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Showing posts from August, 2019

Light from Distant Stars

I saw this photograph in an exhibition in Tucson, Arizona. It was taken by Edouard-Denis Baldus in 1855, and it is an albumen print of the church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois in Paris. It stands across an open plaza from the Louvre, and the contemporary view is almost unchanged from 164 years ago. But it was the date of this photo, plus the razor sharpness of the image, that put me in a great state of wonder.

As far as I understand it, the great detail and high contrast in such photographs was made possible because the image was printed onto paper coated with egg white, and so it was dispersed over the surface of the paper rather than sinking into the paper fibres. That's what makes this photo seem like it was taken yesterday, perhaps with one of those Instagram filters added to it. But then, when you realise that the picture was taken in 1855, the mind starts to get dizzy at the sudden collapsing of all that time, a century and a half disappearing in an instant.

164 years ag…

Manet at the Art Institute of Chicago

You'd think that there'd be nothing new to see in a major museum show devoted to Edouard Manet. But the exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Manet and Modern Beauty, is full of surprises. There a few examples of his most celebrated works, such as Boating from 1874-75, but it's the many pieces in different media and on a small scale that really take your breath away.
There are lots of watercolours, often contained within letters that are displayed in frames on the gallery walls. The looseness and spontaneity of these quick and closely observed studies is endlessly delightful.
There's even a case with the watercolour box he was using close to his death in 1883. The drawings, too, are fresh and intimate in nature.

 Many of the oil and pastel pictures are selected from an 1880 exhibition in Paris. The final gallery in the show is filled with small pictures he painted during his last months, many of which are studies of flowers or vegetables such as asparagus. Despi…