Sunday, April 18, 2010

Art History.

Okay. So I'm starting a little project. I'll talk more about it in future posts.
This project involves diving back into the art books of my past.

And I remember, quite vividly, why I love Art History so much.
So much.

Because of quotes that rise out of my mother's college textbook, the 5th edition of Gardner's Art through the Ages, alongside that musty old-book smell (Why I have my mother's textbook in Colorado with me, while the 11th edition that accompanied me through college is in the attic in Atlanta, I have no idea); words from a column that is almost entirely underlined in my mother's precise hand (you can tell she uses a straight-edge in some parts... something that never dawned on me when I was marking up my texts), with her tight cursive making notes above the images, and this paragraph, where she gave up underlining and simply drew a line down the margin and starred it (I do the same thing when I find a whole section of literary gold.)
"Rembrandt found that by manipulating light and shadow in terms of direction intensity, distance and texture of surface, he was able to render the most subtle nuances of character and mood, whether of persons or of whole scenes. Rembrandt discovered for the modern world that differences of light and shade, subtly modulated, can be read as emotional differences.
In the visible world light, dark, and the wide spectrum of values between them have a charge of meaning and feeling sometimes independent of the shapes and figures they modify. The lighted stage and the photographic arts have long accepted this as the first assumption behind all their productions. What Masaccio and Leonardo had begun, the age of Rembrandt completes."

Poor editing and non-commital use of the Oxford comma aside, THAT is a paragraph.
I love how "Gardner" speaks about the artists like he knew them, and sat beside them, and talked with them. In a way, he did. That's what the visual arts are all about. Expression.

Then I came across a quote in my Italian Masters book. You must understand that I adore Raphael. I'm pretty sure I adore him because Professor McNamara of my Renaissance and Baroque art class adored him. She waxed about the leg of the rejected suitor in Marriage of the Virgin for about 5 minutes, and I imbibed every word. I mean, look at that leg. That's just art.
Anyway...the quote, by the poet Pietro Bembo, inscribed above Raphael's sarcophagus in the Pantheon in Rome:

This is that Raphael, by whom in life
our mighty mother nature feared defeat
and in whose death did fear herself to die.

Because, you see, Raphael saw nature for what she was, and he replicated her in a way that characterized the High Renaissance, taking the methods and successes of his predecessors and making them his own in a transcendent fashion.

Okay. I apologize for the Art History lesson. But I hope you like Raphael's red leg as much as I do.

images: Rembrandt's The Return of the Prodigal Son (1662) Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin (1504).

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