Monday, December 21, 2009

"Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye" (2003)

JS, EN and I braved the snow last evening to see Robert Frank at the Met. It was strange: I did not like the show of photographs as much as the first time. Many of the photos were really not very interesting, and seemed to be there in "The Americans" for the sake of theme than for their individual aesthetic power. JS said that he has seen many images at Flikr as good as the ones in the show. I guess Frank should get some credit for doing it first.

Perhaps I have been influenced by the documentary on Henri Cartier-Bresson called "The Impassioned Eye" (2003). The photos of the French Master wielded great power, as a result of what he called the alignment of the eye, mind and heart. Some photos were more concerned with geometric form, others with emotional mystery, but they were all individually beautiful. I love the images of old Matisse with his birds. History was captured at the liberation of Paris, the death of Gandhi and the Communist takeover of China. This was a photographer of a great many subjects and wide sympathies. 

In the European art galleries at the Met, we spent some time looking at Rosa Bonheur's dashing "The Horse Fair" (1853-5). The painter dressed up in man's clothing in order to sketch the horses unnoticed. She appears in the center of the oil painting as one of the riders, the only "man" without a mustache. We also enjoyed tremendously the huge canvas "The Organ Rehearsal" by Henry Lerolle (1848-1929). The figures were drawn in the strikingly stiff posture of Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon," giving them a modern feel. EN thought that the painter depicted the organ music synesthetically as the light in the church. I am not so sure. For one thing, the light is too airy for the weight of organ music. For another, the windows at the top of the painting already explain the light naturalistically. Still, one of the nicer things of looking at paintings with friends is that one gets to disagree with them.

2 comments:

Shropshirelad said...

Naturalism might explain the lighting effects, true...

But I am not sure why one would assume that light is too airy a substance to represent organ music...

What music is the organist playing?

Jee Leong Koh said...

Not light, but that particular light in the painting. Why not that particular light for organ music? My purely subjective feeling.