A Stellar Year for Art: Exhibits Invite Competitive Praise, but Vision Is One of Grand Diversity

By O'Donovan, Leo J. | National Catholic Reporter, September 5, 2003 | Go to article overview

A Stellar Year for Art: Exhibits Invite Competitive Praise, but Vision Is One of Grand Diversity


O'Donovan, Leo J., National Catholic Reporter


It all began last summer. First the Thomas Eakins exhibition came to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in late June. After opening to rapturous reviews at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the museum's 125th anniversary celebration, the show had gone on to Paris' Musee d'Orsay, where Eakins' introspective realism captivated French crowds who had seen little of his work before. In New York the reception was equally enthusiastic. Michael Kimmelman, chief art critic for The New York Times, proclaimed "The Gross Clinic" "hands down the greatest American painting of the 19th century," and not a few critics suggested that Eakins might be the greatest American painter of all (at least up until the heyday of abstract expressionism).

A few days after the Eakins, a dazzling and deep survey of Joan Mitchell's work opened at the Whitney Museum, and again people stumbled over words to express their delight in her light--and color-filled canvases. Lucid and lyrical though wholly abstract, her paintings evoked architectural and natural themes--bridges, landscapes, fields of flowers--and placed her clearly at the forefront of the second generation of abstract expressionists, perhaps even preeminent among them. The work grew over time, in scale, coherence and power, and a suite of paintings such as "La Grande Vallee," rarely seen in this country, could even lead someone to think--blasphemous though it seems!--that Mitchell was the best of the abstract expressionists entirely. The more one knows about her troubled life, from tensions with her father to alcoholism, betrayal by her lover, and savage cancer, the more one might think that she cultivated her gift more successfully than Jackson Pollock.

When the unparalleled collection of Leonardo da Vinci's drawings then came to the Metropolitan in January, the store of superlatives was all but exhausted. With a range and chronological completeness never before seen in America, the nearly 120 fragile pages, and one unfinished painting, were gorgeous, hallucinatory, grotesque, weird--and wholly engrossing. It took time and patience, in the Met's sumptuous installation, to study the babies, cats, Madonnas, soldiers, battle scenes, military machines, anatomical notes, old men and apocalyptic floods. The angelic hand that drew them revealed encyclopedic intelligence, investigative passion and a mysterious, "constant play," as Edward Rothstein wrote, "between the ideal and the real." If we have more studies and sketches than finished works by Leonardo, he nevertheless set a standard for artistic discovery and expression that remains unsurpassed to our day. And if it is only wordplay to call him the greatest Italian draftsman of his time, Robert Hughes could still write with reason that "not even contemporaries like Michelangelo were able to exceed, or regularly rival, him as a master of ... expressive and descriptive line."

By any reckoning it has been an extraordinary year for art in New York. But the splendid season offered its prime example of competitive comparison in February, when "Matisse Picasso" came to the Museum of Modern Art's temporary building in Queens after triumphant earlier visits to the Tate Modern in London and the Grand Palais in Paris. The two great figures of 20th century painting--Matisse, the older of the two by 12 years, temperamentally reserved and traditional but with an unequalled gift for composing through color, and Picasso, the often insolent Spaniard, a fierce and iconoclastic innovator, aggressively reconsidering all the possibilities of painting--were placed in conversation through paired canvases, sculptures and drawings over the course of their careers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Stellar Year for Art: Exhibits Invite Competitive Praise, but Vision Is One of Grand Diversity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.