At $85 the catalog for the Jan van Huysum show at the MFAH seemed out of reach, but why buy the catalog when you can abuse your press credentials and get it for free? So I went to the media preview for the show. No dice. Moral quagmire avoided. I don't feel under any obligation to write about the show, though I will anyway, because I love those paintings. Everybody loves those paintings, they're beautiful. In fact, the only thing that might chafe anyone is that they're so easy to love that you begin to feel used.
I love them for their outrageous stiffness, for their unabashed Machiavellian contrivance, feigning nature caught off guard, for the erotic, gluttonous indulgence of the bursting blooms, held in the vise-like grip of painting stiff enough to stand a spoon in.
It's the same Dutch gene that led Mondrian to think he could reconstruct the world in a painting, and it's the same excessive zeal. Push back the sea.
Sam Segal, the book's principal author, led the tour. He was something we rarely see in Texas: an expert's expert, far from the great auction houses which are his natural environment. Introduced as the world's foremost expert on Dutch still lives, he looked the part- slightly rumpled, with untidy graying hair and little wire-rimmed glasses perched on his beaky nose. With an open sportcoat and no tie, a too-long black belt sticking out of his jacket at a crazy angle, he was impressive for his unimpressiveness.