Tag Archives: art history

Florence, Day 23: Picasso and Being “Painterly”



I stayed in a Florence a extra day to see this exhibit, Picasso at the Palazzo Strozzi. I love Picasso’s work. You either do or you don’t, but in my world, you must, either way, recognize his place in history, his impact. He influenced entire movements in art, and through his innovation, handed out permission slips to others to pave their own way.

So here I am in the land of the Renaissance, and what makes my heart leap? Picasso. Likewise, when I asked my love today which was his favorite piece of art in Florence, he said, “The Picassos,” and I smiled, knowing his point.

I look at all these Renaissance giants and I’m in awe. I cry over the beauty. But my heart has not leapt in sheer joy until Picasso.

I became a painter so I would no longer be bound to the confines of my camera. My camera did not tell (though I know some whose cameras can) how I felt about a place. It did not convey the relationship I had with that moment. In my mind, I never see a stop sign, a power line, or any obstructions to my view. Angels occasionally sigh from the sheer beauty, if only in my mind. My eye captures what I want to see; my camera captured everything.

So for me, the most important part of my art is to be “painterly”; that means that I want to see the paint, feel the hand of the artist. I do not wish to see the artist’s brush disappear. I desire to see it — better yet, feel it.

So after all of the angelic faces, halos and versions of “Madonna and Child” — while I adore these — Picasso was a breath of fresh air.

Two inventions made being painterly possible: the camera and tube paint. Imagine the possibilities. Picasso, though he came after these inventions, also valued being painterly, and this is why his work excited me. He says every painting is not about the subject (nor is it ever finished), but rather, it’s a way to explore what a painting can do. His brush work is strong and fast and without attention to all that detail. It’s not that he was careless, just more interested in the process than tiny brushes would allow.

It was my last day in Florence, and what a perfect way to end it, for the Renaissance paved way for everything that came after. Think of it as the foundation upon which others could build. Jump ahead 400 years or so and you have Picasso yielding his brush as if he were a swordsman. That would not be possible without a strong foundation.

There was also some food that I could indeed write home about as well as some wine from the region and some amazing scenery to round out my “studies.”

Next stop: the Dolomites. It’s been on my hot list for almost 20 years. I’ll let you know if it was worth the wait!


Note: Top three pics are courtesy of the Internet — no cameras allowed at the Picasso exhibit, unfortunately!

Florence, Day 13: Can Someone Please Stop the Spinning in My Head? And Other Tales of Florence


Palazzo Vecchio

No, it’s not the wine. It’s not jet lag; I’ve been here two weeks now, I’m adjusted. It’s not even the sea of people rushing by me at any given moment. OK, maybe it’s a little bit due to all of the hordes of people here for the same reason I am — all that art. More so, it’s the information, the stories of and about the art, the artists and the patrons.

It’s a good kind of spinning. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I learn more of the history of Florence and view it for myself, I gain a greater understanding of the city and its art movements. It seems to sweep you up and carry you along on its journey.

Think of the Renaissance as a giant bulldozer making way for everything that came after it. Plowing away the Dark Ages and letting in the light. It’s a kind of foundation upon which all later art was built.

I also think of the Renaissance as an explosion, like the Fourth of July happening everyday for 200 years. All here in Florence, with the backdrop of the River Arno.

Again, we have to be careful not to get to over the top over the whole thing, not putting these people on pedestals, for fear of shriveling in the shadows while imagining a grandeur so far removed. Still, to view and learn the history is, I like to think, a duty of artists. To know the who and why of this path that was bulldozed for me to walk through.

Today, I did that at the Museo Stefano Bardini. Stefano (1836-1922) was an artist turned art and antiquity dealer, one who greatly influenced the trade and auctions in the United States. It’s a lovely and quiet museum, with lovely things. His passion was wide, and his trading encompassed everything from Roman ruins to weapons and paintings.

I was most impressed by a Donatello (early Renaissance): It’s a Madonna and child that surely must be the first collage painting. It’s made of wood, plaster, glass and even leather mosaics. It delighted me think of this master wanting to “play” and explore the possibilities in this way. Also captivating: a room of drawings by Tiepolo. Delightful works created from a masterful but free hand.

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After a short break to recharge, Benedetta and I were off to the Palazzo Vecchio, the city hall turned Palace of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo de Medici. When the Duke and his wife Lenora moved their residence from the Medici Ricardi Palace to here, they hired Vasari to “redecorate,” raising the roof of the Hall of 500 by 20 feet and plastering the room with paintings from the ceiling down. It’s a grand celebration of Florence, the victor of Tuscany. Here again, we have art as a reflection of the times. Florence has defeated all of Tuscany, and I, Cosimo de Medici, am grand duke of it all: Let’s show the world. Keep in mind, this is all before Facebook, so you had to get the word out somehow (wink). No cameras, so art played this role as well as to tell a story.

The palace goes on with Lenora’s chapel by Bronzino being a highlight. So much symbolism, stories and history all told in the beautiful craft of art.

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I need some fresh air. Luckily, you can climb the tower of the Palazzo and before you know it, your head is lighter. The air swirls about you and there is no more information to take in, only the material beauty of the landscape. Sigh. A beautiful way to wrap up a week of art history. And a deep bow of gratitude to Benedetta Natali for making the city come alive for me.


The view from the Palazzo Vecchio tower.

Insider secret: The Uffizi and Accademia museums are open until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, and they are very quiet at this time. Last night, I celebrated my week of art history with a nighttime visit to the Uffizi. Here are the sunsets as I strolled the halls, almost by myself. Bring able to meditate on the art without the masses is so relaxing. It’s an experience not to miss.