Category Archives: art

Raphael is Back in Rome!

from Italy mag

The largest exhibition ever organized entirely devoted to Raphael, ‘Raffaello 1520-1483’ opened on March 5 at Rome’s Scuderie del Quirinale and had to close a few days later due to Italy’s nationwide lockdown.

As of June 2, as lockdown restrictions continued to ease, the exhibition opened to the public again (during the quarantine, a series of YouTube videos on the Scuderie del Quirinale’s channel made it possible to enjoy parts of the exhibition virtually).

Book Alert: Remembering Jeffrey Bernard

More about the book from the title appears at the end of this post.

I am not sure why I was reminded of the great Bernard, but there it was. The unique combination of pathos and wit in his “Low Life” Columns in the Spectator left its mark. It has something to do with an unquenchable thirst for freedom.

I am glad that I never knew him. But I am sad that he is long gone. All we have are his remarkable words from his Spectator “Low Life” columns that are preserved in a brilliant transcription — a play by Keith Waterhouse called “Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell”.  BTW, Waterhouse was himself quite a wordshmith.

Lo and behold, one can watch Peter O’Toole play Jeffrey Bernard in Waterhouse’s play on YouTube. There is a wonderful word to describe it – louche.

disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way.

And that captures the life of Bernard, the man. If you are up for it, here it is, though I do  not recommend watching it while drinking.. Nor should the kiddies be allowed in the room. This is about adulthood gone wrong.

Here is a snippet that demonstrates the Bernard way with words. He is locked in a pub overnight and starts to drink. Reminiscing on his dismissal from the magazine “The Sporting Life” he says

“Some people are in the habit of writing angry letters to the press. I get it the other way around. The press is is in the habit of writing angry letters to me.”

Then he said “One day I was asked to write my autobiography and I put a letter in the Spectator asking if anybody could tell me what I was doing between the years 1960 and 1974.” Some people apparently responded with suitably louche reminiscences.

Then after a long silence, “I could die here. It’s a good thing I can hold this stuff tolerably well. If I were a yawb or a hoola Henry  I mean by the time the pub opened again, I could be …  found by the coronoer to (be one of those who) have chocked on their own vomit. Disgusting phrase! When did you ever hear of someone choking on someone else’s vomit?”

BTW, the real life character Mike Molloy makes a brief appearance in the play. He wrote this about the play for The Guardian.

“Waterhouse crafted the play by distilling Jeff’s wonderful Low Life columns in The Spectator, and by adding a large measure of his own comic genius he fashioned one of the funniest plays in the English language. The script was so good that when Waterhouse first sent a copy to Peter O’Toole he received a message on his answering machine cursing him for altering the actor’s life. O’Toole had intended to take the following year off work, but the prospect of doing the play so excited him he decided he must commit to it immediately.”

I found this comment in a review of a collection of Bernard’s Low Life Columns to be amusing

… Of course his work would not be deemed today as politically correct


When Raphael Came to Florence

What an amazing moment!

When Raphael arrived in Florence, Michelangelo’s trailblazing statue of David had just been erected in the Piazza della Signoria. The paint on Leonardo da Vinci’s latest portrait (a depiction of a certain Lisa, wife of a wealthy wool merchant) was still wet. Florentine authorities had just coerced the two artists into a public competition for new wall paintings inside the Palazzo Vecchio. And in addition to Da Vinci and Michelangelo, the streets of Florence teemed with the likes of Sandro Botticelli, Andrea della Robbia, Piero di Cosimo, Davide Ghirlandaio, Simone del Pollaiuolo, Antonio and Giuliano da Sangallo, Andrea Sansovino, Pietro Perugino, Filippino Lippi, and many others now considered towering giants of the Italian Renaissance. What ambitious artist wouldn’t want to jump head-first into this creative stew?

Check out Italy Mag for more — and for a peek at  young Raphael’s work that you can experience in  trip to Florence.

Raphael Early Self Portrait Uffizi.jpg

Fry’s Wilde – Too Earnest?

Back in the 1990’s Stephen Fry was perfectly cast as Oscar Wilde.

On Stephen Fry and our shared idol – Painting the White Rose Red


Wilde takes the importance of being accurate a little too ...

And a film was made with Fry as Wilde in 1997. It was, by and large, an accurate depiction, with one glaring flaw. Gone was  Wilde’s spirit, replaced by a somber earnest quality that Wilde himself would have found appalling.

The Guardian reviewed the film.

This is not why we remember Wilde. It is not what makes him — to this day — a figure that many revere. We remember him because he blew a huge hole in ponderous Victorian standards of conduct.

Oscar Wilde - Wikipedia

Indeed, he was determined to show off his mindset and attitude towards life – that it was to be enjoyed with people. Not spent burdened by worries over status and superficial adherence to ethical standards, while secretly drooling over servant girls and prostitutes. This short vignette brings this out.

That is why I love Oliver Parker’s “An ideal Husband” from 1999. That film captures something of Wilde’s humor without being ponderous and stuffy. BTW, Parker then blew it in 2002 when he brought The Importance of Being Earnest to the screen.  Why do I say so? In the latter film, Parker gets too caught up in the props and action, as opposed to the characters.

But you can decide for yourself! Three films. Three views of Wilde and his work. Enjoy!

BTW, if you want to go a bit deeper into the story about Oscar Wilde, his court cases, his imprisonment, demise, and death, I posted on it a while back. I still find the punishment doled out to Wilde to have been wildly excessive (excuse the pun). And I still believe that of all the characters who were involved in that melodrama, Wilde was the least offensive of the lot. Andthis post that quotes Ellmann on Wilde is apt. Wilde’s aestheticism is a bit more complex than it is commonly supposed.

Pic of the Day: Inside the Globe Theatre

In fact, the Globe is in danger of shutting its doors permanently. AFAR offers you a way to help out!

The pillars supporting the stage roof (called the “Pillars of Hercules”) are handcarved from oak.

BTW, here is some background

The London theater—a circular, half-timbered structure with a thatched roof (the only one permitted in London!) and a stage and audience pit open to the sky—opened in 1997, having been built according to historic specifications of the original Globe, which burned down in 1613. (In a nod to modern audiences, a few comfortable anachronisms were added to the building: bathrooms, a small museum, an indoor theater space, a café, and a shop.) The theater’s reconstruction and its educational mission were a passion project for actor Sam Wanamaker, and it operates as a nonprofit without government funding. The Globe temporarily closed in March due to the coronavirus lockdown, but now its future is in danger.