Criticism

Category Archives: Criticism

The Greatest Forger

It was perhaps the greatest hoax in art history. Han van Meegeren was an artist with a grudge. Painting in the Netherlands pre World War 2, critics mercilessly panned his exhibitions. One critic described him as “A gifted technician who has made a sort of composite facsimile of the Renaissance school, he has every virtue except originality.” Stung, van Meegreen decided to strike back. He painted a work with flourishes of the style of the great Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, titled it “The Supper at Emmaus”, and submitted it to the prominent critic Abraham Bredius. Bredius took the bait, writing that “It is a wonderful moment in the life of a lover of art when he finds himself suddenly confronted with a hitherto unknown painting by a great master… And what a picture! We have here a – I am inclined to say the – masterpiece of Johannes Vermeer of Delft.”  The art world gasped, the painting was sold for the equivalent of millions of dollars, and displayed in  the Boijmans Gallery in Rotterda.

Han van Meegren planned to expose the forgery at the opening of the Gallery’s 400 Years of European Art exhibition, in which his forgery was given pride of place. His critics would be humiliated and their reputations shattered. Greed, however, got the better of him. Rather than exposing the forgery, he made more, raking in millions more dollars. When the Nazis swept through Europe, he even managed to sell The Supper at Emmaus to them.

This almost proved his undoing.After the war the victorious Allied forces were determined to return the artworks collected by the Nazis to their previous owners. A receipy led two soldiers from the Allied Art Commission to the studio of vm Meegren. They wanted to know from whom van Meegran had bought the artwork. Unwilling to divulge the truth, van Megreen was arrested on charges of treason and faced the death penalty. Confined in prison, facing death, van Megreen had a change of heart. He confessed, but no-one believed him. Experts testified that the work was indeed an original by the Dutch master Vermeer. The only way to prove his innocence was to produce another fake, anfd so he did, spending weeks literally painting for his life!

The final twist to the story is that van Meegren was not only acquitted, but became a national hero, for he had fooled the Nazis, shown them to be the corrupt regime everyone knew they were.

Source: information found in “The forger who fooled the world” The Telegraph, Aug 5, 2006
 

Ole Bull

How a person reacts to criticism often means the difference between success and failure. Take the case of Ole Bull, the famous Norwegian violinist of the nineteenth century. His practical father, a chemist, sent him to the University of Christiania to study for the ministry and forbade him to play his beloved violin. He promptly flunked out and, defying his father, devoted all his time and energy to the violin. Unfortunately, though he had great ability, his teachers were relatively unskilled, so that by the time he was ready to start his concert tour he wasn’t prepared.

In Italy a Milan newspaper critic wrote: “He is an untrained musician. If he be a diamond, he is certainly in the rough and unpolished.”

There were two ways Ole Bull could have reacted to that criticism. He could let it make him angry, or he could learn from it. Fortunately he chose the latter. He went to the newspaper office and asked to see the critic. The astounded editor introduced him. Ole spent the evening with the 70-year-old critic, asked about his faults, and sought the older man’s advice on how to correct them. Then he cancelled the rest of his tour, returned home, and spent the next six months studying under really able teachers. He practiced hours upon hours to overcome his faults. Finally, he returned to his concerts and, when only 26, became the sensation of Europe.

Source: unknown. I have not been able to verify the accuracy of this story.

Not Much of a Dog

There was once an optimistic farmer who couldn’t wait to greet each new day with a resounding, “Good morning, God!” He lived near a woman whose morning greeting was more like, “Good God… morning?” They were each a trial to the other. Where he saw opportunity, she saw problems. Where he was satisfied, she was discontented.

One bright morning he exclaimed, “Look at the beautiful sky! Did you see that glorious sunrise?”

“Yeah,” she countered. “It’ll probably get so hot the crops will scorch!”

During an afternoon shower, he commented, “Isn’t this wonderful? Mother Nature is giving the corn a drink today!”

“And if it doesn’t stop before too long,” came the sour reply, “we’ll wish we’d taken out flood insurance on the crops!”

Convinced that he could instil some awe and wonder in her hardened attitude, he bought a remarkable dog. Not just any mutt, but the most expensive, highly-trained and gifted dog he could find. The animal was exquisite! It could perform remarkable and impossible feats which, the farmer thought, would surely amaze even his neighbour. So he invited her to watch his dog perform.

“Fetch!” he commanded, as he tossed a stick out into a lake, where it bobbed up and down in the rippling water. The dog bounded after the stick, walked on the water, and retrieved it.

“What do you think of that?” he asked, smiling.

“Not much of a dog” she frowned. “Can’t even swim, can he?”

Source: unknown

The Complaining Monk

A man joined a monastery where the monks were only allowed to speak two words a year, and those to the abbot. At the end of each year they were given an audience and said their two words. Naturally they were expected to be something along the lines of ‘Jesus loves’ or some other eternal truth. However at the end of his first year the novice offered, ‘Bed hard’ and at the end of the second year, ‘Food bad’ and at the end of the third year his two words were, ‘I quit’.

‘I’m not surprised,’ said the abbot, ‘you’ve done nothing but whinge ever since you came here.’

Source unknown.