Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Déjà Vu?

There is a fascinating exhibit at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore called "Déjà Vu? Revealing Repetition in French Masterpieces." The Walters is one of our favorite haunts; my husband and I used to go there after the Latin Mass at old St. Alphonsus' Church. We would have lunch at the museum restaurant and then stroll around the galleries.

According to The Washington Post:

An ambitious new exhibition called "Déjà Vu? Revealing Repetition in French Masterpieces" at the Walters Art Museum lets us watch great artists responding to profound changes in the way objects were made and duplicated.

We see works like "The Death of Marat," painted by David (pronounced "DahVEED") in 1793, in response to the republican politician's recent assassination, in his bath, at the hands of the infamous Charlotte Corday. Painted by David . . . and then repainted again and again by the master, or the master and his pupils, or just by pupils, to fill demand for that iconic image of the French Revolution. And all along there's no hint that something's wrong with such duplication, since we're looking here at the old "hand-tailored" model of making and remaking, where every man-made object is a handmade, precious thing. If one object has another that is very like it, that's because the labor of its making has been repeated more or less from the beginning, the way making a second pair of pants once involved most of the same work as sewing the first. In fact, according to this old way of thinking, if two objects are almost identical, it's a sign of prodigious talent in the copying. There's no conception of any cheapening through mass production -- because mass production was barely even in the picture.



Linda said...

Thank you for this post. Sounds fascinating and I intend to go as soon as I can.

elena maria vidal said...

You are welcome! I would love to go myself!