THE DAILY PIC: This still shows a moment in 1656 just before Diego Velazquez painted the greatest canvas in Western art; it’s grabbed from the fiendishly clever high-def video called “89 Seconds at Alcázar”, made by Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation in 2004. (Click on my image to watch a clip.) I first saw the video installation when it premiered a decade ago at the Whitney Biennial, but it’s about to go on view once again in a show of videos by female artists at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. The conceit could hardly be simpler: “89 Seconds” captures what the scene looked like in the Alcázar palace in Madrid to either side of the instant that Velazquez committed to paint in “Las Meninas” – with the caveat that there never was such a “live” scene, and that Velazquez’s brush didn’t move at shutter speed. Sussman and co. are pretending to buy into the fiction and rhetoric of Velazquez’s realism, and by doing that they ask us to think harder about the claims that it makes. Amazing that, in an age before cameras could record it, the world seemed ready for lens-y images. (Image courtesy Eve Sussman/Rufus Corporation)
Grant Wood, Parson Weems’ Fable, 1939, oil on canvas, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
I was in a grocery store a few days ago and saw a display promoting cherries as the patriotic, holiday-appropriate fruit because of this story of George Washington and the cherry tree. Um, yeah, I think that’s reaching a little, there.
The Last Day of Pompeii, 1830-1833, oil on canvas, The Russian Museum, St-Petersburg, Russia.
An enormous composition (465.5 cm × 651 cm) painted in Italy was a great success both with the public and the critics. The topic is classical, but Briullov’s dramatic treatment and generous use of chiaroscuro render it farther advanced from the neoclassical style. In fact, The Last Day of Pompeii exemplifies many of the characteristics of Romanticism as it manifests itself in Russian art, including drama, realism tempered with idealism, increased interest in nature, and a zealous fondness for historical subjects.
The Russian painter visited the site of Pompeii in 1828 and made numerous sketches. Depicting the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, the completed canvas was exhibited in Rome to rapturous reviews of critics and thereafter transported to Paris to be displayed in the Louvre. The first Russian artwork to cause such an interest abroad, it gave birth to an anthologic poem by Alexander Pushkin. British author Walter Scott declared that it was not an ordinary painting but an epic in colours.