Friday, December 22, 2006

Schongauer and Leonardo

Drawings, engravings, wood-cuts and paintings on wood are every bit as inspiring as paintings on canvas. About a year ago I saw an exhibit of French drawings that completely captivated me. Not only were they beautiful but they brought the viewer closer to the inner workings of the artist, his personality and his technique. Often, a set of sketches reveals the struggle and the decision-making process that the artist must go through before the final product emerges. And often I prefer the sketch to the painting that results from it.

Above is an engraving of the Nativity from 1470 by Martin Schongauer (1430(?)-1491). It comes from Art Renewal, a website packed with beautiful images, recommended by a reader.

The top masterpiece glows with the ineffable beauty of Leonardo, who spent his last years in France, at the invitation of King Fran├žois I. This painting on wood of the Adoration of the Magi is in the Uffizi Galleries in Florence. I must have seen it years ago when I visited Florence, but I have no specific recollection. This is because there is too much to see in Florence, and a brief stay is ridiculously inadequate. After a while the eye and the brain become deadened. One could spend a long lifetime in that city and never fully comprehend the creative explosion that took place there, not so long ago. Five-hundred years is hardly a blip on the radar screen of the universe.

The Merry-Christmas website provided the image.

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