Wednesday my wife and I took an impromptu trip out to Cambridge to see the museums at Harvard and to buy some books. The Sackler Museum had a visiting exhibit of Netherlandish, Dutch and Flemish drawings. Many of the works focused on Biblical themes, others on landscapes and scenes naer het leven (“close to life”: authentic representation). Their were a few drawings of banditry from Esaias van den Velde. Banditry had become a popular subject in art during the wars with Spain; they reflected political tensions that occurred after the partition of the Low Country.
There were also a few drawings by Jan van Goyen. He is becoming one of my favorite landscape painters. His subjects tend to be very direct–topology and geology dominate rather than the people. He seldom painted a narrative, and the people were always small in comparison to their environment. If there is any charateristic feature of his painting, it is the huge sky that takes up most of his scenes.
Sackler’s permanent collection consisted of art from Persia, the Far East, Antiquity, and India. Some of the most impressive works were from the Shahnama (Epic of Kings), a work about conflict between Persian kingdoms. I took the opportunity to take some photos of works, perhaps for use in my spring class in Western Civ: devotional deities, clay pots, funerary portraits
We toured Fogg Museum in a short one hour. Special exhibits dealt with printmaking and sculptural sketches by Bernini. My wife fell in love with the roomful of Gustave Moreau paintings.
After getting a quick bite to eat, I bought some books I have been looking for:
- The Fate of Place by Edward Casey, a look at how spatial concepts have evolved in the history of philosophy.
- Discovering the Vernacular Landscape by John Brinckerhoff Jackson, a theoretical look at studying landscapes.
- And Cities and the Wealth of Nations by Jane Jacobs, which explains how cities are larger than the nations they inhabit, tied to one another and acting as the engines of economic growth.