Thursday, March 31, 2016

When Shakespearian Plays Were Written

Hamlet: while Shakespeare was incarcerated in The Tower. He was incarcerated for his role in the Essex Rebellion, in which the conspirators sought to overthrow the monarch; Hamlet is a play about overthrowing a king.

Measure for Measure: Shakespeare's first play upon being (unexpectedly) released from The Tower. From wiki: believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. Originally published in the First Folio of 1623, where it was listed as a comedy, the play's first recorded performance occurred in 1604. The play's main themes include justice, "mortality and mercy in Vienna," and the dichotomy between corruption and purity: "some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall." Mercy and virtue predominate, since the play does not end tragically.

****************************
 Chronology of Plays

First, the tetralogy of his family (Henry VI and Richard III).

Then, the seven comedies.  – the Italinate comedies – seven plays in the four years after 1593 – all except two categorized as “comedies” – set in places he had visited in Italy.
  • Titus Andronicus
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • The Comedy of Errors
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost – set in France
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream – set in Greece
The eight years before he was sent to France, 1599; writing 8 plays; the most productive writing years of his life.
During this period –
  • plays more profound
  • created his most popular character, Falstaff
  • his most patriotic play, Henry VI
Just before the Falstaff plays –
  • King Richard II
  • King John
Richard II (~ 1595) has always been linked with the rise of the Essex circle (Essex rebellion – 1601)

1 Henry IV – first play featuring Falstaff. Arguably S’s most satisfyingly single play.

TMWOW – lots to say about it (p. 117 – 118).

Then – the two final plays of this period – 2 Henry IV and Henry V – considered two of his best-known plays.
Falstaff banished from plays, when Shakespeare banished from England -- sent to France as England's ambassador.
In France: alone, frustrated, angry bored;
  • As You Like It
  • Twelfth Night
  • Much Ado About Nothing – probably written earlier
Then the Essex Rebellion and incarceration.
A gap of about a year between Twelfth Night – just before the Tower – and Hamlet – in the Tower – needed a year to regain balance.
  • Troilus and Cressida
  • All’s Well That Ends Wells
  • Possibly also in the Tower, Othello (the 2nd of his 4 great tragedies).
Many of the sonnets written while in The Tower. 
Post-Tower plays:
Measure for Measure, was the first (see above). A very dark comedy; the first of the so-called "problem plays."
Increasingly needed money:
1604 – 1608: three of his greatest tragedies – Macbeth, King Lear, and Anthony and Cleopatra and three other tragedies: Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
1609 - 1615: toward closure:
  • Cymbeline
  • Winter's Tale
  • The Tempest: his last substantial play
Died: 1615 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Trivia From Shakespeare Plays

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: while visiting Tycho Brahe in Denmark, Shakespeare found the names and the coats of arms of both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on the border of Tycho Brahe's portrait. An engraving of this portrait was sent to Shakespeare.

Macbeth's castle: while on diplomatic missions to Scotland for Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare and his entourage were billeted at the Glamis castle. The setting for Macbeth was Glamis, even though the historical Macbeth was not associated with that castle.

Posthumous. One of Shakespeare's many aunts was Elizabeth Hoby. One of Elizabeth Hoby's sons was named Thomas Posthumous (1566 - 1640) because he was born after his father died. Posthumous is the name of a Shakespearean character in Cymbeline. In addition, scholars often cite incidents in Posthumous' life are often mirrored in Twelfth Night.

Aunt Elizabeth Hoby also provides a more ghastly story for Shakespeare. It was rumored that Shakespeare's aunt once beat one of her sons until the blood ran, all because he would not or could not learn his Latin. She then locked him in the attic where he starved to death. Shakespeare's aunt Elizabeth was then seen thereafter sleepwalking and trying to wash the blood off her hands -- an incident which famously appears in Macbeth.

Shakespeare was the first playwright to stage sword-fighting scenes on stage -- think of the Crazy 88 scene in Kill Bill. Or Zorro. Or any number of other such scenes. Whatever. Shakespeare's baptismal record -- May 10, 1564 -- was recently found on Blackfriars property in London. While growing up in and around Blackfriars, one of Shakespeare's many neighbors included an Italian fencing master. Source says area residents "could walk out into the courtyards and be confronted by duelling men wielding sharp steel" at all hours of the day.

Ghetto. Source: "Shakespeare's visit to Venice is of particular interest. At the time, Venice contained the world's first Jewish ghetto, and it is the origin of the word "ghetto" which affords" further insight into the Shakespearean plays. "'Ghetto' comes from the Italian 'to throw" or 'to cast,' and it was so called because the area of the city known as the Ghetto was where the old bronze cannons were cast. Eventually, it became the center for making iron cannons too, so Shakespeare [who had inherited a cannon foundry] certainly had reason to visit the area. German Jewish workers were imported there because they were already skilled in all kinds of metalwork. In The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1, Shylock actually mentions his German origins."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Dorothy Parker

From April 7, 2016, article in The New York Review of Books
 
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/04/07/brilliant-troubled-dorothy-parker/


Edith Wharton: 1862 - 1937
Coco Chanel: 1883 - 1971
Dorothy Parker: 1893 -  1967

Ernest Hemingway: 1899 - 1961
Ayn Rand: 1905 - 1982

The Algonquin Hotel threesome: Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Robert Sherwood.

Algonquin Round Table
Volney Hotel, in later years


Dorothy Parker:

1915, age 22 — Vogue; $10/week; proofreading, captions, fact-checking

Shortly thereafter: Vanity Fair; her first poem appeared there; three years as scribe-of-all-work

About age 26: chosen to replace the departing P. G. Wodehouse as the magazine’s drama critic; not only the youngest by far of New York’s theater critics, but was the only female drama critic.


At the magazine she met Robert Benchley, the closest friend of her life.

Also met Robert Sherwood, long before his four Pulitzer Prizes.

A threesome; lunched at Algonquin Hotel.

Another threesome drifted in, graduates of Stars and Stripes:
  • Alexander Woollcott
  • Harold Ross
  • Franklin Pierce Adams (as “F.P.A.” the most influential newspaper columnist of the day)
FPA made Dorothy Parker a celebrity quoting her bon mots.

Very pretty, very sex, somewhat checkered personal life.

Born a Rothschild, but not of the Rothschilds. She married Edwin Parker; he went in army in 1917; but ended soon after he returned from overseas.

Many amours later, all ending disastrously.

A frightening abortion which probably resulted in many miscarriages later; never able to have a child that she dearly wanted.

The father was Charles MacArthur (The Front Page).

1920: Vanity Fair fired her at the insistence of Broadway producers. Benchley resigned in solidarity; Sherwood had already been fired.

A turning point in her life, for liberal causes, 1927 — to Boston to protest the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti.

Other writers in solidarity with her on that: John Dos Passos, Edna St Vincent Millay, Katherine Anne Porter.

Second husband, probably gay, Alan Campbell, while in Hollywood — never worked out.

In addition, too many young deaths:

  • Ring Lardner, her idol, 48 (1885 - 1933)
  • Robert Benchley, her soulmate, 56 (1889 - 1945) -- too many wars
  • F Scott Fitzgerald, 44 (1896 - 1940) — WWI, Jazz Age, but not WWII
Who was left? Edmund Wilson was still around. They had almost had a fling back in 1919. Now he paid her painful visits to the Volney, where she was an alcoholic, dying.

Still devoted to the Golden Couple, Gerald and Sara Murphy. From wiki:
Gerald Clery Murphy and Sara Sherman Wiborg were wealthy, expatriate Americans who moved to the French Riviera in the early 20th century and who, with their generous hospitality and flair for parties, created a vibrant social circle, particularly in the 1920s, that included a great number of artists and writers of the Lost Generation. Gerald had a brief but significant career as a painter.
By the mid-1950’s, finished with fiction, she went back to her first field — criticism.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Doctor Zhivago

This will be "in progress" for several months, perhaps a year, as I read this novel for the first time this year, reading not more than a chapter each night, at most.

I am surprised how easy this book is to read. The names of the characters are daunting. When one comes across a new character or a name one has forgotten, it is important to get an "image" of that character in one's mind before moving on. Once the image is in my mind, it makes the following passage that much easier to understand.

I know I would not have enjoyed this book without having first seen the movie (several times). Much like  "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," I had to see the movie first to be able to understand / enjoy the book.

While reading, one has to watch carefully for references to social changes going on, to the various causes that the characters belong to, etc. The "clues" are very subtle but make for interesting reading. Also, one learns much about Russian culture at that time, including such "banal" things as horses and carriages.

It is important to look up place names, feast days, etc. 

Chapter One
The Five-O'Clock Express

I

1

This is the funeral scene. Almost identical to that in the movie. What do we learn in 1-1-1 (Part I, Chapter 1 - subsection 1)?

Yura (not Yuri as they say in the movie) is 10 years old.

Mother's name is Maria Nikolaievna.

Nikolai Nikolaievich Vedeniapin: Maria's brother; Yura's uncle.

Uncle Nikolai was also "Father Nikolai": he had been defrocked at his own request.

Interestingly, the little girl in the funeral scene in the movie is not in the book or if she is, I missed her. She is the daughter of Uncle Nikolai, I believe.

2

I don't think the name/location of the cemetery / monastery is given.

We learn that the day following the funeral, they are to proceed to a provincial town on the Volga where Uncle Nikolai works for the publisher of the local progressive newspaper.

Uncle Nikolai is very, very Christian; very religious; we will see Pasternak talk about philosophy/religion as the book develops.

This chapter is just like the movie; of Yura being frightened during the night.

3

Immediately we learn that the Zhivagos has been extremely wealthy, but his father had abandoned his family early on. We learn here or later that Yura does not remember his father, so his father probably abandoned his family when Yura was less than two years old.

Zhivago the father apparently ended up in Siberia.

Zhivago factory, a Zhivago bank, Zhivago buildings, a Zhivago necktie pin, a Zhivao cake (a kind of baba au rhum). Pasternak has a real knack for the banal, the little things that paint an entire picture -- he was a poet first.

Suddenly that was gone; the Zhivagos were poor.

4

A date is given: 1903; we will later it is probably on/about November 4. This is uncommon in novels to provide a specific date, at least to my way of thinking. But this helps put things in context.

Yura and Uncle Nikolai, in 2-horse open carriage, on their way to Duplyanka, the estate of Kologrivov, a silk manufacturer and patron of the arts. Nikolai was to meet with Ivan Ivanovich Voskoboinikov, a teacher and author of popular textbooks.

Feast of the Virgin of Kazan.
A holy icon of the highest stature within the Russian Orthodox Church, representing the Virgin Mary as the protector and patroness of the city of Kazan. It was considered a palladium of Russia for centuries, until its theft and likely destruction in 1904. Two major Kazan cathedrals, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, are consecrated to Our Lady of Kazan, as are numerous churches throughout the land. Her feast days are July 21 and November 4 (which is also the Day of National Unity).
Kazan:
Kazan; Tatar: Cyrillic Казан, Latin Qazan) is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia; the eighth most populous city in Russia. Kazan lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in European Russia. The "Third Capital" of Russia; the "Sports capital of Russia"; the city hosted the 2013 Summer Universiade, 2014 World Fencing Championships, the 2015 World Aquatics Championships, and one of the host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
In a later chapter we will see evidence of "racism" / slurs against the Tartars.

There is a discussion about whether the fields belong to the landlord or the peasants. Again, it is a very natural discussion to have; it is not out of place, and it helps the reader get a feeling for where and why the book is headed. In this case, it is even more specific: The textbook author Voskoboinikov is writing a book on land ownership and has to be exactly right (and probably politically correct) due to increasing censorship.

Pavel is mentioned: Pavel is the "publisher's odd-job man" but it is not clear who the publisher is; perhaps Kologrivov is the publisher. Uncle Nikolai works for a publisher of a newspaper; he is not the publisher here, nor is the teacher.

It appears the publisher is Kologrivov (bottom of page 6) and he tells Pavel, "the people are getting out of hand here."

This was Yura's second trip with his uncle to Duplyanka (Bryanskaya Oblast, borders central Eastern Europe; extensive farm fields, go on forever).

Foreshadowing: uncle Nikolai will eventually be a famous Russian writer, university professsor, philosopher of the revolution, a man who shared their ideological conern but had nothing in common with them except their terminology ... they clung to some dogma or other, satisfied with words and superficialities, but Father (see I-I-I) Nikolai had gone through Tolstoyism and revolutionary idealism...he thirsted for something new.

His uncle reminder him of his mother.

Duplyanka also reminded him of his mother. Poetic.

Eager to see Nika Dudorov, a 12-year-old (two years older than Yura) who we will learn has his "issues" with society.

5

Ivan (the teacher/author) convinces Uncle Nikolai to stay overnight due to an approaching storm. Because of his friendship with the estate owner Kologrivov, he has access to a cottage for Uncle Nikolai.

Oh, that's right -- this would be the cottage that Yura returns to later in the movie with his own son and Tonya. Wow! It all comes together!

I had to read this slowly, a second time, and then get a picture of the "cottage" in my mind and then the I remembered the movie, and it all connected.

This scene, of course, was not in the movie and now we get the background to that.

The cottage had its own small garden which we will also see Tonya working later in life. Wow, this is an incredible love story, nostalgia, etc.

Pasternak calls Kologrivov, a "millionaire" (p. 9).

Mention "Soloviev, Kant, Marx."
Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov: January 28, 1853 – August 13, 1900; a Russian philosopher, theologian, poet, pamphleteer and literary critic, who played a significant role in the development of Russian philosophy and poetry at the end of the 19th century and in the spiritual renaissance of the early 20th century
They talk philosophy: "individuals seek truth...one must be true to immortality -- true to Christ!" Compares Ivan's countenance to that of Abraham Lincoln's, of all things -- emancipator of the slaves.

Asks whether Ivan was anathematized when he was defrocked (at his own request); says he was not.

He was banned from government jobs for awhile and could not go to Moscow or Petersburg for awhile after being defrocked -- that's how close the state and religion were. This was probably about 1880 or so, I suppose. Important read about the church history, here, for quick review; much was happening at fin de siecle, 19th century.

The church had undergone a resurgence just before all of this; "conservatives" were still adherents; folks like Nikolai were questioning. Nikolai was very, very much a Christian: "Christ's Gospel is its foundation."

They talk metaphysics, p. 10.

Then this: the 5 o'clock express from Syzran is stopped on the tracks.

Voskoboinikov notes it, but uninterested; wants to go in for tea.

6

This will be a huge chapter, foreshadowing events in the next chapter; it provides the back story to Yura's father which we do not know about in the movie.

The chapter starts with Yura looking for Nika, the 12-year-old, who is hiding from everyone.

Yura falls unconscious; distraught for his mother; prays for her. When found, he delays praying for his father, saying "He can wait." This is where we learn that "Yura did not remember him at all."

7

It begins with a scene in the second-class compartment of the stalled train.

Misha Gordon, 11-years old -- right between the age of Yura and Nika; his father a lawyer, traveling from Orenburg. His father, Grigory Osipovich Gordon (an interesting last name) was being transferred to a new post in Moscow. Mother and sisters had gone ahead to set up the apartment.

Pastnak philosophizes a bit about trains, traveling, religion, people, etc.

Misha was chronically unhappy; he struggled with the concept of being a Jew.

Misha was upset because the passengers blamed his father for pulling the emergency release to stop the train to try to stop the "madman" from jumping off the train and killing himself. This says much about the sensitivity of the Russians in this area, at this time -- no compassion for a "madman" about to commit suicide when all they wanted to do was get to Moscow on the train. But now the train was stopped and Misha's father was being blamed.

The suicide is noted.

A widow Tiverzina is mentioned. Her husband had been burned alive in a railway accident (again, the railroad). She compared the suicide to her own husband's death, and may have explained how Russians looked at death: fate or Christ's will or both.

The suicide had actually spent a lot of time in Misha's compartment talking with his lawyer dad.

The suicide, according to Misha's dad, was "a well-known millionaire, Zhivago, a good-natured profligate not quite responsible for his actions." He talked of his (Zhivago's) own son (Yura), a boy of Misha's age, and about his late wife -- would this be the one that was just buried? Then he would go on about his second family, who he had deserted as he had the first. At this point he would remember something else (will we be told about it later?), grow pale with terror, and begin to lose the thread of his story.

Was Zhivago heading back to see his late wife or Yura, or was he simply coincidentally passing through on the 5 o'clock express to return to Moscow?

Another train pulls up; police take charge of the suicide; Misha's train moves on.

8

Nika was still hiding. In this chapter, we learn he is 14 years old, which means Yura is now 12 years old.

Nika talks about God.

Nika's father was a terrorist, Dementii Dudorov, condemned to death but reprieved by the Tsar; now forced labor. His mother was a Georgian princess of the Eristove family, At the beginning of the book where the principal characters are listed, Nika's full name is given as Innokentii Dudorov. Innokentti probable relates to "Innocent." Dementii, of course, is pretty obvious.

I'm not sure Pasternak explains how Nika and his mother came to live with Ivan Ivanovitch Voskoboinikov. 

I don't know if Pasternak introduces Nadia earlier but all of a sudden on page 18 she shows up in the Voskoboinikov household; age 15 years old, she must be the latter's daughter. Nike doesn't like Nadia either; wants to drown her in the boat. Of course, doesn't.

That ends Chapter 1.

This will get way too long for a blog, so I will continue this elsewhere.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Janet Malcolm Unleashed -- January 29, 2016

Janet Malcolm has a scathing review of a new biography of Ted Hughes, Ted Hughes: The Unauthorized Life, Jonathan Bate, 662 pages, in the February 11, 2016, issue of The New York Review.

The name Janet Malcolm was familiar to me, and then I found that I had at least two biographies by her in my library including this one: The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Janet Malcolm. c. 1993.

It's in "red" because it is packed away in storage. I packed away about 75% of my library when my bookshelves were overflowing and I still had an interest in reading and obtaining new books. 
When a review is this scathing it suggests to me that the reviewer, in this case Janet Malcolm, has a "romantic interest" in the subject, in this case, Ted Hughes. I don't recall Malcolm's "take" on the Hughes/Plath marriage but it will be interesting to re-read when I pull it out of storage some day. 

Malcolm seems absolutely emotional in her two-page review in The New York Review. It seems the review must have been written in haste, in anger of some sort, and minimally edited. It will be interesting to see if any "letters to the editor" are forthcoming regarding this review. 

I think this kind of review "cheapens" Malcolm. Near the end Malcolm wrote this, which I find strange for a biographer to write:
The question of what he was "really" like remains unanswered, as it should. If anything is our own business, it is our pathetic native self. Biographers, in their pride, think otherwise. Readers, in their curiosity, encourage them in their impertinence. Surely Hughes's family, if not his shade, deserve better than Bate's squalid findings about Hughes's sex life and priggish theories about his psychology.
I don't recall but I seem to recall everything I learned about Hughes's sex life came from Malcolm's biography.

It makes one wonder whether Malcolm feels that Bate has come along and one-upped her on his biography, and that he found material she had overlooked. Material that was available to all.  

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Caillebotte Exhibit At The Kimbell Museum, Ft Worth, TX -- January 16, 2016

My notes of the Gustave Caillebotte exhibit; during my second visit.

The Painter's Eye exhibit, Kimbell Museum, late 1915 / early 1916: wall notes

His eye: photographic
His works: rare

Folks were aghast that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, would pay $17 million for Gustave Caillebotte's Man At His Bath. From wiki:
Caillebotte created this work in 1884. He sent the painting to be exhibited at the Les XX show of 1888 in Brussels. The painting was controversial enough that it was removed from public view and placed in a small and inaccessible room. The painting was held by Caillebotte's heirs until it passed to another family, and then to a private collection in Switzerland in 1967.
His works are scattered around the world, mostly held by private individuals; no museum owns any sizable collection. Man At His Bath was huge, not a small still life.

Lots of work to get all these paintings for an exhibit; the paintings are located everywhere around the globe, including Louve Abu Dhabi; most in private collections.

Caillebotte painted at the beginning of the Impressionist Period -- 1870's, 1880's -- died 1894.

Tried to capture "how the eye worked."

Paul Hugot: personal friend; life-size painting -- may have owned more paintings by Hugot than anyone else outside Hugot's family.

Caillebotte: "photographic look"; common; eclectic; hobbies; friends; his life -- rich gentleman of leisure who wanted to preserve his fortunate "good life."

What's missing from the exhibit: no religious theme; completely secular; not even a church; did not see Notre Dame; no Parisian landmarks.

Eclectic:
  • street scenes
  • card-playing scene; original -- dogs playing poker; presidents playing poker
  • portraits -- classic, posed
  • portraits -- as seen in real life
  • hobbies -- boating
  • street scenes -- fruit, fish, vegetable market
  • see picture of men looking at something 
  • rarely -- we see a picture of what they were looking at (#513, #512)
  • rural/urban
  • modernity: Hausmann; steel bridges; trains
Eclectic:
  • Manet: portraits, large black spaces
  • Monet: landscape; impressionism; avant-garde; perhaps but not eclectic; did not evolve;
  • Rembrandt: I get tired of looking at Rembrandts; I don't get tire of looking at Caillebotte.
Photographic eye:
men scraping floor -- all "three" men -- the same model!! -- it's like three frames from a movie camera; or a camera mounted on a tripod and photo shot every four hours
Caillebotte may have been singularly responsible for "saving" Impressionism -- the pieces themselves; he was a patron; supported the artists who were poor; bought their paintings. See this website for more justification for that statement.

Caillebotte's collection became the "bulk" of Musee d'Orsay.

Best example of impressionism:
  • Dahlias
  • Garden at Petit Gennevilliers
  • 1893
  • one year before he died
  • most impressionistic
Paintings of looking out windows: "In the most radical compositions Caillebotte eliminated all evidence of the window, save for the plunging perspective ..." Again, the photographic eye.

"Paris emerges as the main subject."

#501: French National Collection of Impressionism
  • basis of the Musee d'Orsay
  • rich parents die -- he is in his 30's
  • he and his brother Martial -- wealthy; bachelor pad in downtown Paris
  • self-portrait -- relaxed, done quickly - as if taken by a camera; framed in a mirror
  • trained as a lawyer; never completed
#502: half-nude scrapers 
  • subject, again --> half-nude males
  • style --> again, the photographic eye
Unnumbered: opposite #517
  • cow / pasture: photographic
  • mundane, why??
  • who would buy it??
  • who would hang it??
Argument: why Boston MFA did not pay too much for Man At His Bath
  • must be put in context of what people now pay for art
  • risk of Saudi princes buying the artwork; lost forever
  • Caillebotte did not paint much
  • no one museum had large collection; no museum had a collection large enough it could sell from to raise money
  • once in a lifetime opportunity when this painting became available; MFA probably had to act fast; at risk of losing this opportunity
  • few people have seen -- or recognized a Cailleboote; will bring new patrons in; something NEW; people getting tired of same old artists
  • people will feel they have seen these paintings before; but won't be able to place them; will now know the story
  • Caillebotte painted during the beginning of the Impressionistic Period -- the bridge from the OLD to the NEW; transitions are always important

At this point, ANY CAILLEBOTTE was important; if Boston MFA did not havea  Caillebotte, it needed one. If Boston MFA had a Caillebotte, it would have had only one or two; not enough to call it a collection.

So, any Caillebotte -either is was serendipity this one came on the market when it did OR Boston MFA was specifically looking for a particular Caillebotte, or a particular type.

Now, why this particular one? Once decision was made to pay whatever it took to get a Caillebotte, why this one?
  • large; not simply a small still life
  • a peak into his alternate life-style; when this painting was bought by the Boston MFA, LGBT was a big bit deal; but even before, in Boston, the LGBT was always a huge community
  • it seems all great artists interested in nudes; the human body is the holy grail; 
  • human nudes done all the time; generally a female; this relatively unique, a male, but even more unique, the setting; how could a male nude be done differently: How did he choose his subject? Who was his subject?
  • of all the Caillebott's at the exhibit -- was there any Caillebotte that was "better"? Not equal to, but better. 
From wiki on the controversy and argument for the purchase:
In preparation for its Degas and the Nude exhibition in 2011, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) decided to purchase the painting, which it already had held on loan since earlier that year.
The painting was bought for approximately $17 million. The chairman of the Museum's European art department realized that they would be extremely unlikely to obtain donor funding for the purchase, because the painting depicted a male nude – difficult subject matter for attracting donors.
To raise the funds, the MFA "deaccessioned" (sold) eight other paintings in its collection.[9] The move was controversial, as the eight pieces had been given to the museum as gifts from benefactors. Those paintings were also by artists more recognized to the general public than the lesser-known Caillebotte: they included work by Monet, Renoir and Gauguin.
Others defended the move by the MFA: Boston Globe editor Dante Ramos claimed that acquiring the Caillebotte is "the kind of bold, adventurous move that a world-class museum ought to be making," while noting that there may not have been many benefactors willing to donate "a painting showing some random guy's naked butt."
The painting became the museum's first Impressionist nude, and joined the one other work by Caillebotte, the still life Fruits sur un étalage.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Nathaniel Hawthorne In His Time, James R. Mellow, c. 1980

One of the worst biographies ever. The narrative skipped around; there were some major errors in dating. I "read" the book twice, though I skimmed through the last half the last time I read it. I threw it out in December, 2015.