Sunday, March 06, 2005

Rubens Drawings @ The Metropolitan Museum

After finishing the biography of Willem de Kooning: “de Kooning An American Master” by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swann, I went to see the drawings by Peter Paul Rubens at the Met. Rubens was a favorite of de Kooning, (along with Ingres and Picasso, two other consummate draftsmen) and it was through the lens of de Kooning’s skewered perspective that I came to appreciate anew the work of his forbear.
Of course, modern art has little in common with the high baroque exuberance and technical virtuosity of Old Masterly skill evinced by the drawings by this “Peter the Great” yet the similarities were telling. Charcoal, that soft, nuanced and delicate record of an artist’s gesture was common to both these Northern Europeans. On close inspection, I noticed that Rubens rarely closed his forms with a contour but instead he would subtly overlap several lines with tiny interstices in between , this gave the work a slight visual vibration and a life to the forms as if they were “breathing”. This, of course, was a characteristic feature of a de Kooning drawing.
It would be something to see a de Kooning / Rubens show n’est-ce pas? Now that would raise some dust, charcoal and otherwise.

If you can’t get to the Met to see the drawings in person, there is an excellent online companion to the show.

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