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The Armand Hammer Museum

Not to be confused with Arm & Hammer


Detail of van Goghs The Sower, 1888
  • Detail of van Gogh's "The Sower"
A lovely place, is The Hammer Museum, on Wilshire Boulevard at the corner of Westwood, which runs up into UCLA. The galleries are on an upper floor surrounding a courtyard with tables and chairs for the cafe, and as you walk around between the galleries there are benches and ashtrays in the open air. I know van Gogh is a gateway painter—he was for me the first painter I became fascinated by.

At seventeen I went to Amsterdam to the van Gogh Museum there, and to the collection at the Kröller-Müller in the Hoge Veluwe Park (free bicycles; pancake house) and read Lust For Life and his letters to his brother, etc., etc. Even though I have moved on from van Gogh to being more gaga about other artists, seeing "The Sower, 1888" and being able to stick my nose right up to it and see the thickness of the paint and the beauty of the colours (not found in any reproduction I've ever seen) was delicious. Who am I kidding? I still think van Gogh could lay down paint like nobody's business.

Detail of Toulouse-Lautrecs Touc, Seated on a Table, ca. 1879-1881
  • Detail of Toulouse-Lautrec's "Touc, Seated on a Table", ca. 1879-1881

Then there was this small Toulouse-Lautrec I had never seen or heard of, this small dog not at all the kind of dog I am attracted to but it didn't matter—Touc is all magnificent dog and the small daubs of paint that are his teeth are brilliant. Could Francis Bacon have ever seen this painting? Because the table under Touc reminds me of the oval wrestling rings and other stages Bacon set his tussling men on. Orange and everything.

A temporary show was all the panels from R. Crumb's Book of Genesis—each framed alone and hung on a curving wedgewood blue wall. In a central small rotunda some of his source material: comics and stills from epic movies. The panels are about 11x14 and one terrific thing was being able to see where Crumb whited out lines, etc., to re-do them. Terrific behind-the-scenes peek.


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