Recent links of note:
“Family reunited: US exhibition brings together the pieces of cut-up 17th-century Frans Hals portrait”
Victoria Stapley-Brown, The Art Newspaper
The Van Campen family had been together for almost two hundred years before they were cruelly separated around 1800—or at least their portrait by the Dutch painter Frans Hals was. Likely because of damage to the large canvas, the painting was divided into three pieces: the parents and seven children in one, three other young Van Campens in another, and a lone boy in a third. In its first outing since its restoration, the Van Campen Family Portrait in a Landscape (ca. 1623–25) appears in “Frans Hals: A Family Reunion,” which opened this week at the Toledo Museum of Art. Look for an upcoming review on our Dispatch blog.
“The greatest use of life”
John Kaag, Aeon
William James, the philosopher known as the father of American psychology, was a man of “maybe”s: this is the common refrain that resounds throughout his seemingly dissonant pursuits of pragmatic philosophy, the study of the human psyche, and his obsession with the occult. In his 1890 Principles of Psychology, James proposed an anthropocentric, skeptical philosophy: man is at the center of the universe, with no guarantee of reaching an objective understanding of the world outside himself. But like a pebble dropped into a pond, the ripples of his search rebound off the edges and return to him. For James, this was reason enough to explore any field of inquiry—even (and later, especially) the psychic and the spiritual—that provided a glimmer of a response. Can we know if we have free will (James asked)? If God exists, or the supernatural in general? If—perhaps most importantly—life is worth living? James could offer no more than a “maybe”; man cannot know for sure, but he can live as if the answers to all these questions were “yes.” John Kaag, the author of the recent memoir Hiking with Nietzsche, follows the New York philosopher’s footsteps to the Brooklyn Bridge to consider that greatest of philosophical questions from a James-eye view.
“ ‘Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future’ Review: Modernism’s Missing Link?”
Lance Esplund, The Wall Street Journal
The Guggenheim claims to have moved back the birthdate of pure abstraction in Europe. Curators at the Guggenheim posit that Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), a Swedish painter and mystic, was the true mother of a movement that, according to the textbooks, begins with Malevich, Delaunay, and that great Guggenheim favorite Kandinsky. Klint did indeed believe that she had received from her spiritual sources a “great commission” to explore abstract art. But she was no missionary for modernism; she refused to allow her paintings to be shown for two decades after she died. Lance Esplund argues that Klint’s work is more successful as an “illustration” of her personal spiritual journey than as a formal road map for later abstract modernists. The exhibition, which takes up much of the Guggenheim’s rotunda, is on view through April 23, 2019.
“Russell and Annette”
John J. Miller, National Review
Today marks the centenary of the birth of Russell Kirk, the author of The Conservative Mind, the book that reinvigorated intellectual conservatism after it was published in 1953. John J. Miller took a trip up to Mecosta, Michigan, the small village that became Kirk’s headquarters, to meet with his widow, the flawlessly hospitable and endlessly energetic Annette Kirk.
From our pages:
Les grands Meyerbeer revivals