This week: Chopin, a different Dickinson, a new organ for Saint Thomas & more from the world of culture.
“On Chopin with Dr. Alan Walker,” at the 92nd Street Y (October 22): At the beginning of his new book on Chopin, Alan Walker asks the crucial question any biographer of an artist must grapple with: “How important is a study of the life to an understanding of the music?” Perhaps, as Chopin himself probably thought, very little. But for the many who are still enchanted with the Polish composer’s music, it is only natural to wonder how all of this could have possibly come about. Walker, who researched his book for ten years, is bound to have a few answers. He will be interviewed by Gail Saltz, an author and a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at The New York Presbyterian Hospital, next Monday, October 22, at the 92nd Street Y. Look for James F. Penrose’s review of the biography in a forthcoming issue of The New Criterion. —RH
“Between Nature and Abstraction: Edwin Dickinson and Friends,” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (through February 10, 2019): Edwin Dickinson (1891–1978) was, in many ways, an artist who defied easy categorization. Educated by the American academic impressionists William Merritt Chase and Charles Webster Hawthorne, Dickinson was later a friend and tacit supporter of the mid-century Abstract Expressionists: Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Jack Tworkov, and many others. One might say the artist himself fell somewhere in between, but even this would not fully convey how inescapably enigmatic his paintings are. Tworkov would go so far as to write that “Edwin Dickinson was the greatest painter America has produced—in any century.” But today the artist has been appallingly forgotten—an unfortunate reality that likely has as much to do with his unwillingness to fall in with any one school as it does the still and soft-spoken nature of his paintings. An ongoing exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art titled “Between Nature and Abstraction: Edwin Dickinson and Friends” hopes to reintroduce this “painter’s painter” to the public by contextualizing nine of his works with those of his innumerable and varied colleagues. Including pieces by Milton Avery, Edward Hopper, Chase, Hawthorne, de Kooning, Tworkov, and others, the exhibition—despite its relative brevity—does much to break down our sense of American painting as having followed a straight and unbroken path. In its place, one finds endless resonances between paintings that are decades, and schools, apart. One hopes that a New York institution will soon wise up and commit to the renewed recognition of Edwin Dickinson; in the meantime, a trip to the Philadelphia Museum will satisfy the curiosity of those interested in this exceptional painter. Look for my extended review in a forthcoming issue of The New Criterion. —AS
“At a Solemn Musick: The Miller-Scott Organ in Concert,” at Saint Thomas Church (October 18): In its first full concert on its Miller-Scott Chancel Organ, Saint Thomas Church will pull out all the stops—all 102 of them—of its new massive instrument, built over the past year and on full sonic display Thursday evening. The concert features the organist Benjamin Sheen, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys in a centenary celebration of Leonard Bernstein with his Chichester Psalms and of C. H. H. Parry’s setting of Milton’s Blest Pair of Sirens. Also including Poulenc, Barber, and more, the program will show off the chancel organ’s new and improved “blazing Saint Thomas sound.” —HN
“Grand Acquisitors: Manhattan’s Upper East Side Art Collectors,” at the Municipal Art Society of New York (October 20): Though the art world’s center of gravity may have shifted downtown in the second half of the twentieth century, the Upper East Side was, until then, the locus of fine art in New York. On Saturday, Matt Postal of the Municipal Art Society will lead a tour of some of the UES’s most chic blocks, calling attention to the townhouses, apartment buildings, and, of course, museums, where artistic masterpieces once hung (and still do). —BR
From the archive: “Isn’t it romantic,” by Donna Rifkind (June 1987). A review of Mary Shelley by Muriel Spark.
From the current issue: “Finding Franklin,” by Marc M. Arkin. On the making of an American enigma, occasioned by a new biography of his early life.