Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Van Gogh Repetitions" at Cleveland Museum of Art - Questions the Trite and Stereotyped Image of Vincent's Art Process + The Seder Plate


The Cleveland Museum of Art is presenting a ground-breaking exhibition exploring Van Gogh’s "répétitions", the term the artist used to describe his practice of creating additional variations of his own compositions. As the first exhibition to focus specifically on this unusual aspect of the artist’s practice, Van Gogh Repetitions seeks to make a valuable contribution to the scholarship on the artist while giving audiences a deeper understanding of his methods. The exhibition brings together more than 30 paintings and works on paper from some of the world’s most renowned collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; and the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Among the featured works are two versions of The Arlésienne (1888) and five versions of The Postman Joseph Roulin (1888-1889). 

Curators comparing these two paintings by van Gogh:
Cleveland Museum of Art’s Large Plane Trees (left - detail)
& The Phillips Collection’s The Road Menders (right - detail),
was the inspiration for this exhibition.
Van Gogh Repetitions was initially inspired by the study of the close relationship between the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Large Plane Trees and The Phillips Collection’s The Road Menders, both dating from late 1889. The exhibition reunites the two masterpieces to invite deep, focused study of the similarities and differences between the first version, an étude d’après nature (study from nature), and the repetition. Two teams of curators and conservators subsequently conducted comparable analytical studies on repetitions in museums on both sides of the Atlantic.

Cleveland Museum of Art’s "Large Plane Trees" by Vincent van Gogh, 1889

"Our research reveals that Van Gogh was a far more complex and nuanced artist than the popular stereotype suggests," observes William Robinson, curator of Modern European Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. "By comparing works painted from life with the repetitions produced in the studio, the exhibition challenges the popular caricature of Van Gogh as an artist who always painted in a flurry of overheated emotion. Extensive technical analysis of the artist’s paintings, combined with a thorough reading of his letters, offers new insights into an artist who has been widely misportrayed in books, plays and films."

The Phillips Collection’s "The Road Menders" by Vincent van Gogh, 1889
Currently, there is considerable debate even among experts over how Van Gogh produced his repetitions. What has become clear is that Van Gogh’s practice of making repetitions was more extensive and vital to his creative process than is commonly recognized. He made these works from his early years in the Netherlands to his final months at Auvers-sur-Oise. While occasionally making them for practical reasons, such as producing additional versions to give to friends and fellow artists, he often exploited the opportunity to develop an idea or motif more fully. Over time, Van Gogh came to regard this activity as a creative endeavor in which the artist may adjust, refine or intensify a composition’s visual and emotional impact—a process comparable to a musician inflecting a score with personal interpretations, producing an original work of art with each new performance.

The Exhibition's Catalog

The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated, catalogue, published by Yale University Press in association with the Cleveland Museum of Art and The Phillips Collection. The catalogue features 125 color illustrations and considers the many unresolved issues and controversies surrounding Van Gogh’s repetitions. Technical and analytical examinations provide new insights into the artist’s working methods and approach to the creative process.

stock #13650   $50.00
Catalog to the exhibition, "Van Gogh Repetitions" 

125 Color Illustrations
200 pages
9.5” x 10”

Published 2013
(Source: The Cleveland Museum of Art & The Phillips Collection)


The Passover Seder Plate
The Seder Plate
TODAY is the second day of the Jewish festival of Passover. The Jewish people celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt (over 3,300 years ago) and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses. The six elements on the Seder Plate are symbolic reminders for the Jewish people of this event.

Each of the items on the plate has special significance to the retelling of the story of the exodus from Egypt, which is the focus of this ritual meal. The other symbolic item used during the meal is a stack of three matzos (unleavened bread) on their own plate on the Seder table. Some place the Seder plate on top of the stack of matzos.
A table set for the seder,
including the six items on the seder plate,
salt water, matza, kosher wine
and a copy of the Haggadah for each person. 
The traditional items on the Seder Plate are as follows:

- Maror and chazeret — Bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness and harshness of the slavery the Hebrews endured in Egypt. In Ashkenazi tradition, either horseradish or romaine lettuce may be eaten in the fulfillment of the mitzvah of eating bitter herbs during the Seder. Sephardic Jews often use curly parsley, green onion, or celery leaves.

- Charoset — A sweet, brown mixture representing the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves to build the storehouses or pyramids of Egypt. In Ashkenazi Jewish homes, Charoset is traditionally made from chopped nuts, grated apples, cinnamon, and sweet red wine. Sephardi recipes typically call for dates and honey in addition to chopped nuts, cinnamon, and wine.

- Karpas — A vegetable other than bitter herbs, which is dipped into salt water at the beginning of the Seder. Parsley, celery or boiled potato is usually used. The dipping of a simple vegetable bounces into salt water (which represents tears) mirrors the pain felt by the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Usually in a Shabbat or holiday meal, the first thing to be eaten after the kiddush over wine is bread. At the Seder table, however, the first thing to be eaten after the kiddush is a vegetable. This leads immediately to the recital of the famous question, Ma Nishtana — "Why is this night different from all other nights?" It also symbolizes the spring time, because Jews celebrate Passover in the spring.

- Z'roa — Also called Zeroah, it is special as it is the only element of meat on the Seder Plate. A roasted lamb or goat shankbone, chicken wing, or chicken neck; symbolizing the korban Pesach (Pesach sacrifice), which was a lamb that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, then roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night. Since the destruction of the Temple, the z'roa serves as a visual reminder of the Pesach sacrifice; it is not eaten or handled during the Seder. Vegetarians often substitute a beet, quoting Pesachim 114b as justification; other vegetarians substitute a sweet potato, allowing a "Paschal yam" to represent the Paschal lamb.

- Beitzah — A roasted hard-boiled egg, symbolizing the korban chagigah (festival sacrifice) that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night. Although both the Pesach sacrifice and the chagigah were meat offerings, the chagigah is commemorated by an egg, a symbol of mourning (as eggs are the first thing served to mourners after a funeral), evoking the idea of mourning over the destruction of the Temple and our inability to offer any kind of sacrifices in honor of the Pesach holiday. Since the destruction of the Temple, the beitzah serves as a visual reminder of the chagigah; it is not used during the formal part of the seder, but some people eat a regular hard-boiled egg dipped in saltwater as the first course of the meal.

Matzos — Included on the Seder table are a stack of three matzos (unleavened bread).

FOR CHILDREN and the rest of us!
Below is Design Pocket's coloring book page to teach children about the Seder Plate.
A Roasted Bone
This reminds us of the Pesach offering we used to bring in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

A hard-boiled Egg
This reminds us of the festival offering which was brought to the Holy Temple on Pesach.

Horseradish Root
These bitter herbs symbolize the harsh suffering and bitter times we endured when we were slaves in Egypt.

Charoset: A mixture of chopped apple, walnuts and red wine. Ground up together, Charoset resembles bricks and mortar, reminding us how hard we were forced to work when we were slaves in Egypt.
Karpas: This can be a small slice of onion, boiled potato or sprigs of parsley. We dip the Karpas into salt water at the beginning of the Seder, representing the salty tears we cried when we were slaves.
Romaine Lettuce
This is the second portion of bitter herbs which we eat during the Seder. This is eaten in a Matzah sandwich together with Maror.

Pottery Barn offers this LEAF SEDER PLATE.
Orange. — In the early 1980s, Susannah Heschel began the tradition of an orange on the seder plate as a protest against the exclusion of homosexuals from Judaism. She found the orange to be a more appropriate symbol than a crust of bread that some Oberlin College students had suggested. There is a popular myth that this tradition was introduced in response to a rabbi who told a young girl that a woman belongs on a bimah as much as an orange on a seder plate. The orange is now looked at as a symbol of the fruitfulness of ALL Jews, including women and gay people.

(Source:Wikipedia for Seder text and photos except Pottery Barn's leaf plate. Design Pocket for kid's coloring page)

Until later,

More Details about the Seder
The "Mishna" details questions one is obligated to ask on the night of the seder. It is customary for the youngest child present to recite the four questions. Some customs hold that the other participants recite them quietly to themselves as well. In some families, this means that the requirement remains on an adult "child" until a grandchild of the family receives sufficient Jewish education to take on the responsibility. If a person has no children capable of asking, the responsibility falls to their spouse, or another participant. The need to ask is so great that even if a person is alone at the seder they are obligated to ask themselves and to answer their own questions.
Ma nishtana ha lyla ha zeh mikkol hallaylot?
Why is this night different from all other nights?
  1. Shebb'khol hallelot anu okh’lin ḥamets umatsa, vehallayla hazze kullo matsa.
    Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either leavened bread or matza, but on this night we eat only matza?
  2. Shebb'khol hallelot anu okh’lin sh’ar y'rakot, vehallayla hazze maror.
    Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we eat bitter herbs?
  3. Shebb'khol hallelot en anu matbillin afillu pa‘am eḥat, vehallayla hazze sh'tei fe‘amim.
    Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip [our food] even once, but on this night we dip them twice?
  4. Shebb'khol hallelot anu okh’lin ben yosh’vin uven m'subbin, vehallayla hazze kullanu m'subbin.
    Why is it that on all other nights we dine either sitting upright or reclining, but on this night we all recline?
A fifth question which is present in the mishnah has been removed by later authorities due to its inapplicability after the destruction of the temple:
5. Shebb'khol hallelot anu okh’lin basar tsali shaluk umvushal, vehallayla hazze kullo tsali.
Why is it that on all other nights we eat meat either roasted, marinated, or cooked, but on this night it is entirely roasted?
The four questions have been translated into over 300 languages.
  1. We eat only matzah because our ancestors could not wait for their breads to rise when they were fleeing slavery in Egypt, and so they were flat when they came out of the oven.
  2. We eat only Maror, a bitter herb, to remind us of the bitterness of slavery that our ancestors endured while in Egypt.
  3. The first dip, green vegetables in salt water, symbolizes the replacing of our tears with gratitude, and the second dip, Maror in Charoses, symbolizes the sweetening of our burden of bitterness and suffering.
  4. We recline at the Seder table because in ancient times, a person who reclined at a meal was a free person, while slaves and servants stood.
  5. We eat only roasted meat because that is how the Pesach/Passover lamb is prepared during sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem.

ARTSnFOOD, is an online publication dedicated to "The Pursuit of Happiness through the Arts and Food." ™ All rights reserved for all content. Concept, Original Art, Original Text & "Original or Assigned Photography" are © Copyright 2014 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. All photographs were taken and/or used with permission. Artworks © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.

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