“Peindre la nuit”, “Painting the night” is a fabulous title and for the last two months I have been dreaming about seeing this exhibition. Many, many years ago, the Metropolitan museum had shown night paintings by Caspar David Friedrich. It was a revelation to me. I had never realized how disturbing a painting at moonlight could be. This show at Pompidou Metz comprises mostly 20 th century works and is not quite as fascinating as the Met’s, but some of the art was new to me. So when you go and visit the Lee Ufan show next month (Feb 27), make sure to see it too.
The show starts with a Winslow Homer painting of two young girls dancing at night on a beach of Maine, which immediately brings the romantic note I was looking for. It then includes brightly lit night scenes by Jan Slujiters, Robert Delaunay, Raymond Jonson and Amédée Ozenfant. The theme of night is treated both with bright artificial light and darkness.
Further in the show there are six terrific Pigalle scenes by Auguste Chabaud whom I rediscovered. And it also includes black and white photographs by Brassaï, a clever black and white drawing by Louise Bourgeois “Has the day invaded the night or has the night invaded the day”, 1999, and a great “Moon Spikes n°112” wood sculpture by Louise Nevelson. The variety of mediums is interesting but in a way it takes some of the concentration away.
I was excited to run into “Milky Way”, a 1990 painting by one of my favorite English painter, Peter Doig and of course into Vassily Kandinsky’s “Ein Kreis” (a circle) painted in 1928. A tapestry by Max Ernst “The Comet”, 1959, a William Klein film of Broadway at night, 1958, and an early film by the Tczek, Eugène Deslaw, “Electric nights” were quite intriguing.
So there are a lot of interesting works to see in the show but no real thread to lead you. A night street scene and “Das Bahnwärterhaus” by Georg Scholz are totally striking and a series of lithographs of Berlin’s streets, Ecce Homo, 1922 by George Grosz were a discovery to me.
All in all, I was slightly disappointed and the promising title left me hungry. Maybe mixing abstract and realist night paintings wa snot a good idea. And the catalog showed many works which were not in the show like Van Gogh or two figures in bed by Philip Guston.
But what a beautiful theme and it’s always a great escapade to go East to Nancy and Metz. The Pompidou center built by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, has some magic to itself and I love taking the 1 H 30 ride from Gare de l’Est to spend the day there. Most visitors are German or from Luxemburg and it gives an added flavor to the visit.
Until April 15, Centre Pompidou Metz.
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