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January 15, 1958 - Image 12

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1958-01-15
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Homage to Louis .1

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By THORNTON H. PARSONS
IT'S HARD to know now which
of us first called attention to
the mystic appropriateness of the
first five letters on the office door
of L T BREdvold in Haven Hall.
Books for liberation and balance.
His esteem for books was expressed
overtly in unabashed seminar ser-
mons against the graduates' casual
habit of stealing or marking vol-
umes from the library, and cov-
ertly in the affectionate, caress-
ing way he held books in his hands
or lined them up on the desk be-
fore beginning his lecture.
If a graduate student hadn't
perceivedLouis Bredvold's re-
sponsible and orderly use of books
as guides to spiritual freedom, to
right thinking and living, he
might,uin attending Austin War-
ren's courses, hear "my eminent
colleague Louis Bredvold" extolled
as a model for philosophical depth
of interest and unity in scholarly
and critical writing; for Brevold is
related to the 'Germans' only in
his Scandinavian ancestry. As a
scholar, he has emulated Swift's
bee and has come from his investi-
gations with greater sweetness and
light to shed upon the literature,
the history, and the philosophy of
the period, and with a surer hold
upon his own, convictions.
When I heard him refer to my
friend Ed Heinig as "a good John-
sonian," I imagined there was no
higher praise possible from him.
The philosophical stance of en-
lightened conservatism, which he
learned from his masters of ear-
lier centuries, has pratected him
from the aberrations of the 20th
century. It must have been a pain-
ful moment for a 1930's campus,
Marxist, orating on the library
steps, when Louis Bredvold's
socratic voice was raised to chal-
lenge a glib sophistry. And who
would not weep for the brilliant
visiting physicist who received
Bredvold's congratulations upon a

speech on nuclear fission, and
then received his question, "What
is Man?"
"A fortuitous concourse of
atoms," came the unguarded reply.
"So was your speech."
ON DECEMBER 8, 1941, he met
the professor of International
Law on campus and inquired
what his subject matter was now
that war had been declared and
treaties were automatically void.
Without waiting for an answer, he
continued triumphantly, "You
have no subject matter. You never
should have given up the Great
Law of Nature."
Bredvold has an impressive
Johnsonian freedom from cant.-
One day a rather vain and arro-
gant student interrupted his lec-
ture with the objection that the
judgment Bredvold had been
making about a writer was invalid
because nobody could say exactly,
what words mean. Bredvold calm-
ly heard the 'philosopher' out,
then asserted the claim for hu-
man knowledge and wisdom. "The
semanticists have talked them-
selves into the position of being
unable to say anything. We can
say things precisely enough. We
don't have to stop making judg-
ments because somebody discovers
that we cannot be absolutely pre-
cise in our definitions or that
words are not scientifically per-
fect conveyors of meaning. We
are still able to say-things."
BREDVOLD'S assurance about
his own values has not caused
him to lose empathy with 'here-
tics,' though. I have heard him
deplore the almost universal poli-
tical liberalism of the teaching
fellows who, in instructing fresh-
men, snip at the fabric that cov-
ers our "naked,- shivering hu-
manity," but thpse young teach-
ers and learners could get no more
patience and understanding than

from Bredvold. In a Ph.D. seminar
one afternoon I watched him
teach with equanimity basic
points of composition to a 'pro-
fessing' teacher of freshmen who-
had just read a bad essay of his
own to the class. No stauncher
foe of rmodernity has come for-
ward since Irving Babbitt. "Whose
view of man prevails in your
time?" he asks his students.
"Johnson's and Swift's, or Rous-
seau's?" But the modernists who
have found themselves in his
classes, immature undergraduates
or progressive teachers getting the
M.A. for economic reasons, have
been treated with gentleness and
tact. He has fulfilled Babbitt's
dictum that a man must be rigor-
ous in getting human standards to
live by, but flexible in applying
them.
In his own books and in his
teaching he has steadily pursued
philosophical and stylistic values.
"Generally," he used to say, "we
have a moral tone of medium to
low. Reading Swift increases it,
invigorates us morally as a brisk
ten-mile walk in zero weather in-
vigorates us physically." This de-
scription aptly suggests one side
of the Bredvoldian effect, too.
His greatness, though, consists in
the masterful integration of mor-
alist and storyteller - witty, deli-
cately ironic, urbane. As he coun-
seled seminar writers to concen-
trate more on soundness than on
novelty, he would launch upon an
analysis of the difference in
subtlety between the American
and French scholars in their at-
tacks upon essays delivered at
meetings of learned societies.'
Americans plunge in immediately
and bludgeon the author; where-
as the French, even when impelled
to destroy, begin with a conces-
sion to civility. "In the essay we
have Just- heard there is much
that is new and much that is
true. Unfortunately, the things

(Continued from Page 16).
but wooden. The contrasts be-
tween the pinks and greys are not
reproduceable, and the luminous,
radiant sensation of light is lost.
The light 'of the pigments almost
floats the figures and, their pro-,
portions notwithstanding, reduces,
their monumentality.
All canvases were not monu-
mental. Picasso's first son, Paul,,
painted as harlequin in 1924 and
pierrot in 1925, was the subject of
several lovely canvases, charming,
direct and delicate. Neither named
is a finished picture: the harlequin
Paul's feet and the upholstery of
the chair he sits on are no more
than suggestions; the right back-
ground of the pierrot portrait is
simply painted canvas, a comple-
mentary area of color setting off
the pierrot's white costume.
"Three Dancers" (1925),; also in
the artist's collection, is called the
beginning of another period, the
Expressionist. Not, perhaps, a very
accurate phrase, except that in
violent - color and violent action
Picasso attempts to express equally
vehement emotion restrained only
by the formality of the design.
Design was a major concern of
Picasso's in the great still - life
phase of the mid-twenties - and
color, light, and the other tradi-
tional aspects of the painter's
craft. "Ram's Head" (1925) is a
splendid example of the kind of
solutions he found, rich in color
and gradations of color, complex
and formal in design. But there
were also the results of his con-
cern with line - the fantastic
arabesque of "Running Monster,"
"Painter and Model" (both 1928),
and the surrealism of "Seated
Bather" (1930) and "Figure by
the Sea" (1929). If the two ver-
sions of "Three Musicians" sum,
med up cubism, the canvas "Cruci-
fixion" (1930) in brilliant, vibrat-
ing reds, pinks, yellows, and yel-
lowish-greens, summed up almost
a decade of restless, if fruitful,
exploration.
1932 Is the date of the famous

"Girl before a Mirror": with bril-
liant colors supporting the psy..
chological inquiry, the canvas is a
masterpiece of painterly investiga-
tien of the human being, a master-
piece of. composition, design, and
of execution, somewhat unusual
in Picasso who seems little inter-
ested in completing an experiment:
once it has yielded what he sought.
THE POLITICAL decade of the
Thirties clearly came to an
European climax in the Spanish
Civil War, and Picasso's work
reached one of its highest points
in the giant oil "Guernica," paint-
ed for the Spanish pavilion at the
1937 International Exposition in
Paris.
"On 26th April (1937), which
was a market day, the little
Basque town of Guernica was
razed to-the ground by planes
marked with the swastika,
which were then in Franco's
service. Two thousand civil-
ians lost their lives. The bom-
bardment lasted three and a
half hours and was intendedu
to test the combined effects
of explosive and incendiary
bombs on a civilan popula-
tion." (Robert Maillard: Pi-
casso; a Biographical Study.)
There is no doubt, looking at
"Guernica," that it is a great
canvas: power surges from the
flat figures on the canvas, en--
veloping and subduing the view-
er. "Guernica" is, in a sense, the
logical extreme of one's favorite
crucifixion, or of Leonardo's "Last

Supper." "Guernica" is not tech-
nique, or allegory, nor painterly
investigation or innovation:
"Guernica" is Picasso's response
to an early Lidice, less a prophecy
than an accurate vision of history:
"Guernica" is simply the vocabu-
lary,Jindeed, the entire exposition,
of the catastrophe of war.
Without modelling, foreshorten-
ing, shadows, or perspective, it
rises like the great bald and hor'-
rible fact that war is. It has no
palette; black and white and grey
suffice for Picasso to speak elo-
quently and dramatically: "For
better or worse Picasso has used
his own language which is neither
traditional nor journalistic nor
demagogic. And, if this work of
art does not entirely explain it-
self, it can be defended very
easily: let those who find the
"Guernica" inadequate,' point to
a greaterpainting produced dur-
ing the past terrible decade or, for
that matter, during our century."
(Alfred H. Barr: Picasso: Fifty
Years of His Art.)
SINCE 1939 paintings have flow-
ed constantly from his restless
hands. "Night Fishing at Antibes"
(1939) is a high point of both wit
and composition; "First Steps"
(1943) is another example of a
sensitive and joyful sense of hu-
mor. Picasso has lived in the
South of France since the war,
turning his attention to pottery,
to lithographs, and again to
sculpture, as well as to painting.
"Man with a Lamb" (1944) and

"The Goat" (1950), the series of1
painted terra-cotta and bronze1
"Owls" (1950 & 1953), all testifyt
to his mastery of sculpture and
his inventiveness in the medium.]
"The Kitchen," an oil of 1948,
suggests that Picasso could handleg
Paul Klee's aesthetic and tech-
nique; "The Chimneys of Val-
lauris" (1951) reveals a Picasso
who has absorbed much from Ce-
zanne's canvases as well as from;
his own experiments; "The Stu-1
dios" (1955 & 1956) speak a deep
understanding of Matisse's win-
dow-looking-out paintings. There:
are the fine "Portrait of J.' R.1
with Roses" (1954) and "Woman
by a Window" (1956), as sure-
handed and masterly as anything
Picasso has ever painted.
Between 13 December 1954 and
14 February 1955 the Picasso vir-
tuosity which has always been in
evidence was formally and largely
demonstrated in fifteen canvases.
Delacroix's "Les Femmes d'Alger"
(1834) was the beginning point;
on this theme Picasso painted his
variations. The results suggest
that he tired, perhaps, of paint-

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that are true are not new, and
the things that are new are not
true."-
I NEVER hear of Charles II or
Edmund Waller now without
recalling Bredvold's story about
them. Charles chided Waller for
writing better poetry when cele-
brating Cromwell than when cele-
brating a newly restored king.
With brilliant agility, Waller an-
swered, "My Lord, we poets al-
ways succeed better with fiction
than with truth." Naturally, Bred-
vold has treasured the choicest
stories about Johnson. He was
talking about puns one day and
made a parenthesis to tell us of
the time some of Johnson's rois-
tering friends decided to go by
his house and wake him up. They
stood in the darkness outside his
bedroom window yelling and
throwing pebbles until Johnson
raised the window and cried,
"What would you have with meo"
Somebody began, "They say you
can make a pun on any subject,
is that true?"
,It is."
"Make a pun on the king."
"The king is no subject," said
Johnson, slamming the window.
Bredvold's sensitiveness to the
comic spirit saves him from the
rigidity of some moralists. I re-
member how I waited for the day
when he would discuss Johnson's1
strictures against Fielding, for
Bredvold always staunchly as-
serted that "The four giants of
the 18th century are Swift, John-
son, Fielding, and Burke." How
could a Johnsonian explain the

great man's preference for Rich-
ardson? Of course, Bredvold al-
ways exonerated himself and fel-
low Johnsonians from the charge
of exaggerating Johnson's power
and wisdom. When Sidney Roberts
came to the University to read a
paper, Bredvold introduced him as
a Johnsonian and then explained,
"A Johnsonian does not claim that ,
Johnson was always right. He
merely claims that Johnson was
never wrong." Johnson himself
would have been pleased, I think,
with Bredvold's insistence that lit-
erature must be ultimately moral,
and that this judgment has to be
made, and takes precedence, fi-
nally, over the aesthetic judgment.
'So Johnson did not err in prin-
ciple. "Johnson did not under-
stand the comic spirit," Bredvold
very gently interceded. "If he and
I ever meet as shades, I will ex-
plain it to him, and I think I can
get the old fellow to understand."
HE MIGHT begin by repeating
for Johnson the hilarious
reading of Meredith which he gave'
as his contribution to the series
of readings by members of the
English Department at the Uni-
versity. He described this as his
"recreative" reading. The Bred,
voldian sense of appropriateness
is never asleep. For the Henry
Russell Lecture last spring he gave
us the best of Bredvold the SchoI-
ar, carefully distilled by many
years of study and reflection; but
he has resources of humor and
charm to call upon when the oc-
casion demands, and these re-
(Continued on Next Page

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