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Local News / Entertainment

Sunday, 24 June, 2012 8:12 AM

New at the DIA: Five Spanish Masterpieces Conquer Detroit

Photo© 2012 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Melancholy Woman, Pablo Picasso, 1902, oil on canvas. Detroit Institute of Arts.

 

by Mike Wrathell
mwrathell@yahoo.com

 

 

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DETROIT -- Pablo Picasso's early Blue Period masterpiece “Melancholy Woman” is back home in Detroit at the DIA after a two-year hiatus in which it was exhibited in this order: Zurich, Amsterdam ( marijuana smoke damage?), San Francisco, Paris, and New York City. Picasso's full name is Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, pretty cool, huh?

Accompanying it for its sweet homecoming are four other masterful paintings, Salvador Dali’s “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War),” Francisco Goya's “Portrait of the Matador Pedro Romero,” El Greco's “The Holy Family with St. Anne and the infant St. John the Baptist,” and, lastly, “Portrait of a Man” by Diego Velazquez.

They say a picture tells a thousand words; so I will now write a thousand words on each painting to do each justice. Ready? Just kidding!

I will say that the El Grego is one of the greatest “Madonna & Child” motif paintings on Earth, and in The Solar System for that matter. El Greco can, and does, hold a candle to Michelangelo; El Greco once boasted that, if allowed, he could repaint The Sixteenth, ah, I mean, The Sistine Chapel better than said Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni himself.

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes's “Portrait of the Matador Pedro Romero” is the most lifelike of the fivesome. Pedro Romero is widely regarded as one of the, if not the, greatest matadors of all time. Salvador Salort-Pons, Ph. D., Head of the European Art Department, and Curator of European Painting at the DIA spoke of Mr. Romero and Goya with great passion and learning, as he did of all five works. I see Dr. Salort-Pons as a sort of matador of the Art World. His lecture during the Media Preview I attended really made me realize the utter greatness of the five paintings, but, to me, especially the Goya, the El Greco, and the Dali.

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech's “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War),” to me, is the best of show, with El Greco losing out in a photo finish, as it were. Dali's fabulously surrealist work captures with brilliance and genius his fears of an impending civil war (it started six months after his last brushstroke), a war that both Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls and Orwell's Homage to Catalonia in literature and Picasso in art with “Guernica” captured The Spanish Civil War in all its horror and gore. Gorror?

Goya is also known for a great anti-war work of art called “El Coloso,” or, in English, “Colossus.” Wikipedia, thinks (so far as a website can “think”) that it was probably painted by an apprentice named Asensio Juliá, but the jury is still out, so Goya's it is. Besides, Dr. Salort-Pons didn't mention the controversy; I just happened upon it whilst cybersurfing.... A photo of it appears after this article. The painting was made during The Peninsular War when Spain was fighting off Napoleon's French forces.

Lastly, the Velazquez is a very intellectual work, said Dr. Salort-Pons. I liked it and would even “Like” it on Facebook if someone posted it, but in the face of the four others, it fizzles and flops like a hockey player that wasn't tripped. No offense, Diego, but you've done better, my friend.

So, go see the Fab Five. It's only around until Aug. 19 and it is no extra charge to see it. Tell them Mike sent you!

Take your kids, too! Educating young people about art might elevate their minds so that you never have to bail them out of jail, or worse! It ain't no joke! You gotta have art! Earth cannot afford any more cretins! No offense to El Greco, who was born on Crete, as was Zeus!

POSTNOTE

In 1981, shortly after Anwar Sadat was assassinated, I painted a watercolor called “Opposition,” an abstract that speaks to the hope Sadat brought to the world that love might reign over peoples that at some point diverged into different dogmas. But a bullet changed all that. The large green space represents a sky of hope and love and all things good, like people slowing down so a raccoon can get across the street, and perhaps not even massacring each other, to boot. The red represents the blood of Sadat and all the innocents who have been cut down by evil acts of humans who somehow justify murder in their cretinous minds with their dogma of the day – their dogma du jour.

Egypt after Sadat had a long period of ostensible peace with his successor, the then-Vice President, Hosni Mubarak, who was wounded in the hand during the attack that killed Sadat; but Mubarak's clandestine brutality is well-documented. One of the groups he kept down was The Muslim Brotherhood, a group some say will be a bane to Egypt and its neighbors, a group that, like the military, is trying to co-opt the peoples' revolution, much like how the hardcore Bolsheviks co-opted the Russian Revolution and how the mullahs did so in Iran. It is a pretty common formula for taking power, ride the wave until you can jump off and betray the spirit of the revolt with your own cretinous agenda. Sad, but true. Already murders, rapes, and other sexual assaults, like the vicious and cowardly attack on media goddess Lara Logan, have shaken the world's faith that the overthrow of Mubarak bodes well for not only Egypt, but the entire region, and, frankly, the world. We are all interconnected. Ever hear of Nuclear Winter? It is sort of like winter, but without Santa Claus. I did not see all these events when I painted “Opposition,” but I did feel a distinct ominous dread when I heard Sadat was dead.

One of the men charged with the craven crime was Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was released three years later in 1984. He now leads al-Qaeda. Adam Smith once said, “Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.” You could also say, “Once a snake, always a snake.” I guess you could say Mubarak was not too bright to have allowed al-Zawahiri to go free. That same mental defect in Mubarak is perhaps what led him to do other actions that would eventually cause his own people to reject his rule. Karma has a way of doing that. Hopefully, we can all learn from the history of Egypt so that America and other nations that espouse civility will not go down the path of brutality and be relegated to the dustbin of History, along with, as sometimes happens, their art and literature. Did you ever read a play by Agathon, the Ancient Greek playwright? No? Neither have I – for none of his works survived the ravages of antiquity when Ancient Greece was conquered by the Romans, and then the Ottomans. As Hemingway once said, paraphrasing, “War sucks, but if you lose your wars, it sucks even worse, for you put your people and your culture at the very real risk of complete annihilation and utter oblivion.”

Related Story: 'Detroit Revealed: Photographs, 2000-2010' on display at the DIA

 

 

Photo © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2012.

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War), Salvador Dalí, 1936, oil on canvas. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950.

 

Photo © Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

The Holy Family with St. Anne and the Infant St. John the Baptist, El Greco, ca. 1600, oil on canvas. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

 

Photo © 2010 Kimbell Art Museum

Portrait of the Matador Pedro Romero, Francisco de Goya, ca. 1795–98, oil on canvas. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

 

Photo © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY

Portrait of a Man, Diego Velázquez, ca. 1630, oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

 

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