Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The first installment in a series of answers to a challenge set by a Jordan named Guy...

In one episode of How I Met Your Mother they jibe at each other for having hilarious gaps in their collection of common knowledge: Robin didn't know the North Pole was a real place, Ted had the wrong idea about the pronunciation of the word "chameleon," and Lily never learned how to aim when throwing things. What's yours?

Mine is: I have never seen The Three Amigos. I feel like I miss stuff all the time because of this flaw. That thing you do where you cross your arms over your chests several times and grunt, "Huh!"... it means nothing to me. Is it supposed to be funny or heartwarming when you do that? Never once has it seemed funny to me, especially because I think you're supposed to be wearing a sombrero when you do it. And so, the final analysis is: just don't do it. (1 out of 13, to be continued...)

Tangent: does everyone else know the greatness of Steve Martin's banjo music already, or am I ahead of the curve in loving this?

Tangent to my tangent:

Henry Ossawa Tanner's The Banjo Lesson.

Tanner is an artistic hero of mine. Here's the opening paragraph to a paper I wrote long ago about his paintings, just to give you an idea why he's so cool:

The African-American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner took three things with him as he set out for Paris in 1891: the academic training of Thomas Eakins, his mentor in Philadelphia; a devout belief in Christianity from his father, the passionate Reverend Benjamin Tanner; and a sharp distaste for the status of the art world in America, stemming from the hardships he had endured unfairly as a black artist of talent. Research has generally focused on this last area of intrigue in Henry Tanner’s life. However, in reading the artist’s own reflections on his life and times, I have found his race to be an insufficient place to stop the learning. After all, Tanner himself seemed to find attempts to classify his work for the sake of this group or that group’s ideals extremely upsetting. His is a remarkable story of determination to ignore the many assumptions of others in order to discover and develop a personal, artistic, and moral balance according to his own conscience.

In his years of training at the Academie Julien in Paris, he got his first chance to develop his talents in a culture free from stigma. The neighboring Paris Salon, the ultimate destination for any Parisian art student with talent or ambition, became a great challenge to Tanner. Reflecting back on his first encounter with the Salon art, he said, “[The Salon paintings were] much more to my taste than were the old masters in the Louvre… [The Salon] now furnished a definite impetus to my work in Paris- to be able to make a picture that should be admitted here- could I do it?”

With the goal of getting a picture into the Salon in the back of his mind, Henry Ossawa Tanner gradually abandoned what had been his previous focus, African-American genre paintings. Although he had met with some success in this category—after all, his first accepted painting in the Salon was The Banjo Lesson (1893), which portrays an older black gentleman lovingly teaching a youth to play— it was to be his last major work with such a subject. It was “skied,” or put so high up on the walls that it was barely visible.

After The Banjo Lesson, Tanner pursued the typical French artist’s career trajectory, in pursuit of a more successful form of expression, one that was more to his own liking and one that was more in demand at the Salon. He vacationed at Pont-Aven in the French seaside, where the circle of Gauguin also summered, and he began to cultivate friendships with prominent patrons who encouraged and financed his works, the most influential of these being his friend Rodman Wanamaker. Throughout this time period it is understood that he did not pick up very much from the other teachers and artists that surrounded him. His works are not marked by any permanent change in style, unusual for one located in Paris during Impressionism’s heyday.


rachel said...

steve martin rules and i love himym. i can't think of a good enough flaw right now (i have a lot of them).....hmmmm it will come to me and when it does, I will post it here.

JordanGuy said...

Let the challenge begin!! I am loving this :)