Monday, April 22, 2013

Joseph Cannon's day off

Sorry I wasn't around to yammer about today's events, or to publish the comments some of you were kind enough to leave. But I took this occasion to make my way to DC, where the National Gallery is hosting an amazing -- AMAZING -- Pre-Raphaelite exhibit.

In truth, amazing is too small a word. I thought I knew these images well. I've read books about the PRB and seen a number of documentaries. But take it from me, folks: If you haven't seen these images "in the paint," you haven't seen them. More than most great paintings, these pieces simply do not exist in reproduction.

I am so off the Italian stuff for now. Even the divine Ginevra looked pokey after these Brits showed what they could do.

The star of the show, beyond all doubt, is William Holman Hunt. Although his draftsmanship could sometimes be a tad "off" -- one of these Sundays, I may devote a very impudent post to pointing out the flaws in The Awakening Conscience -- he may be the best painter in the history of the medium. Hunt's The Shadow of Death -- a huge, life-sized work -- contains an infinitude of detail and deftly-painted passages and technical challenges handled with miraculous ease. Seeing that work in reproduction is like watching Lawrence of Arabia on an iPhone. If you have any interest in art, this painting alone justifies the cost of travel to DC.

Before I saw this show, I might have told you that my favorite PRB-ers were Rosetti and Burne-Jones. But they're a bit disappointing in the original. Prosepine is the grand exception -- I think it's Rosetti's best work, and one of the all time finest PRB productions. Believe it or not, Andrew Lloyd Webber owns this picture; he keeps it above his piano. For a while, I was furious at Webber: How dare he possess a masterwork that rightfully belongs to me? However, since he was kind enough to loan out Prosepine for this show, I have decided to forgive him.

This one exhibit justifies my otherwise ill-considered move to the east coast. As a reminder of Baltimore's inherent despicableness, I nearly got into a scrape with an insane bruiser on the bus home. He tried to pick a fight, until he learned about the buck knife in my pocket. (Those one-handed openings take practice.) That seemed to make an impression.

So. Anything going on in the news?

By the way: If you want an example of what's wrong with art criticism today, go here. Yet another talent-free pretentious mofo reduces painting to subject matter -- to literature. If you want to learn about real art, my advice is to toss out everything said by anyone who has never actually held a brush and made a picture. And then toss out everything written by people who can talk only about subject matter. SUBJECT MATTER DOESN'T MATTER. ART IS NOT WHAT BUT HOW
I've only been following you for three months, but I quickly found your blog to be intelligent, informative, and addicting enough to have a slot on my soon-to-disappear Google Reader.

I only wish you weren't so negative about Bal'mer. It was the home of two of the greatest TV shows EVER. It has a decent airport. Pleasant and enjoyable downtown, especially Fells Point. And less than a hour's drive to the Nation's capital.
Sorry, Michael. But I never felt the need to carry a weapon in California -- and I lived in some genuinely tough neighborhoods.

(Well, I have carried a utility knife in the past. Thousand and one uses.)
Ah, nostalgia! Flew all the way from Los Angeles to London in 1984 for the PRB show at the Tate. Those guys are amazing, especially (to non-painter me, anyway) Burne-Jones and Holman Hunt.
PRB - my own favourites! Saw some of their work in a Manchester gallery last time I was in England (2005). Hard to choose between them for me (not an expert), but Holman Hunt does stand out as a tad more brilliant than the others. I did a blog post about the PRB myself some years ago -don't know if this link will work blog-to-blog, please ignore/moderate the comment if not - or if you wish, Joseph.
Joseph, last year my wife and I went to Berlin. She is from there and we got to stay 2 weeks, rent free. I got to go to the Gemaldegalerie and the Neue Nationalgalerie. The art at the Gemaldegalerie was spectacular. One of the most interesting aspect was seeing first hand how art evolved as new techniques were invented. However, the 13th and 14th century stuff was quite remarkable.
"How" = Craft. Craft is an element, but far from the whole, of Art.
Anon: NO NO NO NO. You have been taught debauched values. You've been brainwashed.

Art = skill. PERIOD.

You know what Ginevra Binchi (the Leonardo in the same museum) is, on the level of "What"? It's just a picture of a rich guy's surly daughter. And that's fucking IT. She obviously didn't want to be there and Leo obviously was in it for the paycheck. Yet it's a great painting, purely because of the skill involved.

Are you saying that Cezanne still life is a good painting because it depicts fruit you like, as opposed to fruit you don't like?

See here:
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