This week: ceiling painting, the Civil War & more.
The Power of Color: Five Centuries of European Painting, by Marcia B. Hall (Yale University Press): When it comes to painting, we tend to think of color in exclusively immaterial terms—focusing on how we see it, experience it, feel it. It’s a reasonable inclination, of course. Color is, as Josef Albers declares in his influential Interactions of Color, “the most relative medium in art.” By this he means that our impression of a single color is endlessly unstable and entirely dependent on context (consider how an innocuous patch of green from a Monet garden might stick out if pasted onto a Sunrise by Claude Lorraine). But despite all this, it is useful to remind ourselves that a painting, though made up of “color,” is also made up of paint, and that exactly how and why this paint has been used is of utmost importance. In her new volume, The Power of Color: Five Centuries of European Painting, the art historian Marcia B. Hall bases her investigation on just this material perspective. Looking at “how pictures come to look the way they do, and what color can tell us about how painters used their materials; what those materials were; what influenced their choices of what to make and how to make it . . . ; and how all that affects what their pictures mean,” this excellently illustrated volume from Yale will serve as a comprehensive survey on color in Western painting from the fifteenth century to the age of Modernism. —AS
My Fair Lady at the Lincoln Center Theater (through July 7): These next couple of weeks are your last chance to see the Bartlett Sher–directed My Fair Lady at the Lincoln Center Theater. This past September, Kyle Smith reviewed the production when it was staged at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, noting its new and disappointing proto-woke twist but praising the genius of Frederick Loewe’s and Alan Jay Lerner’s original score and book. —AS
“Above & Beyond: Ceiling Painting in the History of Art,” at the Frick Collection (June 27): In Temporary Kings, at the end of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time, the narrator, on a literary junket in Venice, has the chance to see a famed Tiepolo ceiling depicting the sordid myth of Candaules and Gyges. Rapt, he goes so far as to suggest that the colors of another of the conference’s guests “might have been expressly designed—by dissonance as much as harmony—for juxtaposition against those pouring down in brilliant rays of light from the Tiepolo; subtle yet penetrating pinks and greys, light blue turning almost to lavender, rich saffrons and cinnamons melting into bronze and gold.” Art lovers will have a chance to examine Tiepolo’s virtues themselves at the Frick through July 14. “Tiepolo in Milan: The Lost Frescoes of Palazzo Archinto” brings together preparatory studies from the Venetian master’s first major work outside of La Serenissima. Those wishing to learn more will want to be at the Frick this Thursday for a symposium on ceiling painting within the history of art. —BR
“The Civil War in 15 Objects,” at The Watson Hotel (June 27): The American Civil War was not so long ago, yet it is unusually hard to imagine. Even with our nation quite fractured at the moment, the idea that our countrymen could at one time bring such devastating violence against each other is difficult to fathom. But, as Harold Holzer demonstrated in his 2013 book, The Civil War in 50 Objects, seeing and discussing items from that time can help us to understand the events more fully. On Thursday, Holzer will be at The Watson Hotel to discuss objects from the New-York Historical Society that he featured in his book, including a Union soldier’s uniform and the handwritten demand for Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.—RH
From the archive:“An American in Paris,” by Jed Perl (January 1993). On “Ellsworth Kelly: The Years in France, 1948–1954” at the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
From the current issue:“The Brexit bust,” by Simon Heffer.