What I'm reading: Hogarth: A Life and a World. 'Sgood. Also big, and I'm only in the early chapters, so not much to say. I will note that it gives a better picture of eighteenth century London than Peter Ackroyd's book, which I found rather tiresome and didn't finish. Better maps, too.
What you should be reading: this marvellous review of Pompeo Batoni at the National Gallery. Follow the links in it, too, they're eye-opening. I'd always had a liking for Batoni and his milieu, so I had no idea that others would be so dismissive. I'll grant that British art critics might be forgiven a little impatience when faced with familiar fare, much as I might feel when hearing that the MFA has another Impressionist show planned. Still, that's no excuse for an exhibition review that apparently bores of its subject after a few paragraphs and simply wanders off. In any event, the review at Fugitive Ink does the work of recapturing Batoni from unsympathetic critics, in part by embracing (if I may say so--the terminology is not the author's) a sort of hermeneutic consciousness. If that doesn't make you want to read, perhaps the good humor in the early paragraphs and the lovely grace note at the end will.
I've been wondering ever since, and hope to comment over at the site, about Batoni. One of the criticisms made of him is of a certain self-effacing quality in his work, a combination of deference to his sitters and apparent natural inclination, that can lead to a sort of blandness. I don't think this is imagined, and in his lesser paintings can be a fault. But we don't judge painters by their least efforts, even if we do acknowledge them, and so I'm continuing to wonder in what ways Batoni's achievement distinguishes him from his contemporaries--how would one compare him to other eighteenth century painters and how would he rate? What, with some degree of specificity, is his place? The more I think this over, the more I reflect that it's a shame that eighteenth century art often doesn't get the same respect as that of periods before and after it.
Anyway, now that there's nobody here but us chickens, I have a proposal. It should be no secret to regular readers of this site, if any remain, that content has . . . lagged a bit. In part that's because I've been busy, in part because I haven't been up to much, and in part because of a lack of ideas. But if you're still reading, I must assume you want me to keep writing, if only to amuse yourself by laughing at my ignorance and poor command of the language. So then: give me something to write about. Give me an assignment, tell me to write about something (reasonably accessible, please), and I'll do my best to do it. And now that I'm making this suggestion, don't let the comments continue to sit there with a big fat goose egg, it'll be embarrassing for the blog. And you don't want to let the blog down, do you? Me neither. So for the love of god, tell me what to do. Will blog for