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Posts Tagged ‘Frick’

Holbein-SirThomasMoreYou run across a lot of people who are completely dismissive of anything from the past.  They feel that we at the moment are the leading edge of humanity’s progress, that we are the culmination of all that has come before us and thus, anything created long before our time can not have equal value  now.  There’s this sense that only the modern can fully express the complexity of our world.

When I see this painting of Sir Thomas More painted by Hans Holbein in around 1527 I realize what  flawed logic that is.  

Here is a painting that was painted nearly 500 years ago that, when seen in person at the Frick in NYC, has surfaces that are absolutely beautiful.  It still glows with its sumptuous colors.  All the years of technical progress have not produced materials that could accomplish any more than Holbein did with the materials of his time.

holbein_henryviiiI could stand and look at this piece for hours, marveling not only at the beauty of the paint but at the way Holbein captured More’s humanity and the sense of the time in which it was painted.  For me, this painting really illustrates, gives life to, an important figure in history.  More was the ultimate man of conscience, refusing to give in to Henry VIII‘s will that he endorse Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon so that he might marry Anne Boleyn.  It ultimately cost him his head and cost the world a wonderful mind, one that gave us the concept of Utopia.

It is obvious to me that Holbein felt warmly towards More in the way the piece is painted and the way he captures his persona.  In the painting Holbein  did of Henry VIII (on the left) I get a different sense.  It’s meant to be large and strong, to be a display of regal power and that it is.  But there’s a coldness in the piggish eyes and an arrogance in the stance.  Oh, it’s a beautiful painting, on many levels, but when you compare the two it’s obvious where Holbein’s sympathies lay.

This is art and history coming together at single points.  It captures the humanity that is contained in all of us and remains unchanged even to the edge of our time.  Good stuff.  No, great stuff…

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The FearA few days back I talked briefly about a series of pieces from 2006 called Outlaws, small and dark figurative paintings of individuals sometimes looking out windows, sometimes holding handguns.  They were a departure and some followers of my work were a bit put off.  Some were fearful of the figures, seeing them as menacing.  Most saw the fear in these characters, their past haunting them.

There was an observation I made concerning people’s reactions.  Those who were disturbed by the images saw the central figure as an intruder peering in through the window.  Those who were more empathetic with these figures saw them looking out the window.  They saw that these characters were the fearful ones.

These pieces were inspired by some silent films I was watching at the time.  These films from around 1918-1927 were made in the aftermath of the first World War, a time when expressionism emerged.  Many of these films were dark and gritty, filled with raw emotion and violence.  When two figures fought, it was not the clean, one-punch knockouts of later films.  They grappled, clawing at one another in a horrible realism.  One that stands out is  Sunrise  from the great F.W. Murnau, probably best known for his vampire classic,  Nosferatu.  It is the story of a married farmer seduced by a city woman who conspires to kill his wife and go to the city.  It’s a great story that is dark and full of wonderful imagery.  There is a train ride into the city that is a great piece of film.  Though most people think that Wings won the first Oscar for best picure, Sunrise won the award that year as Most Unique and Artistic Production, a short lived award that basically  split the Best Movie award into two parts.  It was great then and is still quite moving.Confession

Also, around that time I saw a group of Goya’s small pieces at the Frick in NYC.  They were done by covering  ivory palates with carbon and dripping water on to the surface then manipulating the puddle until an image emerges.  I was taken by them, mainly because I fully understood the technique.  It was how I had taught myself to paint.  I saw it as an opportunity to express the faces and figures that have inhabited my mind for decades.

I only do a few of these a year now and the handful I have in the studio are what I consider personal treasures that still provoke thought from me, time and time again.Night and the City

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