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BOB DYLAN THE BRAZIL SERIES

WITH CONTRIBUTIONS BY JOHN ELDERFIELD KASPER MONRAD


Statens Museum for Kunst National Gallery of Denmark

BOB DYLAN THE BRAZIL SERIES


WITH CONTRIBUTIONS BY JOHN ELDERFIELD KASPER MONRAD
Statens Museum for Kunst National Gallery of Denmark

Book
Reserarch: Kasper Monrad Editor: Sven Bjerkhof Picture editor: Pernille Feldt Proofs: Annette Bjrg Koeller Monrads articles in English: James Manley Graphic design: Pernille Ferdinandsen Photos: Joshua White / jwpictures.com Reproduction, printing and binding: Narayana Press, Odder, Denmark Font: Yoga. Paper: Scheufelen BVS matt white 170 g 2010 Statens Museum for Kunst / National Gallery of Denmark

INDHOLD
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Preface Karsten Ohrt The painter Bob Dylan An introduction Kasper Monrad Across the Borderline John Elderfield The Paintings The Brazil Series Kasper Monrad

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ISBN 978-87-92023-47-6 ISBN 978-87-92023-46-9 English version Danish version

Exhibition
16 Statens Museum for Kunst National Gallery of Denmark 4 September 2010 20 February 2011
Research: Kasper Monrad Education: Ulla Norton Kierkgaard Architect: Anne Schnettler Assistant: Jacob Helbo Bstrup Jensen Exhibition producer: Gitte Kikkenberg Exhibition coordinator: Lene Christiansen Transportation: Thor Nrmark-Larsen Conservation: Karen-Marie Henriksen og Anja Scocozza Art handling: Erik Kjrby Jensen, Mogens Kristiansen, Morten Srensen, Mikkel Thomsen og Jrgen Trolle

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THE BRAZIL SERIES SIDE 6

FORORD KARSTEN OHRT SIDE 7

PREFACE
Karsten Ohrt

PAGE 9

Kasper Monrad

THE PAINTER BOB DYLAN AN INTRODUCTION

When Bob Dylan presented a large selection of watercolours from The Drawn Blank Series1 at the art museum in Chemnitz, Germany, in 2007, this marked the first occasion on which he made a public appearance as a visual artist.2 This is not, however, to say that painting was an entirely new aspect of his artistic endeavours. He had been painting concurrently with his musical career for several years, but as he had largely kept this interest to himself, only few knew about it before the exhibition. The exhibition in Chemnitz met with great interest from the general public and was followed by an exhibition of a different selection of watercolours from the same series at a London gallery the following year.3 It would seem that this exhibition served to strengthen the artists desire to further explore this aspect of his creative talent. In the autumn of 2008, when the National Gallery of Denmark established contact with Bob Dylan through his manager and entered into an agreement on staging an exhibition in Copenhagen, Dylan regarded The Drawn Blank Series as a finished project and embarked on an entirely new series of paintings. This time, he would work with acrylics on canvas. The agreement to stage an exhibition clearly proved an incentive to the artist, heralding a period of intensive work. . Over the course of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 he executed a series of just under 50 paintings, all of them showing motifs from Brazil. Hence the umbrella title The Brazil Series. The presentations of the two series described in the above marked, then, the first occasions where the general public was able to form a comprehensive impression of Dylans work as an artist. He has not, however, concealed his interest in painting. As far back as 1978 he made the following statement: I have always painted. I have always held on to that one way or another.4 This is borne out by his autobiography, where he emphasises how he began drawing during the very early 1960s.5 In the early summer of 1974 Dylan even took a few months of painting lessons in New York, studying under ageing Expressionist painter Norman Raeben (1901-78). This would have an impact on him on several levels (for more on the influence Raeben had on Dylan, see John Elderfields essay). The preceding year, 1973, Dylan published the book Writings and Drawings, which featured illustration in the form of a range of very loose sketches. Prior to this he had done a few paintings which had been used as cover art for three albums, the first being The Bands Music from Big Pink from 1968, with the next being his own album Self Portrait from 1970. He also did a drawing for the

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PHOTOGRAPH OF BOB DYLAN IN HIS STUDIO, C. 1990 FIG. 1

cover of Planet Waves in 1973. Apart from these examples he has not exhibited his visual art to the public before 2007. He has been painting throughout all the years, but has definitely worked with greater focus on painting and with more concerted effort in recent years, prompted by specific occasions or a sense of purpose. The paintings must have a reason to exist, as he himself puts it.6 Bob says that it really works without the quote but if you need something here this quote more accurately reflects his sentiments. As a visual artist Dylan has ties to a figurative tradition that has remained vibrant up through the 20th century, taking on various guises and styles. The tradition has been particularly tenacious within American painting, defying all avant-garde attempts at putting it to rest. Within this vein of art, images take their point of departure in reality as we see it, and they often feature a narrative with a clearly discernable plot. In other words, the subject matter is vital to the overall artistic mode of expression. As regards the painterly mode of expression i.e. technique and colour schemes Dylans paintings seem to continue past trends, especially from French modernist painting from the 1920s (for details, see the article The Brazil Series). Over the years, Bob Dylan has occasionally made brief references to his drawings and paintings in his many interviews. The most specific comment on his work as a painter was made in an interview conducted in the spring of 2009: I just draw whats interesting to me, and then I paint it. Rows of houses, orchard acres, lines of tree trunks, could be anything. I can take a bowl of fruit and turn it into a life and death drama. Women are power figures, so I depict them that way. I can find people to paint in mobile home communities. I could paint bourgeois people too. Im not trying to make social comment or fulfill somebodys vision and I can find subject matter anywhere. I guess in some way that comes out of the folk world that I came up in.7 This statement was made while the artist was engaged on the paintings from The Brazil Series, and it elucidates his choice of subject matter as well as his work on the new paintings. The watercolours that form part of The Drawn Blank Series had their genesis in very special circumstances. The point of departure was a number of drawings which Dylan had executed during the years 1989-1991/92, of which around 90 drawings and sketches were reproduced in the book Drawn Blank from 1994. The original drawings would appear to have been lost, but can be seen on the wall in a rare photograph from Dylans studio from around 1990 (fig.

1). In the photograph the artist is seen surrounded by a number of quite large drawings mainly portraits that he has hung in serried ranks above the windows. The large drawings all share the same format. Perhaps he regarded them as a cohesive series even then. One of the portraits in question was included in the book. In 2007, when Dylan let himself be enticed into returning to the illustrations in Drawn Blank, he used the drawings in the book as the foundation of more than 300 watercolours and gouaches in which he took a more or less liberal approach to the drawn sketches.8 One could say that the series encompasses an inherent conflict, for the drawings were often executed as rapid, loose sketches, created in a matter of moments, whereas the watercolour versions of the motifs took on a far more definitive quality. Today, Dylan believes that the series cannot be regarded as representative of his art, and he himself is more interested in directing attention to The Brazil Series, which he feels is a far more accurate reflection of his endeavours within pictorial art.9 Compared to the watercolours, there can be no doubt that the new paintings were created as part of a process that is more characteristic of how the artist works. Here, he selected his subject matter with paintings in mind. In several cases, the paintings are based on drawn sketches intended as preliminary studies. The motifs of the watercolours very much reflect the circumstances under which the original drawn studies were made. Dylan did most of the drawings on his journeys; it seems that he would often act on impulse, capturing the motif he happened to have in front of him at the given time. Such subject matter might the furniture in the room of the hotel or motel he was staying in, or the more or less random view from the room. He also captured people passing by in the street or at a caf or bar, often depicted in an ephemeral manner, capturing the fleeting quality of the moment. The drawings and watercolours have a common denominator in that the motifs are generally viewed from a distance and depicted with a certain detachment. The paintings of The Brazil Series come across as far more direct and insistent. The artist moves in closer on the people depicted. In painterly terms the paintings do have a certain kinship with the watercolours, but even so they represent a clear development of Dylans artistic mode of expression. Some of the Brazilian scenes depict motifs that continue trends seen in some of the watercolours, such as Rain Forrest (cat. no. 14), which shows a room where a half-open balcony door offers a view of a verdant forest. A similar effect ap-

BOB DYLAN VIEW FROM TWO WINDOWS 2007 PRIVATE OWNER FIG. 2

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KASPER MONRAD THE PAINTER BOB DYLAN AN INTRODUCTION PAGE 13

CAT. 5

pears in the watercolour View from Two Windows (fig. 2). Other than this, there are crucial differences between the paintings and watercolours. The paintings incorporate figures to a much greater extent, and a strong narrative element has been added to the pictures. What is more, the artist did not relate to people as a remote watcher; he has stepped out among the people he wished to depict. This impression is corroborated by the artists own description of how the paintings were created. In many cases he would be struck by a sudden impulse and would initially draw his intended motif rapidly on a piece of paper, perhaps a paper napkin or paper bag that was immediately at hand; only later would he embark on painting.10 Thus, a number of motifs bear the hallmarks of having been experienced in real life. For example, the night scene from the small town of Bahia (cat. no. 3) in north Brazil was undoubtedly experienced by the artist himself. Similarly, the artist would certainly himself have seen the proud hunters posing with their game in the painting The Hunters (cat. no. 10), and would also have seen poor grape pickers such as those shown in The Vineyard (cat. no. 5) standing among the vines as they are monitored by the wine grower or his caretaker. In other cases the artists own imagination played the main part in sparking off ideas for subjects even if there is always a certain element of personal experience in the paintings. The artist wishes to tell stories with these images, and several paintings show dramatic scenes being played out. The events depicted range from marital clashes in Renunciation (cat. no. 27) to the results of a violent gang war in The Incident. In several cases Dylan can very accurately account for the narrative unfolding in the paintings, e.g. in Courtroom (cat. no. 39), where he can describe the role played by each individual character (see page XX). In other cases he has recorded a scene without knowing exactly what is going on, not settling on a single, particular interpretation. This is true of e.g. Countrymen (cat. no. 9), which essentially captures a brief moment involving some men by a river. In this case, the artist can offer no detailed account of any narrative. Unlike the preliminary drawn sketches, none of the paintings outside of the drawings,was executed in Brazil. In most cases some time had elapsed between the initial impulse to depict a given subject and the actual execution of the final painting. The paintings testify to how the artist has deliberated extensively on how each individual subject should be depicted, frequently making changes

during the course of his work. In many cases he obviously changed the colour scheme in small or large areas of a given painting; the original colour will often be visible through the topmost layer of colour. This creates rich and varied colour effects with areas of shimmering hues. In no case did he choose entirely neutral planes of colour. The watercolours and paintings differ in many respects. Still, the two series share a key common feature: In both cases the artist selected motifs that are very different from those chosen for his songs. Generally speaking, the visual images are more simple and direct, less laden with significance than the often complex songs. Unlike the songs, the images contain no chains of association where you are taken from one kind of image or illusion to another. Each individual image sticks to a single, cohesive illusion. The difference between songs and pictures is accentuated by the song in which Dylan makes his most overt reference to his work as a painter, i.e. When I Paint My Masterpiece.11 Here, Bob Dylan the songwriter first conjures up a visual impression of the streets of Rome filled with rubble only to elegantly jump on to a fantasy about a tryst with the niece of Renaissance painter Botticelli. Dylan the painter makes no corresponding leaps in his pictures. One might find parallels to the rubble of Rome in his paintings, but no counterparts to the imaginative date with Botticellis niece. The visual images do not mix different realities, nor do they mix reality with dream or reverie as is the case in e.g. Marc Chagall. As a painter, Dylan often selects subject matter that would lose its attraction if set in words. Paintings and songs seem to belong to separate universes, completing each other. This view is supported by the artist himself. He strongly opposes any attempts at seeing individual paintings as illustrations for a given song: If I could have expressed the same in a song, I would have written a song instead!12 In terms of working processes, songs and pictures are by their very nature different. When Dylan has written the lyrics for a song, the music is often created in a collective process where individual musicians help shape the final result. By contrast, the paintings are the work of a single man. But just as Dylan the musician is open to input from others, Dylan the artist is also surprisingly open to comments on the shaping of his paintings undoubtedly far more open than the majority of contemporary artists. In one particular aspect, however, Dylans paintings from The Brazil Series share a common feature with his songs. Paintings and songs are both part

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KASPER MONRAD THE PAINTER BOB DYLAN AN INTRODUCTION PAGE 15

NOTES
of a particular project an exhibition and an album, respectively and both projects have a finite end result: the opening of the exhibition or the release of the album. Just as Dylan would never write a new song for a finished album, he has made up his mind to not paint any more scenes from Brazil once The Brazil Series shipped to Copenhagen. This is not, however, to say that Dylan is about to lay down his brushes. He is busy contemplating what theme to address next.
1

The title Drawn Blank plays on the dual meanings of the phrase; the

act of drawing on blank paper and the act of drawing a blank.


2

Ingrid Mssinger (ed.), The Drawn Blank Series. Exhibition cata-

logue. Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Chemnitz 2007.


3

Andrew Graham-Dixon et al., The Drawn Blank Series. Exhibition

catalogue. The Halcyon Gallery, London 2008. As a result of the exhibition Bob Dylan engaged in treating some of the motifs from The Drawn Blank Series further, only now painted in acrylics on canvas, cf. Maurice Cockrill, Bob Dylan on Canvas. Exhibition catalogue. The Halcyon Gal-

Kasper Monrad Kasper Monrad was born in 1952 and read Art History at the University of Copenhagen, graduating as MA in 1981 and Phil.D. in 1989. He is an expert on Danish Golden Age art, i.e. from the first half of the 19th century. Employed at the National Gallery of Denmark since 1985; since 2001 as Chief Curator. His published books include Hverdagsbilleder. Dansk guldalder kunstnerne og deres vilkr (1989, dissertation; summary in English: Pictures of Everyday Life. The Golden Age of Danish Painting and Sculpture. The Artists and their Circumstances) and Dansk Guldalder. Hovedvrker p Statens Museum for Kunst (1994), and he has helped arrange a number of exhibitions about the Danish Golden Age in Denmark and abroad, most notably Mellem guder og helte. Historiemaleriet i Rom, Paris og Kbenhavn 1770-1820 (Statens Museum for Kunst, 1990), Caspar David Friedrich og Danmark/Caspar David Friedrich und Dnemark (Statens Museum for Kunst, 1991), The Golden Age of Danish Painting (Los Angeles & New York, 199394), Christen Kbke (Statens Museum for Kunst, 1996), Baltic Light/Im Lichte Caspar David Friedrichs/Under samme himmel (Ottawa, Hamburg, and Copenhagen, 1999-2000), Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (Washington, 2003), and Turner and Romantic Nature (Statens Museum for Kunst, 2004). He was also responsible for the exhibition Henri Matisse: Four Great Collectors (Statens Museum for Kunst, 1999).

lery, London 2010.


4

Jonathan Cott (ed.), Bob Dylan: Essential Interviews. New York

2006, p. 221.
5 6 7

Bob Dylan, Chronicles. Vol. 1. New York 2004, p. 269f. As stated by the artist in May 2010. Interview with Bill Flanagan at Bob Dylans website (http://www.

bobdylan.com/#/conversation?page=2).
8

The drawings were scanned from the book and digitally transferred

to watercolour paper, often several copies of each drawing. The watercolours were then done on these reproductions of the drawings.
9

Conversations with the artist on 10 December 2009 and 1 March

2010.
10

Conversation between the artist and the author of this piece, 10

December 2009.
11

Bob Dylan, Lyrics 1962-2001. New York, London, Toronto & Sydney,

2004, s. 271.
12

Conversation with the artist, 10 December 2009.

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SIDE 17

John Elderfield

ACROSS THE BORDERLINE

Songs are journeys that may tell of journeys, and in Bob Dylans songbook there are miles of journeys told in lines: the rolling lines of tracks and highways; and the city lines, skylines, and other such borderlines that lie across the way. These journeys are also quests: looking for a timeless new morning, a transformational experience, or maybe just to have some fun; and many of them seem to work out, although some end badly, and a fair number turn out to have been dreams. All, however, catch us with their familiarity, journeys like this being among the subjects of the earliest of all ballads and stories, and ones that regularly reappear in and indeed identify liminal times and places. Frequently filled, as in Dylans work, with metaphoric imagining, such stories tell of and reflect transitions between or confluences of traditions and civilizations, reaching across the borderline.1 In early modernism, a frequent borderline was the one that divided the modern city from an imagined arcadia imagined because it never existed; what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called the hectic of disease of modern civilization was as rampant in Paul Gauguin s Tahiti as back home in Paris, and it continued to remain as much of a danger in Jurez as on Desolation Row2. But the dream has remained more-or-less consistent: of being delivered by the hand of fate into an experience of fusion with some new but somehow familiar object a place, a person, a sound, a sense that exists outside quotidian reality and cognitive coherence.3 And the geography has remained fairly consistent, too, the imaginary Eden of modernism being nearly always further south than from where you came.4 This gets us to Dylans recent Brazil Series of paintings, which defy expectations insofar as there is hardly anything Edenic in their subjects at all, the closest thing to it being a glimpse of untamed rainforest (cat. 14), a few exotic dancers (cat. 19), and what looks like a great spaghetti dinner (cat. 17). Eden is invoked by some illustration of its opposite, dystopian aspects a huffy argument (cat. 26), a street fight (cat. 38), a poisoning on a stage (cat. 31) and, to complicate things further, there are two paintings of favelas (cat. 1 & 2), the notorious hillside shantytowns on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, that make them look positively cheerful. But the majority of the paintings show an ecumenical array of people, places, and things that together read a bit like a modern anthropologists report on the variety that is Brazil. So what is Dylan up to here? Those who have followed his career will know that his involvement in the visual arts, as a regular draftsman of everyday scenes and a deeply engaged viewer of paintings ancient and modern, goes back to his very beginnings as

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a mature songwriter and performer.5 He has occasionally published some drawings and has acknowledged the influence of painting on the composition of some songs, thereby offering us glimpses of his understanding of pictorial art; but only glimpses. He has made some serious forays into film; the visual art that the director Jim Jarmusch has claimed is closest to musical performance. However, it is only with The Brazil Series, and The Drawn Blank Series of 2007, based on drawings first published over a decade earlier, that formed the lead up to it,6 that he has now stepped forward publicly into the role of a painter. It deserves notice that his assumption of this role comes on the heels of his assuming other new roles notably as the author of his autobiographical Chronicles; as the highly communicative subject of Martin Scorseses film documentary; and as host of thematic radio programs of historical popular music even as his own recent recordings have increasingly taken upon themselves the task of simultaneously documenting his musical heritage and his own personal changes both as a performer and as a mortal being. Given these memorializing activities, we should not be too surprised that The Brazil Series somewhat resembles an anthropological report. Nonetheless, although these paintings may at first resemble picture postcards of Brazil, it soon becomes obvious that the figures look posed and the scenes staged. In this respect, they differ from his recent documentary enterprises, which indubitably were carefully prepared but do not show it; rather, were prepared to seem as unprepared as his recordings. Musicians who have worked with Dylan speak of his recording process as being utterly opposed to any trace of contrivance. Rob Stoner: Bobs music really is dependent on catching a moment theyre like snapshots, Polaroids () The first take is gonna be better even if its got some wrong notes or something.7 Kris Kristoffersen: He wanted first impressions, like a certain kind of painter.8 But certainly not like the kind of painter who made The Brazil Series. The paintings may ultimately derive from the quick capture of data, sights suddenly come upon and recorded in drawings, but they do not look like snapshots or film stills;9 rather, they show that they have been rehearsed and edited, posed for the viewer to look at them. Indeed, Dylan has said that, in making these paintings, he consciously reached out to an audience, as a painter who is also an entertainer is accustomed to do; only in a way that is consciously different from how he reaches out in his songs.10 The obvious question at this point is: If the character of Dylans Brazil paintings merely resembles that of his other recent productions, with their

documentary concerns, and that of his longstanding, snapshot-like approach to performance, being in fact neither documentary nor snapshot-like how, then, do these paintings partake of his visual imagination as we know it from his recent as well as longstanding work outside painting? Given the length and productivity of his career, this is a large subject: like the streets of Rome, the road to Brazil is filled with rubble too deep and ancient footprints far too numerous to possibly be dug up for this occasion. Therefore, what now follows are two short essays that pick and choose among the evidential record to offer a single view of Dylans pictorial enterprise, asking what the experience of The Brazil Series tells us about the imperatives of his visual imagination as it travels back and forth across the borderline between painting and song. Like the verses of some of his songs, the two parts of this diptych do not have to be taken in the order that they are printed. Lost in time The work of art; a stopping of time, wrote Pierre Bonnard in his diary on November 16, 1936.11 A work of art, Dylan said on January 26, 1978, should hold that time, breathe in that time, and stop time (...)12 Let us start with this; and end with it as well. Stories are composed of events and existents: that is to say, of actions, on the one hand; and of the actors and the settings of actions, on the other. Events shape the temporality of a narrative, one event after another, while existents shape its spatiality, one location after another.13 This is why the temporal dimension of song, and other word-chain compositions, has traditionally seemed more suited to the telling of events, whereas the spatial dimension of painting, and other pictorial arts, to the describing of appearances. Needless to say, a song can be descriptive and a painting narrative; however, in both song and painting, passages of description often slow down the narrative as our attention is shifted from the temporal to the spatial. The ways and means by which the temporal and narrative, on the one hand, answer to the spatial and descriptive, on the other, are critical to the realization of the Brazil paintings, most especially to the multi-figure compositions in the series. Each painting typically shows a moment frozen in time and space, populated by figures whose suspended movements point out directions around the painting for the eyes of viewers to follow. The classic account of constraints on the depiction of narrativity in visual art, in Gotthold Ephraim Lessings Laokoon of 1766, argued that, since painting was limited to the de-

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piction of arrested actions, the best recourse would be to show the pregnant moment of action stopped at a climactic moment; ideally, one that implied, because unable to show, those that preceded and followed it. The painting called Talebearer (cat. 25) adopts such an approach; but this is not quite what happens in most of the other figure compositions. Arrested actions do, to a greater or lesser degree, explicate the narrative subject of a painting: to a greater degree in The Argument (cat. 26); a lesser degree in Renunciation (cat. 27); and a much lesser degree in Gypsies (cat. 7). Therefore, these are paintings that frequently call out for titles more specific than those the artist has given them. But perhaps he has been less than specific in his titles because the principal task of the arrested actions is not to explicate the narrative subjects; is not, in fact, to unfreeze and extend the action of the subject in the viewers imagination by implying preceding and following moments. It is, rather, to maintain the freeze even while pointing out where to look from here to there, and then over there, extending the pictorial time of the painting by extending the duration of the viewers experience. Hence, in Gypsies, dissimilar elements made similar in a manner akin to that of rhymes among them, a pointing hand, a pointing bridge, a bench a bit like a bridge, and counting fingers forming a bridge comprise a directional signage, what Dylan calls a rhythmic code,14 that urges the viewers eyes around the painting. In order to understand how Dylan arrived at this approach, we need briefly to remind ourselves of the changing give-and-take between description and narration, and with it, between sight and sound, in the development of his early songs. In so doing, we quickly come back to painting because the visual, and painting in particular, had gained in importance for him by the mid-1970s to such an extent that his songs adopted modalities of pictorial composition. The actual practice of painting on Dylans part accompanied and aided this development; and the sources of his present, even more committed, preoccupation with painting may be found in what happened thirty years ago. The very terms that he has used to describe the changes brought by the experience of painting to the composition, most notably, of Blood on the Tracks (1974) Theres a certain structure to the lyrics which works under its own chronology. Shadows move morning noon and night interacting with each other at the same time.15 are substantially the same as those he recently applied to the composition of The Brazil Series. I said that, in both song and painting, passages of description often slow down the narrative as our attention is shifted from the temporal to the

spatial. In Bob Dylan (1962), his first album, there is little description to slow down the narrative because the songs are ballads with a traditional sense of time,16 telling stories with one event happening after the next. However, description being a potential attribute, even means, of narration as well as a potential constraint on its momentum, a firm distinction between the two is difficult to maintain.17 Dylan made it impossible to maintain in A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall, in The Freewheelin Bob Dylan (1963), for there the narrative is composed of one description after the next; more precisely, the descriptions are given narrative momentum as records of actions, one after another, of looking (Oh, what did you see ()?), listening (And what did you hear ()?), and describing (Oh, who did you meet ()?). Showing and telling are as one. Grasping this option, Dylan was off and running. The narrative of One Too Many Mornings, in The Times They AreA-Changing (1964), comprises a description of looking forward and backward from the crossroads of my doorstep down onto a street and back into a room. Chimes of Freedom, in Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964), carries the A Hard Rain approach further in interposed descriptions of the appearances produced by the actions of an electric storm and of the human characters to which these actions are dedicated all wrapped within a narrative of looking, listening, and describing within an artificially extended reach of time, not simply between, but Far between sundowns finish an midnights broken toll. The storm returns, as The wind howls like a hammer, at the end of Love Minus Zero / No Limit, in Bringing It All Back Home (1965), a song in which the element of description increases (and increasingly puzzles) as the narrative progresses; only here, as Christopher Ricks has observed, to seem to repudiate the temperate message that the narrative had been carrying.18 This gets us to Highway 61 Revisited (1965) and the apotheosis of narrative-picturing subtleties of Like a Rolling Stone, Ballad of a Thin Man, Just like Tom Thumbs Blues, and, most notably, of Desolation Row all songs in which the potential for propulsiveness in narrative, especially sung narrative, is given its head, and pulls picturing along with it at break-neck speed, only to end in exhaustion. (I do believe Ive had enough.)19 The pictorialism of Desolation Row is exceptional; the effect is perhaps of Dylan as Weegee, or some other roaming crime photographer. According to Al Kooper, Desolation Row was Eighth Avenue in New York City, an area infested with whore houses, sleazy bars, and porno-supermarkets totally beyond renovation or redemption.20 And yet, that is not what Dylan shows us,

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JOHN ELDERFIELD ACROSS THE BORDERLINE SIDE 23

BOB DYLAN WOMAN IN RED LION PUB 2007 GOUACHE, WATERCOLOUR OVER DIGITAL FINE ART PRINT ON DECKLE-EDGE PAPER 76.5 X 61 CM FIG. 1

but, rather, an analogous scenic universe of stock fictional or historical characters in usually unspecified places; and his showing, while linked to his telling, is more frequently a matter of inducing visualization than of showing-and-telling us what these characters or places actually look like. This is to say, descriptions are piled up to tell stories but not to specify appearances; it is our job to do the visualizing, and they provide information enough for that. So what does that visualizing comprise? Referring to Dylans next, seventh album, a reviewer of his recent Drawn Blank paintings observed: The real Dylan fan is going to find songs (or lines from them) visualized in this or that painting. Take a long look at Woman in Red Lion Pub (fig. 1) () and songs including Visions of Johanna and Just Like a Woman from Blonde on Blonde (1966) are bound to cross your mind.21 Is this, in fact, true? The woman who is Just Like a Woman, therefore not always or entirely like a woman, is characterized visually in the song only by means of appurtenances that either de-individualize her (her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls) or that she no longer possesses (her ribbons and her bows). In the latter respect, it is a bit like the famous story of an Irishman giving directions to a visitor by listing a string of landmarks that have all burned down. As for Visions of Johanna, the title points out that Johanna exists in the words of the song not in visualizations but in visions, the most striking of which is the very famous one glimpsed in the face of the near-at-hand character, Louise: The ghost of lectricity howls in the bones of her face / Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place. Not Johannas place but my place because, looking at the mirror of Louises face (Shes delicate and seems like a mirror),22 I see the vision of my face reflected there, only to see it replaced by visions of Johanna. How can a face that mutates from Louises to mine to Johannas be thought to be visualized in Dylans painting of one Woman in Red Lion Pub? a woman seen from the back, for that matter.23 This is not to say, however, that we cannot ourselves visualize these very imperfectly described heroines. Visualizing means forming a mental image of something not visible, and that is what we find ourselves doing as we follow these songs. In fact, it is because Dylan withholds things from full descriptive visibility in the words of his songs that we find ourselves wanting to visualize them. Wanting is akin to desiring, and unsatisfied want will increase desire just as impediments will extend it. Therefore, when Dylan throws up barriers to visibility in his songs, we should stop and wonder why he is doing this impeding and encouraging of our visualizing. In the case of these heroines, it is reasona-

ble to suppose that his withholding of visibility is a way of speaking of unavailability of the unavailability of women, that is; one of his perennial subjects. So why would Dylan restore in the pencil and paint of The Drawn Blank Series what a description of desire and its impediments had withheld in his songs? As Ricks observes in a brilliant essay, influential on mine, on making visual images of Keatss poetry, this would be no more than the condescending granting of pictorial assistance to words that were designed to stand in no need of support from a sister art.24 Likewise, The Brazil Series paintings cannot be thought to visualize images in Dylans songs. At the same time, the give-and-take between visual description and narrative exposition in the songs is also manifest in his paintings. In the songs, exchanges between sight and sound are enrolled in this larger reciprocation. For example, in Visions of Johanna, the potential of visualizing at its most vivid is reserved for things not seen but heard: In this room the heat pipes just cough. We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight. And, in a different mode, The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain. We look for these sights as we hear of them, just as we look for sights when prompted by movements in our peripheral vision. That is to say, we are turned unexpectedly but expectantly to these details as to the appurtenances in Just Like a Woman; both are accessories clustered around and peripheral to our vision of the actual protagonists that, catching our attention, offer themselves as moments of unforeseen revelation.25 It is with a similar sense of prompting that, in the Brazil figure paintings, we are caught by gestures and expressions that sponsor our shifts of attention and swerves of distraction from part to part of their compositions. Their sustaining grasp carries us, at times without our quite knowing why, across the space and time that is internal to these paintings as the artist might say, spellbound: Of his film, Renaldo and Clara (1977), he recently said, Ever look at a painting by Paul Czanne, any one, take your pick Boy in the Red Vest, Les Grandes Baigneuses, any number of others you get lost in the painting for that period of time. And you breathe minutes are going by and you wouldnt know it, youre spellbound. Paintings have a certain power. The movie was supposed to have been like that.26 Even the most wishful of Edenic dreams do not, at heart, express a craving for some particular object or place; the quest, as the psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas puts it, is not to possess the object; rather, the object is pursued in order to surrender to it as a medium that alters the self.27 Therefore,

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it is not a matter of geography, or indeed of subject matter, at all. Although travel narratives and associated forms of transitional fiction, like ballads and childrens stories, are particularly adept at the telling of transformational experiences which is why they play so prominent a role in Dylans work it is not travel but transformation that they sponsor. And sponsorship of transformation in an experiential context brings with it commitment to the efficacy of the artistic; and to an artistic engagement as, again in Bollass words, a caesura in time when the subject feels held in symmetry and solitude by the spirit of the object.28 It does matter whether or not a work of art can describe an Edenic encounter, but it matters a great deal more whether or not it can deliver one. Born in time Dylan took drawing lessons in high school and returned to drawing in the early 1960s in New York, which is also when he began to visit the citys art museums, particularly The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art.29 It is unclear when he took up painting, but it may have not been until his wife Sara bought him a box of oil paints for his twenty-seventh birthday, in Woodstock in 1968.30 In any event, one of the two best known of his early paintings was made that year, as the cover for the Bands Music from Big Pink (1968) (fig. 2); the second for the cover of his Self-Portrait (1970) (fig. 3). For the artist, their continuing circulation is, at best, a reminder of how far he has come since then. They have that function for his viewers, too; but they are additionally instructive in isolating two ways of composing that Dylan will bring together in later, more sophisticated works. The Band cover (fig. 4) is a fantasy in an apparently unschooled style, showing a group of musicians, one sprawled over a piano, with a prickly looking tree in the background and an elephant walking in from the right. It is a work of Dylanesque Surrealism in line with what had been developing in his work since Mr. Tambourine Man (1964). That it was intended to have a nave and chimerical appearance is suggested by the similar, but more sober cover that Dylan made the same year for the folk song magazine, Sing Out! 31 Moreover, in the same issue of that magazine, there appeared an interview between Dylan and John Cohen and Happy Traum, in which he used an analogy with painting to respond to the suggestion that, It seems that people are bombarded all the time with random thoughts and outside impulses, and it takes a songwriter to

pick something out and create a song out of them. He recently enlarged upon this: George Bellows can take a barn that is standing right in front of him, hook it up with an old Packard from 20 miles away, a strutting peacock from around the corner, a whole bunch of models that he poses and paints individually, casts it all in a certain shadow and light, maybe even throw in some prize fighters and an overhanging bridge and call it a painting. The experience didnt exist before, nor will it ever in the future, however the reality of it is undeniable. Its not that he starts out willfully to paint this picture, but the feel of the idea comes to reveal itself. Its something for the viewer to deal with.32 Thats also more or less what Dylan seems to have done in making the bright, strong Music from Big Pink cover. However, in the songs, the images are revealed one after another in a prescribed sequence, whereas in the Band cover, they are shown simultaneously to be taken sequentially at the viewers discretion, the visual artist being able only to suggest or urge particular pathways for perceptual experience. By this time, Dylan was already putting together images in his songs in a way that pulled against the temporal sequences of their delivery. Hence, in this same interview he speaks of how those on the album John Wesley Harding (1967) lack this traditional sense of time, as compared to conventional ballads.33 One example he gives is of the cycle of events working in a rather reverse order in All Along the Watchtower. With a song like this, you have to think about it after you hear it, and it sort of reveals itself backwards, but with a ballad, you dont necessarily have to think about it after you hear it, it can all unfold to you. The difference is between time that unfolds sequentially over the duration of a ballad, forming a seamless narrative whole, and time that moves dissonantly and nonsequentially over that duration and that, therefore, invites the listener to keep on replaying it in the mind in order to grasp the simultaneous order of its parts and the potential narratives that they may be made to compose. Just like looking at a painting. Nonetheless, in a song the events are still delivered one after the other in the time of the performance. A visual artist, who arranges events in space, can constrain, but not compel, the viewer to take them in a particular order; and the simplest way of doing so seen, for example, in Egyptian reliefs and Greek vases is to establish a ground register along which the pictorial events can be arranged, one after the next, in such a way as to urge a single spatiotemporal reading. Given its

BOB DYLAN MUSIC FROM BIG PINK 1968 ALBUM COVER FIG. 2

BOB DYLAN SELF-PORTRAIT 1970 ALBUM COVER FIG. 3

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CAT. 7

clarity, this was a favored method of the pregnant moment approach to narrative representation, discussed in the Lost in Time essay, and we see it used with that approach in Dylans The Tale Bearer (cat. 25). A less linear narrative, however, may be produced by creating a color connection between pictorial events; something we see in the work of great colorists from Titian through Henri Matisse, where a sometimes very complex pictorial time is produced by the eye being urged to respond to contrasts and echoes of color, and thereby to jump from instant to instant across and around a composition.34 This is, needless to say, a more difficult approach to the issue, so it is fascinating to see Dylan attempting it in a very rudimentary manner in the Band cover image. He associates the three musicians holding string instruments by the color pairings of their respective costumes red-yellow, blue-yellow, and green-ocher that speak to and answer each other as notes or chords do.35 It is pretty basic stuff, but it does show that Dylan is not merely setting down a fantasy image but thinking about how a picture can be constructed by pictorial means. Since the shape and size of area occupied by a color influence the intensity with which that color is perceived, the color-connection method is closely related to the shape-connection method used in The Brazil Series. Dylan makes us aware of this in, among other works, Barbershop (cat. 28), where the rhyme of areas of similar shape and color but very different size associates the gown of the man having his hair cut and the beard of the foreground figure, inviting us, as Dylans rhymes often do, to infer a causal connection between unlikely partners. However, color is muted in most of The Brazil Series, a limitation that may well be a response to the less successful works in The Drawn Blank Series often being those with high prismatic color, and having the advantage of giving the greater compositional role to more easily managed tonal likenesses and contrasts as well as avoiding, except in a few works, a quality of southof-the-border picturesque. Dylan has tended to shrug off the cover for Self-Portrait (cat. 3), saying that nobody had remembered to commission cover art, so he did it himself in about five minutes.36 Be that as it may, it is a strong image, the disembodied, ironically disengaged mask-face wedged into the pictorial rectangle and torqued there through asymmetries of drawing and color. This is an ancient manner of composing figural images, deriving from the need to fit them into assigned architectural compartments, and one that continues to serve artists well; its remarkable longevity largely derives from how the bodily shape, contained in such a manner, may be adjusted so as to seem both to compose and

to be composed by the rectangle it inhabits. This happens with the face on the Self-Portrait cover; it seems to design the painting and to be designed by it. With larger bodily shapes, in elongated rectangles rather than squares, the posture of the figure will need to be engaged in order to activate this reciprocal design process. Jumping ahead to around 1990, a splendid example of this process is the Two Sisters pencil drawing published in the original, 1994 Drawn Blank book (fig. 4). The twinned bodies are overlapped, but they are depicted in plane, so that they appear in places to be abutted, as comprising tangential not in fact overlapping forms. It is, therefore, a single, two-figured shape that governs the space in which it is drawn, the artist seeming to submit his design to the force of its figuration. And yet, the shape of the figuration is governed by the geometry of the pictorial shape, the artist submitting to his material means in order to gain command over the figural shape.37 Although many of the original Drawn Blank drawings are as strong as the colored versions of 2007, the added coloration brings with it the association of a performance upon the original drawing, akin to the effect of timbre mellow or reedy, dark or bright, clear or flat in the musical performance of a lyric. In this case among others, however, coloration (seemingly helped by knowledge of Max Beckmans paintings) assumes the additional pictorial function of amplifying and complicating the fluctuations into and out of depth and lateral slides across the surface (fig. 4). Here, strange composite images ensue: the bent leg of the foreground sister attaches to her siblings midriff, seemingly as much above as behind her; her bent arm attaches to her siblings face, and the fanning fingers of that arm to the fanning verticals of a wall that is nominally but not visually in the far distance. Far more than in the rudimentary Music from Big Pink cover, connections, and disconnections, made by the shaping of color, albeit tonal color, make the Two Sisters sheets among the strongest of the 2007 compositions.38 They set the pattern for the most compelling works in The Brazil Series among them the puppet play of Gypsies (cat. 7), the bodily network of Sideshow (cat. 19), and the diorama-like Countrymen (cat. 9) which likewise offer us images of apparent reality, unlike the fantastic scenario on the Band cover. A distinction between these two modes of forming mental images one consistent with reality, the other not so had surfaced in the creation of Blonde on Blonde. As Michael Coyle and Debra Rae Cohen have observed, its fantastic, Surrealistic representations of reality are consistently destabilized most no-

BOB DYLAN TWO SISTERS 2007 GOUACHE, WATERCOLOUR OVER DIGITAL FINE ART PRINT ON DECKLE-EDGE PAPER 61 X 76.5 CM FIG. 4

CAT. 25

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CAT. 7

ticeably in representations of women, causing them to seem absent from the songs ostensibly for or about them, but also in the self-representations that run through an album whose very title screams confusion of identities, while also initializing BoB.39 (Yeah, well, Im everybody anyway.40) This advancement of and yet retreat from the fantastic speaks of an important moment of transition in Dylans work; and he has spoken of the creation of Blonde on Blonde as the moment after which he lost his ability to compose unconsciously, presumably meaning unselfconsciously.41 It was at this point that painting was called upon to help. But neither the fantasy image on Music from Big Pink nor the deadpan Self-Portrait cover image quite served. It took me a long time to get to do consciously what I used to be able to do unconsciously, he told Jonathan Cott in 1978.42 The echo is inescapable of Coleridges famous distinction between primary and secondary imagination: the former, spontaneous and elemental; the latter, mitigated by the conscious act of imagining,43 which would now become Dylans method. He added: I had the good fortune to meet a man in New York City who taught me how to see. He put my mind and my hand together in a way that allowed me to do consciously what I unconsciously felt. And I didnt know how to pull it off. I wasnt sure it could be done in songs because I hadnt written a song like that. But when I started doing it, the first album I made was Blood on the Tracks. Everybody agrees that that was pretty different, and whats different about it is that there are characters in the song that have their own specific code of behavior that might bump up against our sense of time. They all exist in a common area yet theyre in personal territory. Also, youve got yesterday, today, and tomorrow in the same room, and theres very little that you cant imagine happening or not happening. When and where and to whom makes no difference. The first critical question raised by this statement is: Why did Dylan speak of being taught how to see, not taught how to paint, when it was some four months of painting lessons in 1974 under the tutelage of an artist named Norman Raeben that effected this transformation?44 The answer, I take it, is that his painting lessons focused on painting visible objects, learning the discipline of mind-eye-hand response to the perceptual world. Dylan says as much when answering, for Allen Ginsberg in 1977, the second question raised by this statement: What precisely does he means by doing something consciously? Ginsberg: And what does a conscious artist practice? Dylan: Being awake.

Blocking out things. Being immune to distractions. Actuality. You cant improve on it actually.45 In fact, the situation is a bit more complicated than that because, and this is the third critical question we have to ask: If Dylan, the conscious artist, is focused on actuality, what does he mean by doing consciously what he unconsciously felt? To start with, what does this mean in the context of his art lessons? To my knowledge, the only example Dylan has given of what Raeben specifically asked him to do is: he put this vase in front of me and he says, You see this vase? And he put it there for 30 seconds or so and then he took it away and he said, Draw it. Well, I mean, I started drawing it and I couldnt remember shit about this vase Id looked at it but I didnt see it.46 Effectively, Raeben was using the early modern, neo-Symbolist teaching method that Matisse used, when he advised his students: Close your eyes and hold the vision, and then do the work with your own sensibility.47 Of his own work, Matisse said, if I close my eyes, I see objects better than with my eyes open,48 meaning that the affect produced by an object would better be grasped after he had been looking at it, which aided the production of an image of the object in which denotation and connotation were combined. Dylan speaks of how, with a song on John Wesley Harding (1967), There are walls within walls. Time itself is a shape. Everything happens within certain perimeters.49 So he was somewhat prepared for what Raeben, like Matisse before him, was urging: basically, to listen to the Symbolist poet Stphane Mallarm s famous mandate, To paint not the thing but the effect it produces; 50 then paint both. To do so required that both looking and remembering looking had to be done in a concentrated way: the deeper the concentration on the object, in actuality and in memory, the more that the mind will find in it associations that the mind provides, associations intrinsically, imaginatively connected to the object, and not fantasies. To this Dylan adds, What Mallarm says is true. Basically that s what a songwriter does. It s the sound of the words which make the effect. I m not sure if you can apply that technique to painting. Personally, my type of painting is just the opposite of that. I paint for the theater, for an audience. 51 Dylan said of Raeben, He connected my hand and my eye up to some degree.52 I had a lot of fantasy dreams. He doesnt respect fantasy. He respects only imagination.53 The 1966 songs in Blonde on Blonde distanced themselves from their own Surrealism for its fantasy, but the 1968 Music from Big Pink painting epitomized a druggy Dylanesque Surrealism. Now, however, Dylan began

CAT. 19

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CAT. 7

to push against fantasy in favor of imagination the voluntary summonings of the conception of things absent or impossible, in John Ruskins celebrated words; and the pleasure and nobility of the imagination partly consists in its knowledge and contemplation of them as such, i.e. in the knowledge of their actual absence or impossibility at the moment of their apparent presence or reality (.)54 Hence, the imaginative is based in a strong sense of the actual, but focuses on the actual only to break up its fixity in time and space. Speaking of subsequent songs that benefited from Raebens lessons, Dylan referred to the ones that more or less have the break-up of time, where pieces of it come at you from all angles.55 It is the very intensity of a Ruskinian focus on the actual that causes the imaginative break-up of the actual into shards that reflect its surrounding space and time; and hence, sights, sounds, odors in the sensible world absent and impossible otherwise to make present and real. In the new songs, this meant following the imperatives of painting. Of Tangled Up in Blue, Dylan said, Look, the carpenter in the song is in the present. Hes up to date in the moment. Hes carrying no baggage but hes conjuring up a lot of past images. You dont know how far past. Could be yesterday could be ten years ago. Hes under a flat roof but the ceiling could be sloping. You wouldnt know it it all has the same reflection. I suppose the song is like a Rubens painting - maybe Massacre of the Innocents or something - only difference is you hear it instead of see it.56 But if a song becomes like a painting, what is left for a painting to do? Dylan says, Nothing, concerning the song, but a lot concerning the composition of a narrative painting. Mood always directly affects the nature of a song. You can begin with it or end with it. But because painting is so tactile, mood has little to do with its make-up - where it starts or where it ends. The two art forms are worlds apart. Just because you can do one, it doesnt necessarily follow that you can do the other. Each has a different purpose in how you adjust to life and expose things.57 A song, like a painting, can make us spellbound, lost in time. But a painting can also allow us to discover, found in the time of our viewing, what it means for the actual actually to be seen to be absent, even as it is made apparently

present: made at once absent and present as it is shaped by the imagination; shaped into the code of a painting with no sense of time, except for the time created by following the trail laid down by the rhythmic code. There are many ways of doing this. Dylans is a deeply atavistic way that pays the price of not connecting with the most contemporary of idioms in order to retain contact with the figurative art of the past.58 But, as T.S. Eliot cautioned, The perpetual task of poetry is to make old things new. Not necessarily to make new things (.)59 And what Dylan himself said of traditional songs, theyre not going to die,60 reminds us that the old methods that he uses to make his new paintings I didnt invent this, you know. Many others have worked this way.61 breathe still.

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NOTES
John Elderfield John Elderfield (born 1943) is an independent curator and art historian, and Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, where he has directed more than twenty exhibitions, ranging from Fauvism and its Affinities (1976) and Kurt Schwitters (1985) to the celebrated Henri Matisse: A Retrospective (1992), and more recently, Manet and the Execution of Maximilian (2006), Armando Revern (2007), and Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-17 (2010). As Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum, he reinstalled that collection in 2004 in its newly rebuilt premises. He earned B.A. and M.Phil. degrees from the University of Leeds and a Ph.D. from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London University, and has been awarded a Harkness Fellowship, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, and the first Mitchell Prize for a book on twentieth-century art. In addition to his exhibition catalogues, he has published books on Hugo Ball (1974/1996), Helen Frankenthaler (1988), and Pierre-Paul Prudhon (1997), among others; some seventy-five articles on modern art and related subjects; and he lectures widely. Among his recent affiliations and awards, he has been a Visiting Fellow at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles (2001); an Associate Fellow at the American Academy in Rome (2206); named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People of the Year (2005); was made Officier dans lOrdre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government (2006); and awarded an honorary D. Litt. from the University of Leeds (2008). He serves on the board of the Dedalus Foundation, the Members Board of the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C, the American Advisory Committee of the Courtauld Institute of Art, and the American Committee of the Premium Imperiale Prize. His immediate projects include the exhibition, with accompanying publication, De Kooning: A Retrospective (2011).
For their close and careful reading of the penultimate version of this text, and their very helpful suggestions, I am indebted to Jeanne Collins, Terry Winters, and especially Christopher Ricks. I am also particularly grateful to Bob Dylan, not only for talking to me about his paintings, but also for his illuminating comments on this text, now incorporated into it, and refinement of a number of his earlier statements that I have quoted.
1

bobdylan.com/#/songs, which allows one to search for individual words and phrases. On occasion, however, I quote silently; therefore readers puzzled by such unexpected constructions as than from where you came (from Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues) might wish to use the search feature.
5

Rather than clutter the pages with references for events in Dylans

career, I suggest that neophytes consult Nigel Williamson: The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan, London 2006, and that the adventurous open www.

The relationship of metamorphic imagining and cultural transitions

taxhelp.com/reference, a portal onto the vast bibliography.


6

is intrinsic to the subject of two fascinating volumes, Caroline Walker Bynum: Metamorphosis and Identity, New York 2001, and Marina Warner: Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self, Oxford 2002. Their plates could well serve as illustrations for Dylans famous 1966 statement on metamorphic imagery in traditional music. See Interview with Nat Hentoff, Playboy, March 1966; reprinted in Jonathan Cott (ed.): Bob Dylan. The Essential Interviews, New York, 2006, p. 98. I should add here that, while the phrase on the borderline appears in two of Dylans songs (Girl from The North Country and Idiot Wind), Across the Borderline is the title of a song by Ry Cooder. However, Dylan told his audience at Montreux on July 9, 1990 that he was going to (and he did) play them again a song (this song by Cooder) they had already heard that evening because its so good.
2

Ingrid Mssinger and Kerstin Drechsel (ed.): Bob Dylan. The Drawn

Blank Series, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Chemnitz 2007; Bob Dylan: Drawn Blank, New York and Toronto 1994.
7

Quoted in Clinton Heylin: Bob Dylan. Behind the Shades Revisited,

New York 2003, p. 403.


8 9

Ibid., p. 344. However, they do bear comparison with contrived film stills used

for publicity purposes, as opposed to prints made from frames of a film; and Dylans deep interest in film clearly informs The Brazil Series.
10 11

To the author, March 2010. L oeuvre d art; un arrt du temps. Quoted in Bonnard, Centre

Georges Pompidou, Paris 1984, p. 195.


12

Interview with Jonathan Cott, Rolling Stone, January 26, 1978, in

T. Colmer [ed.]: On the Constitution of the Church and State. Vol. 10

Cott, 2006, p. 192.


13

of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, London 1976, p. 42.


3

Seymour Chatman: Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Ficti-

See Christopher Bollas: The Shadow of the Object. Psychoanalysis of

on and Film, Ithaca and London 1978, p. 21. In this discussion of narrative, I draw upon my Manet and the Execution of Maximilian, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, pp. 89-93, 121-125, a publication that Dylan owns.
14 15 16

the Unthought Known, New York 1987, especially chapters 1 and 2, The transformational object and The spirit of the object as the hand of fate, pp. 13-40.
4

Rather than provide multiple references to phrases in Dylans songs,

To the author, March 2010. To the author, commenting on this text in April 2010. Interview with John Cohen and Happy Traum, Sing Out!, October-

I usually give the song title only, the full text of songs being readily available in Bob Dylan. Lyrics, 1962-2001, New York 2004, and in www.

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JOHN ELDERFIELD ACROSS THE BORDERLINE PAGE 35

November 1968, in Cott, 2006, p. 122.


17

24

Christopher Ricks: Undermining Keats, The New York Review of

cobalt blue. Q: Why cobalt blue? A: Its the color of dissent. Interview with Ron Rosenbaum, Playboy, March 1978, in Cott, 2006, p. 221.
36

ter Terry Winters observed that Dylans statement makes him sound like an advocate of the specific objects of Minimalist art.
46 47

For a technical summary of the problem, see Wallace Martin: Re-

Books LVI, 20, December 17, 2009, pp. 46-49; quotation at 49.
25

cent Theories of Narrative, Ithaca and London 1986, pp. 122-123.


18

In this respect, such details are associable with the familiar trope in

Of making the painting, Dylan has said: Staring at the blank canvas

Cartwright in Ibid., pp. 85-86. Sarah Steins Notes (1908), in Jack Flam (ed.): Matisse on Art, Ber-

Christopher Ricks: Dylans Visions of Sin, New York 2004, pp. 287-

early modernist painting, from Ingres to Bonnard, of using peripherally placed accessories to evoke rather than describe; meaning thus being displaced from the protagonists into trails of objects.
26

for a while encouraged me to blindfoldedly make a picture that would paste all the songs together between the sleeves [] It wasnt my purpose to paint my own picture. Quoted in Heylin, 2003, p. 316. The metaphor of the blindfold is significant, given what we shall presently learn of the painting lessons he took in 1974.
37

302. I wonder if Dylan also pulls against the repudiation by invoking just a hint of the It was a dark and stormy night genre in his description.
19

keley and Los Angeles 1995, p. 47.


48

Dominque Fourcade: Henri Matisse. Ecrits et propos sur lart, Paris

On the difficulty of stopping in Dylans songs, see Ricks, 2004, pp.

To the author, April 2010. A similar statement appears in the Inter-

1972, 109, n.64


49 50

439-441.
20

view with Cott, January 26, 1978, in Cott, 2006, 192. This is not a casual comparison: Dylan is reporting of having also said, in the late 1970s, I ve learned as much from Czanne as I have from Woody Guthrie. Quoted in Heylin, 2003, 461.
27 28 29 30 31

To the author, commenting on this text in April 2010. Peindre non la chose mais leffet quelle produit. Letter to Henri

Quoted in Grail Marcus: Like a Rolling Stone. Bob Dylan at the Cross-

I draw here upon my The Language of the Body. Drawings by Pierre-

roads, New York 2005, pp. 171-72.


21

Paul Prudhon, New York 1996, p. 78.


38

Cazalis, October 30, 1864, in Betrand Marchal [ed.]: Stphane Mallarm, Correspondance complte (1862-1871); Suivie de Lettres sur la posie (19821898), Paris 1995, p. 206.
51 52 53 54

Bob Dylan Paints Some Masterpieces. I Hear that He Sings Too,

Adding to the force of these works is the artists creation of dif-

November 8, 2007, www.moreintelligentlife.com/node/408.


22

Bollas, 1987, p. 14. Ibid., p. 31. Bob Dylan: Chronicles, Volume 1, New York 2004, pp. 269-270. Williamson, 2006, p. 64. Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine 18, p. 4, October-November

ferently colored variations of the same image; their suggestion, I take it, is that, on the one hand, he gains greater control of the subject in the process of replication, and that, on the other, the process of replication offers competing versions of the same subject, not one of which suffices to capture what is desired. In any event, it is a compelling approach, recasting without repeating the image-replication of the songs, which one may reasonably suppose continues to have great potential for Dylan.
39 40 41 42 43

In the some half-dozen versions of Visions of Johanna I have li-

To the author, commenting on this text in April 2010. Ibid. Quoted in Heylin, 2003, p. 368. John Ruskin: The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849), Lepizig 1907:

stened to, including that on Blonde and Blonde, it may sound as if Dylan sings, Shes delicate and seems like Vermeer, but close listening reveals that he doesnt. However, in the version recorded on November 30, 1965, prior to the release of the Blonde on Blonde version, but not issued until 2005, on New Direction Home: The Soundtrack (Bootleg Series, vol. 7), he does sing, Like silk she seems like the mirror, a nice analogy between a refractive and a reflective surface, presumably forfeited because the double similes have no referent in Louises appearance to attach to.
23

1968.
32

pp. 57-58 (chapter II, section III), quoted and discussed in Ricks, 2009, p. 46. For our purposes, it is worth adding that Ruskin opened section IV by observing, Again, it might be thought, and has been thought, that the whole art of painting is nothing else than an endeavour to deceive. Not so: it is, on the contrary, a statement of certain facts, in the clearest possible way. Ibid., p. 58. Raeben was a Ruskinian as well as a Symbolist, as Dylan became with his stress on actuality. However, their strict, categorical division between fantasy and imagination, which I have adopted in speaking of Dylans post-Raeben approach, is unsupported by either etymology or usage. Coleridge contrasts imagination and fancy, a contraction of fantasy he used to refer to images not shaped in the imagination, but that come ready-made from memory to mind (see note 43, above); while Leigh Hunt wrote of a moment in Keats as a fancy, founded, as all beautiful fancies are, on a strong sense of what really occurs. (Quoted by Ricks, 2009, p. 46), which is tantamount to saying that a fancy is the product of the imagination, as Ruskin understood it.

Dylans reply to the question in Sing Out! appears in Interview with

Cohen and Traum, October-November 1968, in Cott, 2006, 129, in which he refers to a local painter; commenting on this text in April 2010, he offered the amended, more vivid statement printed here.
33

Coyle and Cohen in Dettmar, 2009, pp. 147-49. Interview with Cott, November 16, 1978, in Cott, 2006, p. 259. Ibid., pp. 259-60. Ibid., p. 260; amended by Dylan, April 2010. See Chapter 13 of Coleridges Biographia Literaria: volume 7 of

Interview with Cohen and Traum, October-November 1968, in Cott,

In Blonde on Blonde, women are oddly absent from the songs that

2006, p. 122. Dylan precised the quotation that follows in a comment on this text in April 2010.
34

purport to be for or about them, observe Michael Coyle and Debra Rae Cohen: Blonde on Blonde (1966), in Kevin J. H. Dettmar (ed.): The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan, Cambridge 2009, p. 148. To add to the complication, Johanna is not only a womans name but also Hebrew for Gods Grace, or Gift from God; not, as Michael Gray bizarrely suggests (Song and Dance Man III. The Art of Bob Dylan, London and New York 2000, p. 154), for Armageddon. In any event, this may be a very extreme example of Dylans underdescribing, but it is not an exceptional example.

Beautifully described by the painter Bridget Riley in The Colour

James Engell and W. Jackson Bate (ed.): The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, London, 1983.
44

Connection, in Robert Kudielka [ed.]: The Eyes Mind: Bridget Riley. Collected Writings 1965-1999, London 1999, pp. 142-173.
35

Bert Cartwright: The Mysterious Norman Raeben, in John Baul-

Asked, on the subject of Renaldo and Clara, Do you feel you use

die [ed.], Wanted Man: In Search of Bob Dylan, New York 1990, pp. 85-90 is a useful compilation of published information about Raeben and his influence.
45

colors in the same way you use notes or chords, Dylan replied: Oh, yeah. Theres much information you could get on the meaning of colors. Every color has a certain mood and feeling. For instance, red is a very vital color. Theres a lot of reds in this movie, and a lot of blues. A lot of

To the author, April 2010. See Interview with Allen Ginsberg, 1977,

in Bauldie, 1990, 109. Commenting on this passage of my text, the pain-

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 36

JOHN ELDERFIELD ACROSS THE BORDERLINE PAGE 37

However, fantasy has long been used loosely to mean having no basis in reality as well as wondrous and strange; and Dylans I had a lot of fantasy dreams is clearly a twentieth-century, quasi-Freudian usage: a fantasy as a dream or day-dream based on desires.
55

Quoted by Cartwright in Bauldie, 1990, p. 88; amended by Dylan,

April 2010. Dylan continued: To do that consciously is a trick, and I did it on Blood On The Tracks for the first time. I knew how to do it because of the technique I learned I actually had a teacher for it [.].
56

To the author, commenting on this text in April 2010. (Similar state-

ments are quoted by Cartwright in Bauldie, 1990, p. 89; Heylin, 2003, p. 370; and appear in the Interview with Cott, November 16, 1978, in Cott, 2006, pp. 260-261.
57 58

Ibid. Dylan would seem to have flirted, at some point, with a neo-

Expressionist, beat style of painting, judged by paintings, notably an undated Queen of Hearts, posted on the Bob Dylan Picture Archive (dylanstubs.com/pictures/); however, he obviously needed to create more explicitly depicted images in order to achieve the kind of manipulations of descriptivity, narrativity, and temporality that he desired. The Picture Archive warns us that the title, Queen of Hearts, is unconfirmed; nevertheless, it is tempting to recall a celebrated painting of the early 1940s with the same title by Willem de Kooning in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. See Judith Zilczer, Willem de Kooning from the Hirshhorn Museum Collection, New York 1993, pp. 60-61.
59

T. S. Eliot, Tradition and the Practice of Poetry (1936), in James

Olney, ed., T. S. Eliot. Essays from the Southern Review, Oxford 1988, p. 13.
60 61

Interview with Hentoff, March 1966, in Cott, 2006, p. 98. To the author, April 2010.

BOB DYLAN THE BRAZIL SERIES CATALOG


PAINTINGS
Acrylic on canvas

DRAWINGS
Pencil on paper

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 40

Favela Villa Candido


107 x 142,8 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 42

Favela Villa Broncos


106,7 x 142,2 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 46

Bahia
121,9 x 91,4 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 48

Wagon Master
76,2 x 101,6 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 52

The Vineyard
76,2 x 101,6 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 56

Ranchers
91,4 x 61 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 58

Gypsies
121,9 x 91,4 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 62

Grande rvore Beachfront


106,7 x 142,2 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 64

Countrymen
121,9 x 91,4 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 68

10

The Hunters
121,9 x 91,4 cm

10A 35,6 x 27,9 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 70

11

Rider
76 x 102 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 72

12

Oak Grove
91,4 x 121,9 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 76

13

Mango Swamp
137,2 x 137,2 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 78

14

Rainforest
101,6 x 76,2 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 80

15

Card Player
121,9 x 91,4 cm

15A 35,6 x 27,9 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 84

16

Ventriloquist
121,9 x 91,4 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 88

17

The Eaters
121,9 x 91,4 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 92

18

Songbird
121,9 x 91,4 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 96

19

Sideshow
142,2 x 106,7 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 100

20

Skull and Bones


91,4 x 121,9 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 104

21

Sculptor
76,2 x 101,7 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 108

22

Piano Player
91,4 x 121,9 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 112

23

Chrysanthemums
91,4 x 61 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 116

24

Boxing Gym
91,4 x 61 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 118

25

Talebearer
106,7 x 142,2 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 122

26

The Argument
121,9 x 91,4 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 126

27

Renunciation
121,9 x 91,4 cm

27A 35,6 x 27,9 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 130

28

Barber Shop
142,2 x 106,7 cm

28A 43,2 x 35,6 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 134

29

Cemitrio Na Colina
142,2 x 106,7 cm

29A 43,2 x 35,6 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 136

30

Preacher
101,6 x 76,2 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 140

31

Poison
101,6 x 76,2 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 144

32

Revelations
121,9 x 91,4 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 146

33

Religious Couple
121,9 x 91,4 cm

33A 35,6 x 27,9 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 150

34

Mafia Family
121,9 x 91,4 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 152

35

Politician
121,9 x 91,4 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 156

36

Sharp Shooter
121,9 x 91,4 cm

36A 35,6 x 27,9 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 160

37

Trouble Makers
121,9 x 91,4 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 162

38

The Incident
121,9 x 91,4 cm

38A 43,2 x 35,6 cm. cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 166

39

Courtroom
142,2 x 106,7 cm

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 168

40

Bamboo Road
142,2 x 106,7 cm

SIDE 173

Kasper Monrad

THE BRAZIL SERIES

The Brazil Series comprises close to fifty paintings, of which Bob Dylan has selected forty for the Copenhagen exhibition. All of these paintings were painted during the period from late 2008 to early 2010. As the series title suggests, the paintings are somehow associated with Brazil; the artist found his subject matter on journeys to the country. The paintings are wide-ranging in scope, and this fact alone suggests that inspiration for the individual paintings arose on different occasions over a prolonged period of time. Undoubtedly, the original ideas for several of the paintings date back further than the autumn of 2008. Dylan has toured Brazil to play concerts on several occasions, most recently in March of 2008. In 1991 and 1998 he made week-long sojourns in the country during tours. The Brazil Series consists of a series of paintings of varying sizes, depicting motifs that often differ markedly from each other. Dylan clearly had no desire to give the paintings a single, cohesive theme or common denominator. Thus, the designation series should only be regarded as signifying that the paintings belong together as a group. The paintings are often based on drawn studies, often jotted down by Dylan in front of the subject itself or, indeed, whenever he felt the urge to work on the motif, which may sometimes spring forth from his own imagination or be a processing of a scene he observed on a previous occasion. According to the artist himself, some of the drawings were executed on pieces of paper that happened to be at hand at the time, such as paper bags or napkins. In other cases the first drawings were carried out on drawing paper in spiral-backed notebooks; a fact which suggests that the artist carried the notebook around on the off chance that he should come across a suitable motifs. Such drawings are preliminary studies in the proper sense; works in which the motif and composition of the subsequent paintings were determined. This is true of all drawings reproduced in this book (cat. nos. 10A, 15A, 27A, 28A, 29A, 33A, 36A & 37A). Two different formats of drawings appear, suggesting that he employed two different notepads while drawing the motifs for the series. Some of the drawings may be studies executed in front of the motifs, while others definitely appear to be compositional drawings that may have been done far away fro m the scene depicted. The drawings selected by the artist here show that he would often settle on the entire composition before embarking on painting. This does not, however, mean that significant changes might not occur during the execution of individual paintings. In the painting Poison (Gift) (cat. no. 31), for example, he added a significant element to the painting: the arches in the background were added after the foreground had been painted.1 The arches presumably replace a different background.

CAT. 31

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 174

KASPER MONRAD PAGE 175

CAT. 1

In all the paintings Bob Dylan created for The Brazil Series the motif itself plays the crucial part. The painter is clearly keenly interested in the narrative function of the paintings. He does not just use the motifs as an excuse for painting. It would appear that a strong fascination with the exotic settings he encountered in Brazil proved a major incentive to him. Here, he found motifs and scenes that would strike Northern Americans and Northern Europeans as southern. This is to say that they have an exotic quality that can seem challenging and tantalising, partly because they are so different from everyday life at home and because they appeal to the imagination. They often invite you to continue the narrative, embellishing the scene played out in front of you. Undoubtedly the artist made a deliberate choice in opting for a nonAmerican range of motifs. Up through the entire 20th century, certain types of iconic American motifs have become staples of American painting and film, and today it can be difficult to work with typically American imagery without resorting to overly familiar motifs that so easily become clichs or downright kitsch. Dylan evades these pitfalls by choosing Brazilian motifs; motifs that he could regard with an entirely fresh outlook. In a number of paintings it appears that Dylan was primarily interested in capturing the distinctly southern qualities of the settings he inhabited. This is equally true of the landscapes and cities he saw and of the people he observed, more or less by chance. The paintings do not represent a desire to create journalistic or touristy images from the country. There are no traces of a deliberate system underlying the selection of the motifs shown, nor do they strive to provide a representative or fully rounded picture of life in Brazil. It would seem that Dylan simply chose motifs that fascinated him. As he himself has put it: I just draw whats interesting to me, and then I paint it.2 Dylan took an unprejudiced approach to the task, accentuating that he did not wish to make social comment or fulfill somebodys vision.3 Moments from Brazil This may be most strikingly evident in the two paintings of the sprawling slums surrounding the metropolis of Rio de Janeiro; the so-called favelas. Here, the artist was obviously captured by the strong visual impression made by the densely built, primitive, barrack-like houses that climb the mountainside, one on top of the other. In one of the two paintings, Favela Villa Candido (cat. no. 1) he regarded the houses straight on; they tower up the hillside in front of the spectator to insistent, even importunate effect. The very simple houses, most of which have only

two windows side by side, almost become faces with two eyes looking directly, yet emptily at you. In the second painting, Favela Via Broncos (cat. no. 2) the artist took up a position closer to the structures at the foot of the hill; here, a small brook has wedged an opening in the claustrophobic settlements, providing him with an open line of sight from the bottom up towards the almost endless rows of houses. In both paintings the luminous, bright, almost cheerful colours cause the houses to appear anything but sombre. Clearly, the artist did not intend to focus on the dire social conditions in these suburbs; rather, it would seem that he wished to communicate the will to life that, in spite of everything, lies behind the more or less anarchic conditions reigning here. By contrast, the painting Bahia (cat. no. 3) is much more subdued. It shows an evening scene from a small town in Northern Brazil. From a high vantage point presumably a balcony or a window the artist has looked out across a quiet street towards a church silhouetted against the evening sky. In this atmospheric slice of life the artist has recorded an ebbing of street life as the night draws near. Only few people are left in the street a sweeper, an old man carrying a cane, and a scantily dressed woman in a doorway while a single car passes by. The entire situation and scene is undoubtedly different from any other similar image from a US town, be it a big city, suburb, or provincial town. Several paintings see Dylan working with motifs that reflect a way of life that disappeared long ago in North America and Western Europe as industrialisation gained ground. This is most overtly evident in the painting Wagon Master (cat. no. 4), which shows agricultural labourers engaged in the old-fashioned task of stacking hay onto an ox-drawn wagon. The motif is reminiscent of many 19th century paintings of almost identical Southern European scenes depicted by Northern European and American painters, but Dylans painting is entirely devoid of the romanticising traits typical of his predecessors; here, no attempt is made at transforming human toil into a picturesque scene. Perhaps the artist has included a deliberate point in the paintings title, Wagon Master, evoking associations to film director John Fords classic 1950 western of the same name. The film follows a group of settlers crossing the American continent in horse-drawn wagons; as such, it constitutes a reference to a bygone era. To citizens of technologically advanced, specialised societies, the scene would appear like something from the past. Something similar is true in the painting The Vineyard (cat. no. 5), which shows a group of women harvesting grapes by hand, placing them in wickerwork baskets. Here, the spectator is cast in the role as an uninvited visitor interrupting the women in their work, causing them and the two men monitoring them to stop

CAT. 3

CAT. 2

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 176

KASPER MONRAD PAGE 177

CAT. 6

what they were doing and stare, silently, directly at you. Other inhabitants of the same universe include the peasants who have stacked freshly picked tomatoes in baskets at a market fair in the painting Ranchers (cat. no. 6). In other paintings depicting similar everyday scenes, Dylan lets the people play a more prominent part, but no narrative scene is played out. In Gypsies (cat. no. 7) two men and a woman are seated at a table near a river, seemingly deeply engrossed in conversation. Nothing else takes place in the painting; however, the calm is not complete. The two men do not see properly seated after all; they are depicted in a semi-standing position. A hint of movement has entered the figures; a mysterious vigilance has been introduced to the scene, thereby opening the motif to a plethora of interpretations. In the painting Grande rvore Beachfront (cat. no. 8) the artist has placed a number of human figures in the middle distance of the painting; the figures are depicted in a relaxed situation, gathered around a table outside a caf. The group of figures evokes echoes of one of the most popular motifs in 19th century Northern European painting: a picturesque scene showing relaxed, carefree Southern Europeans especially Italians enjoying life. The foreground shows a scene that forms a prosaic counterpoint to the idyll behind, attracting more attention than the revellers: A car engine has stalled, and a group of women are trying to figure out whats wrong. The scene enters a narrative in media res, and we are never told about the consequences of the engine failure. The scene takes place on a stretch of cliff-lined coast around a bay or estuary. Dylan has also depicted people out of doors, in nature, in other paintings. Several of these feature an obvious interplay between man and nature. The painting Countrymen (cat. no. 9) shows people fishing by a river. A single man wearing a suit is moving away from the others, directly towards the spectator. The painting does not reveal any details on what goes on between the people. Presumably the scene is a brief moment that the artist witnessed and captured as he saw it. It would appear that the scene was viewed from a higher vantage point; certainly this is true of the figures in the foreground. It is unlikely that the houses and trees in the background could be taken in by the same single gaze; the artist would have to direct his gaze upwards to commit them to the drawn study. There is, then, a double perspective in the painting, rather like the one frequently seen in older European world panoramas. The painting does not represent the scene as a photograph would; by its very nature, photography can only record and convey a single angle. By contrast, the painting reflects how the human eye works: it moves about ceaselessly, allowing us to take in a full panorama in what seems to be a single gaze.

In all likelihood, no direct contact between the people depicted in Countrymen and the artist preceded his choice of motif. By contrast, the painting of The Hunters (cat. no. 10) has a quality reminiscent of an old-fashioned arrangement of figures, similar to when people pose for a photographer. With their hunt now at an end, a group of hunters three men with guns and a woman without one have taken up position around an old car where the spoils of the day are paraded on the bonnet. Perhaps this posing took place at the artists instigation, or perhaps they decided to parade themselves when they saw the artist engaged in drawing. The artist depicts the scene with great loyalty, without making the people seem pompous or making much of how the dead birds seem rather small within the overall setting of the image. The study for the painting (cat. no. 10A) shows that the painter has largely followed the drawings composition when embarking on the painting. The figures assume exactly the same positions except for the man standing to the left in the foreground; in the drawing his pose is somewhat casual, while it seems slightly more deliberate in the painting. The rapport between painter and model takes on yet another quality in the painting Rider (cat. no. 11). Here, the rider is regarded from a very close distance, meaning that you only see his upper body and thighs while very little of the horse itself is visible. The angle adopted suggests that the artist was right next to his subject, perhaps mounted on another horse. Even so, the painting offers no direct contact to the rider, who seems to be engrossed in his own thoughts. Dylan only painted landscapes in the proper sense of the word on two occasions, i.e. in the paintings Oak Grove and Mango Swamp (cat. nos. 12 & 13). Just as his figure paintings do not seek to capture all aspects of Brazilian life, his landscapes are not intended to encapsulate all of the Brazilian countryside. The landscapes are not panoramic; they are close-up studies of two very concrete motifs where the artist wished to capture his visual impression of the sites. In both cases his attention was caught by groups of trees, and in both cases he regarded his motifs at very close quarters. In Mango Swamp he focused on the interplay between the trees in the swampy setting and their reflections in the still water, and in Oak Grove he let himself be fascinated by the peculiar pattern created by the serpentine branches of the oaks. The branches almost become tentacles, disturbingly reaching out to block any passage.4 Yet another painting has links to the art of landscape painting, albeit primarily in its title: Rainforest (cat. no. 14). A room with almost all its shutters closed offers the spectator a restricted view of lush, green vegetation. The view is so narrowly defined that we simply have to take the artists word for it when he claims

CAT. 10

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 178

KASPER MONRAD PAGE 179

that a rainforest lies beyond the balcony rails. Here, the artist plays with the contrast between what you know and what you actually see. Attention is also directed towards other contrasts, partly the contrast between the warm browns, russets, and reds of the interior and between the cool greens and blues of the rainforest, and partly between the cool shade inside and the brighter light outside. Nightlife People play a dominant role in the majority of the paintings in The Brazil Series. The artist often moves in close on his subjects, causing them to become very direct, almost insistent in appearance. This is certainly the case in the painting Card Player (cat. no. 15), where the main protagonist and the spectators surrounding him fill out the entire picture plane. The effect is made even more striking by the fact that the figures at either edge of the painting have been cropped off. The artist decided on using this device even when carrying out the composition study (cat. no. 15A). However, we as spectators are not told very much more about the card players situation. The artist may simply have been prompted to create the painting by being seated across from a card player surrounded by curious onlookers. A similar effect is evident in The Ventriloquist (cat. no. 16). Here, the ventriloquist and his man-sized dummy have taken up a position right in front of us. In this case a certain subtle mystery has entered the painting. The man and the dummy both wear somewhat vague expressions, and the woman glimpsed on the left-hand side directs an indefinable gaze towards the spectators. Commenting on the motif, Bob Dylan has noted that spectators can wonder who is the ventriloquist, and who is the dummy!5 A number of paintings address Brazilian nightlife. The figures depicted in these paintings also have an almost importunate quality to them. The married couple eating spaghetti in a highly demonstrative fashion in The Eaters (cat. no. 17) are not viewed from a distance, but up close; both figures are cropped by the edge of the painting. Spectators get the sense that they are seated right in front of the people, allowing no possibility of avoiding a confrontation with them. A similar experience is offered by the painting Songbird (cat. 18), where the main protagonist of the picture the singer is viewed from the front and slightly from below, as if the artist took up position right by the stage to watch her. The effect is even more obvious in Sideshow (cat. no. 19). Here, the scantily clad dancers are viewed from below at a very oblique angle from an even closer distance, and the figures are very foreshortened; for example, the thighs of the

CAT. 15

masked, brown woman take up more space on the canvas than her torso. An anonymous male member of the audience, his back turned to us, has taken up position in front of the spectator to experience the show from the very first row; this might suggest that there are many other audience members right in front of the stage. We as spectators are all just one of many. In some ways the painting Skull and Bones (cat. no. 20) can be regarded in conjunction with the nightlife scenes. The image itself can, however, seem confusing at first glance: A naked woman is seated in a provocative pose, her legs spread, drinking beer while resting one hand on a skull. Imagining a situation where a woman would act like this beer and skull both handily within reach requires quite a stretch. The title Skull and Bones only partly describes the image shown; the womans bones are well hidden. One might be led into thinking that this is a traditional representation of vanitas, i.e. a deliberately staged scene where joie de vivre is confronted by a reminder of death. However, the artist himself rejects such an interpretation without offering any detailed alternative.6 Nevertheless, it is likely that the title itself offers a key to our reading of the motif. Skull and Bones is the name of a secret society at Yale University in New Haven, USA. The society is, however, no more secret than to be known on the popular user-defined online encyclopaedia Wikipedia as probably the best known college secret society in America.7 The many prominent members include former president of the USA, George W. Bush. The painting can, then, also be read as Dylans subtle comment on that society, offering a very overt, joking insinuation of what the societys meetings are all about! Artists at work A small group of paintings have working artists as their subject matter, thereby focusing on the role of the artist. The painting Sculptor (cat. no. 21) is, quite simply, a painting of an artist at work. Chisel and hammer in hand, he is engaged in putting the final touches of a bust of a man. Perhaps one of the important points of the image concerns the fact that the sculptor is working on sculptures inspired by classical art. The bust he is carving is obviously inspired by the portrait busts of Antiquity, and the relief in the background is reminiscent of the reliefs of riders featured on the Parthenon frieze housed at the British Museum in London. Thus, the painting can be interpreted as a celebration of classical tradition within sculpture. A painting such as Piano Player (cat. no. 22) can also be regarded as a portrait of an artist. However, the piano player differs from the sculptor insofar

CAT. 20

CAT. 21

THE BRAZIL SERIES PAGE 180

KASPER MONRAD PAGE 181

CAT. 23

as he is dependent on what goes on around him. Dylan originally intended to depict the piano player in a dance hall where the background offered views of a few dancing couples and people waiting to find someone to dance with. He had second thoughts, however, and ended up just focusing on the musician.8 Now, the artist does not reveal where the piano player is; rather than accounting for his interaction with other musicians or a singer, the artist chose to let the painting focus on the alert expression on the piano players face. We are not told with whom he has eye contact, but we are given a clear sense that the piano player is adapting his playing to one or more persons. By using this device, Dylan makes the narrative in the painting depend on something that takes place outside of the image. Chrysanthemums (cat. no. 23) has a kinship with the aforementioned paintings. Here, a seated man is almost overshadowed by a lush floral arrangement. The man holds a piece of paper perhaps sheet music in his hands, and the figure evokes memories of several composers portraits from the late 18th century an association that is not rejected by the artist himself.9 The mans gaze is imbued with a distant pensiveness, a frequent feature in paintings of working artists. In a certain sense the painting of the boxer in Boxing Gym (cat. no. 24) can be regarded in connection with the artist portraits, particularly in view of Dylans lifelong fascination with boxing.10 The boxer brings the same dedication and focus to his training as the artists devote to their tasks in the other paintings. The motif might have been found anywhere in the world, but the artists interest in boxing explains why he also visited a boxing gym in Brazil. Big emotions and human drama Bob Dylan did not employ the same narrative technique in every painting in the The Brazil Series. In a number of paintings he shelved his recording stance in favour of introducing a narrative with a real plot to the scenes. Often, these scenes feature a human drama where emotions run high. Given the nature of paintings as a medium, time is, of course, frozen at a particular moment in each individual picture, but nevertheless a progressing sequence has been built into the motifs. Here, the artist moves beyond a sheer depiction of everyday motifs, and he has undoubtedly added a strong fictional element to his own Brazil experiences. Dylan is clearly keenly interested in how painting can be a medium for narratives, for telling stories. Thus, he invites spectators to join him in conjuring up stories for the motif. In these paintings he undoubtedly drew

on the devices familiar from feature films, and many pictures are reminiscent of film stills. Not, it should be noted, the kind of stills that are merely individual frames from the film, but the kind of PR photographs where actors assume specific, freeze-frame poses, and where the objective seems to be to provide a plot summary for the scene at hand. There is, then, a progressing plot, but at the same time each episode is locked at a single moment. Dylan himself says that he did not conceive of the motifs as scenes from a film, but he does see the kinship between the two.11 In some of the paintings the narrative is obvious even if you do not know the exact story that the artist may have associated with the scene. This is true of Talebearer (cat. no. 25) where a man is brought unwelcome news. We as spectators do not know what the talebearer is relating, but we can immediately see what goes on between the two men. There can be no doubt as to the talebearers malicious intent, and he knows how to get to the other man. We cannot know whether Dylan himself knows exactly what the talebearer is saying, but this is of no importance for our experience of the scene. Equally obvious and yet unknown to the spectator is the drama unfolding between a young man and a young woman in The Argument (cat. no. 26). The couple seems to be right in the middle of a fight, and the rift between them is accentuated by how their bodies seem to be moving out of the painting in separate directions. Whereas the man seems to be folding up on himself, the woman throws herself temperamentally to the side as if to let the man know how hopeless he is in her eyes. Her scant, provocative attire underscores the impression of a warm-blooded woman with spontaneous, strong responses perhaps also a woman who is quick to forgive again once the fracas is over. By contrast, the clash shown in Renunciation (cat. no. 27) seems to have far more wide-reaching consequences. A drama is played out in an urban space where the street scene is dominated by a monumental staircase bending in the middle of the picture. A man is emphatically refusing a woman who appears to be begging him to revoke a decision. Her downcast eyes suggest that she hopes for forgiveness for something she regrets having done. An older woman behind the pair seems to be having trouble deciding on how to intervene and prevent a break between the two. The man stands firm, as is suggested by his symbolic leaning on a column. In art, columns traditionally signify something firmly rooted, something unshakable. The single man in the background seems unaware of what is going on; it would appear that his function is to highlight that the drama in the foreground concerns only the three people involved.

CAT. 26

CAT. 25

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CAT. 28

The drawing serving as the study for the painting (cat. no. 27A) shows that the artist was clear on how to position the main protagonists right from the outset. He did, however, consider several different options for the background and made numerous adjustments to the houses and the large staircase while executing his drawing. Not all details made their way into the painting unchanged such as the building the young man in the background uses as support. In a few cases Dylan has obligingly told the author of this article about what goes on in the paintings. One example would be Barbershop (cat. no. 28) where the artist has fabricated a narrative that spectators may not be able to decipher on their own. Without knowing the artists tale behind the image, the tension in the painting may be difficult to understand or appreciate. The composition is dominated by an imposing, older, grey-bearded man in the front right-hand side. He is supervising while a male client in the barbershop is having a haircut. In the background a woman also follows the proceedings while a young man is more focused on lighting his cigarette. Dylan explains that the grey-bearded man is the owner of the establishment and the woman is his wife. The man casts angry looks at his inattentive son, who has not wished to become involved in the family business, thereby failing to live up to his fathers expectations. A contrast to the son is provided by the young apprentice cutting the clients hair, setting the scene for a conflicted father/son relationship. Comparisons to the drawing executed as a preliminary study for the painting (cat. no. 28A) reveals that Bob Dylan did not have this conflict in mind from the very outset. The group of figures involving the client, the apprentice, and the barbers wife is in its settled form in the drawing. But the main protagonist of the painting, the barber himself, originally played a much less prominent part. He was smaller in stature and was seated to the right, slightly to the back, and with his back turned partly to the spectator. At his side was a woman, her back turned to us, who had no contact or interaction with the other characters. This is to say that the son had not even entered the scene when the artist did the drawing. That entire side of the picture has obviously been altered several times, meaning that the drawing only represents a brief moment in the artists flow of deliberations about the paintings composition and narrative. People and religion In many paintings Dylan addresses the Brazilians relationship with their Catholic faith. He does not touch upon all aspects of their religiosity, nor does he bring a single, unambiguous interpretation to bear on the subject. A fascination

with the deeply-felt faith and sheer impact of Catholicism seems to be the most obvious common denominator of the paintings. The artist focuses particular attention on a peculiarly Latin American tradition in the painting Cimitrio Na Colina (Cemetary on the Hill) (cat. no. 29): the close connection with the dead that many South Americans demonstrate on their graveyards. A group of people are gathered around a tomb, presumably a family tomb; the key figures are three women, all of whom are touching the headstone. Undoubtedly this act should be interpreted as an attempt at making direct contact with dead relatives and for the pregnant woman, this wish is presumably also rooted in the widespread belief that an unborn child continues the cycle of life for recently dead relatives. This aspect is accentuated further in the painting as compared to the drawn study (cat. no. 29A); a gravedigger seen to the left in the foreground of the drawing is not featured in the painting, meaning that all figures in the foreground of the final painting now direct their attention to the tombstone. While Dylan was working on the drawing he considered having the crucifix on the grave loom higher, but in the final version the crucifix was made smaller, allowing more space for a dark, dramatic sky. In the painting Preacher (cat. no. 30) a man is keeping an attentive crowd spellbound with his sermon. All seems to hang earnestly to the preachers every word. The figures are regarded at close quarters, and in the painting the artist achieves an insistent confrontation similar to the faces in Card Player (cat. no. 15). As in Cimitrio Na Colina, this painting sees Dylan recording the figures religious sensibilities with loyalty. In other paintings, however, the underlying attitude seems more ambiguous as the artist deliberately mixes different types of paintings. In several respects the painting Poison (cat. no. 31) differs greatly from the two paintings just addressed, but they also share common features. The scene unrolling before our eyes is far more dramatic. In the middle of the painting a man, stripped from the waist up, is writhing in agony on the ground while people kneeling by him seek to alleviate his pain. A woman standing by the scene appears entirely inconsolable, hanging on another woman for support. The title suggests that the man has been poisoned. He demonstratively shows his pain, and we realise that the motif does not depict a true event; it is a dramatic staging. In other words, the artist is not trying to convince us that this is a scene he himself witnessed. The entire composition of the image has echoes of classic depictions of one of the main events in the passion of Christ, The Descent from the Cross,

CAT. 30

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CAT. 33

or of the slayings of Christian martyrs. Apart from the mans trousers, which seem entirely contemporary, all costumes could hail from times gone by, and the frame of the painting classical arches reinforces the feel of past times. The blend between a modern and older story of suffering is undoubtedly entirely deliberate. The artist is bridging the gap between a present-day drama and the tales of martyrdom that are so plentiful in Christianity particularly within the Catholic faith. In so doing the painting also becomes an indirect comment on modern-day religion, although the link is not without ambiguities. Ambiguity is also a characteristic feature of the painting Revelations (cat. no. 32). Here, a nude woman, her back turned to us, is seen standing on a balcony, reading a book by a small table. In front of her is a small sculpture of an angel in a lush garden, while some houses can be glimpsed in the distance. The title points unequivocally to the Bibles Book of Revelation. This reading is borne out partly by the book, which evokes associations to depictions of the Bible in older art, and partly by the angel, which is a symbol of John the Apostle, author of the Book of Revelation. Other than this, the painting has no other features relating to the violent and explicit predictions of doom provided in the Book of Revelation; certainly not the womans pose, which must seem rather provocative from the angels point of view. Thus, the painting becomes a subtle blend of the sensuous and the inscrutable. A very different, very overt confrontation takes place in the painting Religious Couple (cat. no. 33). The portrait shows a married couple standing right in front of the spectator; they fill the entire foreground and can almost be said to bar our passage. The feeling is accentuated by the couples firm and aloof facial expressions. The man and womans appearance almost becomes a demonstration of power. Their gazes, however, appear remote, and there seems to be no opportunities for communication. In the study for the painting (cat. no. 33A) Dylan originally gave the couple rather more nuanced, less assured facial expressions, but elected to change this at a later stage of his work. The power so openly wielded by the man and woman is overtly demonstrated by two religious paintings on the wall behind them. Here, we face an equally direct confrontation with a saint and with the Virgin and Child; to look at this painting evokes a feeling of facing a hard, repressive vein of religion. Quite tellingly, an impenetrable brick wall forms the background of the scene. Commenting on the painting, the artist has posed the question: Is the religious couple the two people in the foreground or the paintings on the wall?12

People and power Dylan is very interested in power and the many ways in which it can be wielded, not just in the painting of the two religious couples, but also in a range of other paintings; the exercise of power can range from indirect pressure to the use of force or violence. The artist has chosen motifs from widely different settings throughout The Brazil Series, and his paintings describing the relationship between people and power also reject any clear-cut, unambiguous position. We, the spectators, must relate to the motifs ourselves. A demonstration of dominance and hidden repression similar to what is displayed in Religious Couple is evident in Mafia Family (cat. no. 34). Here, the head of the family has adopted an all-fatherly pose, wearing an expression that fakes affability, yet also signifies an intransigent iron will. His facial expression is joined by his folded hands in highlighting his uncompromising nature. One senses that he will not be crossed by anybody. Behind the mafia boss, the next generation is ready to support his decision: a woman and a man both exude the same blend of a semblance of kindness and an underlying unshakable firmness. The painting Politician (cat. no. 35) features much of the same complete authority as the painting of the mafia family; the power aspect is accentuated by the point of view, which is very oblique and seen from below. There is, however, a crucial difference: The politician appeals for support from an audience located outside the picture plane. As part of his endeavours to attract attention he employs a device that would be unthinkable in Northern America or Europe: He has enlisted the aid of a topless dancer! Wielding her tambourine, she can signal for silence to ensure that the politician is heard. The spectators in the background serve an important function to the narrative of the painting by indicating that a larger audience is grouped in front of the politician. While we as spectators are quite clear on what lies behind this scene, divining the narrative of the painting Sharp Shooter (cat. no. 36) is fraught with greater difficulties. What makes a man direct his gun out of a window and take aim, apparently while also engaged in a conversation? The womans puzzled expression strengthens our doubts about the intentions at stake here. More than anything else, however, this appears to be a pure demonstration of power! In this painting, the artist largely adhered to the drawn study (cat. no. 36A), meaning that in this case the preliminary study can reveal little new information about the narrative.

CAT. 35

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CAT. 38

A rather more heavy-handed and dramatic narrative is played out in Trouble Makers (cat. no. 37). Here, what appear to be intruders are swiftly and forcefully apprehended and removed from a room in which a large group of men are seated at a long table. Who the men are, why they are gathered, and why their gathering is disrupted are matters of pure conjecture. The only thing we can be sure of is that the two men ushered out have not been allowed to speak to the congregation. The way in which the table runs parallel to the picture plane conjures up associations to classic renditions of The Last Supper, and even thought the motif clearly does not have any other religious references, we cannot rule out the possibility that Dylan, like so many other artists, has made an indirect reference to the most famous dinner party within Western culture. A more obvious analogy, however, would be the mafia gathering holding a conference in the final scenes of Billy Wilders classic comedy Some Like it Hot from 1959. However, none of the grotesque comedy of that film is evident in the painting. The artist himself has only commented that a banquet of sorts has been interrupted and the troublemakers are now being disposed of.13 The overt gang fights affecting some of the slums Rio de Janeiro, particularly in connection with drug dealing, has become the motif of one of the paintings in The Brazil Series. In the most dramatic painting in the series, The Incident (cat. no. 38), a shootout has cost a man his life, another lies wounded on the ground, while a third man has been arrested by police officers trying to determine what happened. It appears, however, as if the two survivors are not about to say anything. At this point events are sufficient controlled to prompt spectators at the scene to move in closer to see what is going on. In this case, too, the artist offers no specific take on what is going on in the painting, stating that he did not have a specific event in mind.14 The drawing serving as the basis of the painting (cat. no. 38A) clearly shows that the artist went through a sequence of deliberations on how to compose the scene while working. It would appear that he originally intended to place the men on the ground in different positions, and new characters have been introduced the arrested man and the policeman holding him while several details of the surroundings have been changed. Even though several paintings in The Brazil Series show motifs that share a certain kinship, the artist has not adopted a single position when working with the motifs; rather, he frequently changes his approach and narrative technique. This is highlighted by the painting Courtroom (cat. no. 39), which could be perceived as continuing the narrative begun in The Incident. Here,

however, the approach to the motif is very different. The main role is played by a person who, as far as the narrative of the painting is concerned, could be said to be of minor importance only: The standing policeman. He poses in an almost narcissistic fashion and maintains eye contact with us as spectators. He pays no heed to what is going on around him. Dylan has, however, provided an explanation of what goes on in the courtroom: The defendant sits next to the standing police officer, his attitude and facial expression signifying a complete lack of concern. He is accompanied by his defence attorney, and behind the two men is one of his henchmen, presumably a so-called goon, directing a threatening glare against a terrified witness and eliciting the desired response:15 The witness looks as if he is about to fall off his chair. No prizes for guessing the final outcome of that trial! The painting Bamboo Road (cat. no. 40) is an entity all to itself. Here, the artist did not take his point of departure in a situation that he himself might have witnessed; rather, he has painted a naked woman of action who, sword held aloft, is about to do battle with a dense bamboo forest. Obviously a very different chain of associations was at work for the artist here; perhaps a desire to create a female figure with a different quality compared to the more sensuous, erotic depictions of women featured in his previous series, The Drawn Blank Series. Surely Dylan had pictures such as this in mind when he made the following statement in the spring of 2009, i.e. while he was working on The Brazil Series: Women are power figures, so I depict them that way.16 Possible models for the paintings in The Brazil Series Bob Dylan has always acknowledged that he is happy to accept inspiration from others in his capacity as a musician and songwriter. There is much to suggest that this is also the case as regards his visual art. The overall concept behind The Brazil Series a group of paintings that share a common circle of motifs is a frequent occurrence within art history. Mostly, however, such groups are cycles of paintings or series in a narrower sense of the term, forming a cohesive pictorial narrative with a progressing plot; it might, for example, depict Christian religious scenes or consist of topographical images that, when regarded as a whole, represent a particular region or the countryside of a particular country. In such cases, the paintings themselves often share the same exact format. Within modern art, Picasso is particularly well known for working with series, but he always employed a narrow circle of subject matter and favoured variations on a single motif. A series such as The Brazil Series is highly unusual: It employs

GEORGE BELLOWS DEMPSEY AND FIRPO 1924 WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK FIG.1

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CARAVAGGIO THE ENTOMBMENT C. 1602-03 VATIKANMUSEET, VATIKANET, ROM. FIG. 2

an overall circle of motifs that connects all the works, but the individual paintings have varying formats and depict very different subject matter. Perhaps the artist drew on his experience with working with music albums, where he will often aim for a consistent overall feel, yet address different subjects in the individual songs. Bob Dylan is a keen museumgoer, and while he was working on the paintings for The Brazil Series in the spring of 2009, he spoke about the artists that interested him most at the time in an interview in Rolling Stone.17 His interest centres mainly on older art. He first highlighted several American painters, pointing to not just the abstract expressionists Jackson Pollock (1912-56) and Mark Rothko (1903-70), but also to the slightly earlier figure painters George Bellows (1882-1925) and Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975). When comparing these artists to Dylans own paintings, the latter two are particularly important. Bellows and Benton belong to a peculiarly American figurative tradition that has made its influence felt up through the 20th century. They are painters who maintained a focus on how paintings can tell stories. Bellows belonged to the so-called Ashcan School, which consisted of a loosely affiliated group of painters who all addressed motifs from everyday life in their paintings.18 As regards painterly devices and specific motifs, there are crucial differences between these painters and Dylan. Their circle of subject matter is different from Dylans, and their canvases tend to include more narrative and a greater wealth of detail. Even so, there are common denominators between the artists, particularly as regards their interest in night life. Dylan may very well have taken points from Bellows, particularly from the latters most important work, the boxing scene Dempsey and Firpo from 1924 (fig. 1). Here, the dramatic scene is depicted at close quarters, viewed from below; several figures have been cropped, giving the spectator the impression of being right by the ringside. Dylan achieved the exact same effect in the painting Sideshow (cat. no. 19), which may have been prompted by his admiration for the older artist. US artists aside, Dylans interest focused mainly on two of the greatest painters of art history, Caravaggio (1571-1610) and Rembrandt (1606-69). Dylans interest in these artists has not given rise to any direct impact on his style, but he has undoubtedly profited from studying their narrative techniques, not least the rhetorical gestures used. One figure in the painting Poison (cat. no. 31) may even have been borrowed from the paintings of Caravaggio. The figure in question is the old man sitting by the feet of the poisoned man. He represents a male type that

recurs in the works of the Italian master an older, bald, often grey-bearded man, frequently appearing as an apostle in religious paintings Matthew and Peter are particularly popular choices but in one case he also plays the role of Abraham the patriarch.19 In Caravaggios The Entombment (fig. 2) the figure appears as Nicodemus carrying Christ by the legs. There is an obvious kinship between the subject depicted in this painting and on Dylans canvas, which obviously reinforces the associations that Poison evokes to religious scenes. It is likely that Dylan has seen several Caravaggio paintings in which this type appears, particularly in light of his statement declaring that he would presumably travel several hundred miles to view a Caravaggio.20 In the interview in Rolling Stone Dylan also points to French painter Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). There is, however, much to suggest that a visit to the French galleries at the Louvre in Paris not only made Dylan take note of David, but also of his pupil, Jean-Germain Drouais (1763-88). His best-known painting, Marius at Minturnae (fig. 3), shows a highly condensed drama played out between two men, the Roman commander Marius, who has been sentenced to death, and the Cimbrian soldier who has been sent to slay Marius, but shies back when it is time to perform his task. With its tight composition focusing on the two men and the clear rhetoric making the motif easy to decipher even for those unfamiliar with the tale, Drouais painting has a clear affinity with Dylans painting Talebearer (cat. no. 25). Here we find an equally clear-cut narrative and a similar sense of tension between two men whose gestures help describe the action. The constricted, delimited pictorial space reminiscent of a stage is another feature shared by the two artists. Paintings such as Drouais might well have contributed to Dylans deliberations as he settled on important principles for composition and narrative technique in his own paintings. While at the Louvre, Dylan may also have noted the French painter Pierre-Henri Valenciennes (1750-1819), who revolutionised landscape painting in the late 18th century with his small oil studies executed en plein air. In the studies he would often close in on his motifs, painting very closely cropped views of what he saw. In the study of Undergrowth. Tree with Gnarled Branches (fig. 4) from circa 1780 the artist has, very pointedly, adopted a specific point of view and cropped the motif in a way that makes the study stand apart compared to conventional landscapes. Similar qualities are also evident in Dylans painting Oak Grove (cat. no. 12). If an actual influence is at play here, rather than simply a coincidental kinship, it may have its source directly in Valenciennes, but it may also have its roots in one of the many later artists who, over the course

PIERRE-HENRI VALENCIENNES UNDERGROWTH. TREES WITH GNARLED BRANCHES C. 1780 MUSE DU LOUVRE, PARIS FIG. 4

JEAN-GERMAIN DROUAIS MARIUS AT MINTURNAE 1786 MUSE DU LOUVRE, PARIS FIG. 3

HENRI MATISSE INTERIOR WITH A VIOLIN 1917-18 STATENS MUSEUM FOR KUNST FIG. 5

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CHRISTOFFER WILHELM ECKERSBERG A VIEW THROUGH THREE ARCHES OF THE THIRD STOREY OF THE COLOSSEUM IN ROME 1815 STATENS MUSEUM FOR KUNST FIG. 6

of the 19th century, adopted and continued the earlier French painters method and artistic principles. While parallels to the artists mentioned above may be pointed out, it is, however, obvious that Dylans paintings are markedly different from them in terms of his painterly mode of expression here, affinities with Henri Matisse (1869-1954) are evident in a number of areas. A very obvious parallel would be that of the French artists Interior with a Violin from 1917-18 (fig. 5) and Bob Dylans Rainforest (cat. no. 14). Both paintings show a relatively dark, shadowy room where half-open shutters allow the spectators a constricted, but important glimpse of a landscape drenched in sun. There can be no doubt that the two artists have each had very similar experiences of looking out of almost entirely shuttered rooms, but pictures like this Matisse scene may have helped prompt Dylans interest in the motif. There is also a certain kinship between Matisse and Bob Dylan in purely painterly terms. This is true of the method of painting and the brushstrokes employed, but also of the use of dark contours. In addition to this, both artists employ a painterly practice where the artist does not settle on a single, predetermined solution right from the outset; he is open to change even radical change as the process unfolds. A painting such as Religious Couple (cat. no. 33) reveals that Dylan does not recoil from changing the colour scheme of a painting if he thinks it advantageous. The womans jacket was originally a bright green, but now appears grey, albeit with visible traces of the original green colour. A corresponding change in colour schemes appear in e.g. Mafia Family (cat. no. 34), where the wall in the background has gone from red to green. Among the work of Matisse, many of his paintings feature corresponding shifts in colour schemes in larger or smaller areas. Far from all artists are willing to carry out such drastic reworkings of their paintings. But to Matisse and, presumably, Dylan their work is not about choosing easy solutions; it is about constantly trying whether a change of tools or devices might pave the way for a more satisfactory artistic solution. In this sense Dylan is a soul mate of Matisses, probably more so than he himself realises.

While Dylan was working on the paintings for The Brazil Series, he discussed the lighting in the paintings with the author of the present article at a meeting held in December 2009. In that connection I directed his attention to Danish painter Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783-1853) and showed him a painting reproduced in the catalogue for the exhibition Turner and Romantic Nature shown at the National Gallery of Denmark in 2004.21 In that catalogue, it seems, Dylan subsequently studied Eckersbergs most famous painting, A View through Three Arches of the Third Storey of the Colosseum in Rome (fig. 6). The middle arch of the painting seems to have been transferred almost directly to the painting Poison (cat. no. 31). When asked about his sources of inspiration, the artist made the following statement a few months later: I have always been fascinated by arches. I probably saw them in a book somewhere.22 Dylan often gets no more specific than this in such cases. But it would be very much like him to use such a reference to make a nod to the Gallery that was just about to open its doors to welcome his paintings.23 The fact that Dylan even honed in on a painting that stands among the most important works within Danish art is a testament to the certainty of his gaze.

NOTES
1

As related to the author of the present article in a conversation on

16

Interview with Bill Flanagan at Bob Dylans website (http://www.

1 March 2010.
2

bobdylan.com/#/conversation?page=2).
17

Interview with Bill Flanagan at the Bob Dylan website (http://www.

Douglas Brinkley, Bob Dylans America, Rolling Stone, 14. maj 2009,

bobdylan.com/#/conversation?page=2).
3 4

s. 76.
18

Ibid. When Bob Dylan presented the painting at a meeting with John

Cf. e.g. Edward Lucie-Smith, American Realism. London & New

York 1994, particularly pp. 60-71, pp. 92-115, pp. 128-41; James W. Tottis et al., Lifes Pleasures. The Ashcan Artists Brush with leisure, 1895-1925. Exhibition catalogue. Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit 2007; & H. Barbara Weinberg & Carrie Rebora Barrett (eds.), American Stories. Paintings of Every Day Life 1765-1915. Exhibition catalogue. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York & Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles 2009, particularly pp. 164-77.
19

Elderfield and the author of this present article on 1 March 2010, the branches on the trees held far fewer leaves, making the crowns of the trees almost translucent; at the behest of John Elderfield the artist subsequently built up the trees to achieve a much denser and impenetrable effect.
5

Conversation with the artist, 10 December 2009. Ibid. The Skull and Bones society is described as probably the best

6
7

Relevant paintings by Caravaggio include Saint Matthew and the An-

gel (San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome), The Crucifixion of Saint Peter (Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome) and The Sacrifice of Isaac (The Uffizi Gallery, Florence).
20 21

known secret Society in America, cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Skull_and_Bones.


8 9 10

As stated by the artist in April 2010. Conversation with the artist, 1 March 2010. Even in high school Bob Dylan opted for boxing over ball games; cf.

Brinkley, 2009, loc.cit. Conversation with the artist, 10 December 2009. Cf. Kasper Mon-

rad et al. , Turner and Romantic Landscape. Exhibition catalogue. The National Gallery of Denmark/Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen 2004, pp. 49-53.
22 23

a conversation with the artist, 10 December 2009.


11 12 13 14 15

Conversation with the artist, 10 December 2009. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.

Conversation with the artist, 1 March 2010. At a concert in Copenhagen on 29 March 2009 Bob Dylan included

a rare performance of the song When I paint my Masterpiece. Several people have interpreted this as a similar nod to the museum.