One draws cities for practical and for visionary reasons. Whatever they may draw as preparation, usually builders are preoccupied with cities that can be built and lived in. As in New York, where there is not much difference between the drawings of Hugh Ferriss and the Chrysler or Empire State buildings, in Paris the difference between the visionary city and the one which exists is less clear than in other places. Haussmann’s projects were, for better and worse, the personal dreams of an imagination pierced by perfect boulevards. The Haussmannian approach was a response to practical needs which nonetheless expressed a very particular aesthetic, more even than the projects completed by Robert Moses in New York. The transformations which took place in Paris under the Second Empire, or even some of the grands travaux of the 1980s, were not far from the drawings of a visionary such as Marcel Storr. Consider the Bibliothèque François Mitterand, a strange building all the stranger for pretending to be rationalist. Once built these projects show us the joys and perils of visionary urbanism.
On dessine les villes pour des raisons pratiques ou visionnaires. D’habitude, les “bâtisseurs” se préoccupent des villes qu’on peut bâtir, où on peut vivre. Comme à New York, où il n’y a pas de différence significative entre les dessins de Hugh Ferriss et les tours Chrysler ou Empire State, à Paris la différence entre la ville existante et la ville visionnaire est peut-être moins nette qu’ailleurs. Les interventions de Haussmann étaient, pour le mieux et pour le pire, des rêves personnels d’une imagination percée par les boulevards parfaits. La démarche Haussmanienne était une réponse aux des exigences pratiques, mais elle exprimait une esthétique très personnelle, encore plus que les projets de Robert Moses à New York. Paris comme elle fut transformée pendant le Second Empire, ou même certains des grands projets parisiennes des 1980s ne sont pas trop loin des dessins d’un visionnaire comme Marcel Storr. Considérez La Bibliothèque François Mitterand, un édifice d’autant plus bizarre pour son rationalisme simulé. Une fois bâtis ces projets montrent les joies et les périls de l’urbanisme visionnaire.
The crowds begin as one approaches the rear of the building: a long line, snaking back on itself contains those hopeful of gaining one of the 500 tickets on sale each day; further on, is a smaller queue of the luckier ones who had snapped up all the online tickets during the first three days of sale. Overall, the crowds are well behaved—for this is England—and approach their goal with good humor and a touch of the spirit of Dunkirk as they descend upon the National Gallery’s runaway success, Leonardo: Painter at the Court of Milan. It is not a large show, only some sixty paintings and drawings, but then Leonardo only began a score of paintings in a career spanning four decades. Of those paintings, fifteen autograph works survive, and four of these are generally deemed incomplete. To assemble almost every surviving painting from Leonardo’s Milanese period in London is a notable achievement, and these works are supplemented by others associated with his followers and sometime collaborators in the most sustained period of productivity in the artist’s life.
This exhibition at Williams College Museum of Art is supplemental to the immense retrospective installation at MassMoca in North Adams. In some surprising ways it reveals more of the evidentiary by-products of the thought process of the seminal conceptual artist than the spectacular realizations at MassMoca.
With the chronological retrospective exhibition of the wall drawings of Sol Lewitt, Mass MoCA has duly taken its place on the stage as a magnet for contemporary art.
As the supply of old master drawings on the market dwindles, so do exhibitions of them, but if the exhibitions are fewer, their quality remains almost as strong as ever. The Uffizi continued its distinguished tradition at the Morgan Library this past winter, and now the Clark offers a fascinating and very beautiful layered exhibition consisting of sheets from different periods in the formation of its own collection interleaved with one of the most original and appealing of present-day private collections, the Italian drawings of Robert Loper, whose gifts include, in addition to expertise in the nooks and byways of Italian art of the sixteenth through the eighteenth century, fine taste, and a keen sense of fun.
Here in the Berkshires an exhibition of Claude Lorrain, “the Raphael of Landscape-painting,” as Horace Walpole called him, brings his work into especially sympathetic surroundings. The view from Pine Cobble, the steeper faces of Mt. Greylock, or its splendid waterfall remind us readily enough of the grander sights sketched by Claude and his fellow artists on their forays into the Roman Campagna. This natural beauty even nurtures a predilection for landscape, so that local galleries can subsist on landscapes, purveying local views for local walls. Even the Clark is susceptible, if you look over the exhibition schedule of the past few years, in which landscapes or seascapes by Klimt, Calame, Courbet, and Turner have been prominent. Far from cloying, or betraying undue self-absorption, Claude Lorraine: ”The Painter as Draftsman Drawings from the British Museum enhances this harmless local obsession with a comprehensive and coherent view of an artist whose cultural importance is undeniable, however one might discuss his stature as an artist. Claude’s influence has extended beyond art among certain classes of British society, at leastinto the shaping of whole environments and human life within them