Past the age of 50, Velázquez stopped painting definite things.  He glided round objects with the air, with the dusk.  He elicited quivering colours from the shadowy transparency of the background and made them the invisible centre of his silent symphony.  He gleaned from the world only those mysterious exchanges which allow shapes and sounds to intermingle in a secret and continuous progression that no collision, no involuntary movement can halt or betray.  Space reigns.  It is like an airy wave gliding over surfaces, absorbing their visible emanations to define and model them.  It carries them along like a scent, like an echo, and scatters them everywhere like some imponderable dust.

The world he lived in was sad.  The king was a degenerate, his children were sickly, and he was surrounded by idiots, dwarves and invalids.  There were ugly clowns, dressed like princes, whose purpose was to make fun of themselves to amuse people living outside reality, who were constrained by etiquette, who plotted and lied, who were bound by the confessional and by remorse, with the Inquisition and silence at the door.  There is a sense of nostalgia, but he avoids what is ugly, sad or cruelly morbid about this oppressed childhood.

Velázquez is the painter of the night, of vast expanses and of silence, even when he paints by day, even when he paints inside a room, even when the sounds of war, or of the hunt, are all around him.  As they didn’t go out during the day, when the sun obliterates everything, Spanish painters communed with twilight.

Pierrot le Fou


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