Friday, June 24, 2011

Say why you like the picture

This is a blog of criticism and advocacy, so much the same thing that you may already be annoyed. But this isn't the end of our repetitiveness. If this is your first visit to the page, you will find it to be an exercise in writing from a tactile point of view, of engaging a picture, and of enlisting a picture to accompany its journey. There are tens of thousands of you every month; no one can say for you, why you like the picture. One can say, the picture will not be of you, or I; but from the instant it was made, it was ours. And what then?

There are pleats in the subject's background, which accompany the foreground of his gaze. He is old enough to have defeated Darius, and written Die Entführung aus dem serail. One enjoys the study of the ones who got away with something left. That way of keeping modifies the act of going, but not necessarily contradictorily. Do you ever wonder whether it would have been harder to have been Henry James or Tennessee Williams, both going but not getting away, or Scott Fitzgerald, going and getting lost, but showing something gained?  

But most of us, I would think, are closer to the ones who do not get away, such as James's Roderick Hudson, Williams' Tom; 

and it's incredible and beautiful, that of all the works of both these wonderful writers, these were the ones they couldn't end, which is to say, bring to an end without a mechanical trick, a deus ex machina of a fatal fall in one, a blowing out of candles in the other. There is an art of reconciliation, and we are trained to appreciate it in art. And there is sometimes only art.

     And Roderick left you in - in irritation?
     I offered him my company on his walk, 
     but he wouldn't have me.

Henry James
Roderick Hudson
The Atlantic Monthly, 1875
Macdonald & Co., Ltd, 1909
Harper, 1960©

Denim and Cuffs
  Left Profile
Unidentified tumblr

Paul Cézanne
Card Players
ca 1890-92

Richard Shiff
Cézanne and the End
  of Impressionism
University of Chicago Press, 1984©

T.J. Clark
At the Courtauld
London Review of Books©

Peter Schjeldahl
Game Change
The New Yorker©

Jed Perl
Playing for Keeps
The New Republic©


  1. I did a self portrait inspired by that painting a few months ago but without the hat and my son wrote to me and said, "love the photo but where's the hat?"

  2. Yes, but did he manage to say why he liked it, or advocated the hat?

  3. i often do not manage to say many things.
    i do not like the picture. i like the boy in the picture - i like his hands. i like hands. i like the painting. the men in the painting share a comfortable companionship that i may never find - where both are silent but the silence need not be filled. i like the painting, i think. i like the 2D men in the painting, and their hats.

  4. Say here any time. Thank you for contributing.

  5. He liked it because it was me :)

    Plus, when I traveled to NYC from Western Massachusetts a few a week for work, I often took him with me and we would always visit the MET, MOMA, etc... And go out to eat. I never did take him to the Four Seasons, though.

  6. Sounds like pretty spiffy dadding to me.

  7. Laurent, as typical here the contributions of this blog's author outweigh the photographs, paintings presented here. The question you pose is answered well by reader MEL F -there is a connection from viewer to surface that resonates. I like this Cezanne because I know it is Cezanne, but were I to pit James against Williams against Scott Fitzgerald it would be a fight to the death for favor. I would prefer to be Me- but would write like Scott Fitzgerald. And You?

  8. LA, Jed Perl (see citation, above) favours Cézanne's paintings of individual peasants from this same short cycle of works created at his family's country house, for their emphasis on the taciturnity cited by MEL F. I would like to look at them, too. But I went with this example of the 3 card playing canvases to reinforce the tradition within the radical depiction. Regarding the writers, I hadn't meant to propose a contest for one's favour, but a comparison of whose way would be hardest for the reader, that of the 1st two, or that of the third. The question is framed as 'art v passion' in "The Tragic Muse" (previously quoted here) as well as in "Roderick Hudson."

    It's interesting that you should observe an inclination to write as FSF; I can "hear" some of that now in what I've read at LA. But have you not noticed Henry James in your sensory subtlety, and in the managing of the many guests at the salon of LA (as well as, their interests in print) with a very great deal of his awareness of that critical function? Certainly you have given at least as much study to both of these subjects as he did.

    I take your first comment as not damning the illustrations with faint praise, because I think some of them are rather presentable. So thank you vm :) .

  9. I like the photograph of the boy. He is still but he is curious... his hands are anticipating. The card players are solidly sitting. Their hands, in comfortable, old familiar places.

  10. I appreciate your comparison very much. Could you say that the hands in the painting are somewhat guarding? I wonder if this element is suggested in the boy's anticipation, or if it's suggested only by the juxtaposition. Thank you for answering-and-asking ~

  11. I think the hands in the painting are somewhat guarding in just the way one might guard their cards. I do not find the boys hands to be guarding... just waiting/pausing with curious anticipation. He would appear this way even without the juxtaposition.

  12. Dear DEP, well then we congenially differ but possibly more on words than on imagery - not that either is less weighty than the other. The boy is on alert, and defensively as in 'fielding' in baseball. HIs alertness is only a portion of that anticipation, and there is room for the inference that he is observing something in which he may elect to intervene. For me the word, guarding, is not inapplicable. But guarding, as in concealing cards? No. The picture's relevance to the text is suggested in the citation of 'The Glass Menagerie': he is uneasy in his context and senses an intrusion upon his peace, in this case from memory, which in the play can be audible or visual. "I would have stopped, but I was pursued by something. It always came upon me unawares, taking me altogether by surprise."

    This is a far cry from the acceptance of custom in Cézanne's figures, which is called into question by an agitating departure from 'Impressionism'. I'm happy to examine these two pictures together, and I'm very happy for your helping this to happen.