Big City Tales

The Forever Benefits of the Cleveland Museum of Art

October 17, 2018
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When the Cleveland Museum of Arts opened in 1916, the lofty vision of its founders was that it would be a place that would forever benefit the people who passed through its doors. Over 100 years later, the founders can rest easy knowing that not only is the museum one of the city’s most cherished landmarks, it is also one of Ohio’s most beloved cultural institutions, and is one of America’s most valuable art collections. Internationally, the museum is renowned for its holdings of Ancient Near Eastern, Greek and Roman art, as well as an array of eclectic modern sculptures, including a cast of Rodin’s The Thinker that is situated outside at the top of the main staircase.

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Wade Park Charm

Along with its gorgeous interior space, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s exterior landscape is sumptuous and pretty as a postcard. Located in the historic Wade Park district in East Cleveland, the sprawling grounds feature a peaceful lagoon and the Fine Arts Garden where many statues are displayed. Two well-known works that can be admired in this area are Night Passing the Earth to Day by Frank Jirouch and Fountain of the Waters by Chester Beach.

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European Elegance

Heading back indoors, the beauty of the Beaux-Arts building continues to dazzle with its white marble floors and walls, and neoclassical stylistic elements. The galleries are elegant and the rotunda corridors are spacious allowing for prime viewing of central displays such as Antonio Canova’s Muse of Lyric Poetry, which the Italian master carved in 1816 and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London.

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Greek and Roman Treasures

From the torsos of Greek and Roman gods to the heads of political and military leaders, the museum’s collection of bronzes may not be large but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up with high quality pieces. Two of its masterworks are The Emperor as Philosopher (likely an imperial portrait of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius) and the figure of Apollo the Python-Slayer credited to Praxiteles, the 4th Century BC Greek sculptor who was the first to produce a life-size female nude.

Armor Court Glamour

One of the grandest installments in the Cleveland Museum of Art is the Arms and Armor room that contains tapestries, portraits, weaponry and full battle armor. Armor for Man and Horse with Vols-Colonna Arms is from Northern Italy and dates to the late 1500s. Some of its distinctive features are etched animals and other figures, and a family coat of arms that appears in seven different spots. With hundreds of medieval artifacts on display, the armor court offers a glimpse back in time to the glory days of knights and their mounts waging battle on behalf of their kingdoms and fair maidens.

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Modern Sculpture Whimsy

One of the museum’s most popular works is Standing Mitt with Ball sculpted by Claes Oldenburg that features a massive steel and lead glove holding a ball made of wooden planks. Considering Cleveland is a baseball crazy town, this playful take on America’s favorite pastime is a fitting part of the museum’s permanent collection and proudly sits in the atrium courtyard in front of the main entrance into the galleries.

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A Lasting Gift

In its first century of existence, the Cleveland Museum of Art has definitely made a lasting impression on art patrons and it appears good things are in store for the museum’s next hundred years. Following a successful capital campaign to raise funds for a major renovation and expansion, the museum is poised to continue its vision of existing for the benefit of all the people forever…and ever…and ever….

 

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Take Time to Think and Ponder at Musee Rodin

September 27, 2018
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As the father of modern sculpture, Auguste Rodin was known for his incredible ability to convey a range of complex human emotions in his stunning works. Be they made of bronze, clay, marble or plaster, Rodin applied a deft touch of hand and showed his in depth understanding of the human psyche in pieces such as The Thinker, The Kiss and The Gates of Hell, to name just a few of his masterpieces on display at Musée Rodin in Paris, France.

From Mythology to Realism

While Rodin was trained in traditional sculpting techniques and had a healthy respect for works demonstrating high quality craftsmanship, where he differed from his contemporaries was in his fervent desire to create works that were not strictly based on myths and allegories. In Rodin’s view, figurative sculpting was too limiting and his preference was to portray the human form in a realistic manner and showcase both physical and emotional aspects that weren’t always “beautiful to behold” in the eyes of his early critics.

From Criticism to Acceptance

Even though Rodin’s unconventional style was not immediately well-received in the arts community, he remained committed to his new vision of sculpting and set about producing a prolific amount of pieces. Good things come to those wait and Rodin eventually found favor with those who had previously offered only harsh critiques. By the turn of the 20th century, Rodin was now being exalted in his native France and, thanks to his World’s Fair exhibit in Paris, his unique aesthetic was now much admired resulting in demand for his services around the globe.

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From Original Clay Models to Finished Works

Rodin’s approach to sculpting began with a mound of clay that he would quickly manipulate with his fingers to obtain an initial form and then set aside. He would tinker with the clay model until he was satisfied with its form and texture and then his assistants would create larger clay versions that would be cast in plaster, cast in bronze, or carved in marble and Rodin would apply the finishing touches. Rodin was known for requesting multiple plasters and using them as raw material for new pieces, such as The Cathedral, which he created by intertwining the right hands made from two different figures. He also had no qualms about pulling individual sculptures from a group of reliefs and turning them into stand-alone pieces such as he did with The Kiss, which was originally part of The Gates of Hell, a monumental work containing some 180 figures.

From Radical Rebel to Genuine Genius

Interestingly, in the later stages of Rodin’s career, many of his “finished” works were in fact “fragments” reused from earlier statues. While many perceived them to be incomplete, such as The Walking Man that shows a partial figure (torso and legs only) in a dynamic pose, Rodin insisted they were as he intended. This new abstract way of sculpting would inspire legions of his students in his workshop and fellow artists who admired his vision.

At the time of Rodin’s death in 1917 he had completed an extraordinary number of sculptures and had rightly earned the right to be called the greatest artist of the modern era. Sheer volume of work notwithstanding, there is no denying that he pushed the boundaries of his craft and left the world with much to look at and consider.

The Musée Rodin is one of the artist’s enduring legacies and contains the largest collection of his sculptures and other paper works. Whether wandering the grounds or exploring the interior galleries, take time to think and ponder as you admire and appreciate Rodin’s immense talent.

 


Run for the Roses and River Views in Louisville

February 20, 2018
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Whether you’re coming to take in the spectacle of the annual Kentucky Derby or take in the splendor of the sprawling banks of the Ohio River, the city of Louisville, Kentucky will have you cheering loud and long for its famed “Run for the Roses” horse race and impressive river views.

Churchill Downs

Home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs covers 147 acres and is a designated National Historic Site. The derby, also known as the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sport,” takes place on the first Saturday in May and features the best three-year-old Thoroughbreds.

The twin spires on the grandstand and the Barbaro memorial statue are two of the most recognizable architectural features and symbols of Churchill Downs. While the grounds are mostly serene and empty during the year, come race day crowds can reach over 150,000 with 50,000 lucky enough to have seats to witness the first leg of the famed Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.

Gateway to the South

Situated on the southern banks of the historic Ohio River (The Beautiful River), Louisville has the unique distinction of being influenced by both southern and mid-western cultures. One of the city’s nicknames is “Gateway to the South” due to its status as a major shipping port and transportation hub for both trains and airplanes.

The city boasts many outdoor recreation areas, including Waterfront Park that stretches for over a mile along the Ohio River. The park features playgrounds, historical statues and artistic landscaping, and offers stellar views of both the city’s downtown core and the river.

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Main Street USA

There’s nothing more American than baseball so it is fitting that Main Street is the home of the Louisville Slugger Museum and the world’s largest baseball bat. Some of the other quaint and quirky sights along Main Street include the 21c Museum Hotel that features a double-size replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David covered in gold paint, numerous “Horse on Barrel” painted statues, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, and the headquarters of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Center for Higher Learning

Louisville is proud of its numerous academic institutions and the acclaim the likes of the University of Louisville has achieved for its hand and artificial heart transplant efforts.

The university is also home to a bronze cast replica of Rodin’s The Thinker sculpture that was the first of its kind and was personally supervised by the artist.  The statue is situated in front of the university’s administration building, Grawemeyer Hall, which is modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.