Sunday, September 13, 2009

Joshua Reynolds, The Honorable Henry Fane, with Inigo Jones and Charles Blair, 1761-66, 100 1/4" x 142" (254.6 x 360.7) Fane seated between Jones on the left and Blair, standing.

The best British painter is Holbein and the best composer is Handel. The golden age of British painting can't compare with the art of the continental Renaissance. When I ask American art historians for the name of the most important artist in any medium from any period in the English speaking world they never mention Shakespeare, but when I correct them they don't argue. Specialization is myopia.

I've begun to enjoy things I didn't used to: prosaic qualities in painting. I love that I recognize the overfed arrogance in these characters. They're so recognizably British -buffoons, schmucks, both, or something in between: Boris Johnson. I like them but I pay more attention to the women, mostly actresses or similar who married well. And if they're smug or self satisfied they've earned it, one way or another.

Gainsborough, Frances Duncombe, and Grace Dalrymple Elliott (details).
Both at the Frick. The Reynolds is at the Met.

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