Post #758 • March 22, 2006, 12:23 PM • 13 Comments
Robert Hughes for the New York Review of Books:
Certainly Rembrandt van Rijn did not feel an obligation to make his human subjects noble, let alone perfect. That is why, though not always a realist, he is the first god of realism after Caravaggio. And why so many people love him, since he was so seldom rivaled as a topographer of the human clay. Yet for all that has been written about Rembrandt, we have remarkably little certainty about what he thought about the domain of his genius, the art of painting. He did not theorize. Or if he did, his ideas about art itself have been lost—except for six words, whose meaning is still disputed by art historians. He aimed in his work, he wrote to one of his patrons, the Stadtholder, who employed his friend Constantijn Huygens, to produce "die meeste ende di naetuereelste beweechgelickheijt"—the greatest and most natural movement. But movement of what? The apparent movement of the bodies of the "actors," the figures depicted; or the stirring of the spectator's emotions? We do not know, though it seems more sensible, given the theatrical look and feel of so many of his paintings, to suppose the latter.
Robert Hughes for the Guardian:
Tatlin's most grandly useless conception, however, which has always been the darling of "radical" art historians, was his design for a Monument to the Third International, 1920. It was to be a gigantic open-frame ziggurat of steel, spiralling up from the middle of Petrograd and dwarfing everything on the city's skyline. It would be built on a diagonal, representing that of the earth's axis. It would contain four enormous glass halls, each containing a different ceremonial structure for the Party, all turning at different speeds. The lowest one, a cylinder, would rotate once a year. The next, a pyramid, would turn once a month; and so on to the topmost hall, another cylinder, going round once a day. But although it would have some generally designated uses, these were never thought through - they were just part of the cloudy rhetoric that served to hide the disastrous shortages the revolution produced. The whole affair would be 400 metres high but it never materialised, because it would have used up far more structural steel than the whole of Russia had. It was the unbuilt and unbuildable tower of a Babylonian socialism. Perhaps some faint ghost of it lingers in those enormous and pointless space needles later constructed in the capitalist west, in places such as Seattle and Sydney, capped with revolving restaurants serving pretentious food.
Go AJ go.