Marginal Footnotes

Washington: City of Art
May 28, 2006, 2:17 pm
Filed under: Literary, Media, Random, Uncategorized

Rather than writing my paper on the representation of Belfast in contemporary Irish fiction, I've decided to spend the initial part of my day procrastinating in my usual way of reading the news.  Sometimes I'm happy I've done this, but mostly not.  But today I apparently chose my clicks wisely and stumbled upon this delightful article by Paul Richard in the Post.  

Richard's article is a eulogy for a lost art.  His style, economical and therefore weighty, elegaically enacts his theme.  He at once celebrates the great sculptural art that defines Washington while lamenting its 'poignant death', the date of which he knows precisely.  This is the day of the Lincoln Monument's dedication.  Since that day, nothing has matched what Daniel French accomplished with his monumental portrait of Lincoln. 

This is indisputably the case, and this is why nearly everyone who visits Washington is struck most profoundly by the Lincoln.  Perhaps also they are struck because of what they know about Lincoln, and what he accomplished.  His accomplishments are matched aesthetically by French, and this is why the monument succeeds where other monuments merely signify.  French's genius is also manifest in the quiet humanism which embodies the memorial–Lincoln here is contemplative rather than active, serene rather than embattled.  We recognize that great leaders are made of moral courage and reflection, rather than hasty (re)action and pertinaciousness.     

All cities are cities of art.  Dublin is the city of stained glass windows, and of Joyce and Roddy Doyle; Belfast a city where the writing is literally on the wall, a city of murals; Florence the city of Michelangelo and Botticelli; New York and Paris cities of film; London the city of Dickens. 

Washington is also a city of art.  And although we may never have another Lincoln monument (who will ever again have the stature of Lincoln to justify such an endeavor?), Washington will continue to service the American consciousness about that imagined community we call a nation. 


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