Two University Exhibitions
Recent Acquisitions at the Busch-Reisinger Picasso at the Fogg Gallery II
The unfortunate tradition of innumerable German graphics at the Busch-Reisinger has been broken by its present exhibit of recent acquisitions. The new works of art, primarily from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, include religious sculpture and a fine fifteenth century Dutch painting--a pleasant exception to the Museum's unduly strict devotion to German art.
The finest of the new accessions are two small linden-wood legionaries of death, carved in the mid-sixteenth century. They reflect the preoccupation with death then prevalent and resemble the skeletal figures in Holbein's Dance of Death, done earlier in the same century. With deft control of the wood, the craftsman of the Busch-Reisinger pieces grimly records the grotesque expressions on the legionaries' faces and the torn flesh as it hangs limply from their skeletons.
Prettified to the point of sentimentality, four Austrian Baroque sculptures depicting three saints and the Virgin, recall the tendency of that period and that country to sweeten religion. Yet the artist gave these less-than-profound figures and their billowing garb linear fluidity and much plastic interest. Characterized by an adept handling of color, especially pale reds and blue-greens, the Dutch painting portrays Christ on the way to Calvary with expressive, distorted figures.
A brilliant new gift highlights the room of Picasso paintings and graphics that has been assembled by the Fogg, probably because the Brattle is at present screening Clouzot's Mystery of Picasso. The film gives a glimpse of Picasso's creative process; the Fogg show presents an opportunity to examine closely some of its most successful results.
The new acquisition, a 1949 oil entitled Woman in Blue, is the donation of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Pulitzer, who are notable collectors of modern art. The woman was obviously posed in a chair, but she is painted so that she seems to stand parallel to the wall, in a manner reminiscent of El Greco's Fray Hortensio Felix Paravicino. The intricate composition contrasts the arabesques on the left side of the canvas with the straighter verticals on the right, and is painted in a startingly original color scheme, full of blues, lavenders, and canary yellow. This is major Picasso and an important addition to the Fogg's collection.
The Museum surrounds this outstanding work with many of Picasso's graphics and watercolors. Especially beautiful is the 1918 pencil drawing, Bathers, which displays the sure control of sinuous line that characterized his so-called "Neo-Classical" period. Also of great interest is his View of Horta De Ebro, a small, lyric landscape done in 1900. The more than twenty pieces in this exhibit demonstrate the completeness and general high standards of the Fogg's acquisitions. For a university museum, one could hardly imagine a better record of connoisseurship.