Art and Inequality

Glass Hood Ornament on 1930s Automobile

Glass Hood Ornament on 1930s Automobile

Why is it that the most beautifully designed automobiles ever made came from the 1930s, a decade that was very good for the very rich, but not so good for everyone else?

On Saturday, Martine and I decided to risk going to visit the Nethercutt Collection despite the threat of an approaching rainstorm. We had a great afternoon looking at classic automobiles and got onto the freeway for the homeward trip just when the raindrops started to fall.

This particular visit raised that question about 1930s auto design. It appears that, sometimes, the greatest art comes during bad times. Going back as far as Ancient Greece, the Age of Pericles with its great tragedians was also the time of the horrible Peloponnesian War. John Milton did his best work under Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate. Marcel Proust wrote just as France was sliding toward the Great War of 1914-1918.

Does this mean that America may produce great art during the dictatorship of Donald J. Trump? Maybe not: There was little of note produced during the Bubonic Plague.

Prize-Winning 1932 Bugatti

Prize-Winning 1932 Bugatti

I guess it takes more than widespread misery to create a period of great art. We’ll just have to see what emerges in the years to come.

“Time Is Another River”

The Vermilion River

The Vermilion River

Here is a poem by Jorge Luis Borges called “The Art of Poetry”:

To gaze at a river made of time and water
And remember Time is another river
To know we stray like a river
And our faces vanish like water

To feel that waking is another dream
That dreams of not dreaming and that the death
We fear in our bones is the death
That every night we call a dream

To see in every day and year a symbol
Of all the days of man and his years
And convert the outrage of the years
Into a music, a sound, and a symbol

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
A golden sadness, such is poetry
Humble and immortal, poetry
Returning, like dawn and the sunset

Sometimes at evening there’s a face
That sees us from the deeps of a mirror
Art must be that sort of mirror
Disclosing to each of us his face

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders
Wept with love on seeing Ithaca
Humble and green. Art is that Ithaca
A green eternity, not wonders

Art is endless like a river flowing
Passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
Inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
And yet another, like the river flowing