1123 DC, 1 Day, 3 Museums: Underrated Women’s

Real estate being what it is, it must be very hard to rent or buy space in metropolitan DC. With that said, the National Museum of Women in the Arts sits on the other side of the White House, away from other museums: Corcoran, Renwicke, Americas and DAR. Coming into the Grand Hall is the only sour note for me. It is as if a second generation Italian was trying to open a restaurant, which looked authentically “Italianate.”

That said, the rest of the museum is first rate.I wish someone had been kinder and donated more work to this wonderful museum. I would love to see this gallery filled with work. Fortunately, the paintings there are traditional and of extremely high quality. I would love to see some traditional drawings in these sections.

Two extremely beautiful pieces are Lavinia Fontana’s  Portrait of a Noblewoman and Elisabetta Sirani‘s  Melpomene, Muse of Tragedy.   Judith Leyster’s The Concert (left), self-portrait to the right.

Judith Leyster must have loved music and musicians, for her work has a lot of it. Her self-portraits are always a little scary, but like Hals, she always shows us how good life must have been for the emerging middle and professional class Dutch. Having been to Amsterdam and marveled at the still standing residences (although she, like Hals, was from Haarlem) seventeenth century Dutch life must have been something.

That said, the rest of the museum is first rate.

Contemporary fare.

Obligatory Nevelson, Reflection of a Waterfall, II and Shonagh Edelman’s Vivienne.

The Guerilla Girls are correct. Gender has a lot to do with showing. It is a shame that museums are so male dominated, that you have to have a museum like this, but the only other place I have seen so dedicated to female artists is the section dedicated to women at the Brooklyn Museum.

Alma Thomas’ Iris, Tulips, Jonquills and Crocuses (top left), Elaine de Kooning’s Bacchus #3 (top right), Lee Krasner’s The Springs (center), Helen Frankenthaler’s Spiritualist (bottom left) and Joan Mitchell’s Orange (bottom right).

Recently, I noticed in the New York ABS show, that there was representation of Joan Mitchell, as well as Lee Krasner. Here, in one mouth watering moment in one little area is Krasner, Mitchell, Frankenthaler, de Kooning (her) and Alma Thomas. A few others but I messed up the shots. Luckily, the one below, I did not mess up.

Nell Blaine’s Troubadours retains it beauty even in a photograph. Wonderful color, huh?

There is in that vicinity a wonderful painting by Cèline Marie Tabary Terrasse de café, Paris

There were the two beautiful textile pieces. It was a funny day, I came to Washington to think about my next unit on texture, and all the pieces that struck me were by women. In the Renwicke, Karen Lamonte’s Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery. or at the Portrait Gallery, Mickalene Thomas’ Portrait of Mnonja piece and here two beautiful textile constructions. The Benglis’ piece I showed to my students and there was a lot of comment on it.

I will eventually work in Magdalena Abakanowicz’ Four Seated Figures

Pat Steir’s Waterfall of a Misty Dawn

There was a lovely Pat Stier. I always like her work, OMA has one. They always look technically simple, but I have a feeling that is deceptive.

The are also photos by Louise Dahl Wolfe, here Model in a Dior Suit

You would expect to see both Frida Kahlo’s Self Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jack-in-the-pulpit no. 2

But you would be happier to see the rare Lois Mailou Jones Africa and Suzanne Valadon’s Bouquet of Flowers with an Empire Vase

I had never heard or seen Jane Peterson’s Tower Bridge or Martha Walter’s Bathing Hour

You could say that the museum has much in the way of counterpoint. Here, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard’s Portrait of an Unknown Sitter compared to Alice Neel’s TB Harlem.

Sarah Bernhardt’s Après la tempête (After the storm)

I was surprised to learn that Berhardt was also a visual artist and even showed in the Salon. From Wiki I read that by 1869, when her star continued to rise, actress Sarah Bernhardt began painting and sculpting. By 1874, she was exhibiting her sculpture regularly at the Salon until 1886. She also had time to come to America and perform in person. Something people in the day and age of cable and cell phones could not believe anyone would have time for.

There was a show going on, but again, another no photo thing. This was one thing I was not overwhelmed by, perhaps too tired at that point. But no separate admission, like some museums try to pull! But at least you got to see a terrific Joan Mitchell on the way downstairs.

Joan Mitchell’s Sale Neige

Don’t forget the books on the first floor. It is set off in a small room, but well worth a look.

Elisabetta Gut The Firebird (from Stravinsky) (top left), Claire van Vliet The Gospel of Mary (top right) and Kara Walker Freedom: A Fable, A Curious Interpretation of the Wit of a Negress in Troubled Times, with Illustrations (bottom).

It costs $10 to get in. A spit compared to MoMA. If your are holding a local museum card with a North American reciprocal agreement, you get in for nothing (the Corcoran and Phillips, too in DC). Go, you will not be disappointed, it is a good collection.


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