Amiet, Bruegel and Christmas

An unprecedentedly mild December set me searching for snowy scenes… in the lull between the twin peaks of festive excess, which are Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

The chance to spin my wheels is a rare one; but I have put it to good use: a splendid Lego Millennium Falcon is built for my son, turkey soup has been slurped by all and I have a birthday jigsaw belatedly on the go. 

But the post-Christmas peace will be short lived. Soon I will be pressed into activity and jollity, like the skaters in the younger Bruegel’s “Bird Trap”.

   
And once that is done, it will be back to work, fitting more people into less space in the manner of his father’s “Census at Bethlehem”.

  
So I’m enjoying my rare day of solitude. This expanse of white is by Swiss painter Cuno Amiet. It’s his 1904 “Snowy Landscape” discovered on the ever wonderful DailyArt App

  
The tiny figure looks lost. But on closer inspection he (although it could be a she) seems to have a sense of purpose about them. 

The chance to have a mind as blank as Amiet’s snows is a treat indeed – as is cooking up leftovers and piecing together my New York skyline jigsaw in glorious, if temporary solitude.

Still, returning to Brueghel’s “Bird Trap”, no-one would choose an entirely solitary life… As Aristotle famously said.

  
The thin string to the tiny dark window is a reminder that neither poor nor alone, I’m very lucky to have food, friends and family all around at Christmas.

Rubbish

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I know art is in the eye of the beholder. Indeed, I’ve read that pre-1790 pretty much everyone painted and built in their country or culture’s accepted prevailing style. Self-conscious choice of ‘Art’ was a 19th century invention, but still…

This 1748 painting has been bugging me for some weeks – since it appeared on my DailyArt App – and I’ve finally decided that it is rubbish.

Finely wrought, technically correct but simply rubbish. Duff setting, inane message, bad colours and overwrought emotions. I’m no doubt a victim of the modern era. Maybe future generations – as those of the past – will come to venerate it.

But for me Los Angeles (where it lives) is very welcome to it. Give me a Greek statue, medieval tableau, crazy early Renaissance perspective, Leonardo’s cadavers, Durer’s rabbits, Van Gogh’s psychedelic skies, Malevich’s knife cutter or even our local Pinocchio sprayed on a concrete stairwell.

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But Boucher’s ‘Fountain of Love’ has run dry for me.

As Aristotle famously said: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” I keep looking at this picture but I can’t see it.