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Interview with Claude Howell, #216 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Claude Howell, #216
In this art history lecture from the Gwen Ward videotape collection, artist Claude Howell (1915 - 1997) discusses High Renaissance art with an audience assembled at St. John's Museum of Art in Wilmington.
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Interviewee:  Howell, Claude Interviewer:  Lecture Series Date of Interview:  n.d. Series:  Arts Length  60 minutes


[Please note: the audio quality of the source has degraded over the years, resulting in gaps in the following transcript.]

Claude Howell: We're really beginning to get somewhere. Tonight, in the high Renaissance, and of course you know, when you reach the peak. Italian painting more or less collapses after the '90s, and we begin to have an entirely different sort of art form. It's called Mannerism, and then that turns into Baroque. And architecture changes, painting changes. Tonight, we're going to be talking about painters who are able to do anything. All the great innovators have come and gone and left their mark. And because of that, these people are able to use all of the new discoveries in anatomy, in perspective, in light and shadow, in every life affect. So they don't have [inaudible] back then. They had the ability. So you had a great many painters painting with the greatest of ease, and I think you could say it's much ado about nothing, because they don't have to strive. They're not great scientific minds. There are a couple of them who are very good painters. We're going to be talking about people tonight who are responsible for practically every academic painting of the 19th century. People like Raphael. Now Raphael was considered, in the late 1800s, as the greatest artist who ever lived. I had trouble finding reproductions of a Raphael in all the used books, because he's not thought of as highly today as he was, say 100 years ago. It's strange how styles in art change, that is, how our appreciation changes. Another name who has changed completely in our appreciation is El Greco. I have art histories at home that were printed about 1900, and El Greco is not even mentioned, because now he's considered one of the greatest of the Spanish painters. I did a lecture at the Winston-Salem gallery, of changing face. Every generation goes back to the closest generation to what it believes, and picks up those artists. Well, the Victorians picked up Raphael. He was not controversial. He was very easy to understand. He was pretty. Perugino, they loved Perugino. Perugino has swooning saints, their eyes are cast to heaven. They are posturing, rather than moving in a novel fashion. Tonight, we're going to see some slides of people who can paint anything. They don't have to worry about perspective. They don't have to worry about aerial and getting lighter as they record, they know all that. The technique of master craftsmen having his apprentice has been going on for several hundred years, and still is. And so these men are well trained artists. Also, they are very well recognized. They are friends with the Pope, they are ambassadors to foreign countries. They not only paint, but they are personages of great importance. Also, we're going to find that art begins to shift its location. Practically every painter that we've studied this far has been first in Siena and then Florence. Now we're going to move into northern Italy. That would be Lucca and Ferrara and more or less minor towns. And there'll be just one or two. Now they don't stay in those towns always. They go to the center, but the center is no longer Florence. What happened in 1494, three years after America was discovered, the Medici lost their power, in 1494. And what happened then was, the Popes became much more important than ever. Rome became the center, and that's where you have Michelangelo and Raphael working. We had Frangetico [ph?] working in Rome for the Pope. A lot of people gone to Rome and worked for the Pope. But now, it becomes the center, and the popes, who like all of the artists, are not quite as religious as the former generations were. The popes are more concerned with glory now. They're trying to make Rome equal in glory to ancient Rome. And so you find the enormous buildings erected during this period. This is the time of St. Peter's Cathedral. If you've ever seen St. Peter's Cathedral, you know how grand it is, and how big it is. And the dome can be seen from all over Rome. It is spectacular, and that is the reason for it. Now, no ___________ is something to build, or painted to the glory of God, is to glorify the church, or glorify the Pope, or to glorify the man who painted it. These men, when they sign their work now, really are getting money in the bank. You find that commerce has entered the arts, and they don't sell like people do today so much, but the artist is hired by him. If he has a good reputation, naturally, he gets taken care of in a better style. So things have changed completely in the last 400 or 500 years. Now, the first group of people that we're going to talk about are the north Italians. These are in Padua and Ferrara, and the first man is Cosimo Tura. Now all these men had studied with masters, and they were influenced by all the people that we talked about last week. I think that Tura, Cosimo Tura, is one of the first major, important painters of the school of Baroque. Now the school of Baroque can't touch the school of Florence, but all these people are good painters, and certainly not to be sneezed at. He developed a style which was very crisp. Let's look at one of his slides. Is it working? Here we have "Madonna and Child." What's the first thing you notice about it? It's a little big, isn't it? We're beginning to find that they are trying to paint something which is a tour de force now. The simplicity ___________ of the earlier painting is beginning to go away. But you will notice that all of the anatomy is perfectly arranged. There's little distortion yes. Now in the next generation, because these men were able to do anything, you will find that the younger artists are revolting, and they begin to elongate the figure. That's when you have Mannerism, which is a reaction against the perfectly normal, natural, matter of fact painting of these people. Notice that all the figures are more or less important. There's not ___________. It is, in a sense, going back in time, because you move from color to color to color. Every color is separate and distinct. Edges are not lost in shadow. So in a sense, it becomes linear. Also, you get a lot-- this is very complicated painting, from the standpoint of composition. Look at this big oak. Do you see? And you can keep on growing geometric shapes in this painting. There is a big triangle, which comes down and down. The head of the Virgin is the center of a big circle. There are innumerable ways that you can draw on this painting. I used to get a painting like this with my students, and also give them a piece of tracing paper, and a compass and a ruler. I'd say, "Okay, draw this painting using only geometric shapes." And it was amazing, because it gets so complex if you keep on going. You get the bigger ones, but then you can break those big shapes down into smaller shapes. See if I go the right way here. Now this is also by Cosimo Tura. You can see he's a little spinary and a little hard in this way of working. This is a very complicated perception. Michelangelo is one of two people who have solved this, and even he has a problem with it, is putting a grown man on the left of a woman. That is a difficult thing to do. And you see, he is a little bit of a shock. But look how big the head is compared to the body. You'll see that some of the traditions in painting that we've already seen are in this one: the distant landscape, we'll see again in the Mona Lisa. There also, in this painting, is a rather unnatural feeling of the position of the figure. And the heads are slightly melodramatic, rather than dramatic. We're going to arrange two things tonight. We'll arrange the sentimentality and melodrama. And you find this a great deal, as time goes on. There's another problem that we encounter with both of these men of the higher Renaissance, like Michelangelo and Leonardo and Raphael. They were so praised, that there are very few minor paintings. Nobody could emulate those paintings. They'd try, but they just weren't able to do it. Now there is one master who is a fascinating painter. His name is Mantegna. He too goes back to the hard edge, but it's perspective that intrigues Mantegna. And always, you'd become, you the spectator, become part of what is happening in the painting. To understand why these guys painted it, so that you are not looking at the scene. You are in the scene. We have done this in the 20th century, in the field of color paintings, where the artist decided, about 1960, that if you looked at a piece of red that big, you were looking at, in the painting, ten square feet of red. You were in it. It enveloped you, and that is the difference. That's all the field of color. And it's the same sort of thing that Mantegna does, except he does it with perspective. He involved you in this picture. His drawing is superb. There is a close up of this that I wanted to show to you, that is a most beautiful picture. The emotions here are not melodramatic. They're not sentimental. They really are actual emotions. This is a religious theme, but primarily, Mantegna was interested in the tangible world. He was by far the most intellectual man of his generation. He knew everything about the ancient world that could be known at that time. And instead of painting pictures so much of Roman ruins, he has captured the spirit of the ancient world in much of his own. We say that Mantegna knew so much, and we say that Leonardo knew so much. They did. But I believe you know a lot more than either of those men. What's the difference? They used what they knew and we do not. That is the big difference between these geniuses, and the ordinary person today. All of us know a great deal more about history than either Leonardo or Mantegna. And we don't live--. You can almost see the perspective lines in ____________. This is the St. Sebastian, the marker of St. Sebastian. I don't know whether you know the story of St. Sebastian, or not. He had all these arrows shot into him. They didn't kill him. He finally was stoned to death. This kind of face, but look at the __________ architecture behind him, ____________. The _________ is really a study in anatomy. There were several figures that people were able to use during this period, which did not offend the church. One was a nude figure of Christ. One was the nude figure of Adam and Eve, and also the nude figure of St. Sebastian. So you see those three subjects painted over and over and over again. And it's not that they're interested in the subject so much as they are in the human figure. He has used St. Sebastian as an excuse for this painting. Look what happens here. That's a whole family. A classic wound, _______________. This black and white floor takes you right straight in the picture, in ______________. Where are you standing? Where _______________? ______________. We haven't seen that before. He has always a low vaccant visual apparent of where you are. And so often, he would do what ____________________ into "The Last Supper." He paints the "The Last Supper," which I prefer to Leonardo's "Last Supper." It's in a church in Florence with all his paintings. But what he does is, at the end of the room, and the perspective in the painting continues the perspective in the room. Now that is quite a difficult thing to do, and he was ____________________. You'll see everything that Mantegna does is really a study in a scientific power. One of his greatest paintings was destroyed during the Second World War. It was a fresco, in Padua about 100 feet from the Anguina chapel where all [inaudible]. But just rubble is left of Mantegna's. They have put as much back of it as possible, and it must have been just magnificent. Now he painted frescos. This again is a tour de force, isn't it? This is the ceiling. Look at all these paintings. You're looking up at these paintings, also this tall __________ here. Do you see ______________? All the area. So when you look up at the ceiling, you actually looking out of the building. In a sense, he has destroyed the wall. Well now, every book you read on painting technique, a painter should never destroy wall. He should keep to the picture frame. Does that keep to the picture frame? It's about as far removed from it as possible. That is not done as a flat scene. And he decorated with a wonderful series of frescoes, the ducal palace in Mantua. And it took him years and years and years to stay there. He was sort of the court painter to the dukes of Mantua. And this is one of the doctors who was an ambassador, and he is returning. These are all members of the family. They're all sub-groups of Padua people. This pure-paint design from __________ of light and dark and color. This color is element color, but it's not violent color. It's always muted. But look at this, and look at that. You see how the tree carries it, brings it down? It's not too (cough). This is a real landscape. The description that people actually know where it was. He's a fascinating painter of the Renaissance. A little bit later, the method we have been studying, but he's still investigating highly intellectual art. There's something else about Mantegna. There's almost no emotion. You see he's removed. It isn't any action. No action. Now an interesting thing happens with regard to action, with Giotto, the man we saw first. He thought there about to do something. They have already done it. By the time we get to Rubens, it is the height of action. That is the difference between the Baroque and the Renaissance. There's not much action in Baroque art. When Rubens paints the "Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus", they are actually being abducted at that moment. Those horses are charging, and the men are grabbing the women. It's really a very, very good painting. When he paints the "Lion Hunt," the arrow is going into the lion. The lion is snarling. He's getting ready to die. Everything is going on right at that instant. So immediately, you get involved in the story. This is more or less meditate from, rather than apparently emotional about it. Another Mantegna. This is- I don't know whether any of you seen or not. It's probably before your time. It's in Somero in Milan, which is a marvelous museum. This is really carrying foreshortening about as far as you can take it, "The Dead Christ." Isn't it astonishing, the way he's been able to get that figure to lie down right absolutely straight away from you.

Q: You say carrying foreshortening as far as you can. It seems to me that that's an imperfection, as opposed to a technique that they were trying to develop.

Claude Howell: Well, people aren't painting _____________ like this piece like this perspective. But I don't think anybody's painted a figure any more carefully lying down, going straight away from you, like that. Don't you think so?

Q: I think it looks fine, but looking at the painting, again, the legs are shorter than to me they should be, but they're far shorter than the torso. So it's out of proportion.

Claude Howell: Well, I think it probably is out of proportion.

Q: And if that's the case, then there's a technique that this fellow hasn't yet developed to get it all in proper perspective, it seems to me.

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: This is where you are, right here.

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: You can place exactly where you are in Mantegna's paintings. Now this is quite a different man. This is Francesco del Cossa. This is the children's saint of ________________. It's St. Lucy. He has reverted to former times. The gold background, the silhouette. You see how everything is a silhouette, everything is a silhouette. Look how blonde her head is. It's marvelous, three dimensional, but there is not very much light and shadow. There is light and dark, rather than light and shadow. Now we're going to see that the difference between the really high Renaissance and the earlier Renaissance, that is one big difference.

Q: What are those things in her hands?

Claude Howell: They're eyes.

Q: [inaudible]

Q: Just symbolic.

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: Is she natural? Is she real? It feels kind of posed, don't you think? More and more we're going to see that art is not natural. Now you have _______________ who does things in quite a different way. They're fascinating. Melozzo da Forli, F-O-R-L-I, and he usually paints things looking up at them. Everything is up above your head. He loves to paint __________ and angels. Angel musicians particularly. But he [inaudible] That's just a few. The whole _____________________. But the finger of Christ looks to me like he's just getting ready to ____________. You almost lose your. You're down here. You're not up there looking at the Heavens. You're down here, looking up.

Q: [inaudible]

Claude Howell: I only have the one slide of this man's but if you get a chance, try and find some reproductions of his work. He's an interesting ______________. Now we're moving along to _________________. We're moving into Venice. Venice is a whole different world. It is not like Florence. Florence is heavy and stoic and __________ and very serious. Scientific interested in way things are done. Venice is concerned with one thing, which is beauty, color, light, sex, all of this. It is a city which has always __________. And you go there, it doesn't have to work. Well, Venetian painting, carried that opulence that you find in the city of Venice. This is by Giovanni Bellini. Now there was a man, Jacopo Bellini, who was the first of this family. He had a couple of sons, Gentile and Giovanni. Giovanni is the absolute greatest of the three. He painted a lot of religious paintings, but the subject matter of most of the father's paintings was not the Christian religion. It was the city of Venice itself. It began with views of Venice, and you know how famous they have become. You have all the wonderful Canalettos and just innumerable scenes of the city itself. You find wonderful paintings of the festivals in Venice, on the Grand Canal. But look how different this is from the ones we've just been looking at. The edges are softer, aren't they? There is more light here than what we've seen. And you know Venice is built on water. It's very, not prodigal, and light hits that water, and there are no dark shadows in Venice. Everything's reflected off the water. So you found that the golden light of Venice occurs in the paintings of these people. And of course, it reaches its climax in Titian. And you know a Titian blonde is a red-golden headed woman, and that is the color that you're going to see so much of. This is a very warm tonality. You know that it's prized in family, but that is mind. It is really a painting of figures and a landscape. That's really what it is. We're going to see tonight, that for the first time, subject matter ceases to be important. It's the way you paint it that becomes important. And of course that reaches its climax with the Impressionist paintings. It's the way you look at something, which is different from the way someone else is looking at it. So this is the beginning of all that tradition. Titian, when he would paint this golden light of Venice, would paint it with broken strokes of the brush. The Impressionists went back to Titian, and picked up on this. And that becomes the basis of Impressionism. So there is a steady line of tradition from these people, up to the beginning of the 20th century. We're going to see several paintings now. I think this is beautiful but. I think this is the one that's in ___________. I think that's where it is. Now. The figure is nice, it's adequate. The important thing here is not that figure. The important thing is the landscape and the buildings in the background. Look at the light, that wonderful light hitting those buildings. You also begin to get more light and shadow now with. They had no problem with drawing. They don't have to ____________________. Also, all these paintings that we've seen so far have been in tempera. We're going to look at the work of a man very shortly who introduced oil paintings into Italy. Thus far, these people had only painted in tempera on canvas. There's a wonderful softness about Bellini. His theology is not questionable. Everything he does is very authentic, but he was more interested in the landscape than the people.

Q: [inaudible]

Claude Howell: You'll notice something else here that becomes almost a tradition. This fact of being in 400 with a hand or something resting on. It places those figures about two feet from the picture frame. They're figures in child's face, where are they? They are not in that landscape? They're in front of it. They're not in the world, they're in front of the world. It doesn't matter that's there or not. This is the real space, and it's, I would say, two feet at the most.

Q: Those long curls on the line, interesting.

Claude Howell: Yeah. He certainly had a strange habit of sitting [inaudible].

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: You must realize too that all these were commissioned by the church, and there were rules and regulations that you had to go by. When you have a painting of Virgin, the Madonna and child, the robe has to be blue. And it's hard to compose of a picture when you know that it's got to have a blue robe. And yet they were able to work those in with those certain rules and regulations. I used to always tell my students that anybody can be an original if there are no rules. But a genius can be original, given 20 rules. So I'd give them the 20 rules. I'd say, "okay, now do something." That develops your imagination when you do that. These men had the ability to work within a given set of prescribed rules. These paintings are emotional. They're not swooning saints. The __________, but you'll notice in every one of these that softness of brushwork. The cloth looks like cloth, it falls like cloth. The figure is shown beneath the garment. Now we are moving along. This is by the man who introduced oil painting into Italy, or at least supposed to have. He didn't invent in. Oil paintings had been used for a long time in Spanish paintings, and somewhat in Dutch paintings, the Van Eyck brothers which painted [inaudible] use of painting. We don't know whether he went and stayed with them, or whether he traveled or heard about it. But at any rate, he brought it to Venice. He was in Venice only a year as apprentice. He died quite early. He was very young when he died. His name is Antonello da Messina, that is, Antonello from Messina. Well, I simply I went to Messina, and sure enough they've got marvelous paintings by Antonello in that city, because that was 610. He didn't paint for many, many years, but everything he does is simply excellent. This is one of his early paintings ________________. This is The Crucifixion. Now this is Apollo. There is a slight difference here. In tempera, you put on tiny little strokes, I mean, almost five and a half and you put hundreds and hundreds of them. That's what gives you the nice quality. In oil, you mix it with the oil, and it blends so that are no. At this point, by the time we get to Rembrandt and people like that, they take a lot of paint on a brush, a loaded paintbrush, and go slash. And you can see the actual paint stroke itself. And the time we get to impressionalism the artist no longer has to sign his picture. It's the impression becomes his signature. But that's not the case here. He's best known for his portraits, and this is one of them. This is a life size portrait, which means that it's very small. It's about 18 or 19 inches high, that's all. You can even see the stubble of his beard.

Q: It looks as though he didn't finish it, looking at the ear. It's almost like--

Claude Howell: It's lost in shadow.

Q: Oh, okay.

Claude Howell: He's beginning to ___________. We're getting now to light and dark, which are very important. And you will get to Rembrandt where I defy you to see an edge, an edge you know it's light, because he's objective, even though it's all in shadow. You see this side of the body also lost in shadow. This next one, I just couldn't believe it. I was just in a kind of a museum and went into this room, and here it was. It's very small, and it is the most sensation painting. Her hand is coming straight out at you. Also, he generally has the eyes of his people-let's go back. The head is forward. The eyes are looking at you, and he does that over and over and over.

Q: [inaudible]. Something that struck me as kind of interesting about this painting and the foreshortened perspective body thing, is I couldn't help but wonder, in the foreshortened body thing that we saw a while back, you though the artist was focusing on the head, of course, and the legs were just in peripheral vision, and therefore not all that important. The same thing here, where he's focusing right on the eyes, part of the lips, and the others--

Claude Howell: Less detail, as you get away from it. He is telling you where to look and I think Mantegna was too. I think that's why. Now, do you see the same board which defines the space? That is so small, it's about that high. It's the only thing in a room and surrounded with a wonderful blue-green fabric which is that same color, and also there are guards at the door, because it's worth about $20 million, that tiny little painting. It's just a [inaudible].

Q: And this artist is?

Claude Howell: Antonello da Messina. Antonello from Messina. There aren't too many of his paintings in Venice.

Q: Who is the subject of that painting, the woman?

Claude Howell: Nobody knows.

Q: She's not ___________.

Claude Howell: Now look at these. Do you know who these are? They're courts. This is by a man who I just love. I just love him. The last time I don't think and I have painted _______________. He is one of the most delightful painters imaginable. His name is Carpaccio. C-A-R-P-A-C-C-I-O. You'll have trouble following these notes, because some of the people were in your notes from last week. Some of them are in here, but I'm eliminating a lot of people, because we can't talk about everybody. He too was Venetian, and his subject matter was not the glory of Venice, but the everyday life of Venice. He's noted for all the wonderful little details. Some are sigmoic is since of a funeral. The set of realists have been very influenced by this man, because he often ________________ that really don't make much sense.

Q: [inaudible]

Q: [inaudible]

Q: Is that not just a hem of a dress? I guess it isn't.

Claude Howell: Well, it is--

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: She's got something under that skirt. The [inaudible].

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: A lot of his paintings are very complicated, with all sorts of things going on. And the figures are almost primitive. They become angular, and they become also geometric shapes. Now we have the real "Last Supper." You can probably see it better here than you can in Milan. It's in terrible shape. It's just been restored again for the umpteenth time. Almost none of it original paint. It was disintegrating, even during Leonardo's lifetime. But it is an amazing painting, in that it is a psychological depiction of the scene. We haven't had too much of that. You see, you have all perspectives, [inaudible]. Wonderful still life on the table. All the people's faces, what you can see of them, describes the character of the person. And you'll see that Leonardo is concerned mainly with man. And he's concerned with the differences between one kind of man and another kind of man. Now he's painted three pictures. We're going to see two of them. One is St. Anne, the Virgin and child. This is a study in the ideal person. He painted the Mona Lisa, which is a study in the normal person. And he painted St. John, which is a study of the abnormal person. And the study of the painting St. John is the one thing I don't have. I find it and talk about it is the most amazing painting. And it makes you cringe when you look at it. In the first place, you don't know what St. John is male or female. You don't know whether he's psychotic or whether he's good, bad, or what. But it is a creepy painting, but a masterful work. It's in line with many of the drawings of Leonardo. Leonardo would draw people with big noses, little noses, broken noses, all kinds of distortions. But they probably weren't distortions in his drawing. They were distortions in the faces of the people. He tried to analyze everything. He was probably one of the world's greatest scientists. He was just everything. He was a scientist, he was a mathematician, he was an historian, he was a musician he composed a lot of music. He was a painter and an architect. He designed all of the festivals for the Duke the court. There's one thing you might wonder about, and that is why the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre. Well, in 1616, I think, Leonardo left Italy and he moved to Amboise and worked for Francis I, the French king. When he died, the Mona Lisa was in his studio and in the property of Francis. And of course, the property of the French kings was the basis for the Louvre __________. That's how it got there. We got [inaudible] I don't know anything that he actually painted in France. I don't know where he did it. I'm not able to read about any of his work created. But we don't have too many works by him anyway, because he was forever experimenting, and very few of his paintings are finished. So "The Last Supper" was an experiment which didn't work, technically. That's the reason it started falling to pieces before he died. We're going to see right here. This is the Virgin, ___________________. You will notice the heads here are all the same head. And it, that head you see, that television program. I didn't see it, but somebody was telling me about it. It was on one night, about one night or two nights, about Leonardo, and in all these heads that he painted, it's all the same head and you can tell it's the same head are all [inaudible] I don't know for the same reason you don't, but it's an interesting supposition. We do know there was that same art of. I guess it was a smirk, we call it a smile. You'll see the Alps in the distance because he lived in Milan. And on a clear day in Milan you can see the house. Well, he undoubtedly went out in the country, the land, and these were probably the result of sketches. They are too carefully done to be from his imagination. This is a drawing. He did very careful drawings for everything he did. The Queen of England owned a lot of them. This is the one. This is the one that's in the Louvre. This one is not quite this good, which is in the National Gallery in London. Now the interesting thing here, we haven't seen composition like this before. We've seen the triangles, we've seen the circles, everything. How do you get there? What makes it? You don't go by lines, and you don't go by shape. What do you go by? Lightbox. You see? He designs, in a ____________ according to areas of light. He's the first person to do that. Now we also don't see the ______________. People begin to compose by the use of color. You go from a spot of red to a spot of red to a spot of red. You can make up a triangle just as easy as that way as you can using light, or by using lines. But all these things do have one thing in common: there is a basic construction. This is the complete antithesis of lay painters who sit down and paint a bunch of flowers the way it looks. That has nothing to do with what these men are concerned with. They get a structure, a composition, just like you're building a house the structural metals in first. Then they place the figures in the right spots, so it works. I think that if you get nothing else from talks like these, that would be worth it. That shows you what to look for, mainly, in a painting. And it goes for any century. We had it in Egypt. We had it in Greece. We've got it now in the Italian Renaissance. You get it in much, much of contemporary art. Now, there's something else that is kind of interesting here. Look at that pointing finger. You see that it goes straight into this area. And you look that way. You follow it. He is telling you exactly what to do. Paul Klee, the German painter in the 1900s, said to paint a picture is like taking a walk with the land and that the artist tells you exactly where to go and you follow his directions. That is, if it's successful. Leonardo has told you exactly what to do when you look at this particular painting. Now we have the Mona Lisa. Well, it's a nice painting, but it's not the greatest painting in the world. It's probably the best known painting in the world. And one of the reasons it's the best known painting is because it was stolen from the Louvre and that's why it achieved so much notoriety. It is a very good painting. A lot of words have been written about the famous Mona Lisa. Look at the background. This is what Leonardo took from the early Italian painters. Notice that this is not linear. There's nothing linear about this. It is volume, light, and shadows. There is a wonderful fleshy quality to the face and the angles in this painting. Can you see the resemblance between St. Anne and this painting?

Q: Yes it's so-

Claude Howell: Yes.

Q: [inaudible]

Claude Howell: That was a good recovery [inaudible] one.

Q: Yes, yes.

Claude Howell: And that is the closest, I think, to the original.

Q: [inaudible]

Claude Howell: I used to get so mad at the Louvre because every tour group would rush in and look at the Mona Lisa for one minute and rush out. They never looked at the much greater paintings on either side of it all around the room. And there were some world famous masterpieces in that room. That's the only thing they looked at on that floor. Then they went downstairs and looked at the Venus de Milo. (laughter) That's too many. And then that was their bow in to culture in Europe.

Q: [inaudible].

Claude Howell: I think this is just as good. This is Genevra de Benci and it was entirely [inaudible] a few years ago. It belonged to the dukes and the duchy of Liechtenstein and they sold it for an enormous sum of money and it is now in the national gallery in Washington. I'm sure it's not. It's not a large painting.

Q: What's the name of it?

Claude Howell: Genevra de Benci, B-E-N-C-I, Benci.

Q: Is that by Leonardo?

Claude Howell: Yes. All these are. These are by Leonardo. This is the way most of his paintings are today, in this stage. This is St. Gerome. It's never been finished. You see, it's the under painting that you could do which is very subtle, very laborious. Then he builds up layer and layer of thin coat glazes on top. There's something else I guess I haven't mentioned this. In the renaissance, they separated the painting from the drawing. They did all the drawing and the modeling in almost monotone. Then they began to put the color on the top. So, in effect, it was two separate projects. They also painted lights on a dark background which makes the paintings look a little heavy. [inaudible] came on in the 1880s or '90s I think. And he said, "Why do we have to do that? Why don't we paint darks on a light background?" And that's what he did. And that's why impressionists liberated color, because if this is a canvas and you have light, there's a scientific fact it keeps going until it hits the surface. And if the surface is black, it's reflected black. If the surface is white like a white canvas, it's going to reflect white. So it means that all modern painting is much more brilliant than renaissance paintings. I don't mean it's any better, but it's more brilliant because [inaudible]. And that's the reason why. It's another three hundred years [inaudible]. Another Leonardo. This is a Madonna.

Q: Madonna looks like a sure child in that.

Claude Howell: Yeah. It's a strange painting. A lot of these paintings are strange.

Q: Yeah.

Claude Howell: But always it's light and shadow.

Q: But it looks as though there's any real interaction between the Madonna--

Claude Howell: Yeah, yeah, mm-hmm. Yes.

Q: Sort of an awareness.

Claude Howell: Well, he was always interested in the psychological reasons why somebody was doing what they were doing. I like his drawings as much as van Gough. These were often done on a toned paper with a condy which is dark or reddish chalk. And they were heightened with white so that the nose and the chin and the cheekbones a little bit of the headdress available that is put on to just brilliant visible. Now here's one of his studies. This was a study for a battle scene, but he is investigating here, anger. Everything he does is an investigation. I think he was more of an investigator than he was an artist really. He was an using his ability as an artist to explore all of the different ideas which he had. And boy did he have plenty of them. Now, we're getting to another great junction, Michelangelo.

Q: Rafael?

Claude Howell: No, this is Michelangelo and this is an early one. You can see a little animation of things to come in the new stages of his [inaudible]. Now, this is a pongo. You know what a pongo is? It's a circular painting. A circular painting that--

Q: P-O-N-G-O?

Claude Howell: P-O-N-G-O. That's called a pongo. If you ever see it, it's nothing strange. It just simply means round. This is probably the greatest piece of creation that man has ever done. It is so awe-inspiring. I'm not saying it's the best. I'm just saying it's the greatest. The vision is absolutely stupendous. This is the Sistine chapel. Now, he did not paint any of this or any of that. He painted the ceiling and that was it. And years and years and years later he came back and painted this which is the last judgment. They are completely different. The last judgment is very depressing, very gloomy, and apparently Michelangelo was absolutely distressed when he painted this. This is much more assured and this is where you find all the wonderful details which you are used to finding. Now I saw this last year. I had seen it years before. It's like a different painting. It's been cleaned. A lot of people have objected it strange. They say it was over cleaned. I just think it's marvelous what has happened. We are having to reevaluate Michelangelo now because of his use of brilliant color. Before it was all a dingy brownish color and it was the smoke of centuries because they hang oil lamps that had discolored the painting. Now it's taken back to its original colors. And it took him four years to paint the ceiling. All these are great paintings by France Thessel [ph?] but still very important. But the room itself is not so large. It'll [inaudible] two or three hundred people I guess and always it is packed and jammed. I don't know how in the world they photographed this because I never saw it without elbow-to-elbow people in there. Unfortunately, the last time I was there pigeons were flying around inside the room and I thought, "Here we have this great masterpiece and they certainly could put up screens over the windows or something." But it's the whole story of the creation in the center panels. In the triangles are the symbols and the conflicts and they are supported by nude youths. Now, he loves the nude figure, the nude male figure. But he was certainly not realistic. We used to have a drawing class at school and so I got a book of this painting and I tried to get the models to pose like the nude youths. It is absolutely impossible to get in these positions. Anatomically, the figure won't work that way. But when Michelangelo paints it, it is so convincing that it never occurs to you that it's not right. This is what art can do when it's that great. It creates the reality. It doesn't copy reality. It creates it. And this is what he did. Of course, we all know that he was a great sculpture as well, and we're going to see a close up now of [inaudible]. We're not going to see, we're just going--.This is just a close up just of the ceiling. Now, you've got the creation of the water, the creation of the earth, the creation of the sky, and the creation of Adam. And then you have the Noah and the flood and the promise of Noah, the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, all the stories of the Bible. It really is this enormous concept. His concepts were so grandiose that very few of them could actually be carried out. A lot of his ideas never matured, but it's in keeping with the popes at this time in making Rome the greatest place in the world. So they were in cahoots with all the grandiose ideas that Michelangelo had. [inaudible] Here we have a [inaudible]. It's hard to get these things right. Here you have the nude youths. This is the temptation and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. What's he doing there? Painting two aspects of the same scene in the same painting. The same thing that reaches its fruition in those pictures. For instance, there's a timeline between this and that and it's all done on white flat surfaces. The architecture which you see, which is very deceiving even when you're in Sistine is all paint. It too is all paint. This is the one that I just think is so marvelous. The tension between those two fingers is I guess one of the most exciting things in the world. God creates Adam. Even when you're there you get a crick in your neck. You fall backwards and everything. You're trying to see all these things 'cause they go in every direction. These signs were made, by the way, before the wishing of one nation restoration. Now this is the last judgment and it's a mass of people. And he wasn't above putting in some of his enemies as the damned. And there is a shriveled up piece of skin hanging from a man's hand which is a self portrait. It's not quite as substantial as the ceiling. It's a little busy. Michelangelo was the beginning, he created so much, but he also was beginning to destroy the renaissance. He did architecture. He did sculpture, and he did it in paint. When I say that, I mean he destroyed the feeling that had been prevalent for several hundred years. He was concerned with movement. Now, the basis of the word art is movement. Michelangelo begins to introduce that into art, in his architecture. In the Laurentian Library in stairwell, the renaissance stairway always went straight up or maybe it would turn and go strait that way. It was a spiral stairway. With Michelangelo, the stairway goes up but then curves and comes out on either side. You are beginning to go in two directions at once in his architecture. This begun the basis of barouche architecture. Because instead of having a squared box which never changes as far as light and shadow, it would either be light and dark or a dark and light. Now you begin to have curves and scrollwork so that, every hour as the sun moves across the sky, the building is a completely different thing, and you notice that. Look at a simple building and it always remains the same. Look at a very fancy building and you'll see that it changes at [inaudible]. So you begin to get movement in something as stable as architecture. In sculpture, you begin to have the figure in present. Now, from the Greeks on up, the one frame had been deliberated from a marble stone. Now you've got Michelangelo's place who are struggling to get out of the stone, but can't do it. This becomes the basis for impressionism in sculpture and Rogan could not have existed if it had not been for Michelangelo. He very much influenced that. So you see, we're beginning to find a way to things which are anti-renaissance in feeling. Gone is the simple strength of the rectangles, the pituitions. It then questions the validity of man in this world. This is a good example right here. They're beginning to [inaudible]. What's the point of it?

Q: [inaudible] in a chapel.

Claude Howell: Yeah, yeah. Now we get to the man who had been called the perfect painter, and this is Rafael. And you can't find any faults with Rafael, which is his main fault. That's the problem. He is pretty dull. He is not very good at terribly dramatic events, but when it comes to composition, no one can possibly match Rafael. He's very adequate when it comes to color, space, anatomy. He made a beautiful Adonis and hundreds of beaut-- he was very good. He was the darling of his day, perhaps the most successful man of his time. And because of that he received all these commissions. This is an early one and he painted several rooms in the Vatican. Big murals, big frescos, these are big pictures, maybe thirty or forty feet tall or so. And because of this, he gained quite a reputation and they exceeded and just painting everything that people loved. Now these are all recognizable people down here. This is A School of Actors. That's the name of it. But these are all definitely portraits of very famous people of the day. I can't tell you who they are, but I have seen a guideline with names. But there are people you would recognize. Look how little trouble he has with space and perspective. He was from Umbria, and he was influenced by Perugino. He was his teacher. And Umbria has a very soft light and one of the aspects of Raphael is that wonderful softness that he had. And even here you can see it. This is an interesting painting in that all of the people are perfectly standing. They make an absolute square in the portrait. The space is so well defined, you know that these people are halfway between this group and those steps. The architecture, you know exactly where it is and then you go back to the landscape. So everything is in its proper place. Look at the light. All of the cast shadows are arranged.

Q: Yes, yes.

Claude Howell: Now you begin to see heads slightly tilted. Seeing their eyes go upward and they're going to look like they're swooning. This is not natural. This is anti-natural. We're beginning to have reached the peak of naturalism and beginning to move away from it. Also, we're changing something else. We're changing from emotion to sentimentality. This is closer to Norman Rockwell than it is to a lot of the paintings here. He gets even closer. This is St. Paul preaching in Athens. You see that he had no trouble with placing figures, either singularly or in groups, in their specified space. Space is extremely well defined here. The canvas or fresco or whatever this is, it never goes straight up. It is flat like the real world of that. He made a great many mythological subjects. This is Galatea and undoubtedly it was an excuse to paint a great many nude figures. Look at the little angels. A real tour de force for the [inaudible]. Don't you think it's a little stylized?

Q: [inaudible]

Claude Howell: Look at the pose of Galatea. This is not a natural pose, it's artificial. And then he paints the Sistine--

Q: [inaudible]

Claude Howell: Nothing could be more sappy than those two little cherubs. This is melodramatic. It happens to be perhaps the most famous painting of probably the 1870s to the 1880s, but that was a sentimental era. We don't live in that era and so we don't care too much about this painting anymore. It was probably more famous than the Mona Lisa.

Q: You see those two little cherubs reproduced now everywhere.

Claude Howell: Right. Well, they're cute. They're art and they're cute. What about the Madonna? Is there any great feel of spiritual feeling here?

Q: No. Beautiful woman.

Claude Howell: She's a very pretty woman holding a cute little child. Religion had gone. Look at the colors of this painting, the colors of the woman. They are theatrical gestures.

Q: And the curtains.

Claude Howell: He is a great painter. There's no doubt about it and he had such a facility, such virtuosity. He became so famous that often his workshop would paint a picture, he would walk in and sign this painting, and that would be it. He was so much in demand. He just paints beautiful portraits. This is the portrait of a woman. He was wonderful with the texture of fabric. Look at the sides. We haven't run into that too much yet. Now we get into something else. And this is where painting makes quite a turning. And you don't care what's happening, it's the way it is painted that changed. This is Giorgione. And Giorgione is Venetian. He's soft. He's sensuous. He's voluptuous. And that is what he was interested in. In a random way it's a passable story, but nobody understands. Many painted the nude with the young man on the blankets in the 1800s. It caused quite a scandal. He was trying to paint a single picture. Is it? There's something else here. And I point out these things because we're seeing a lot of changes taking place. We know what time of the year it is. We know the season. You haven't seen that before. We've seen a tree and a tree sometimes has leaves, but we haven't seen summer. Why is it summer? The women are also in full bloom. You see that there's a tie between the landscape and the people. And in The Gypsy and the Soldier are the tents by Giorgione. This is a very small painting. It's about sixteen inches high and it's just magnificent. You don't know why the soldier is there. no one ever figured that out. No one knows why that seminude woman is there with that baby. It has no religious connotations whatsoever. The main thing, it is a beautiful picture. Look at the sky. We not only know what time of the year it is, we know what time of day it is. So Giorgione is almost mystical in his approach to nature. That strange broken column and the little bit of a Roman arch; why there? There are a lot of questions about this painting. Now we get another great master, and he died from old age. He wasn't sick and he was ninety-nine years old. He is Venitian and he's the one that, when he dropped a paintbrush, Charles, the king, stooped down and picked it up and gave it to him. That shows you how highly he was thought of. He this did a whole series of wonderful religious paintings. This is the Assumption of the Virgin in the church of the priory in Venice. He is Venetian. He is perhaps the most opulent, the most luxuriant of luxurious painter of the Venetian Renaissance. Venice was at the height of its power at this time. It was building tremendous buildings and they were covered in enormous paintings, some of them sixty or seventy feet across from outside. And this painter was busy all of his life. Naturally, in painting for over seventy years, he changed. And so he has several different periods. We're not going to go into that, but there was some minor changes. He often painted mythological subject matter. Venetian paining is stoutly religious. It was openly sanctious and it was meant to be filled with fleshy people, wonderful families, beautiful landscapes, and always that wonderful glow of light. When you look here, do you see how [inaudible] looked? You look down here [inaudible]. These men are here underneath the painting, but they are not important things in the painting. So he's subdued. He does anything he wants to with the human figure. He is the man who used the broken front room that influenced the French impressionists so much. Sacred and Profane Love. Two beautiful figures. We've seen the rise of the church and now we've seen the loss of religious faith. He painted all of the important people of-- the important Venetians. Look at the wonderful volume of that steed. [inaudible]

(crew talk)

Claude Howell: You're going to find it over and over and over again. Now this is foreshadowing mannerism. And you know why? The figure is facing that way. The head is facing this way. There is a turn which gives you a counter movement which mannerism was always trying to achieve. So you get an action, a tension. He took it literally. We know that Raphael studied with Purogino. This is Purogino. You can see it's similar in subject to it. And all the painters from Umbria, they have a little trademark. And if you know where it is and you are in a good gallery, you can pick them out. It's these little feather [inaudible]. It's like a signature and it's not just Hiragana. It's all these people. Now we're going to look at one more here I think. Yes. Pinto Raffia [ph?]. This is in a library in a church in Florence and he is a very adequate painter. Sometimes his figures are a little weak, but he has a wonderful sense of composition. Sometimes figures like this one are a little posed, a little artificial. He had beautiful light color. He also painted all of this on here. This is one of like six panels this size and they probably are thirty or forty feet high. It's a big, it's a big piece and it completely covers this library. This man doesn't fit in anywhere and that's why I put him at the end. As far as time is concerned, we should have looked at him last week, but he didn't fit in last week either. He is one of the greatest eccentrics of all time. Piero de Cosimo, C-O-S-I-M-O. This is called The Discovery of Honey. Now, who has had? Salvador Dolly and all of the story. This is where they come from, this man right here. And nobody knows what's going on in this painting, but it is fascinating. Actually, and as unreal as all of his half animal/half people are, he fleeing around to here like Michelangelo did. This looks white. You could pick it out. It has light. Technically it's beautifully done. The landscape is a strange landscape, but he's made it look so real. Okay, one definition of surrealism is the juxtaposition of unrelated objects and that suits this painting to a "T" 'cause surrealism had not been heard of in his lifetime. He just was a strange, wild, bizarre character. We don't know too much about him. He has a lot of paintings. They all are very much like this. And if you want to be thoroughly entertained, get a book on Piero de Cosimo and just look at all they got. You'll think that you're crazy by the time you get through with it. He's very convincing. I mean, his reality looks real. Okay, now, next week we will continue. They tell me we have two more weeks in this. Okay.

Q: Excuse me, are you all through?

Claude Howell: Uh-huh, yeah.

Q: Oh okay, I'm sorry.

Claude Howell: I've got to make a decision by next week. We have not talked about architecture or sculpture, so I may do that. But on the other hand, we haven't gotten into Northern Europe and we've got to talk about the Spanish. So you all have kind of a little suspense for next week. Also, I want to tell you something about these notes. I've been pulling pages from my notes which are much more copious and I've left the Northern of European pages. So when you get them, I will try to tell you where to put them in connection with what you've already got. It makes sense if you get it all together. So you may run into a couple of gaps until we get all of the notes. You'll get them. All right, any questions? I hope you all have a lot of Turkey.

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