Two exhibitions: Aby Warburg and Marcel Proust

Image: Ermelindo Nardin


The German historian and the French writer in memorable exhibitions

To raise spirits and insinuate that all is not lost, echoes of two outstanding exhibitions arrive.

One of them, in Haus der Kulturen der Welt, in Berlin, honors Aby Warburg, adopting his Bilderatlas Mnemosyne: the visual summary, in images, of an entire aesthetic. work in progress, that the author was altering throughout his life, eventually giving up on putting an end to it, is, in effect, an encyclopedia with 63 black panels bearing pasted images: photos, drawings, reproductions, clippings, scratches.

One of his obsessions was the image of the nymph, another that of the serpent. He devoted long investigations to the mobility of drapery, which according to his studies had deserted from the visual arts under the influence of Christian, stiff and hieratic iconography, only reappearing in the Renaissance: Boticelli is a great example. He postulated that such images traversed the history of humanity and civilizations, forming a stock that artists of any era could draw on.

The exhibition generated many by-products, including a 3D virtual tour. Anyone interested can look for the varied podcasts and videos, with testimonials from the curators and other critics. An album with a photographic reproduction of all the panels and other studies was offered for sale, at a price of two hundred euros.

As is known, the researcher in good time transferred to London, transporting his entire collection, including a library of 60 volumes, in exchange for founding the Aby Warburg Institute, which is still there today and receives students.

By the way, there was another exhibition at the Reina Sofia, in Madrid, bearing the provocative title of Atlas – How to carry the world on your shoulders?, curated by an expert and fan like Georges Didi-Huberman.

As for Marcel Proust, the initiative for the new exhibition fell to the Carnavalet Museum of the history of the city of Paris, a traditional shelter for the remains of his life and work. The exhibition is entitled Marcel Proust – A Parisian Roman, a very fair title for someone who was born and died in Paris, with occasional journeys to the spa of Trouville or to Tante Léonie's house in (today) Iliers-Combray, which preserves her other bed. He rarely crossed the borders of his country, yet he never strayed very far.

Proust, as is well known, lived his time and his city intensely, producing a true x-ray of the historical mishaps that crossed it, such as the Dreyfus Affair.

In search of lost time, in the eight-volume canonical edition, voted by many the best novel ever written, it occupied the author's entire life. In the final phase, he wrote lying down and nursing his asthma with fumigations, in a room lined with cork to muffle the sounds of the street, which came to hinder his inspiration. It is a true chronicle of those years in the then “capital of the XNUMXth century”, in the words of Walter Benjamin. It focuses on the analysis of the ruling class, showing fascination for the aristocrats and rich bourgeoisie, and especially for their exquisite way of life.

Such was the perfectionism of the author, who became the terror of publishers, endlessly correcting their own manuscripts, but also the graphic proofs and even the books already printed. Not content with adding amendments in fine print, in the margins and even on the back, he still cut and pasted on the pages the strips he called “paperrolls".

His own bedroom – the last one – has been in the care of the Carnavalet Museum for some time and now forms the central focus of the exhibition. But the precious room is surrounded by other auratic objects: paintings and sculptures, books and notebooks, writing implements, toilet and personal comfort utensils, etc.

On the cover of the catalog, his most famous portrait is enthroned, which accompanied him until his death, thanks to the brushes of Jacques-Emile Blanche. The model, highly stylized, appears in formal attire and with an orchid in the buttonhole. Seen from the front, the magnificent “eyes of a Persian prince” stand out on the pale face, as they said at the time, the white spots on the face and plastron contrasting with the blackness of the tailcoat. The catalog is out of print, but a reissue is awaited.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão is Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of reading and rereading (Senac/Gold over blue).


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