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An Afternoon at LACMA

One of My Two Favorite Paintings at LACMA: Jan de Heem’s “Still Life with Oysters and Grapes”

One of My Two Favorite Paintings at LACMA: Jan de Heem’s “Still Life with Oysters and Grapes”

Today was the last day that I don’t have to show up for work until Friday, April 19: That’s thirty-nine consecutive days that I will have to work. (We have a three-day weekend after the April 15 tax deadline).

Martine and I took advantage of the last free day by visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) right near the famed La Brea Tar Pits by Wilshire & Fairfax. Over the years, LACMA has grown like Topsy: It now occupies a campus of some eight buildings, only three of which I visited. Scattered as the museum’s collections are, it is now much more difficult to find particular paintings or particular periods of art. There are two paintings I always look for. The first (shown above) is Jan Davidszoon de Heem’s “Still Life with Oysters and Grapes,” from the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century.

The other, shown below, is a delightful Auguste Renoir painting of two girl’s reading from a book.

Pierre Auguste Renoir’s “Two Girls Reading”

Pierre Auguste Renoir’s “Two Girls Reading”

I am not always fond of the Impressionist painters, because I think some of them, such as Monet and Cézanne, can be too sterile in their search for effects (though not always). But in the above painting, the whole world revolves around the two girls. Displayed right next to it at the museum is a portrait of the artist’s son Jean portrayed as a huntsman. Because Jean grew up to be one of my favorite film directors, I have always been fond of that portrait as well.

Because Martine and I have different tastes in art, we split up and met later in the afternoon at the museum café, where I was drinking a cup of English Breakfast tea. In the meantime, on my own I visited the exhibits of Chinese and Korean art. Particularly interesting was a small traveling exhibit of Ming Dynasty Masterpieces from the Shanghai Museum. Many of them depicted members of the Taoist Immortals, often with a great sense of humor, such as the ink wash drawing showing one of them flying up to the heavens on the back of a giant carp.

There was also an excellent exhibit of ancient Meso-American art, showing the typical Mayan, Totonac, and other peoples’ sense of humor depicting gods, men, and animals—especially the latter.