Entries by Ellen Kwatnoski

“Wonder” at the Renwick Gallery

I’ve been wondering about the newly reopened Renwick Gallery here in Washington, DC. Long a cherished space, I was eager to see what the two year-long renovation of this Smithsonian museum—heretofore devoted to craft and decorative arts—had wrought. The first thing that jarred me was the bold white plastic sign along the exterior fence that announces […]

An Absinthe Drinker, Two Tahitian Girls, and a Frog …

…walk into a bar. Oops, never mind. That’s another blog for another time. Seriously, though, if you walk into the Phillips Collection here in DC you’ll meet them all – and more. Gaugin to Picasso: Masterworks from Switzerland, now on view, showcases some 60 works from the Staechelin and Im Obersteg Collections, normally on view […]

Art in the Round: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Yesterday I took a fresh look at this vibrant museum on Washington’s National Mall. The third floor galleries have reopened after renovation, and, in celebration of the museum’s 40th anniversary, an installation—At the Hub of Things: New Views of the Collection—presents some sixty works in various media from the permanent collection. Designed by Gordon Bunshaft—the […]

The Most Famous Impressionist You’ve Never Heard of

Gustave Caillebotte? The name doesn’t spring to mind if you’re asked to rattle off a few well-known Impressionist artists. Yet he was a master of all they sought to do—to paint light, employ unusual perspectives, and render life as it exists—raw, direct, unidealized. Discover him for yourself at a wonderful show at the National Gallery […]

John Singer Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends

Imagine you’ve been invited to a gathering hosted by the famous American expatriate painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). Here you meet his teacher, his patrons and their children, as well as his close friends—painters, writers, actresses, musicians, and dancers. You’re free to mingle with—even stare at—these storied creatures, among them, Claude Monet, August Rodin, and […]

LIfe’s a Beach: Photographs by Martin Parr

Strolling through Savannah’s many Spanish moss-festooned squares, I was transported to a by-gone era—the graceful houses, ornate balconies, magnolia-scented breezes, a horse’s hoof ringing on cobblestones—until I came to Telfair Square, that is. Here, I spotted a bleached white modernist structure that, rather than looking out of place, was refreshingly inviting, with its clean lines […]

A Great Flowering at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Virginia Museum of Fine Art’s exclusive East coast showing of Van Gogh, Manet, and Matisse: the Art of the Flower is touted as the first major American exhibition to examine 19th century French floral still life painting and its development into a modern, 20th century form. It’s an expansive, but not overwhelming show, featuring […]

Water and Shadow: Kawase Hasui and Japanese Landscape Prints

A screen of snow, a curtain of rain, a spring shower, a sunset behind a bridge in summer: all vivid images created by the Japanese printmaker, Kawase Hasui (1883-1957). In the newly modern Japan of the early decades of the twentieth century, Hasui and his fellow shin-hanga (“new print”) artists—still relying on the exacting methods […]

Winging it at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The exhibit, “The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art,” now at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, marks two anniversaries: the 1914 extinction of the passenger pigeon and the establishment of the Wilderness Act in 1964. If you, like me, find birds fascinating, but can never get them to sit still long enough to get […]

Toasting Peggy Guggenheim on the Grand Canal

Ah Venice! San Marco, the Doge’s palace, the canals, the atmospheric fog, the bridge of sighs. Sigh… All magical, to be sure, but the most compelling attraction on a recent visit to Venice was the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, housed in her unfinished palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal. Walking through the gates made by American artist, […]