Tuesday, March 31, 2015


The Portland Art Museum, founded in 1892, is the oldest art museum on the West Coast and the seventh oldest in the United States. 
The sculpture garden surrounding the museum is worth a stop even if you don't have time to go inside.
Brushstrokes (1996) by Roy Lichtenstein
It was fun to see this piece by Allan Houser, an artist I had become acquainted with on a previous trip to the Oklahoma State Capitol:
                              Desert Harvest (1982) by Allan Houser

Hungarian artist and emigre Frederic Littman is credited with reviving the art of sculpture in Oregon in the 1940s:
Mistral No. 2 (1961) by Frederic Littman

I recently saw another one of Deborah Butterfield's horses in the San Francisco Airport:
Dance Horse (1998-1999) by Deborah Butterfield
Detail from Dance Horse, a bronze statue
Madrina (1956) by Mark Calderon presents the same view from all sides. She (Madrina means "godmother" in Spanish) reminded me of Cousin Itt of the Addams Family.

And that's just the OUTSIDE of the museum.

We allotted two hours to explore the interior exhibits, but we could have used double that. The museum is in two buildings connected by an underground hallway. Like many art museums, it is a warren of rooms and the organization doesn't make a lot of sense. There are 40,000 pieces in the art museum's collection.  Here are a few of my favorites.

The first piece to really capture my attention turned out to be my favorite of all the work in the museum. Crafted of stoneware with a matte glaze, this piece evokes blowing fabric or rushing water. The artist is a young Japanese ceramicist. 
Flow I (2011) by Fujikasa Satoko
Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Young Girls Reading (1891) and Georges Rouault's Head (1920) illustrate the dramatic shift in portraiture that took place around the turn of the century.

How would you like this "bust" sitting on your piano?
Head of St. John the Baptist (1894-1900) by James Vibert
Or how about this stack of bronze and wool blankets next to your unfolded laundry?
Almanac (Glacier Park, Granny Beebe,
Satin Ledger)
 (2005) by Marie Watt
There was a special exhibit of Japanese female artists, and I especially loved this piece:
Ginko Carpet (2002) by Tanaka Ryohei

Matsubara Naoko created this wonderful woodblock of a tree in 1967 (left, below) and entitled it Inner Strength. It is based on the trees that shelter a Shinto shrine in Kyoto where her father served as a priest. In stark contrast is her depiction of the single remaining structure after the bombing at Hiroshima (1998):

Two Girls and Ducks (1970) by Minami Keiko and Cyclamen Reverie (1980) by Yoshida Chizuko:

Moving on to the regular galleries . . . 

If this "young woman" really looked like this, I feel sorry for her:
Portrait of a Young Woman (c. 1830) by
Erastus Salisbury Field
John Singer Sargent, my favorite portraitist, is represented by this painting of a friar in the Garden of Gethsamane:
Garden of Gethsamane (1905-1906) by John Singer Sargent
Equally appealing is this depiction of a woman painted by a woman who surely understood the burdens women carry:
Woman with a Bundle of Sticks  (c. 1899) by Elizabeth Nourse

Oregon's own Mount Hood (1869),  painted by Albert Bierstadt:

This marble depicts the blind girl Nydia, from Bulwer-Lytton's The Last Days of Pompeii, escaping from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and searching for her lost loved ones.
Nydia, the Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii
(1855) by Randolph Rogers
Detail from Nydia
What's an art museum without a Norman Rockwell (Santa Searching the Globe, 1926) and a portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale?

A Vincent Van Gogh painting is also a must, and Oregon's MOA has the only Van Gogh in the Pacific Northwest.
The Ox Cart (1884) by Vincent Van Gogh
I always love a good nativity painting, and Mary's tender enveloping of her baby with her own robe is lovely, as is the way the light from the child's face pierces the darkness and illuminates Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds:
Adoration of the Shepherds (1640) by Philippe de Champaigne
Detail, Adoration of the Shepherds
Nearby is another mother-and-child painting by one of my favorite Romantic artists:
Nature's Fan (1881) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Moving now into modern and contemporary art galleries, my daughter does her best imitation of these stoneware sculptures:
Kanzan and Jittoku (2006) by Ako Takamori
Shine on Me (2002-2006) by Sherry Markovitz is made of glass beads, fabric, ribbons and found objects over papier-mache. 

Bolt (2007) by Tony Cragg is made of steel, and Paradise Chandelier (2013) is made of porcelain.

Spanish Servant Girl (1915) and Prometheus Strangling the Vulture (1943), both by Jacques Lipchitz:

Head of a Woman (1909) by Pablo Picasso, and Tree (1916) by Theo van Doesburg:

Boite-en-valise, Series F (1941-1966) by Marcel Duchamp, the man who made a urinal into a piece of art:

The Gong Is the Moon (1953-1954) by Alexander Calder, the inventor of the mobile:

There are several "my second-grader could make that (but he didn't)" paintings, including Untitled Composition (1934) by Joan Miro and Untitled (1967) by Mark Rothko:

What exactly was going through Italian artist Gianmaria Buccellati's mind when he created Boar (1995) out of sterling silver?

All in all, the Portland Museum of Art was a wonderful surprise.


  1. I much prefer visiting art museums on your blog than in person. I must admit I liked this one, particularly the silver boar and the Van Gogh. Nice to see it through your eyes.

  2. An impressive variety of beautiful and interesting art. Rachael looks right at home, but has a much cuter figure.