Sunday, February 06, 2005


Maurizio Posted by Hello

Pope Innocent X by Velazquez. This painting hangs in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome. Posted by Hello

Some houses on a hillside, Siena Posted by Hello

Interior of the Church of the Frari in Venice.  Posted by Hello

sketch from Rembrandt's Portrait of an Old Man in the Uffizi. I love the energy in the paint here. In this drawing I feel like I got some of what I feel about that energy. Posted by Hello

Sketch done from a huge preparatory drawing--maybe 12' high--on display in Bologna. There was an understaffed, unattended, practically uncurated one-man show on Annigoni. It was held in a large old convent/church complex that was being converted to use as an extension of the University, I think. This huge sketch was on paper on canvas, leaning against the wall in a huge room with four or five other works of varying sizes.

This painting struck a cord in me. I thought that the chains on his arms were being simultaneously shown as joined and broken, and the shock on his face made me think of the shock of seeing that which might free your soul--reality unveiled.Posted by Hello

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

August 3-4, Naples, conclusions

None of us had ever been to Naples, and unfortunately what seemed like the main art museum, the Palazzo Reale, was closed on the day we went there, but we had a chance to see the Museo Archeologico, which was probably the most impressive collection of Roman art and artifacts I have ever seen, mostly from Pompeii and Herculaneum. The mosaics I saw made a strong impression on me--two, that had been removed from the villa in Pompeii that had the massive Alexander mosaic, showed birds drinking and preening around water bowls. In both cases the works had great delicacy and beautiful design. In general I loved the animal-themed mosaics. The animals seemed full of life. They remind me, in retrospect, of some of Paul Klee's paintings, such as the Magic Garden.



Concluding Thoughts...

I think there is an illusion that happens when I experience a great work. I seem to sense the existence of a liberated world in the expression of the artist. Inside this work, the conflicts and contradictions of life seem to have been brought together for a moment. There is a statement, a rare, convincing statement, which somehow affirms everything at once. Such a work seems to have a kind of glow to me, a halo of sanctity. The illusion lies in taking this halo lilterally, in thinking, for instance, that there existed a place and a time that was enveloped in this glow of transcendence; as if I could go there, where the art was made, and be with it, in some way—like the experience of a painting were itself a part of a world that I could inhabit. It's like I want the transcendence of the art for myself. Like I want to turn the experience of inspiration into a dream that I can live on. I see some painters doing this with the past. The problem is that to dwell on illusions like that separates you from reality, reality which only exists in front of you, in the present. It's as though the more you dwell on fantasies, the less alive you become to your actual life. Dreaming is a normal part of being real, but there is a difference between an illusion that we lean on like a crutch, or that we cover over our faces like a blanket when we are scared or confused, and a dream which inspires us to search, to discover ourselves and our world, to create.

Still, I feel that something in the past draws us to it. It touches us in such a convincing way that we look there to find some part of ourselves that seems like it might be lost, or drifting away from us. I don't want to become sentimental or nostalgic about it, I just want to know what that thing is that I feel.

I’ve been conscious for a long time of a certain quality that pervades some of the work of the past. I remember being a small child and being captivated by this quality when looking at pictures of Italian gothic frescoes. The faces of saints in Giotto and Cimabue filled me with a sense of sacredness that I had no word for. Today when I go to museums and stand in front of Rembrandts or great Titians, I feel a hush come over me, almost as if I had entered a church. In Italy, this atmosphere seems to have settled in many places like a welcome guest of the earth's, or like an unheard song of the land itself. Strangely, I've come to feel that this song, this atmosphere, this hush, is the expression of a kind of solitude. It is the solitude of confidence with oneself, confidence in the inner life. When I look at the best works of old masters, it's as though there is a space in which I find a deep sense of trust and even intimacy. It is not intimacy with someone or something in particular, it's just intimacy on its own. Maybe you could say intimacy with the self, or with reality. To me, their great originality is the expression of this inner truthfulness, or self-confidence. The gravitational pull of this solitude is the greatest impression I have of my trip to Italy. It may be the greatest impression I have of art altogether.

* * *
I want to talk a little bit about my specific experiences. Giotto and Michelangelo remain as major inspirations to me. I can only describe what I felt in the Scrovegni Chapel as a Yes repeating itself inside me again and again as I looked at Giotto’s decisions, at his simplicity, at the clarity of his intentions—at his emotion and humanity. His originality is unbelievable. I’m going to be thinking about him for the rest of my life! By comparison, I don’t seem think that much about Michelangelo. I just stand there in awe of him. He was someone connected to something so powerful that I feel intimidated as much as I feel moved and touched by his work. At the same time, I relate so much to his emotions! What can you say about him that isn’t obvious? He is the ultimate in form. He is the only sculptor I know whose work in marble is spontaneous and yet has total structural integrity. Bernini is almost as good in some kind of technical way, but he’s more literal than visionary, and doesn’t have the depth of emotion. Rodin is visionary and wonderful, but his marbles are vague by comparison, like the filter used to indicate enchantment or dreaminess in the movies. I don’t want to criticize Rodin, I’m just trying to talk about Michelangelo’s qualities by way of comparison. There is a vividness of inner vision and a structural clarity that are beyond belief.

Giotto and Michelangelo are not the only two artists I had strong reactions to, of course. There were a lot of works that captivated me, more than I can remember now. Giovanni Bellini was a major discovery for me. I knew some of his work before I came here, but I had never seen anything like his massive Martyrdom of Saint Mark in the Galleria della Accademia in Venice. That painting thrilled me. I still plan to go to Vicenza to see his Baptism of Christ. I don’t normally hear people talk about him, but to me he’s really on the highest par of Renaissance painters. He has an incredible ability in him for both the ideal and the human. Usually people do one or the other really well, but not both.

I learned something about Raphael—I think he had a weakness in the painting of eyes, at least in some of his paintings. It’s really evident when you see him next to Titian in the Pitti Palace (Titian who painted people with eyes that are still looking, 400 years later). Of course, every time you make a criticism like that about a great master, you find yourself backtracking pretty soon, and in this case, there is Raphael’s Double Portrait in the Galleria Pamphilj in Rome, which was one of the strongest paintings I think I’ve ever seen, eyes and all.

Titian was another major revelation for me. I knew some of his famous works before I came here, but this was the first time I really got a sense of the essence of this artist. I was overcome by an almost mystical sense of his painting of Venus blindfolding Cupid in the Borghese Gallery. I think he was painting on a kind of mystical level at times. His work can seem literally—not figuratively—alive.

Nor had I seen much Rubens before, or not on a scale like this. His large paintings in the Uffizi, the Pitti, and the Brera Gallery in Milan, are visually exciting for the energy and visibility of the brushwork, something I can really relate to as a painter.

Another thing I gained from this trip was getting to know Massaccio. I had no idea, really, who he was before this. I had heard of him, and seen some images of his work, but I had never seen them in context, historically and with each other, to realize what an unbelievable achievement they were. His is another example of originality evoking that sense of the solitary master to me. Apparently he would “forget about the outside world,” would forget to eat and things like that. He wasn’t literally solitary, I know, but I’m talking about the inner solitude of the poet. He was exactly like that, an inspired poet. I will always be able to see the water in his baptism scene, the figures of Adam and Eve that I know Michelangelo looked at and drew, from exactly the same spot as I did, and lots of other pictures of his.

Then there was the chance to see Rembrandt and Velazquez!

Velazquez’ portrait of Pope Innocent X was unbelievable. Sometimes Velazquez seems to disappear behind his paintings, leaving just the subject looking at you. I always feel a little bit of Titian looking at me with the penetrating eyes of his sitters, but Velazquez himself seems to disappear. I think that may be unique to him.

I went back to the Uffizi again recently, and I stood for a long time in front of Rembrandt’s self portrait as an old man. I could never put into words the emotion I experienced in front of this painting, but this is what I wrote down at that time, what Rembrandt seemed to be saying:

All you can do is be where you are, and life is so much, you can never express it. Silence is the greatest expression.

* * *

When I visited the cave retreat at the hermitage in Assissi, I found these words printed on a card together with a picture of Avatar Meher Baba:

To penetrate into the essence of all being and significance, and to release the fragrance of that inner attainment for the guidance and benefit of others, by expressing in the world of forms, truth, love, purity and beauty - this is the sole game which has any intrinsic and absolute worth. All other happenings, incidents and attainments can, in themselves, have no lasting importance. -- Meher Baba

I know Meher Baba somewhat, and I first read these words about four or five years ago, in another context. They seemed to describe my whole sense of the role or purpose of art. I still feel more or less that way, and it was remarkable to find these words in that cave.

Out of all this I’ve come up with a few projects. To begin with, I’m eager to begin working in a real studio where I can concentrate and apply myself to oil painting. I want to push myself much farther in that regard, having seen what I’ve seen here. I also want to start researching and developing an idea I have to create a kind of chapel. Some of the religious spaces I entered on this trip gave me a great sense of peace and inner freedom. In some of them I had realizations that I know will always be part of my life. I remember writing a note to myself one morning—“my question for today is, what should a chapel be like?” I didn’t realize it then, but that was the day when we had a guided tour of the Medici Chapel, which was a revelation to me. A chapel is itself a kind of solitude or seclusion—a literal space where distractions should not enter, where there is an opportunity to experience something more fundamental. My chapel would express the concept of the oneness of God and Self by alternating expressions of a) various complementary dualities of life, and b) the transcendence or dissolution of dualities. I have several ideas about what these could be, and some thoughts about what this space could look like, but they are more or less in the form of a brainstorm at this point. It should be something that speaks the language of our time, so people of today can hear it clearly, so that they feel, entering it, that this is not from the past, but speaks to their experience. That would have to do with choosing what kinds of opposing forms to represent. Most of all, though, I want to travel and paint in places beyond the boundaries of modernity. I want to meet native and traditional people in India and Australia, and work in those places for long periods of time. This goal relates to the solitude I’ve been thinking about, and to the desire to want to experience humanity in a different spiritual condition.

I would summarize by saying that on one hand for me the Renaissance is about experiencing the essence of our own consciousness--this is what fills the emptiness of solitude. On the other hand, it is about human potential--Renaissance artists have set a standard of achievement for all of us. Creativity links these two hands in a cyclical pattern which could be called evolution. It is a cycle of moving inward and outward—into silence, and then, from silence, into expression, with each condition, inner and outer, shaped by the imprint of the other.


Monday, August 02, 2004

August 2nd, Monday

the Vatican

the Sistine Chapel is overwhelming. after three hours, it is an arbitrary decision to leave, prompted more by exhaustion than by any sense that you may have absorbed a sufficient impression of the works there. I don't think you ever could absorb them. I don't think there is anything else grouped together as a single work that is so numerous and so high in quality.

I have a question about the color and the lightness of the work. I have heard different arguments about the recent restoration, and I definitely feel that the colors seem too light, almost garish. In many places the highlights have that telltale chalky, washed-out look that I only see on frescoes that have been recently cleaned and emerged suspiciously light. I suspect that the original had much more gravity and sense of sacredness. as it is, there is a great airiness to the space, which probably is based more on the composition and spaciousness of Michelangelo's forms than on the color.

In the Pinacoteca, three large panels, maybe altarpieces, by Raphael showed very different styles of this artist. They were all about 5 to 9 years apart in time of execution. The earliest looked a lot to me like Giovanni Bellini, as did the second, although it more resembled a later style by Bellini. Both were beautiful works, especially the second. The third was more manneristic and too busy for my tastes. In chronological order, the works were:

coronation of the Virgin, 1502-3
Madonna di Foligno, 1511
transfiguration, 1516-20

Bellini died in 1516, so maybe Raphael did take a lot from him. They both have that amazing soft finish and even, gradual rounding of forms.

Titian's Madonna di S. Niccolo dei Frari somehow didn't interest me as a composition, although in the individual figures I could see his typical power. He had a portrait of a Doge extending his hand as if in a handshake that was a curious portrait to me. The edge of the profile of the face was almost lost in the middle values, giving a strange sense of anticlimax to the face.

Jean de Boulogne, Martyrdom of Saints Processo and Martiniano- unique composition with overlapping horizontal figures of the saints being tortured. Amazing realism, a la Ribera and Caravaggio.

Pensionante del Saraceni, active in Rome 1610 - 1620, denial of St. Peter

Caravaggio- Deposition

Giuseppe Maria Crespi (Bologna 1165 - 1747), Holy Family, 1735-40. Extremely unfocused, still beautiful. Almost an exaggeration of Crespi's style which I have seen at the Uffizi and the Brera in Milan, where his Crucifixion is.

Baldassare de Caro 1698 - 1750 Selvaggina Morta- Dead game strung up by legs and lying on table. it reminds me of hunting trips as a child. All those killed furry animals and birds. The softness and smell of their dead bodies. It is such an intimate experience of life, to hold something in death. The body is completely surrendered in your hands, so that you feel it as you otherwise would only feel the body of a sleeping child or a lover, but there is no life, and so you are very close to your own experience of life and to death at the same time.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

August 1, Sunday--Rome

We went to the Villa Borghese today and to the Galleria Doria Pamphilj.

The statues by Bernini were incredible. He is the opposite of Michelangelo, whose sculpture has an unbelievable solidity and weight. Bernini's is unbelievably light. His David as well as his Daphne and Apollo, all seem like living figures ready to jump or fly. I have never seen such mobility and physical lightness in stone sculptures. The cloth of Apollo's greek garment furls behind him with an astonishing suggestion of movement. The leaves are incredibly finely-wrought, although I've been told that these were not Bernini's work, but that of an assistant, whom Bernini would not let have the credit for the work.

After seeing a number of Bernini's and some other baroque works, a room containing 6 paintings by Caravaggio restored my sense of classical balance and proportion. I don't know what period of painting he is supposed to belong to, but Caravaggio has not gotten away from simplicity and balance between the inward and the outward, between activity and inner life. I feel that his work generally has a solidity that allows me to move inward with it.

His self-portrait dressed as Bacchus seems so revealing and personal. He seems trapped in a box in this composition. His face is youthful and yet aged. There is vulnerability in his look, and sensuality.

Upstairs I saw a wonderful painting by Lukas Cranach the elder, Venus with Cupid eating a honeycomb and getting stung by bees. The bees seem to trouble him, but not enough that his attention and his fingers are not still on the honeycomb! Says something about love, I think.

One painting by Giovanni Bellini was a Madonna and Child, typical in its utter beauty. From across the room this work is incredibly strong. I feel that Bellini was really one of the greatest painters that ever lived. I will go to Vicenza to see his Baptism of Jesus.

Titian's Venus blindfolding Cupid and his Christ Flogged provided me with a revelation. There is an energetic reality to Titian's painting. They are literally painted beyond physical appearance, they have a kind of chi- or prana-energy of their own. People speak of his psychological realism, but I think it's more like energetic reality, a thing that is literally alive.

Galleria Doria Pamphilj

two early Caravaggios, Penitent Magdalene, in which she is asleep with her head tilted sideways and slightly down, and Rest During the Flight Into Egypt, both show lighter, less dramatic color, with middle, warm shadows. graceful, less realistic than his later work

Titian's Salome with the Head of John the Baptist beautifully balanced, classical ecstasy. Classical poised was poorly imitated by most neoclassicists in the 19th century, who made their works stiff. Classicism means movement, I think. The right poise allows energy to move within the work, renewing itself constantly. Baroque and mannerist artists lose this poise because they want to show movement, but it is a movement that spends itself and has nothing more to give.

This early Titian still has the feeling of being alive, even though it is not a later work.

benvenuto tisi, called garofalo (ferrara 1481 1559) "visitation" this work is very beautiful. there is a venetian color, and the composition overlaps figures and faces in the margins on the left and right, which I often like, as when Giotto does it with the faces in between the heads of Jesus and Judas in the scene in Gethsamene from the scrovegni chapel frescoes.

Hans Memling (1440-1494) had a deposition scene that was moving and yet somehow very staged, as if these characters were told to hold these poses on a stage in order for the audience to contemplate the scene.

There were also two wonderful paintings by Quinten Massys in this museum. Two Old Men in Prayer and a scene with two moneylenders and two other men, perhaps borrowers, or a borrower and an agent of some sort. In both cases there is a wonderful care taken with the rendering of surfaces, of coins, hands, wrinkles, and faces especially. There is also an amazing way that the figures interact and express themselves with gestures. This is a great painter I have never noticed before.

The real highlights of the museum for me were Raphael's Double Portrait and Velazquez' portrait of Pope Innocent x.

The Raphael is an intensely powerful work- the farther away, the clearer its power and mystery became. This may be my favorite Raphael. The green background is so strong with the black of the costumes.

Innocent X doesn't look like he deserves his name! What an incredible painting, though. You seem to feel this man exactly as if he were in the room. Again, as with titian this morning, I felt that this was life before me, not a metaphor for life, or a picture of it. To see something this way, instead of seeing it as a purely material phenomenon, opens you to a different kind of relationship with the world, a different kind of experience.

The drapery of the pope's cape is painted a bit like El Greco.


July 31, Saturday

This morning I went alone to the hermitage of the Carceri. This is a simple stone structure built into the side of a ravine about 4 km outside of Assissi. Below in the ravine there are a number of rock cave-shelters where monks used to set in seclusion. St. Francis and his followers came to this hermitage to seclude themselves from the world.

If you follow the path that descends into the ravine from the far side, you will cross the ravine back to the hermitage side and come to a fork in the path. The lower path descends in a zig-zag, and by continuously following the lower path when there is a fork you will come to a cave with a wooden gate. Inside people leave photos of saints and their loved ones, or in some cases apparently of themselves, together with pieces of writing, letters, and prayers in many languages, all placed on a flat stone with a crude wooden cross. A plaque gives the name of a Franciscan who must have secluded himself in this cave, together with a date in the 19th century. I think the cave is older than that, though. Among the pictures that had been placed there, three were of Avatar Meher Baba from Pune, India. I think that being in this place was one of the most important experiences on my trip to Italy.

In the afternoon we left our hotel and came to Rome.

July 30, Friday

Mostly, we travelled today, moving out of our apartment once and for all in the morning and getting into a hotel in Assissi in the evening.

As soon as I saw Assissi and began to feel the place I wanted to go to the hermitage of the "Carceri," but I waited until the morning because I thought Colleen would want to see it as well. Instead I went to see the upper and lower churches of St. Francis, and his burial vault, which is actually a more recent construction excavated around the original resting place of his remains.

The frescoes in the upper church have been badly damaged, I suppose from the earthquake. Many of them are very beautiful, mainly for color and for their wonderful narrative compositions. They don't seem like Giotto's work to me, though, in particular because the faces don't quite have the life, delicacy and expressiveness of Giotto's figures in other places. The figures are also somewhat less mobile and graceful, less perfectly placed in space.

The lower church was generally more impressive to me. I don't know who did most of the works I admired, but I think some of them may have been by Cimabue. There is a famous fresco of the Virgin surrounded by angels with St Francis standing alone off to the right. This may be my favorite fresco painting. I tried to draw just one of the angel's faces and found it extremely difficult to capture. These figures have a sanctity that captivates me. There is a seriousness, a depth to their expressions that I can look at for hours and hours.

After this I went into the lowest church where St. Francis' remains are kept.

This was a powerful place, and I felt moved being there. I hope that I never forget how to feel like that.

July 29, Thursday

I went back to the Uffizi today, and there was still no access to the Rubens rooms. That makes three tries with no success.

I was deeply impressed by many paintings. I noticed some things this time that I had not seen or noticed before.

I got a peak through the closed-off entryway at the three Rembrandts, I felt like kneeling and kow-towing, even after everything I had seen up until that point. Rembrandt stands in a completely characteristic place. By saying that, I mean that when I look at Rembrandt, no other painter exists. There is no comparison happening, or possible, really.

Uccello's Battle of San Romano, again. Such a wonderful work. Something in no way limited by the time it was painted in. The design is very abstractly conceived and somehow very personal. The animals are wonderful! The ones jumping and running in the background as well as the horses in the fore. This painting makes me happy, and at the same time convinces me of the bond I share with such artists of all times and places who felt their own lives and beings in a simple and human way.

Today Colleen and I looked a long time at Giotto's Madonna and baby Jesus with saints and angels. We both saw more in it than we had before. By taking time to admire Cimabue's rather similar alterpiece, I was able to see the brilliance and lightness of the color shapes, the spatial depth, and, of course, the humanity of the faces of the figures. Giotto changed everything. These qualities have been picked up by painting as a whole and were first unearthed here, by Giotto. He practically invented composition in Western art, based on what I have seen.

I spent a long time in front of Titian this time. A late work, St. Margaret, had that incredible quality of his, at once dreamlike and very real, somehow sensible with something more than the eyes.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

July 28, Wednesday

Last night we worked with Maurizio, our model at Charles Cecil's studio, for the last time. In the six days that we had him, we tried three different poses, and I experimented with two unfamiliar painting surfaces. The first was the oil-primed linen of which I have bought a 2 x 3 meter piece for about 100 euros. It has an interesting graininess but I find the texture too slick. It doesn't give the resistance that the cheap cotton duck does, and which I have integrated into my drawing technique on canvas. The other material was a process which I sort of invented-- I bought two sheets of Arches rough cold press watercolor paper, which I was going to tape to a board and gesso. When I did this, the paper got wet and buckled. I remembered that you could wet and tape watercolor paper and it would stretch as it dried, so I soaked the sheets of paper evenly with water over the sink, and with the gesso already applied liberally to the side I wanted to paint on, I taped them flat to a board using regular two-inch masking tape. After that I damped off the excess water and let them dry in a horizontal position. As they dried the tape began to stick and the paper flattened out as it contracted. They became very flat and made an interesting surface to work on. It is extremely rough and absorbant. If I had more time I would like to experiment with it further. I think it would lend itself to a combination of media, like graphite, watercolor, and oil. The oil paint is instantly absorbed into the paper and blends when painted over in a unique way. The masking tape did let go in one place at the end, causing a slight buckling of the paper. Better tape with more glue on it would probably work better, but I was surprised at how well the masking tape worked. I think that, the larger the sheet of paper, the greater the width of the tape that will be required to hold it.
We began painting a view of Maurizio's back with his arms elevated on a rope, but I only had perhaps an hour on this painting before the mosquito bites he was receiving on his bare back required us to change the pose to one that was more comfortable. From here I worked for another hour or so on a view of his head turned down and in three-quarters angle. These were the two sketches I began in oil on the stretched, gessoed Arches paper. Both are crude and indefinite, but I think there might be something more of him in this head than in the one I worked with for three days on the linen, which now appears lifeless and staring to me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

July 27, Tuesday

I worked on a translation of one of Michelangelo's sonnets this morning. It is somewhat free in form and meter, and clauses and expressions have been liberally rephrased to communicate my feeling for the sense of the poem.

I wish to want, Lord, what I want not:
between the fire and my icy heart
a veil deflects the heat, and my pen,
unsuited to the work, makes this page a liar.

I love you, talking, then complain that love
won't touch my heart; and in my ignorance
I shut the door to Grace that would settle
in my heart and drive out ruthless pride.

Shred the veil, Lord! Crush the wall
whose hardness blocks your light's sun,
lost in the world. Bestow the promised light
upon your bride; O, let my heart burn freed
from doubt. Let me feel only You.

Here is the original in Italian:
Vorrei voler, Signor, quel ch'io non voglio:
tra 'l foco e 'l cor di ghiaccia un vel s'asconde
che 'l foco ammorza, onde non corrisponde
la penna all'opre, e fa bugiardo 'l foglio.
I' t'amo con la lingua, e poi mi doglio
c'amor non giunge al cor; né so ben onde
apra l'uscio alla grazia che s'infonde
nel cor, che scacci ogni spietato orgoglio.
Squarcia 'l vel tu, Signor, rompi quel muro
che con la suo durezza ne ritarda
il sol della tuo luce, al mondo spenta!
Manda 'l preditto lume a.nnoi venturo,
alla tuo bella sposa, acciò ch'io arda
il cor senz'alcun dubbio, e te sol senta.

In the Medici Chapel today I noticed the drawings on the wall for the first time. I have heard about some kind of rediscovered drawings on a wall that are supposed to have been done by Michelangelo, but I don't know if they are these, or anything else about them. One of them looks like a light-hearted, humorous self-portrait sketch. How beautiful it is to stand in this incredible place, surrounded by the greatness of his great works, the emotion of this space, the achievement of it, and yet to have this personal moment, this little bit of humanity. What are we without our smallness, our limitations and weaknesses? We never want to accept them, but they are the most convincing qualities, the secret ingredients in the life of the soul, the keys that unlock the depths of experience.

I think Michelangelo was a mystic. He must have known Plato's symposium. Maybe like Plato he saw Love as the fundamental nature of the undivided universe. I remember that Castiglione's final chapter in The Book of the Courtier was surprisingly mystical, so this kind of thinking must have been floating around with the neoplatonic influence. In any case, to me the Medici Chapel evokes transcendence of form and duality in a heaven of the undivided absolute. It evokes the pure experience of Being liberated from vitiating opposites.

But I would say that.

Monday, July 26, 2004

July 26 Monday

Now that we have become experts at getting to Ponte Buggianese, we made the trip there this morning without a hitch, arriving to view the frescoes in an open church at about 9:30 am.

Seeing the work in this church was a very stimulating experience, creatively speaking. These are huge paintings, and most of the surface of the church walls are covered. We saw the finished frescos based on large drawings that we had already seen in Bologna. The prophet Jeremiah was there, although the low light in the church made viewing this particular painting, and a few others, difficult.

Giotto-like shapes of figures and indication of dynamic movement of figures. The faces also have a quality like Giotto's, which Colleen pointed out to me.

It is too early to get to the essence of my response to these works. I feel that I have something to learn here. It has to do with a sense of possibilities that are completely my own. I think that I am inspired by the strength of Annigoni's individuality, his committment to his own vision, and his success in researching and expressing his ideas.

For at least two weeks now I have been possessed by a sort of idea of how to try to draw. I feel that I need to spend a period of time researching and trying out different approaches. Perhaps I will not be able to do what I imagine, but I think something will come of it. I am looking forward to having simple and solitary conditions to work in.


July 25 Sunday

Today we tried to go to Ponte Buggianese to see the frescoes by Pietro Annigoni there.  It was quite complicated to get to this small town.  Even when we were within 10 kilometers of the town, people had heard of it but did not know exactly how to get there.  As it was Sunday, bus and train service was reduced, and we couldn't find a taxi anywhere.  A friendly woman told us to follow her on a bus from Montecattini to Monsummano, which we did on her advice that the town of Ponte Buggianese was very near to Monsummano.   Only once on the bus did I learn that she was Romanian and had only been living in Italy for about the same time as Colleen and I.  She was completely wrong about the location of Ponte Buggianese and we lost several hours getting back from Monsummano to Montecattini.  Finally, we caught a bus from Montecattini that got us to Ponte Buggianese at 1130 am, when the Sunday mass was starting.  We just glimpsed the inside of the church, absolutely decked with frescos, before having to leave to allow them their mass.  Considering that we came to the Florence train station before 7 am that morning, the whole endeavor of travelling what was in fact a short distance to a town in the nearby region of Pistoia, Tuscany, took us almost 5 hours.  During the mass we stepped around behind the town to sketch the landscape, and were disappointed when we returned to find the priest gone and the church locked.  The locals told us it would not reopen before the evening, and I left feeling angry and frustrated. 



July 24th Saturday

Ravenna

Ravenna was capital of the Roman Empire for a short time during its demise in the 5th or 6th centuries. Our principal reason for going there was to see the mosaics, and to get a sense of byzantine art and architecture.

The mosaics in the large church there are very impressive for their colors and the beauty of their abstract designs. I didn't respond very much to the figures in mosaics, but the whole made a strong impression. The architecture of the church was very interesting. It is an octagonal plan, with two floors of galleries surrounding a central space equivalent to the nave of a Roman Catholic church. The space was more circular and vertical, with a high dome, and lots of thick arches. The dome had been redecorated with a kind of florid trompe l'oeil fresco-scheme in the 18th century, which weakened the impact of the space considerably in my opinion. This church was the model for the Aghia Sofia (spelling?) that was built in Constantinople and which was, in turn, I think, the model for the cathedral of St. Mark's in Venice. Certain irregularities in this church--for instance, the columns in the opening from the ambulatories onto the main sanctuary featured highly uneven stonecutting of their capitals--made it seem more provincial than I expected from a place which was apparently a center of some political and economic importance at the time of the church's construction.

Friday, July 23, 2004

July 23, friday

Visited the church of Santo Spirito this morning. On entering this church, I was struck by an impression of balanced proportions to a degree that I had not experienced before.

Looking down the nave into the transept I experience a contained space opening in every direction. As I move among the arches, the shifting sections of space continue changing and revealing unexpected sensations of freedom. The breath of the space everywhere moves out and upward, is broadened and ascends. I feel as if I'm being sung to as I walk down the gallery, in the sense of the great polyphonic, structural music of the past. There is a crescendo as you reach the transept, and on the way back you are accompanied by the opposite view, mixed with the original themes in inversion.

Brunelleschi provided a plan for this church around 1434, but died in 1446. The church was finished and consecrated in 1481. Changes to Brunelleschi's plan include a flat ceiling instead of the barrel vault he had planned and a typical 3-door plan for the facade of the church instead of his iconoclastic 4 door plan.

Later I went and saw Masaccio's frescos in the Brancacci chapel. These are wonderful, of course. Because it is the low season now the chapel was not full, and instead of the usual 15 minutes, the guard allowed me stay until closing time and draw. From the fresco panel depicting the healing of cripples by the passing of St. Peter's shadow, I produced a little drawing indicating the composition and the characters of the faces of the lepers. I tried to communicate something of how St. Peter's expression struck me but failed. Looking at him, I thought of Eruch Jessawala. The phrase occurred to me, "it is the strength of the love that counts." I imagined a man who knows only one thing, which is total commitment to obeying the life of the path he has chosen. The miracles are not of his doing, and his gaze seems to communicate this, while at the same time showing a kind of mixture of severity and fiery enthusiasm in seeing this manifestation of the divine.

Masaccio's frescoes show a pure intention, a painter who was serious about his work. You can tell this from his invention, from the simplicity, the humanity, and emotionality of the painting, and from the directness of the storytelling.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

July 22 thursday

I tried to go to the Laurentian Library above the closter of San Lorenzo today but could only get in to see the entryway, as the reading room is under renovation. 

As in the Medici Chapel, many of the architectural elements here seem to be fighting for space.  Double columns recessed completely into the walls have scroll-shaped corbels, similar to the wavy, scroll-shaped features of the "kneeling windows" in the Medici Chapel.  In the corners of the room, these corbels actually protrude into each others' spaces and merge symmetrically.  The walls and the staircase are divided into threes.  There are three levels: the entry floor, the library level reached by the staircase, and a third level above this one, with shallow, square relief-columns rising above the round, deeply set columns which occupy the library, or second level, of the walls.  All three levels are divided along the same lines into equal thirds by the double pillars and by three windowless, empty niches on the second floor.  The windows and the shallower, simpler pattern of the top level of the walls gives a sense of increasing lightness to the vertical reach of the space.  The large staircase occupies the majority of the plan, and this, together with the height of the room and the lines of the columns gives an exaggerated sense of verticality to the space.  Furthermore, the ground floor's relative lack of decoration reminds me of the crypt of a church, and indeed we feel almost buried when we enter this space.  The main feature of the walls on the entry floor is the corbels, which descend from the columns above but do not reach the floor, as if they were descending like tree roots into the ground, adding to the subterranean effect.  Again, the decoration on the level of the library gives a feeling of crowded abundance.  The staircase, originally planned in mahogany but executed in a cool grey colored stone, divides into three rows of stairs with three flights each.  The central flight has very unusual and beautiful, curving steps which become oval in shape on the last three steps.  The rows of steps grow wider as they descend, and the railings end in increasingly larger flat platforms.  The staircase seems to be spilling into the room, crowding it. 

 

Thus, as in the Medici chapel, there is a square room with empty niches offering a sense of weight and a crowd of forms that gives way to lightness and simplicity at the higher levels.  In both cases, I feel the presence of death.  In the case of the library entry, the stairs lead us out of this into the brilliance, presumably, of learning and the world of the mind.   

I should make a comment about the "crowding" of forms I mentioned.  In both the Medici Chapel and here the "crowded" feeling does not exceed the sense of balance and harmony in the space, as it does, for instance, in some baroque architecture.  Part of what's interesting is that there is an observed harmony which is being strained or tested, but not quite broken.  There is an analogy to music.  strain between proportion and the abundant expression of life and form. 


July 22 thursday

I saw the entry hall of the Laurentian Library today.  It is very similar, in many ways, to the Medici Chapel.  Square plan, three levels rising from crowded to simple in their decoration.  The library entry is much more vertical in its feeling.  Windows are replaced by empty niches, so the only light comes in from the top level.  Double columns, deeply recessed, only start on the second, or library level, to which the huge, spilling staircase rises and tapers.  Under the double columns scroll-shaped corbels descend like tree roots but don't reach the ground.  Furthermore there is a crypt-like lack of decoration to the entry level, and light descends from the only windows on the third level.  Together with the verticality of the columns dividing the walls evenly into thirds, these features give one the sense of being in a crypt or at the bottom of a cave. 

There is an interesting balance here between crowded, abundant forms and simple restraint-- again, as in the New Sacristy.  The corbels beneath the columns in the entry hall actually project into each others' spaces in the corners of the room, which causes the curves to merge symmetrically.  The staircase seems to spill outward, expanding as it descends and filling up most of the plan of the floor.  I feel the presence of death in both rooms.  There is a weight in both places, but also a mysterious airiness.  Colleen put it in an interesting way yesterday.  She said she felt as if she were inside the mind of Michelangelo when we were in the Chapel, and that seemed exactly right to me. 

Michelangelo worked directly from inner vision.  He didn't build models and copy them, he dug into the marble using only the inner vision as a guide.  The architecture feels somehow similar.  The strange creatures and masks on the statues, the oddities of tapering pilasters, curving, expanding stairs, tapering windows, and empty niches all come without precedent from his imagination; but everything is linked to classical architecture, classical symbolism.  Michelangelo's rational designs are induced from an inner impulse which he must have believed to be more fundamental than tradition and deduction. 

You induce the rational from the intuitive.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Wednesday July 21

This morning I went with Colleen to see the museum of the cloister of St. Mark's.  I had no idea this was such a major site for art. 

Fra Angelico was a genius.  About a generation younger than Lorenzo Monaco, he would have seen Masaccio's chapel in the church of the Carmines when he was about my age.  His work has total artistic integrity.  That is, humanity and freedom of expression rather than predictability and formula.  The gothic still remains in his outlined, brightly colored shapes and humble figures, which I love.  The gothic had so much humanity in these narrative figures. 

Of hanging paintings by Beato Angelico, the following impressed me the most: the Pala di Bosco ai Frati, 1450, and the Pala d'Annalena, 1434 - 1435.

The crucifixion...
New Sacristy of San Lorenzo:

My mind is full of thoughts.

I have just seen the Medici Chapel accompanied by a guide who gave us a lot of excellent information.  He was a substitute for Dr. Kevin Murphy, and didn't give his name, but if he had not been there, I'm not sure I would have had the revelation about the space that I am now having. 

Michelangelo designed the entire chapel and did all of the sculpture except for the two figures flanking the Madonna and Child.  The concept of the space is totally integrated.  To summarize, the chapel represents the divided world of time and form--our world-- on the ground level and formless eternity on the upper levels, with Christ's resurrection planned but not executed as the symbol of transcendence from one world to the next... 

our world is divided in form and time and thus frought with duality, dichotomy, complements, and conflict.  Time and form are the kingdom of death--all forms, in time, die.  This is expressed by the statues and architectural elements on the first level of the chapel.  As the chapel rises, time and death are transcended in Christ's resurrection, which was planned but not executed.   At the top is the dome and circle, which represent the transcendence of form, the symbols of eternity. 

 
Time is divided into complementary natures--night and day, dawn and dusk--just as personalities are of the sun quality or of the moon quality--the outer-dwelling person and the inner-dwelling person.   
All of nature is divided, and its dualism is the source of endless conflict.  Everything in the chapel speaks of time.  Time, as we experience it, is fundamental duality, limitation.  Linear time is the house of conflict, and leads every thing to its death.   "Il tempo consomma tutto--" in M.'s journal.   The effigies of Lorenzo and Giuliano bear images of mouse-creatures, and all over are the signs of death and the grotesque. 

Above the virgin and child, there was to be a large lunette in either fresco or bas-relief depicting Christ resurrected; above this there are tapering windows which make a kind of upward gesture, a dynamic movement blocked as the windows are overshadowed by heavy lintels; above these rises the dome of the chapel, a close copy of the dome of the Pantheon in Rome.  Thus the decoration begins at the lower level with the figures of Lorenzo and Giuliano--opposed as symbols of solar (active) and lunar (contemplative) men-- seated above the times of death, which are represented by the pair of day and night opposed to the pair of dusk and dawn--; from this the chapel rises to a two- or "two-and-a-half-dimensional" lunette depicting resurrection, which is movement beyond death, and, I think, transcendence of time; above this there is a pure form, the dome, penetrated at the top by a circle of light.  The purity of the dome is the purity of the sphere, or the circle.  Of all forms, the circle is the closest to pure movement, or transcendence of form.  It is the image of the undivided whole, the picture of eternity. 






Tuesday, July 20, 2004

July 20th, Tuesday

I went to see the works of the Duomo today, and after that I went to San Lorenzo with the intention of looking at the work of Donatello.  
 
I was overwhelmed by Michelangelo's Pieta at the Duomo museum.    It is monumental, angular, polished in some parts, very rough in others; it's a very complex composition with four figures, which is extremely impressive given that Michelangelo worked directly into the marble without copying from plaster.  The single most powerful statement in the work seems to me to be the face of Nicodemus, which is a self-portrait of Michelangelo.  I don't know the story of Nicodemus, but to me the face is noble and at the same time full of sorrow, age, and grief.  I sense a kind of deep lonliness in Michelangelo's work which makes it very personal sometimes in a way that many Renaissance artists are not. 
 
I plan to find out about Nicodemus' story tonight by asking Colleen. 
 
Ghiberti's later baptistry doors
What amazing works.  These originals seem much finer to me than the copies currently on the Baptistry.  I was delighted and thrilled by the perfectly small figures.  I think these are my favorite bas-reliefs.  What a brilliant man!  He combines the use of illusionistic perspective lines with relief carving to perfect effect.  This effect is particularly strong in the panel relating the story of Jacob and Isaiah.  Viewed from the side, the figures seem to lean precariously out into space, but there is none of this feeling when viewed from the front, because the receding perspective lines in the floor seem to bring the floor out under their feet.  What an amazing trick!  This way, the figures can stand apart from the relief and create a greater sense of space which is then integrated into the illusionistic background by the perspective lines.  Standing in front of this work, it is almost impossible to believe how shallow the relief space actually is.  It seems like I have never seen a relief work with such a remarkable sense of depth as this one, of Jacob and Isaiah. 
 
His Adam and Eve panel is amazing in another way--it is a wonderful composition.  The circularity of the composition has the effect of connecting all the events in the story, from Adam's and Eve's creations to their temptation and expulsion from the garden, making all these events seem to come inevitably out of each other.  The figure of God bending over the newly created Adam shows the greatest tenderness and care.  In all his works there is a wonderful sense of humanity. 
 
Other things that really impressed me in the museum included the works of Maso di Banco and the Pisano's...
 
After our lecture last night, which focused on Donatello, I wanted immediately to look at his things first hand, but I got sidetracked in San Lorenzo by Annigoni's two paintings there. 

Monday, July 19, 2004

July 19 Monday

We took a train to Arrezo this morning, but first stopped in to see Santa Maria Novella. The church has a more austere feeling, I felt, and an aesthetic that was somehow cooler than that of Santa Croce. I found the crucifix by Giotto extremely compelling. The Strozzi chapel was also very beautiful. There was a fresco by Masaccio dominated by a very strong pink color.

Arezzo felt a bit like Siena, with its sloping square and hilly medieval streets, but the town was quieter and had much, much less tourist traffic. We saw Piero della Francesca's fresco cycle on the Legend of the True Cross in the church of Saint Francis. What wonderful compositions! He used color and shapes here in bright, somewhat stiff, simplified shapes that reminded me of Uccello's Battle of San Rimignano (spelling?) and even a little of Brueghel. I love this earlier kind of painting and prefer it greatly over the modelling of later mannerists. The night scene, where an angel serves as a light source illuminating the tent of the sleeping emperor Constantine, is wonderfully done. What an inspiration that must have been, both for della Francesca himself and for all those in that time who saw such an unprecedented thing.

For days I have been having one important thought. The Renaissance shows us such a high level of achievement that we are forced to examine ourselves in its light. We realize that the low expectations of our culture, of our community of artists, even, instill complacency in us. We look at our work and unconsciously use a scale to evaluate it that is based on the mediocrity and lack of vision in our culture. If we can't work shoulder by shoulder with great people, we should take time to remove ourselves, to live in a kind of solitude where our standards can become the standards of our own passion, of our own souls.




July 18 Sunday

Saw the modern art museum of the Pitti Palace today.  The best part of this was the large number of very fine small landscapes and cityscapes done in a simplified manner by Italian artists of the 19th century.  Fattori's work was wonderful, as was Giuseppe Abbati's, 1836-1868, and those of a few others.  On the whole, though, I'm afraid there was a lot of second-rate work in this museum.  It's amazing to think that this museum represents the works of a period of time comparable to the Renaissance itself, for a similar region of the world, and is so much inferior in quality.  I wonder what causes this disparity in the qualities of certain modes of expression in different cultures.  I know there are all sorts of historical factors, but since the great works are always by the hands of a few artists, can these individuals really be seen as the outcome of statistical processes?  We always talk about how Michelangelo couldn't have done it if not for this and if not for that, but this kind of conditional thinking doesn't explain the essential sources of an action's quality.  Maybe it can be seen in terms of one person's quality stimulating another's--Donatello raising a bar to which Michelangelo felt he could aspire.  For us today, Michelangelo is too distant a figure.  The level at which he set the bar became an ideal itself, rather than an accessible challenge.  The thing to do, I think, is to find a way of honestly reaching for the quality that great artists of the past can inspire in you, without adulation, but by actually seeing the same spirit in yourself.  You have to join with those artists, not worship them on an altar.  
 
As far as painting is concerned, I guess the action, as it were, was mostly in France during the 19th century.  The one French painting I noticed at the Pitti Modern, a strong work by Pisarro, reinforced this judgment by standing out very brightly from the pictures around it.  This painting, and the many simplified landscapes I mentioned before, made me see the importance of regarding your work as a statement when viewed at a distance.  Of course this is a basic idea, but you can never think too much about it. 
 

July 17, Saturday

We went to Milan today.
 
DaVinci's Last Supper 
I was surprised to learn how quickly the painting deteriorated after it was done.  Apparently someone commented already around 1517 or so that the painting was deteriorating, and by Vasari's time he said it was "nothing but a blurred stain" on the wall.  Given that, and the before and after pictures of the recent restorations, I didn't know how much of what I was looking at was actually Leonardo's work.  I think restorers very often change the spirit of a work without realizing it.  They do a lot that affects the subtlety of an artist's brushwork, value, and color, and seem to think, half of the time, that they only need to bring out the flat shapes more clearly and brightly.  This seems to be the case in the extreme with the Sistine Chapel, based on the before and after pictures I have seen of that restoration. 
 
Some of the most beautiful drawing in the painting was in the three heads to the right (from the viewer's perspective) of Christ.  The face of Philip, the apostle leaning over James the Greater, is particularly beautiful, and shows that incredibly fine softness of modelling that Leonardo was capable of.  The painting, as much of it as there is, is simply an incredibly fine work. 
 
The funny thing about Leonardo for me is that his paintings inspire me less for the works themselves, somehow, than for the man you sense behind the works.  In his painting and drawing, I always feel Leonardo looking intensely at beauty itself, studying.  As if all his paintings, in a way, had that same subject matter--beauty itself.  The Last Supper seems to be incredibly thought out.  Apparently, the geometry of the composition reflects the metaphysical and physical philosophy explicated in his notes and journal at that time.  The painting is like an explosion of force emanating from Christ.  In the movements and grouping of the figures, I see compression of waves of force moving outward from Christ and rebounding to him, and the perspective lines vanishing at Christ's head add to the sense that he is radiating the space around him.  All this is interesting, but I more feel the idea in the work than I feel the work itself as an idea.  In other words, Leonardo's painting seems to be a vehicle for his mind and passions, whereas with Raphael or Michelangelo, I feel that their work is the driver more than the vehicle. 
 
The highlight of our trip to Milan was completely unexpected--the huge cartoon by Raphael of his School of Athens painting.  I can't put my excitement about seeing this cartoon into words!  The size and visibility of the great artist's drawing process thrilled me.  I loved seeing the grossness of the line.  At the same time I saw the simplicity of the shapes and felt a relevance for my own big paintings.  I really want to go back to Milan and draw parts of these cartoons extensively at life size.  The experience gave me a new inspiration to try to solve complex problems with multiple figures in life-sized and larger compositions.
 
 

Friday, July 16, 2004

July 16, Friday

I went to the Casa Buonarroti today.   It is exactly  the kind of little palazzo you'd imagine for a little, well-to-do family, as they were after Michelangelo.   I wish the museum had been more about Michelangelo, though.  It seems like the perfect place to have lots of information about his life and works.  Instead there are a lot of "derivazioni," works imitating him, copying him, etc., and the decorations installed to glorify him by his grand-nephew, all of which, I suspect, would have turned the master's stomach. 
 
Some small works by M., and two beautiful reliefs from his adolescence.  The Battle of the Centaurs is a great composition.  My eye moves fluidly and without interruption over the whole thing.  The little figure in the lower left kneeling with his head in his hands frames the piece in that corner, helping turn the gaze back into the action.  It also draws you into the experience of the battle.  Looking at him, you think "Ow, that guy must have been hit in the head with one of those big rocks."  The heads and faces are not quite as good as they might be though, in this work.  You can see that his focus and interest was more on the figure.  The expression of the face is much less important in Michelangelo's work, it seems to me, than it is in most painters and many sculptors. 
 
The drawings were also a disappointment, because they only show a few at a time, and at present these are some sketches for fortifications of Florence from 1527 or so.  I would rather see figure drawings.
 
After this I spent the afternoon in Santa Croce. 
I have a lot of questions about the Franciscans and Francis now.  I'm getting a picture of him as a major reformer in the Catholic church.  I'm sure the pope would much rather have burned him than have ordained him and authorized his rebellious gang of followers.  Their movement must have spread very quickly among the poor and become so popular that the pope couldn't suppress it.  My guess is that the rise of the cities created a large urban poor population which was not being addressed by the church at that time.  This created a kind of vacuum into which Francis' order grew because of the appeal that his approach, similar to Jesus' own, must have had among the alienated poor of the cities.  Dante called him a "second son," and Francis must have been something like this, with his poverty, evocation of the life of the spirit, and conflicts with authority.  I have always taken for granted the fact that these various orders arose and were incorporated into the church, but I think Francis' approach was a direct threat to the wealth of the pope and would have been suppressed as heresy if it had been possible.  This must have given a whole new spiritual life to Catholicism, and much of it's spiritual validity today, whatever that is.  I think Francis said he would rather save the boat than sink it, referring to the Catholic church, and it may be that that's what he did.
 
The church was incredible on its own.  The space is wonderful, grand and at the same time evoking (partly) the Franciscan humility with its wooden transept ceiling.  The works are wonderful.  The Giottos are badly worn and faded, but there is still an unmistakable quality to the figures and outlines of the compositions.  You definitely feel Giotto here.  The group standing around St. Francis on his death bed is so moving somehow, even though faded and when viewed from afar.  Their faces are so sad, so real. 
 
The other highlight of the church for me was the large "tree of the crucifixion" mural painted by Taddeo Gaddi, with a last supper beneath it and surrounded by scenes from the lives of Saint Francis, Jesus, and some other saint I couldn't identify.  Parts of this work are very moving to me.  Particularly the face of the Christ and a few of the apostles in the Last Supper.  The woman on the far left, the Virgin or Mary Magdalen, is so sweet, so beautiful and pure.  I feel that there is a kind of saintliness in some of these faces.  Also the figure of Mary lying in the Christ's lap is also very moving to me.  I guess this show of love is there because this is a Franciscan church.  I'm not sure what the significance of the enormous "tree" emanating from the crucifixion is, but it seems to be organic, energetic in its symbolism.  There are flowing, curving lines emanating from the cross leading to depictions of different scenes and saintly people.  It seems to say that we are all bound together in the spirit by the sacrifice of the Christ. 
 
The courtyard of the church had a nice feeling, too.  I imagined people coming here hundreds of years ago to get services and charity from the friars.  These guys were the liberals and social workers of the time. 
 
Still having feelings of inadequacy as an artist.  I know Van Gogh felt this way too, though, which always saves me from feeling too hopeless.  How much worse than mine his feelings were.  How unbelievably committed he was to work as he did in spite of inadequacy, loneliness, and the suffering of his own mind.  How sad his end was, how unbelievably sad. 


Thursday, July 15, 2004

July 15, Thurs

I went to the Accademia today, where I saw Michelangelo's Prisoners, St. Matthew, a Pieta (of questionable attribution), and, of course, David.

Now I am like a snake that swallowed a goat whole and will lie for months on end, overcome by the process of digestion. I feel like I'm trapped by those stone prisoners. I drew for 4 and a half hours and had nothing but a hollow shell. Then I drew for another two, from a different prisoner, and tried to indicate some of the vitality with my lines. It may be hopeless, trying to express what I see. The life of the art becomes trapped inside of me, so that I am the stone, the prison. The more you try to grasp it, the harder you become, the less it can escape. The Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan said we have to become softer and softer on the spiritual path, moving from hearts of stone to hearts... of what? I can't remember the analogy. Maybe it was water. And Jonathan Goenewan, a genius and a great teacher, said the body has to be like water to play the paino right, to express the spirit of the music.

I can look and look and look, and I never cease to be amazed when I look again. Why are these works like lights radiating purely through their forms, the quality of their making? These are the record of the hand of that man, THE man of talent. If I sound hyperbolic or starry-eyed, it's because I AM starry-eyed. I can hardly see--my vision is blurry, as it has been recently after drawing and painting, but more so. I spent 9 hours in the Accademia, and I only left because I couldn't see anymore.

I guess I'm just going to go on with my little life as an artist, being bold in my little ways when I can! What a shadow we all seem to be, though--all of our expressions and achievements. Even Michelangelo is only a shadow of something greater, something he knew all too well. Of course, that "something greater" is ourselves, and at times I even experience the joy of knowing that it is free from expression.

"Without form, without expression, without attributes..."

"Everything that is real is given and received in silence."
--Meher Baba

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

July 14th Wednesday

Painted again this morning in Rignano Sull'Arno. Confronting the issues of the same landscape on the second day. I still haven't got back to finishing the first one I started here, because this other is occupying me so much. So many hours unprotected under the hot sun. It is both a joy and a hardship.

Psychological, spiritual effects of being outside of the city.

Came back in the afternoon to hear a lecture in San Lorenzo. What incredible works in this church! I saw a painting which I knew was an Annigoni at first sight. Our lecturer talked very energetically about Brunelleschi and the invention of the Renaissance as a kind of Italian nationalistic (i.e. Roman) split from the Gothic. The concept of Renaissance proportions was different from the Gothic, he thought, in that it was more self-consciously aesthetic than structural, and, of course, more based on Roman models. He called it "paper architecture." Apparently the size of all the spaces were based upon a single measurement which unfolded in the space like a folded piece of paper, although I don't know if the term actually comes from this. He showed us the sacristry where a "Baci" was buried, and pointed out the purple porphyry circle in the top of his monument/table. The sacristry was the first part of San Lorenzo that was built, around 1420. The rest of the church wasn't done until about 20 years later. It is square in shape and based on a simple, harmonic scheme. The guide said that Brunelleschi invented those floating capitals--I forget their real names--to take the place, aesthetically, of classical columns. Donatello's tondos in the roof were apparently too busy and gaudy for Brunelleschi, who wanted the space to be sober and sacred in feeling. He then described briefly Savonarola's rise and his fall, initiated by the Signoria that he put in power, who were also helped by the Medici. One of the most interesting points of his lecture concerned the pope's authorization of the Franciscan and Domenican orders. These were apparently among a number of sects which the pope was trying to control and suppress as heresies and, doubtless, threats to his power. The rise of the city in the late middle ages, though, had created a great need for urban-based brotherhoods of friars, and the pope authorized the Franciscan and Domenican sects to fill this role, thus consolidating his power and expanding the role of the church in people's lives in the city. These city-based brotherhoods were distinct from the traditional rural monasteries, which in the late middle ages had formed the main part of church power and wealth.




July 13 Tues

Colleen and I caught a 7:12 train for Rignano again. We went up the hill across the bridge behind the town and both started painting landscapes of the valley that stretches out back there. It was interesting to see my work next to hers. I started drawing with darks that were too dark, and saw that on a small canvas every brush stroke affects the relationship of the values in the painting. I think for these small canvases I have to be very particular about starting in the right value and being fully aware of the range in temperature and value that I'm working with from the beginning. In addition to size, there is the difference between working on the figure, which is where most of my experience is, and working in landscape. With people form is more important, whereas landscapes are more about color and value.

When we came back in the afternoon I still had time to go to the Pitti Palace. I can't believe the collection there. It rivals the Uffizi in its way, especially considering that the whole thing was open at one time. I left this museum in a kind of ecstasy and walked straight to an art supply store where I bought 3 meters by 2 meters of the same oil-primed linen which we have been working on out-of-doors. I'm planning to start a larger figurative painting, perhaps a self-portrait, in the evenings.

Notes on the Pitti Palace:
Sala di Bona
"Flora" a Roman copy of a 2nd century AD original. I was moved by the particularity, the sensitive individuality of this figure's body. Its proportions were very beautiful, but somehow not typical of idealized statues. It seemed like the body of a girl I might have known.

Bandinelli 1493 - 1560 had a Bacchus standing on the way into the rest of the museum. I found the forward thrusting torso very sensitive, very alive, very sensual--appropriate for Bacchus.

Baldassare Franceschini- Sleeping Love - a distinct style, soft and almost impressionistic. What happens when love wakes up?

Orazio Riminaldi- Pisa 1586 - 1631 Martyrdom of St Cecilia. This large canvas captures a moment when two fates simultaneously descend on the saint, one in the form of the executioner handling her by the hair, sword in hand; the other in the form of the angel descending with a branch and some other symbol to bestow on the bowed figure of the saint. St. Cecilia's expression is calm, as if she looks beyond the events happening to her now with a patient faith or equanimity of mind. A beautifully painted work. The angel in the composition composition recalls Caravaggio's St Matthew and the Angel, as do the strong lights and shadows.

Francesco Furini, Florence 1604 - 1649 Adam and Eve in Earthly Paradise. God makes the third figure in this painting, who seems to be teaching his creatures while they listen with eager submissiveness. The figures have that glowing light we saw with nudes in the Accademia and elsewhere. A high-quality piece. Cavarozzi's St. Jerome, in this room, is also very good, as is Furini's "Ila e le Nynfe".

Ribera! Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew. Unsurpassable realism. The arms of all the figures and the Saint's flailing body create a dynamic abstract composition. There is almost the sense of an explosion happening. Extremely reminiscent of Caravaggio's martyrdom of st Matthew at San Luigi dei Francesi.

Andrea Del Minga 1540-1596 Very derivative of Michelangelo, manneristic. A good example of what happens when artists imitate instead of following their own path.

Filippo Lippi- Madonna and Child A beautiful work. I am reminded again of the coronation of the Virgin in the Uffizi. How much I love the greyish tones of the flesh. I find it very magnetic, almost erotic, somehow.

Vasari- La Pazienza The head in profile is straight from Michelangelo.

Jacopo de Boateri: A Bellini-like Sacra Familia.

Cigoli, Cardi Lodovico- Florence 1559-1613 Ecce Homo

Allori 1577-1621 Judith with the head of Holofernes- What a compelling composition. She is presenting the severed head with one hand, held at about hip-height. Strange to see a head placed like that without the context of a body, at its own height lower in the painting than the heads of the figures, filling a space that otherwise would have made the composition seem empty. You can't take your eyes of it, and her.

Raphael- Portrait of a Pregnant Lady. I read that this was the first portrait of a pregnant woman in the Renaissance. The longer I stand in front of this painting, the more the quality of this work appears to me. Principally, I think it is the strength and quality of Raphael's lines that compel the viewer to look again and again. Compared with Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio's very similar Portrait of a Woman on the other side of the large Del Sarto, which is also drawn very well, you can see the special power of Raphael's composition and line. The difference is amazing, and impossible to grasp intellectually. Raphael's power is miraculous. Throughout this museum there are incredible works of Raphael. His drawing in every case reaches the same unexplicable level of quality. In his unique mastery, he stands as high and as far apart from all other painters as Glenn Gould does from pianists.

del Sarto (Andrea d'Agnolo)1486-1530- I like his use of greys in the shadows, similar to Fillipo Lippi's. In this room there are two huge, almost identical compositions- The Ascension(s) of the Virgin. One is completely subterranean, the other has a view of sky on the left middle portion of the painting, and the figures, all in the same or very similar positions, have been changed, in one case from an old man to a young one, or in another from a man to a woman. Two background figures in the subterranean painting have been omitted in the other, but otherwise the paintings are uncannily similar. This tells me a lot about their concept of a figure painting. There must have been a lot of work put into arranging the figures with drawings on a large canvas, for it to be worth while to repeat the same composition twice like that.

Giusto Sustermans, Anversa 1597 - Florence 1681 What a fabulous painter! Valdimar Cristiano di Denmark- what a sense of character comes through in this painting. He has many fine works in this museum (maybe 20?)

Fra Bartolomeo 1472-1517 Compianto su Cristo Morto This painting is remarkable for the cropped heads at the top and for the bloody sleeves of Mary Magdalene's white garment, which tell the story of her emotion, since her head is bowed and the face barely visible.

There is a beautifully personal portrait of a man and a woman from a 16th century florentine painter, formerly attributed to Del Sarto as a self-portrait with his wife. There is a wonderful intimacy and emotion I have seen little of in the Renaissance.

Sala di Marte
I was filled with awe walking into this room! There are very fine works by Titian, Veronese, Murillo, Fra Bartolomeo, Del Sarto, van Dyck, Tintoretto, and Bronzino!
I love the portrait by Titian (1490-1576) of Dr. Vesalio. A great, great work that I will always remember. Staid, somber composition. Somehow, looking at this man's face I see the face of a doctor, of a person who looks at you with a doctor's experience, his perspective on human life, and, just maybe, the sense of superior knowledge which makes them seem at times arrogant.

From this room, the museum continued to be better and better.

Sala di Apollo
Two incredible Del Sarto Sacra Familie--some of my favorite works by him. Very graceful, three or four figure compositions. Also his quiet, lovely self-portrait.

Nicocolo Cassana's "Guerriero" An unusual painting, somehow. Very wooly, rough-looking character. Hard to see, where it is hung.

Allori's portrait of a young man. Such a beautiful, sensitive face!

Titian!!!
La Maddalena!--dark blue sky in corner frames golden hair clasped to breast. What a breathing, beautiful work.
Ritrato Virile! (Occhi Grigie) As arresting as any painting I ever saw. I could look at just this work forever.

Dosso Dossi's (1479-1541) Nymph and Satyr The shock of the satyr's bestial, aggressive expression, the blur and horizontal lines disturbing like Francis Bacon, with animal sharp teeth, contrasted with the nymph's look, inches from this creature, which seems vaguely distressed, but as if she were thinking of something else. The whole thing has a very modern, alienated look, like Gerhard Richter or Francis Bacon.
The same painter's Il Battista with the fire in the sky over the background baptism scene, makes me think of another painter from our time--Annigoni. The dark eyes and the way of painting the background landscape seem very like Annigoni to me. I also see a connection to this artist in terms of the same disturbing quality.

Damiano Massa active 1573 Sacra Conversazione

Sala Venere
Titian's Concerto! This work is tremendous, sublime. It was closing time and I barely got 5 minutes to look at it. It is something fundamentally of the Renaissance. I can't really say why, but I want to look and look and look at this work.

I haven't said anything yet about Rubens' Consequences of War. Like the large Rubens in the Uffizi, it draws me mostly by its brushstrokes moving all over the canvas. I love this about Rubens, his boldness. I want to work that large!

Monday, July 12, 2004

July 12, Monday

Took a train this morning with Colleen to the town of Regnano, in the hills about 30 miles up the Arno for Florence. The view of the river and hills from the bridge is expansive and beautiful, the river pooling at the foot of a steep hill in front of you, with the ridge of a more distant hill visible above the ridge in the middleground. Began a small landscape study, which I hope to return here to finish. A thunderstorm was rumbling and looming all afternoon. I watched curtains of rain moving around in the distance, but it was 2:30 before they reached us, and then it came down in buckets. The sky was spectacular before the rain hit. Clouds with warm colors intermingled with those of the blue grey storm, creating layers of different colors and shapes of torn and twisted cloud banks. I had to stop painting, of course, but I think I have a good start, and I am beginning to feel truly excited about painting landscape. There is no limit to the availability or the possibilities and variety of compositions, and as I begin to see the work develop, I dream of expressing so many things that I have felt about landscapes, about the sea, rivers, lakes, mountains.

Tonight we have our first art history class at the British Institute. Tomorrow I may try to paint and visit a museum as well.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

July 11

I walked about 3 miles up the Arno this morning with my easel. Fishermen along the bank on this Sunday morning. I feel relieved to be out of the city, and I feel the influence of nature beginning to soak into my parched consciousness. I saw a beaver grooming himself on a rock in the river, and stopped to watch him. After he observed me he seemed to consider me for a moment before getting into the water and paddling off. A few times while I was painting, I saw him swimming back and forth among his rocks. I felt a kind of joy at seeing him get into the water. How accustomed he must be to it. How simple his life seemed, how peaceful. Strange that all the great art is kept in cities, since it all comes from nature. I know some might disagree with that, but to me all great learning is done at the feet of nature.

As I painted I thought how strange it is that an artist who has accomplished something is seen with envy by others. Great talent seems to be a possession, but actually doesn't great achievement call for great sacrifice. Maybe the truth is that real masters possess less than other people, not more. How can there be depth without loss? Think of Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Brahms, Shakespeare, and Van Gogh, to name a few great artists. So we really do not know what we are asking for when we envy these people. How can you envy someone their love, their sacrifices? And how can you enjoy the credit without ceasing to be an artist? Doesn't the artist who sits back on his laurels commits the same fraud as we who envy him? All of the people I just mentioned followed the thread of their genius to the very end.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

July 10th, Saturday

Milan today.

Brera Museum
I saw the St Mark preaching in Alexandria, and an exquisite, incredible Pieta, both by Bellini. The large painting was wonderful but it didn't have the compositional power of the Martyrdom of St. Mark in Venice. The Pieta had an almost unsurpassable grace in the color, values, and shading. Again this painter astounds me. I must find a way to go to Vicenza to see the Baptism of Jesus.

This museum contained many works of an almost miraculous level of achievement.
Mantegna's Dead Christ was like meeting a famous person--you can't believe you are standing in front of this thing. Dozens of huge 16th century figure compositions were of such high quality that I began to feel exhausted by them. Just as I was feeling unable to absorb anything more, I came across Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaeus, the partner of the one I just saw in the Met last month. It is darker, more sober, and more convincing than the one I had already seen. The reactions of the apostles are less exaggerated, more internal. When I saw this painting, all the other impressions from the museum, together with my fatigue, dropped away immediately, and the Caravaggio hung there as if the museum contained only this work.
Words can never describe this genius properly. As I have felt in many different situations now, the greatest geniuses are those whose techniques are
un-selfconscious, though brilliant.

Crespi (1665-1747)
Crucifixion
I first noticed Crespi yesterday in the Uffizi when I saw his Portrait of the Painter Giovanni Sorbi, which was very alive, very human and honest: half of the face shaded in a Caravaggiesque darkness, the other half emerging with one baby-faced round cheek showing a natural, intimate smile. Today, among other things by him, was a tremendous dark crucifixion. His painting has the kind of dark mystery that invites your soul into its quiet shade. He certainly is influenced by Caravaggio. I wonder if he had seen Rembrandt.

some thoughts:

Since I saw the Scrovegni Chapel, I have been thinking about the course of Jesus' life. Giotto's cycle gave a sense of the great momentum of Jesus' actions. We see his entry into Jerusalem, then immediately the upset he causes in the temple, and immediately after that his capture and crucifixion, and the grief of his followers. I think he generated such strong reactions in people that they were unable to process their responses to him--he brought out such deep reactions that some people transformed their whole lives, while others must have felt psychologically threatened, and responded with aggression. In any case, and whoever he was, I think he must been acting from a very deep place in himself, a source of actions that moves much faster than the conventional mind acts. Ironically this was Nietzsche's dream--action unimpeded by the weak, socially constructed part of the mind, action that overwhelms conventional responses and leaves people scrambling to adapt in its wake. Consider the directness, the speed of his acts leading up to the Crucifixion. I don't think that the Apostles knew what was happening, nor do they nor anyone else seem to have understood him. The western world has been trying to organize His radicality for 2,000 years.

Friday, July 09, 2004

July 9th, Friday

I went back to the Uffizi today in order to see the rest of the museum, post-Fillipo Lippi. Even that was too much to take in. Unfortunately they were understaffed and did not open the rooms with the two huge Rubens, which I have been dreaming about ever since I heard of them from Colleen.

Botticelli
After Charles Cecil pointed it out in his lecture last night, I could see what he called almost-gothic elements in Botticelli, particularly in the curving outline shapes of garments and figures. Botticelli always seemed to me to stand somehow outside of time in many of his paintings, and maybe this is part of the reason why. His figures are incredibly beautiful, like so much else in Italian art. There is a great emphasis on graceful rounding of forms, as in the Gothic and Renaissance in general.

Leonardo
I looked for a long time at the Adoration of the Magi. It looks like maybe he put in a drawing with tempera and then started painting over it in oil. Some of the tempera-like brush work looks just like some of Annigoni's marks, so I guess this is where he was studying. In fact, there is a general mood which seems to connect Annigoni to Leonardo. Perhaps it is the sense of solitude. Even Annigoni's unusual sense of composition seems influenced by Leonardo. Other similarities include their variety of activities, their obsession with solitary "research", and a dour, apocalyptic, almost misanthropic sensibility. I feel like these thoughts open a door to understanding Annigoni and Leonardo both.

Bronzino
Incredible portraits, although some are slightly less than human in their idealization. That was, I'm sure, wholly intentional. How can there have been so many perfect masters of technique? Not one painter today stands with any of them, really, in terms of pure mastery. There are wonderfully expressive painters now, and people whose work touches me more than some of these Renaissance masters, but really no one masters the techniques of painting like so many of these people did.

Tintoretto
Adam and Even before eternity
A beautiful painting. God here reminds me of the God he painted creating the animals, back in Venice. That painting so much resembled the style of William Blake that if you had shown it to me in another context I would have thought William Blake was an unknown master of oil painting. This painting struck me with great sadness, though, because I can see that people believe in this story of God's extreme punishment for a childlike disobedience. It is a sad, petty vision of God and of the fall of man. The real meaning of "the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil" should be more deeply interpreted in general, rather than as a mere story of disobedience and punishment.

Other works:
There was a beautiful, tender portrait of a youth by Lorenzo Lotto. A painting by Crespi (1665-1747) stood out, a portrait of the painter Givoanni Sorbi. It felt like he was painting someone he knew well, and there was tenderness as well as a hint of humor in it.

The highlight of my day, though, was the three Rembrandts near the end of the galleries: self portrait as a young man, portrait of an old man, and a later self-portrait. I spent hours making a rough drawing of the old man's hands, which are typical of Rembrandt's loose, abstract way of vividly capturing reality. He is rough and delicate at the same time. His technique, as staggering and tremendous as it is, seems to bow down before playfulness and spontaneity, making them its masters. What a master of masters. What humanity and mortality in his work. He seems to say, "for all this I am a man, and life and death outdo us." I love the way he paints hands.

July 8, Thursday

Padova

Colleen and I were both exhausted today after two days in Venice following immediately on a weekend of trips to Bologna and Siena. On our way back from Venice we stopped in Padova because we wanted to see the Scrovegni Chapel. We didn't have any idea that we would only be allowed in the chapel for 15 minutes in exchange for 5 Euros. It is somehow insulting, both to the viewer and to Giotto, to be expected to take in those works in that amount of time. Furthermore, I suspected that the frescoes had been overcleaned or touched up with the wrong colors, because the whole thing had some of that too-light, chalky look which I've noticed goes along with a lot of restorations. Nonetheless, we got to see it, which was like a gift from God.

This cycle of frescoes was the most convincing portrayal of the story of Jesus' life that I have ever seen. It was explicated by an almost invisible genius with depth, humility, simplicity, certainty, and clarity. For the first time, I seemed to grasp the simple facts of Jesus' story. Giotto shows emotion with great, quiet depth that doesn't require exaggeration and as a result doesn't interfere with the communication of the relationships and events in the story. Many of the compositions are great genius in themselves, but, again, he doesn't overplay his hand here, not requiring spactacular arrangements for every scene, but using the most innovative and quietly brilliant groupings and use of gesture to express drama, emotion, and in every way conveying the experience of the actual events. It took seeing this in person to realize that Giotto is not only one of the greatest painters, but one of the greatest storytellers that has ever lived. If I were going to make a film of the life of Jesus, I would instruct my lead actor to work from Giotto's Jesus and I would build a story board around the fresco cycle in the Scrovegni Chapel.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

July 6-7, Venice

The Beaver-Republic (as Goethe put it)

After getting to our hotel on Tuesday afternoon I went out exploring the city and looking for the Scuola di San Rocco. This was an extraordinary building. It reminded me of Sorolla in the Hispanic Society--almost a life's work preserved on the walls of a kind of lay-temple. The colors seemed to be suffering from age. The shadows were mostly all the same black-brown, and various evidence suggests that the paintings were once much lighter. I can easily imagine this based on Tintoretto's other work which we saw in the Accademia the next day. It would be glorious to see that building as it originally appeared, I am sure. As it is, the works are very impressive in size and style, but I can't say that I feel inspired by the compositions, somehow. Perhaps things are too literal, or too self-consciously posed.

Accademia
This museum contained one of the most wonderful things I have ever seen: the Martyrdom of St. Mark by Giovanni Bellini. It's one of those works that I didn't have to try to appreciate. Love for this painting just washed over me like a wave as soon as I saw it. It feels grand and humble at the same time. The color and shapes of the forms are sublimely simple and beautiful. There is a rhythmic dynamism to the movements of the figures and the shapes of color. The landscape and architecture in the background are light and expansive, and the whole painting gives a wonderful sense of a public space. Like in Giotto, a story is related in a beautifully direct manner. All the figures seem to be alive and fully human, which conveys to me a sense of compassion for humanity in all its different forms, good and evil, high and low, rich and poor, man and woman, young and old. I have always felt that awareness and compassion were essentially the same thing. Violence, which is a state of mind before it is an action, is basically a lack of interest in other peoples' reality. The artist who portrays a caricature of evil people furthers the cycle of violence which he is condemning. This painter, by contrast, seems to take an interest in the humanity of these people, even though they are committing a horrible act. Perhaps that is another way this painting seems to me related to Giotto.

The canvas has a strange shape which would have accomodated a large door in the central lower portion. I think it would be better hung over a door now, because as it is the part which is missing from the usual rectangular scheme seems to be just that--a missing part. If it were wrapping around a door, there would be a narrative purpose to the shape. The trail of the saint's blood on the left side of the painting would lead directly through the space of the door to connect to the saint's body just on the other side. Thus the human space of the door would intersect in a sense with the passage of the saint's body across the scene of the painting, giving us a sense that the saint's body was being dragged across OUR path. It seems like it should be hung this way now, so that people can experience this.

Bellini's other works were very diverse. I am extremely impressed with the genius of this artist. I don't know how any of this will feed into my work, but I feel that it is already in my soul. I bought a book of Bellini's work in the shop at the museum. In this book there is a picture of his Baptism of Christ in the chiesa di Santa Corona in Vicenza. The head of Christ in this painting may be the most beautiful thing I have seen in oil painting. Only Rembrandt's late self-portrait in a beret, in the National Gallery, Washington D.C., which I saw in Boston last year, comes to mind with a similar force for me. I wish that I could see this painting in real life.

As for the rest of the museum:
I didn't find the gothic works here as compelling as those in Florence. There was an amazing painting of an angel with gold armor that stood out in relief. Many of the gothic paintings were beautiful, but I didn't find them as energetic or sensual as the ones in the Uffizi.

One painting made me laugh: it was a gothic triptych featuring, among other saints, a Saint Peter the Martyr who was stooping to give a blessing to a small person at his feet, all the while with a gigantic blade in the shape of a meat cleaver buried about four inches deep in the top of his skull, oozing blood.

Side by side with Bellini's huge masterpiece hung two bizarre works by a painter whose name I have blocked out. Huge canvases absolutely obsessed with hundreds of identically painted columns and indistinguishable turbaned gentleman of Venice. The mechanical highlights on every turban and column had the effect of making me feel anxious. I don't understand how anyone could look at such a painting without experiencing discomfort.

I had no idea previously of Veronese's unbelievable abilities. I had a similar response as that to Tintoretto. I can only hold these great masters in the highest esteem, and feel that I am in no place to criticize those who stand so far above me. That said, the works don't evoke the basic response in me that is my reason for being an artist. They don't seem to move my heart. Perhaps I have been looking at too much art.

The large, late work of Titian's which I sketched in miniature is darkly mysterious. The use of paint and the dark, muted colors, together with the mystery of the composition, evoke the emergence of an inner vision, as if this painter were looking beyond his life, or he is like a snake shedding some old skin late in life, emerging in a new dark and silver form which had been growing, developing underneath the old one for years. I don't know enough about this artist's life and work to really understand this transformation, and I cannot explain this impression, but it grips me somehow.

The Church of the "Frari"
A beautiful gothic church in brick-- a relief from all the baroque extravaganzas we have been seeing. I looked at two very impressive Titians, although the Assumption of the Virgin over the alterpiece made me think of a number in a broadway musical. Again, I almost feel like a blasphemer to say such a thing--I have such a high respect for Titian--but the use of figures in this way seems somehow overextended, if that makes any sense. As if the enthusiasm for numbers and size of figures had overgrown its boundaries and was taking over the world on its own account. Maybe by descent I have the same kind of cultural soul as the Protestants, and I simply don't understand this profusion of characters and figures in Catholicism. Still, it doesn't bother me in Michelangelo, or in Bellini's paintings.

I also admired a work by Rubens and an altarpiece by Bellini, in a side chapel.

I wish that I could be in this city when there are fewer tourists here, and that I could have time just to wander in it and draw. There are quiet impressions lurking here underneath all the hubub of the tourism.