The Drunken Silenus: On Gods, Goats, and the Cracks in Reality

Leanne Ogasawara in the Dublin Review of Books:

A man finds himself in Antwerp with nothing to do. Then he remembers, among other things, that this is the town where the painter Peter Paul Rubens made his home. At first, this annoys him, because he has no interest whatsoever in the painter. But then he thinks, why not write a book about Rubens.

Why not, indeed?

Essayist and critic Morgan Meis sets out to develop a new style of writing about art, one that is informed by a passionate looking. One could argue that this is not new, that Meis is returning to a time when intellectuals had charmingly erudite conversations about paintings, history, and music. Not only could they bedazzle at a cocktail party, but they could write about it too ‑  art inspired by art. Meis’s long essay about one particular Rubens painting reminded me of William Golden’s classic discourse on Thermopylae or John Pope Hennessy’s study of the “Best Picture in the World”. For in the examination of the particular we are able to ponder deep truths. And like the greatest essayists before him, Meis is scholarly but not encyclopedic, meandering instead of direct.

More here.