This week: Drawings by Mel Kendrick, Murillo at the Frick & more.

Installation view of “Mel Kendrick: Woodblock Drawings” at David Nolan Gallery.


Henry IV, by Chris Given-Wilson (Yale University Press): In 1399, as those versed in the history of England in the Middle Ages well know, Henry Bolingbroke, the son of John of Gaunt and the grandson of King Edward III of England, deposed the current and unpopular king, his cousin Richard II, while he was away on a military expedition in Ireland. Claiming possession of the throne over Edmund Mortimer through agnatic seniority, King Henry IV embarked on a fourteen-year reign. Henry’s rule was, however, hindered by a litany of minor rebellions that questioned his legitimacy as monarch. Uprisings led by those loyal to Mortimer and to Richard II (a legend held that the deceased king was secretly alive and in hiding) prevented Henry IV from effecting the political goals he and his supporters had hoped for. By consequence, history has tended to overlook Henry IV’s life and rule in favor of his more illustrious and compelling offspring. Henry IV, a new biography by Chris Given-Wilson (an emeritus professor of medieval history at the University of St. Andrews) restores Henry IV’s rightful place among the great monarchs of the House of Lancaster through careful and comprehensive research. —AS


Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Self-Portrait, ca. 1650–55, Oil on canvas, The Frick Collection

Murillo: The Shared Passion of Nineteenth-Century French and British Collectors, by Véronique Gerard Powell (November 1): Bartolomé Esteban Murillo is today judged a lesser Spanish master, not quite on the level of Velázquez or Zurbarán. It was not always this way: in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Murillo was the most collected Spanish painter in both Britain and France, as evidenced by the eleven paintings of his in the Wallace Collection. This Wednesday, Véronique Gerard Powell of the Sorbonne will give a talk at the Frick on the collectors’ interest in Murillo, and the reasons for its decline. Readers should also keep an eye out for our own Andrew Shea’s review of the Frick’s new show, “Murillo: The Self-Portraits,” in our December issue. —BR


Anita Hartig.

La Bohème at The Metropolitan Opera (November 1 & 4): There are a handful of singers I’ll go hear in just about anything—be it an opera by Rossini or Verdi, lieder by Strauss or Duparc, or any number of concert works. Right now, one of those is the Romanian operatic soprano Anita Hartig. In her young Metropolitan Opera career she has so far scored major successes in works by Puccini, Mozart, Bizet, and, most recently, Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. This week, for two performances only, she returns to the role with which she made her Met debut in 2014, Mimì in La Bohème. A superb actress with a lovely, honeyed voice, she seems poised for an important career, and is worth catching whenever she’s in town. Joining her for this run of the Puccini staple will be Russell Thomas as Rodolfo and Brigitta Kele as Musetta. Alexander Soddy conducts. —ECS


“Treasures from the Vault” at the Morgan Library (through November 12): Hurry to the Morgan Library, where their latest version of “Treasures from the Vault,” a recurring exhibition in which the Library displays selected items ordinarily held in storage, is on for two more weeks. This year’s treasures include a section of Jane Austen’s unfinished manuscript The Watsons, William Blake’s America: A Prophecy, Julia Ward Howe’s manuscript for the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and the autograph scores of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, among many other gems. —RH


Mel Kendrick in his studio. Photo: David Nolan Gallery

Mel Kendrick in conversation with Phong Bui, at David Nolan Gallery (November 3): Mel Kendrick has staked his career on exploring the positive and the negative in drawing, printmaking, photography, and sculpture. With the eye of a photographic plate, he finds the black in the white, the projection in the emulsion, the print in the press, and the shape in the void. Most known for his sculptures carved out of blocks that form their own pedestals, Kendrick has a varied studio practice that may find his stamps turned into sculptures turned into photographs, all in a flipping, tumbling performance of process and materials.

Now in its final week at Chelsea’s David Nolan Gallery, “Mel Kendrick: Woodblock Drawings” reassembles a series of large-scale woodblock prints created in 1992 and 1993 along with a single spidery wooden construction. This Friday at 6 p.m., Mel Kendrick will discuss this work, and his creative career, in conversation with Phong Bui, the artistic director of The Brooklyn Rail. —JP

From the archive: “The killing of History: why relativism is wrong” by Roger Kimball (September 1996). On The Killing of History by Keith Windschuttle.

From the current issue: “Solzhenitsyn’s cathedrals” by Gary Saul Morson. On the literary works of the Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Broadcast: “Why populism fails” featuring James Piereson. From “Populism and its critics,” a symposium presented by The New Criterion and The Social Affairs Unit.

Click here for a full archive of past Critic’s Notebooks.


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