Monday, December 04, 2006

Occasional cultural notes: The Blanton

(I believe my last cultural note was a review of a vast hunting-supply and outdoorsperson supermarket a few miles south of Austin, hard by Interstate Hwy 35. You get what you pay for, at this blog.)

I have twice visited the new Blanton Art museum of the University of Texas at Austin, which has been built a little behind schedule after Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron abandoned the project in a world-class dudgeon, as befits architects of their station, after the UT System Board of Regents nixed their original plan, which looked like an enormous plastic and glass tent (which by the way I kind of liked) saying it was not in keeping with University's Master Plan, which stipulates that all new campus buildings should conform to a "Spanish Renaissance" style. And clearly, it was neither Spanish nor renaissancy, not in any way. The new Blanton building, now finished, designed by some Boston architects whose names I forget, is nothing to write home about but does fit well with a lot of other UT buildings, and is indeed handsomer than most of them, in my opinion.

Downstairs is a big Luca Cambiaso exhibit. Cambiaso was a little-known Genoese Renaissance painter, and this is billed as the first major exhibit of his work anywhere in half a century, and the only one ever put up outside of Italy. I didn't much like his work. Since they won't let you take photos of the first floor exhibits, I can't show you why.

But I found plenty of things to like upstairs, among the permanent exhibits--and you can take pictures, though the light is so bad it is hard to do so. Except for the 20th century stuff, this is all out of copyright, so I think it is OK to put these photos on the web.

Here is a painting of David with the Head of Goliath by Claude Vignon, from about 1620. David here is curiously girlish, and this reminds me of some of the Salome-with-the-head-of-John-the-Baptist paintings I have seen, the ones I can remember being, I believe, Victorian--which leads me to wonder if this weird and obscure painting by Vignon may have somehow been an influence on the Aubrey Beardsley crowd. Probably not.

Next is Giovanni Battista Passeri's Musical Party in the Garden, which is a cheerful painting that is hard not to like, or at least I found it so.

Here is one of George Romney's many paintings of Lady Hamilton, and not one of the better ones, but it led me to read a little bit about her--she was quite an extraordinary woman.
She was was born Amy Lyon in 1765, and was the daughter of a blacksmith. Later she changed her name to Emma Hart. She was apparently brilliant as well as beautiful, and eventually became Lady Emma Hamilton. In many ways she was the prototype of the modern celebrity, famous for being, well, famous. And, of course, she was Admiral Nelson's mistress. She was an alcoholic, and, sadly, drank herself to death. (This little caption hardly does justice to her life, which was spectacular. Sorry.)

I especially liked the little section of 19th century frontier paintings. Here is a detail of a Henry Farny painting, Council of the Chiefs.

click any photo to enlarge

No comments: