Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kenneth Clark

Kenneth Clark

in his Albany home
by Roger George Clark

I was not planning to post on Kenneth Clark today but in preparing to write about The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (stay tuned), I came across a passage in Landscape into Art surrounded by a variety of pencil marks. drawing attention to it.  I am compelled to share and comment on it.
"Facts become art through love, which unifies them and lifts them to a higher plane of reality; and, in landscape, this all embracing love is expressed by light. It is no accident that this sense of saturating light grew out of a school of manuscript illuminations, and first appears in miniatures. For in such small images a unity of tone is far more easily achieved, and the whole scene can be given the concentrated brilliance of a reflection in a crystal. Throughout history landscapes of perception have been small. Large landscapes, with all the artifice of construction, have been studio made. The impressionists seldom went beyond a scale which could be taken in by a single focus. When their followers in England and elsewhere, forgot this, their pictures disintegrated. The first modern landscapes were exceedingly small— only about three inches by two inches. They were painted between 1414 and 1417 in a manuscript known as the Hours of Turin, executed for the Count of Holland, and I believe that there is sufficient evidence for us to say that they were by Hubert van Eyck."
Clark continues on the van Eycks but look at what he has expressed in this half of a paragraph on love, light and immediate perception. On previous readings, I was struck and grateful that he brought love into the picture, as it were. Who (what historian) does that any more? Let's bring it back!

But on this reading, it is his comment on scale in landscape that really strikes me. Here I sit making these little landscapes. Some people come into the studio and say, love that one, but I'd like to see it this big (stretching their arms open wide) — and I'm working on larger pieces — but the real magic is in the smallest scale.

Kenneth Clark, Baron Clark
by Cecil Beaton
pencil, 1969 11 1/8 in. x 8.1496 in. (281 mm x 207 mm)
Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1991
National Portrait Gallery, Archive Collection

See my paintings at Landscape into Art.

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