2005

Spain's Window on the Soul

Spain's Window on the Soul

Spain's Window on the Soul

Spain's Window on the Soul

Spain's Window on the Soul

January 16, 2005
January 16, 2005
Spain's Window on the Soul
The Prado is a difficult museum for a visitor to manage, for it is filled with spectacular mountains of great art. No other museum in the world can rival its enormous collections of Spanish artists such as El Greco, Velazquez and Goya and even of foreign artists such as Hieronymus Bosch. It is easy to get lost in one of the mountains, spending a magnificent afternoon with Velazquez, for example, and having no time left for anyone else. If you have no more than an afternoon to spend at the Prado museum, you can feel a little regretful for missing so much. But curator Javier Portus has come up with an extraordinary special exhibition that leaves you with a wonderful sense of completeness. This exhibition, “The Spanish Portrait: From El Greco to Picasso,” draws on the great riches of the Prado, adds stunning loans from elsewhere and combines them to tell a coherent and satisfying story...

A Familiar Tale of Uprising and Bloody Suppression

A Familiar Tale of Uprising and Bloody Suppression

A Familiar Tale of Uprising and Bloody Suppression

A Familiar Tale of Uprising and Bloody Suppression

A Familiar Tale of Uprising and Bloody Suppression

January 16, 2005
January 16, 2005
A Familiar Tale of Uprising and Bloody Suppression
Mau Mau burst upon the imagination of the world half a century ago, when newspapers and magazines published lurid photos accompanied by accounts of crazed savages slaughtering white settlers and their families in the Arcadian and romantic British colony of Kenya in darkest Africa. The images of an irrational black onslaught were reinforced by the publication in 1955 of Robert Ruark’s bestselling novel “Something of Value,” which was made into a movie starring Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier. To European and American ears during the 1950s, the words “Mau Mau” conjured up chilling terror. Historians and academics have chipped away at these images ever since. Carl Rosberg, a UC Berkeley political scientist, and John Nottingham, a former British colonial officer, published their pioneering work, “The Myth of Mau Mau: Nationalism in Kenya,” in 1966. More studies have followed over the years. The two latest books, remarkable and lucid accounts by British and American academics that are brimming with new evidence, surely smash the myth and images for good...
Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of EmpireImperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of the End of Empire in Kenya

Inaugural Fog

Inaugural Fog

Inaugural Fog

Inaugural Fog

Inaugural Fog

January 31, 2005
January 31, 2005
Inaugural Fog
I have finally read the complete text of our 43rd President’s Second Inaugural Address. Although I had not seen the ceremony on television, I had tried to read the speech a couple of times the day after but found it impossible to penetrate the fog of glitter that enveloped his words. I was put off, I think, by the gnawing conviction that I must be reading the valedictory speech of some high school senior. The words were highfalutin, the themes were lofty, and the concoction bore no relation to the world around us. Each paragraph vanished in my mind as I tried the next. So I gave up...

Unidentified Sources

Unidentified Sources

Unidentified Sources

Unidentified Sources

Unidentified Sources

February 5, 2005
February 5, 2005
Unidentified Sources
While covering French President Francois Mitterrand on a trip to Martinique in the 1980s, we in the press corps were told he would meet us in his hotel suite for a conversation “à bâtons rompus.” That French idiom — literally “with broken sticks” — meant that the discussion could shift from one subject to another and that Mitterrand would be less formal and more open than usual. But the aides cautioned, his replies would be “off” — a new French journalistic expression that is an abbreviated form of the English “off the record.” In short, Mitterrand could not be quoted...

An Artist in Her Own Light

An Artist in Her Own Light

An Artist in Her Own Light

An Artist in Her Own Light

An Artist in Her Own Light

February 13, 2005
February 13, 2005
An Artist in Her Own Light
Berthe MORISOT was one of the first French Impressionist painters, the only woman to exhibit at their initial show in Paris in 1874. Her name and talent, said Edgar Degas, who helped organize the rebellious exhibition, “are just too important to us for us to be able to manage without her.” Yet, ever since, she has remained in the background of Impressionism, overshadowed by her renowned male counterparts, including Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. In the United States, she has been overshadowed as well by Mary Cassatt, the American painter living in Paris during that era. When Americans talk about women and Impressionism, the name that usually comes to mind first is Mary Cassatt, not Berthe Morisot...

Bolton and History

Bolton and History

Bolton and History

Bolton and History

Bolton and History

March 24, 2005
March 24, 2005
Bolton and History
When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the nomination of John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, she proclaimed that he would serve in the tradition of our best ambassadors “with the strongest voices.” She cited Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jean Kirkpatrick as the models. But the Bolton nomination hardly fits any historical tradition. It is a defiance of history...

A Richer Portrait

A Richer Portrait

A Richer Portrait

A Richer Portrait

A Richer Portrait

March 29, 2005
March 29, 2005
A Richer Portrait
The life of Amedeo Modigliani is the stuff of cliched myth and operatic tragedy: A handsome Italian artist weakened by too much hashish and alcohol, Modigliani died penniless in Paris of tuberculosis in 1920 at the age of 35. His last love leaped to her death from a fifth-story window a day later. While alive, he never sold enough to exist without the charity of friends. Yet, from the moment of his death, the fascination for his life and his work has soared. Now he is one of the world’s most popular artists. Only last November, Sotheby’s auctioned his last portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne, the mistress who killed herself, for $31,368,000, a record for a Modigliani. Although the drama of his life and his popularity after death have driven up the value of his paintings, they have done far less for his reputation...

The Surreal World of Salvador Dalí

The Surreal World of Salvador Dalí

The Surreal World of Salvador Dalí

The Surreal World of Salvador Dalí

The Surreal World of Salvador Dalí

April 1, 2005
April 1, 2005
The Surreal World of Salvador Dalí
The flamboyant Spaniard often hid his artistic genius behind a perpetual zeal for self-promotion and an obsession with money. Genius or madman? A new exhibition may help you decide. Salvador Dalí spent much of his life promoting himself and shocking the world. He relished courting the masses, and he was probably better known, especially in the United States, than any other 20th-century painter, including even fellow Spaniard Pablo Picasso. He loved creating a sensation, not to mention controversy, and early in his career exhibited a drawing, titled SacredHeart, that featured the words “Sometimes I Spit with Pleasure on the Portrait of My Mother.” Publicity and money apparently mattered so much to Dalí that, twitching his waxed, upturned mustache, he endorsed a host of products for French and American television commercials. Diffidence was not in his vocabulary. “Compared to Velázquez, I am nothing,” he said in 1960, “but compared to contemporary painters, I am the most big genius of modern time...”

His Shadowy City of Light

His Shadowy City of Light

His Shadowy City of Light

His Shadowy City of Light

His Shadowy City of Light

May 8, 2005
May 8, 2005
His Shadowy City of Light
IN the last years of the 19th century, Montmartre, a poor Paris neighborhood high on a hill, burst into a frenzy of popular song and dance, creative art and decadent high jinks -- a frenzy with wonderful imagery that still lingers in our minds. We owe most of those images to the works of the diminutive and doomed artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Toulouse-Lautrec was a painter and lithographer of extraordinary appeal. Museum-goers and buyers of reproductions love his paintings, prints and posters of cancan dancers and caustic singers and depressed prostitutes and bourgeois men on the prowl. This is demonstrated once again by the crowds that now stream into the National Gallery of Art for its extensive exhibition “Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre...”

Dalí As You've Never Seen Him

Dalí As You've Never Seen Him

Dalí As You've Never Seen Him

Dalí As You've Never Seen Him

Dalí As You've Never Seen Him

May 15, 2005
May 15, 2005
Dalí As You've Never Seen Him
It may seem excessive, but there are three museums commemorating the life and work of Salvador Dali in the northern area of Catalonia not far from the French border, but what was his life if not excess? The museums are a little off the main American tourist routes in Spain, but they are well worth the trouble to find. The three brim with art and kitsch and reflect the many sides of the artist. Here is a look at them. The Dali Theater-Museum is in Figueres, fitting because the artist was born here in 1904 and died here in 1989. Port Lligat - Dali’s home, which attracts 90,000 visitors a year, is about 20 miles from Figueres -- but it can take an hour or more to drive there. The castle at Pubol tells us a great deal about Dali’s love for Gala...

Europe's Dawn, In Art

Europe's Dawn, In Art

Europe's Dawn, In Art

Europe's Dawn, In Art

Europe's Dawn, In Art

May 30, 2005
May 30, 2005
Europe's Dawn, In Art
Coming upon a remote Romanesque church from almost 1,000 years ago is one of the pleasures of traveling through the countryside of Europe. But these structures, put up when the tribes that had destroyed the Roman Empire were emerging from their Dark Ages, are almost bare, their sculptures, reliquaries and manuscripts often squirreled away in diocesan and regional museums in distant towns. It is hard to get a good sense of this unusual art. Until this year, France -- which claims the richest collections -- had never organized a major national exhibition of Romanesque art. The Louvre Museum in Paris has finally erased that neglect with an impressive show of more than 300 works titled “Romanesque France: In the Time of the First Capetian Kings (987-1152),” which runs through next Monday...

A Pearl of Poetry and Paint

A Pearl of Poetry and Paint

A Pearl of Poetry and Paint

A Pearl of Poetry and Paint

A Pearl of Poetry and Paint

July 10, 2005
July 10, 2005
A Pearl of Poetry and Paint
In the last years of the 16th century, Emperor Akbar, the illiterate Mughal ruler of India, ordered his finest calligrapher and his workshop of artists to craft a luxurious edition of one of the great works of Persian poetry, known as “The Pearls of the Parrot of India.” The book had 31 full-page illustrations painted with delicacy and beauty. For many years, looking at most of them has been a private experience, limited mainly to scholars. That, after all, is the nature of a rare book. Now, for the first time, 29 of the miniature paintings are separate and on display in a show at the Walters Art Museum called “The Pearls of the Parrot of India: The Emperor Akbar’s Illustrated Khamsa, 1595-98.”..
Pearls of the Parrot of India

It works well. Tweak it.

It works well. Tweak it.

It works well. Tweak it.

It works well. Tweak it.

It works well. Tweak it.

November 6, 2005
November 6, 2005
It works well. Tweak it.
[OPINION] AMERICAN POLITICIANS have urged U.N. reform for decades. Lately, the cries have become so loud and incessant that it is hard to imagine what will satisfy the critics. Abolish the veto for all nations save the United States and elect John Bolton as secretary-general? Strange as it seems, even those steps might not be enough -- not for critics whose demands for reform mask a deeper goal. They will not be satisfied unless the U.N. submits to the will of the United States. I do not doubt that the U.N. needs reform -- just look at the scandal in the U.N.'s oil-for-food program for Iraq. But let’s put this into perspective...