Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lucas Cranach

When I drive I have a lead foot. I’m always exceeding the speed limit and being worried that I am going to get a ticket. Each speeding ticket I’ve gotten came as a shock because I didn’t realize how fast I was going. Not a problem on the German autobahn. The speed limit is generally 75 miles an hour but the only cars moving at this speed are in the far right lane. I was driving the fastest our rental car could go on its’ “winter tires” which is 100 miles an hour. I was in the center lane. The left lane was reserved for the people who were really in a hurry. I don’t know how fast they were going but let’s just say the wind shear from some of the cars made my car vibrate as they passed. Travelling at these speeds only works if all drivers follow the rules and etiquette of the road and indeed they do. Driving here is a lot of fun.

I was headed from Cologne to Munich where I was going to attend the Lucas Cranach special exhibition “Cranach in Bayern” at the Alte Pinakothek. This was a selection of paintings that included portraiture, religious and mythological paintings.

My favorite paintings in this exhibit are the full-size female nude paintings Venus and Cupid and the Suicide of Lucretia. Cranach painted the female figure in a very limited range of values just hinting at anatomical forms. The figures appear to be almost doll-like. This contrasts with the handling of the hair and jewelry where he pays attention to the smallest of details like strands of hair and jewel settings. So we have the large simplified figure contrasting with the small well defined notes. This juxtaposition of large and small, general and specific serves to elevate the figure. She is a sensual being but she seems to rise above the carnal, she becomes an object of veneration. This idea becomes reinforced by the addition of the transparent fabric that drapes her body. It is so delicate it seems heavenly. The fact that it is so transparent seems to imply that she is otherworldly, not in need of having her sexual nature hidden from view. I adore these two paintings.

There is a U-tube video talking about Lucas Cranach and his work that was made in conjunction with the French exhibit The World of Lucas Cranach, An Artist in the Age of Durer, Titian & Metsys.

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