Thursday, August 28, 2008

Seminarian Painters

In his superb textbook on American Art & Architecture, Michael J. Lewis explains that the new interest in the body in American art
should not be mistaken for Renaissance humanism, which viewed the body in idealized terms, as God's handiwork. The new realism was likely to show slack unidealized bodies in states of boredom or torpor. It is impossible to see the body as something whole and complete, and beautiful.
Classical Realist leader Jacob Collins is an exception to this rule. He and his followers certainly see the body as something whole, complete and beautiful - but the question to ask is why?

Collins is also big on landscape, enough to attempt a revival of the Hudson River School. James Panero, in the current New Criterion, is skeptical. He explains that the original Hudson River School was seeking to capture God's glory as expressed in the natural world. He therefore charges Collins and company to ask, "Can there be a Hudson River School revival without the revival of God?" Panero even goes so far as to suggest that "to understand the Hudson River School today, Collins's students must learn to see themselves as seminarians as well as painters."

Panero's warning regarding landscape is Lewis's regarding the human figure. They both seem to suggest that when it comes to painting, theological infrastructure never hurts.

That said, infrastructure or not, up my grad stipend and I'd buy a Collins in a heartbeat.