Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Challenge

Like the painters Bouguereau, and Sargent, singer Andrea Bocelli has been criticized as lacking talent in his chosen field. I challenge anyone who doesn’t speak Italian to listen to his version of Canto Della Terra. Does this man’s voice make anyone else cry?

(If you do speak Italian, all bets are off – I have no idea what he’s saying! It could be completely objectionable, but man, his voice is beautiful.)


C. August said...

I know this wasn't the intent of your post, but I wasn't aware that people question Sargent's talent for painting. He was unfortunately influenced by the general move away from full (true to life) realism, and thus his brush strokes are a bit messy, but his composition and ability to convey a theme are amazing.

My favorite painting of all time, the one that I immediately think of when I think of great art that makes me want to stand there are study it for hours, is Sargent's "Daughters of Edward D. Boit." I love the way he has captured the dynamics of the children.

The oldest girl doesn't even look at the artist -- she's obviously annoyed that she has to take part. The use of deep shadow in the back serves to enhance the sense of distance that the she is trying to establish.

The next oldest is probably thick-as-thieves with her older sister, but is still open to participating in the painting, and is even a bit curious. Her face - just above the exact center of the painting - is a bright spot in the darkness, open and inquisitive.

The third is a number of years younger and thus isn't part of the older ones' whispering and scheming. She is trying to establish her independence by distancing herself from both her older and younger siblings. She stands with some casual formality, off to the side, interested and attentive.

The baby of the family sits happily on the rug with her doll, smiling just a bit.

The expressions on the girls faces, their posture, their placement on the canvas, everything is crucial to telling the story of the family. They look bright, generally happy, confident, and intelligent.

LB, you've probably seen this at the Boston MFA, but to others out there, it's important to note the scale of this painting. It's over 7 feet square. The figures are nearly life-sized. It's impressive and awe-inspiring. I really can't believe that people question his talent. The MFA has a number of Sargent's works, and they all are among my favorites at that museum.

I think it's time to take another trip to the MFA!

LB said...

That was my favorite Sargent painting for a very long time. Then Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (a copy of which hangs in my daughter's bedroom), Madame X (a decent oil reproduction made more ghoulish because Madame Gautreau's head has been replaced with mine hangs in my 1/2 bath above the garage, scaring small children who dare enter the lovely little slate tiled room) and now, my favorite is Fumee d'Ambre Gris at the Clark in Williamstown.

Sargent was criticized for his a lack of aesthetics (academic style?), his popularity and often written off as a mere "portraitist" during his lifetime.

I was thinking that we needed to organize an Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum trip during OCON next year. In addition to a nice collection of JSS paintings (including El Jaleo, the picture in the post) the indoor courtyard is just gorgeous! If the actual urns used in "The Daughters" painting are no longer flanking the canvas at the MFA, they are probably back at the Gardner, where, if I remember correctly, the girls posed for the painting. Also to the MFA's for Sargent's great murals in the rotunda.

There is no substitute for seeing these paintings in person. I saw Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose when it was in Boston (from the Tate Gallery in London many years ago) and its colors were so vibrant, that the lanterns looked as if they were actually glowing! It's amazing.

C. August said...

How did you get an oil reproduction of Mandame X with your face on it?

Anyway, when I was looking for a photo of "Daughters", I came across the Wikipedia entry for JSS, and read about the criticism. It seems that people at the time thought he was too realistic. You're right that they said he lacked "aesthetic quality." The thing was, by the standards of the time and the prevailing thought of art critics, the works that did have aesthetic quality were things like the pointillism of Seurat and the unintelligible mess of Picaso.

It's like the critics of today saying that a urinal mounted to a wall with "found items" (trash) pasted on is "high art". They'd look at the sculpture of the reclining nude you posted the other day as "boring, unispired romantic realism", and they'd be using the term romantic realism as derogatory.

So I'd say that they extent to which those idiots disliked JSS was a testament to how good he was.

And your idea about an OCON outing is a good one. I've been wondering what types of interesting things we Bostonians could suggest to ARI as they plan the event. And I'm definitely going next year. I'm already saving up extra vacation time.

LB said...

"How did you get an oil reproduction of Madame X with your face on it?"

I married a remarkably romantic Renaissance man who was practicing his painting technique. With the exception of the grafted head, the rest of the painting is pretty good (even if it's hard to capture using a flash).

Did you notice the slate tiles?