesthetic or established mode of

painting, and the public, over

time, came to expect, in his

work, something new and

different every year.

And that's pretty much what he

gave them.

>> And we know a great deal

about all of this because

Delacroix was also of a literary

mind.

I mean, he read all of these

books that he illustrated or

drew his subjects from.

But he also wrote -- I own a

three-volume version of it --

his own journals, which are

really a priceless view into the

mind of an artist and a time.

>> He wrote tens of thousands of

pages not only in his journals

but in letters.

He was extremely articulate and

self-reflective.

And so we have his thoughts on

painting, on his own process, on

the art of others, on the art of

the past, on his contemporaries,

on politics -- on all manner of

subjects.

>> Early in the exhibition,

there's the wonderful

self-portrait of Delacroix.

I think that's an opportunity

for us to learn a little bit

about Delacroix the man.

>> Delacroix was born in 1798 at

the very tail end of the

French Revolution.

He came from a distinguished

family that had done quite well

in the prior years.

He grew up during a period when

the notion of glory was

paramount and considered a

virtue in France.

He came of age at the moment for

Napoleon's downfall.

This coincided with the death of

his mother in 1814.

His father had predeceased her.

Very soon after, he and his

remaining siblings lost the

family fortune, and Delacroix

needed to figure out what he was

going to do with his life.

He decided to become a painter.

The exhibition at the Met opens

with two exceedingly large

canvases, one of which shows a

contemporary subject,

"Greece on the Ruins of

Missolonghi."

>> This is the time of Greece

fighting to liberate itself from

the Ottoman Empire.

>> Precisely.

And the painting is an allegory.

And it's in sort of a face-off

with a far more traditional

subject, "Christ in the Garden

of Olives" -- Christ, at the

moment of his arrest, when he's

being consoled by not one but

three angels, and he raises his

hand in a gesture of

consolation.

>> It's an incredible painting.

And, I must say, I'd always seen

it dark, very high up in that

church in Paris, and it's the

first time one is able to

confront the picture out of its

architectural context.

But it must've been cleaned

relatively recently for the

exhibition, no?

>> That's right, and for this

reason, it's one of the

revelations of the exhibition.

And it epitomizes this idea of

showing the artist one only

thought one knew.

Now we see the color, the

brushwork, the contrast, the

liveliness of his hand.

>> Yeah, it's astonishing.

What about the second part of

his career that culminates in

the Exposition Universelle of

1855?

>> For most artists of the

19th century, or of the early

19th century, sort of finishing

school was a grand tour to

Italy.

>> Which he does not do.

>> Which he wanted to do but

never did.

But in 1832, he has a

once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

to join a diplomatic mission to

Morocco, and what Delacroix saw

when he arrived there was, to

his mind, an iteration of

Ancient Rome -- antiquity come

to life.

>> He writes in his journals, if

I remember correctly, "If you

want to be in the presence of

the ancients, just look at an

Arab on the streets in Morocco."

>> That's right.

In Morocco, Delacroix made

countless drawings in

sketchbooks of the scenery but

also individuals.

They're absolutely candid,

they're trenchant, and Delacroix

here reveals a sensitivity to

the individuality of the people

he encountered and also to a

certain sense of style and

especially the austerity of the

Moroccans.

>> Well, on the other hand, one

of the great pictures in the

exhibition -- a dreamy,

enchanting picture -- is

"The Women of Algiers," not of

Morocco.

Tell us a little bit about

"The Women of Algiers."

>> Delacroix, on his way home

from Morocco, stopped in the

city of Algiers for just a few

days, and the story goes that he

found admission to a private

home, where he gained entry into

the private quarters of the

women, the harem.

Based on this experience, he

executed a painting which he

exhibited at the Salon two years

later, in 1834.

>> So, out of memory and out of

sketches.

>> Out of sketches and memory.

One of the things he does is to

distill this memory into a

composition that is, in many

ways, firmer and more monumental

than any he's executed before.

It's a painting whose subject is

self-evident but which also is,

in some ways, subjectless --

women sitting at their leisure,

enjoying a quiet time, doing

almost precisely nothing.

>> Now, the show is replete with

depictions of animals.

First of all, the horses of

Delacroix are astonishing, in

great movement, and uses them in

an amazing way in battles -- for

example, "The Battle of Nancy."

♪♪

What is this fascination with

animal life?

>> Well, first of all, in

addition to color and line, one

of the great elements of

Delacroix's paintings, movement.

There's a certain fluidity in

Delacroix's paintings, drawings,

and prints between the animal

world and the human.

There are aspects of animal

physiognomy that show up in his

human figures, particularly in

scenes of violence.

And aspects of personality,

elements of the human that show

up in his animal subjects,

especially in the magisterial

"Tiger Cub Playing with Its

Mother."

One of the great revelations in

the show is a very large

drawing, a study of tigers but

also of men in 16th-century

costume.

It is such a large sheet that

Delacroix seems almost to have

approached it with the idea that

it would give him the space to

let his mind roam.

>> We've spoken a great deal

about Delacroix, the grand

orchestrator of very complex

themes -- historical,

literary -- but he observes

nature in the most wonderful way

and very intimate, and there are

sketches, watercolors,

seascapes, landscapes.

A few words about those.

>> Delacroix was an artist of

the imagination.

This we know.

But he was, his entire life,

someone who loved the outdoors,

and he sketched privately in the

outdoors.

It's an activity that he

undertook increasingly later in

his life.

Three masterpieces in this genre

are studies of the sea.

Watercolors, oils that he does

at Dieppe, beginning in 1851.

♪♪

>> So, the show ends in quite a

dramatic way.

>> That's right.

It ends with a painting that is

a summation of all of his work

to date.

It's a lion hunt.

In 1855, there was a universal

exposition in Paris, and

Delacroix's invited to paint a

subject of his own choosing, and

he chose "The Lion Hunt."

The painting was damaged in

1870, and so what we see is the

lower 2/3, but we show it with a

sketch for the picture as well

as a replica of it that

Delacroix made himself so that

we can see the composition in

its full form.

>> Well, and it's also amazingly

fresh and shows violent and

seductive brushwork of his.

It's really extraordinary.

>> What remains is, indeed,

extraordinary.

The surface is alive.

There's color, texture, and just

a welter of human figures and

animal forms all intertwined,

not in a melee, precisely, but

in a kind of a choreographed

dance.

>> And that's what appealed, of

course, to the next generation

of painters.

>> That's right, that's right.

And there's something about

focusing on the bottom section

of this painting that re-creates

the experience of seeing

Delacroix's paintings in the

Salon as Delacroix's

contemporaries saw them.

Delacroix enlivened the surfaces

of his pictures in a way that

draws you in.

And, indeed, one of his favorite

maxims was that painting acts as

a bridge between the mind of the

artist and that of the beholder.

>> Thank you, Asher, for taking

us through this astoundingly

beautiful retrospective of this

great, great figure in

Western European painting,

leader of the French Romantic

school, Eugène Delacroix.

And it's been an enormous

privilege.

Thank you.

>> It's a pleasure for me.

Thank you, Philippe.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> The Bush-Holley House today

portrays two stories in its

history.

The house began life as a

home for prosperous merchants in

the 18th century

and then gained recognition

later as a boarding house for

American artists and writers.

Today, it's a National Historic

Landmark and one of 18 sites on

the Connecticut Art Trail.

Since acquiring

Bush-Holley House in 1957,

the Historical Society expanded

the site by building an archive

and research library to house

some wonderful collections of

Greenwich history and then

transformed a barn into an

education center.

The storehouse and post office,

which sits next door, was

adapted as the exhibition

gallery for changing exhibitions

on history and art.

The Bush story begins with

David Bush, who came here with

his wife to build a

tide-operated gristmill.

He also improved the harbor so

that ships could come right up

to the docks, and this made

the lower landing a really

wonderful commercial enterprise

for him.

He was a very wealthy man, and I

think you can see that in

Bush-Holley House.

A scrap of the wallpaper has the

British tax stamp on the back

and reminds us of one of the

causes of the American

Revolution.

One sign of David's

extraordinary wealth was the

enslaved people who lived here,

the African-Americans, and

there's one room in the house

that portrays the kind of ways

in which slaves lived in the

18th century, particularly in

New England, where they tended

to be housed in attics and

cellars of the main mansion

houses.

The story of the Holleys begins

in many ways with the railroad

coming to Greenwich in 1848.

It began to bring residents up

from New York for summertime

activities.

So the Holleys saw an

opportunity to take on

Bush-Holley House as a boarding

house.

It was known as "The Old House."

The artists and writers who came

here self-identified as

the Cos Cob Art Colony.

This was Connecticut's first

art colony, particularly known

for its innovative and

experimental style.

That tone was set by

John Henry Twachtman, the

American Impressionist artist

who was the first to come here

and teach summer classes in

1892.

He was followed by

J. Alden Weir and

Theodore Robinson, who had known

Claude Monet.

They came here really helping to

translate French Impressionism

into an American idiom.

The life of the artists was to

go out during the daytime and do

their paintings and then gather

back in the late afternoon.

Twachtman would often say,

"Don't paint what you see.

Paint what you feel."

Another of the artists that came

here was Childe Hassam, who

stayed here off and on over a

20-year period.

Now, the rooms in Bush-Holley

House cost from $8 to $20 to

rent for the week, and the best

bedroom was the $20 room, the

one where Childe Hassam would

stay with his wife, Maude.

You can see hanging there an

etching that he made of the

federal mantelpiece with a

woman clad in kimono.

Some of the most extraordinary

things that you can see in

Bush-Holley House today are a

set of etchings that he made,

almost 30 of them, when he was

here in 1915.

One of them,

"At the Dutch Door," shows a

woman standing in front of the

Dutch doors of

Bush-Holley House, and you can

feel almost the sense of the

summer inviting you out into the

outside.

[ Birds chirping ]

I'm standing in a room which was

an art studio.

It became the permanent studio

of Elmer McRae.

He was a young student who came

here in 1896.

He fell in love with the

Holleys' daughter, Constant,

and married her in 1900.

He would often give exhibitions

in this studio that attracted

hundreds of people,

and his exhibitions would be

critiqued in

the New York papers.

McRae painted the extraordinary

picture of his twin daughter

Constant feeding the ducks,

which hangs in the hallway of

Bush-Holley House.

1912, when that painting was

done, is kind of an important

year because at the same time,

Elmer McRae was one of the early

organizers of the International

Exhibition of Art in New York in

1913, known as the Armory Show.

That show was significant in

that it introduced European

Modernists to the vast American

public for the first time.

It also had a huge impact on the

Cos Cob artists, and you can see

that in a painting hanging in

McRae's studio of Gay Head on

Martha's Vineyard,

which shows him really trying to

understand a new way to

translate and to see landscape.

He began creating more

decorative works of art, such as

the painting of the irises.

One of the paintings hanging in

the hallway is of Clarissa.

She was painted in 1912

by Childe Hassam.

The bookcase is still there as

well as the hallway and the

stair.

Bush-Holley House is a wonderful

18th-century house.

It has so much character that

comes from its early history in

the 1830s.

But what's probably most

extraordinary is to come here

and see the art on the wall

from the artists at the turn of

the 20th century who fell in

love with this house and this

village.

♪♪

♪♪

>> I'm Paula Zahn at the

Tisch WNET Studios at

Lincoln Center.

Thanks so much for joining us.

Good night.

To enjoy more of your

favorite segments

on "NYC-Arts," visit our website

at NYC-arts.org.

♪♪

>> Leonard, what a privilege to

be able to sit down and talk

with you.

>> I love being here with you,

too, Paula.

>> Where are we?

>> We're at a moment to take

nothing for granted.

>> Well, it's a pleasure to be

with Marci Reaven, the curator

of this exhibition full of hope.

We are in the midst of some of

the greatest sculptures

by the iconic names.

>> Classical and modern dance

are extremely different, and I

have so much more to learn

before I can really articulate

the differences.

>> And when I listen to

Yip Harburg's lyrics in that, I

suddenly thought, "That's what I

want to do with my life."

>> My pictures reside in very

intimate, very private moments.

>> My primary way of playing the

piano is by improvising.

>> You are, in some respects, on

sacred ground.

>> A woman came to see me

perform and said, "How would you

like to play Billie Holiday?"

>> The "Cardboard Guitar" is the

very first of that moment of

realization.

>> Suddenly, you come and

present something, and you get

applause.

Great. You know?

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

Additional funding provided

by...

"NYC-Arts" is made possible, in

part, by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank, "First"

refers to our first priority --

the clients who walk through our

doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree -- be a bank whose

currency is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing on

our minds.

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