27 January 2015

Recommending a film, a book, and more

Joseph Mallord William Turner
Self-portrait, c.1799

In college, I was swept away by the work of English painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Mike Leigh’s film
Mr. Turner is nominated for
Oscars in both cinematography and production design, and I hope it wins, both because it’s such a rich visual experience and because more people will then have the chance to see the film in theaters. Turner’s paintings, his process, and the world of light and sea that he was impelled to capture are stunningly represented in the film, and the casting and costuming made me feel like I was in Dickens’s England. There aren’t a lot of examples of Turner’s work easily viewed outside England, so it's a treat that the Art Institute of Chicago has two Turners on display (gallery 220). If you’re here don’t miss the chance to see his work in person.

Le Bon Bock, Édouard Manet, 1873
A painter friend highly recommended Ross King’s book The Judgment of Paris, subtitled
“The Revolutionary Decade That
Gave the World Impressionism.”
My friend read it preparing for a trip to France, but even without that happy incentive I was quickly drawn in. King’s history of the
artists who were working in the “new style” which came to be called Impressionism made me realize that I’d come to take them a little bit for granted.

King immerses you in their times and struggles for exposure and appreciation. Édouard Manet, caricatured in a contemporary journal as “The King of Impressionism” and one of two painters featured in the book, is well represented in the galleries at AIC, as are of course many of his friends and rivals. It’s a wonderful place to rediscover these artists, and King's book is a perfect introduction.

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