I’ve been meaning to post up my review of my most recent book club book, but just haven’t gotten around to it. The book club I am a member of is takes place at a local art museum, and the books often tie in with the current exhibit. Some books, like this one, are more directly related than others. So, for January, we read The Ultimate Trophy.
Not an overly lengthy book, but it took me a little while to read it. The book begins with sort of a history of the beginnings of Impressionist painting. Nothing new there that I didn’t get in my Art History classes. But, from there the author tracks the paintings and how they were bought and sold, collected and turned into evidence of wealth and social class forward in time. He speaks about the paintings being taken by the Germans, being bought by the nouveau riche in America, and eventually becoming pieces purchased by Japanese business owners. It’s an interesting look at how the pieces became less about the art, and more about possessing something of value.
I did really enjoy the discussion on this book (plus there was wine and cheese, so, I was a captive participant). When I was initially reading this book, I did find it rather dry and dull. But, as I went on, I became more and more engaged in the anecdotes. And, as sometimes happens with a book…once you’ve finished it, pieces of it still stay with you. So, I’ve had to go back and change my rating of it on Goodreads, from my initial rating.
Although, this has already become a crazy long art thesis, I wanted to touch on a couple of things that have struck me after reading this book. Of course, my start on Camille seemed rather timely, with this book selection. I hope to get back to Camille soon, since I’ve wanted to stitch her for so long. Also, at the Golden Globes, Scorsese was given a lifetime achievement award, and when they showed the montage of his work (I love a good montage), one of the movies included was The Age of Innocence, one of my absolute favorite movies. It’s also an excellent book, and one I would highly recommend. Anywho…the book deals a lot with the rise of the nouveau riche Americans at the turn of the century. And one specific scene I remember, was the society party where the host had purchased a rather risqué new painting and had it hung in plain sight. Shocking. But, in many cases, as the author of my book club book surmises, the paintings were a show of wealth and were treated as such. If you haven’t seen the movie, or read the book, do so.
The third thing that came about after reading this book was a conversation with some stitching friends in which I was advocating museums and visiting them regularly. You can look at all the photos you want of a painting, but there is nothing at all like standing in its presence. Some, leave you flat. Some, are exciting and wondrous. But, there’s still nothing like seeing them up close and personal. Even (and especially) those whose images are so well-known (ie the Impressionists). So, I’ll leave you with an image of one of my favorite paintings ever – one that when I turned a corner in the Met and was greeted by it hanging at the end of a series of doorways, left me speechless.
This is John Singer Sargent’s Madame X.
So, that’s all that I have for you today. I’ll be back soon with some stitching to show. Thanks for checking in.
I am grateful for art.