One of the most influential and celebrated landscapes in Western art is The View of Toledo by El Greco, which, in its storm-tossed electricity, pre-dates the over-heated 19th century romantic movement by an easy couple of centuries or so. This landmark work of landscape art is on show until 4 February at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as part of an extraordinary assembly of works, mainly from the Prado by this most influential of artists.
You could, with justice, describe View of Toledo as an uplifting eyeful and a jolt to the spirit. I have always loved it, so much so that I went to Toledo years ago to see whether anything had changed. It hadn’t; I got caught in a thunderstorm. There is something so modern about this writhing, stormy landscape which subsequently inspired painters as dissimilar as Turner in the l9th Century and closer to our own time, certainly Cezanne in the late 19th and early 20th Century.
You can see some traces of El Greco’s modernism in Cezanne’s view of L’Estaque his mother’s house in Provence for instance; the feeling that art embodies a higher realm of the conscious. The thrumming intensity of the trees which seem to be fluttering in the breeze, the hot pine needles, and the brilliant blue salty sea can almost be smelt. Gaze at these two landscapes and take your spirit for a walk in our wonderful world. The painting comes up for sale on 4 February in London.
Or go back in time and spirit to the ancient trees on our planet which still, happily for us, survive. Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time is a superb book of Beth Moon’s platinum palladium prints of photographs of these extraordinary survivors. There are trees of 30 going up to 300 feet, the most venerable being the Great Basin Bristlecones which are heading for their sixth millenium. Time like an ever-flowing stream did not bear these trees away. Ancient Trees is the perfect book for contemplating eternity.
A Czech expedition has discovered the tomb of a Fifth Dynasty (circa 525 B.C.) Egyptian Queen Khentkaus III at Abusir, an important archaeological site southwest of Cairo. The discoverers think she was the wife of King Raneferef and the mother of King Menkauhor – doesn’t mean much to me; I tend to get muddled between the different Ptolemies but here we have another lost and found Queen whose identity seems to shed light on an early royal Egyptian family tree.