This week: Peter Brown, Pratt Manhattan Gallery, Vivaldi, skyscrapers & more from the world of culture.
Journeys of the Mind: A Life in History, by Peter Brown (Princeton): As a scholar of late antiquity for nearly seventy years, the historian Peter Brown knows well what it means to study an underappreciated discipline. This makes all the more striking his observation, in the preface to his new memoir-cum-intellectual-history Journeys of the Mind, that it often seemed “easier to explain to young Americans and Europeans the institutions of Dark Age Europe than the workings of Oxford in the 1950s and 1960s.” Brown corrects this imbalance by a two-pronged approach, tracing the development of his own “historical sense” alongside vivid portraits of the intellectual milieux that fostered it. Look for a full review from Amit Majmudar in a future issue. —RE
“There is a Certain Slant of Light” at Pratt Manhattan Gallery (through September 6): Pratt Manhattan’s ongoing show owes its name to a poem by Emily Dickinson. Never one to fall prey to the expected, Dickinson in this poem alternately describes light as oppressive and imperial, and likens it to “Cathedral Tunes,” “Heavenly Hurt,” and “affliction.” The poet understood that light discloses many moods and forms—that is, light has an emotional spectrum just as real as its electromagnetic spectrum. The fourteen artists currently on display at Pratt Manhattan grasp this as well, and they go a long way in exploring it. Organized around these artists’ varying treatments of light across genre and medium, the show is engaging and full. Worthy of special mention is the work of Samantha Morris, whose oil paintings and platinum-palladium prints reveal an intensely attentive eye. —LL
Vivaldi Festival with Chamber Players International at Planting Fields (August 19): In 1913, the businessman William Robertson Coe—insurer of RMS Titanic, of all things—began work on a vast garden and estate in Oyster Bay, New York. To impress his newlywed wife, Coe shipped giant beech trees across Long Island Sound from her childhood home in Massachusetts, and his agents scoured the world for the finest samples of rare trees, rhododendrons, camellias, and hibiscuses. None other than the Olmsted Brothers brought this sprawling, roughly four-hundred-acre flight of fancy to completion. Today one of the few Gold Coast estates with its land still intact, Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park is a hidden gem worthy of a weekend outing. Make it a cultural double-header with a visit to the Vivaldi Festival, held free on the grounds this Saturday afternoon. Chamber Players International will perform The Four Seasons as well as a selection of music by Bach, Handel, and Tchaikovsky. —IS
Curator’s tour of “Sky Marks | Landmarks” at the Skyscraper Museum (August 17): According to New York’s Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park, of the myriad buildings officially designated as New York City landmarks, eighty-eight might be classified as skyscrapers. The term encompasses buildings as disparate as the Plaza Hotel (1905–07), all French Renaissance frippery, and Lever House (1950–52), essentially a glass wall. On Thursday at 3 p.m., Carol Willis, the Skyscraper Museum’s curator, will lead a guided tour of “Sky Marks | Landmarks,” the museum’s current exhibition examining the enduring giants of New York architecture. —BR
By the Editors:
“The atomic bomb saved Japanese lives, too”
Roger Kimball, The Spectator World
From the Archives:
“Paris and the Impressionists,” by Karen Wilkin (March 1989). A review of Impressionism: Art, Leisure & Parisian Society by Robert L. Herbert.
“Purity, witchcraft, etc.,” by Jay Nordlinger. On a recital by Grigory Sokolov at the Salzburg Festival.
“Among saints & skeletons,” by Suzanna Murawski. On “Saints, Sinners, Lovers, and Fools: 300 Years of Flemish Masterworks” at the Dallas Museum of Art.