Visit Alice, Emmet and William at the Morgan

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Four new and very different exhibits should entice you to visit the Morgan Library and Museum this summer, including Alice:150 Years of Wonderland, opening this Friday, June 26th. The exhibit will feature the original manuscript of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which, for the first time in three decades,  will travel from the British Library in London to New York. It will be joined by original drawings and letters, rare editions, vintage photographs, and fascinating objects—many never before exhibited. While this exhibit will surely draw the crowds, there are three other fascinating exhibitions that shouldn’t be missed.

Left: Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941), Edith in Panama, Flight Inside, 2003. Unique gold toned salt print on Twin Rocker handmade paper. Right: Odilon Redon (French, 1840-1916), The Spider, 1902. Charcoal and black chalk.

Left: Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941), Edith in Panama, Flight Inside, 2003. Unique gold toned salt print on Twin Rocker handmade paper. Right: Odilon Redon (French, 1840-1916), The Spider, 1902. Charcoal and black chalk.

Hidden Likeness: Photographer Emmet Gowin at the Morgan is the most provocative, and requires a slow viewing to really appreciate its impact. For the exhibition, Gowin (b. 1941) has combined favorites from five decades of his work with objects drawn from the collections of the Morgan. Gowin’s photographs include portraits of his wife, Edith, and their extended family,  landscapes, and aerial views of sites shaped by modern-era catastrophes ranging from volcanic activity to nuclear testing. If you can, I’d recommend taking the free guided tour of the exhibit which is scheduled for Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 2:00pm during July and August.  The exhibit will be on view until September 20th.

Sir Thomas Malory (fl. 1470) Thys noble and joyous book entitled le morte Darthur… Westminster: William Caxton, 31 July 1485

Sir Thomas Malory
(fl. 1470)
Thys noble and joyous book entitled le morte Darthur…
Westminster: William Caxton, 31 July 1485

For something completely different, stop in to see William Caxton and the Birth of English Printing.  This small exhibits celebrates the first books printed in English, beginning in 1474, by William Caxton. He was an English merchant and diplomat, who capitalized on the commercial opportunity offered by  print technology invented by Johann Gutenberg twenty years before. Caxton published key works of English literature, such as Chaucer and Malory, (on display) as well as short religious texts, many of which he translated from French or Latin. The Morgan has the third largest collection of Caxtons in the world. The exhibit is on view until September 25th.

Henri Matisse, Self-Portrait 1945 Conté crayon on wove paper.

Henri Matisse, Self-Portrait
Conté crayon on wove paper.

For a more traditional art exhibit, visit Life Lines: Portrait Drawings From Durer To Picasso, on view through September 8th.  Life Lines includes self-portraits, like one by Henri Matisse, to portraits of family and friends, such as a portrait by Picasso of the actress Marie Derval.  There are formal portraits, commissioned by wealthy families as well as preparatory studies for paintings or sculptures.  If you not only enjoy viewing portraits, but also enjoy creating them, stop by the Morgan on Saturday, July 18th when you can sketch in the gallery.

From Hebrew Illumination to Contemporary Drawings: Two Exciting Exhibits at the Morgan

What I love about visiting The Morgan Library & Museum are their diverse exhibits and the inviting space within which to experience them. Two newly opened exhibits drew me there recently.

The Ten Plagues, Barbara Wolff The Rose Haggadah 2011–13

The Ten Plagues, Barbara Wolff
The Rose Haggadah

The first was “Hebrew Illumination for Our Time: The Art of Barbara Wolff,” (on view until May 3). Wolff is a contemporary artist who uses the techniques of medieval manuscript illumination. She paints on animal skin, and highlights her illustrations with silver, gold, and platinum foils.  The  manuscript, the traditional book that accompanies the Passover Seder, was originally commissioned for use by the Rose family.  The Hebrew text was written by Izzy Pludwinski , and the English captions are by Karen Gorst.

Barbara Wolff

Barbara Wolff

In addition to having each page of the Haggadah on view, there is a fascinating film that accompanies the exhibit. An Illuminated Haggadah for the 21st Century  documents the process and craft involved in creating the Rose Haggadah. Wolf describes everything from what kind of animal skin she selects and why; her formula for creating gesso (the binder applied as a basis for the gold leaf); and the ancient art that inspires her illustrations.

The exhibit also showcases ten folios of “You Renew the Face of the Earth”  which Wolff created to illustrate passages from Hebrew Psalm 104, a celebration of all creation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For a completely different kind of art, also go see Embracing Modernism: Ten Years of Drawings Acquisitions. There are over eighty drawings from 1900-2013, acquired by the Morgan over the past decade. They include an exciting group of artists from Matisse, Mondrian and Schiele to Pollack, Warhol and Lichentstein.  Curator Isabelle Dervaux has organized the drawings “by the characteristics that define its modernity in relation to the historical tradition. ”  The themes are: The Autonomy of the Line; Gesture and Trace; High and Low; Everyday Objects; and From Melancholia to Schizophrenia. This exhibit is on view until May 24th.

Finding Art in a House of Books


More than one million books were in place when the New York Public Library was officially dedicated on May 23, 1911. The Beaux-Arts designed building was the largest marble structure ever attempted in the United States, according to the NYPL’s website. Today’s main branch, with its imposing lions keeping watch, has become not only a place for reading and research, but a tourist destination as well. However, it’s not often thought of as a place to view art.

The McGraw Rotunda

The McGraw Rotunda

To begin with, there is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building itself. It was named in 2008 after the Wall Street financier Stephen A. Schwarzman who agreed to jump-start a $1 billion expansion of the library system with a guaranteed $100 million of his own. Besides the majestic outside, the ceilings, hallways and reading rooms are beautiful as well. Start with the third floor McGraw Rotunda where you will find murals by Edward Laning depicting the history of the written word.

Also on the third floor is the Edna Barnes Salomon Room, named in honor of the wife of former NYPL Chairman of the Board Richard Salomon. Though the room is now the home of a new wireless Internet reading and study room,  it contains some of the building’s most important paintings. Many of the artworks belonged to the families of James Lenox and John Jacob Astor and include portraits by Reynolds, Raeburn, Romney, Trumball and Stuart. In addition, to the permanent art found in the library, there are always interesting exhibits .

Print from "Sublime, The Prints of  J.M.W. Turner and Thomas Moran

Print from “Sublime, The Prints of J.M.W. Turner and Thomas Moran

Sublime: The Prints of J.M. W. Turner and Thomas Moran can be found along the hallway on the third floor. Between 1807-1819 Turner published his Liber Studiorum (Book of Studies). It’s a series of landscapes evoking a sense of the “Sublime,” a term philosopher Edmund Burke defined as “whatever is fitted…to excite ideas of pain or danger.” American painter and printmaker, Thomas Moran was inspired by Turner’s work. Shown at different ends of the hall, the exhibition provides an interesting comparison between the “British and American artists’ often complementary and sometimes divergent views of nature,” states the exhibition catalog.

Image from "Public Eye"

Image from “Public Eye”

Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photography can be found on the first floor and is drawn entirely from the Library’s collections. It explores various ways photography has been shared and made public from 1839 to the present. More than 50 photographers are represented including Ed Ruscha, Gary Winogrand, and Thomas Struth. There’s  an interactive piece representing digital traces of life in a twenty-first century city, and a  stereogranimater which allows you to view, create, and share 3D images from the stereograph collections of The New York Public Library and Boston Public Library.

There are many other smaller exhibits on view. Check the library’s website for the full listing

The Sketchbook Project


Many people now flock to Williamsburg for it’s eclectic restaurants and charming streets. It’s also home to the Sketchbook Project, a gem of artistic expression. Housed in the Brooklyn Art Library, The Sketchbook Project is a global, crowd-sourced art celebration.


The library is a small and intimate space.The walls are covered with shelves of 5″x 7″ sketchbooks filled in by people young and old; professionals and amateurs; from nearby Brooklyn and places far away like China and Russia, As varied as the people, so are their sketchbooks. There are watercolors and pastels; collages and cut-outs;  simple line drawings and complex geometric shapes. Some tell a story; others capture moments on a personal journey.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Anyone can join the Sketchbook community. All it takes is the purchase of a $25 sketchbook. Each year a new group of sketchbooks go on tour. For your sketchbook to join the tour  all you need to do is to submit it in early January for that year’s tour. At the end of the tour, the sketchbooks return to the Brooklyn Art Library where anyone can come to see them.

Even if you don’t want to create your own sketchbook, go and visit the Library to see what others have created. It’s a rare opportunity to, not only see a wide assortment of art, but also to hold it in your hands. And if you go, be sure to stop into Mast Brothers, next door, for some hot chocolate or a delicious chocolate bar.

Unexpected Art at the Mid-Manhattan Library


Heading west on 41st — my destination Fifth Avenue — I was struck by the beautiful paintings I saw in the windows of the Mid-Manhattan Library. As I walked on, I learned that these paintings were part of an exhibition: Peter Bynum:Illuminated Paint, The Interconnectedness of All Life. This exhibit is one in a series by the Mid-Manhattan Library called, “What Inspires Artists.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bynum creates three-dimensional illuminated paintings on glass. At the exhibition I learned that he “opens new territory for painting by exposing paint’s intrinsic branching behavior, and then illuminating the complex nervous system it creates.” What was especially interesting was that, “Bynum devised an innovative method of pressuring paint between panes of tempered glass, which he then layers through a precise bracketing system, and backlights with LED-powered screens.” As a viewer, you see these spidery and colorful paintings that seem to be moving.

The artwork will be on display until January 25th 2015. On Tuesday, October 7th at 6:30pm, there will be a discussion between the painter and senior art librarian Arezoo Moseni about Bynum’s illuminated paintings.

The Morgan Library and Museum: Much More Than Books



The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan and was built between 1902 and 1906 next to his New York residence at Madison Avenue and 36th Street.  According to the Morgan, it was ” intended as something more than a repository of rare materials … the structure was to reflect the nature and stature of its holdings.”  In 1924, eleven years after Pierpont Morgan’s death, his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr., transformed the library it into a public institution.  Since then the building has expanded both in its physical structure and content, acquiring  rare materials as well as important music manuscripts, early children’s books, Americana, and materials from the twentieth century. The Morgan offers much more than just a vast book collection. It’s also a wonderful place to see art . Between their special exhibits and their permanent collections, there is something for everyone.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One exciting exhibit on view now is A Certain Slant of Light: Spencer Finch at the Morgan (through January 11, 2015).  Finch has taken films of color and applied them to the large windows found in the Morgan’s glass-enclosed Gilbert Court; which you see just as you enter the building. His work was inspired by the Morgan’s collection of medieval Books of Hours— hand-painted  personal prayer books for different times of the day and different periods of the year (also on view). To underscore his inspiration, Finch has also hung additional glass panes in the center of the Court. They reflect the colors of the other panels and create a kind of calendar based on the movement of the sun. Nearby, you can see some of the watercolors and sketches Finch created as a first step in the project.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To experience a different approach to light and color, visit another exhibition called, “A Dialogue with Nature: Romantic Landscapes from Britain and Germany” (until September 7, 2014). The exhibition includes thirty-seven works from the Morgan’s permanent collections. They represent  “two central elements of the Romantic conception of landscape: close observation of the natural world and the importance of the imagination,” according to the Morgan. One of my favorite painters in the collection was JMW Turner, a British Romantic landscape painter who painted during the first half of the 19th century.  One interesting aspect of his work was Turner’s scrapping, blotting, and wiping away the paint while it was still wet. Then he scratched into or drew on dry surfaces to create various details.

There are several other exhibits now on view at the Morgan and all are worth seeing, including: “Miracles in Miniature: The Art of the Master of Claude de France,” and “Sky Studies: Oil Sketches from the Thaw Collection,” as well as some interesting book collections.