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May I get another Cultural Cocktail, please?



Leticia Marie Sanchez

Detail from Sargeant Painting

“Is there an escape hatch down there?”

“May I get another Cultural Cocktail, please?” 

Walking by John Singer Sargent’s “Dinner Table At Night” at San Franciso’s De Young Museum. I was struck by the disconnect between the female subject and her dinner companion who are not even facing each other.

The artist’s palette is overwhelmingly red, yet, there are no sparks in this frosty tête-à-tête.

Red sconces burn on the table, but there is nary a torch burning between these two.

Instead, the woman looks out to the viewer for a possible human connection.

Detail from the Painting: John Singer Sargent; 1884; de Young Gallery 28; 19th Century AD; Oil On Canvas20 1/4 x 26 1/4 in. (51.4 x 66.7 cm); Frame: 29 1/2 x 35 5/8 x 3 1/4 in. (74.9 x 90.5 x 8.3 cm); American Painting; United States; Provenance:

Mr. and Mrs. Albert Vickers, Lavington Rectory (Near Petworth,England)V.C. Vickers David Pleydell-Bouverie, 1972
Accession Number: 73.12 Acquisition Date:1973-12-23 Gift of the Atholl McBean Foundation

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Review: “The Sweetness of Life” at the Norton Simon: Sweetness With a Side of Sauciness

The Sweetness of Life: Three 18th Century French Paintings from the Frick Collection

On View at the Norton Simon

June 14-September 9, 2019


Leticia Marie Sanchez

Three French Eighteenth-century ladies have arrived to the Norton Simon from the Frick. François Boucher’s A Lady On Her Day Bed, Jean-Siméon Chardin’s Lady With A Bird Organ, and Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s Wool Winder can now be viewed in Pasadena. At first glance, these paintings appear to be sweet Rococo confections, frothy predecessors to subsequent gritty images of French women post-Industrialization, like Degas’ portrait of women ironing that also hangs in the Norton Simon. Underneath the effervescent surface of these ladies of leisure, however, the paintings convey eroticism and melancholy, providing clues to the era from which they hail.

In a lecture at the Norton Simon, David Pullins, Assistant Curator at the Frick, described this group of paintings as Genre paintings, a category which garnered popularity in the 18th century. Unlike the more prestigious and allegorically complex religious or mythological paintings, Genre paintings required no explanation. They could be enjoyed by a wider audience, leading to a robust market for the genre. However, for viewers in our century, historical context provides a nuanced lens with which to view these sumptuously painted works.


To modern viewers, François Boucher‘s 1743 painting, A Lady On Her Day Bed appears innocuous. But to 18th-century observers, aspects of the painting proved scandalous. For instance, a sofa was considered a potentially licentious piece of furniture due to the fact that a sitter could go from the vertical to the horizontal position within seconds. The cast off slipper and mysterious letter suggest an imminent rendezvous. How do we know that this portrait contained hints of impropriety? Dr. Pullins assures us that Boucher would have never consented to having his “respectable wife” pose for such a portrait. Another intriguing aspect of this painting is its embodiment of 18th century commodity culture. The watch on the wall, the teacups, the East Asian imports, and the screen underscore that the subject constructs her identity as a consumer of fashion, not unlike the self-constructed personas on social media today. Everything here is pushed up to the picture plane and put on display, like objects in shop window, including the woman’s fetching figure. Buyer Beware.


Jean-Siméon Chardin‘s 1753 painting, Lady With A Bird-Organ is subtitled “Une Dame Variant Ses Amusements,” a woman varying her amusements. In this painting, an upper middle-class woman staves off boredom by teaching her caged bird (La Serinette) to sing.

The discreet dame in this painting conveys a sense of established wealth compared to the nouveau riche subject of Boucher’s painting with its overt consumerism. Another contrast with Boucher’s painting is the lack of erotic undertone; although Fragonard used the birdcage to connect with female sexuality, the birdcage here represents restriction. In his lecture, Dr. Pullins connected the cage to a phrase from the 1740 Manual for Artists and Amateurs: “Liberty is compromised, but wants for nothing.” Viewing the painting, one is struck by the darkness of the cage and the somber palette surrounding the sitter. A melancholy aura envelops her as she sits in her gilded cage.

Incidentally, Dr. Pullins stated that, despite speculation, the model for the subject could not be Chardin’s wife. The topic of the painting itself was not risqué, but it would have been completely inappropriate for Chardin to present his wife as a subject in a painting commissioned by Louis XV.


Jean-Baptiste Greuze‘s 1759 painting The Wool Winder looks sweet and modest, doesn’t she? Modern viewers might miss the erotic subtext that 18th century viewers would have understood. The image of the cat playing with the yarn was an allusion to female sexuality, and this metaphor situates the painting in a playful way between respectability and lack of respectability.

Greuze had painted other works about “fallen women” using visual cues. For instance, in one of his paintings that is currently at the Louvre, a young woman is depicted with a dead bird to symbolize her loss of virginity.

This antiquated notion of women’s propriety extends, in this case, to the real sitter of the painting. While Boucher and Chardin’s wives did not sit for their husbands’ portrait due to social codes defining respectability, interestingly enough, in this case, Greuze’s wife is thought to have shockingly been the model for the painting. Today, in an age when Instagram stars bare themselves for profit, it may strike us as quaintly hilarious that an 18th century married woman who sat for a portrait fully clothed and donning a bonnet would be deemed immoral. Not surprisingly, Mrs. Greuze was even categorized as an adulterous woman by her own husband. In their subsequent divorce, Greuze verbally and visually painted this seemingly lovely creature as promiscuous, angry, and mentally unhinged. Were his accusations accurate? In fact, it was convenient for him to disparage her character as his strategy helped his divorce suit. Convenient, indeed. Incidentally, the letter B on the painting’s chair provides another potential clue that the sitter could have been Greuze’s wife as her maiden name was Babuti. Perhaps the embittered Greuze would have preferred to paint the Scarlet Letter A?

The clever curation of these installations from the Frick allow one to see the portraits in a “conversation” with other masterworks that you are accustomed to seeing at the Norton Simon, for instance, the work of Jean-Honoré Fragonard which is beautifully juxtaposed with these three in the gallery.

Reflecting on these three portraits I could not help but wish for an artistic dialogue with another painter whose work has also been displayed at the Norton Simon: Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. The 18th Century in France had been dubbed the “Century of Women,” and, in contrast to these three works which depict women viewed through the perspective of men and society, Ms. Le Brun proved a force both as the subject of her own works and as a painter. It would be interesting to see these three women viewed through her eyes and through her palette.

Paintings referenced above:

François Boucher (French, 1703–1770) A Lady on Her Day Bed, 1743 Oil on canvas 22 1/2 x 26 7/8 in. (57.2 x 68.3 cm) The Frick Collection, Photo: Michael Bodycomb

Jean-Siméon Chardin (French, 1699−1779) Lady with a Bird-Organ, 1753 (?) Oil on canvas (lined) 20 x 17 in. (50.8 x 43.2 cm) The Frick Collection, Photo: Michael Bodycomb

Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French, 1725−1805) The Wool Winder, ca. 1759 Oil on canvas 29 3/8 x 24 1/8 in. (74.6 x 61.3 cm) The Frick Collection, Photo: Michael Bodycomb

The video link to Dr. Pullins lecture at the Norton Simon can be accessed here:



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Cultural Cocktail Hour in Paris: Backstage at Palais Garnier, the Paris Opera, Part II

Backstage at Palais Garnier, the Paris Opera

Part Two

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

All Photography and text © Leticia Marie Sanchez

This article first appeared on Cultural Cocktail Hour in 2012

Charles Garnier declared, “I have two shows in my opera; one on the stage and one in the theater.”

The most prestigious box, that of the emperor, was monitored by bodyguards. 

Nobles and industrialists had private boxes equipped with a curtain that came in handy for playing cards, ordering food, and engaging in amorous intrigue.

On the ground floor stood working professionals, writers, and composers.

Ladies were not allowed on the ground floor due to the tight conditions and bumping which resulted in occasional fisticuffs. Only prostitutes stood here as very few ladies in the nineteenth century worked as writers or composers

The very high chicken box nosebleed seats were called Paradise: one was close to heaven but could see nothing.                                                                                                                                                                            

                                                                        For this beautiful painting on the ceiling of the Paris Opera, Marc Chagall was paid only one Franc!

Chagall was told that he should have created the work for free, due to the honor of the commission, but Chagall insisted on being paid one franc, out of principle. The canvas pays homage to Mozart, Berlioz, Wagner, Ravel, and Mussorsgsky and is a tribute befitting the moveable feast for the senses at the Le Palais Garnier.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         



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Kick up your heels! The “Sweetness of Life” at the Norton Simon

Kick up ur heelsby

Leticia Marie Sanchez

All Photography and text © Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

Cultural Cocktail Hour encourages you to kick up your heels and enjoy an art and culture-filled weekend!

The mischievous detail of the slipper comes from François Boucher’s “A Lady On Her Day Bed,” one of three 18th-Century French paintings from the Frick Collection currently on view at the Norton Simon Museum.

Roccoco tables partyThe Sweetness of Life: Three 18th-Century French paintings from the Frick Collection opened on June 14th and will be on view until September 9th. The exhibit also includes paintings by Jean Siméon Chardin and Jean-Baptize Greuze and depicts an artfully constructed vision of 18th century life and fashion.

The pastel flourishes of the decor and florals are from the opening night reception for the “Sweetness of Life.”

The detail of the slipper is a sneak preview of the exhibit.

Check back on Cultural Cocktail Hour next week for a review of the exhibit!


Frick flrs




Frick party Norton

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LA Opera Music Director James Conlon curates and conducts A Tale of Two Émigrés-This Sat. at 3pm at the Colburn School

James Conlon photoA Tale of Two Émigrés with James Conlon

 Saturday, June 15, 2019 at 3:00 p.m.

 Zipper Hall, Colburn School

Pittance Chamber Music, known for featuring the exceptional resident artists of the Los Angeles Opera pit and stage, presents A Tale of Two Émigrés with James Conlon. LA Opera Music Director James Conlon curates and conducts a unique program that tells the tale of Jewish émigré composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Arnold Schoenberg, who left their homelands and ultimately settled in Los Angeles as a result of the Nazis’ rise to power. James Conlon is one of the world’s most important and successful advocates for the music of composers suppressed during the Nazi regime. The program will include a talk by Conlon, who will also conduct works by Korngold and Schoenberg performed by a large ensemble consisting of members of the Los Angeles Opera OrchestraTicket Information:

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Review: Bauhaus Beginnings- Getty Research Institute- a peek inside the artist’s studio

B4Bauhaus Beginnings

Getty Research Institute

June 11-October 13, 2019

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Imagine being able to see firsthand what it was like to be a student of Paul Klee or Vassily Kandinsky! What is engaging about Bauhaus Beginnings at the Getty Research Institute is that the concept of the Bauhaus is brought down from its esoteric pedestal; viewers are able to warm themselves conceptually to the show because the philosophy is laid bare through vivid visuals illustrating the teaching tools, creative output, and life as a student of this seminal art movement, which is now celebrating its 100th anniversary.


Even before stepping foot inside the exhibition, we experience a pop of color on the exterior of the Getty Research Institute, the unmistakable hue of Meier white currently decked out in the vibrant colors of the Bauhaus, an influential school of art and design that was established in 1919 and closed by the Nazi regime in 1933. Despite its relatively short existence, the Bauhaus school has had an immense impact on crafts, fine arts, and architecture precisely because it sought to erode differences between these three mediums. Moreover, the Bauhaus tenets of spirituality and expressionism provided an appealing counterpoint to the horrors and mechanization of World War I.

Above: Exterior of Getty Research Institute


The opportunity to see notebooks from the courses of Vassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee is impactful. The exhibition illustrates concepts including color system, woodcuts, and the abstraction of the human body. What is compelling about this particular exhibition is that it does not feel overly didactic in nature; yet, as viewers we are learning about color, form, abstraction, and a crucial movement in art history.



Above  Léna Bergner (German, 1906–1981); Durchdringung (Penetration) for Paul Klee’s Course, ca. 1925–1932. Watercolor and graphite on paper Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (850514) 

For instance, I was intrigued by a Bauhaus notebook (below) that deconstructed Master Francke’s 1424 painting, Abduction of The Magi, reducing the three-dimensional painting to its most fundamental forms and lines.

study bauhaus

Analysis of Master Francke’s Adoration of the Magi

ca. 1424 Johannes Itten (Swiss, 1888–1967) and Friedl Dicker (Austrian, 1898–1944)

Lithograph and letterpress with glued tissue overlay

From Bruno Maria Adler, ed., Utopia: Dokumente der Wirklichkeit,

We are constantly reminded that we have stepped into a studio-like space by innovative installation flourishes including a blown-up image of artists’ hands on one wall, and on another, vibrant dancers in red embodying the zeitgeist of the day.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Getty Research Institute presents an online exhibition, Bauhaus: Building the New Artist, which can be explored by readers around the world. This interactive online exhibition allows users the spirit of play. Online users can design their own 3-D interactive dance performance, selecting costumes, choreography and color, based on a performance of Oscar Schlemmer’s The Triadic Ballet.

Bauhaus Beginnings is curated by Maristella Casciato, with assistance from Gary Fox, Katherine Rochester, Alexandra Sommer, and Johnny Tran. The exhibition installation is designed in consultation with architect Tim Durfee

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Cultural Cocktail Hour Photography: Riviera Gardone, Italy

 Cultural Cocktail Hour Photography: Riviera Gardone, Italy

All Photography and text © Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

Lake Garda has long provided a wellspring of inspiration for creative-minded souls, including: Nobel Laureate Paul Heyse, Goethe, Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Franz Kafka, and D. H. Lawrence, who once wrote, “The lake is dark blue, purple, and clear as a jewel.”

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Cultural Cocktail Hour at Chiesa San Vidal in Venice, Italy

In this episode, from a few years back Cultural Cocktail Hour founder Leticia Marie Sanchez takes you briefly inside the Chiesa San Vidal, a deconsecrated church that was rebuilt after the fire of 1105 and the fire of 1696. The new facade was built in the 18th century and housed works by Carpaccio and Piazzetta. Now, the church has been revitalized by the music of Interpreti Veneziani. These days, one can hear Vivaldi emanating from the walls.

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Cultural Gems- Bernard Berenson

“No artifact is a work of art if it does not help to humanize us.

Without art, visual, verbal and musical

Our world would have remained a jungle.”

Bernard Berenson, I Tatti, Florence, 1952


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Review- “Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World”- a MUST SEE exhibit at the Getty Center


Leticia Marie Sanchez

Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World

Getty Center, Los Angeles

14 May – 18 Aug 2019 

LionsLions, from a bestiary, around 1250. Tempera colors on parchment. The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, Ms. Bodl. 764. Fol 2V

What makes the Getty stand out from other American museums is its ability to consistently execute transportive, immersive artistic experiences for museum goers. Whether it is the art of ancient Egypt or works from the Middle Ages, the Getty takes audiences through a visual time machine to an all encompassing world.

Medieval starcase 4 article

The vibrant outdoor staircase leading to Book of Beasts heralds the magical, fantastical creatures that we are about to see. Inside the exhibit are more than one hundred works depicting the Medieval Bestiary, an Encyclopedia of animals that proved to be one of the most popular illuminated texts in northern Europe during the Middle Ages. Curated by Elizabeth Morrison, Senior Curator of Manuscripts at the Getty Museum with Larisa Grollemond, Assistant Curator of Manuscripts at the Getty Museum, the exhibit includes illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, stained glass, ivories, and metalwork.

The fantastical creatures include Griffins, Dragons, Bonnacons, Lynx, Sirens, Centaurs, and Sea Serpents. No creature is more central to this exhibit, however, than the Unicorn, which Dr. Morrison referred to as a “Medieval Meme” because the image was so widely recognizable to audiences at the time. The bestiary interprets this creature, usually portrayed alongside a Virgin, as a symbol for Christ, who was born to a virgin. The medieval hunters attacking the unicorn represent Christ’s death and Crucifixion.

Unicorn from Ashmole

To the left: Unicorn from Ashmole Bestiary (text in Latin), English, about 1210-1220, artist unknown. The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, Ms. Ashmole 1511, fol. 14v

While at the exhibit, make sure to look closely at the pages of the manuscripts which vastly differ from Biblical texts due to the density of images per page. For instance, medieval Biblical texts only contain one image per page, while the Bestiary overflows with images. Most exciting to see are the moments in the Bestiary when the text and the images begin overlapping, a dynamic representation of unstoppable inspiration.

Finally, the last section of the Bestiary- the Legacy of the Bestiary- demonstrates the immense impact that the medieval bestiary has had on the works of modern and contemporary artists including Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Claire Owen, and Damien Hirst.


Do not miss Kate Clark’s Pray, an unsettling, yet compelling modern fusion of animal and beast.

At left: Pray, 2012, Kate Clark, antelope hide and horns, foam, clay, pins, thread, and rubber eyes. Collection of Chet Robachinski and Jerry Slipman. © Kate Clark

The Entry of the Animals into Noah's ArkWalking through the various rooms of the exhibit, whether looking at Walton Ford’s Grifo de California, the illustrated texts of Apollinaire, or the sumptuous painting of Jan Brueghel the Elder, the influence of the Book of Beasts has been profound.

At Left: The Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark; Jan Brueghel the Elder (Flemish, 1568 – 1625); 1613 Oil on panel; Object Number: 92.PB.82; 54.6 × 83.8 cm (21 1/2 × 33 in.) 

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