art/craft/cooking, Artist-Composer, Book reviews

Art, anyone?

8gI’m enjoying reading from my art book small collection. I’ve bought several books through the years, primarily for the pictures, to enjoy the art with my daughters, but since last year, I’m rediscovering the pleasure of reading the actual text. I’ve been lucky so far. Last year I read a wonderful pocket size book on The Impressionists, this year I kicked it off with a book on Velazquez, one of my favorite painters. The book is Velazquez, by Enrique Lafuente Ferrari.

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Well written and most interesting, this biography of Velazquez is interspersed with color small prints of most of the works discussed in the book. I truly enjoyed Lafuente’s fine analysis of his style and role in the court of King Philip IV. Velazquez had a sure hold of his mastery, but remained humble. He was loyal and had a view of life and man in mind he delivered through the years though his art. Nobody painted children and dogs as lovingly as him.

I’ll leave you with this long but worth copying quote I wrote in my commonplace book, page 55:890px-las_meninas2c_by_diego_velc3a1zquez2c_from_prado_in_google_earth

There is a book by Cardinal Bellarmine entitled “On the knowledge of God through his Creatures.” This might be taken as the leitmotiv of Velazquez’ art. To the Spanish mind, God resides not in the intellectual club made up by the world of Platonic ideas, but reveals himself to us in the humblest realities. Human values derive from the mere facts of existing; and not from faith, duty, or the sense of a social mission, nor from intelligence or power. At bottom, for a Spaniard, all men are truly equal, and it is for art to reflect this profound awareness of individualization, for the individual is transient and variable, as far as the matter goes of which he is made, but he is the truth as postulated for us not only by our intelligence but by our vital reason. Truth is existence and existence is history, and history too pursues truth. Cervantes has well expressed this in an often-quoted passage. “Because History is something sacred, it must be truthful; wheresoever is truth, there is God, truth being an aspect of the Godhead.” To the humanist mind of the Renaissance, truth and art were opposed to each other. Velazquez set out in his painting to show the falsity of this alleged opposition. Lope de Vega agreed with him, and in his comedy “Lo fingido verdadero” he sums up his aesthetic credo in these lines:

” For those who cling to the rules of art
Will never of true nature show any part.”

Velazquez is the highest example of one of those moments, rarer than is commonly supposed in the history of art, which witness the triumph of what has been called in another field “the aesthetic of the individual’s salvation”; and this aesthetic, in spite of momentary eclipses, was better suited than any other to the Spanish vocation in the great age of the 17th century. But let it not be forgotten that the Spaniard, being an extremist, is always ready to leap without transition to the opposite extreme. Witness Picasso and Miró, who in a way are no less Spanish than Velazquez.

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6 thoughts on “Art, anyone?”

  1. ‘To the humanist mind of the Renaissance, truth and art were opposed to each other. Velazquez set out in his painting to show the falsity of this alleged opposition.’ – Now, that’s interesting! So, Silvia, are you an extremist?? I tend to be. I don’t have a Spanish heritage that I know of but my grandmother on my dad’s side was Italian so maybe I inherited that from her.

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    1. I tend to be. And we both know that this personality trait can be as much of a problem, if not under control, as an asset, -it’s a sign of passion and the ability to stick to a cause. I’d say that extremism is what Ortega calls the Mediterranean view of life (of which Velazquez and Cervantes are sure examples), the opposite of the Greek view (the one derived from idealism and Platonism, adopted by the Germanic people.) So I’d say that yes, we, the passionate, are extremist, and hold to that ‘realism’ rooted in life as seen through the senses-individual, instead of the intellect-archetypes-ideas. However, habits and discipline apply to both. And Velazquez was a disciplined man, that’s why his extremism did not result in destruction. (The other type, the ideal, can result in dehumanization.) Both ways of approaching life with pros and cons, or with a quality or fault, depends on how they are lived or expressed.

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    2. But I’m reading the quote again, and I’m thinking about this, the other extreme in art the author claims that Picasso and Miró went to. Thinking about their paintings, I can see how different in art they are to Velazquez. I’d love to see if the author has a book on one or these other painting movement, to see their approach to art and compare it to Velazquez. (I have a vague idea, but I’d love to see someone express it.)

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  2. Beautiful works and thoughts! The mention of Cardinal Bellarmine caught my eye– I was able to pray at his tomb yesterday! There is certainly an incarnational view of things (whether aesthetic or ascetic) among Spaniards and Italians, that doesn’t stand out so much the further north you go.

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