Sunday, June 30, 2019

Last weekend for 'Tintoretto' at the National Gallery of Art

Jacopo Tintoretto, Self-Portrait, c. 1546-1548, Philadelphia Museum of Art. He was a right dashing young chap, don't you think?  Who graces the back cover of the Tintoretto catalogue. Here portrayed by himself around age 28. The label copy says "he describes himself with a bluntness unprecedented in Italian portraiture" who a contemporary compared to "a peppercorn that overpowered other flavors in a dish." This portrait opens the exhibition. See below for a self-portrait made after a life.
Jacopo Tintoretto, Self-Portrait, c. 1588, Musee du Louvre, Paris.  Here we see the master aged 70, about six years before he died, and 40 years after the first self-portrait. See what life can do! Where is that confidence and reassurance brimming in the first self-portrait before he turned 30?  Is all optimism extinguished? Above, the artist seems ready to hang it up; consumed by sadness and gloom.  Somewhere I read he is saddened by the death of his beloved daughter, Marietta, but she didn't die until 1590 two years after Self-Portrait was finished, so...?  Perhaps, she was seriously ill at the time.
This portrait, owned by Marie Antoinette before it went to the Louvre, is found at the end of the exhibition, but I thought it interesting to juxtapose youth and old age to more easily compare them. Edouard Manet called the latter" one of the most beautiful paintings in the world." 
Jacopo Tintoretto, Spring, c.1546/1548, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA.  The goddess of Spring, Primavera, is pictured with Summer below, the first time in 25 years the two have hung together, which they do on nearby walls at the National Gallery. Tintoretto drew them and the other seasons for a palace ceiling, but Autumn and Winter are not here. Autumn is pictured in the catalogue as a young man, Vertumnus, privately owned. Perhaps the agreement to lend to the National Gallery could not be worked out which explains his absence from the show. Winter, likely lost to the ages, was probably a white-bearded old man similar to the self-portrait of 1588 above.
Jacopo Tintoretto, Summer, c.1546/1548, National Gallery of Art, together with her "sister" Spring (two above) for the first time in 25 years.
People standing near The Madonna of the Treasurers (above) present an idea of the size of the work/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Jacopo Tintoretto, The Madonna of the Treasurers, 1567, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice. This is almost an Adoration of the Magi, says the label, commissioned for a government financial office by treasurers who worked there. Here, on the right, merchants and professionals who are the secretaries in black, present revenue they have collected to the Virgin and Child.  In front of them, the three treasurers in crimson, who represent nobility, bow. Patron Saints Sebastian, Mark, and Theodore stand behind the Virgin and Child, and there is an extra figure who came later/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Jacopo Tintoretto, Portrait of a Widow, early 1550s, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden.  For a widow she doesn't look that unhappy. Do I detect a faint smile? She is wearing typical mourning clothes of the period which do not disguise her near satisfaction that "it's over and done with!" The truth is in the eye of the beholder (me).  She still wears a wedding ring, a common practice 500 years later. The label copy says Tintoretto made few "high-quality" portraits of women, and Widow and Woman in Red (below) may be the only female survivors from Tintoretto's brush. 
Jacopo Tintoretto, Portrait of a Woman in Red, 1550s, Gemäldegalerie, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.  This is red?  Which means you need to see it in person and/or buy the catalogue to see the rich color.  The label says this straight-laced and tightly-fitting gown is unusual for 16th century Venetian women whose designs featured square necklines to better reveal décolletage. This woman may be from Lombardy.  The tightly-strung garment makes it look like breathing is difficult.  As women, we know. 
Jacopo Tintoretto, The Creation of the Animals, 1550/by 1553, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice.  One of my favorites in the show which I think would be a huge draw for all the lucky children whose parents bring them to the exhibition.With the rest of us, they can wonder at the might and majesty of the work. Who doesn't know the story from Genesis of how God created the animals?  It reminds me of Noah corralling the animals into his ark to save them from the flood. Maybe that's where these are headed.  How many birds, fish, and animals do you find?
Jacopo Tintoretto, Standing Clothed Man Seen from Behind, c. 1557, lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the lender, the reason I included this here. Her Majesty also loaned The Nine Muses, c. 1578, which you may see in the show and in the catalogue.
Jacopo Tintoretto, The Origin of the Milky Way, 1577/1579, National Gallery, London. Formerly owned by the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II in Prague, this depicts Jupiter, the king of the gods, putting his baby, Hercules, on sleeping Juno's breast. Hercules is Jupiter's son who was born of a human, Alcmene. Juno is the queen of the gods and the wife of Jupiter who wants Hercules to be immortal. Milk from Juno's breast flows north to form the Milky Way, while the lower stream falls to Earth to become the lily flower. The bottom portion of the painting is not immortal, having been lost to the ages, but is known from a copy, the label says. If Milky Way ever becomes available for purchase, perhaps Jacqueline Mars of the Milky Way family in Virginia can buy it for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and become the Queen of the Milky Way. Just a thought/Photo by Patricia Leslie.
Jacopo Tintoretto, The Virgin Mary in Meditation, c. 1582/1583,  Scuola Grande Arciconfraternita di San Rocco, Venice.  When not at the National Gallery of Art, this work, like the one below of the Virgin reading, still resides in its original home where Tintoretto intended it. For San Rocco, he painted 50 works.

Jacopo Tintoretto, detail from The Virgin Mary Reading, c. 1582/1583,  Scuola Grande Arciconfraternita di San Rocco, Venice. 
Jacopo Tintoretto, The Virgin Mary Reading, c. 1582/1583,  Scuola Grande Arciconfraternita di San Rocco, Venice.  Note the tree on the left which becomes Jesus hanging on the cross. (The photograph of the painting omits the top of the tree which stands out in its symbolism.) The catalogue says she was reading and meditating on the sayings of the prophets.
Welcoming guests at the opening of the exhibition are, from left, His Excellency Armando Varricchhio, the ambassador of Italy to the United States, speaking, and curators and authors Robert Echols and Frederick Ilchman. Between their shoulders, the artist himself peers from his Self-Portrait from 1546-1547 to open the show/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The sizes of Tintoretto's works may be more accurately perceived when shown with the guards. Again, that's the artist's Self-Portrait in the center from 1546-1547./Photo by Patricia Leslie

Ladies and Gentlemen, this spectacular show by one of "the three great painters of the golden age of Venetian art" is on display through Sunday at the West Building of the National Gallery of Art

The exhibition celebrates the 500th anniversary of Jacopo Tintoretto's birth (c.1519-1594, Venice) and is the first North American retrospective of his work. It's an opportunity to see almost 50 paintings, some shown in the U.S. for the first time, on loan by institutions and individuals from around the world.

With Titian and Veronese, he is considered one of the three great Venetian Renaissance painters whose followers included El Greco, Rubens, and Velasquez.

He was a radical whom his audience adored and who was envied by his competitors. More than any other artist, Tintoretto's work filled palaces, government buildings, churches, and other public buildings.

He was a devout Catholic who never forgot the poor, cutting prices for them and their churches. 

And when it came to promoting his artwork, Tintoretto was a master marketer who knew (and developed) a thing or two about selling to the wealthy.To increase recognition of his name and market share, he gave away paintings to future customers who had the wherewithal to afford them:  the rich and powerful. (Did you say "commission"?) 

Tintoretto's figures were super humans, sci-fi creatures with huge arms, muscles, and curves whose bodies filled canvases.

Writer Henry James called him "the biggest genius who ever wielded a brush."  Come and see why and enjoy not only his works on the walls but in the National Gallery’s Garden Café where the chef has fashioned a special brunch with variable selections including grilled salmon, baked frittata, spring pea salad, radicchio salad, orecchiette pasta salad, “old-fashioned bread pudding,” and more ($30).
Enjoy and feast your eyes and other senses on all things "Tintoretto" before he leaves for home.

The National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, with the special cooperation of the Gallerie dell’Accademia, organized the exhibition.

To the organizers and donors who made the exhibition possible, the people are grateful. 

Film:  19 minutes, noon, July 5, 2019, East Building Auditorium

Catalogue: 312 pages, 240 color illustrations. By Robert Echols and Frederick Ilchman,
available in soft ($45) and hard ($65) covers, 2018. (Spend $100 or more at the gift shop and save 20%.)

What: Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice

When: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. Open on July 4.

Where: The West Building between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

Admission charge: Never at the Gallery.

Metro stations closest to the National Gallery of Art are the Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives and L'Enfant Plaza.

For more information: 202-737-4215

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Women's Museum hosts art book fair July 7

One of the titles at the upcoming Art Book Fair at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

Attention:  art book lovers! Save the date; July 7, 12 - 5 p.m. for the third annual DC Art Book Fair to be presented in the Great Hall of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

More than 40 male and female artists, chosen by six judges, will have their independently published works available for browsing and sale at the family-friendly event. The formats range from zines (?) to books to comics to prints and more.

It's free admission day, too, which, since it's the museum's monthly no-charge "Community Day," means guests get six for the price of none!
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At a DC Art Book Fair in the Great Hall at the National Museum of Women in the Arts/Photo by Emily Haight, NMWA

The collection and exhibition galleries of the museum's current shows will all be open for viewing including Ursala von Rydingsvard,  More is More: Multiples, and in the library, Power in My Hand: Women Poets, Women Artists, and Social Change.

And, don't forget what's outdoors just beyond the museum's entrance: the New York Avenue Sculpture Project, the only public art space with changing installations by contemporary women artists in Washington, the NMWA is proud to claim. 

The DC Art Book Collective organized the fair.

What: DC Art Book Fair

Sunday, July 7, 2019. Usual open hours at the museum are Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Sundays, 12 - 5 p.m.

Where: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005

For more information: 202-783-5000 or visit

Metro stations: Metro Center (exit at 13th Street and walk two blocks north) or walk a short distance from McPherson Square.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Rock on, Azerbaijan!

The entrance to the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie

At the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium earlier this month, two Chinese uniformed troops stood near me smiling and conversing about festivities underway (or so I imagined since I don't speak Chinese).

The occasion was the 101st anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and recognition of its Armed Forces Day.
At the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States Elin Suleymanov and his wife, Lala Abdurahimova (center to the right of the serviceman in white) listen to a speaker at the Azerbaijan celebration, the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States Elin Suleymanov and his wife, Lala Abdurahimova (center) listen to a speaker at the Azerbaijan celebration, the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The food didn't stop at the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie

A crowd of several hundred well-dressed guests came to celebrate Azerbaijan, dance, drink wine and beer, and eat delicious Azerbaijani delicacies which were served non-stop on buffet tables.

An orchestra from the capital, Baku, played national favorites (and some American selections, too) in the elegant neo-classical hall with its huge, lighted golden columns and stately tall ceiling.

Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States Elin Suleymanov and his wife, Lala Abdurahimova, welcomed guests. Other speakers praised the nation and its anniversary.
When the orchestra played Y. M.C.A.! guests threw their hands in the air at the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019.  Also played, Frank Sinatra's My Way/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Although it was close to the end of the evening, the food replenishment continued non-stop at the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019, this jacket drew attention/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019. Dance with me, Henrietta?/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The entrance to the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Azerbaijan celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, June 11, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie

I met citizens from Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Spain, Finland (no Americans), and saw more military officers in dress uniform than expected, including the Chinese troops who answered my query about the Hong Kong protests with a mild smile and a shoulder shrug. (No English.)

Azerbaijan has 9.8 million people and covers 33.5 thousand square miles, surrounded by the Caspian Sea on the east, Russia and Georgia to the north, Armenia to the west, and Iran to the south.  In 1919 its became the first Muslim majority nation to grant females the same rights as males, beating the U.S. by a year granting women the right to vote. 

Its website calls the nation "the West in the East" and "the East in the West" for it sits in Asia and Europe.

Let's go!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

How I "tricked" the airlines and you can, too!

Photo, Alaska Airlines

For a long time my very smart daughter-in-law (a Department of Defense engineer who repairs submarines) and I have surmised that airlines' algorithms track your online presence when trying to buy tickets.

Now, I have proof that it happens.

When I tried to book a ticket to Sitka, Alaska, the best, the cheapest ticket disappeared the day after I decided to "sleep on" the potential purchase. 

Gone, ticket!  

The airline supposedly snatched the ticket, trying to force me into buying a more expensive one.

I tried at work that next morning to find the cheaper ticket, suspecting the tricky airline was up to no good, at least, to my "no good," and it was true. It was up to its "own good," certainly not mine.

Still, no cheap ticket to be found. Not even on  the office computer.

So, they knew who I was and what I wanted.

I decided to wait a couple of days and find that bloomin' ticket on a public computer where the airline couldn't track me, or so I thought, and it worked!  

On the public library's computer, I zoomed around different months and inserted different days and times, all the while knowing exactly which month, day, time I wanted.  I put in different cities to screw up those algorithms the best I could. 

By golly, ten minutes before the clock struck midnight (or 6 p.m. in public library parlance), I zoomed into the ticket time I wanted, and guess what.  There it was!  The cheap flight, the time, everything!  I bought that confounded ticket and rapidly found a cheap (relatively speaking) return flight which I seized.

It took some time and effort, but I saved several hundred buckS! And so can you.

Take that, algorithms! And happier traveling, everybody!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Trump courts the enemy. Why?

Congressman Adam Schiff at today's National Press Club briefing/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has a few thoughts on Trump's courtship of despotic rulers which he delivered today at a briefing at the National Press Club.

The president makes "common cause" with despots, Schiff said, creating "a great and grave threat to the United States." 

Today's world is "a challenge to democracy," and "a dangerous time" he said more than once.

He cited autocratic rulers in Turkey, Egypt, Hungary, the Philippines, and Brazil with growing evidence that France, Germany, Austria, and others are headed in the direction to elect despots

The world is trending towards "authoritarianism."

Members of Congress, including Congressman Schiff, believe Trump's actions are driven by financial gain for himself and his family which explains their relationship with Saudi Arabia and Moscow where the Trump tower would have landed Trump the "most lucrative deal" probably of his lifetime.

While campaigning for the presidency in 2016 and extolling the virtues of Russian president, Vladimir Putin, Trump denied working with the Russians to seal his tower deal but then later admitted to it: "'It's not a crime,'" Cong. Schiff quoted Trump:  "'If I lost the election, I would have lost the deal.'"

When later questioned by a member of the audience about the committee's attention to the Moscow tower deal, Schiff answered:  "Where does it lead?"  What other deals is Trump cooking up with different nations?  Russia has shown "how easy" it is to establish a relationship with Trump and his family.  

The financial connection to North Korea ("irrational and dangerous") is unknown, Schiff said, but Trump is "desperate to get a deal done with North Korea which he can say is the greatest deal since 'sliced bread.'" 

Who would have ever dreamed the president of the United States would say he admires the North Korean dictator? Schiff asked.

While Congress seeks to protect the interests of the American people, Trump seeks to protect his own interests. 

In the question and answer session which followed Schiff's remarks, he said Trump "projects his own lack of ethics" on everyone else.  "'Everyone does it,'" Schiff quoted Trump whose unethical practices are acceptable to the president and his team.

Trump's message to the Russians seems to be: "Russia, if you are listening and want to intervene in our elections, come on over and participate, but only if you're nice to me."

The Kremlin, Schiff said, tried to cover up its dealings with Trump.

What's scarier than Russian sabotaging U.S. elections, is "deepfake" technology which, Schiff said, "I am most fearful of."

That's when creators make fake videos and make them appear real as in the case of the slow video released last month of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi which tried to make her appear drunk.  

It takes a while to analyze and determine legitimacy of "deepfakes." (Samsung's was developed at its Moscow center.)

What happens if a "deepfake" candidate emerges days or weeks before an election, and there's no time to find if it is real? Although viewers may quickly learn it is "fake," it is still difficult to divorce oneself from the visuals, Schiff said. 

"Deepfakes" are inherently more disruptive than "hacking and dumping," he said several times. "A.I. [artificial intelligence] is good enough to fool us." There's "a lion's dividend for those who lie."

"We have a president that claims the Access Hollywood tape is fake" (when Trump was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women's genitalia) but Trump says the slow video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appearing drunk is real.

His staff touts "alternative facts" and "'truth isn't truth.'"

Some "immediate threats on the horizon," Schiff said, involve Iran and its aggressive posture. Most assuredly it is Iran attacking ships, actions which "our allies" have been predicting for two years.

Trump attacks our allies so where are our allies when we need them?  Nowhere to be found.  

"We can't be going this [way] alone," Schiff said. The situation presents "incredible risks to our servicemen [sic] in the region." 

He said "serious mental gymnastics" are necessary to figure out what the administration's shuffling stance on Iran means.

While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticizes Iran for threatening to abandon tenets of the nuclear treaty, Trump gave up the treaty a year ago.  While Pompeo makes overtures to meet with Iran, National Security Advisor John Bolton arranges new sanctions against it.

Trump's Iranian policy is "incoherent." Schiff compared it to Mutt and Jeff since no one knows what anybody else is doing. "It's simply incoherence because that's been the pattern of this administration."

Schiff said he and others believe China is meant as a distraction from talk about all things Russian.

He called China's citizen watch to control its population with ubiquitous cameras and other means, "digital totalitarianism."  Many younger Chinese do not know anything about Tiananmen Square.

Schiff described two revolutions that are happening now:
The change in the global economy and the increasing anxiety people feel about their economic futures.

Adding to the anxiety is fear and anger which race across social media.

On other subjects:  the "second most dangerous" person in the U.S. is Attorney General Bill Barr. Robert Mueller will testify before Congress either voluntarily or by subpoena, Schiff said.

The congressman was smartly dressed as he always is: white shirt, coat and tie. He spoke eloquently during the hour-long session without notes, without looking down at the podium.  

I don't believe he ever used the words "president" and "Trump" together, and he seldom used the word, "Trump." He always said "United States" and not "U.S." 

Although NPC President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak asked at the start of the program that all cell phones be silenced or turned off, about three went off during the presentation which started and ended on time. About 75 attended.

"Impeachment" never came up.