Thursday, June 14, 2007

Visiting the Frick Again

The last time I visited the Frick was to view the tiny and exquisite Memling exhibition. This time I saw his "Portrait of a Man" again, and still loved it as much. (I have the postcard of the Man stuck to the inside of my locker in school.) It gripped me far more than the Holbein, Gainsborough and Whistler portraits in the same collection. The other portrait that exercised comparable power over me was an Ingres, some noble woman or another, looking pert yet pensive. The mirror behind her displayed the care with which her hair was tied up with ribbon.

The highlights of this visit were the Turners: "Antwerp" and "Cologne." The colors are irridescent, whether they are the white surf of waves, or the golden-green sheen of sunlight hitting a river. No wonder the Impressionists pissed their pants when they saw his paintings. But even his calmest paintings convey the force of restrained power, whereas the Impressionists still motion in dabs of paint.

The Vermeers were not as captivating as before. They struck me as, dare I say it, formulaic. Windows on the left letting in light that bathes dark interiors with an unearthly shine. The one that held my attention this time was "Mistress and Maid." We see only a sliver of the mistress' face since it is turned towards the maid behind her. The maid's face, however, is seen fully, as she hands a letter to her mistress. I liked the irony in the amount of face given to mistress and maid.

The Cezanne, "Apples and Pitcher," was powerful; Fragonnard's love series was essentially frivolous. After reading about Matisse's reaction against the Venetians when visiting Italy, I could not help but see the materialism in the Titians and Veroneses, the lack of spiritual intensity for which Matisse condemned them.

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