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Noticing the Good by Robert Genn

Noticing the good
by Robert Genn

Over the past 400 years, if you happened to be good at making giant sculptures of generals on horseback pointing or waving swords, Argentina had a job for you. This country has the highest percentage by population of these items. Nowadays there's less sword waving, but they still put their dead generals in flowery monuments next to rich people. Maybe the Argentines have a love affair with death; they seldom remember birthdays, but death-days are big events. School children are encouraged to commit their generals' last words to memory.


These days the Argentines charge Americans $100 to get into their country. Why they charge Canadians only $75 is beyond me.


In Buenos Aires at the Museo de Bellas Artes there's a terrific show of 19th and 20th Century Italian artists--from Antonio Mancini to Amedeo Modigliani. Unfortunately there's no catalogue, but the show is exemplary of the renewed popularity of some relative unknowns who could really paint. Not many remember Mancini, for example, but none other than John Singer Sargent at one time declared him "the greatest living painter."


Antonio Mancini (1852-1930) was born in Rome, showed early ability and studied under the best available in Naples. He specialized in oils and pastels of street children, clowns, acrobats, etc., and often worked in a broad, impasto-laden style with intelligent use of light and surface moisture. He was soon accepted into the Paris Salon. Mancini suffered a severe mental breakdown and depression in midlife, became destitute and was supported by friends and former patrons. In later life he brightened up, as did his palette, and he once again out-dazzled his contemporaries. We've put a panel of Mancini's work at the top of the current clickback.


The Italian show, together with a marvelous modern show at the Palais de Glace, mostly featuring young Argentine women artists, is a good top-up before going plein air in Patagonia. It's good to humble yourself by knowing just how good other people can get. And noticing the good people, too--the Argentines are friendly and jolly. Funnily, they may charge you to get into their country, but they don't charge you to get into their art museums.


Best regards,




PS: "The way to understand painting is to go and look at it. And if out of a million visitors there is even one to whom art means something, that is enough to justify museums." (Pierre-Auguste Renoir)


Esoterica: If a brilliantly good artist happens to live just down the street, his top-up of your efforts may be harder to take. That's why it's good to check out dead artists. The dead guy won't let you take him to dinner or tell you, "There's something wrong with that mouth," as several of our subscribers did with my painting of Mel, but he can show you stroke by stroke how things might be. Cruising your eyes over someone else's work in silence and with respect may be the next best thing to struggling on your own. Art museums help artists realize they're never truly alone.
Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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