Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Beautiful Things Mind Meld

On Christmas night, we watched on the dvr some of Pride & Prejudice, the 2005 movie directed by Joe Wright. It is one of my very favorites; every frame is gorgeous. Then the next day we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw the exhibition of art works, including paintings, objects and furniture, acquired during the thirty-one year tenure of the outgoing museum director Philipe de Montebello. The images from the movie and the exhibition mixed all together like visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.

This painting by Ralph Earl of Elijiah Boardman from 1789 greets visitors at the Montebello show. The tall and elegant Boardman, a dry goods merchant in New Milford, Ct., is beautifully dressed. Bolts of floral fabrics and shelves filled with books, my favorite combination, speak to a life of style and culture.

Pride & Prejudice, based on the Jane Austen novel set nine years after the Boardman painting in 1797, stars the luminous Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett.

The show at the Met includes this watercolor by Paul Klee and it too is luminous. As an art history major at McGill University in Montreal, my first college paper was about the paintings Paul Klee produced in North Africa when he was discovering the power of color; this is one of those watercolors. It has a wonderful lightness and joy. I was struck by how much I liked something that I first chose to write about many years ago. Taste doesn't change that much.

In Pride & Prejudice, the great Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourg steals the show.

The art works in the Philipe de Montebello show are organized by the year they were acquired by the museum, so there is a Jasper Johns hung next to a Matisse, an antique French rifle pointing to Canaletto's vision of Saint Mark's Square in Venice. Here, a modern Rothko provides the background for antique silver and musical instruments.

Another paper I wrote in college was on the spare, linear paintings on ancient Greek lekythos vases, and how the paintings accentuated the tall, narrow shape of the vases. This one is from 440 B.C. So beautiful and so old.

In the movie a little house peaks out of the woods on the other side of the pond. Wouldn't you like to live there?

In another water view, this painting at the Met by Childe Hassam from 1890 captures the the old-fashioned garden of poet Celia Thaxter on Isle of Shoals, Maine. Peonies and hollyhocks sparkle in the sun. This reminds me of Martha's Vineyard, and Connecticut.

More flowers: I like the delicate floral embroidery on this brown shawl in Pride & Prejudice.

This English gown at the Met from the 1740's features flowers painted on silk.

Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett have an argument in the rain. The camera angle captures a lake far below.

Here is Paul Poiret at the Met. The dramatic velvet coat on the left from 1919 closes with a spectacularly ornate fringed placket; this coat comes with its own jewelry.

While visiting Pemberely, Darcy's estate, Elizabeth Bennet and visitors chance into a gallery of classical sculpture, much like the sculpture court at The Metropolitan Museum.

You can see on Keira Knightley's face the pleasure of looking at beautiful things.


Alexa said...

Wow, Bart -- I'm a bit obsessed with that movie too, and often find myself reminded of some scene or bit of dialogue. So I love what you've done here!
I like your blog very much. Can't wait to share it with my designer cousin, who's very good at noticing and creating those little touches of beauty and gentility—as are you, obviously.
It was good to see you at the Healy's (and I meant to tell Ted how much I like that drawing of his that they used for the invitation).
Hope 2009 is a happenin' year for you!

CashmereLibrarian said...

What an insightful post! I also loved the 2005 P&P; thank you for sharing along with the inspiring art. I visited the Art Institute of Chicago this weekend--I spent most of my time in the 19th century French rooms, since I'm just now finishing up a bio of Madame de Stael!

Madonna B said...

I love the kaleidoscope of beauty here!