Canaletto-Spotting and other LA activities

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Post by James Rosenthal

Though I wasn’t in LA on art business over X-mas break, I certainly had the opportunity to catch some of the main attractions, particularly the Getty Museum and the Huntington Library, neither of which I’d visited before. After a visit to Venice beach where you can still buy a Jim Morrison t-shirt and a hash pipe, and Graumans Chinese Threatre which was surrounded by superheros and movie star look-alikes, I was ready for a little classical painting.

Initial impressions are usually correct and the Getty, although a fabulous destination on a bluff, seemed to be geared for a very generic appreciation of the collection. I took the nearly sophomoric interpretative blurbs accompanying the art as an indicator. As if to save the day, I left with a cool 3D post card of Eadweard Muybridge photos. The image moves when you angle it just like a flip book. Upon leaving, the only painting sticking in my mind was a magnificent Lucas Cranach. (shown below is Cranach‘s “A Faun and His Family with a Slain Lion” (1526)a new acquisition at the Getty Museum)

On the other hand, the Huntington which had some of the most beautiful gardens I had ever seen, used a rather more understated delivery of their American and European collections showing them along side decorative arts which did nothing but improve the experience. While everyone else was checking out the Blue Boy, I found a small Gainsborough painting book-ended between two Hogarths (they are called conversation pieces because of the size) in the upstairs gallery. “Lady with a Spaniel” is a real gem. I also discovered a neat Stubbs in the “sports” rooms. Though the place was jammed with very nice portraiture by Reynolds, Romney and Gainsborough, it was the incidental things like the odd Constable that took it out of the ordinary. And I was also pleased to note I can still spot a Canaletto at twenty yards. (top image is Canaletto‘s “Piazza San Marco – Looking Southeast” (1735 – 1740) in the collection of the National Gallery of Art.)

–James Rosenthal is a Philadelphia artist and writer.

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