Seduced by the Light . . . Artists’ Views of Venice

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Nov 30, 2019

For centuries Venice has been a beacon for writers . . . Lord Byron, Robert Barrett Browning, Henry James, Marcel Proust and, later, Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote, just to name a few. For 19th and 20th century painters, Venice was a siren that called like no other place on the planet. Perhaps one of the reasons for its irresistible allure is that it is really two cities — one of majesty and solidity above, and an ephemeral one echoed in the shifting waters below. Venice’s shimmering reflections tell you so much about the essence of this city of mirrors and mirages … at once substantial and fluid, with a past that reverberates in its architecture.

The romanticized, mythical Venice may be hard to grasp on a steamy day in midsummer when the city swells with tourists . . . but when the fog, la nebbia, settles in, it is easy to imagine that things can appear and disappear in its labyrinth of canals, or that you could turn the corner and walk into the past.

This slideshow was put together with the hope that in the aftermath of last month’s historic flooding, Venice will be restored and once again appear as it did in the magnificent paintings by the likes of J.M.W.Turner, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Signac, Raoul Dufy, Anders Zoran, Maurice Prendergast, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeil Whistler. (I am grateful to have seen and photographed so many of these wonderful paintings; photos I didn’t take myself are from Wikimedia Commons). Please consider donating Save Venice

Gothic Glory in Orvieto

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Nov 2, 2019

Orvieto’s cathedral doesn’t have the global profile of Saint Peter’s in Rome, Saint Mark’s in Venice or the Duomo in Florence, and if the Catholic church were to do a survey of Italy’s most glorious churches it might even trail Milan’s cathedral or Siena’s stunner. But if you arrive in Orvieto on a blue-skied day and stroll up Via Nebbia, then turn the corner with all the tourist signs and cast your gaze heavenward, there’s a good chance that you’ll forget all the others, at least for a while. There before you is the Duomo, in all its grand Gothic glory. Construction  began in 1290 but wasn’t completed until three hundred years later, and by that time, according to one historian’s count, it had become the collaborative product of 33 architects, 152 sculptors, 68 painters and 90 mosaic artisans.

Art historian Jacob Burckhardt called the Duomo “the greatest and richest polychrome monument in the world.” Pope Leo XIII suggested that on Judgment Day the Duomo’s beauty would levitate it straight to heaven … I think so too!

Naples: Beauty or Beast?

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Sep 7, 2019

Napoli, full of complexities and contradictions, defies classification and doesn’t enjoy the bucket list reputation of so many Italian cities.  Often treated as a pass-through en route to the Amalfi Coast, Naples is seldom explored and its many beguiling layers are overlooked by most travelers. If you do have the time to visit, you won’t be indifferent: you’ll either love it or feel just the opposite. There is no “in between.” You’re either drawn to its paradox of love, loss, sex, religion, superstition, birth and death or you may want to run away from it. For me, I love it. I felt its magnetism immediately — the good, the bad, and even the “brutti” … the ugly.

Besides being officially recognized by the EU as the home of pizza (pizza having been recently designated by UNESCO as a cultural treasure), Naples has a rich history and many spectacular Baroque churches. Not always as spiffy as other cities, it offers a veritable feast for the urban photographer. It’s sacred and profane. It’s both Old World and kitsch; camp and hip; seductive and bewildering. It’s chaotic and random; gritty, edgy and operatic. And somehow also pious, and even at times … serene. Napoli throbs with life, exuberance and color.