The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston

My visit to museum impressed me as only true Art may impress a person. It was the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The aura was mysteriously peaceful and every picture seemed to be exquisitely faceted with harmony and author’s genius. Most of all I was thrilled by the following marvelous trio: “Virgin and Child with Angels” by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, “Olga Merson” by Henri Matisse, and “Two Women in Front of the Window” by Pablo Picasso. These pictures immediately attracted my attention, triggered my imagination, and left a lasting impression. They were dramatically different and to some extent presented contradictory approaches in the art, and still the paintings perfectly embodied each artist’s striving for perfection.

“Virgin and Child with Angels” by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi is a masterpiece of Italian art of the 17th century. It is oil on canvas. Oil was the best choice for the painting like this as it is perfect for picturing the reality and grandeur.

This painting is a striking example of the Baroque epoch in art. The colors are rich and intense. Dark shadows as well as fluency in motion dominate in the picture. Besides, there is exuberance in everything as Baroque style presupposes: the canvas features a number of vivid details, and saturated colors.

Moreover, the actions on the painting are expressive: the angels move their hands to put the crown on the Virgin’s head, and move their eyes slightly down in awe; the Virgin lightly bows her head as if she wants to show consent and contentment; the Child leans slightly forward as if expressing the wish to be closer to those who watch, and raises his little hand in the motion of blessing them silently.

There is an evident contrast between the dark colored gowns and light skin of the Child. It seems to emphasize the saint spirit and holy essence of the Child. The lines are smooth, the shadows are meaningful and natural, and the shapes are also natural and well-rounded. There is obvious harmony in the whole picture, the congruity of colors and the harmony of the picture composition.

The painting reveals strong connection with the religion and the Bible content. As it has been proclaimed in the course of the Council of Trent, the art is to express the religious motives in emotionally intense or even direct way. This is clearly demonstrated in the painting by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi: the angels are depicted in accordance with their Biblical description (for example, they have white wings and modest appearance); Saint Catherine is decent and comely as the embodiment of religious modesty and virginity; the Child is as well portrayed as the saint spirit blessing the crowd with the slight motion of his hand. The lines convey the sense of movement perfectly, and consequently, the whole painting looks like a scene in motion.

I paid so much attention to the masterpiece by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi as the connection of art and religion in it is marvelous and intriguing. Cavarozzi’s vision of religious scenes and their interpretation reveal his profound knowledge of religion and inevitable skills in art.

Besides, I was surprised to find out that “Virgin and Child with Angels” appears to be one of a few versions of the huge painting by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi named “The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine”. This painting is not as large as the figures are less in scale; nevertheless, the whole atmosphere and subject of the painting is successfully retained by the artist.

The second painting that immediately attracted my attention was the portrait “Two Women in Front of the Window” by Pablo Picasso. Actually, the extraordinary Picasso’s style has always amazed me. This painting seemed to be disorderly at first glance, though a more intent look revealed hidden hints and symbols that the author used to express his thoughts and feelings.

This painting is oil on canvas as well as the previous one. The oil makes the painting more expressive and surrealistic due to the chosen technique.

The lines are majorly sharp and the whole painting looks quite aggressive. The geometry of the painting expresses Picasso’s emotions; as the artist depicted what he saw or from his own perspective. Picasso encoded all the images and objects of the real world into the symbols that were to represent his own reality. The artist’s interpretation of the so-called real world appears to be unexpected, spontaneous and chaotic, aggressive and irrational; however, Picasso’s symbols are profound in their meaning and form the author’s message to the audience.

There is diversity of colors in the painting. The colors are intense and deep, though they do not belong to one certain range: blue is combined with beige while purple comes along lilac color. It may be interpreted as multidimensional reality beyond our windows as well as multidimensional reality in one’s outlook. If a painting is considered to be a direct and precise translation of emotions and thoughts into the visual form, then Picasso had abundant and strong feelings when working on the painting. Besides, the form and image of every woman is completely disfigured in the painting, and this aspect demonstrates the contrast to the reflection beyond the window. This contrast is one of the paradoxes of the picture.

“Two Women in Front of the Window” by Pablo Picasso is a vivid example of cubism approach in the art. Some lines have a symbolic meaning, and some express chaotic character and disarray in feelings and intentions of the author.

Besides, there is a distinct spontaneous expression of author’s subconsciousness embodied in the simple geometric forms. That is why I want to underline that cubism is obviously merged with surrealism in the painting. Framing devices and simple geometry represent sheer cubism while free expression of subconscious phenomenon is a striking illustration of surrealistic approach and surrealistic infusion (“Biography”).

The right part of the painting contains more rounded and less sharp figures: there is no more geometry; there is just unconscious and spontaneous self-expression. It is a dream-like experience of the artist. The left part abounds in sharp lines depicting a woman who embodies anger, negative traits, and tension. These women are supposed to present direct opposition: love and hatred, light and darkness. I would even go so far as to interpret these symbolic women as aspiration and reluctance. These oppositions correspond to the most generally accepted by the critics interpretation of dual essence of the artist’s life: a mistress and a wife of Picasso.

The third picture that impressed me was the portrayal painting “Olga Merson” by Henri Matisse. Personally I respect Matisse for his aspiration to retain classical approach in any form of art preserving extravagance and creative vision of the subject of the art.

The portrait “Olga Merson” by Henri Matisse is one more proof of his art policy. A viewer can see a woman in the painting; it is realistic and devoid of numerous symbols and hidden hints like Picasso’s paintings. Nonetheless, the artist’s attitude is obviously revealed by means of colors, shadows, and accentuation. This is characteristic of expressionism as the art approach and typical for Matisse as an artist.

The material is canvas, the technique is oil. This choice of material and technique demonstrates artist’s aspiration to depict a woman as truly and profoundly as possible. Besides, the oil technique allows merging the colors and creating new vision and new image in the painting. Consequently, the painter managed to mirror his own vision of the woman – with all her beautiful and imperfect traits, revealing her thoughtfulness. Looking at the portrait of Olga Merson, I see a woman who does not pretend and does not play a role. She is depicted as an ordinary and to some extent “classic” representative of the women of the 20th century.

The colors in the painting are what draw my attention the most. They make Olga alive and vivid. The auburn hair and jet-black brows create special beauty of the portrait; the dress is of intense green color and highlighted by red accents. The lines are primarily rounded. There is nothing sharp in the painting. This adds extra femininity to the portrait and exquisiteness despite the simplicity of the woman’s outfit.

Thus, there were three paintings that attracted my attention at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. They all were different and even contrastive as true representatives of different art tendencies. Most of all I was amazed by the extraordinary and creative way every artist expressed his vision of the subject. Finally, I was excited by the process of decoding of the messages put into every detail of the masterpieces.

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