Tuesday, July 05, 2011

New Mexico Museum of Fine Art

There are so many wonderful museums in Santa Fe it is hard to choose if you know you won't have time to see them all. I knew I wanted to see the Museum of Fine Art, because I always want to see a museum of fine art!

The building, itself, is worth seeing. It was built in 1917, based on the style of the early Spanish churches and the native pueblo adobe style buildings. It began and defined what is called "Pueblo revival" style architecture, which is now the dominant architecture of Santa Fe and much of New Mexico and Arizona architecture. A beautiful building—cool, spacious and elegant in its simplicity.

They have a wonderful collection that includes many well-known artists from all over, but I especially enjoyed seeing some of the work that is more local in content.

Perhaps my favorite was this larger than life portrait by Gerald Cassidy, titled "Cui Bono?" translated from Latin means "who benefits?"

Despite its overly romantic feel, I quite liked this large painting by E. Irving Couse called "Taos Pueblo, Moonlight." The day after our visit to the art museum we visited Taos Pueblo and could appreciate the appeal to artists.

In the courtyard, "Seated Navajo Woman" by R. C. Gorman, above, and "Saint Francis" by Alfeo Faggi, below.

Of course there were a number of paintings by Santa Fe's most famous artist, Georgia O'Keefe. This one is called "Red Hills with the Pedernal."

I am not a big fan of Georgia O'Keefe's work. After we went to the museum I posted on Facebook that I wasn't that crazy about her work. I got more comments than I have ever gotten on any Facebook post. Some wondered if I thought I should like her work and why I thought that. Others expressed surprise that I don't just love it. Here's the thing. I saw reproductions of her work for many, many years before seeing it in person. Somehow when I saw reproductions I imagined the originals to be very large and very lush. Even as I look at the photo above, I think it looks better on my monitor than the painting does in person. Her paintings are fairly small. This one is 20" x 30" which is kind of typical. The paint is scrubbed on very thinly. When I see them in person this is what I notice—a stinginess in the paint and a fussiness in the execution that are not noticeable in small reproduction. They seem wanner, paler in person. In fact, the process of reproducing and decreasing the work in size has that effect of tightening and enriching the look of the piece and leading the viewer to imagine a heartier image at a large size. One of the commenters on Facebook said that the museum does not have her "best work." But over the years I have seen a lot of her work in museums and it all strikes me in the same surprising way. It's not what I expected.


  1. I really loke the Cassidy and "the Seated Navajo Woman." I like O'Keefe's flowers but not a died in the wool fan. We saw an O'Keefe Exhibition in San Francisco and enjoyed immensely. Of course, we were at one of those points where anything out of the wilderness was wonderful.

    I am enjoying your travel log.

  2. That is love above not "loke."

  3. WOW! how beautiful! Now I have another place for my bucket list! Thanks!

  4. I hadn't realised how much reproductions can alter the finished work - even very good reproductions - until I saw my first Van Gogh paintings in the flesh last year. Fortunately it was the opposite experience to yours - nothing I had seen in a copy had prepared me for the intensity and depth of colour, which seems to be impossible to be reproduce.

    I suppose it's good original artworks can still surprise or disappoint us, even familiar ones!

  5. Thank you for that unexpected treat of a fine art museum glimpse. I see, from your blog, that you are not only quite accomplished as a quilt artist, but savvy with technology. Very helpful instructional 'posts'. Thank you. Drop by and see the collage work I'm doing. kbartdesigns.com