Entering the newly renovated Yale Art Gallery, we were stopped dead in our tracks by a sculpture called Shock and Awe (see previous post).
Eventually, though, we tore ourselves away and began to explore other wonders of the gallery, which provided their own sense of shock and awe. The breadth and depth of the collection, now that there’s ample room to display it, is both shocking and awesome. There are antiquities, there are colonial artworks, there are other treasures — But I was headed for the Impressionists, to see once again Yale’s extraordinary Van Gogh:
The Night Café was an astute purchase of Yale alumnus Stephen Clark, whose fabulous collection of Impressionists and Modernists was challenged only by the Renoirs and Homers collected by his estranged brother Sterling Clark, who donated them to his own museum, the Clark Art Institute. Many of Stephen Clark’s paintings are on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but he gave The Night Café to Yale. It glaring light, lurid oranges and yellows and acid greens, its isolated drinkers and confrontational proprietor make it almost hallucinogenic. Mesmerizing, even.
Quite a contrast to this delicate and lovely Head, sculpted by Elie Nadelman, Romanian-born American sculptor of the first half of the 20th century. I connect Nadelman’s relatively rare, delicate, somehow Hellenic, sculptures with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where I first saw them. It was a special treat to find a new (to me) Nadelman at Yale.
Not everyone’s cup of tea, maybe, but Yale also has a fine selection of Modern and Contemporary works. Riches upon riches — here are just two from many that would have been a privilege to show you. First a detail from Jackson Pollock’s large drip painting, #13A: Arabesque:
I wish you could see the texture on this! Because it is the texture that gives the painting its extraordinary quality. It is the overlappings, the layerings, the buildup of paint which provides its fascinating dimensionality. It is what distinguishes Pollock’s work from a seven-year-old child’s, in that cliché’d dismissive judgment of naive viewers, who never see what is really there in front of them. It takes time. It takes concentration. And it is worth it.
Another abstract painter who takes time, but who for my taste provides even more delight, is Richard Diebenkorn, American abstract painter of the 20th century. His colors and shapes entrance me —- this is Ocean Park #24:
The modern and contemporary riches of Yale’s collection are amazing. Yale is an elite university, and its art gallery is a match. Whatever your taste, you will find something to delight, amaze, and astonish you. And admission is — are you ready? — free. It’s a gift to us from Yale. As the Michelin guide says of very special places, Vaut le voyage. It’s worth the trip.
But I still haven’t exhausted this splendid gift yet — soon to come, The Gate of Dreams at Yale.