Friday, March 7, 2008


Okay, so I'm taking a break from the usual topic (the kids, if you haven't noticed) because I've had something on my mind lately and I just want to talk about it to anyone who wants to listen. I'm warning you now, though--this might end up being a little lengthy so I won't feel bad if anyone doesn't read beyond this paragraph.

Last weekend we had the opportunity to go to Denver to see an amazing art exhibition: From Durer to Rembrandt : the renaissance of faith in art. It was SO amazing! You can go ahead and look at the portion of the exhibition that they have online (click above), but it doesn't do it a bit of justice. Some of the best works are not even shown. I've decided that etchings, engravings, woodcuts, etc. are things that you have to see in person to really and truly appreciate them.

I was never really a huge fan of etchings (including engravings, woodcuts, etc., but I'll just call them all etchings from now on for simplicity's sake) like I am of oil paintings, but this exhibition changed my mind. Etchings look like little ink drawings, but they are far more complicated than that. I still can't wrap my mind around the painstaking work that goes into each of these different techniques. (If you are curious, this Web site has a great little animation on how an etching is done. Click on the arrow to "Enter Exhibit" then click on the right-hand picture that's up near the top left--the one with the little bowl and brush and such.)

I had never before understood the differences between all of these similar, but very different techniques until this exhibition (not good for an art history major!). It had perfect descriptions of each of the techniques (etching, engraving, woodcut, drypoint, and burin) that were simple enough to grasp and detailed enough to understand the subtle differences between them. (I had to go back and reread them all about 5 times, mind you, but now I've got them down!)

Anyway, the exhibition starts with a video introduction (which you can view on the Web site). Then a docent-type person encourages you to pay attention to how each work makes you feel and what emotions it stirs up. They tell you to ask yourself how you would have seen the event pictured and how you would have felt if you were this onlooker or that spectator in the work. Well, as I walked into the exhibition and grabbed my little magnifying glass from the basket, my emotions did run high. But not in the way you might think (actually, anyone who knows me should know I would never really get spiritually/sentimentally/whatever-you-want-to-call-it emotional). The art historian in me came roaring out and I got so intellectually emotional I was just brimming with excitement!

I immediately got to work, scrutinizing each etching like a detective. (When I got about one fourth of the way through the exhibit and realized how many more were left, I started letting some of the details slide!) But every time I would move to a new work, my mind would go crazy: how did he do that? how did he make it look light there and dark over there? how did he get those lines so perfect and straight? how did he get the composition just right? why did he put so-and-so here and that thing there? how did he capture the depth of space like that? how did he capture emotions like that? (I could go on, but you get the idea.) It was all so mind-boggling and exciting at the same time.

I've always been a huge fan of Albrecht Durer, but I didn't realize he was such a great etcher! It just amazed me how the artists' different personalities came out in their etchings. And you knew they were their works because they applied the same techniques in their etchings that they did in their paintings, which is incredible once you understand how an etching/engraving/woodcut is done.
Durer's etchings revealed an abundance of perfectly composed lines, incredible details, and his intriguing and decorative little monogram--all things you will find in his paintings. Rembrandt portrayed amazing emotion and variations of light and dark with incredibly sparse, fluid lines, just like in his paintings. Here is one of my favorites from the exhibition, Durer's The Nativity engraving from 1504.

To top it all off, they had a centuries-old Luther Bible that contained many illuminated pages (although you could only see the one they had it open to). Here is an example of manuscript illumination--very cool, one of my favorite topics in art history:

Everything was truly amazing and awe-inspiring. I can't say enough good things about the exhibition. If you're in the Denver area this month, I would highly recommend checking it out. It's free, but it will only be up for another 5 or 6 days. Check the Web site for details.

We stayed at the Warwick Hotel in downtown Denver. Very nice hotel if you are in the market for one. The staff was very friendly and helpful. It was definitely an older hotel (the hallways were a little reminiscent of The Shining), but kinda ritzy and cool. The room was huge and had a nice balcony with a great view:

The old wooden elevators played cool music and had lovely mirrors in them:

We spent most of Saturday at the Denver Art Museum. BONUS TIP: The first Saturday of every month is free!!! (Normally it's $20 for adults so that is good!) It is a very large museum with a lot of good stuff and it's very kid-friendly.

The Denver Library is right next door to the museum. I spent some time in there while Casey did some drawing in the museum. It, too, is very large and cool:

We really enjoyed Denver (especially since it was 70 degrees out!), but the icing on the cake was seeing my cousin Kim in the Denver airport. I didn't think to notify her that we were passing through town until it was too late, but I thought I could at least look for her at the airport since I knew she worked in security there. Well, anyone who is familiar with the Denver airport knows that would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. It is ginormous!!! So I was bummed, knowing I would never see her, and we checked in and went on our merry way. As I was putting my shoes back on after passing through the x-ray security area, I hear, "Mandy?!?!?" I couldn't believe it when I looked up and saw Kim! I still can't get over it; what were the odds that we would walk through her security line, let alone be in the same area of the airport as her??? We had a nice little chat and it was a great ending to a fabulous trip.


Christina & Jonathan said...

Wow! This sounds like a really amazing you are now open to this whole new world. Exciting. It also left me wondering "Could I write this well six [gulp] years after graduating college?" Great post.

drj1313 said...

I'm impressed with your treatise. Also, I find it very interesting to see you so passionate about something other than horseback riding and fishing.

amanda said...

c&j--wow, thanks--what a compliment!

dad--yea, hard to believe, isn't it? don't worry, a treatise about the proper way to fish (fly vs. worms) WHILE horseback riding without getting bucked off and breaking your arm (something you know nothing about, I'm sure) is in the works ... (yeah right).

drj1313 said...

OUCH!! I guess I deserved that.