Monday, January 26, 2009



Perishability provides
an opportunity to relish
the moment. Time won’t wait, and tides
force us to move, so we embellish
all things that we create, including
relationships, attempting to
ensure that they’ll endure, deluding
ourselves, though what we ought to do
is seize the moment, and forget
the poignancy of passing days,
while giving, hardly with regret,
to all that perishes our praise.

We must not, grieving, show our sorrow
for the loss of all things we
must give to time and tides tomorrow:
tomorrow is another sea
on which we’ll sail until we die,
each day a journey that is new.
I propose no more to sigh,
saying to the past adieu.

Inspired by Holland Cotter’s review of “Raphael to Renoir: Drawings From the Collection of Jean Bonna” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (“Where Lines Become a Kind of Language,” NYT, January 23, 2009):
In short, a wonderful drawing can be many things, which is true of most of the work in the Bonna collection, though not all. Mythological tableaus by the likes of Giulio Campi and Giovanni Battista Franco, called il Semolei, have little to offer now, with their rote eroticism and brittle virtuosity. And pretty-pretty, smooth-as-butter religious images, of which the collector seems fond, leave me cold, no matter whose hands they’re from. At the same time, even second-tier or odd-duck pictures come with delicious details. I’m thinking of the tiny feet, sharp as pen-points, on the commedia dell’arte figures in a costume study by Claude Gillot, and of the Aretha Franklin chapeau, worn with an air of preposterous hauteur, by the fashion plate in a drawing by Henry Fuseli. And great is great. In Watteau’s colored chalk drawings of three female heads, and in Degas’s sketch of an all but disembodied tutu, as tumultuous as an avalanche, many things come together: drawing, painting, writing, reality, fantasy, sweetness and something else. It’s the something else — perishability maybe; the idea that you could crumple these things up and toss them away — that gives drawing its peculiar distinction as a medium, and turns even a dessert tray of a show into a nourishing meal.

© 209 Gershon Hepner 1/23/09

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