Monthly Archive for February, 2016

The Week

Andrea Schiavone, the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche, c. 1550, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art


Just back from a quick trip to Venice for work. I had the opportunity to see the exhibition on Andrea Schiavone (1510-1563) currently on at the Museo Correr and will recommend it whole-heartedly. It’s the first exhibition ever devoted to this singular and very badly understood artist. The exhibition, curated by Lionello Puppi and Enrico Maria dal Pozzolo, makes a good attempt at establishing a chronology and a convincing account of his development as an artist. A difficult thing to do, since the first dated work we have from him is an etching of 1547, at which point he was well into his thirties and thus one would assume well into his career as an independent artist. It is possible to posit a small body of work that precedes this, but nothing datable to earlier than around 1540 — what was he doing before that? It’s anybody’s guess.

Also, there are a number of works that don’t seem to fit anywhere, most notably the Palazzo Pitti Cain and Abel, which relates to the 1540s mannerist turn in Venetian art and consolidates a dramatic figural configuration derived, I think from Baccio Bandinelli (look at far right), continued by those giants of Venetian art Tintoretto (also in the show) and Veronese in the early 1550s. The attribution to Schiavone of the picture goes back to the seventeenth century and the general assumption is that it must be an early work, from before he started subverting perspective, anatomy and naturalistic colour to formulate his extraordinary — sometimes clumsy, sometimes exhilarating — explorations of expressive figuration. The thing is, there’s nothing else in his known oeuvre that looks like this picture, which is closer to (though probably not by) Pordenone, that muscular mannerist of 1530s Venetian painting, than anything else.

Once we get into the 1550s, Schiavone’s development becomes somewhat clearer and some really fantastically original drawings, prints and paintings emerge. The exhibition makes a strong case for his adaptation of Parmigianino’s figural eloquence and Titian’s depth of colour his subversion of great central Italian figures — Salviati, to be sure, but more importantly, Raphael — into a distinctive idiom that, if one accepts the argument of the exhibition, actually anticipated and perhaps even inspired significant developments in the art of figures as great as Titian (who was clearly a close colleague), Tintoretto, and Jacopo Bassano.

Anyway, there’s much more to say and I don’t have the time or wherewithal to do so right now, but if you’re around Venice sometimes over the next month or so, do go see this eye-opening exhibition. It closes 10 April.

The week’s links:

  • Alan Moore! Craig Fischer had a great review up of Moore’s and Jacen Burrows’ first seven issues of the Lovecraft exegesis Providence up the week before last. It’s a great piece, which makes me look forward to reading the book, even if I’ve been largely disappointed with the direction Moore has gone in recent years. His previous Lovecraft book, Neonomicon, was mean-spirited and rather predictable horror-schlock and Crossed #100 was just plain drudgery. But it’s Moore, so it has to get a lot worse before I loose interest. Pagan Dawn had a terrific interview with Moore on magic. Holding out for Jerusalem
  • Hugh Eakin on Denmark, its immigration policy, and the refugee crisis. A great introduction to the political and social situation in Denmark that may help explain the depressing actions of the Danish government lately. Related: I found Oliver Guez’ call for increased European unity in the New York Times well stated.
  • Apple vs. FBI primer. Great one-stop guide to the specifics of the controversy. Was surprised to learn that an FBI mandated change of iCloud password landed them in this situation. What a screw-up.
  • My good colleague Xavier F. Salomon on Van Dyck’s great Portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio, soon to be on loan from Palazzo Pitti to the Frick Collection for its exhibition Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture.
  • Bacchus and Ariadne: the Long and the Short


    Serendipity would have it that two separate digital initiatives at the National Gallery had me talking about one of my favourite paintings in the collection, Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, for two consecutive weeks. One was our #PaintedLovers campaign for the Valentine’s Day season, which consisted of a series of very short and (hopefully) to the point expositions on selected paintings with love as their theme by myself and colleagues (above). The other is a new initiative, #NGYouChoose, where the public votes for paintings in the collection to receive more in-depth facilitation from the curatorial staff. This consists of a public lecture of half an hour or so that is then posted to the Gallery’s YouTube channel (below).

    It was a fun exercise, and hopefully the lectures and videos have been useful to some of you. I’ve got to admit, however, how difficult I find it to talk to a camera. This is particularly evident in the #PaintedLovers video, where I was ad-libbing a presentation where everything had to be on point, i.e. clear, devoid of mispronounciations, uhs, digressions, etc. I come across (to myself, at least) as mannered and robotic. As such it is a pretty good reminder that I need to loosen up when speaking into the dark glass.


    The #NGYouChoose lecture was also improvised — which is the way I tend to prefer it — and its lack of tight coherence shows it, but at least I feel more relaxed. I am talking to an audience that is right there, and that helps. It doesn’t change the fact, however, that the camera mercilessly captures every nervous head scratch, every superfluous gesture, and my incessant shifting of feet. I get sea sick watching it.

    Sorry, this is mostly a bit of autocriticism. If nothing else, I hope it will help me do better videos in the future. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy at least some of what I have to say on this terrific painting. Do let me know, and thanks for watching.

    The Week

    From Kevin Huizenga's contribution to Kramers Ergot 7


    The week in review.

    This week saw the passing of several notable people in letters. The one that hit closest to home here was the way too early departure of Alvin Buenaventura, one of the great artisans in comics publishing. I didn’t know Buenaventura and only barely met him, once, when he was in Angoulême with cartoonist and editor extraordinaire Sammy Harkham in 2009 to promote their giant undertaking Kramers Ergot 7. But he was one of those publishers one feels one knows through the facture of their books. And whatever else I thought of Kramers 7, it was a triumph of book production and a truly admirable publication in both its ambition and generosity.

    Generosity was, I gather from the many touching words from people that knew him, a defining trait in Buenaventura, which is no surprise, because that is exactly the impression one gets from his publications, from the lo-fi texturing and sharp printing of Souther Salazar’s overlooked Destined for Dizziness to the accurate, always vivid reproduction of radically different source material, often from one page to the next, in the monumental Kramers 7. Buenaventura set an example to aspire towards. RIP.

    Read Tim Hensley’s, Ken Parille’s, Dan Clowes’ and Anders Nilsen’s words and visit the comments thread of Joe McCulloch and Chris Mautner’s obituary at the Comics Journal.

  • RIP also to the great Umberto Eco! Since this is already so comics oriented, here’s his famous piece on George Herriman’s Krazy Kat and Charles M. Schulz’ Peanuts.
  • Back at HU! With Daniel Clowes


    So today I made kind of a comeback. I’m back at the Hooded Utilitarian, where I haven’t posted for almost three years. Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I’ve found it difficult to find the time to write something that lives up to the content generally provided at the site and, frankly, the work I myself put into my writing there way back when. Naturally, that’s not a useful frame of mind, so I just decided to go ahead and write a short review of Daniel Clowes’ new book, Patience, which I enjoyed a lot.

    Patience came out in Denmark just before Christmas in advance of its US release next month, so I thought what the heck — if nothing else, I can maybe help start a conversation on what I think is a challenging and fun book. Go here and check it out.

    I am not promising to start writing regularly for HU just yet. Again, not because I wouldn’t love to, but well, because I still can’t shake this self-imposed pressure to write something good.

    Hr. Gris i Information


    Jeg så det ikke selv, men i sidste uge bragte Information min anmeldelse af Peter Kiellands mesterlige Hr. Gris, “En samling korte historier, der umærkeligt glider sammen til en episk livsfrise, der klæder livets gåder i urkomiske dyregevandter.”

    Hvis du har abonnement kan du læse den her.

    Danish Comics of the Year 2015


    Paul Gravett is back with his annual roundup of the best comics from around the world. Once again, I’ve contributed my selection of the best Danish comics of last year. It is reproduced below, but check out the whole list here. Continue reading ‘Danish Comics of the Year 2015′

    The Week

    Steve Bell for the Guardian


    The week in review.

    I guess the past week may end up being seen as a kind of turning point when it comes to Denmark’s international reputation. “Jewellery-Gate” as it has become known in Denmark seems like it may leave a lasting stain on my country’s image abroad. The new law is a particularly egregious — and hard-hitting — example of pandering to the voters that may just have backfired, precisely because its symbolism is conceived for maximum effect. Not even the politicians who proposed and passed it seem to have spent much time arguing that confiscating valuables from refugees would make much of a difference to covering the considerable costs of admitting and accommodating them. It is purely a way of showing their resolve to prevent too many immigrants coming to Denmark. Less attention has been paid to the more consequential and fundamentally more serious decision to delay family reunification for refugees by three years, a measure that has been roundly criticised by human rights groups. Continue reading ‘The Week’