Friday, May 6, 2011

Impressionist Beauties at MFAH + Sauces Shine at Floyd's Cajun Seafood on I-10

Claude Monet, French, 1840-1926
Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son 1875
Oil on canvas - National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1983.1.29
Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces From the National Gallery of Art
While taking an Easter trip through the southern US, I stopped by the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston to see fifty works by the grand Impressionist and Post Impressionist painters Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Auguste RenoirHenri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Mary Cassatt and others. The exhibition was organized out of the Impressionist collection at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Wow, what a show!
Édouard Manet, French, 1832-1883    The Railway  - 1873 - Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Horace Havemeyer in memory of his mother, Louisine W. Havemeyer, 1956.10.1

No doubt about it, this exhibition has some important paintings in it from that short period of art history when French Impressionism flourished and a handful of artists became art stars. Few paintings from this era are more exciting to view than Manet’s The Railway 1873. It depicts the artist’s favorite model acting as a nanny for a well dressed young girl at the Gare Saint Lazare Train Station across from his studio in Paris. As a matter of fact, Manet painted his arched studio door as a part of the composition, look to the left of her black hat. The steam in the background is from a nearby locomotive engine just out of the frame. The tightly cropped image, the girl being turned away from the artist and the snapshot like facial expression of the woman displays the influence photography had on Manet's  paintings. The model's direct gaze and the strong vertical grid formed by the iron fence upset the viewing public and the critics at the time when this painting was accepted into a Salon exhibition. That crowd much preferred historical or biblical subjects with no brush strokes visable. Just for fun search for a puppy, a folding fan and a bundle of grapes in this painting. 

Vincent van Gogh, Dutch, 1853-1890   Self-Portrait - 1889 - Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney, 1998.74.5
Since this is a show of Post Impressionism works too, it is hard to find a more important painting than Van Gogh Self-Portrait painted in a single session with his active brushstrokes. It was made just a year before his death and while he was living in a psychiatric hospital.

Mary Cassatt, American, 1844-1926   Child in a Straw Hat - c. 1886
Oil on canvas - National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1983.1.17
Mary Cassatt was the only American and only one of two female artists who where invited to show with the Impressionists group in Paris. Cassatt had successfully exhibited at the formal Salons several times before she became enamoured by Degas' pastel technique. Degas actually gave her some insight and instruction while she worked on this particular painting of a naturally posed young girl in a grey dress. Notice her realistic sad or bored expression, something never seen before the impressionist era in painting. Cassatt is known for using children, women and mothers holding their child as her major subjects.

Claude Monet, French, 1940-1926  The Japanese Footbridge - 1889
Oil on canvas - National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Victoria Nebeker Coberly, 
in memory of her son John W. Mudd, and Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 1992.9.1

Claude Monet created extensive gardens including a lily pond on the grounds around his home in Giverny, France, about 50 miles outside of Paris. Monet used these gardens and especially this lily pond for the main subject of his later paintings. This painting of the flowering waterlilies shows them floating on top of the pond which reflects the weeping willow trees and surrounding greenery, all of it framed by the arched Japanese bridge. Monet loved all things Japanese and most of the art in his home was Japanese prints. The bridge arching over the top of the canvas creates a strong composition and makes this painting feel less like abstracted dabs of color. He painted and repainted these waterlilies interacting with the reflections in the water many times, making them larger and larger and more and more abstracted each time. Also don't miss the Monet painting at the top of this article, Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son. Looking at it, you feel as if you are in that sunny and windy field with the artist and his family. Monet had a memorable quote: "I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers." 

Paul Cézanne, French, 1839-1906   Still Life with Apples and Peaches  -  c. 1906 
The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer, 1959.15.1
Paul Cézanne, whom Picasso said was his only teacher, not only was a Post Impressionist painter, but he was the painter who cracked open the door for the MODERN ART movement of the 20th century. His later paintings possess the beginnings of cubism with faceted and tilted planes, but staying within the real of realism. This painting shows a still life, a subject Cézanne liked and did often. His apples and peaches have a lively quality that has not been equaled in art history. In this exhibition, there is a small Cézanne still life of fruit displayed near a small Manet still life of oysters on the half shell. Both are masterpieces and our group tried to decide, which one we would want if we could choose one for our wall. Although an impossible choice, we all went with Cézanne's glowing fruit.

Edgar Degas, French, 1834-1917   Woman Ironing
Begun c. 1876, completed c. 1887
Oil on canvas - National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1972.74.1
Edgar Degas was a superb draughtsman and never liked being called an Impressionist, he preferred to be known as a realist. Although his images of ballet dancers are his most well known subjects, Degas excelled at depicting human isolation, women attending to their bath, musicians and because he loved the horse races he produced many paintings, pastels and drawings of jockeys in their colorful silks and on their horses. A grand painting Scene from the Steeplechase: The Fallen Jockey by Degas is in this exhibition. 

Auguste Renoir, French, 1841-1919   Oarsmen at Chatou - 1879
Oil on canvas - National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Sam A. Lewisohn, 1951.5.2
Auguste Renoir's paintings were inspired by modern life at the time and there are six examples of his work in this exhibition. Above is Oarsmen at Chatou showing a pleasure boat brought to the shore. This painting predicts the future because the two central figures almost look to be studies for his famous The Luncheon of the Boating Party made two years later (in the Phillips Collection, Wash. DC). Another wonderful and famous Renoir in this show is Pont Neuf (1872) where the artist went into a near-by building to obtain the high angle for this colorful Parisian scene of workers with their barrows of produce, ladies with their flowing dresses and parasols, gentlemen in top hats, a policeman, dogs and soldiers all strolling back and forth across this famous bridge, on a sunny day in Paris. 

Georges Seurat, French, 1859-1891  Seascape at Port-en-Bessin, Normandy - 1888
Oil on canvas - National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the W. Averell Harriman Foundation 
in memory of Marie N. Harriman, 1972.9.21

Seurat's Seascape looks like a flat stylized design from the 1930's.
His technique, pointillism, tends to make objects flat by putting dots of color next to each other and allowing the viewers eye to mix the color. This concept lead to modern color printing, using dots of red, blue, yellow and black placed next to each other to create all the colors of the rainbow which we mix with our eyes.

Paul Gauguin, French, 1848-1903
Breton Girls Dancing, Pont-Aven
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington, 
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 
There were also paintings by Caillebotte, Bazille, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Eva Gonzalés (Manet's only student) and other important paintings, but this posting is already too long. The only complaints I read online about this exhibition were concerning the $20 admission fee to this special exhibition. The market value of these great works of art is astronomical and I am certain the insurance cost for the Houston museum must have also been huge. Any Houstonian, who loves art but skips this opportunity because of a few dollars is making a mistake. This exhibition is an enlightening and wonderful experience.

"Impressionist and 
Masterpieces from 
the National Gallery of Art"
runs through May 23 2011
Artwork was used with permission and source information came from the MFAH press release, at the Houston exhibition or from the National Gallery of Art website.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Feb 20, 2011 - May 23, 2011
Beck Building, Second Floor
5601 Main Street, Houston TX


Museum of Art, Houston 
STORE - Exhibition Catalogue
Impressionist and Post-Impressionist
Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art 
The exhibition’s 184-page publication is a fully illustrated overview of the collection with brief entries on each painting. The book’s primary author is Kimberly A. Jones, associate curator of French paintings, National Gallery of Art.
Price: $ 29.95 
Product ID: 1013663
by Kimberly A. Jones
This beautifully designed catalogue is only available through the MFA Houston - link:


There is some great traditional Louisiana food being cooked up in Beaumont, Texas along I-10 at Floyd’s Cajun Seafood! This place leaves an impression on your palette because of the generations of Cajun Seafood expertise in the kitchen. Floyd’s was born out of the legendary Don's Seafood in Lafayette, Louisiana and is also a classic Gulf Coast fish fry.  Bret Floyd, Floyd Landry, and Gary Pearce are the owner / operators of the restaurant and they currently have three locations in Texas, all based on Louisiana cookin' and their "Les es les bon ton roulette!" attitude (“Let the Good Times Roll!”).

You feel like you have been taken back to a 1950s restaurant where you can order very fresh seafood any way you want it - stuffed with crab or shrimp, prepared with a sauteed crispy coating, blackened, grilled or covered with a "GOOD ON DA TOP" sauce. Of course there are hush puppies, beer and garlic French bread to make the meal complete. Floyd's also offers fabulous authentic Cajun dishes and steaks.

Floyd's "good on da top" sauces shown clockwise from the upper left: Etouffee Sauce,
Pontchartrain Sauce, Pamela Sauce, Courtbouillon and in the lower left La Paz Sauce.

What caught my eye on this extensive menu were the "GOOD ON DA TOP" sauces they make to be served over the catch of the day, the grilled seafood, steaks, etc. These sauces are ETOUFFEE - PONTCHARTRAIN - PAMELA - COURTBOUILLON - or LA PAZ.

Their sauces are not to be missed! All are beyond delicious and are made to order for $6.95 each and must be ordered with an entree. All would also be great served over rice as a side to any entree on the menu. If I had to pick just one it would be the Pontchartrain sauce made with cream, sherry, mushrooms, crab and seafood - an exotic yet perfect sauce to serve over well prepared fish, fowl or steak. The Etouffee sauce is Creole Louisiana in a spoon with crawfish and the trinity; the Pamela sauce is a buttery light roux made with white wine and overflowing with crab claws and shrimp; the Courtbouillon ( pron: co-bu-yon) has the favor of the sauteed sweet peppers and is made complex by the dark roux, tomato, shrimp, seafood and other vegetables; finally the La Paz sauce is a magical combination of butter, onion, crab meat and avocado with a splash of cream.

Sherry was our wait person, full of personality and life. If you are ever driving on I-10 at Beaumont, Texas, Floyd's is a must stop!

Floyd's Cajun Seafood & Texas Steakhouse
2290 I-10, Beaumont, TX 77707


Have a Happy Mother's Day!

Tattoo Available in NYC at
Until Later,

ARTSnFOOD, All rights reserved. Concept & Original Text © Copyright 2011 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. Images © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.

1 comment:

  1. That is an excellent blog. Beside the arts-I love Monet-I wish we would have a Floyd's Cajun Seafood & Texas Steakhouse in JC.

    Have a great weekend,

    D & A