Misia and I took an afternoon break to see Midnight In Paris, the new Woody Allen movie. Which, by the way, does everything that Inception tried to do but with a 20th of the budget and is a good movie rather than a bad movie (like Inception.) Sorry, fans-of-things-that-we-wanted-to-be-good-but-actually-suck-when-we-really-think-about-it.
I’m not going to spoil Midnight In Paris if you haven’t seen it, mainly because I didn’t know anything about the story line and it was delightful to watch the magic roll out. But, it did articulate something I’ve felt since graduate school, and that is this: whatever you take as inspiration, be it writing or film or dance or painting, you need to think of all of the work that came before you as contemporary. If we think of art history as history, it dampens its impact on our understanding of its importance. BUT! If you view art history as all present tense, as work made by fellow artists, it helps to strengthen the notion that all art made is a part of a larger continuum. There is no difference between paintings made 500 years ago and paintings made yesterday. Good work takes hard work, and those that rise above the fray are all good in the same way. Great work has magic to it, and that magic-making hasn’t changed in forever.
So. We were at The Louvre looking at Tintoretto’s self-portrait (pictured above) hanging next to Titian’s own self-portrait. The tension on the wall is palpable, even 450 years later. They each had their own swagger, their own magic. It was always my feeling that Tintoretto is every artist’s choice between the two, though no one will ever deny Titian’s talent. It’s Letterman and Leno, and while Leno gets the ratings, Letterman gets the respect.
The day after we went to The Louvre, we saw the Manet retrospective at the Musée d’Orsay. I fell in love with Manet in grad school when I formulated the theory that he and Tintoretto have the same swagger, the same magical love of painting. They wink, they pull pranks, they love painting above all else. These are my kinda guys, I thought to myself. THEN, as I was walking through the gallery, I saw a painting of Manet’s that I had never seen before:
Holy. Shit. The sonofabitch did it! He believed the same thing I do, that he and Tintoretto are on the same wavelength! This moment for me was a total face melt on so many levels. Manet is doing a shout-out across the centuries to Tintoretto that essentially says, “we’re all present tense.” Great artists look at art. They look at a lot of art. Manet, with this painting, tells everyone before him and everyone after that this is how it’s done. To be great, we do our homework, kids. Do yours and not only will you have a chance to be great, but you’ll also be a part of the club.
This was the greatest present that Paris gave me. To re-affirm vis-à-vis my two favorite boyfriends that there is only the present.