Michael Stuart Kelly

Ayn Rand's favorite painting - Corpus Hypercubus by Dali

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Vermeer is my guy, even if he did cheat a little.

He "cheated"?

Which tools and methods count as "cheating" in visual art, and why? Obviously you think that camera obscuras qualify, but what about grids, straight-edges and T-squares? How about using one's thumb against a brush handle as a means of measuring?

J

Jonathan: I put that line in there just for you. I don't actually think he cheated. Even if used the camera--and having read the book I cited, I have my doubts--I think it highly clever that he never told anybody about it. If he used the camera and didn't tell he others, it is possible Vermeer himself thought he was cheating.

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I'll take your word that reproductions don't do it justice, but if they did I'd say that the contrast is too strong between the bright white at the bottom and the muted colors elsewhere. That, and I'm not too fond of looking up a dog's ass.

Here's a larger and better scan of the painting. Click on the image to get an ever larger version. There is no "dog's ass" in the image.

J

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Jonathan: I put that line in there just for you. I don't actually think he cheated.

Oh, okay, that's good.

Even if used the camera--and having read the book I cited, I have my doubts--I think it highly clever that he never told anybody about it. If he used the camera and didn't tell he others, it is possible Vermeer himself thought he was cheating.

Unless there have been some recent new discoveries of Vermeer's correspondence with others, or of some other source of new information about his life and techniques that I'm not aware of, it has been my understanding that very little is actually known about him -- very few records were left, so it would be impossible to know whether or not he ever told anyone about his use of the camera obscura, or tried to hide it because he thought that it was a form of "cheating."

J

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My thought would be the choice of subjects as being banal, common or unheroic.

That is a common view in Objectivist circles -- that the "subjects" of Vermeer's paintings were banal, common and unheroic -- but to me it just reveals that those who make such statements haven't a clue what would qualify as a painting's actual subject. They're apparently looking at mere settings, costumes and/or characters and calling them the paintings' "subjects." They might as well claim that Rand's "subjects" were also banal, common and unheroic. After all, she wrote about the everyday concerns of business people working in offices and factories.

It would be a refreshing change to see Objectivist-types following Rand's advice on making "objective esthetic judgments" and actually looking at the content of the art and identify what is happening and what thematic and symbolic meaning it might have, rather than looking at some mere aspect of a painting, disliking it, and then asserting that that aspect is the painting's "subject."

J

Jonathan:

PDS underlined could. Since art criticism is not something I am studied in, that was the standard Oist objection which I did not agree with, but was out there.

Adam

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I'll take your word that reproductions don't do it justice, but if they did I'd say that the contrast is too strong between the bright white at the bottom and the muted colors elsewhere. That, and I'm not too fond of looking up a dog's ass.

Here's a larger and better scan of the painting. Click on the image to get an ever larger version. There is no "dog's ass" in the image.

What’s odd about it is the way the closest building jumps out at you, but it just doesn’t work in a reproduction. Has anyone else here seen it in person? It achieves a unique effect, though it’s also kind of off-putting.

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What’s odd about it is the way the closest building jumps out at you, but it just doesn’t work in a reproduction. Has anyone else here seen it in person? It achieves a unique effect, though it’s also kind of off-putting.

I've seen it in person a couple of times. To me, the building didn't jump out so much as the grape vines. They were much more saturated and dazzling than what I've seen in scans of the painting. I think I've read somewhere that Vermeer may have put sand or something like it into his green paint in the leaves to give them depth, texture and sparkle. Perhaps that's part the reason they appealed to me.

J

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I have not seen it in person.

Consider this quote about Vermeer's use of the camera: "By painstakingly reconstructing the three dimensional space of ten of Vermeer's interiors using the method of "inverse perspective," Steadman deduced that they were all painted in the same room. He then was able to deduce the exact measurements of the rooms themselves using the measurements of a few objects represented in Vermeer's painting which have survived till today, such as the maps which hang on the far wall and the Spanish chairs."

I don't recall if this painting is one of those that is thoroughly analysed in Steadman's book, or not. I do recall that he concluded that Vermeer used the camera for paintings other than interiors. I read the book while renting a house in London a couple of years ago, and in one of those delightful quirks of fate, the owner had a full library of art history and art books. Instead of tooling around London in the usual fashion, I spent far too much time reading from her library. Wife not happy.

I just love the idea of Vermeer using a camera and not telling anybody about it. Sort of like committing the perfect crime, at least in that day and age.

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PDS et al., there's loads of stuff about Vermeer on this board, and lots else pertaining to visual arts.

Here's a link to the second page of a search on "Vermeer" in Jonathan's posts. (I don't know how to get a link to the first page of a search to hold.)

If you click on the number in the upper right-hand corner of a post, you'll be taken to the post in context on the thread where it appears.

Here's a link to the middle of a discussion of Rand on "subject" with specific reference to Vermeer.

If you skip and jump -- more or less ignoring some of the posters -- you can find a whole lot of interesting stuff, including many images of paintings. Plus a dispute between Jonathan and Dragonfly, who's a skilled amateur painter, as to whether or not Vermeer used a camera obscura. (Warning, especially wise to skip and jump with Victor Pross's posts, many of which include plagiarized material.)

I'll look for some further direct links later this evening or tomorrow if I get a chance.

Ellen

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PDS et al., there's loads of stuff about Vermeer on this board, and lots else pertaining to visual arts.

Here's a link to the second page of a search on "Vermeer" in Jonathan's posts. (I don't know how to get a link to the first page of a search to hold.)

If you click on the number in the upper right-hand corner of a post, you'll be taken to the post in context on the thread where it appears.

Here's a link to the middle of a discussion of Rand on "subject" with specific reference to Vermeer.

If you skip and jump -- more or less ignoring some of the posters -- you can find a whole lot of interesting stuff, including many images of paintings. Plus a dispute between Jonathan and Dragonfly, who's a skilled amateur painter, as to whether or not Vermeer used a camera obscura. (Warning, especially wise to skip and jump with Victor Pross's posts, many of which include plagiarized material.)

I'll look for some further direct links later this evening or tomorrow if I get a chance.

Ellen

Ellen: thank you for these links.

Apart from Jonathan's trademark use of the sharp-blade-with-a-twist, I found this comment about The Geographer most interesting: "I said earlier that I think that "a man in deep thought" is somewhat the subject of The Geographer. What I meant was that it's not an accurate description of the subject, but it's kind of close. I think a better description of the subject would be something more like "the feeling of the play of light, contemplation and clarity of mind." The man is not the subject, but the feeling of what he's doing in combination with the feeling of the light and the symphony of colors, shapes and proportions is the subject." [Post 18511].

When I see such depth of thought about these subjects, I am embarrassed that there exists in the corner of my basement a little painting studio with brushes I have tried to use. Why? Because painting seems to be mostly about seeing light, and the play of light, and I just don't do it very well.

When I see The Geographer, I see more than anything introspection, even in the manner and direction in which the subject holds his compass. Keep in mind that The Geographer was created in the full midst of a pre-Shakespeare world, i.e., the "introspective" world that people such as Harold Bloom believe Shakespeare invented, and in which we moderns take for granted. This is what makes "the look" in The Geographer's eyes so significant, for me at least.

Jonathan's concise statement above pretty much eliminates my feeble explanation, and I think rightfully so. He sees the painting as an artist, and I see/saw it as a dabbler in his basement studio (with, not incidentally, bad light...)

Reminds me of the great line from Judge Smails in Caddyshack: "the world needs ditch diggers too, Danny."

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My thought would be the choice of subjects as being banal, common or unheroic.

That is a common view in Objectivist circles -- that the "subjects" of Vermeer's paintings were banal, common and unheroic -- but to me it just reveals that those who make such statements haven't a clue what would qualify as a painting's actual subject. They're apparently looking at mere settings, costumes and/or characters and calling them the paintings' "subjects." They might as well claim that Rand's "subjects" were also banal, common and unheroic. After all, she wrote about the everyday concerns of business people working in offices and factories.

It would be a refreshing change to see Objectivist-types following Rand's advice on making "objective esthetic judgments" and actually looking at the content of the art and identify what is happening and what thematic and symbolic meaning it might have, rather than looking at some mere aspect of a painting, disliking it, and then asserting that that aspect is the painting's "subject."

J

Jonathan:

PDS underlined could. Since art criticism is not something I am studied in, that was the standard Oist objection which I did not agree with, but was out there.

Adam

Yeah, I took you to be presenting the typical Objectivist objection, and not necessarily to be giving your own assessment of the image. Sorry if I came across as chewing your ass.

J

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I was in a positive and heated discussion with a woman friend of mine this morning about this Dali work. She is a teacher and Doctor and loves Dali's works.

She had never seen this one, which is touted by a number of his favorable art critics as his greatest work.

Here is an explanation of what Dali intended to create when he explained it to a clutch of reporters:

When disembarking from the steamship America in Le Havre on March 27, 1953, on his return from New York, Dalí announced to the reporters gathered around him that
he was going to paint a picture he himself termed as sensational: an exploding Christ, nuclear and hypercubic. He said that it would be the first picture painted with a classical technique and an academic formula but actually composed of cubic elements.
To a reporter who asked him why he wanted to depict Christ exploding, he replied,
"I don't know yet. First I have ideas, I explain them later. This picture will be the great metaphysical work of my summer."

It was at the end of spring in 1953 in Port Lligat that Dalí began this work, but it is dated 1954, the year in which it was finished and then exhibited in the month of December at the Carstairs Gallery in New York. The painting may be regarded as one of the most significant of his religious oils in the classical style, along with The Madonna of Port Lligat, Christ of Saint John of the Cross, and The Last Supper, which is in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

"Metaphysical, transcendent cubism" is the way that Dalí defines his picture, of which he says: "It is based entirely on the Treatise on Cubic Form by Juan de Herrera, Philip II's architect, builder of the Escorial Palace; it is a treatise inspired by Ars Magna of the Catalonian philosopher and alchemist, Raymond Lulle. The cross is formed by
an octahedral hypercube
. The number nine is identifiable and becomes especially consubstantial with the body of Christ. The extremely noble figure of Gala is the perfect union of the development of the hypercubic octahedron on the human level of the cube. She is depicted in front of the Bay of Port Lligat. The most noble beings were painted by Velazquez and Zurbaran; I only approach nobility while painting Gala, and nobility can only be inspired by the human being."

Crucifixion is a stunning work that successfully combines elements of Dalí's Nuclear Mysticism with his return to his Catholic heritage during this time. In this work, Dalí is giving us a crucifixion in the age of modern science, completing his theme started in Christ of St. John of the Cross.

Of particular note is the stunning athleticism with which the crucified savior is represented. Even the nail holes in the palms and feet are not present, as Salvador shows us his perfect redemption. The cross itself, an eight sided octahedral cube, represents the possible theoretical reflection of a separate 4-dimensional world. Dalí's fascination with mathematics is incorporated with his return to his Catholic faith in later life.
This union represents Dalí's assertion that the two seemingly diametrically opposed worlds of faith and science CAN coexist.

Another admirer opined that:

I know of at least one Dali aficionado who believes
Corpus Hypercubus
is the greatest work Dali ever painted. It would not take a whole lot of arm-twisting to get me to concur.

Dali’s astonishing intellect set in motion a number of forces that came together in this dynamic and powerful work: the mathematics of the hypercube; the metaphysics of the fourth dimension (time); the Treatise on Cubic Form by Juan de Herrera, architect of the Escorial in Madrid; Dali’s surrealistic nod to Picasso’s cubism; and of course the Crucifixion of Christ.

The sheer beauty of Dali’s breathtaking technique is equaled in impact by the towering sense of awe that strikes us, as we see Mary Magdalene, in the person of Gala Dali, dwarfed by the immense appearance of Jesus, who floats before the hypercubic cross, into the fourth dimension.

As in Dali’s other major Crucifixion painting –
Christ of St. John of the Cross
– he doesn’t show us Jesus’ face, nor any pain or humiliation of the crucified Savior. Indeed, both of Dali’s major Christ figures are strong…muscular…alive!

Reportedly, when financier/art col
lector
Chester Dale bought and subsequently donated
Corpus Hypercubus to the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, it was maligned and a source of jealousy. Today, of course, it is one of the most popular works in that museum, and widely held as one of Salvador Dali’s most impressive masterpieces.

I’ve personally always found it more awe-inspiring and interesting than
Christ of St. John of the Cross
, though both paintings are nothing short of magnificent.

Rand's admiration certainly departs from these perceptions. However, the painting clearly appeals to both the religious and scientific.

Adam

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I may have mentioned this before on another thread, but I just saw a dumb ad for a 'water machine' that mentions at the top that Ayn Rand stared for hours at this painting. edit. the ad was in Popular Science magazine.

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