Magazine article Artforum International

Fantasy and Reality: Drawings from the Sunny Crawford Von Bulow Collection

Magazine article Artforum International

Fantasy and Reality: Drawings from the Sunny Crawford Von Bulow Collection

Article excerpt

PIERPONT MORGAN LIBRARY

The hotel room looked so empty that I imagined all the drawings that were never there had been removed for an exhibition. I mean hospital room. Especially the drawing by Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Rond-Point in the Park at Arcueil, ca. 1744-47, exquisitely boring: empty, the gray-green of storm clouds, it depicts neglected clefts of trees, an attenuated fountain, a low colonnaded structure in the distance, and a vague staircase leading, if anywhere, only to the recesses of what cannot be known. There are many different views of the abandoned park "executed by Oudry . . . , when he lived near the small chateau and gardens of the prince de Guise at Arcueil, near Paris." Kenneth Anger must have known of this drawing in "black chalks (two shades), heightened with white, in places gone over with a wet brush or stamped, on blue paper; traces of a ruled border in black ink"; in his Eaux d'artifice (Waterworks), 1953, a masked, gowned belle makes her way down endless stairs similar to Oudry's staircase, down and down. Water falls around the belle, who glances repeatedly behind her as if in anxious retreat, and the film, its air (in memory at least), is just as blue-gray, white, black, and ominous. A landscape referred to as "unearthly" and "almost surreal," Rond-Point in the Park at Arcueil is not so unearthly, not so surreal, just the vacant terrain of the fantasy life of a comatose woman the reality of which no one will ever comprehend.

Many of the drawings that were never really in this room but have been collected by her since the 1970s are centered by something static, dormant, so huge or inconsequential the mind cannot fully take it in, like death but not quite. In these drawings, when there are figures, many of them are ill. Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres' Portrait of Charles Desire Norry (1796-1818), 1817, is haunted by a strange unease, the deft, finished head situating a suited body fading away to a few shrewd pencil slashes. The catalogue states: "Always insightful in his portraits, Ingres revealed a certain unhappiness or dissatisfaction on the part of his sitter whom Hans Naef characterizes as . . . a strangely uneasy-looking young man. . . . It is likely that the younger Norry was already in ill health. …

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