Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Bellini and Botany" at the Frick

Drawing Inspiration from Museums to Create Modern Abstract Art
by Miriam Schulman

Giovanni Bellini's St. Francis in the Desert is the largest work on panel at the Frick Collection, a small museum on fifth avenue in New York. The painting has been hailed by curators as "a masterpiece of spiritual poetry that has enthralled generations of visitors to The Frick Collection."

The Frick has many organized events centered around this painting. Sunday Sketch is a recurring program at the Frick which allows artists ages 10 and up to draw at the museum. Materials and a teaching artist are provided. For the "Belini and Botany" series, the museum has identified flora in the painting and had a horticulturist bring in potted plants to the garden courtyard. Each plant has a small sign with a detail of the painting showing you where in the artwork the plants are painted.

Potted Daisies by Miriam Schulman
Pastel drawing depicts Potted Daisies using bold contour lines with lots of energy and fiercely vibrant pastel colors adding to the contemporary and modern feel. White daisies with lime and mossy green stems look stunning against a vibrant blue background, perfect for injecting a touch of color into your decorating scheme. Daises form close the ground and have distinctive, small flower head, which itself is actually composed of numerous tiny flowers. Some daisies can be seen on the ground at the feet of St. Francis's shelter.

Set of three shown together over a sofa
Grape Vine, Pastel on toned paper by Miriam Schulman
The fig tree is drawn on blue toned pastel paper. A stump of a fig tree can be seem below St. Francis's right hand. Another fig tree on the cliff is studded with small fruits. The fig tree can have many symbolic meanings, including fertility and the Resurrection of Christ, and can represent the Virgin Mary.

The grape vine was drawn on toned paper using a limited color palette. The vine's charcoal stems and blue leaves ascend naturally up the artwork, creating a beautiful composition. According to biblical sources, the grape vine symbolizes the Church of the Virgin Mary. In the Bellini's painting, St. Francis's shelter supports a canopy of grapevines.

Morning Glories, Pastel on Blue Paper by Miriam Schulman
The morning glory's vibrant green and blue leaves pop against the blue/grey background. These flowers are known to adapt to the time of day; they close at warm times and are fully open in the morning, thus their name. This plant was thought to be sacred to Dionysus because of the similarity of its leaves to those of ivy.

Jacob's Staff by Miriam Schulman, pastel on toned paper
The leaves and flowers of the Jacob's Staff are attached to an erect central stem. Mullein tends to have favorable symbolism as it is said to possess healing qualities. Therefore, this flower in the painting surely symbolizes spiritual healing powers of Saint Francis. The art is depicted using warm, terracotta background and shades of lime green and aqua.

English Ivy by Miriam Schulman
The English Ivy is an evergreen vine that can spread and fix itself on almost any surface. For this reason, the plant can symbolize attachment, fidelity, and everlasting affection. In antiquity the ivy was sacred to Dionysus, thus symbolizing sleep caused by wine and by extension, death. In the painting, the ivy can be seen flourishing from a crevice on the cliffside above St. Francis's head in Bellini's painting. The drawing is executed with a vertically hatched background of turquoise and aqua that contrasts beautifully with navy and forest green leaves.

Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430/1435–1516), St. Francis in the Desert, c. 1475-78, oil on poplar panel, 49 x 55 7⁄8 inches, The Frick Collection, New York

Information about Sunday Sketch at the Frick
When:Sunday, 7/10, 7/24, 8/14, 1 – 3 p.m.
Where:Garden Court, Frick Collection, 1 East 70th Street
What:Sunday Sketch
 Free with museum admission; no reservations are necessary.
Did you know?
A Bellini is a long drink cocktail mixed with sparkling wine and peach purée that originated in Venice. One of Italy's most popular cocktails, the Bellini was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy. The cocktail's unique pink color reminded Cipriani of the color of the toga of the saint in the painting by 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini, he named the drink the Bellini!