I always enjoy the weekly podcast on art presented by Waldemar Janesczak and Bendor Grosvenor.
In this week’s episode Bendor Grosvenor interviewed chef and pasta sauce maker cum-entrepreneur Loyd Grossman on his book about the 16th century sculptor Bernini (1598-1680).
I had of course more than heard of the multifarious talents and successes of Loyd Grossman – chiefly from him – but I had no idea that he was such an authority on art.
In his book An Elephant in Rome – named after a statue by Bernini featuring an elephant carrying a obelisk in Rome’s Piazza Minerva – he celebrates the life and works of Bernini.
Bernini ‘s family came originally from Florence but his father, himself a sculptor, moved them to Naples.
His son Lorenzo was a child prodigy and was soon courted by the Papacy to sculpt for the Vatican.
Bernini had everything: talent in abundance, charm, good looks and a canny business head.
Grossman in the interview and his book, which I acquired, celebrates this in an accessible, informed and unpretentious way.
Bernini’s sculptures reflect the superior position western art adopted to the rest of the world.
This is the theme of this term’s art course which began on Thursday.
Our tutor took the position that the superior stance of western art to the rest of the world was unjustified. She referred to the influence of naive African art on the modernists like Picasso.
She drew our attention to a Gabonese carving based on a death mask and the faces of three of the figures in Picasso’s masterpiece Les Desmoiselles D’ Avignon.
She went on to show images of painters critical of the British colonial past.
One Australian artist for example caricatured Captain Cook as a pirate: another Caribbean painter – Sonia Boyce – created pictures with symbols to reflect her isolation from Britain.
Here I began to disagree.
If you take the ultimate critic of his times – William Hogarth – you have to acknowledge his technical prowess, a prowess I did not see in much of this critical art we viewed.
African art is mainly anonymous so comparisons are harder.
Not much is known about Bernini but in age of Rembrandt, Velazquez and Titian he more than held his own.