My partner and I drove down to New York today, putting up at the Penn Club on 44th St., where he is a member. As soon as we checked in I went up to the Met Museum to see the Courbet exhibition that has had such an enthusiastic reception. It's extraordinarily comprehensive, though, unfortunately, Courbet's two greatest paintings weren't allowed to participate. Luckily I've seen them both before--The Burial at Ornans and The Studio. Anyway, a brilliant series of canvases. He was always controversial, in fact, he said, "As soon as I cease to be controversial, I will cease to be important." Controversy centered around his choice of subject matter--portrayal of ordinary country people as though they counted as much as figures in history painting, portrayal of unidealized nudes (including a lesbian couple), and then his proto-Impressionist handling of paint, which clearly influenced Manet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh. Late in life he refused the order of the Legion of Honor, as few French artists have ever done. He was even imprisoned after the defeat of the Paris Commune. I was looking forward to this and the experience went beyond expectations.
I took a slow bus ride down from the Museum, enjoying the prospect of Central Park and surrounding city towers. I spent most of my adult life in New York, and I always say there's no such thing as an ex-New Yorker. I've spent time in all the world capitals except Tokyo and Moscow, but New York is in its own class, a staggering blend of high and low, beauty and the other thing. A homecoming!
Tomorrow evening I have my reading at the Stella Adler Studio.