Saturday, 18 June 2011

Adventures in Munich

Things that occurred to me in Munich:

1) That horse chestnuts really do produce the deepest, coolest shade:

2) That the tail is a problem in sculpture, when it is made of hair:
(Trying to express something that is closer to fluid than solid via the medium of stone or metal presents almost insoluble problems)

3) That in the Middle Ages life looks more peaceful than today:

but, on the other hand, things like this could happen to you then:

and indeed, as Grunewald's picture of St Erasmus demonstrates, (given that the Saint is portrayed holding a very bloody looking winch which, it turns out, was the instrument of his murder by disembowelling) (youch, youch, youch), often actually did:

(from now on, this will be the image I have in my mind whenever I see the word 'gruesome').

4) That Botticelli, if Die beweinung Christi in the Alte Pinakotheke is anything to go by, was the begetter of high-class kitsch (I've suspected that for a long time, but never been brave enough to say so before [and I didn't take a picture, because I didn't like it enough to bother, for which I apologise - but not for my opinion]).

5) That Rubens really was a genius - not only was the way he conveyed movement extraordinary, not only do his canvases actually seem to be seething with life, but his portrayal of humanity is both lively, perceptive and wonderfully sympathetic. For a sense of how he could convey movement, his sketches seemed very striking to me:

while his perceptive sympathetic nature is conveyed well in his portrayal of mothers fighting off Herod's men, sent to kill their children (I especially love the woman biting the arm of a soldier):

6) That many 15th and 16th Century paintings are the equivalent of graphic novels, full of so much for the eye to drink in:

7. That the childhood game I used to play in galleries - of trying to decide which subject of a portrait would be least awful to sit next to at dinner - is still amusing:

I'm tempted by the man with the plaited beard, of course, but in the end it has to be Mr Durer for me:
It's the eyes, don't you know:

8. That the Germans have unusual reasons for choosing cars:
(or else I'm misunderstanding the message, which is highly likely.)


  1. The American writer John Jay Chapman wrote to a friend from Venice about 120 years ago

    "I can't go the Bellini craze-I understand how it arose--nor the Botticelli craze. The discovery of the merit of Botticelli & Co. happened to be coincident with a sentimental development of a highly objectionable kind."

    Yet I do think well of Bellini (the one at the Frick in New York is the only one I can recall seeing at first hand). I do perhaps think better of Botticelli as technician, but know so little of the matter that it is presumptious though not untypicallyso for me to comment.

  2. I like Bellini but am heartened to find support for my Botticelli dislike, George (but am still getting over your unenthusiasm for Auden's poetry.)