I recently got my first apartment. It’s a one bedroom portion of a garage guest house in one of Columbia’s oldest and loveliest neighborhoods. I was excited to start painting above all. I picked my living room color, a warm vanilla-peach shade, based on a wonderful exhibition at the National Gallery in spring of 2010. It was a collection of Hendrick Avercamp, a Dutch landscape artist, paintings of urban scenes. The exhibition was lovingly curated, and the peachy walls struck me as a bold choice. My bedroom got a lavender treatment, and the kitchen is light pink.
Then came my dilemma over which prints to buy, frame, and display. One of the first ideas I had was to get Caravaggio’s “The Musicians.” I soon realized this was a huge faux-pas. There are some artists and pieces that are simply too big and too dramatic to be dumbed down by getting hung in a small living room. Caravaggio, unfortunately for me, deserves far better than my wall.
I narrowed the pool down to mostly 19th and early 20th century avant garde portraiture. Schiele’s “Portrait of the Artist’s Wife” is hanging above my bed. His “Two Reclining Girls” is in the living room. That one was a controversial choice. It’s quite disturbing at first glance. The figures look dejected and starved, but the painting is classic Schiele. I suppose it could be a litmus test for visitors. Anyone who isn’t too perturbed can stay.
I chose two early Picassos – “Garcon a la Pipe” and “Girl with a Fan” for the living room. The room is completed with “Starry Night,” a comforting piece I’ve had since childhood, and the earliest piece, Ingres’s “Odalisque.” “Odalisque” is especially important for my apartment on account on the French/Asian fusion I’ve tried to use in picking décor. How fitting that one of the best known examples of 19th century Orientalism is on view!
The exercise was a tiny foreshadowing of my career. Even though I at first had a host of possibilities and of course tons of art that I love, I had to cherry pick pieces that not only complimented the décor and color of my apartment, but each other. I tried to create thematic ties as well, hence the focus on portraiture. It all came together pretty well. Here’s hoping my eye will translate to the exhibition floor!