February 18, 2012

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. February, 2011

All right, I will eat my words. I have held the Boston MFA in somewhat low regard, calling it very JV, lacking in any real masterpieces, etc. After several visits in the summer of 2010, I thought it a fine place to pass the time, walking among the ancient art of Egypt, the large hall of Italian Renaissance pictures, the occasional French Impressionist. But nothing stood out, took my breath away. All that has changed with the opening of the museum’s new American Wing. Of course the masterpieces would be American, hidden away while these impressive new galleries were under construction. When I recently returned, saw the new wing for the first time, I gasped upon entering the gallery and was confronted by this. John Singleton Copley’s Watson and the Shark. One of my forgotten favorites, positioned for optimum effect, and quite shocking against Copley’s more sedate and formal portraits for which he’d gained his reputation as a society painter. Based on a true story of a 14-year-old cabin boy’s disastrous 1749 swim in Havana harbor (the tale related to Copley by that same grown-up cabin boy when they became friends years later in London), it contains Cuban geographical elements from a place Copley had never been. The artist had also never seen a shark, much less one on the attack, but you’d never know it. What a painting! (Note: If all goes as planned, I will arrive in Havana today for the first time. Harbor swimming not on the itinerary.)

1 comment:

  1. I seem to remember your saying you were worried there might be sharks in the Harvard pool. In retrospect, it may also have been PSTS (Post Scheider Trauma Syndrome) from having seen Spielberg's "Jaws." Roy Scheider has that effect on impressionable minds. ¡Que te diviertas!