Monday, April 30, 2018

Working to please himself …

The Art of Elsewhere. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Edward Gorey, whose books, theatrical designs, and sundry ephemeral productions are the subject of a brilliant exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum, is among the most recent additions to this curious company. It is a loose-knit cohort, which spans the centuries and includes literary and musical artists as well as visual ones. Two novelists who immediately come to mind are Thomas Love Peacock in the nineteenth century and Ronald Firbank in the twentieth. I would include the sixteenth-century artists Luca Cambiaso, whose geometrized figure drawings fascinated the Surrealists, and Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who painted heads composed of fruits and flowers for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. Other candidates include the American painter Florine Stettheimer and the American composer Harry Partch. Each of these men and women refuses to fit easily into any tradition. They’re idiosyncratic aristocrats. When we try to press them into some tradition—perhaps to see Peacock as an embodiment of eighteenth-century conversational conventions or Arcimboldo as a prototypical Mannerist—we rob them of some of their glory. They are nonpareil.

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