Saturday, May 28, 2011
This afternoon Peter Brooks in a back issue of the New York Review of Books reminded me of a passage Henry James wrote in The Tragic Muse. The character Nick Dormer has given up a career in politics to pursue life as a painter. He confronts several portraits in London's National Gallery –
"As he stood before them the perfection of their survival often struck him as the supreme eloquence, the virtue that included all others, thanks to the language of art, the richest and most universal. Empires and systems and conquests had rolled over the globe and every kind of greatness had risen and passed away, but the beauty of the great pictures had known nothing of death or change, and the tragic centuries had only sweetened their freshness."
Nobody knows which specific portraits Nick Dormer was thinking about in the National Gallery back in the 1890s. But some of these must have been included. They remain to this day together in London.