This week: Reagan’s journey, Tintoretto’s drawings, New York’s Grecian designs & more from the world of culture.
Reagan: An American Journey, by Bob Spitz (Penguin Press): For such a storied president, there was something elusive about Ronald Reagan the man. Edmund Morris, despite being the first biographer to be granted a backstage pass to the life of a sitting president, found him so impenetrable that in his 1999 memoir, Dutch, he fictionalized parts of Reagan’s life, ostensibly to give his best guess about what made the actor-turned-public servant tick. Bob Spitz’s biography is long on character study and short on the political legacy of the nation’s great champion of American exceptionalism. Perhaps Spitz, a biographer of Julia Child, the Beatles, and other celebrities, can fill in some of the gaps in all the other bricks on Reagan.—HN
“Drawing in Tintoretto’s Venice,” at The Morgan Library & Museum (October 12 through January 6) and “Celebrating Tintoretto: Portrait Paintings and Studio Drawings,” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (October 16 through January 27): “The drawing of Michelangelo, the color of Titian.” With these words, supposedly written on his studio wall, Tintoretto staked his claim on cinquecento painting. Now with exhibitions stretching from the Doge’s Palace to The Morgan’s library, the wild child of the Venetian Renaissance is everywhere this season as we mark the five hundredth anniversary of his birth. Opening this Friday, “Drawing in Tintoretto’s Venice” at The Morgan Library & Museum will explore the draftsmanship of this son of a dyer (tintore) in comparison to works by Titian, Veronese, Bassano, and others. Then, next Tuesday, The Metropolitan Museum will open “Celebrating Tintoretto: Portrait Paintings and Studio Drawings,” a focused exhibition in the Robert Lehman Wing that will look to the painter’s quick-fire portrait studies.—JP
“Stile Antico: Elizabeth I, Queen of Muses,” at The Columbia School of the Arts’s Miller Theatre (October 13): Queen Elizabeth I reigned during a lively time in music: both sacred and folk music were becoming more accessible to popular audiences thanks to a proliferation of polyphonic song adaptations from burgeoning printing presses. Even court composers like William Byrd and John Dowland incorporated folk melodies into what are some of their best-known works today. Byrd, especially, is known for an early version of “text painting” in his compositions; “This sweet and merry month of May” features high, trilling notes that sound like birdsong in the soprano parts of the composition, usually performed a cappella (although variations also featured the viol, the lute, and other scorings). In a program of balladry and sacred music, Stile Antico will perform this and other vocal classics from the Renaissance period in England.—HN
“Lunchtime Lecture: Learn About 19th-Century New Yorkers’ Passion for Ancient Greece—In Literature, Architecture, and Objects,” at Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden (October 11): The Greeks are having a moment in New York, it seems. Three weeks ago, I flagged a lecture on Greek Revival architecture at the General Society Library. And now this Friday the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden, one of the city’s most overlooked historic sites, is hosting a lunchtime talk surrounding their new exhibition, “Style, Myth & Modernity in Greek Revival New York,” which opened on September 11. The lecture is free with admission, and coffee and tea will be provided—but remember to bring your own lunch. The talk will explore nineteenth-century New Yorkers’ passion for ancient Greece, and the manifestations of that passion in books, dress, and furniture.—BR
From the archive: “Camus and his critics,” by Norman Podhoretz (November 1982). A review of Camus by Patrick Mccarthy.
From the current issue: “Totalitarian physics & moral threshing,” by Jacob Howland. On the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Vasily Grossman’s great anti-Soviet novel Life and Fate.