Arnold Toynbee, Borobudur, Buddhism, Cutouts, Henri Matisse, History, James Morris, Jan Morris, Java, Parthenon, Paul Johnson, Pope Paul VI, Richard W. Murphy, Roman Catholic Church, Thomas Jefferson, Venetian Arsenal, Venice, Walter Karp, Xavier Rynne
This issue’s cover shows Henri Matisse’s cutout Blue Nude with Flowing Hair:
It illustrates Richard W. Murphy’s article ‘Matisse’s Final Flowering’, previewing a centenary retrospective of his work in Paris.
‘Carving in color,’ is what Matisse called his cutout technique, and he added that he wanted to do ‘the same thing in color that Michelangelo did in stone’…
He was largely bedridden during the last seven years of his life, the period to which the paper cutouts belong, and visitors to his apartment in the old Hotel Regina in Nice recall him sitting up in bed, fully and meticulously clothed, with his scissors, his colored papers, and the brushes and ink with which he made his late, magnificent black-and-white drawings arranged on a table that fitted over his knees.
Also in this issue:
A letter from Contributing Editor Walter Karp, ‘The Attack on History’ claims that ‘the teaching of history is being seriously undermined’, and says Thomas Jefferson insisted that the study of history ‘is the very heart of education’:
It is the record of men deciding and aspiring, using power and abusing power, in their ceaseless attempts to achieve their purposes. History thus reveals the ways of men when they are free, for freedom, in its most profound sense, is the capacity of men to shape their own world. If history is taught as dead facts, it is being badly taught. If it is taught to inculcate “obedience” and “docility”, it has been perverted into propaganda.
As for the social sciences, the one thing they can never do is replace history. By their very nature, the social sciences show us men when they are not free. Psychology describes us insofar as we are bound by behavioral “laws.” Sociology describes us insofar as we are bound by social “forces.” Anthropology describes us insofar as we are bound by inherited “custom.” These sciences do depict mankind, but it is a partial picture…
In a republic, [Jefferson] said, the purpose of history is to ‘enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom.’
He compares it with the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens:
…the imposition of the architect’s pattern on nature’s craggy caprice has been a tour de force – the more so because the style of Ancient Greek architecture is ultra-geometrical. Here man has challenged nature, and he has been only partially victorious. The casing of the Acropolis’s flanks is incomplete, and the naked jagged rock still asserts itself defiantly between the symmetrical buildings. At Borobudur the landscape and the architecture are not contending with one another; they are in harmony. Here the builder has completely hidden the hill, from its flanks to its crown, but in hiding it he has reproduced it in a man-made medium. The masonry is as luxuriant as the jungle-clad mountain that rises above the platform on which the stupa stands, and as abundant as the rice fields in the valley toward which the ground falls away on the opposite side. But is ‘masonry’ an adequate word? The hill at Borobudur has been made into a building, but it is a building that is also a piece of sculpture.
…At Borobudur sculpture, masonry and hill are one.
That a pope should be repudiated, even reviled, by great masses of his followers; that his teachings on birth control, a major point of doctrine, should go unheard by a majority of the educated laity; that thousands of priests, and even princes of the Church, should accept it, if at all, with reluctance and with qualifications that make it meaningless; and that the Church itself, which has preserved its unity and discipline through two millenniums, should now be a bickering shambles – all this would have been inconceivable five years ago, and all is largely the work of one man.
In ‘The Papacy Since Peter’, the historian ‘Xavier Rynne’ writes:
The beginnings of the papacy are rather murky. Its title deed has never been adequately searched. Between the compilation of the New Testament, which is silent about any bishop of Rome, and the end of the second century, when the popes’ claim to pre-eminence in the Church foreshadowed what it would later become, there is a disconcerting gap.
‘Venice: Past And Present’ looks at the glory of Venice’s past and its present decay:
James (now Jan) Morris describes how the city which once dominated the Mediterranean lost its power:
After 1500 the story of Venice is one of almost unbroken decline, but the process was so slow, and so disguised with pageantry, that the world scarcely knew what was happening…
Gradually, almost imperceptibly, the fire died. The merchant princes lost their high sense of dedication. The profit instinct was blunted. The steel determination flagged. The arsenal, once the supreme armory of the world, became no more than a second-rate repair yard. The flag of Saint Mark was seen with decreasing frequency on the shipping routes. The Venetian caravansaries of the Levant closed one by one, and year by year the islands and enclaves of the overseas empire fell away, until by the early years of the eighteenth century nothing was left but the Ionian Islands and a few Dalmatian ports.
Now Venice…became above all a carnival – ‘the Revel of the earth,’ as Byron put it, ‘the Masque of Italy.’ The pose became a reality; the façade, the state. In the overblown flower of her eighteenth-century decadence, stripped of her consequence and her possessions, Venice was the most dissolute, most carefree, in many ways the most charming, place in the world…It may have been pathetic, but it was fun, and it still had style.