Decades ago I was thumbing through an art book when I stumbled upon a picture containing my personal, all-time favorite wardrobe item - a dark blue winter hat that fit snug over my ears with a light blue side pompom. I was the youngest in a family of four girls, and this hat was one of the rare items in my closet that was not a hand-me-down. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my hat had been "designed" by Edgar Degas and featured in the upper left corner of his painting "At the Milliner's."
For years that was my favorite Degas - until I saw "Ballerina and Woman With Umbrella on a Bench (L'Attente)" at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif. On Jan. 2, 1989, the final room of the "Degas" exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York featured a vivid explosion of jockeys, racehorses, and Russian dancers. My favorite artist? Degas. Period.
Learning to paint like Renoir
When I was 12, my mother gave me a magazine with reproductions of Renoir's paintings. I loved the colors, joy, and beauty of the subjects, especially in "The Luncheon of the Boating Party." After that, I wanted to learn to paint like Renoir.
Beginning in junior high school, I took art classes all the way through college and majored with an art degree. Renoir is still my favorite artist.
My favorite artist is Henri Matisse for his ability to extract the essence of his subject and present a wholly harmonious expression. However, my favorite painting is Renoir's "The Luncheon of the Boating Party." Each time I contemplate it, I'm in awe that someone could stand before a large, plain white canvas and take tubes of paint and a brush and end up conveying such an atmosphere of well-being.
It's not just that the composition and technique are so exceptional, but the happiness of that group of people on that afternoon in their lives seems to just flow to us from the picture.
Mir's squiggles and dots
My favorite artist is Joan Mir. I was privileged to see a special Mir exhibition in Madrid, Spain. Being in a whole roomful of Mirs was an incredible aesthetic experience. The joy and energy, humor and color that pervaded the large room was magnificent. Black, white, red, and yellow take on incredible meaning in Mir's system of lines, dots, and squiggles. In his sparseness, the form and detail of the painting set up their own rhythm and almost seem to start dancing; or maybe they just made me feel like dancing as my smile grew broader and broader with each tour around the room.
tongue in cheek, yet affectionate
"American Gothic" made him famous, but my favorite Grant Wood painting is "Dinner for Threshers" - two owned by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and included in the 1996 Grant Wood exhibit in Davenport, Iowa. We were delighted with the telling details: high-noon shadows under the chickens, a farmer on a piano stool - how the farmhouse was shown cutaway-style, and how large the original is. Grant Wood painted tongue in cheek, and yet there is affection in his pieces. I enjoy feeling a spontaneous smile form when I peruse his paintings.
West Des Moines, Iowa
P.S. My favorite Van Gogh piece is also "Starry Night." We were in France in October and got to see "Starry Night" at the Muse d'Orsay, along with other Van Gogh paintings.
Kandinsky's free-form combination
I am partial to Wassily Kandinsky's work. I love "Graceful Ascent" and "Around the Circle." The free-form combination of colors and shapes is exciting, and for lack of a better term, is right. I find it particularly interesting that I feel so strongly about this artist's work when, quite frankly, I don't
know anyone personally who has Kandinsky in their top five favorite artists.
Caves of Lascaux, France
The artists are nameless and have been gone 17,000 years. My favorite art is in the caves of Lascaux, France, and Altamira, Spain, unfortunately only to be seen today in reproductions. The artists knew their subjects whose world they shared. The feelings awakened in us (at least in me) by the panorama of bulls, horses, and mastodons, so vividly and sensitively painted by our ancestors, are testimony to the timeless value of art and man's creative spirit.
Ruth S. Perot
Picasso's bright colors
One of my favorite artists is Pablo Picasso. I especially like the period in which he painted such works as "Femme nue dans un fauteuil rouge" (Nude Woman in a Red Armchair) and "Portrait de Dora Maar," both of which I have posters in my bedroom. Picasso is very enjoyable because of the bright colors he used and his unique style. I was recently at the Art Institute of Chicago and finally, at long last, was able to see "Le Fauteuil Rouge" in person. It was an exciting adventure.
Laura B. Holcomb
I am 11-1/2, and I went to Europe in 1996 and formed a liking for European art. I don't have one favorite artist, but I like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse best. In my room I have many art posters from Europe which include Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, and Renoir. I like them all.
Whitney Bouwens Holcomb