Saw the new “Rubens and Brueghel: A Working Friendship” show at the Getty Museum yesterday. It’s really quite extraordinary. I kept thinking of the ways in which these artists were to their world, like filmmakers are to our world. They were at the top of the heap in terms of image-making skills and techniques, through which they probably influenced people as well.
Being someone who loves most kinds of line work, I almost liked the Getty’s concurrent “Rubens and His Printmakers” show better. The artists who made the etching plates for Rubens must have been both young and possessed of incredible eyesight. Work like that is really a lost art, and probably quite rightly so. We now focus more on ideas, insights, possibilities, ambiguity, and interpretation. And looking at the people in these images is fascinating. Personality itself is probably a different thing now. You rarely see people today who can be “read” like that. People who project and embody such pure perspectives as a sense of longing, heroism, mischievieousness or even a sense of fully occupying a role. People may have watched so much TV, they become afraid of being caught in any sort of mockable pose. Or since actors act, we feel we shouldn’t or can’t. But it’s probably more that we’re just more complex now.