Monday, June 1, 2009

Pittsburgh 13.6.92: Impressionists and Romantics Together

Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh: late 15th-century Spanish portrait, King Hezekiah, with a furling banner of words around his head. In medieval art, language struts across the scene; all is redolent of meaning.

Gustave Doré’s “Forest at Twilight”: nature poised and posed for us; romanticism purports to give us nature in the raw, but it creates nature for us. As nature is emptied of all inner significance, we make it a player on our human stage.

From medieval art to Flemish early modern art to Impressionists: a loss of community. Impressionist landscapes curiously uninhabited, in contrast to Brueghel, etc. When people are shown by Impressionists, it’s usually inside, in communities cut off from any larger or more encompassing one.

Romantic portraits of women: women become “natural.” They become nature itself. I.e., at the same time that they are released from various confining social bonds, they are captive to a more insidious bond—that of being as disposable, as instrumentalizable, as nature itself.

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