Friday, April 26, 2013
Take your time
In the midst of a long walk through yesterday's splendid weather, I popped into the National Gallery to see the Albrecht Dürer show again. I needed a break from the over-satured pollen orgy ongoing outdoors in DC right now. After winter's characteristic monochromatic palette, spring can be a shock. It certainly has been this year.
Anyway, gazing again at A's spectacular drawings, watercolors and woodcuts, I marveled at the way he was able to take his time. Albrecht knew that life is long even though five hundred years ago, life was definitely not long in the way it is now. I bet life expectancy at that time was about forty. He lived at the end of the mini Ice Age in Europe. It was cold, there was plague, diseases of malnourishment. When you got an infection, save a bloody miracle, you died. You don't even want to think about what childbirth was like. Life was harsh. Life was short.
But for him, life was long. He was not in a rush to make his art, he took his time. How did he know to do that?
The first time I saw the show it was with a friend who is a painter. She said, "As you leave the exhibit, avert your eyes from the modern stuff - it'll just piss you off." So true! I retraced my steps through the show and ran from the building with one arm over my eyes.
Not really. I did retrace my steps so as to avoid the modern stuff, but afterwards I stared fixedly at the white marble floor of the east wing for about 15 minutes, to allow the beauty of the show to settle into my visual cortex. Wow. Just - wow.
Here's a great review of the show.
In the modern world, life is short, even though we live longer chronologically than ever - much longer, in fact. Why the rush? Why the sturm und drag? It's interesting to think about.