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10 Painters

October 6, 2010
OCTOBER 6, 2010 10:27AM

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There’s just no escaping Open Salon. Two weeks ago my honey and I flew to Paris to celebrate (?) my 60th Birthday, which just happened to coincide with our meeting 30 years ago.(!) At some point – walking hand and hand down the Rue St. Antoine, or lost in the bowels of the new shopping mall under the Louvre, or dipping that last Freedom Fry in mayonnaise, you want that one? No, you can have it. -I’d known her exactly half of my life. How romantic!

And that’s Freedom as in no computers, no email. No Open Salon. She asked, “You bringing a computer?” “No.” I was tempted to check my email when we got to the hotel, have a teeny peek at old OS…but it was 5 euros an hour.  I was going cold turkey.

Next day, Tuesday, we’re at the Orsay because it’s the only museum open that day of the week. We’re also there because it’s one of my very favorite places to do one of my very favorite things, which is to look at paintings. Lots of them. Judy doesn’t quite have my tolerance for paintings. Actually, I don’t know that anyone does. So I scout out the best pictures while she has a latte – OK, café au lait, it being Paris. The first room I stumble into there’s Ingres’s “The Source,” which I was tempted to use for one of my blog posts, except it seemed a little…naked. But what the hell, here it is:


I turn around, and there is my OS avatar, staring me in the face. The luminous muse next to the artist, by Gustave Moreau. Who I now can see with full eyeball pixilation is looking a trifle worried as his lovely muse points – there, you’ve gotta do that one today, and he’s thinking, just like I am right now –No, not another. Not today when I’m all jet lagged. I’ve got a headache. But when da muse come a callin’ you better answer or there’ll be big trouble.

Standing there I got all guilty – haven’t been commenting, haven’t posted….lunch in the grand restaurant upstairs fixed that. And no, I’m not telling what we ate, just that the high ceiling was lousy with chandeliers and murals. What can I say, I wish  everyone could go to Paris for their 60th.

A confession. I cropped this fine picture to fit in the avatar box.  I don’t know about the art police – I’m afraid they’re as bad as the library police, or the sex police, which is to say, serious meanies. At the very least cutting off parts of a great work of art to fit it in your silly blog has got to be some kind of sacrilege. Here’s the whole thing:


Hesiod and the Muse 

THE LIST:  painters who are underrated, great but semi-obscure, great fun but not great, or whom I just plain like. Same caveat as with my list of 10 hidden classical gems  – if you hate museums and pictures, you can leave now. But if you enjoy first stringers like Monet, Rembrandt, Titian, Picasso, Matisse, but are getting a little bored…if you go to museums and see the names you know then find yourself leaving early because you’re overwhelmed at the prospect of wading through all those unknown painters, here’s ten you might want to check out. That’s if you remember (i.e., are younger than me.)

NOTE: These pics can’t begin to do justice to the paintings. Which is why you have to go see them.



  1. Odilon Redon  He’s a symbolist and my favorite painter of he 20thcentury. Full blown dreams, right on canvass, in colors that make you wonder if someone hasn’t slipped some shrooms in that latte.  A rare bird – there are a couple hidden in the 19th century galleries of the MET in NY, some at the Orsay, and, I just discovered, a trove of them at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (where you can get those shrooms legally, though I can’t attest to their quality as I was chicken to try them.)  Bonnard-the_dining_room_in_the_country The Dining Room in the Country  
  2. Pierre Bonnard. Domestic –bliss? More like domestic mystery.  Colors similarly luscious as Redon’s.  The warmth that radiates from his canvasses – whether it’s his wife in the bath, or just sitting in a room, or the view out the backdoor to a garden –makes me wish the rest of 20th century art weren’t so darned cold.


3. Antonio Allegri da Correggio  Greatest painter of the Italian Baroque, hands down.

correggioThis spiral of angels in Parma headed to heaven make you think there’s actually one up there even if you don’t believe in it. Don’t miss his two if you’re at the Louvre.


 4. Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin What’s so great about a bunch of little freakin stilllifes? What, some sliver  thing, some fruit. Kind of stuff usually bores me. Except this guy makes you feel for a moment like you just put on some special glasses that let you see what he sees- which is inside the very nature of things. That silver thing, those fruits are suddenly more real than your own hand pointing, look at that. He’s easier to catch than some of these other guys. There are a couple of Chardin’s in the Boston MFA. If you get a thing for him, there are over 30 at the Louvre.
The Tempest 
5. Giorgione Talk about rare. Only 6 paintings survive that are definitively his. Little is known about his life, and less about how he came to revolutionize art. What’s the story in this beautiful, edgy, fantastic scene? Who are those people? Do they know the storm is coming? I want to keep looking though I know I’ll never find out.
 600px-Vigée-Lebrun,_Marie_Louise_Elisabeth_-_Self-Portrait_in_a_Turban_with_Her_Child_-_1786Louise, Queen of Prussia 
6. Elizabeth Vigee-LeBrun.  The greatest female painter before the 20th century. Actually, almost the only one. I suppose it ain’t PC, but it’s true – her women exude some kind of divine femininity.images-5
 7. Jean-Honore Fragonard. You may have heard of him.  But if you’re like me, you always dismissed him along with all of the French painters before Monet, around the time you were in gallery 438 in the French wing of the Louvre (Hey, it’s France, and it’s their museum. But how can there be so many Goddamn French painters???) Not so fast. Look at that guy above. This is Impressionism  100 years before Monet. And if you’re in Washington, check out the blue-green in this painting:
The Swing 
It’s not a real color, but don’t you wish all woods looked like that? Must be those shrooms again.
8. Caspar David Friedrich.  I had to go all the way to Leipzig  to see this, and my son had to show it to me. There’s also one in San Francisco.  Night woods lit by the moon. Spooky, lonely and warm all at the same time. How does he do that?
24th Street 
 9. Wayne Thiebaud. Speaking of Frisco. You can’t have come up with fantastic landscapes like these unless you’d been there. And you couldn’t come up with them unless you’re a genius like Wayne.



The Apparition (What happens if you don’t follow your muse)

10. Oh yeah. Moreau. The reason these can seem a little tacky at first is that he’s the root stock of a certain genre of weird fantastic adolescent comic book art. But his stuff is much better.He has his own unique vision. If you go to his museum in Paris you’ll find the rarest of things: an artist’s home that tells the real story of his art. His living quarters are humble, cramped. As opposed to his studio – two floors with a spiral staircase, an amount of light and space that’s glorious for Paris. He put first things first. Most of the paintings there are unfinished. You can pull out the drawers lining the wall and see the proof that every day of his working life he was obeying that pointing muse. There are 17,000 drawings. That’s 2 or 3 a day for 40 years.

Gustave understood that it’s not about getting them to hang in some museum, not about fame and fortune, but about practicing, every day.  Otherwise that luminous muse is going to get real pissed.






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I”m glad you had such a great time in Paris – and sorry we weren’t able to meet. I love the Orsay. As for your list, amen to anyone celebrating the lesser knowns. I especially appreciate your shout-outs to Redon, Vigee-Lebrun, and Moreau. His museum is amazing – I used to hang out there when I had a student pass to all of the museums of Paris (for one year, the world was my oyster). Because it’s inexpensive and very unusual, I always worry it’ll get shut down. Thanks for mentioning it – hopefully other people visiting Paris will check it out. R.
Yes, I’m sorry we missed each other too. Perhaps next time…
Naked or nude? Now that’s a whole ‘nother artistic discussion.
Thanks for the paintings, now we look forward to your words again.
There are too many under-rated ones to narrow it down fairly in a top 10. That said, I’d add an honorary mention so that I can bump all your selections down to make room for John William Waterhouse as number one. While his painting Lady of Shalott is recognizable, the artist himself was not that well-known. At least, he didn’t pop up in my art school history classes. What a shame, as his work was smashing and narrative.
Thanks for this. Next time I’m in the Met or MOMA I’ll seek out the lesser known artists.
Gorgeous! What a great treat for you to visit there and see these wonderful works up close and personal. Thanks for sharing them with us here!

Scarlett -Naked? Nude? I don’t know the dif.

Purple – I saw that painting at the Tate. Loved it. I’ll be looking for Waterhouse in the future. (I like Millais a lot, too.)

Rated. For Corregio. A universe on the head of a pin.
lovely post! i am drooling about all these fine paintings. the cupcake is rather charming, isn’t it?

LM: Just my art history background coming out from Kenneth Clark’s classic study, “The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form.” …

“The English language, with its elaborate generosity, distinguishes between the naked and the nude. To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition. The word “nude,” on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled and defenseless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body: the body re-formed. ” – K.C. Cheers!

Good for you on the second stringers, Luminous! I had seen only a couple. This was grandly entertaining.
Oh I am so jealous! I routinely peruse my art books just for a papered glimpse of your firsthand thrill….what a wonderful and romantic holiday!
They are so beautiful and it must have been so jarring to see your own muse. rated
Caroline -it was jarring, but in a wonderful, magical way. A moment of il-lumin-ation.
I’m glad I found you, this is such a great peek at some paintings my sister, who just came back from Paris, has been raving about.
‘The Moon’ has got to be my favorite though…how fabulous.
Leipzig? Well, if my dream of getting to Bohemia ever happens (it will), I’ll swing by Leipzig just for this painting.
Sorry, ‘Moon,’ not ‘The Moon’…
How lucky you are to spend your birthday on such a wonderful trip. How lucky we are that you shared it with us.

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