Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Alfred Stevens

Alfred Stevens was one of many great 19th century painters. His discussions on art were always witty and interesting. There were two events this week that made me think of him and some of his quotes.
First was the recent news that the head conservator of the museum is leaving town. I have always had a critical view of contemporary conservators. While I think it is good that they clean and maintain work, an amazing amount of horrific damage has been done by great works of art through conservation. How it is that a job was created that allows men and women that are not painters, or have any skills or training as painters, get to retouch the work of the masters is beyond me. In the old days, they would actually have a painter of some skill fix paintings (a college degree in painting is not sufficient these days- as the skills for painting are just not taught).
Stevens commented on this: "To have a master's picture retouched is a crime that ought to be severely punished by law."
I would add that if this retouching is done by someone not trained as a traditional painter, the law should hand down a death sentence, or at least a wicked wedgie so intense as to prevent any further retouching.

The other quote
Nothing hurts a good picture more than bad neighbors."
One would think that your work would look better if it is near lesser work, but it seems to have no other effect than to drag it down with it. I went to a show this weekend that really spoke to this phenomenon. One of the pieces was so bad it almost damaged art in galleries miles away. It even damaged art from other time periods, past and future.

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