February 2017

NOTES & COMMENTS

Recreating the Past: A Salon Evening at The Frick
In connection with Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court, a landmark exhibition of eighteenth-century decorative art, the Frick Collection recently attempted something new to it. In an intriguing effort to illuminate Gouthière's cultural context, it staged a complete performance of a short play from the period--in three of its elegant rooms, with the audience following the actors from room to room. The piece, entitled The Constant Players, was by Pierre Carlet de Marivaux (1688-1763), a worthy successor to the great Molière at the Comédie Française.

To the Frick's credit, mounting the play was an entirely fitting undertaking. The overall impact, however, was rather disappointing. To begin with, the play itself came across as a very trivial entertainment. And what effect it might have had as entertainment seemed quite diminished by its being played in contemporary dress, undercutting the period atmosphere provided by the Frick's opulent rooms, not to mention belying the context of the play itself. In contrast, one very apt touch was the characters' direct engagement with a period portrait on the wall. Another was a musical finale, in the Frick's Music Room, of a live performance of excerpts from Mozart's Così fan tutte (albeit in less-than-thrilling rendition).

More events at the Frick to evoke the cultural context of the work exhibited would be welcome, with greater discretion being given to their choice and execution. - M.M.K.

CURRENT NEWS: More Than Its Name Implies
Museum and gallery exhibitions highlighted in the pale blue box headed "CURRENT NEWS" on our home page is not just for readers who happen to live nearby. They are carefully selected for online enjoyment as well, which is why we maintain an archive of notices after the exhibitions have closed. We can't emphasize enough that such viewing is immeasurably increased if you do so via Firefox [download], our preference, or Google Chrome [download] both of which center images against a dark background, instead placing them in the upper left corner against a white background, as in Internet Explorer. (If you use IE as your browser, make one of the others your alternate for viewing images.)

Out from the Shadows of Obscurity
Introducing Julian Onderdonk (1882-1922), a notable American Impressionist whose work we had not previously known. - L.T.

* Exhibition: Julian Onderdonk and the Texan Landscape, San Antonio Museum of Art, Texas, January 20 - April 23, 2017.

* Artworks (189), The Athenaeum.

* "Julian Onderdonk: An Illustrated Biography," Jeffrey Morseburg, June 2, 2011. Morseburg is a curator, appraiser, archivist, writer, and dealer specializing in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American and French paintings. His brief illustrated biographies are always worth reading.

* "Shedding Light on a Landscape Painter's Lost Years in New York," Eve M. Kahn, New York Times, September 15, 2016.

* "A Texas Painter Worked Under the Radar in New York," Eve M. Kahn, New York Times, March 6, 2014.

* Julian Onderdonk: A Catalogue Raisonné, Harry A. Halff and Elizabeth Halff (with an essay by Emily Ballew Neff), Yale University Press, 2016.

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