January 2013

“Pius VII Forming the Collection of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana,” Domenico De Angelis (1852-1904)

Painting does not replace religion, but almost.
~ Anonymous Collector C46
Art is an intermediate state between heaven and earth. Absolute Beauty is God. Through art we glimpse a portion of that beauty. There is something ecstatic in it.
~ Anonymous Collector C29 “Pius VII Forming the Collection of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana,” Domenico De Angelis (1852-1904) Both quotations occur in the doctoral dissertation of French sociologist Raymonde Moulin, published in 1967 as Le marché de la peinture en France. An abridged translation appeared in English in 1987 under the title The French Art Market: A Sociological View. Continue Reading
Woman reading book

Somewhere on my shelves—but where?—is a quotation by Abraham Heschel that I have enjoyed for years. Certain I could never forget it, I did not mark the page in whichever of his books it hides. I have rifled through five texts this morning without finding it. So you will have to trust me when I tell you how Rabbi Heschel characterized the reigning response to visual art: Most people do not see art at all; they see signatures. And—let me add—price tags. Continue Reading

Fearful lest it become relegated to the position of an isolated sect, Christianity seems to be making frenzied efforts at mimicry [of secular society] in order to escape being devoured by its enemies—a reaction that seems defensive, but in fact is self-destructive. ~ Leszek Kolakowski
This summer Vatican City will have its own pavilion in the Venice Biennale. The idea was first floated five years ago and seemed, mercifully, to have been abandoned. But now it is back. The Holy See will debut in the futures market that is the Biennale Arte 2013 alongside eight other first-time players: Paraguay, Nigeria, Bahrain, the Ivory Coast, Kuwait, the Maldives, the Bahamas and the Republic of Kosovo. Continue Reading

. . . myself. This should have been done yesterday, but I hesitated. A weblog is only a humble handmaid, a digital lady-in-waiting beside the door of a print publication. Solemnities need not apply. Besides, I am clumsy at self-introduction. Nevertheless, something is in order so that you know this log did not spring up like a mushroom overnight. I am a painter, as was my father. He descended from a line of British bricklayers who had taken up gentlemanly arts at the Working Men’s College in London prior to World War I. Continue Reading
Ruskin and Ourselves

I know many persons who have the purest taste in literature, and yet false taste in art, and it is a phenomenon that puzzles me not a little; but I have never known any one with false taste in books and true taste in pictures. ~ John Ruskin
John Ruskin was skeptical of the Victorian era’s flourishing publishing market. Dismayed over the “days of book deluge” in which he lived, he cautioned his audience to “keep out of the salt swamps of literature and live on a rocky little island of your own.” He saw the swell of printed material as a dilutant of public taste, something that confused and coarsened it.  Continue Reading