This week: the “Debatable Land,” Jane Freilicher & more.
The Debatable Land, by Graham Robb (Norton): A few years ago Graham Robb, the author of well-received books on the history of France, moved from cosmopolitan Oxford to what the cover of his new book The Debatable Land describes as “the lost world between England and Scotland.” This self-exile to the so-called Debatable Lands, straddling the current English county of Cumbria and the Scottish county of Dumfries and Galloway, proved fruitful for the writer, providing for him the kernel of this new book. Robb explores this nebulous region by bicycle, discovering that, though territorial disputes there have long been settled, in the Debatable Lands the past is always close at hand. —BR
“Jane Freilicher: ’50s New York” at Paul Kasmin Gallery (through June 9): Jane Freilicher (1924–2014) was the quintessential artist of the New York after-School. Dispensing with the hardboiled lessons of the day, she painted “what she sees, but it happens that she sees a lot,” observed John Ashbery, her close friend. Now through June 9 at Paul Kasmin Gallery, “ ’50s New York” looks to Freilicher’s first flowering decade, when she saw her New York studios in the soft light of Les Nabis—Pierre Bonnard, and even more so Édouard Vuillard. Organized in collaboration with Eric Brown Art Group, advisor to the Freilicher estate, the exhibition is Freilicher’s first at the gallery and a welcome arrival on the Chelsea scene. —JP
The MET Orchestra, Carnegie Hall (May 30): One of the last major events of the regular season—and one of the most anticipated—is the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra’s annual concert series at Carnegie Hall. In or out of the pit, the Met Orchestra is among the finest musical ensembles in the world, and hearing their peerless work in scores by Verdi and Wagner seven times a week makes a listener wonder what they might bring to the symphonic works of Brahms, or Bruckner, or Mahler. On Wednesday, the orchestra will play under Gianandrea Noseda, the talented Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra. James Ehnes joins for Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 (the “Turkish”), the best example of its genre from the Classical period, followed by Mahler’s dramatic Symphony No. 5. —ECS
“Chaim Soutine: The Outsider as Insider” at the Jewish Museum (May 30): Chaim Soutine, the son of an impoverished clothes-mender from provincial Russia, moved to Paris in 1913 to study painting at the renowned classicist École des Beaux-Arts, but he left not two years later to join the avant-garde movement’s most bohemian circles. These two seemingly incongruous artistic environments would shape Soutine’s art for the rest of his career. At once a cutting-edge modernist and an Old Master disciple, Soutine is infinitely individual and resists easy categorization. An exhibition on now at the Jewish Museum, “Chaim Soutine: Flesh,” includes thirty-two of the eccentric Russian-French painter’s energetic (and often revolting) still lifes, which takes among its subjects half-plucked turkeys, disemboweled stingrays, putrefying carcasses of beef, and the gruesome like. In conjunction with the exhibition, Kenneth E. Silver, professor of modern art history at New York University, will visit the Jewish Museum to discuss Soutine’s complex and varied relationship with the interwar Parisian art world. For an extended look at “Chaim Soutine: Flesh,” look out for my review in the forthcoming June issue of The New Criterion. —AS
From the archive: “Miracle at the Met,” by Jed Perl (November 1993). On the nineteenth-century European paintings & sculpture galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
From the current issue: “Picasso: difficulties with girls,” by Dominic Green. On “Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy” at Tate Modern, London.