Interesting Articles

Some new developments...

I haven't posted anything in a few months here but thank you for your comments and emails.  After the Figure in American Art show, I was teaching a lot at MICA and having a great time.  During that time, two very nice articles came out on my work, one in the Daily Single and another in the Baltimore Fishbowl. Also, I worked on this commission:

ArnolfiniFinal(72dpi)
ArnolfiniFinal(72dpi)

It is a wedding portrait based on the Jan Van Eyck Arnolfini masterpiece. It was a lot of fun to do!

In the not-so-distant future, I expect my work to be included in Works and Days Quarterly as well as have an interview in The Eagle's Nest design blog; both of these ventures are headed up by Princetonians.

As for my work in the studio, I'm between projects, but am working on a lot of different studies for my next big painting.  Toby and I go sailing next week, and the following week I start teaching at the MICA Pre-College program for a month.

Modern Art Kills Grandfather

An article in the NYTimes today reminded me of discussions we used to have in school. We used to talk a lot about why and how representational (or "traditional") art fell out of favor during the Post-War era.  The Times article describes how the South Bronx artist Robert Seyffert is trying to revive the artistic legacy of his grandfather, Leopold Seyffert, who made a successful career as a portrait painter of the wealthy and influential in the Gilded Age. “Modern art sort of killed my grandfather,” Robert Seyffert said. “He was seen as too traditionally academic.” - David Gonzalez, for the New York Times.

Thomas Eakins Quote

A friend sent me this quote attributed to Eakins. "She [the female nude] is the most beautiful thing there is in the world except a naked man, but I never yet saw a study of one exhibited ... It would be a godsend to see a fine man model painted in the studio with the bare walls, alongside of the smiling smirking goddesses of waxy complexion amidst the delicious arsenic green trees and gentle wax flowers & purling streams running melodious up & down the hills especially up. I hate affectation."

 

Speaking of photos...

At Louvre, Many Stop to Snap but Few Stay to Focus

Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times August 2, 2009

PARIS — Spending an idle morning watching people look at art is hardly a scientific experiment, but it rekindles a perennial question: What exactly are we looking for when we roam as tourists around museums? As with so many things right in front of us, the answer may be no less useful for being familiar.

Museums can both broaden a visitor’s world and provide reassuring touchstones like the Venus de Milo at the Louvre.

At the Louvre the other day, in the Pavillon des Sessions, two young women in flowered dresses meandered through the gallery. They paused and circled around a few sculptures. They took their time. They looked slowly.

The pavilion puts some 100 immaculate objects from outside Europe on permanent view in a ground floor suite of cool, silent galleries at one end of the museum. Feathered masks from Alaska, ancient bowls from the Philippines, Mayan stone portraits and the most amazing Zulu spoon carved from wood in the abstracted S-shape of a slender young woman take no back seat, aesthetically speaking, to the great Titians and Chardins upstairs.

The young women were unusual for stopping. Most of the museum’s visitors passed through the gallery oblivious.

A few game tourists glanced vainly in guidebooks or hopefully at wall labels, as if learning that one or another of these sculptures came from Papua New Guinea or Hawaii or the Archipelago of Santa Cruz, or that a work was three centuries old or maybe four might help them see what was, plain as day, just before them.

Almost nobody, over the course of that hour or two, paused before any object for as long as a full minute. Only a 17th-century wood sculpture of a copulating couple, from San Cristobal in the Solomon Islands, placed near an exit, caused several tourists to point, smile and snap a photo, but without really breaking stride.

Visiting museums has always been about self-improvement. Partly we seem to go to them to find something we already recognize, something that gives us our bearings: think of the scrum of tourists invariably gathered around the Mona Lisa. At one time a highly educated Westerner read perhaps 100 books, all of them closely. Today we read hundreds of books, or maybe none, but rarely any with the same intensity. Travelers who took the Grand Tour across Europe during the 18th century spent months and years learning languages, meeting politicians, philosophers and artists and bore sketchbooks in which to draw and paint — to record their memories and help them see better.

Cameras replaced sketching by the last century; convenience trumped engagement, the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look. It became possible to imagine that because a reproduction of an image was safely squirreled away in a camera or cell phone, or because it was eternally available on the Web, dawdling before an original was a waste of time, especially with so much ground to cover.

We could dream about covering lots of ground thanks to expanding collections and faster means of transportation. At the same time, the canon of art that provided guideposts to tell people where to go and what to look at was gradually dismantled. A core of shared values yielded to an equality among visual materials. This was good and necessary, up to a point. Millions of images came to compete for our attention. Liberated by a proliferation, Western culture was also set adrift in an ocean of passing stimulation, with no anchors to secure it.

So tourists now wander through museums, seeking to fulfill their lifetime’s art history requirement in a day, wondering whether it may now be the quantity of material they pass by rather than the quality of concentration they bring to what few things they choose to focus upon that determines whether they have “done” the Louvre. It’s self-improvement on the fly.

The art historian T. J. Clark, who during the 1970s and ’80s pioneered a kind of analysis that rejected old-school connoisseurship in favor of art in the context of social and political affairs, has lately written a book about devoting several months of his time to looking intently at two paintings by Poussin. Slow looking, like slow cooking, may yet become the new radical chic.

Until then we grapple with our impatience and cultural cornucopia. Recently, I bought a couple of sketchbooks to draw with my 10-year-old in St. Peter’s and elsewhere around Rome, just for the fun of it, not because we’re any good, but to help us look more slowly and carefully at what we found. Crowds occasionally gathered around us as if we were doing something totally strange and novel, as opposed to something normal, which sketching used to be. I almost hesitate to mention our sketching. It seems pretentious and old-fogeyish in a cultural moment when we can too easily feel uncomfortable and almost ashamed just to look hard.

Artists fortunately remind us that there’s in fact no single, correct way to look at any work of art, save for with an open mind and patience. If you have ever gone to a museum with a good artist you probably discovered that they don’t worry so much about what art history books or wall labels tell them is right or wrong, because they’re selfish consumers, freed to look by their own interests.

Back to those two young women at the Louvre: aspiring artists or merely curious, they didn’t plant themselves forever in front of the sculptures but they stopped just long enough to laugh and cluck and stare, and they skipped the wall labels until afterward.

They looked, in other words. And they seemed to have a very good time.

Leaving, they caught sight of a sculptured effigy from Papua New Guinea with a feathered nose, which appeared, by virtue of its wide eyes and open hands positioned on either side of its head, as if it were taunting them.

They thought for a moment. “Nyah-nyah,” they said in unison. Then blew him a raspberry.

Photograph by Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times