This week: Wayne Thiebaud, Johnson’s club, the latest on Leonardo & more.
“The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age,” with Leo Damrosch, at the General Society Library (November 5): Eighteenth-century London was the cauldron of clubs. Though Peter Clark, in his British Clubs and Societies 1580–1800: The Origins of an Associational World (Oxford, 2000), dates the origins of clubs to before the 1700s, it was the Georgian era when “voluntary associations of all sorts became an essential part of the social and cultural language of urban life.” While Georgian London had no shortage of august institutions (the Royal Society, the Society of Antiquaries) and rather more social ones (the aristocratic gambling houses of Boodle’s and White’s), no club is more legendary than “The Club,” founded in 1764 by Joshua Reynolds and Samuel Johnson. Leo Damrosch’s recent book, The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age(Yale), tells the story in winning fashion. He will speak this Tuesday at the General Society Library, at an event sponsored by the Royal Oak Foundation, the American Friends of the Georgian Group, and the New York Society Library. For more on Damrosch’s book, please see Pat Rogers’s May 2019 review for The New Criterion.—BR
“Wayne Thiebaud: Mountains 1965–2019,” at Acquavella Galleries (through December 13): Best known for sugary still lifes frosted in a fluorescent glow, Wayne Thiebaud is equally luminescent in his high-calorie candied landscapes. Now at Acquavella, thirty-three of these confections in acrylic, charcoal, graphite, oil, and watercolor, inspired by the Sierra Nevadas and painted over the course of fifty years, push perspective to the edge and over. This Thursday, the nonagenarian Californian artist will speak at the gallery with Michael M. Thomas and Philippe de Montebello. While already oversubscribed, the event will be recorded for the next episode of “The Picture,” the occasional and much-appreciated Acquavella podcast. The writer Julia Friedman will have more on Thiebaud’s latest work in a forthcoming issue of The New Criterion. —JP
“Saint Thomas Choir School at 100,” featuring the Saint Thomas Choir, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and Jeremy Filsell (November 7): About a month ago I noted the economy with which Saint Thomas Church kicked off its “Grand Organ Series,” introduced its new music director, Jeremy Filsell, and featured its newly renovated Miller–Scott Organ, all in one evening. If present offerings are any indication, programmatic efficiency will be a feature, not a bug, of Filsell’s tenure at the church. Saint Thomas’s next concert, slated for this Thursday, has managed to roll three commemorations into one. First and most apposite is the hundredth anniversary of the Saint Thomas Choir School’s operation, to be celebrated with excerpts from the cantata Gloria Domini by the school’s founder, T. Tertius Noble. Second, in recognition of Veterans’ Day we have Stephen Paulus’s Prayers and Remembrances, a piece commissioned for the tenth anniversary of 9/11. But the most spurious and, for that very reason, delightfully warranted inclusion will be the decidedly non-choral Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, which Rachmaninoff premiered in Baltimore alongside the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski, eighty-five years ago, to the day. —RE
“Carmen C. Bambach: Leonardo da Vinci Rediscovered,” at the Italian Cultural Institute (November 5): It has been an exciting year for enthusiasts of the multitalented Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci. The commemoration in 2019 of the five-hundredth anniversary of Leonardo’s death has spawned events and exhibitions across the globe, culminating in the Louvre’s recently opened retrospective, which brings together more of his paintings and drawings than we have ever seen in one place. (Look for a review by James Hankins in our forthcoming December issue.) On this side of the Atlantic, a four-volume examination of Leonardo’s life and works by the Met curator Carmen C. Bambach, published this summer by Yale University Press, promises to be an invaluable resource, indeed a treasure, for scholars and connoisseurs for many decades to come. Twenty-three years in the making and sitting at 2,350 pages, Leonardo da Vinci Rediscoveredis exhaustive, and enormous. Those not likely to persevere through the whole thing may find a more snack-sized lesson this Tuesday evening at the Italian Cultural Institute, which will welcome the indispensable Bambach to discuss her book and its legendary subject. —AS
By the Editors:
“Chronicles of an epic egomaniac,” by Roger Kimball (The Critic Magazine).Tackling Harold Bloom.
From the archive:
“Ben Jonson’s violent laughter,” by Paul Dean. A review of Ben Jonson: A Life by Ian Donaldson.
“Up close and personal,” by George Loomis.On Aida at the Teatro Verdi.