The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, meaning the DeYoung Museum of Art and the Palace of the Legion of Honor, have given us superb exhibitions of the later work of William Turner over the summer. By the way SF also has the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Asian Art Museum, which are not included when you say, "The Fine arts Museums of San Francisco," even though they definitely have fine art in them. And then there is the Palace of Fine Arts which is not an art museum and has no art in it, fine or otherwise. Clear?
Anyhoo, the Legion still has its exhibit of English Works on Paper through the end of November, and it is astounding to see what the likes of Turner, Blake and many others could do with pencil, pastel, ink and water color. These were often studies for paintings to be done later, and they don't hold up as well, being on paper. But there are effects that in some instances surpass what the masters accomplish in paint.
The DeYoung's exhibit of Turner's later paintings, now closed, was a jaw dropping experience. Mike Leigh's film, Mr. Turner, starring Timothy Spall, was a great warm-up for this exhibit. It tells the story of the barber's son who surpasses his contemporaries and starts painting the light, years ahead of those French Impressionists we now so love. Perhaps we know him less because he refused to sell his work to the highest bidder, instead leaving it to the English people to be held in trust. The paintings were spectacular.
The exhibit closed at the end of September, and this sky appeared as if to bid it goodbye.
Ann and I dropped by the DeYoung Museum to see their exhibition: Botticelli to Braque: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland. In one way it was like strolling through any major museum -- a Titian, a Velazquez, a Vermeer, a Monet, etc. -- but I had never seen these examples, having never visited the National Galleries of Scotland. Also, there was a strong presence of Scottish painters I had not seen. My favorite discovery: Francis Cadell, portrait painter of the early 20th Century.
As you can see from my neckwear, I am a fan of audio tours. The best of them help me see things I would miss unless I looked at the picture for a long time. PRO TIP: ask the staff for the numbers to punch in for the children's tour. They are more fun and helpful than the grown-up version. Children don't have to listen to descriptions of a a picture of three young women embroidering as "exquisitely feminine;" nor a portrait of the artist's wife as "incredibly intimate;" nor the tartan worn in a nobleman's portrait as "highly symbolic." When they start laying on the adverbs, you know they haven't decided what they want to say.
MINOR COMPLAINT: the audio tour was given by someone with a British accent. I so wanted to hear the name "Braque" spoken with a Scottish brogue.
Thank you Scotland! What a great country! You sent us John Muir and you loaned us your masterpieces.
This traditional Chinese lion is part of the exhibit created by Ai Wei Wei for installation in the former Federal Prison on Alcatraz Island in San Franciso Bay. The irony is deliberate: an artist kept under house arrest for criticizing the government of his native country creates art to be seen and heard in a prison that is now open to all the world.
Imprisonment of political dissidents is the subject of the work. In an old cell block, he has installed recordings of everyone from Martin Luther King jr. to Pussy Riot. Each 5 x 8 cell plays a different recording. And then there is the old factory room which has the floor covered in portraits of the dissidents done in Legos:
I asked one of the interpreters on hand for the exhibit about taking photographs. She said the artist encourages it and is himself an enthusiastic user of social media.
By the way, thanks to my Annie for walking by just at the right moment when I was photographing the lion.