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June 29, 2006



Thank you for bringing this to my attention. When I cover Cassatt's entries in this show, I shall aim for Mr. Giuliano's neck.


Easy now! As I said, I'm not endorsing his opinions on particular paintings. But he writes a lot of good stuff, and I can completely understand why a longtime watcher of the MFA might feel a little frustrated at another exhibition of nineteenth century French or Francophilic painting. As for the Cassatts, I don't agree with him either, though I do have mixed feelings about some of her paintings in the show.

Bunny Smedley

As the inhabitant of a country where good nineteenth century American painting is all too thin on the ground, I was frankly starved for this stuff. Whereas Guiliano clearly isn't, which is fair enough. I'm sure I've felt just as impatient with exhibitions of crowd-pleasing French Impressionist works, just because they come through London that little bit too often.

On the other hand, surely parts of Guiliano's review are just plain unfair? He seems to object to super-famous works, but also to 'filler by minor artists and wannabes' ... which doesn't seem to leave a very broad middle ground. He seems to want more 'out' gays and lesbians in the show, which strikes me as nothing short of bizarre ... does this mean we're allowed nothing but shows from the more liberal Western states of the mid to late twentieth century? (And isn't Picasso's portrait of Stein, genuinely thrilling though it is, potentially just another of those 'old chestnuts' Guiliano dislikes so much?) For what it's worth, I think a potent mix of prejudice and over-familiarity is getting in the way of his experience of Cassatt, who seemed to me, anyway, a lot more exciting than she's usually given credit for being. He sneers twice about the fact that this childless woman painted women and children. Why? As I read his review, I found myself mumbling, more than once, 'oh, get over it!'

Obviously it's a bit sad to like one's own local art just because it's local and familiar. There ought to be more to art than that. But on the other hand, is it any better to sneer at it for the very same reasons? I genuinely hope that Guiliano's review doesn't put people off seeing an exhibition that, as your comments and Franklin's make clear, has a lot to offer.


On the other hand, surely parts of Guiliano's review are just plain unfair?

I wasn't sure where some of the judgments were coming from, to tell the truth. In part it may be because he's seen it before even more than I have, but the 'filler by minor artists and wannabes' were some of the works that interested me most, even if I didn't always feel they were great art (there were a few 'school of Bouguereau' paintings that I could have dealt without.) But I could have looked at Cecilia Beaux's Sita and Serita all day (the link is to the Corcoran's version; the musée d'Orsay's, which is in the show, doesn't seem to be online.) Those eyes; that cat.

Some of the Cassatts seems to sort of collapse in my eyes. A few were just goo. But there were a number of good ones as well.

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