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Monday, August 12, 2013

Rounder Than The O, parts 1944 - 1947

1944. But only the arm from the elbow to the fingers can be used to generate a circle, and only if it is anchored at the hip, as Vasari notes. In short, Giotto used his body as an instrument to produce his circle. In his years of working, gradually Giotto’s body becomes the tool. Not the hand, not the arm, not the fingers, but the entire body is employed, even down to the toes, when he drew his circle.

1945. So someone, I do not know who, said, “One learns to draw in ballet class,” meaning that to draw is to make marks on a paper controlled by the entire body, and not just the tips of the fingers. This is a concept hard to put into words, but is as true for the artist as it is for the person playing golf. If you will look again at pictures of Jackson Pollock as he is painting, there you will see after four hundred years the return of the O of Giotto. 

1946. But we are not done at this point with this O of Giotto. The importance of this anecdote is yet more complicated. The next remark we have to deal with concerns the reactions of the Pope, Vasari says, “When the Pope and many of his courtiers understood, they saw that Giotto must surpass greatly all the other painters of his time.” What is it exactly the Pope and his courtiers understood, as they looked at Giotto's circle?

1947. They understood nothing at all. Vasari knows this for a fact, but he would never ever have risked his life putting such an idea into print.  No, what we have here is the very first instance in art history of the artist’s utilizing intellectual intimidation to manipulate his patrons.  The Pope “understands” the circle in the exact same way the curators and Trustees of the Museum of Modern Art, “understand” Duchamp’s urinal.

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