The picking of nits is a profession time-honor’d

Monday, 26 December 2005 — 10:09pm

Every day, The Calgary Herald digs up and prints a piece from a century ago in their editorial page. In light of recent flirtations with the matter of art (more matter, less art?) I thought I would share today’s selection, dated 28 December, 1905.

Art in the East and West

When a man can paint a sunset, he gets the notion into his head that all men who can’t paint sunsets, or who can’t paint at all, are of no use on earth. A well known Montreal artist was given an order to do some decorative painting of a pioneer scene for a western town. He did the work in Montreal where there is supposed to be a true artistic atmosphere, and the east went wild over the painting. They said it was as good as anything ever done.

People in the west have learned to scrape away the ideal and demand the real thing, whether in art or cooking. When the canvas was sent west the committee found that the neck yoke in the picture was a new fangled bolted affair, not the curved yoke of the olden days, and that the driver walked on the “off” side of the team.

According to one of the committee, if a right handed driver should walk on the right side of the team he was driving in the picture, his whip would have to pass clean through his body and the body of the “off” ox to reach the ox on the “near” side. Then the committee discovered that the beasts the pioneer was driving were sleek fat shorthorns instead of the angular longhorns. The work was refused.

Evidently, the hyperinflation of society’s premium on réalisme is nothing specific to our own recent times.

I’ve caught up with six theatrical releases in the past three weeks, with more on their way, and I don’t have time to chat about them with the individual specificity they merit. I will say, however, that preliminary verdict comprises two interdependent clauses: that those who think 2005 was a slump year for movies need to tumble off their high horse and smell the poo-poo, and that Steven Spielberg’s Munich is probably the film I will champion for the Best Picture Oscar. It’s a breath of fresh air in a cloud of smoke that already isn’t nearly as thick as a lot of people would have you believe.

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