This week: Impressionism, CounterPointe, Lucian Freud & more.
“Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits,” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (March 1–May 25): Lucian Freud drew, etched, and painted hundreds, if not thousands, of sitters over the course of his long career. These sitters came from the highest of high society—he completed Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait in 2001—and the lowest of low (his more disreputable muses included boozers, brawlers, thieves, pimps, and even at least one accused murderer). But throughout his life, among all these models, the most reliable was the one looking back at him in the mirror. Opening this Sunday at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, after an initial run at London’s Royal Academy, is an exhibition that collects more than forty works of self-portraiture by Freud, tracing his career as a developing draughtsman in the early forties, through the period in which he was known as the “Ingres of existentialism,” and onto the thickly painted mode of working for which he is probably best known today. Look for my full review of the exhibition in The New Criterion’s upcoming April issue. —AS
“French Impressions: Debussy & Chausson,” with Grace Park, Gilles Vonsattel, and the Calidore String Quartet, featuring an illustrated talk by Samuel Adams, at the Bohemian National Hall (February 27): In understanding Impressionist composers and painters to be chasing after the colors and tones of a fleeting moment, that is, an “impression,” many audiences give their technical and formal considerations no more than a moment’s thought. What results is a general haziness about the aims of Impressionism and the means by which they were achieved, as though such details were as inscrutable as the forms of Monet’s famous sunrise over the port of Le Havre. Although their work often conveys a sense of spontaneity, Impressionist composers and painters were highly attentive to more enduring questions of style and structure. Many composers, of course, drew inspiration from contemporary artists and vice-versa, but a closer examination reveals that the strains of Impressionism in art and music had surprisingly little in common—a shared interest in the more transient elements of form, perhaps, but not much else. Claude Debussy, arguably the most famous Impressionist composer, loved much of the art bearing that label but hated to see it applied to his own work. To bring into focus the relationship between painting and music in the late nineteenth century, stop by the Bohemian National Hall on the Upper East Side this Thursday evening for a concert of Debussy and Chausson, accompanied by an illustrated talk on the ways Impressionist art did and didn’t influence their compositions. —RE
“CounterPointe,” in the Mark O’Donnell Theater, at the Actors Fund Arts Center (February 28–March 1): “CounterPointe” returns to downtown Brooklyn this weekend with a new set of dances pairing contemporary female choreographers and artists. The eighth annual collaborative presentation, organized by the choreographer Julia K. Gleich and the non-profit Norte Maar, “CounterPointe” offers a spirited survey of New York’s alternative arts scene revealed through the language of ballet. The weekend’s leap-year lineup includes works by Gleich with the artist Mary Schwab, Mari Meade with the artist Margaret Lanzetta, JoVonna Parks with the artist Maud Bryt, Maiya Redding with the artist Emmaline Payette, Eryn Renee Young with the artist Niki Lederer, and Deborah Kate Norris with the artist Anna Hymas. Look for a review of the performance in this space next week by Amy Beth Wright. —JP
“Bricks and Brownstone: The New York Row House,” with Patrick W. Ciccone, at the Salmagundi Arts Club (February 27): One of the most welcome titles to come across my desk last year was Rizzoli’s stunning updated and revised version of Charles Lockwood’s essential 1972 book about New York’s vernacular residential architecture: Bricks & Brownstone. This Thursday, Patrick W. Ciccone, the co-author of the revised text, will deliver a talk on the book at the Salmagundi Club on lower Fifth Avenue. For more on the book, see Peter Pennoyer’s review of the new edition from our December 2019 issue. —BR
“Jay Nordlinger & James Panero on music criticism.” A new podcast from two longtime New Criterion critics.
“James Panero on the Frick.” On ill-advised renovations to a New York treasure.
From the archive:
“Politics and art in the criticism of F. O. Matthiessen,” by James Tuttleton (June 1989). On F. O. Matthiesson and the Politics of Criticism by William H. Cain.
“Frontier fancy,” by Clayton Trutor. A review of Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West by H. W. Brands.