This week: H.D., Francine Tint, Frans Hals, Uncle Vanya & more from the world of culture.
H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), by Lara Vetter (Reaktion): Histories of modernism and biographies of its pioneers often feature H.D. as a side character—a notable and an eccentric one, to be sure, but a side character nonetheless. She enters and exits scenes from the lives of Pound, Moore, Eliot, Freud, and Stein frequently and always leaves an impression of zany, if perhaps manufactured, mystery. What Hilda Doolittle (1866–1961) was up to while offstage, however, is itself worthy of attention. A new biography of the elusive poet by Lara Vetter narrates many such offstage adventures—be they séances, escapes from the Blitz, or monkey adoptions—and situates them effectively within the writer’s long career, illuminating both the life and the oeuvre. Of special note are the many pages dedicated to the poet’s forays into film and film criticism, both previously underexplored. —LL
“Francine Tint: Listening to the Sublime” at M Fine Arts Galerie, Boston (September 1 through September 30) & “Francine Tint: The Sky is a Mirror” at Upsilon Gallery, New York (September 7 through October 14): Writing about Francine Tint’s 2022 exhibition at the National Arts Club, Dana Gordon remarked how “Light glows from these paintings, and their wide expanses of dominant color grasp the viewer’s attention.” Through the use of negative space and unprimed canvas contrasted with passages of white paint, Tint’s abstract compositions permit light both to soak in and lift off the surface of her work. With concurrent exhibitions opening at M Fine Arts Galerie in Boston and Upsilon Gallery in New York, there are now two chances this season to see these compositions that balance painterly action with a studied, light-filled repose. —JP
The Portraitist: Frans Hals and His World, by Steven Nadler (University of Chicago Press): Who has not gazed upon a Dutch group portrait from the seventeenth century and thought it might be a merry place to be? But it wasn’t always so merry, especially for the artists, as Steven Nadler shows in The Portraitist, a new biography of the great Frans Hals (1582–1666). Nadler opens with a testy episode that involved Hals refusing to finish a commission because traveling to Amsterdam from his home in Haarlem was just too much trouble. Here is a word-picture not just of Hals but of the greater Dutch Golden Age. —BR
Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov, directed by Jack Serio at Home Studios (through September 3): Chekhov’s goal was a realism that captured the disappointments, quiet desperation, and little, hard-won triumphs of life with heartbreaking accuracy. In Uncle Vanya, these play out in hushed conversations, occasionally boiling up into arguments inside the rooms of a Russian country estate. The click of Nanny’s knitting, the tap of the night watchman’s baton, the strum of a peasant’s guitar, and the drops of a rainstorm form the gentle basso continuo of these parleys. It’s already an intimate mise-en-scène, and one suited to its current staging in New York. Jack Serio’s immersive production runs through September 3 in a small Flatiron loft, with a cast led by the Broadway director David Cromer in the title role. —IS
By the Editors:
“James Buckley’s Conservative Century”
Roger Kimball, The Wall Street Journal
From the Archives:
“Young Winston’s salvation,” by David Fromkin (March 1990). A review of The Story of the Malakand Field Force & other early works by Winston Churchill.
“The Parson’s pardoning,” by James Como. On Chaucer’s Parson and his tale.