22 July 2012

teaching: Milton Gendel


photograph by Milton Gendel

Looking through the lens must be a comfortable place for Milton Gendel- he has been putting his friends in front of the camera since the 1940's. His friends are comfortable there-whether on vacation, as with Babe Paley or feeding the dogs-as with Elizabeth, the Queen.

As a contributing editor to Artnews and Art in America for as many years- American expat Milton Gendel put down his roots in Italy. His images are recognized by their intimacy, their candor-and their subtlety.

He tells us stories. Stories in a whisper.
Who more fitting to ask than Milton Gendel- what teacher inspired you?

My earliest memory of a teacher who left his mark on me was my German teacher at Townsend Harris High School, New York. As an indelible lesson he brought his violin to class and played as we sang Die Lorelei,. The words are still with me after some eighty years.

 Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
Daß ich so traurig bin,
Ein Märchen aus uralten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,
Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;
Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt,
Im Abendsonnenschein.

Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr gold'nes Geschmeide blitzet,
Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar,
Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme,
Und singt ein Lied dabei;
Das hat eine wundersame,
Gewalt'ge Melodei.

Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe,
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe,
Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh'.
Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn,
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen,
Die Loreley getan.

I cannot determine the meaning
Of sorrow that fills my breast:
A fable of old, through it streaming,
Allows my mind no rest.
The air is cool in the gloaming
And gently flows the Rhine.
The crest of the mountain is gleaming
In fading rays of sunshine.
The loveliest maiden is sitting
Up there, so wondrously fair;
Her golden jewelry is glist'ning;
She combs her golden hair.
She combs with a gilded comb, preening,
And sings a song, passing time.
It has a most wondrous, appealing
And pow'rful melodic rhyme.

The boatman aboard his small skiff, -
Enraptured with a wild ache,
Has no eye for the jagged cliff, -
His thoughts on the heights fear forsake.
I think that the waves will devour
Both boat and man, by and by,
And that, with her dulcet-voiced power
Was done by the Loreley.

A later landmark teacher was Meyer Schapiro, the art historian at Columbia. I had the honor of being his assistant for two years, 1937, l938,  in graduate school. I took the third hour of his survey course for freshmen. If not for him I might have stayed in Academe, but he was such an unparalleled polymath - a height I felt I could never attain - that I went off in other directions.

The body of work Gendel offers us- the glimpses, the Art, the Beauty- those "other directions"- Astound.

read more about Milton's photographic library here
the story of the portrait by Calder here at the Guardian
& a recent article in Vanity Fair to coincide with“Milton Gendel: A Surreal Life” exhibition at Rome’s Museo Carlo Bilotti, on October 4,2011 and “Milton Gendel: Portraits” at the American Academy in Rome, on  here
photographs from the Vanity Fair article here


1 comment:

  1. My darling treasured friend!

    No, not eighty years! You must be doing what my mother recommended! "Lie about you age? then make yourself older!"

    You just made a typo!

    You know more than anybody!




Related Posts with Thumbnails