Saturday, 20 February 2010
Angularity: Eve Arnold x 2, Caravaggio x 1
Elizabeth Hester Douglas-Home, Baroness Home of the Hirsel; Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, 1964
As an art student I learned about the dynamism of the diagonal. I look at Lord Home's knee and Monroe's elbow and sense that things are being a little flamboyant. Something angular, akimbo, jagged, yet stylish about the position. It is a sharp thrust in a particular direction. The Lord Home sense of being master in one's own home, the Monroe gesture, however functional, of being able to extend and own space - and to counter the cop's own jagged elbow. Fascinatingly both Monroe and the cop's elbow are contained within the verticals of the furniture behind them. There would be much greater aggression if either elbow broke the vertical. Neither does: thereby a certain propriety is observed.
Eve Arnold was probably Monroe's best known photographer, but she was much more. Certainly she was interested in glamour and pose, but she sees the brevity of such things, and brevity is what such angularity signifies. The proprietor strikes a pose he cannot keep for long, the film star's arm would soon begin to hurt. But both settings are brought to life by the strangeness of the position, the way it intrudes into space. I think a little of this:
In Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus, the elbow of the apostle, unlike that of Monroe and the cop, does break a barrier: it breaks the picture plane and thrusts itself into our faces. The elbow is poor and patched. It is, briefly, a revolutionary pose, a revolutionary moment. The angle is aggressive as anyone's poke with an elbow would be. Our normal idea of grace is fluid, not jagged: the sinuous curve, Hogarth's serpentine line of beauty, the arabesque.
But we think of lightning as jagged, and lightning is not considered ungraceful, it is only that it is felt as sublime.
The Lord and Lady Home picture is rather gorgeous for its black serpentines too of course - the dog, Lady Home, the sportif cockerel ornaments on the wall.
The sun has been out all day but the air is still chill. I have spent the hours reading submissions - some of the many submissions - for a writing fellowship at the university. It's close to ten o'clock.