Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Memorable visuals, 3: Gardens: The Villa Garzoni

The Villa Garzoni in Collodi, near Lucca, was the first Italian hillside garden we visited. Many gardens have impressed me: Het Loo, the Alcazar, Cordoba, the Reggio in Caserta, Tivoli… But this was the first, I think, to leave a lasting impression. I’m sorry I don’t have a better photo. 

A well-designed and -maintained garden is a painting in space, usually on a strong drawing. It is architecture freed of the obligation to contain ,inviting the visitor to wander, now considering detail — color, texture, form — and now contemplating totality, the overall, changing, generally visceral rather than analytical impression of the garden’s statement as a whole. 

And then the mediations: between detail and totality; between totality and Place, by which I mean both site (here carved out of “wild” setting, and facing paved streets and “development”) and historical position. 

Much to consider, and where would you find a more tranquil spot in which to make the effort?

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Memorable visuals, 2: Sculpture. Le Cheval majeur

The Large Horse, bronze, by Raymond Duchamp-Villon, one of Marcel Duchamp’s older brothers, who was destined finally to take sculpture in a straight line past Rodin — except that World War I killed him in 1918.

In fact this work is posthumous: Duchamp-Villon made a small version, in plaster, in 1914, apparently leaving instructions as to the size he wanted; Duchamp and his surviving older brother Jacques Villon had an edition of casts at the final size — 150 × 97 × 156 cm — made in 1930.

Of course it is stupid to look at a photograph of a sculpture. This one particularly: you have to walk around it, slowly, looking at the constantly changing edges, perhaps with one eye; and back away and approach, and raise your head and lower it…

I suppose if you have to classify things you’d say this is a rare example of French Futurism. I wish Duchamp-Villon hadn’t joined the army — he served in a medical corps, contracted typhoid fever in 1916, and died of it two years later, just before the Armistice. Tragic.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Memorable visuals, 1: Painting: De Melkmeid

A Facebook friend challenged me to post a work of art a day, one I have seen in person or has greatly affected me, and incorporates the visual: painting, sculpture, theater, opera, film, dance, photography, architecture … Vermeer’s kitchenmaid will likely not be the only Dutch painting to show up this series, even the only Vermeer. But of all the paintings in the Rijksmuseum she’s the one I’m closest to, taking every opportunity for another glance between crowds…

Selected comments to the Facebook post:

John Whiting: A favorite of mine as well. A masterpiece of composition as well as comment.

Curtis Faville: The great Dutch masters portray a world of order, clarity and stasis.

Anthony Holdsworth: One of the greatest of the Dutch masters, Pieter Brueghel the Elder did not paint a world of 'order, clarity and stasis'. His later works: The Blind Leading the Blind, Hunters in the Snow, The Peasant Wedding, among others, are the most astounding depictions of the vanished peasant world in western art.

Alexis Alrich:I keep wondering what that box on the floor is. It looks like an incense burner or maybe rat poison. Do you know Charles Shere?

Charles Shere: Pretty sure it’s a little charcoal burner for warming your feet. It can get cold and damp in Delft…

Alexis Alrich: oh that makes sense! Another forgotten piece of daily life.

Dan McCleary: I love the broken window pane

Martin Snapp: Vermeer is my favorite.

Suzy Nelson: Did you see the movie with Scarlett Johansen....The girl with the pearl earring? I love mise en scene in that picture. Point/counterpoint to our own lives.

Daniel James Wolf: Amazing how little the bread has changed. I guess when you get it right, you stick to it.

Allan Leedy:'s_Vermeer

I myself think Brueghel the Elder does show order, clarity, and the same kind of stasis Vermeer does. The stasis is a held breath, an interruption in that constant motion we've known since Heraklitus.