Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"Painting the Century: 101 Portrait Masterpieces 1900-2000" is a wonderful book--very good interesting paintings of 20th century people, some famous, some generic and representitive of some historic happening.

The first painting is of Queen Victoria. The second painting in the book of an unnamed woman. It is very realistic, feels almost like photo-realism, but it's way too soon for that. A woman is standing in sharply focused pretty grass by a sharply focused pretty stream. She would be pretty if she didn't look so sad and worried. I want that she is looking more worried than sad. The painting, by Byam Shaw, is called "The Boer War."

I want her to be more worried than sad because I want him to be alive, the beloved of this non-specific woman who lived more than a century ago, who didn't live at all--I want her he to be alive.

All the things she's imagining--dead, no leg, shattered mind--are things not mentioned in the excited run-up to a war. They all happen in any war to more than one person. No matter how pretty and peaceful it is here, the not-peace we make elsewhere comes back, first in imagination, then in the flesh.

I like also in "Painting the Century" the portrait of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova by Kuz'ma Petrov-Vodkin. She's a phenomenally good poet and it was great to see her face, her twenties bob doesn't seem dated because the portrait is about her deep sad eyes.

She wrote a poem saying she never would know what her life would have been like it she was born in quiet times. She was born in horrible times and everything she was and had to be was about that.

Relative to her, I stand by the pretty stream in the pretty grass, and do what?