Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Few Montreal Pictures

A park across from my friend's home.

Old Montreal, whose cobbled streets are lined by fine old buildings, mostly doing tacky tourist business.

"Les chuchoteuses" ("The Gossipers"), a sculpture by Rose-Aimée Bélanger on rue Saint-Paul.

The Museum of Fine Art.


A tree laden with twinkly lights, and a half moon over Mont-Royal.

On a bitterly cold night...

Great food.

The rabbit/prune pâté and saucisson made a delicious picnic lunch.

The ubiquitous bagels. Slightly sweet, and Heaven with smoked salmon and cream cheese.

Lunch at Olive et Gourmando:


The man didn't think I could handle the 75% cocao content hot choc, which, as he said, tasted much darker. I got it, to go. Delicious. Heh heh.

Three Train Pictures

It a belief of mine that you meet the most interesting people when travelling alone, especially by train. This time it was a very well-spoken chemical engineering student who plays jazz sax and speaks Russian. He took Bruce in his stride too. Train travellers rule!

I'm using this next photograph as part of an art project.

Dawn from the train.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Art + Music = Enchantment

I've been meaning to blog about my Montreal trip all week, particularly the Montreal Museum of Fine Art's J. W. Waterhouse exhibit, which was the main reason for my visit.

This exhibition of paintings, titled "Garden of Enchantment" stands out as one of the finest I've ever experienced. The exhibition wasn't crowded, although it filled up a bit more later in the afternoon when some guided tours were in attendance. The Museum is so well run, with such excellent service, and, at the end of my time there, instead of ending up feeling quite exhausted, as often happens with me at galleries or museums, I found myself feeling still invigorated.

All the rooms in the exhibit were painted a matte black, quite daring for an art gallery in my experience. The rooms were dimly lit, with lights focused just on Waterhouse's jewel-like paintings, enhancing the luminous skin of his many female subjects; there are very few men in Waterhouse's paintings. One biological oddity: some of the ladies have excessively long thigh bones. The informative text on the walls was written in white, with the headlines in a glossy black, which created a stunning effect. Any furniture or ornamentation in the rooms were minimal and were also treated completely in a matte black paint: benches, chairs, fern-filled urns, an easel, a table with a vase of roses and two entrance ways adorned with climbing roses; every bit of it painted matte black. One room, which housed two of Waterhouse's paintings that dealt with the occult (such a fascination for that time in Victorian England), was entered and exited through heavy black velvet curtains. It took me a few moments to recognize that the bench I sat on, as I listened and watched, was shaped in a hexagon. It was all very subtlely and superbly done.

I rented a headset which played music selected for the exhibit by the dashing Kent Nagano, now music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. On entering the first room, I was invited by a woman's voice to play the first piece as an introduction, and as a match for Waterhouse's Cleopatra. Dame Janet Baker sang Berlioz's The Death of Cleopatra, with Alexander Gibson conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. At about 20 minutes in length, it lulled me into a delicious state of dreaminess as I perused the first room and pushed the outside world far away. The second piece of music was for the three Ladies of Shalott. The music was Fauré's Sicilienne from his Pelléas et Mélisande suite. In a room of paintings that featured water in them, a soft rushing of waves was barely discernible, and a play of light on the floor, with reflections of water, was enchanting. The music I listened to on the headset here was Debussy's La Mer, the 2nd and 3rd movements, with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, conducted by their former music director, Charles Dutoit. The same artists performed the next track, Debussy's Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun, which accompanied an enchanted garden room. The final piece, as I approached Waterhouse's Tristan and Isolde Sharing the Potion was Wagner's Prelude to Tristan und Isolde with the Dresden Staatskapelle conducted by Carlos Kleiber.

Back to the Shalott paintings, all three of which were gathered together for the first time. Do you know the Loreena McKennit song version? It's one of my favourites. The entire Tennyson poem was one one wall, in english and french. Here are the two versions of the those last lines.

But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said "She has a lovely face;
God in His mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."

Mais Lancelot, lui, s'attarde un moment;
Il dit: "Elle a un visage charmant!
Dans sa pitié, que Dieu lui soit clément
A cette Dame d'Escalot."

(The french translation was by Claude Dandréa.)

The Tate Gallery's Lady of Shalott (1888) is apparently their best selling postcard.

The Art Gallery of Ontario's "I am half-sick of shadows" said the Lady of Shalott (1915) is one I know well.

But this was the one who appealed to me the most directly. This Lady of Shalott is from 1894 and now resides in the Leeds Art Gallery. This picture depicts the very moment that she turns from the mirror and beholds Lancelot directly. You see the crack in the mirror, Lancelot reflected in it, her threads entrapping her, and a look of such intensity on her face. This face haunts me still. She might have been based on a single model, or an amalgam, I'm not sure, but she has strange eyes, and a riveting look. She's not perfectly beautiful, but she's fascinating.

All in all, I spent five hours in the exhibit, as I went through it twice. I had a few favourites, but the title of this one, Dolce far Niente (It's Sweet Doing Nothing), and its subject, appealed to me greatly, as an idler and follower of Tom Hodgkinson, my personal hero. The painting, from 1880, lives in Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery.

Here are some more favourites, shamelessly borrowed from this site:

Mariamne (1887, part of the Forbe's Magazine Collection) was Waterhouse's largest work, at about 70" wide and 100" tall. In reality it was awe-inspiring. You could see the tones of her skin through her dress. Stunningly sensual and one of Waterhouse's most powerful women, among so many.

In Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus the blue of dress of the nymph on the left was one I couldn't take my eyes off. These two sweet girls have just espied the severed head of Orpheus, floating (and still singing) its way down the river.

Finally, a lovely man! I've used this before on my blog, Tristan and Isolde Sharing the Potion (1916, in a private collection). Don't drink it you crazy kids!

This beautiful painting portrayed the tragic tale of St. Eulalia (1885, at the Tate Gallery), martyred at the age of 12 for being a Christian. It left out some of the more gruesome aspects of her death, but was still very powerful.

There were many, many more paintings and studies to enjoy. The exhibition runs till February 7. As I've said before, if you can, get there. It's worth the trip to Montreal.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I bet the Costumes are Gorgeous

The BBC has produced a 6-part mini-series, The Desperate Romantics (2009), which tells the story of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as depicted in the book, The Private Lives of the Pre-Raphaelites by Fanny Moyle, who also co-produced the series. I haven't heard great things about this, apparently it's best if you approach it with a light-hearted mind. Uh oh. Anyway, I'll check it out. It's starting tonight at 9pm on BBC Canada.

//UPDATE: Pretty boring, but I'll watch if I have nothing better to do.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Art Chocolate Lipstick

This is the J.W. Waterhouse painting I am most familiar with, as it resides at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

"'I am half-sick of shadows' said the Lady of Shallott" is united with two other Lady of Shallott depictions at this exhibition in Montreal, which I am going to visit. If you'd like to know more, here are some enjoyable videos that go into a little more details on some of the paintings on show.

I'm ready, with this new discovery from my local Godiva's...

... highly transportable, dark chocolate morsels!!! Perfect for train travel.

I'm stocked up on "Capricious," as I should be.

A full review of the J.W. Waterhouse exhibit will be in a future post. In the meantime, if you get a chance to get to Montreal, it ends February 7. The top picture was borrowed with no permission from this wonderful site.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Oy! Where's my Degree?

I spend a fair bit of time loitering around the University of Toronto with one event or another. This weekend I saw a musical (!) version of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity at Hart House Theatre. Unlike my feelings for the the last two shows I saw there, I really didn't like this, and have no interesting in dissecting it here. But here's a shot of one of the very attractive hallways of this renovated space, a legend in Toronto.

We walked home through a lovely archway on campus.

I attended a lecture at Trinity College...

On a kindly mild, but grey day, in Toronto... colour!

Each time I visit I love getting shots of the quadrangle though these windows.

Then a tour of Massey College, designed by Ron Thom (whose career was heavily influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright), and which opened in 1963. The request (by the Massey family) was that the college contained an enclosed quadrangle and paid homage to the colleges of Oxford.

Hello! Guess who?

Christopher Ondaatje, extremely wealthy brother of Michael, the writer.

It mixes the modern and the gothic well.

Lots of fine detail, like this floor grate:

And lots of well-crafted light fixtures.

Stunning stained glass in the upper library by the brilliant Sarah Hall.

This detail attempts to show the constellation Auriga in the middle panel at the top.

I'm not a very good photographer of buildings and I haven't done this justice, but I'm blaming that on my lack of edjimication.

Then it was comforting dim sum on Baldwin Street and a long walk home to make up for that.