The Easel

Archives: New York Review of Books

7th June 2015

Bernini: He Had the Touch

For 17th century popes, Bernini was the go-to guy for busts and sculptures. Besides being affable and highly religious he worked tirelessly and could be relied on to finish a commission. Inspired by Caravaggio’s natural style, he took Baroque sculpture to its zenith. Looking at a terra cotta model, Pope Innocent reportedly said “the only way to resist executing one of his works is not to see them”.

Gawking at Quixote

Cervantes’ Don Quixote is perhaps literature’s greatest comic hero. Charles Coypel, painter to Louis XV, produced a celebrated series of paintings to be made into tapestries. On the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’ work, the Frick is showing some of these tapestries next to their matching paintings. “There is a sense here…of a world that is shamelessly secular and free from guilt, ready to amuse itself and amuse us.”

6th June 2015

Phillip Guston: Hilarious and Horrifying

Beautifully written synopsis of a new book on Phillip Guston, the late American artist. Acclaimed in the late 1940’s as a major Abstract painter, he then turned his back on the style that had brought him fame. By 1970 he had developed a more modernist style that was influential among younger artists but did not gain wider recognition until a retrospective one year after his death in 1980.

Van Gogh: the Courage and the Cunning

Any large collection of van Gogh paintings will reveal the astonishing transformation in his art that occurred during his time in Paris in 1886-8. Julian Bell’s new biography of van Gogh sets out the personal back story. Having tried being an art dealer, a teacher and, at one stage, a preacher, all the while behaving like a drama queen, the van Gogh who arrived in Paris was producing notable drawings but heavy, wintery paintings. Incredibly, less than two years later, a genius painter of colour was revealed.