Title: Twisted Paths of Art History: The Salon
created on 25 Sep 18

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1. chelydra wrote:
 From a small corner of The National Gallery London by Steven Levin, 2017, oil on canvas 34x46", featured in this year's Art Renewal Center (TM) Salon. Salon? Yep. Salon! If you ever took an art history class...
2. chelydra wrote:
 ...you surely remember the Paris Salons that dominated the art scene not only in France but throughout the civilized world. You no doubt were taught that the real art scene was happening elsewhere—
3. bugoy1 wrote:
 It pulls me in. Love it!
4. chelydra wrote:
 at the Moulin Rouge where a disabled dwarf was painting the painted whores, at ballet rehearsals caught in the pastels of a mean-tempered antisemitic misogynist, at a madhouse in the remote hamlet of St-Remy, even in Oslo (so remote and backward a town th
5. chelydra wrote:
 . . . that it didn't even know its own name yet!)where another madman was painting screams and vampires.
6. chelydra wrote:
 6. The Paris Salon, I just learned from Wikipedia, is still going on! Whodathunkit! "The Société des Artistes Français still exists and organizes each year the "Salon des Artistes Français". Its current President is Ms. Martine Delaleuf." Wow, hats of
7. chelydra wrote:
 off to Mme Dulaleuf! Whodathunkit!? Not me! The SAF took over the job in 1881 from various French governments (the King, the Terror, the Bonapartes, etc) that ran the show from 1667 until then.
8. chelydra wrote:
 But by the time I was given my first set of art history books in 1959 (by John Canaday—it was a life-changing gift from Mom), the Salon was practically a synonym for doomed, silly, self-important, grandiose, and wrong-headed.
9. chelydra wrote:
 So much so that when my last painting teacher 10 years later confided to our class his worst nightmare (a day or after a close friend of his had been found dead with a slit throat), that nightmare was that he and his friends . . .
10. chelydra wrote:
 . . . who had been recognized as the climax and pinnacle of all art history since the cavemen, would instead be remembered as just the New York 1950s equivalent of the 1870s Salon painters. The way he said it, you could tell that was how he'd come to see
11. chelydra wrote:
 . . . the once-invincible, but suddenly irrelevant New York School (a.k.a., Action Painting, Abstract Impressionism).... We were shocked. Heresy! To understand the impact of this confession, let's go back to 1959...
12. chelydra wrote:
 ...My grandma (and first art teacher) gave me a set of beginners' oil paints for Christmas—and to her horror I was soon trying my hand at Modern Art! When it was time to leave home a year later (at age 12), my plan was to swing by Greenwich Village sett
13. chelydra wrote:
 and settle down there for a year or two and bat out enough abstract paintings to pay for a tramp steamer passage to India (to attain Enlightenment). I knew I'd have to paint fast and furiously because I had no money in my pocket.
14. chelydra wrote:
 I also forgot to pack my paints. I just thought of that detail right now for the first time. But that wasn't a problem because I saw the family car at the first bar I came to while heading west (afoot and light-hearted as our island's best-known poet woul
15. chelydra wrote:
 . . . would say) on the Montauk Highway, and went in to say goodbye—and thanks for the India idea—to my older brother, who refused to accept responsibility for my trip anywhere except back to the house.
16. chelydra wrote:
 (An unforgivable typo in #11 — I meant to write Abstractract EXPRESSionism. But actually my painting teacher, and perhaps also his late friend, were sometimes called abstract impressionists, since their pictures were softer and quieter than those by DeK
17. chelydra wrote:
 ...W. DeKooning, R. Motherwell, C. Still, and H. Hoffmann. My teacher, BTW, had been a high school friend of Jackson Pollock, the scariest and most powerful of the lot, whose 1956 car crash was more or less a suicide. There was a heavy streak of self-dest
18. chelydra wrote:
 ... -destruction among those guys (the gals were a bit more mature and self-controlled I gather—the founder of school shows up in some of the photos of the legendary tavern where the painters' brawls often got out of hand, but she looked as composed and
19. chelydra wrote:
 wise in the 1940s as she did when I met her 25 years later.) As we were saying... where were we... oh yeah, the SALON! My teacher was right in thinking times were changing—not just into quick shallow fads, like Pop and Op, but also heading into a new e
20. chelydra wrote:
 ...effort to come to grips with the real world—the was 1969-70—Vietnam, Altamont, the Manson Gang. The next few months would bring us the Weather Underground explosion right in our immediate neighborhood, as well Cambodia, Kent State, Cointelpro atta
21. chelydra wrote:
 [FBI] murders of black leaders... I had no idea at the time that this same teacher was already emulating the kind of artwork I was involved with at Rat Subterranean News, both of us falling under the influence of the great R. Crumb.
22. chelydra wrote:
 Ironically enough I'd had arguments with another teacher there, Leland Bell, in which I tried to explain to him why Crumb was the most important living artist (not best, but most important). Bell & I would have been equally shocked to learn that Guston w
23. chelydra wrote:
 ... was turning Crumbwards after his hypersensitive abstracts shriveled up and turned gray (as did those of his old pal Rothko who ended it all rather than trying to start over).
24. chelydra wrote:
 So Guston's weird, crude, and overtly political late paintings did everything he hoped they do and more—after a rocky start thanks to terrible reviews from diehard True Believers among the Art World's elite. Sue Coe and many others picked up where Gusto
25. chelydra wrote:
 ...Guston left off, and launched a serious Art Movement, almost an attack on the Art World itself and everything it stood for. There was lots of messy outrage, calls for justice, and so on. The underground scene meanwhile was evolving with the left-wing a
26. chelydra wrote:
 anarchist "World War 3 Illustrated" leading the way from Crumbish introspection and retro-aesthetics into harsh graphic calls for revolution. (I never read them much so I 'm not an authority on WW3).
27. chelydra wrote:
 Well, the best of the WW3 artists, Eric Drooker, was spotted by The New Yorker and recruited to make cover art. Sue Coe was soon a superstar in the big galleries— as well the street artists whose roots were in spray-painted subways and the hip-hopping s
28. chelydra wrote:
 ..slums of the South Bronx. And meanwhile, across the pond, the ferociously iconoclastic Brit Art gang (Damien Hirst, who saws up animals for show, and his buddies) were practically part of the Tories' inner circle. The adman Saatchi was not only Maggie T
29. chelydra wrote:
 Thatcher's chief propagandist but also the BritArt gang's chief promoter.
30. chelydra wrote:
 Back in New York, Andy Warhol, a previous generation's iconoclast-in-chief who had just as quickly joined the haute bourgeoisie as a kind of court jester...
31. chelydra wrote:
 ...that's any successful artist's role, after all, if you look past the Art History mythology...
32. chelydra wrote:
 .. admitted that his famous replicas of soup cans, etc., were not really what he'd wanted to do. He wished he'd had a 19th Century academic art education. He didn't want another generation to grow ignorant of basic art skills, as he had. So he co-founded
33. chelydra wrote:
 the New York Art Acadmeny to teach conservative, traditional drawing and painting.
34. chelydra wrote:
 Even Tracey Emin, the Alpha Wench of the BritArt gang, is proud of knowing how to draw nicely.
35. chelydra wrote:
 All over the world, art is moving backwards, to what people say are the roots of fine art — meticulous realism, and correct anatomy, perspective, etc.
36. chelydra wrote:
 And now the Art Renewal Center (note the name!) is sponsoring a Salon which is apparently intended to bring back the golden age of Bouguerou, Meissonier, and those guys who were held up to ridicule in John Canada's 'Metropolitan Seminars in Art' — thei
37. chelydra wrote:
 . . . their art was dead and buried, extinguished forever and its ashes stomped upon! Hah! Someone forgot to spike its heart!
38. chelydra wrote:
 Imagine if some clandestine astrologer or part-time prophet had been in that New York art class during Guston's sad musings on what it all meant... and volulunteered the opinion that in 2018, the "Art Renewal Center" Salon would be one of the hottest even
39. chelydra wrote:
 ...events in the global art scene... If he or she had told poor old Guston that his last works would indeed spark a revolution... but like many revolutions it would be eaten for lunch by the haut bourgeoisie and by suppertime the revolutionaries would be
40. chelydra wrote:
 ...endorsing Maggie Thatcher's legacy—well... That might not have been a surprise, really. After all, the Abstract Expressionists had been patronized not only by global financiers but covertly promoted by the CIA! (That's true.)
41. chelydra wrote:
 But the revival of the Salon? And the Salon painters being treated as Old Masters??????! No way... no one would swallow that prophecy.
42. chelydra wrote:
 The ingrown-toenail quality of the Paris Salon in its heyday was best expressed in way audiences would crowd in to admire the paintings of audiences crowded into to admire the paintings—like Russian dolls.
43. chelydra wrote:
 I assume that's the tradition-within-the-tradition that Steven Levin is paying homage in his very nice painting of the National Gallery.
44. chelydra wrote:
 As always, please pardon the many typos. Maybe one day I'll get around to explaining why I think the revival of the Salon tradition is not a cure-all for our cultural malaise. Or maybe not.
45. chelydra wrote:
 Well, we've come this far, so might as well. It's quite simple. The appeal of a well-made Salon painting is I think essentially the same appeal as a well-made connect-the-dots or coloring-book picture.
46. chelydra wrote:
 It's a tame, meticulous approach: Follow the rules and don't stray outside the lines. Once all the shapes and outlines are exactly where they belong, start adding more and more finishing touches and special effects.
47. chelydra wrote:
 Enrich the colors with glazes. Not the color and shape of the highlight on each iris, and reproduce it more precisely than any camera could.
48. chelydra wrote:
 I have a lot more respect for the Van Eycks, Grünwald, Brueghel, Dürer, and the other early Northerners than I do for the Paris Salon painters...
49. chelydra wrote:
 (which is not to say I don't gaze in wonder at the best of the Salon shows, very much including the 2018 Art Renewal show.
50. chelydra wrote:
 )... But Vasari's Lives of the Artists quote (or maybe paraphrases) Michelangelo's critique of his northern Germanic ("Gothic") contemporaries and predecessors.
51. chelydra wrote:
 He gave the "Gothic" painters credit where he felt credit was due (not much), and then explained what they lacked.
52. chelydra wrote:
 All I can find right now is this "In Flanders they paint with a view to external exactness such things as may cheer you and of which you cannot speak ill." - Michelangelo on Flemish painting, as reported by da Hollanda c.1540. — And yes it DOES as I'd
53. chelydra wrote:
 as I'd hoped it would, sum up my reservations about the Salon Revival. Damning with faint praise perhaps? But it's true, it really IS "cheering" — and how could anyone speak ill of it!
54. chelydra wrote:
 A fairer analogy than connecting dots or coloring books might be three-card monty, the magical con game seen on the streets of NYC. It's trickery; it's beyond your powers of observation to decipher how it's done. But it's lacks the subversive dangerous po
55. chelydra wrote:
 ... power that we need from great art, that opens our minds and hearts and souls as well as our eyes. Van Gogh's starry night did that when I was 11, after I could finally tear my gaze away from Harnet's violin. Old Masters do it routinely.
56. chelydra wrote:
 Michelangelo's contemporaries had a word for what went into his art, that made it unique: TERRIBILITA. Terribleness! In the literal sense that he enabled terror—art so strong it was terrifying.
57. chelydra wrote:
 But when there is power put into art, then and only then can the experience of it be empowering.— awakening, enlightening, as well as energizing and strengthening.
58. chelydra wrote:
 As A.P. Ryder put, what is the use of painting a stormcloud if there storm be not therein? Well, hang on, did you notice he said that a painting is useful!?? The art that gives us "external exactness" is "cheering"—that's sort of useful, it's nice to b
59. chelydra wrote:
 be cheered, cheery, cheerful. Like the Christmas Spirit. It's not to be sneezed at! But life is not all Christmas Seasons, and even that season is notorious for triggering depressions.
60. chelydra wrote:
 And on a second, closer reading of that Michelangelo quote above, I realize now he was not saying that the precision of technique is itself what's cheering...
61. chelydra wrote:
 No, it was the choice of subject, to which the technique is so skillfully applied. These are pictures OF this and that, and the viewer's response is to the appliness of an apple, the glassiness of a goblet, the lineniness or silkiness of a fabric.
62. chelydra wrote:
 We are cheered by crisp crunchy dew-dropped juicy apples, gleaming crystal goblets, the feel of fine fabrics. The more precise the painting, the more we are reminded of nice sensations,
63. chelydra wrote:
 and that's what it's all about, niceness. It feels nice, safe and comfortable to be surrounded by prosperity and luxury and plentiful dinners (and nice nude bodies for that matter).
64. chelydra wrote:
 Some of the 2018 Salon painters intensify this realism to an almost mystical degree. It's a magic trick in the highest sense. It's admirable.
65. chelydra wrote:
 But sometimes what people need runs deeper than that; surface pleasures dry up and blow away, and what's left exposed may be raw and painful. Turning despair into another kind of joy that doesn't depend on cheerful surfaces — that's what real art is for
66. chelydra wrote:
 ... For most of us, and for me too, music is generally best at making/allowing this to happen. But painting, sculpture, and literature aren't too far behind.
67. chelydra wrote:
 When I'm drawing and getting bogged down or going flat, I sometimes try to include some terribleness, and some music, and some storminess, in the next batch of penstrokes. Sometimes it works and a drawing comes alive.
68. chelydra wrote:
 There are electric currents flowing from the subject into a good drawing, and from the finished drawing to the viewer. That's what matters—the power, the flow.
69. chelydra wrote:
 But a lot of what external exactitude is trying to do is tame that power, domesticate it, like turning a howling timber wolf into a toy pug that can barely even breathe.
70. chelydra wrote:
 It's like rewriting late Beethoven so it will be soothing and cheering for elevator passengers in office buildings. This is how the Salon artists bring us the great tradition that comes down from Greece, Rome and Renaissance Italy: neutered and polished.
71. chelydra wrote:
 And like three-card monty, it's a con. Amazing to watch, really quite magical in its technique—but there's nothing there! Where did it go? That's the magic, making the card you were counting on (to win your big bet) disappear into nothingness. No subst
72. chelydra wrote:
 No substance, no meaning, no victory. You lose. You go home emptied out, with less than you had. You still admire the artist's astounding skill, but it's an art that doesn't give you what you need.
73. chelydra wrote:
 But to bring it back to the beginning, full circle, I must admit I love this National Gallery painting, precisely for the reasons Michelangelo diagnosed 500 years ago: it reminds me of being there, in one of my favorite places on earth.
74. chelydra wrote:
 So now I'm wondering why I didn't just post comment #73 at the beginning and leave it at that.
75. nancylee wrote:
 Chelydra- Thank youfor this! I love the picture but I am happy that the text will be saved too. I am going to reread all of this with visuals and other commentary. I am learning so much from you!
76. Whisperer wrote:
 Nice one!
77. starlight7 wrote:
 So Lovely!
78. katidid wrote:
 Good one! Many twisted paths in art history. Nice to read your take on it. You need to start a new 'Topic' called Radio Chelydra. :-)
79. AFSOUTH wrote:
  Outstanding!
80. chelydra wrote:
 Thanx to all for these positive responses, especially to Bugoy who I had to ignore when his encouraging comment showed up, or else I would have lost my train of thought and would've spent the next 473 comments trying to find it again .
81. evefoster wrote:
 Absolutely Outstanding... Pretty too
82. evefoster wrote:
 What ever happened to painting a picture and just hanging it up on the wall?
83. evefoster wrote:
 RIGHT AFTER I SAID OKAY to "Add comment" I realized that what I said in number 82 could be taken in a way that i never meant for it , 2B taken..Ya know?
84. evefoster wrote:
 I completely want to echo what Nancy Lee wrote, but I will just say ditto instead, :)...
85. Shafiqro wrote:
 Wonderful:)
86. AFSOUTH wrote:
 TOP 10!Congratulations, Outstanding, Well Done & Well Deserved!
87. hjjr wrote:
 A most-deserved and beautiful Top 10, chelydra! 💫
88. indigo wrote:
 DITTO AF and hjjr!



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