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April 2004

NOTES & COMMENTS

The Mind's Construction in the Face
In a review of the new book Hans Holbein the Younger: Painter at the Court of Henry VIII, John North aptly noted: "Holbein's combination of technical skill with psychological insight places him in the highest class of European painters. . . . [His insight] is a complex affair, an insight not only into his sitters' characters, but into how we should respond to his rendering of them. It is hard to to think of another artist who so easily persuades us that we can find the mind's construction in the face" (Times Literary Supplement, January 9, 2004). Like those of the much later American painter Thomas Eakins (the subject of a review in our August 2003 issue), Holbein's portraits [more] are indeed remarkable for their psychological acuity (for still more portraits by him, see the links to Paintings and Portraits at the Holbein page on the Web Gallery of Art).

EXHIBITIONS: Turner
A thematic selection of works by the great nineteenth-century British painter J. M. W. Turner--his expressive views of Venice--are at the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas through May 30. (Visit the website of Tate Britain, the national gallery of British art, for further images of Turner's paintings.)

WORTH READING: "Four-Piece Orchestra"
A brief article by music critic Greg Sandow on the string quartet captures the essence of this most intimate of classical music forms. As a bonus, Sandow provides a list of eight examples, including three by Beethoven.

What Art Is Online--Appendixes
Those who follow our ever-expanding Appendix A, "New Forms of 'Art,'" will find three new entries under Part II (with links to examples), including "Concrete poetry" and--if you can believe it--"Yarn sculpture." To Appendix B, Part II, "Artworld Buzz Words," we have added yet more examples illustrating the use of "Blur," and have noted the use of "Declare to be art" as synonymous with such expressions as "Establish as art." New buzz words added are "Object" and "Probe" (analogous to the previously noted "Explore"), as well as "Require" (synomymous with "Force"). Finally, in Appendix C, The New York Times--"The Arts", we cite a particularly egregious example of the Times's inexcusable practice of featuring articles unrelated to the arts on the front page of its "Arts" section. (All these items are marked "new!")

Remembering Elia Kazan
The death of film and stage director Elia Kazan [more] last fall went unmarked by us, and we are moved to remedy that omission now. We had occasion to see On the Waterfront again not long ago, and were reminded that it well deserves its reputation as an American classic. In every respect, it is one of the best films ever made. Kazan's telling of this inspiring story (the superb screenplay was by Budd Schulberg), about one man's daring to challenge the rule of the mob on the New Jersey waterfront--which can be viewed as an allegory of Kazan's congressional testimony regarding Communist influence in the film industry--has lost none of its power. Also memorable is his America, America.based on his own uncle's struggle to immigrate here from Greece in the 1890s (a film that is as different from the recent In America as night and day.) As Kazan's Gentleman's Agreement (about anti-Semitism in America) and To Kill a Mockingbird (dealing with race relations in the South) further demonstrate, he did not flinch from tackling major issues and he invariably brought them to the screen in ways that deepened our awareness.

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