Tuesday, July 26, 2005

There and Back Again

Travel, that's what's kept me from blogging the past weeks. Real bloggers wouldn't have let a little thing like being away from home keep them from making entries. I'm on the boy side of where that line separates me from the men of blogging. Forgive me.

While the trip was ultimately geared towards getting me to San Diego Comic Con, where I was happy to see some of you, it started in Munich.

I've been privileged to visit a good number of German towns and cities over the years, but I'd never made it to Munich before this trip. I'd been missing out! Being a big fan of the Bavarian romantic movement, I was unprepared for the number of quality museums the city had. I couldn't actually visit them all in the time I had.

One of the greatest advancements in museum enjoyment has been the digital camera. Film cameras, unless you had a super-camera, didn't allow good photographs of artwork without flash. Most digital cameras are quite good at low-light photos. As a result, I now find myself spending equal time looking at art as I spend snapping photos, which I can then pore over, zoomed up, Later. As a secondary benefit, I can also share them easily with you, my dear readers.

Long as the history of painting is, I have no hesitation in saying that the 1800's were the pinnacle of painting. I've often bemoaned what happened in the 1880's when the impressionists and a few others somewhat earlier started steering art in another direction--one which I happen to believe led straight off a cliff to the death of art, at least in critical circles.

When you go and look at the art that was being created in the 1800's--art that was admired and popular at the time, but completely forgotten under the long train of -isms that have dominated the art psyche of the world--it becomes very difficult to understand how we arrived where he have. A part of me thinks that some lesser artists looked at the incredible heights being reached by the masters of the day, realized they could never achieve such greatness, and said screw it let's try something else. Like painting landscapes with mops from 6 feet away. Or something.

So, Munich. Most of these German romantics and other painters are unknown, and I was constantly writing down names to research later. Allow me to share a few favorites.

Not much to say here. It was just an exquistite and delicate, yet strong portrait. About 5 feet tall.

One room in the Neue Pinakothek (where the above also was) had some massive pieces that shook me up due to their grandeur, power, and mind-boggling ambition. Truly this was an era when artists were stretching so very far, striving as they could to transcend the ideas of how beautiful paintings could be.

The room was full of winners, but this one photographed the best. I left people in it, for scale. Click the image for a larger version.

And a detail:

Sigh. I forget who first made the comment, but seeing this stuff made me feel like a monkey with a stick. Truly. To think that within a few short decades the art world had gone from stuff like the above to this:

It's not even a matter of apples and oranges. Stuff like this can't even be properly called fruit in that analogy. Neither can it be called art without fundamentally changing the character of what the word means, if it is to include both the above paintings.