Denis Sarazhin (update)

Denis Sarazhin, Ukranian painter
Denis Sarazhin is a Ukrainian painter I first wrote about in 2015.

His approach to painting plays with color and texture in ways that are visually captivating. Since my last writing, in which I particularly admired his still life subjects, Sarazhin has moved into a concentration on figurative work.

However, he often appears to treat his figures, or parts of them, almost like still life objects or sculptural elements — setting them in tableaux and cascading vertical arrangements that defy gravity in their placement in space, or in sequences that suggest the rapid passage of time.

Denis Sarazhin’s latest work is currently on display in a solo show at Arcadia Contemporary in Culver City, CA. “Dennis Sarazhin — New Paintings” is on view until December 31, 2017.

Unfortunately, the new Arcadia website, though improved in some ways, has inexplicably reduced the size of the images of artists’ work. In Sarazhin’s case, this is particularly disadvantageous, as it make is difficult to see the textural aspect of his paintings, which is a strong part of what makes them so appealing. You can find larger images on Sarazhin’s own website.


Eye Candy for Today: James Peale miniature portrait

Elizabeth Oliphant, James Peale, watercolor on ivory
Elizabeth Oliphant, James Peale

Watercolor on ivory, roughly 3 x 2 inches (7 x 5.8 cm ). Link is to Wikimedia Commons, original is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

In the late 18th, and through the mid 19th centuries, there was a demand for miniature portraits, both in the U.S. and in Europe. These were usually painted in watercolor or gouache on oval ivory, often in the form of pendants, and were kept as keepsakes.

Ivory seems to lend itself well to this kind of miniature water media painting, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington has a nice collection of them, accessed in drawers.

I had a chance to look through some of them on a visit to the museum a couple of years ago and I can see the appeal; many are beautifully painted, often in a delicately applied stipple technique, as is the case in this beautiful example by American artist James Peale.


Eye Candy for Today: Turner’s Dort Packet-Boat

Dortdrecht: The Dort Packet-Boat from Rotterdam Becalmed, J.M.W. Turner
Dortdrecht: The Dort Packet-Boat from Rotterdam Becalmed, J.M.W. Turner

In the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, which has both a zoomable and downloadable image on their site. There is also a zoomable image on Google Art Project, and a downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons.

This was painted in 1818, just a few years before Turner’s work would take on the fiery glowing light for which he is best known.

There is obvious influence here, both in approach and subject matter, to one of the Dutch painters Turner most admired, Aelbert Cuyp — in particular, the latter painter’s famous take on the subject of a packet-boat in the same harbor, Maas at Dortrecht.

A packet-boat is a domestic carrier of freight and passengers that plies a set route on a regular schedule. Here, Turner portrays one in the Dordrecht (“Dort” to the locals) harbor, its sails set but without a breeze to fill them. He has used the calm water to advantage, fascinating our gaze with a range of reflections.

One of the things I also love about Turner’s harbor scenes is his wonderfully subtle rendering of distant, atmospherically muted cityscapes.


Reciprocal Museum Membership Programs

Reciprocal Museum Programs
This is a time of year when many people join or renew art museum memberships, or receive them as gifts.

Most art museums offer membership at various levels, each of which comes with perks to encourage the purchase of more expensive membership levels.

What’s not always obvious is that some of those levels often include membership in a reciprocal museum program. These allow your museum membership to grant you admission — and often bookshop discounts and other perks — at numerous other museums and institutions that participate in the same program.

If you like to travel and visit other museums, particularly small regional ones, this can be a tremendous value.

The largest of these programs is the North American Reciprocal Museum Association (NARM), which offers reciprocal privileges to over 900 institutions in North America. Not all of these are art museums, of course, but many may be of interest and they can even include institutions like arboretums and formal gardens.

The NARM member list is offered as a PDF (this link may change over time) or as a map.

The next largest program of which I’m aware is ROAM, the Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums, with a smaller list, but one that may pertain to museums in which you’re interested.

Another, small but relevant program is the Art Museum Reciprocal Network. This seems to be less of an organization than an informal agreement between the participating museums. The list of participating museums also seems to vary between institutions and membership levels. (For example, joining this network through the Philadelphia Museum of Art includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the list, joining the same network through the Delaware Art Museum does not, though both PMA and DAM offer admission privileges to each other.}

There are also regional programs in the west and south of the US. Many museums are participants in more than one program, so there can be some overlap; others are only on one program.

In all cases, if you are interested, check the asterisks, footnotes and small print before joining. There are limitations and conditions, in particular, limitations about excluding museums within a certain mile radius of the issuing institution.

ROAM has a 25 mile limit, inside which reciprocal memberships do not apply; NARM has individual restrictions of varying milage (from 15 to 90) on some institutions, limited either by the issuing museum of the one being visited. There are other limitations at various museums for bookstore privileges, special events, and certain special exhibitions.

Given those conditions, it may actually be advantageous to join through a museum outside your area, but I prefer to support museums I visit regularly.

It’s also worth shopping around on the membership pages of the individual museums to see which museums offer membership in the reciprocal organizations at the lowest membership level cost. This can vary quite a bit between museums for the same reciprocal network. It’s up to each participating institution to set their own membership cost level in which to include the reciprocal membership as a benefit.

We have a membership to both the Brandywine River Museum of Art and the Delaware Art Museum at the reciprocal membership level, which gives us membership at a reasonable price point in NARM through the Brandywine, and both ROAM and the Art Museum Reciprocal Network through the DAM. It also supports two small but superb regional museums that we visit often.


Eye Candy for Today: William Henry Hunt watercolor and gouache still life

Apple, Grapes and a Cob-Nut , watercolor and gouache still life
Apple, Grapes and a Cob-Nut; William Henry Hunt

Watercolor and gouache over graphite; roughly 5 x 7 inches (13 x 19 cm); in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version of the image on their site.

Early 19th century English artist William Henry Hunt painted his exactingly detailed still life subjects — often fruit or birds’ nests — in a painstaking stipple technique over a ground of “Chinese White” (zinc white gouache). This gave them a luminescent quality admired by the Pre-Raphaelite painters, who took up the technique later in the century.