Monday, September 29, 2003

A Morning with El Greco

It's a beautiful crisp clear Fall day in New York and I walked across the Park this morning to a private members preview of the large El Greco show that is to open at the Metropolitan Museum in a few days. I had special reasons. On this day fifteen years ago my father, Joachim Prinz, died. Two days later I would officiate at his funeral and deliver both the easiest and most difficult eulogy of my life. Like most people I have had a small number of best friends, but none better than he. Which brings me to El Greco.

Some people honor their loved ones with trips to the cemetery. I have never been so inclined. I'm not discounting visits to the grave, just saying they don't work for me. Those who really meant something in my life are embodied in how I function, ever present. Boy is that true in his case, so I went to see El Greco.

It was my father who instilled in me a passionate love for art, and it was during a summer we spent together in Europe that I got hooked on El Greco. It was a wonderful and eventful trip beginning on the Island of Ibiza off the Spanish coast on to the mountains of Switzerland and ending with about 12 hours spent in Berlin (my first and only visit to Germany). It was the summer that the Wall was being constructed and a shaken Jewish Community feeling uncertain once again about its future wanted him to preach in their synagogue.

The Spain portion included Madrid and from there that wonderful drive to the old city of Toledo. If you've made it, and are familiar El Greco's powerful painting of the walled city set against an angry sky which echoes your experience, you know how moving the approach can be. I made a similar trip with one of my own sons and had an identical reaction. Once in Toledo, we entered the world of El Greco.  Paintings were everywhere, the best hanging on the walls of the Cathedral's sacristy. Those narrow figures, that unforgettable vivid color, often sparsely used, often contrasting with the grayness of skin. I was astounded and to this day whenever I visit a new museum and encounter an El Greco in its collection, I get excited. I don't have a single favorite painter, but certainly none more favorite than this man from Greece.

I don't know how you remember. My remembrance on this day was, as always, thrilling. I could have experienced a similar connection with Rembrandt, with Van Gogh, with any of the Impressionists, with Matisse or Picasso. Roy Lichtenstein, Chuck Close and their crowd are in my realm, definitely not his but that's what next generations are all about. The point is, the relationship continues and even if you didn't know him, go see El Greco at the Met.  Perhaps not the paintings themselves, but the sheer experience of human creativity, the wonder of it all, is his rich legacy. Share it with me. You won't be sorry.

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