11 February 2010

Art history with a difference

Today I had a delightful morning: I went as a guest, with my partner, to an art appreciation group.

I live in a world where everything is professionally academic. I use the word "professionally" in both good and bad senses: professional approach, but also the putting and defending of a professional view and principle ... not to mention maintaining and defending position and politics within a profession. Art history is a serious business.

This was completely different: a speaker who talked about her subject simply out of love (an "amateur" in the literal and best sense), to an audience who were there because they were interested and wanted to hear about it. The group is facilitated by an art historian, but he used his knowledge and understanding only to support, always sparingly with a light touch. It was like clear pure cold water; I hope I shall go again.

The subject was Lyonel Feininger, of Bauhaus and Blau Vier fame, and the talk grew from the speaker's first encounter with two paintings in her twenties.

I, too, first discovered Lyonel Feininger in my twenties. In my case, first and foremost, as a knock on consequence of my much earlier hero worship of his Life photographer son Andreas (whose iconic image The photojournalist had been a holy relic throughout my teens).

A lovely morning, one to treasure.

  • Image top left: Lyonel Feininger, Barfüsserkirche II, 1926, oil on canvas, 1100mm × 950mm framed, Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Gift of the T. B. Walker Foundation, Gilbert M. Walker Fund, 1943.
  • Image bottom right: Andreas Feininger, The photojournalist, 1951.

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