Friday, June 10, 2005

Pictionary Musings

Always wanted to use 'musings' in the title. All one has to do is become ancient, have bad knees, and be elected Prime Minister, and 1 billion people will lap up this output.

Most paintings leave one cold. Mainly because one has to endure the igloo like conditions that prevail in most museums where the darn things hang. Even otherwise, one finds that one likes (relatively) very few painters and paintings. One's more malicious mates will attribute this to one's colour-blindness, but one scoffs at such suggestions. [Aside: One feels vaguely uncomfortable today about using the perpendicular pronoun, ergo one uses one.]

One finds that the really interesting paintings are by painters about whose life and circumstances one has greater knowledge. Exampli gratia, one reads The Moon And Sixpence by Somerset Maugham (or as the itinerant bard from Andhraa Desamu once put it, Saamarasetti Maaghamu Panditulu) and discovers that this Gauguin bloke was an interesting sort of bird - investment banker turned Tahiitian tourist type. And one blustery day, one stumbles across a painting in the (iglooish) neighbourhood museum, and suddenly the picture begins to appear...well, pretty as a picture.

Similarly, one discovers a crumbling copy of Pierre La Mure's novel, "Moulin Rouge" at home, and discovers that Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is more than a longish, unpronounceable, French nome. T-L had a privileged, if sad childhood and youth, and seems to have spent a lot of time hanging out at various cafes and other esatblishments in the Montmartre section of Paris, as Frenchmen with longish, pronounceable names are wont to do. He also seems to have consumed industrial quantities of absinthe, which is some kind of libation which is nowadays commonly used to scrape clean the insides of blast furnaces. His paintings are very Paris-cafe-brothel-brooding-existentialists-smoking-endless-Gauloises-wondering-why-
existence-is-why-can't-we-get some type. Whatever that type is.

Having sampled Gauguin and T-L, the lives and works of Monet and Degas also became interesting. Perhaps reading The Agony And The Ecstasy (or watching it), and watching/reading "Lust For Life" will make one take a more lively interest in Michelangelo and Van Gogh.

TAILPIECE: How important is the name of a painting? Absolutely critical, neh? If the Mona Lisa was called La Gioconda, many millions would think it has something to do with a large South Indian fortress (or beer!). Many other millions would conjecture that Da Vinci had a pleasing encounter with a member of eunectes murinus which inspired him?

Or take the case of Edvard Munch's most famous, and now stolen, The Scream. It has been said by some to "...symbolize modern man taken by an attack of existential angst..." What if Munch had named it, "Thin Dark Wavy Guy (Weird) I Painted When I Was Stoned", or "Aargh! Sartre Owes Me 1,000,000 Francs And Now Says Hell Is Other People". The effect wouldn't be quite as dramatic, neh?

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