The Rose Art Museum has a significant collection of art, and related lectures are a very efficient way of exploring and expanding the interests of the students in the subject of art.
Fernand Léger’s “La Femme en Bleu” was a recent topic. Brandeis faculty members Sabine von Mering (associate professor of German and Women’s and Gender Studies and director for the Center for German and European Studies) and Lucy Kim (FA) delivered the talk. In the gallery, there were a few chairs set up facing the painting to aid its viewing and analysis.
Léger was a prolific French painter and an important part of the cubist movement. He managed to incorporate his experience in the First World War to produce a more mechanical and abstract type of art. The painting “La Femme en Bleu” uses a few of his cubist influences along with primary colors to convey an interesting subject matter.
One of the main focuses of the discussion was on the abstract nude female figure, drawn on a blue background. The discussion on it ranged from the influences of the figure to the effect it could have on the viewer of the image. The conclusions drawn ranged from it being called an unsettling image of a diabolical woman, to an image of a woman transforming into a machine due to Léger’s future themes of a mechanical age.
Other aspects of the painting were also discussed. The panel had minor disagreements over the symbolic themes of certain aspects of the painting that were originally meant to develop the meaning of the poem. The speakers also had a great sense of humor, as they lightened the mood by comparing some aspects of the painting to a “mechanical sperm.”
Kim, an artist herself, used her expertise to discuss the techniques of the painting by paying attention to the errors made by the artist and the methods used to cover these up. Focusing on the more technical aspects of the painting made the seminar very enlightening. The honesty of the speaker was also an interesting change of pace for the talk, and when asked if she liked the painting, Kim was honest enough to say that she didn’t and gave very valid, yet personal, reasons for her thoughts.
The last part of the lecture was an interactive one, where people were allowed to ask the panelists questions about the painting. The faculty’s expertise was obvious, as their answers were very educational, but Mering’s students were given the opportunity to talk about the painting as well, and their replies showed a large amount of interest and enthusiasm about art. The audience and students, when asked about the emotion the painting evoked, gave answers ranging from “cheerful” to “manic.” Hearing everyone’s opinions on the piece made my visit fruitful.
The Rose gives an opportunity to students from all disciplines to get a deeper understanding of art and to hone their interests in the field without having to study it. The panelists’ discussion, although informal, was extremely informative and inspired me to explore other works of Léger and cubism in general.