On Drawing: Mirrors at The Met

I’ve been very lucky, living about 3,000 miles from New York, to be able to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art just about every year for the past 30+ years. Nowadays I plan to get there about lunch time (after taking the train from Connecticut into the city) and after gathering my thoughts in the cafeteria I spend a leisurely afternoon noodling around just seeing what might catch my attention.

Of course I enjoy revisiting big name masterworks, but it seems that the memorable (and photographable) incidents now are little things, little surprises tucked away in more crowded displays in vitrines.

So here are some great line drawings, on the backs of Etruscan bronze mirrors, 3rd century BC.

Mirror a crop

Look at the descriptive quality of a few well chosen lines.

Mirror b crop

Look how that composition fits into the circle.

Mirror c crop

2,300 years before the loose lines of Matisse…


…or the exactitude of lines by Picasso.


Who knew the Etruscans could draw like that?


Amazing Matisse

I get to the Museum of Modern Art about once a year. My favorite gallery is lined with paintings by Henri Matisse. My habit is to choose just one of the paintings and really examine it. I always find Matisse amazing.  A few years ago I happened to choose this painting:


I’m pretty sure that I never really paid attention to this modest subject before. But, as I looked I found something that was wonderfully surprising—Matisse painted what was seen through the vase before he painted the outline of the vase!


Well, maybe not all of it, but a significant amount.


You can see that the line of the vase edge goes over the pre-painted background and what is seen through the “water.”

How did he conceive what was seen inside the vase before painting the outline of the vase?

How did he think?