My ten best lists   


Copernique Marshall  


This column originally appeared in the 25th of February 2013 edition of Le Castor™.

And for my next act, I shall set myself on fire...

I was wrong.

Further to the e-mails I got in connection with my list of books, I thought I would get twice as much for my film list but no : zilch, nothing, nada. Not even an insult. - Guess people are less opinionated about paintings than they are about books.

This week ? - I was thinking of plays (thanks, Gino, for reminding me) but not having access temporarily to l'UdeNap's library, I decided to move on to paintings. Not the interior decoration type but real paintings, stuff made by real artists who painstakingly (sorry for the pun) gave us visions of the world nobody saw before they were born. - As to the other type, the interior decoration daubs, well, I'll leave those, in my arrogant and snooty manner, to the nouveaux riches and others who can often be seen in  pseudo-art galleries, the likes of which exist everywhere.

Click on any photos to enlarge.


Borduas, Paul-Émile (1905-1960)

Couldn't find one of his knock-out pictures in the web. - I know I have it in a book at home but even that was difficult to find : two brush strokes, one black, one white. You'll have to deal with the one at the bottom of this paragraph. - Picking one Borduas painting out of the hundreds he made, particularly in the last ten years is an insult to his genius.To really appreciate who he was and what he did, one needs to look at, say, a ten, twenty year series leading to those famous paintings he made towards the end of his life using two brush strokes. - And that's all I will say about him except that he remains, in my mind a most fascinating man.

Composition no. 24

Montreal Museum of Fine-Arts, Montréal, Québec

David, Jacques-Louis (1748-1825)

What I like about this painting is its sheer size. Fills an entire wall. Takes hours to examine its details. So, okay, it's a bit cucul, pompier and usually used to do just that : cover entire walls or for propaganda but everyone should see paintings lthat sort of things ; be it just once.

Le sacre de Napoléon

Le Louvre, Paris

Giotto (di Bondone) (c. 1266-1337)

Very few paintings will make one cry. This is one of them. Just look at those angels.

Les lamentations

Cappella degli Scrovegni, Padua, Veneto, Italy

Hals, Frans (c. 1582-1666)

Frans Hals painted several group portraits like the one below but I like this one particularly because of its mischievousness. Why, in the world, these régentes allowed themselves to be represented the way they were will remain a mystery.

Portrait de groupe des régentes de l'hospice de vieillards

Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands

Lemieux, Jean-Paul (1905-1980)

I remember, years ago, being, I wouldn't say moved but agreeably surprised when I first saw a Jean-Paul Lemieux painting. It was his famous Orphelines. I found it charming as all his works I had the privilege to see afterward (most of his paintings are in private collections) but I wouldn't say that he has become one my top favorite painters. So, you may ask, why is he mentioned in this essay. - Because of this painting. A portrait of our dear departed Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger in his cardinal's purple regalia. Take a close look at that haughty attitude. Tell me it was painted without any malice. - Funny bit is that, before that painting went into the Canadian National Gallery collection (Ottawa), it used to belong to the cardinal's brother. - If you had a painting like this of your brother, would you honestly give it away so it could be seen by thousands of people ?

Sorry : no enlargment
Le cardinal Léger
National Gallery, Ottawa

Pollock, Jackson (1912-1956)

Jackson Pollock remains my favorite painter. Make that one, of my two favorite, the other one being Vermeer. I can sit for hours looking into his worlds without center. Two of his posters decorate my apartment and I find it odd, at times, that people find them - shall we say... shocking ? - Hey : this guy painted this cose to than seventy years ago.

Number 28
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Seurat, Georges (1859-1891)

There is very little I can say about this Dimanche après-midi à l'île de la Grande Jatte except that I'd like to see it beyond the glass cage it is enclosed at the Art Institute of Chicago where, when you look at it, you see a reflection of yourself. Up close, one can appreciate what Georges Seurat wanted to do and, from afar, the overall concept (two large areas of shadow and light, with the same color intensity) makes it one hell of a piece of art. Too bad one can't step in like one steps into a Jackson Pollock's painting.

Dimanche après-midi à l'île de la Grande Jatte
Chicago Art Institute, Chicago

Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de (1864-1901)

I did not know the existence of this picture until some years ago when I visited the Szépművészeti Múzeum (The Budapest Museum of Fine Arts) and happened to stumble upon it. - Surrounded by Corot's, Courbet's, Manet's, Monet's, Pissaro's, Renoir's and a large collection of sculptures by Rodin. - Going out of the museum, I noticed a copy for sale. Same size, same color, same every thing. Something outlawed everywhere but I was in Budapest, an ex-communist country where no one paid attention to these things. Bought it and had it framed. Looks like an original and who wouldn't want an original Lautrec in his house ?

Ces dames au réfectoire

Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest, Hongary

Van Eyck, Jan  (c.1390-1441)

I like the sort of paintings for their cleverness. Look at the mirror on the wall behind this couple.

Les Époux Arnolfini

National Gallery, London

P.-S. : Click HERE to see what's in the mirror.

Vermeer, Johannes  (1632-1675)

He, alphabetically, of course, had to come last, being one of my all-time favorite painter.Went to every museum I could to see his works : Amsterdam, Paris, New York, London, Vienna... Several times to the Mauritshuis Museum (Gemeentemuseum) in Den Haag, to see his masterpiece, View of Delft, which is a sizable work (96.5 x 115.7 cm) depicting, not the city of Delft but a moment of Delft. It has been described at length by several authors, notably Proust, but, if some paintings can be appreciated through reproduction or even by examining close-up photos on the WEB, View of Delft has to seen face to face for three reasons : a) its colors, b) the blur-to-precise unbelievable and so unique technique and - well, ok, I'm fascinated by time - the moment captured by Vermeer, like peeking into a remote past but so alive.

View of Delft

Mauritshuis Museum (Gemeentemuseum), Den Haag, Netherlands


Additional comment (May 2022) :

I don't know if I'll change something on this page for its French - more recent - version. The David might go away but I'm sure it's gonna be replaced by something similar. Rembrandt' Night Watch ?

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