Tomorrow I will finally get to see the tapestry exhibit at the Met. Here’s the NYTimes review. I’ve missed all the hoopla that the rest of The Wednesday Group has gotten to attend: a full weekend of symposia last weekend, and tomorrow night’s lecture on Tudor tapestries. So at least I will get to see the show!
For the most part I don’t care for this period of tapestry. There are some awesome things going on, but I think the tapestry artist himself was lost at this point and became simply the craftsman/artisan who slavishly executed a painter’s image. I miss the freedom of expression that earlier tapestry weavers had. I miss the sense of making a picture do what weaving does best.
That’s not to say that I’m not totally “blown away” by these works and the weaving ability of the unknown weavers.
Here’s a quote from the end of the article that sums it all up for me:
But the real wonder surfaces when you stand up close. Then you see how one thread, placed next to another, which is next to another of different but related color, creates the shadow under the eye of a drowning man’s face, or the sparkle of a jewel on a ribbon on a shoe, or turns an all but abstract passage of color in a Rubens design into a brilliantly nuanced approximation of its painted source, which is itself the filtering of some sensation of the world through one artist’s eye.
In focusing on such details, you realize that the tapestry — so anonymous, so enormous, so specialized — really comes down to one person performing a task: the artist drawing the design, the spinner spinning the wool thread, the weaver passing one thread past another. If you want to regain the thrill of discovery that the Met’s first tapestry show provided, intimate attention to the riches in this one may be the way to do it.
The Wednesday Group show closes this weekend as well, so I will sit in the gallery on Sunday and take the show down at closing. It will be a long day, but my head should be full of images from the show at the Met and from visiting the Cloisters on Saturday. Not a bad way to spend a weekend!