Van Gogh, Prague, &Fra Angelico at the Met

If you can afford $15, then you can enjoy the pleasures and treasures of Europe. The Metropolitan Museum in New York is holding three exhibits this month that are well worth visiting for anyone who will be in Manhattan through the month of December. In just a couple of hours and for only a few dollars, anyone can travel from Amsterdam to Florence to Prague.

In Vincent van Gogh: The Drawings, more than one hundred of van Gogh's drawings are collected, offering a glimpse into the development of this genius' art over his brief decade long career. The single most impressive period of creativity was his time in Provence, France. Effectively wielding a reed pen he carved himself, van Gogh creates series after series of drawings that utilize his familiar (pen) strokes, which establish perspective through bold lines and shrinking dots of ink. The repetitive dots are as much homage to his pointillist friends like Signac as his palette colors were to the impressionists. In the two series, Street in Sainte-Maries-de-la-Mer and Cypresses, hung with both ink drawings and oil paintings, side-by-side, one witnesses Vincent's bold vision and how he translated that vision from one medium to another. His vision is neither reduced nor changed, but reinforced for one to the other. One can only wonder what Vincent van Gogh might have created had he not taken his own life in 1890.

The second spectacular exhibit takes you to Prague, capital of the modern Czech Republic and the ancient Kingdom of Bohemia and at one time seat of the Holy Roman Emperor. Prague, The Crown of Bohemia, 1347 - 1437, presents the art from a century long golden age in the city that was built as the Paris of the East. King Charles IV of Bohemia and later Holy Roman Emperor, celebrated his reign, his faith, and his family through art. Of particular beauty are the magnificent reliquaries, created by goldsmiths to house the sacred remains of important saints both local and universal. Often created in the image of the saint, the reliquaries offered artisans the opportunity to demonstrate both their skill and devotion. Those from Prague now on view at the Met are as good as anything in Rome. Painters of the age were granted to forums for their talent, illumination and altar pieces. The illuminated manuscripts are of the highest quality and beauty, unmatched even by those in the British Museum.

Finally, Fra Angelico features the first major showing of the beatfied friar's work in the US and the first anywhere since 1955 in Florence. Mostly a collection of panels and altar piece created by the Dominican master heralding the beginning of the Renaissance, one is delighted by the many pieces which are housed in private collections and almost never seen in public. Though the frescoed walls of San Marco monastery were not moved to New York, faithful photographic reproductions give the visitor just a glimpse of what awaits them in Florence. If only for the dazzling lapis luzuli blue used by Fra Angelico, go see this exhibit.


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