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The Flow of Art: A Book Report

There used to be a bookstore maybe twenty miles from me called Daedalus Books that sold publishers remainders or overstock at good prices. They always had an unusual selection in stock, lots of art and drama and philosophy and other subjects that are tucked away in the back of larger bookstores (if there are any left). Sadly, the Daedalus physical store has morphed into an online version, as so many have.

Years ago, not sure of the numbers, but probably more than some and less than many, I purchased a book there called The Flow of Art. I didn’t look at it then, expecting to peruse at leisure, but it sounded like a book on the philosophy of art, or the mechanisms of art, or something equally esoteric. My perusal was delayed until this year, when I finally rescued it from the bottom shelf of a bookcase.

As it turned out, it was neither philosophy or how-to, but a compilation of art reviews by critic Henry McBride from his lofty position as the art critic for the New York Sun newspaper from the turn of the Twentieth century onward. Fortunately, Mr. McBride had the opportunity to observe some of the most compelling and exciting art and artists that century produced. Some of them I have heard of: Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Rodin, and so forth. Many others are new to me, and will provide many fine hours of research and appreciation.

McBride’s contemporaneous viewpoint is fascinating, and his intimate engagement with both art and artist (and other critics) is enlightening and entertaining. But what astonishes me most in these pieces is the quality of the prose.

Voice is the rarest of qualities in a writer. You can be a great writer without it (Shakespeare had it, Marlowe didn’t; Woolf had it, Joyce didn’t, and so on), but you have to work much harder. 

McBride’s prose has voice, unique and simple and full of good humor regarding the world he reports on and the reporter himself. He invites us all into this remarkable world with such ease and pleasure, as thought he were sharing a thought over an espresso (probably in a café with Stein and Cezanne in the background).

If you have the chance to join him for a cup or two, I highly recommend it. 

 

Flow of Art

 

 

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The Art Of Life (3)

"When I went to Venice, I discovered that my dream had become – incredibly, but quite simply – my address." Marcel Proust

 

Venezia - Peder Mørk Mønsted

 

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The Art Of Life

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing. Camille Pissaro

LHermitage_at_Pontoise_Pissaro.png - 1.00 MB

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Beautiful Things

Jackson Lake 3 cropped 2Recently, I subscribed to an internet program that is supposed to help with relaxation and meditation, using images of nature accompanied by peaceful music. Lots of flutes. I like to listen while I work; it cuts the silences of working from home.

I was reading one day, listening, glancing up occasionally to see what beautiful thing was on. Suddenly I felt sad, but I wasn’t sure why.  After a while, I realized that I was sad because I would never actually see the beautiful things that were on the screen. Except on a screen. I may never visit a beach in Thailand at sunset, or the Alps at sunrise. Because of time. Because of distance. Because of money. Because of age or health. It is world of beautiful things but our time here is short and for most of us our resources are limited.

And then I thought, yet here I am now seeing these things on television at least. That is seeing of a kind. Some of them I might have guessed at their existence. But many I would likely never have known about, except for this seeing. And if the images in this program are beautiful, there are many more beautiful images, stunning and extraordinary and strange, shown on TV and the Internet these days, on channels dedicated to them.

And not just natural beauty. Art is more accessible than ever before. Major museums are putting images of masterpieces within the reach of everyone at a click or two. And music also. Sites stream Bach and Mozart, Schubert and Prokofiev (my personal favorite), and so many more, many I have never heard of. Fifty years ago― no make that one hundred years ago, I forget how old I am―you would have had to attend a concert in Oslo or Vienna or New York to hear them.

This is a miraculous age of beautiful things, offered to us wherever we turn. I’m sure that they are more beautiful to experience in person. I would rather see them from a concert in Oslo, an evening at the Met in New York, or flying over the Alps at sunrise (okay, I might have to close my eyes at that one).

But even in seeing them in this removed way, they are still beautiful. And I can see more of them this way than I could possibly see in a lifetime. That’s a gift, and something to be grateful for.

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