Barbarians among the ruins

A recent visit to Cheltenham gave Dalrymple all too many reasons to decry modern Britain, and the humor in his description in The New Criterion does not reduce its seriousness. But his visit to an art museum in the town was also cause for him to celebrate the work of a modern artist over that of the nineteenth-century painter William Charles Thomas Dobson, which I found noteworthy:

..the painting that most moved me was by Craigie Aitchison (1928–2009), painted in the year before his death. It was a crucifixion on a ground of scarlet, the figure of Christ being small, alone, and half-insinuated rather than fully depicted. It achieved an emotional and pictorial intensity that I do not associate with the current age, with its horror of both religious sentiment and genuine self-revelation that so easily invites the mockery of the sophistical. The likes of Dobson (of whom there were many) not only painted bad pictures but also did lasting damage to our artistic tradition, making the avoidance of their kitschy sentiment and sickly “beauty” almost the first duty of any artist, especially the second-rate; there is no trace of this neurosis in Aitchison.

The full piece is in the New Criterion and does not appear to require a subscription as it typically does.

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