Washington, which sometimes has an inferiority complex about being a world art capital, had a big glamorous international art opening of its own last night at the Hirshhorn Museum. Ten of the 16 artists who contributed to "Representation Abroad" ate flavored popcorn, autographed invitations and talked about the artist's life in Berlin, Madrid, London, Naples and other painterly places.
Sandra Fisher of London received admirers in front of her 5-by-6-foot nude painting of her husband, the artist R.B. Kitaj. "Ten years it took me to get him to pose for me," she said. "He had to be patient -- he posed twice a week for eight months for this painting."
"I resisted for quite a while," said Kitaj, fully dressed. "But once I agreed, I found it restful -- just as I had been telling my models all these years. I listen to beautiful music, it's like therapy."
Fisher, replying to the observation that she paints Kitaj as if she loved him, said, "I'm glad that comes through. I know him very well."
"I do feel like Bonnard's wife," said Kitaj.
His mother, Jean Kitaj of Toledo, Ohio, looked at the nude of her son and said, "It took courage." The proud mother went on to say, "I have all his boyhood drawings framed and on my wall at home. Of course, I told him to be a schoolteacher, he'd never make a living as an artist."
Fisher added, "I am very pleased to paint the male nude. And now I have a new one to paint -- our 6-month-old son. I'll paint him in the garden. I think of Mary Cassatt, that luminous baby skin she painted."
Juan Ca'rdenas of Bogota, who studied at Rochester, N.Y., mostly paints himself, as in 10 of his 11 paintings in the gallery. "I looked at myself in the mirror one day, and I said, 'If I can paint that, I can paint anything.' "
With a look of half-amused, half-bemused world-weariness, Ca'rdenas poses himself in his studio, in an empty room, sometimes face forward, sometimes backward, in multiple images, and in a field with his wife. Does Ca'rdenas the artist ever get tired of painting Ca'rdenas the model? Does Ca'rdenas the model ever get tired of posing? "Yes," said Ca'rdenas the man.
Monica Meira, his wife, also a painter, came by in a magnificent fin de sie cle dress.
"We collect Art Nouveau," Ca'rdenas said. "Mostly dresses and shoes, and she wears them all."
Three of the artists all live and work in Berlin -- Klaus Fussman, Wolfgang Petrick and Luciano Castelli. "Berlin is a good place to be an artist," said Fussman. "All the individuals come there. We talk together."
Castelli, a Swiss, said, "It's a young town. I like the variety. Sometimes I play in a rock band, sometimes I make movies. Right now I paint."
Tibor Csernus, who lives and works in Paris in one of the 24 studios of the Bateau Lavoir, where Picasso once painted, said, with the translation of Nadege de Noailles, that Paris is still the great place for an artist, "though studios and galleries are hard to find."
After all the admiration of a full house of art lovers, Joe Shannon, the realistic painter who wrote the catalogue and was the show's curator, had a hard time rounding them all up to go from the preview to supper.