Saturday, March 3, 2018

Portrait Painters in the Studio (Five Centuries)

Pedro Perret after Hans Speckaert
Allegory on Painting
Apelles painting the portrait of Alexander the Great
British Museum

Humanities Lecture

Aristotle was a little man with
eyes like a lizard, and he found a streak
down the midst of things, a smooth place for his feet
much more important than the carved handles
on the coffins of the great.

He said you should put your hand out
at the time and place of need:
strength matters little, he said,
nor even speed.

His pupil, a king's son, died
at an early age. That Aristotle spoke of him
it is impossible to find – the youth was
notorious, a conqueror, a kid with a gang,
but even this Aristotle didn't ever say.

Around the farthest forest and along
all the bed of the sea, Aristotle studied
immediate, local ways. Many of which
were wrong. So he studied poetry.
There, in pity and fear, he found Man.

Many thinkers today, who stand low and grin,
have little use for anger or power, its palace
or its prison –
but quite a bit for that little man
with eyes like a lizard. 

– William Stafford (1977)

workshop of Crispijn van de Passe the Elder
Painting the portrait of a lady in the studio
etching, engraving
British Museum

Abraham Bosse
Draughtsman making the portrait of a nobleman using a grid
ca. 1667
British Museum

Giuseppe Maria Mitelli after Pietro de' Rossi
 Caricature-artist Giannino da Capugnano drawing the portrait of a dwarf with an owl
British Museum

Bowles & Carver
The Macaroni Painter, or, Billy Dimple sitting for his Picture
hand-colored mezzotint
British Museum

The Dandy and His Echo

    (Proust and Chaplin speak)

It was my fate, this bed: this skin: this cloak.
I grow in it, and freeze, and write;
            It was my first, my last, stroke.

These pants I came by, but they grew to me;
I soared, I reeled, and took the falls
            They laughed so much to see.

Within time like a suit, space like a glove,
I revel, and sustain the ticks and tocks
            For they bring the shirt of love.

But in my vest and with my springy cane,
I was an armored knight and rode
            For my love, and was not slain.

This face I scarcely see – but mine, but mine –
Is what but a discarded hat! –
            And the floor: it is my spine.

I am a Cupid, really, with a baggy quiver,
And arrows for myself alone, alone:
            Derby'd, I bleed and shiver.

I remember once a man – ah, quel chic!
A man I might have been, and wished to be.
            Yes, but I was too weak.

I remember once a man – and what a way
He had: the dear, old drunken lout!
            But he was too much clay.

Life is a mirror – and it bends, bends far
Around all space, and it is
            (This glass) a separate star.

Life is a mirror – and a crooked one
Where I am he: but who, but who?
            He dazzles like the sun.

The great, sweet animal that is man,
The planetary angel: this creature
            Be, whoever can!

The clown, gay and pathetic god,
Is man transformed: half spirit
            and half – as in me – clod!

Look at this cuff of flesh. Oh, time –
That lifts the room up as on stilts –
            Take me: I am your rhyme!

Look at these giant shoes. Oh, Earth –
In which my dancing feet are worn –
            How far am I from birth?

Coiled here, in the heart, is Style
And it will clothe me to the end . . .
            Come close, my naked smile.

Here – in this strange bundle! – Death
Counts out a laundry list . . . I'm
            Its skeleton of breath.

– Parker Tyler (1954)

Charles Oliver Murray after Frank Dadd
Emma Hart sits to Romney, 1782
(William Hayley and Charles Francis Greville standing, Sir William Hamilton seated)
ca. 1910-12
British Museum

after Henry William Bunbury
The Family Portrait
hand-colored etching
British Museum

Anonymous English printmaker
Elderly couple approaching portrait painter in his studio 
("We be camed for you to take off our heads")
ca. 1832-40
hand-colored wood-engraving
British Museum

Henry James Townsend
Artist making the portrait of an Indian man
British Museum

Simeon Solomon
The Painter's Pleasaunce
ca. 1862
British Museum

Edward John Poynter
The Painter's Inspiration
before 1863
drawing (print study for-wood-engraving)
British Museum

Henri Baron
Renaissance artist painting a family group in his studio with onlookers
before 1866
British Museum

Edward H. Hacker after Abraham Cooper
Artist painting the portrait of  a horse in his studio
etching, engraving
British Museum

Félix Bracquemond
Terrace of the Villa Brancas
(one woman drawing the likeness of another)
etching, drypoint
British Museum

Poems from the archives of Poetry (Chicago)