This week: Ezra Pound, Thomas Cole abound, Carnegie sounds & more.
When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History, by Matthew Restall (Ecco): Few periods more bitingly expose the fraught nature of history-telling as that in which European explorers first met Native American populations. In hoping to increase interest and investment in colonization, explorers sent murky tales of Eden-like landscapes and savage-but-submissive native populations back to Europe that were viewed by historians as authoritative for centuries to come. Perhaps the most famous example of these early intercultural exchanges is the meeting of Montezuma, the Aztec “emperor,” and Hernando Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, at the entrance of the great Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. The conventional history of the meeting, which has it that Montezuma meekly yielded his enormous and prosperous kingdom to Cortés, is one that Matthew Restall targets in his new book with the help of a number of rare and overlooked primary sources. In this dramatic retelling, which expounds on Spanish atrocities, Aztec human sacrifice, and other saucy topics sure to intrigue even neophytic readers, it appears that Montezuma may indeed get his long sought-after revenge. —AS
On Ezra Pound, with Daniel Swift at the 92nd Street Y (February 11): Lunatic? Fascist? Visionary poet? All of the above? The world of literature is still coming to terms with Ezra Pound. Daniel Swift, whose recent book The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound explored Pound’s extended stay at St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital, will speak this Sunday at the 92nd Street Y in a bid to further illuminate this arcane poetic mage. —BR
“Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through May 13): The life of Thomas Cole (1801–48) has long been overshadowed by his influence on nineteenth-century American art. Through his protégés Asher B. Durand and Frederic E. Church, Cole inspired the “Hudson River School” of painting, a term he never knew in his lifetime. In his famous painting, Durand immortalized his mentor in death, at forty-seven, as the “Kindred Spirit” to both the poet William Cullen Bryant and the American wilderness, as the two look out over the Kaaterskill Falls and the wilds of the Catskill Mountains. But Cole was anything but a rustic, or even an American provincial. “Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings,” an ambitious and scholarly exhibition now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, reconsiders the English-born Cole in light of his never-ending engagement with Old World art, from the Old Masters through his contemporaries Turner and Constable, whose work he encountered first-hand through several “Atlantic crossings.” By exhibiting Cole masterpieces such as The Course of Empire (1834) and The Oxbow (1836) alongside the very paintings he saw on exhibition in Europe, “Atlantics Crossings” makes the case that this distinctly American artist was enriched by a distinctly modern and worldly view. —JP
Matthias Goerne and Daniil Trifonov at Carnegie Hall (February 6): As celebrity pairings go, it’s hard to beat this Tuesday night’s program at Carnegie Hall: Matthias Goerne in recital with Daniil Trifonov. The combination of Goerne, one of the world’s great lieder singers, with Trifonov, the most sought-after concert pianist on the planet, should make for a superior evening of song. Their program, too, is packed with a variety of rich music: Alban Berg’s Op. 2 songs, Hugo Wolf’s Three Poems of Michelangelo, selections from Shostakovich’s Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarotti, Brahms’s Four Serious Songs (Op. 121), and Schumann’s masterful, emotional Dichterliebe. —ECS
Evening lectures at the New York Studio School (February 6 & 7): The New York Studio School at 8 West Eighth Street has long been a haven for history- and formal-minded artists and art-lovers alike. After hosting graduate and certificate classes for students during the day, the school packs its auditorium once or twice a week with free and public evening lectures. This week, two such lectures promise to be particularly revelatory. On Tuesday, a discussion of the work, inspiration, and influence of Mark Rothko will be led by the Metropolitan Museum curator Kathryn Calley Galitz and the painter’s son Christopher Rothko. And on Wednesday, another luminary from the Met’s curatorial department, Carmen Bambach, will speak about “Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer,” the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition that she curated to academic and public acclaim. Both lectures begin at 6:30, but be sure to win a seat by arriving well ahead of the scheduled start time. —AS
From the archive: “My Jerry Saltz problem,” by James Panero (December 2010): On art criticism in the age of the internet.
From the current issue: “Bernstein at 100: a personal look,” by Jay Nordlinger. On the composer, conductor, pianist, and writer Leonard Bernstein.