Sooner or later words force one into a choice, a narrowing down, at some point the lustrous density of all the unexpressed possibilities must be att
Sooner or later words force one into a choice, a narrowing down, at some point the lustrous density of all the unexpressed possibilities must be attacked, pulverized, melted down, dissolved.
In the 1970 of the novel, that banner would have been proudly flown from the ramparts, an unapologetic rallying cry ... For the new fiction that would encircle and annihilate, revamp the norms-- essentially, meta would be the new orthodoxy. But what the author of "Arriving In Avignon" has done is very nearly the opposite.
The reader of this relatively short [150pp] work is thrown into a whirling blender of associations, implications, wild conjecture floating on a seething ocean of historical factoids ... In which the Flemish Old Masters, Thomas Aquinas, the Anti-Popes of the 11th through 13th century, the Demoiselles d'Avignon of Picasso .. all must figure. Nothing is melted down or dissolved.
Avignon is a walled medieval city that has twelve gates, Roman bridges, and the occasional knockout blonde girl; for Mr Robberechts, this is a metaphysical toss-up that cannot resolve itself. Not for want of trying, though-- an expanse of colonnaded classical stonework, or a pair of suntanned legs on a student --may indicate an immediate change of plan, and an abrupt change in the narrative as well.
But all this makes it sound like a lot of fun, which I have to confess that it wasn't; there is a lot to get through in this little book, much of it in the tedious what's-it-all-worth-really category, and I have to say somewhere in the middle the author almost lost me. Lost me as in closing the book only halfway there. But there is something ...
...what finally drives him to Avignon in the end is the feeling that he must be the last man on earth who refrains, regretfully, from sexual misconduct... He has forgotten now whether it's coincidental that he enters the narrow Rue Aubanel and Rue Bancasse, whether he goes just to enjoy the exciting propositions of the prostitutes; but both streets are empty, obviously the whores have left town along with the tourists. And the solitary shivering woman enveloped in a fur coat who in response to his--helpless? lecherous? crazed?--look slows down and smiles at him? At first he almost thinks her a fragment of his frantic, morbid desires; but then words and numbers are pronounced that remove all doubt: he has accosted the last whore in Avignon. It's with a kind of dull resignation that he follows her to a hotel, with a kind of fear of seeming impolite otherwise, ungrateful for the the fact that she has--after all--guessed at his misery.
There is something undeniably plaintive and lost about this solitary, immature voice, that keeps you on the tracks. He's really at risk of losing the big picture at most turns in the book. And you can't quite bring yourself to just leave him there.
Mostly this kind of large-format color-plate extravaganza is good for having the visual material on hand for a side-by-side read of a biography. That'Mostly this kind of large-format color-plate extravaganza is good for having the visual material on hand for a side-by-side read of a biography. That's what I used it for, and it works beautifully in that way.
As time goes by, though, I've found that it's often also worth reading the essay material in these kinds of big-graphic volume; often, but not always. Sometimes the text is what you might expect, filler, meant only to fluff the size of an otherwise thin publication.
The five essays in the current Modigliani collection are in the worthwhile category, especially if the reader is unacquainted with the material at hand. A wealth of biographical, analytical, historical and compositional examination is covered, and from various viewpoints.
It does seem, however, that the guiding light of art-historical writing is the reach for a new angle, regardless of the actual value of said angle or approach. The quest for being the new Revisionist, the critic that turns the accepted paradigm upside down, seems overwhelming, impossible to resist.
Critics and analysts are falling all over themselves to re-evaluate Modigliani as a French citizen rather than a native Italian; to reclaim the Italian Frenchman as the Jew that he was born; to contrast that identity with his tendency to paint dolorous madonnas in the christian tradition; to rethink that by citing non-western influences; to re-examine his reputation as a womanizer; to refute the standard story of wild bohemianism that conventionally frames his biography. No matter how unfortunately true any of those may be.
I suppose that once you have an era whose history we can reliably trace, an artist's accepted biography, and a vetted portfolio-- an oeuvre standing the test of time-- there's precious little to add ... But that can't be allowed to happen or the art-historical combine would come to a standstill. You can't really just fill books with murmurs of appreciative acceptance, after all. Not only critics and academics, but wave after wave of graduating art-history specialists would have nothing to look forward to, no conventions to break down and rebuild.
For this reader, the Modigliani myth, although inconsistent, is factually coherent, credible. The "received notions" counted here in Maurice Berger's essay seem persuasively influential, hard to ignore :
..preeminently that of the tragic bohemian, but also such notions as the tortured genius, the narcotized dreamer struck down in the prime of his life, and the satyr smitten by his muse...
Any of those are going to have bearing on the work, and whether presented in caricature in earlier art history or not, can't really be disproved or ruled out.
After the million --modernist, expressionist, marxist, feminist, structuralist- analytical modes, someone needs to come up with something that is a Post-Revisionist discipline. All the paradigm-shifting earthquakes of successive, relentless revisions become, with time, tedious. To this interested amateur, anyway....more
Apollinaire, Satie, Rousseau and Jarry. Never the central figures, not Picassos or Cezannes perhaps, but more reliable practitioners cannot be found.Apollinaire, Satie, Rousseau and Jarry. Never the central figures, not Picassos or Cezannes perhaps, but more reliable practitioners cannot be found. I don't think you get to Duchamp without these industrious kiddies setting the tone ...
A mad-hatter's tea-party, an atheist's rosy cross, a flaming arrow in the forehead of the status quo. Visit, for the logical dissonance, but stay for the majestic squalor.
Four absolute madmen and their relentless pursuit of the avant in all the itchiest, most wine-dark and vomit-crusted arrondissements of the City Of Light. Ooh la la.
Sometimes the stars method of rating books doesn't quite make sense. As described by hovering the mouse, they are classifications that describe variouSometimes the stars method of rating books doesn't quite make sense. As described by hovering the mouse, they are classifications that describe various levels of 'like'. Did, didn't, really did, did a lot. Sometimes that is the most important thing about a book, and we'd 'like' to think that if we approved, that the book must ergo be a good book. Sometimes though, verifiably good is more valuable than liked-- there are gaps between good and liked.
Modigliani, What I See There is no significant light source in a Modigliani portrait. There are no beams or motes of dust caught in shafts from window or lamp or the heavens; this is not to say there is no light. Similarly, there is no significant meaning-- no overriding event or drama that shapes the content or execution, because it is nearly always the same content, and similar execution. Elegant line-drawings render well-massed re-imaginings of the human figure, generally relying on simplification, elongation, and some variation on the age-old beauty of the 'S' curve in their composition. Palette is amber-red and gold against green-grays and touches of delfty blues, and the tube of Umber must have always been squeezed out first.
Deceptively simple, and to be honest, never any real challenge to the Cezannes, Matisses or Picassos that were the front line of the School Of Paris of his day.
Not for Modi the wild reinvention of conception that Painting would undergo in these years; his subject was a tranquil, unsmiling, pared-down head-and-shoulder portrait, each and every one a sibling, another constant in his life's unvarying work. Male or female, a quiet sitter in an artist's studio, background just out of focus. Never would there be a Guernica, and Modi was a student of his contemporaries, as well as a big admirer of Picasso.
Rather, there is a taste and discretion that captures the small tensions and sometimes the turmoil of his subject; and there is the beautifully somber palette and graceful line that describe things that are innermost secrets, yet face the world every day.
There are small abstractions, the twists and gentle contortions of mass, the conscious allusion to masks, the reluctance to go too deeply into the eyes (sometimes abstracted to blank orbs). The anxiety in the hands, the rake of the shoulders, the turmoil in the glance remove the need for a storyline. There is the quiet moodiness in the illumination, contrasty and yet soft; there is the gentle palette of the surroundings, never featured but always a modifier. There is the Italianate sensuality of the forms and the line, rather than the furious French modernism of the day.
Modigliani's worst can sometimes seem like outdoor café-table caricaturing given the finearts razzle; there's no reason to dispute that, since quite often that was the beginning of one of his compositions. But his best, and most of it is his best, is single-mindedly sure, a purist vision of the human comedy --painted in the middle of a cyclone of the obstreperous modernism to be seen eating it's own tail for breakfast, daily, in Paris.
How The Book Sees It I don't think author Seacrest would disagree very much with the way I see the work, and yet, as biographer, she has an agenda to keep, dragons to slay.
Amedeo Modigliani is often portrayed as one --a ringleader, even-- of the unstable, unwashed, absinthe-soaked madmen that terrorized Montmartre in the name of Art. Modern Art. Great serial-womanizing egotists leading lives of impropriety, scandal and worse. Ms Secrest wants to emphasize that as a lifelong tubercular, Modi had no choice but to kill the pain with drink and drugs, and thus his Legend is misleading. Fine; this is one of those distinctions that always surround a Maestro; was Mozart such a genius because he wrote under the gun in poverty, or because he could write under the gun... was Shakespeare influenced by others or was he ... does it shift the work any ? If it can't be established, is it not a wild goose chase ? Once a controversy or inconsistency is mentioned, it's covered; but Secrest labors on.
There's no real need to deny any of the biographical facts, and certainly no real way to pin particulars of the artist's work on any given aspect. Don Modigliani may have been a grand old padrone with a huge family back in Livorno Italy if he hadn't had tuberculosis; he might have lived to the age of a hundred. But he didn't, his life was short, a supernova, the very grail of Paris School mad artist, and his paintings are exquisite.
Kenneth Wayne's Modigliani And The Artists Of Montparnasse structures itself that way, and still doesn't miss the point of the artist himself. I think it's the better way to approach things, since it ties together so much of the spirit of the place and time.
Secrest's book does fairly well by the Parisian underground it depicts; the lofts and lavoirs are the kind where you hang your bicycle from the ceiling, so the rats don't eat the tires. Still, it wants to downplay the absurdist modernist madman theme whenever possible, and if the paintings were the only evidence, she'd have a fair point; unfortunately, we know way too much about him and his world to call an entire subculture accidental. Her book is very well populated with family and descendants who wish the madman legend was not so. But. Modigliani was both genius and self-destructive madman, very likely willfully so in the face of the death sentence of tuberculosis. Unfortunate that there always has to be a new wrinkle to validate any new biography.
Thought more of the collection itself than of the obligatory essays in the front section. But what a time, what images, what a direct affront--- to thThought more of the collection itself than of the obligatory essays in the front section. But what a time, what images, what a direct affront--- to the established Ecole des Beaux Arts.
Dadaists, Post-Impressionists, Cubists, Futurists, Fauves, Primitifs, Vorticists, even Surrealists all came to the bar during these years; and something just exploded.
Duchamp, Mondrian, de Chirico, Picasso, Cocteau, Arp, Matisse, Man Ray, Apollinaire, booze, dope, broads. Not to mention le Douanier, Henri Rousseau, in the autumn of his years. They were making it all up on the fly. The squares didn't get it. THIS was the Avant Garde.
Modigliani lived fast and died young, leaving an astounding catalog, drawings, sculpture and paintings. Influences as divergent as Khmer figures and African masks found their Western ambassador in Paris. Montparnasse in the war years must have hummed with seething cool.
With the ur-text of Roger Shattuck's The Banquet Years, "Modigliani and the Artists of Montparnasse" conveys the wildly improvisatory but profound sea-change that would become the Modern. ...more