Both the title of the book I’m reading, and a fairly accurate description of life generally right now. Even with all of my readings for my courses, I still love finding time to read for fun. It also happens to be a rather nice way to stay engaged with art history, at least in this instance– a bit like coming up for air when many of my course readings involve discourses on management, and the idea of creativity.
Everything is Happening, Journey into a Painting by Michael Jacobs (available here) is a personal journey of discovery about Velasquez’s Las Meninas, a painting that occupied Jacobs’s thoughts for much of his life. His descriptions of the painting, and of Spain are lovely. His knowledge of, combined with his true love of the painting are wonderful to read– creating commentary that is both entertaining and insightful. In many ways it reminded me of why I fell in love with Art History– the prospect that “in studying a work of art I would be following a detective trail that might lead to some ultimate illumination”. The end of the book was finished by his friend Ed Vulliamy, who wrote about his experience here, and is definitely worth a read.
As well as wonderful descriptions of the painting, and of Jacobs’s many encounters with it and different theories about it’s meaning, I love the personal stories of his that surround the work, and even more the description of the the paintings protection during the Spanish Civil War. For such a wonderful book, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness as I near toward the end. Jacobs didn’t manage to finish his book, as he died unexpectedly just a few months after beginning it.
Even if you don’t generally like art history, or Spanish painting, or even Velasquez, it’ s a wonderful read, and may even change your mind about about at least one of them. It’s written written with a true love that’s genuine, and almost infectious, and makes you feel the painting, and Jacobs are both old friends you hope to visit soon.
I found it at a fantastic bookshop down the street from my flat (and just off of Portobello Road), in Notting Hill, called Lutyens & Rubinstein. A smaller bookshop, it has a fabulous selection of both fiction and nonfiction, and an impressive array of art books and cookbooks that I can’t wait to go back and look through. If you find yourself in the area its definitely worth checking out!