Sunday, July 11, 2004

Michel Hellman on Albrecht Dürer


Not content to just get headlines for Jean Cocteau and Nelson Henricks, the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal puts the full weight of the publicity department on Le Devoir, and successfully gets the last of their three summer shows into print, phew! I was worried their for an instant. M. Hellman writes 674 word article that on first blush, doesn't strike me as a topic worthy of being written about. Mr. Dürer is dead as a doornail and not-Canadian as Kraft Cheese, he doesn't care if he gets a review. The show is from the National Gallery in Ottawa, so it ain't like there's a local curator who needs an ego boost. The show started in April (and last I looked we're in July) so it ain't exactly breaking news. And while I am not familiar with the Dürer holdings of the National Gallery, I can't imagine that the best of his output would be here in Canada, so yeah, it's nice to have an opportunity to see some of the lesser works of an important artist, but this strikes me a smacking of politics. I can't imagine that Ms. Bronfman's donation had anything to do with this review.

That all being said, as it is in print, lets get to the meat of the matter, shall we?

M. Hellman uses his first paragraph to give an introduction to the reader as to the importance and significance of Mr. Dürer. Strange, as I thought that Le Devoir was the Paper of Record for the intelligentsia in Quebec, why would they need to have an introduction to Mr. Dürer, if they already know everything about him?

He then goes on to say "Le parcours rassemble 24 impressions de ses oeuvres les plus célèbres..." or in blokespeak, the show groups together 24 of Mr. Dürer's most significant prints. Nice of him to beat people over the head with how important this stuff is. Maybe the museum ain't getting enough traffic and that's why there's this review.

As for the content, M. Hellman gives over about half of his word count to a description of about a third of the show (335 divided by seven equals 48 words per piece). As I've said before trying to do critical analysis in a daily newspaper is just plain silly. I would have much preferred to read just how the MBAM got these super significant pieces of Northern European Renaissance art, or if analysis is required by the powers that be, then something either more significant than

Le style de Dürer oscille entre des préoccupations esthétiques gothiques et l'influence de la Renaissance italienne. Dans l'épreuve Adam et Ève, par exemple, les corps sont dessinés selon les canons rigoureux de la proportion et correspondent au concept de la Renaissance de «la figure idéale».

BLOKESPEAK Computer Translation: The style of Dürer oscillates between Gothic aesthetic concerns and influences it Italian Rebirth. In the test Adam and Eve, for example, the bodies are drawn according to rigorous guns' of the proportion and correspond to the concept of the Rebirth of "the ideal figure".
If I had taken notes during my Art History course in university, I am certain that I could have cribbed something like that from them. Or if you want something else, how about how these prints fit into the context of the museum's permanent collection, and why this is the most significant collection of Dürer prints in the world?

Obviously, the editors at Le Devoir and myself do not see eye-to-eye.

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