January 3, 2014
Not Looking at Pictures â€“ Not Reading TextsOur eyes exit the frame and return to the room, where two men still stand. We walk around them to see their eyes and find both sets in motion, yet they move differently. While two paired eyes seem to move easily across the canvas, the other pair struggle-these eyes dart, they dash; and now the eyes appear to relax on a plane beyond the painting, beyond the wall on which it hangs. â€œPictures,â€ writes E.M. Forster, bringing us into â€œNot Looking at Pictures,â€ â€œare not easy to look atâ€ (130). Standing in the gallery, we are inclined to believe him, having seen St. George and the Dragon as colorless subjects and objects intermediated by verbs; here no paint has dried. Yet there must be some paint in Forsterâ€™s essay, and we would sooner see it than watch his walls go bare, for ours would go bare, too. Where Forster imagines that the dragon utters some silly things, we too have brought imagination to bear on the picture; where Forsterâ€™s vision of the picture had amazed Roger Fry â€œthat anyone could go so completely off the linesâ€ (131), the play of our eyes in space might have troubled the critic no less. There is some relationship between our problems, I think. Paintings are â€œintended to appeal to the eye,â€ Forster tells us in his first paragraph, and we know of no other organs that might have sensed this picture; so we do not know quite what has happened when the eyes enter a painting and the mind â€œtakes charge instead and goes off on some alien visionâ€ (130). The nature of a paintingâ€™s â€œappealâ€ seems to have eluded us, and I fear that our vision has moved some distance from the frame. We must realize where we stand.I have placed us within a vision of the gallery, the verbal gallery into which Forster narrates himself, helped by Roger Fry and Charles Mauron, in â€œNot Looking at Picturesâ€; we enter to see what Forster hangs on the walls. First there is â€œa fifteenth-century Italian predella, where a St. George [is] engaged in spearing a dragon of the plesiosaurus typeâ€; the spear has gone through the dragonâ€™s â€œhooped-up neckâ€ (131), we read. If it has been painted by a particular fifteenth-century Italian painter, we do not know which one; if it truly hangs in a non-verbal gallery among other painted pictures, we know neither the galleryâ€™s name nor its location. Yet it remains my expectation that Forster describes an object that verifiably exists, that he has chosen a St. George among St. Georges, one Italian painting, so that I may look at its paint. As he is seeing this picture with Fry, let us assume that the gallery is in England: there are two fifteenth-century Italian paintings of St. George in London galleries, both of whose creators are documented. In one of the paintings I see a dragon with St. Georgeâ€™s spear lodged in its neck, but it has been painted on canvas, not as part of an altar. The other painting is a predella, which fits Forsterâ€™s medium description, but here the dragon has taken Georgeâ€™s spear in the belly and, lying prone on its back, it bites the weapon. Has Forster commingled two painted St. Georges into one faulty piece of prose sketched from memory? There can be no looking at pictures of this sort, yet Forster deserves the benefit of the doubt-we draw no hasty conclusion. The St. George and the Dragon of his essay may exist somewhere as paint on canvas, but if it does it seems to have got lost in the move from experience to expression.There are other works on view in â€œNot Looking at Pictures,â€ but our eyes must rest up for their next trip to the gallery. We proceed towards the exit: â€œOn the whole I am improving,â€ writes Forster in the first sentence of his essayâ€™s last paragraph; â€œI am learning to get myself out of the way a little and to be more receptive, and my appreciation of pictures does increaseâ€ (133). This sentence describes an action, a small movement, a slight shift that gets â€œmyselfâ€ out of the path of an implied object, a learned practice that, though it affords the object a free course of movement, places â€œmyselfâ€ in a superior position to receive. But what is to be received? Forster does not tell us overtly, yet he shows us what it must be, insofar as improved appreciation is expressed in a clause conjoined to the preceding clause that describes the aforesaid movement. We can allow that to move in this particular way is to improve appreciation, but we do not yet know what Forster has learned to move, only that he calls it â€œmyself,â€ and that it has hitherto diminished his appreciation of pictures; it seems to have affected his treatment of St. George and the Dragon, which he has appreciated in such a way as to forget who painted it, where he saw it, what medium had been used, and where the dragon had been speared. Paintings, we remember, are made to â€œappealâ€ to the eye; â€œmyself,â€ we must conjecture, is bound up in some relationship with the eye, likewise to the mind that sets off on alien visions, and therefore to the nature of paintingsâ€™ â€œappealâ€; with which we are deeply concerned, though we cannot interrogate it in isolation. Recalling Walter Paterâ€™s revision of Mathew Arnoldâ€™s â€˜true aim of aesthetic criticism,â€™ that in striving to see oneâ€™s object as it truly is, one must labor to know, discriminate, realize oneâ€™s impression thereof, we must understand that it is only through careful discrimination of Forsterâ€™s â€œmyselfâ€ that our enquiry may truly strike the core of his â€œappeal.â€The word â€œmyselfâ€ has a referent in â€œE.M. Forster, author of â€˜Not Looking at Pictures,â€™â€ but we do not go deep enough if we take this to signify Forster-discussing-Forster, as though there were a whole Forster in this text, a unitary author-man that exists without respect to time. If we can imagine ourselves perhaps 90 years into the past, there is a Forster whose feet really strike a particular gallery floor in the company of a person named Roger Fry, whose eyes strive to look at pictures and stay with them, whose body knows worldly stimuli, whose mind parses physical sensation. If we will venture back 63 years, there is a Forster whose memory has some record of galleries, St. Georges, and Fry. Though not looking at pictures is still a problem for him, his relationship to the problem has changed. And in our own time, as â€œNot Looking at Picturesâ€ lies open before me, there is Forster whose Iâ€™s declare their presence, whose work it is to enfold the personal, embodied Forsters who have existed, bound by time, in timeless, impersonal literature that has body of its own, though it never walked a gallery mile. This last Forster, I believe, has mostly kept out of the way, and wants no serious repositioning. It stays near its object in this essay, the appreciator of pictures that seldom sees what the painter has painted, though nothing but paint hangs before him. We have found â€œmyselfâ€ in the gallery, yet it has got tired of standing here, so we follow it out.There sits Forster in a concert hall, surrounded by listeners he can see and music he cannot. What to make of it? â€œListening to music is such a muddle that one scarcely knows how to start describing it,â€ begins â€œNot Listening to Music.â€ Indeed, music can elude description for many formal reasons: unlike pictures, music exists only with respect to time-whether constrained by or free from it-so one is bound to experience music as sound over time. Another problem is that realistic representation, which seems to be the essential mode of painting by which all other modes orient themselves, does not exist in most tonal music. For these reasons, musical forms may be more difficult for lay appreciators to apprehend than visual ones. But if pictures are made to appeal to the eyes, it follows that music is made to appeal to the ears, and that if one can hear music, one ought to be able to listen to it. Forster begins describing the act of listening to music with a curious admission, telling us that â€œduring the greater part of every performance I do not attendâ€-yet this man looks no different from the Forster we found in the gallery! â€œThe nice sounds,â€ he continues, â€œmake me think of something elseâ€ (127). Do our eyes deceive us; have we been duped by a Forsterian imposter? No, there sits the body, its legs draped from the seat. One foot is planted on the floor, while the other taps along to the music, emphasizing one of three counts in each measure, emphasizing the proper count for a few minutes at a time. After a while, though, the tapping foot seems to find it own tempo, its own time signature. â€œI do not attend,â€ writes Forster, though his body has not left the concert hall; this must be a special sort of attendance.Having failed to find a St. George among St. Georges, we now turn to the OED for an â€œattend,â€ finding sixteen definitions among three genuses: I. â€œTo direct the ears, mind, energies to anythingâ€; II. â€œTo watch over, wait upon, with service, accompany as servant, go with, be present atâ€; III. â€œTo wait for, to await, to expect.â€ There is work implicit in every sense of this word, in application of the mind or the senses to, in readiness to be commanded by, in anticipation of the attended, that it will command, possessing an authority to do so. In this sentence, in this essay, the attended is music, and to think of something other than music in response thereto is not to attend, to except oneâ€™s self from the network of labor and responsibility that attendance implies. Yet attendance is not merely a grim sign, for there is a rewarding moral among its signifiers: â€˜attendreâ€™ et puis â€˜danserâ€™; do work with your mind, then dance with your body. â€œI do not attendâ€: the body is not moved, cannot be moved, though the mind has wandered for its private, personal pleasure.After â€œ. . .I do not attend,â€ we read, â€œI wool gather most of the time, and am surprised that others donâ€™tâ€ (127). In the paragraphs that follow, Forster shows us his mind wandering away from music, and he suggests that music may be harder to listen to than a novel is to read; this may stem from there being two sorts of music, one that does associative work, making the listener think of things other than music, and a privileged one that is designed for close listening, encouraging the listener to consider the music for its own autonomous forms. Of this privileged sort, Forster writers, â€œWe gather a superior wool from it, still we do wool-gather, and sounds slip by blurredâ€ (129). How we read these sentences should tell us something about why we are reading â€œNot Listening to Music,â€ what we think it might be about. Though Forster knows more about music than he overtly admits, it is not principally for music that we read his essay, though our ears remain alert. If we think that â€œwool-gatheringâ€ does but describe the act of not listening to music, we are not reading text. Wool-gathering ought to strike us as a uniquely chosen phrase. Though some meaning of the term has come to us through context, this is but one and, in fact, the second listed entry in the OED. Here is the first: â€œThe action of gathering fragments of wool torn from sheep by bushes, etc.â€ What we took to be a general absent-mindedness or inattentiveness is, we learn, grounded in a particular practice that we have not likely encountered off the page.Here is an analogy that wants parsing: not listening to music is to wool-gathering, as listening to music is to not wool-gathering. To wool-gather is to collect small, non-whole pieces of wool that a sheep has lost gradually, perhaps unknowingly, never touching, perhaps never seeing, the sheep from which the wool has come; one attends to a bush or some other thing, which, having caught a certain amount of wool by standing in the way of sheep, has no special relationship with, reveals nothing we did not already know about wool-it grows on sheep, from which it detaches. To not wool-gather, then, is perhaps to shear larger pieces of woolen coat from a captive sheep, removing the wool thoroughly and deliberately until the whole coat has come off the sheep. So the sheep is present, restrained, movement being limited to the hand that shears, such that the wool removed is whole and substantial. But is this any way to listen to music?Let us see if we can listen to music as we do not wool-gather. First, the musicâ€™s source must be present, and we must see that it is producing the music we hear, and lastly we must end up with a complete musical form at the end, having accumulated a complete form in whole pieces. We do this steadily and consistently, with purpose, so that we may have a full piece of music when our action is complete. Now comes our time to move, to claim the music from the musicians using our ears, and we cannot do it. Time is passing, sounds are changing, and the change over time implies movement, musical movement. We sit in our chairs, essentially still, and the music moves around us, causing our eardrums to vibrate sympathetically, that is, to be moved by movement. â€œThe sounds!â€ continues Forster, â€œIt is for them that we come, and the closer we can get up against them the betterâ€ (129). What getting up against the sounds can there really be if they are always in motion? We may have come for them, but it is they who travel to us once we are properly positioned. Music itself or music that makes one think of something else, all of it is sound, and though we may travel to hear it, sound moves much faster than our feet. In the concert hall, Forster may shift in his chair a bit, but the music he is not listening to refuses to be still for an instant.We are still looking for â€œmyself.â€ That it often does not attend is one thing, but how, by what means does it attend in the first place?Leaving Forster to his experiential problems, we incorporate a new one: here we stand on a geometric plane, our eyes closed, ears open. A busy noise encircles us, crashing into itself in the psycho-acoustic location from which the first noise sounded, and we open our eyes to find ourselves bound by a high wall of translucent glass bricks, segregated from a space beyond it that we have never seen; yet we know it exists without the walls by virtue of the sounds that reach our ears, a distant, muffled voice that we, having kept our mouths shut thus far, could not have made; and though we agree that the voice comes from beyond the walls, moving around our interior space, the sound is shifting, following us though we do not consciously lead. The wall, we realize, does things to the voice: some waves strike the wallâ€™s exterior, and it resonates, while others that have struck are reflected away from us; some waves may travel over the wall, but they will collide with the wallâ€™s interior, causing further resonance and reflection, which we hear as reverberation. Let us pause. What are the physical aspects of our problem? There is we, there is an object from which the voice we have been hearing emanated, there is a wall that cordons us from the object, and yet there is more: the voice has a physical dimension, both as expressed by the original object and as sound heard by our ears; the object has a voice, and we have heard some of it, but how much in proportion to the voice as affected by the walls, baffled by the acoustic properties of its exterior and distorted by those of its interior, we do not know. We know that we see a wall and hear sounds, but have not heard the voice, and we do not see the object.We have gone somewhere to listen to personality, but now we look at it: Experience, already reduced to a swarm of impressions, is ringed round for each one of us by that thick wall of personality through which no real voice has ever pierced on its way to us, or from us to that which we can only conjecture to be without .(60)We are poised to read a sentence from the Conclusion to The Renaissance, Paterâ€™s prose study of Renaissance painting, that tells us what has happened to him, the paintings he has studied, and his prose in the course of looking at pictures; in so doing, he schematizes our problem. We begin: oneâ€™s â€œexperienceâ€ with an object, â€œalready reduced to a swarm of impressionsâ€ thereof, which cannot be equivalent to the experience itself, â€œis ringed round for each one of us by that thick wall of personality,â€ not â€œpersonalityâ€ generally but a particular sort, â€œthrough which no real voice,â€ a voice that was once embodied, â€œhas ever pierced on its way to us, or. . .â€ We attend: â€œfrom us to that which we can only conjecture to be withoutâ€ (60).Reading this sentence again, I fear that I have misunderstood, and that my misunderstanding has made me imagine the model wrongly: â€œwe can only conjecture to be withoutâ€ â€œExperience, already reduced to a swarm of impressions,. . .ringed round for each one of us by that thick wall of personality through which no real voice has ever pierced on its way to us,â€ I now read. It is â€œexperienceâ€ that lies tattered in the center, not unknowable beyond a wall in infinite space. What fixes the space in which the former experience, the swarm of impressions (whose reduction Pater describes a few sentences earlier), exists, what encases it is â€œthat thick wall of personality,â€ alienating each one of us from experience. The object has a material life and we have known it, yet we have forgotten, and then relied on coarse tools to serve our memory-we leave ourselves outside. Paterian personality, then, is not an intermediary field through which all physical sensations must pass before they reach us; it does not distill our experiences into something that is uniquely our own in a valuable way. This wall bars us from our objects, and it exists apart from us, not equivalent to us, other, neither a semi-permeable membrane nor a translucent envelope. We may take Paterâ€™s use of the passive voice to delude ourselves if we like, believing that the wall rings itself round, that this takes place in a mystical register to which we have no access, and that we are, therefore, not implicated in the scheme, but this an unwise choice.Though we have recourse to many definitions of â€œpersonalityâ€ that seem to exonerate us from guilt in our subject-object problem, we must fly over the OEDâ€™s first definition of the word to do it, which is â€œThe quality, character, or fact of being a person as distinct from a thing: that quality or principle that makes a being personal.â€ The language of this entry will not pin our problem down, yet it reinforces what we have learned from Pater by differential diagnosis: personality is neither person nor thing; it distinguishes person from thing variously, taking no specific form, but never the shape of person or thing. Yet the word â€œpersonalityâ€ is a noun, which ought to limit its variety to three familiar categories, â€˜personâ€™, â€˜placeâ€™, and â€˜thingâ€™. In grammar school, these categories were always presented to me in this order, and, having just written them, I realize that I have inadvertently rewritten Paterâ€™s subject-object schematic, and that a term has shifted: the yoke of â€œpersonalityâ€ has come off the object (or â€˜thingâ€™) and now it lies between us (â€˜personsâ€™) and the object in â€˜placeâ€™, where I have put it myself.What is â€˜placeâ€™ as distinct from â€˜thingâ€™? We are accustomed to thinking that the items of the latter category are found in instances of the former; but are â€˜thingsâ€™ always found in â€˜placesâ€™, and never â€˜placesâ€™ in â€˜thingsâ€™, their relationship fixed with total rigidity? Let us consider our earthly â€œmoon,â€ for surely we know what sort of noun it is. Though I remember hearing tales of a man in the moon as a child, never was I told that the moon was a man; the moon is, of course, not a â€˜personâ€™. The moon, then, is a â€˜placeâ€™ or it is a â€˜thingâ€™. Men have traveled to the moon, and travel is nothing but movement from one â€˜placeâ€™ to another. But what was the moon before it had been visited, before an outer space was conjectured to be without our atmosphere? It was a â€˜thingâ€™ in the sky, which was a â€˜placeâ€™, for it contained a â€˜thingâ€™; it was â€˜the sky in which one finds the moonâ€™ until boots struck its surface, until a flag pole pierced the dusty floor. And yet the moon has always been the moon so long as there have been people to see it. Its verbal status, much younger than the moon itself, changed over time, but its physical state did not. Such a change in the verbal status of a â€˜thingâ€™, an object, can only be made by a â€˜personâ€™, a subject. Paterâ€™s sentence, the problem it schematizes, our subject-object problem, is fundamentally a verbal problem, for he expresses it in verbal terms, having written it in a book of essays that binds the visual discourse to the verbal: â€œThat thick wall of personalityâ€ is built of words, and we have built it ourselves.I have been searching for pictures in this essay that I write, while my eyes have done little seeing of their own; they need a bit more practice before I can take us back to â€œNot Looking at Pictures,â€ where Forster has hung more than we have yet seen.So I have come to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a Tuesday afternoon, accompanied by my girlfriend, Helen, who is an art history major. We are on a working date, I think, though we have come on our separate projects; different books have brought us here, hers being fewer, heavier, and more cumbersome than mine, though they are neatly illustrated: the pictures in Helenâ€™s books are set bare upon the pages, wanting no readerly imagination to make them visual, remaining pictures when the book is shut just as easily as when the book is laid open. Her books have sentences too, but the work they do often confuses me. Whenever I look at the pages, I feel a bit strange: here is a variously colorful rectangle, and there is a monochrome block of characters; here, I presume, is â€˜artâ€™, and there, I suppose, must be â€˜historyâ€™, art existing within and often representing an historical frame, these histories of art seeming at times a bit artless. Scanning the pages of Helenâ€™s books, I am not sure that I read art history, for the prose seems largely instructive.As we walk through a gallery of post-impressionist paintings, my eyes move across the walls, in and out of pictures: I see people and things in spaces, some of which are places, a few of which are uninhabited, thing-less scenes-moving rather quickly, my eyes do not see the strokes of paint that my Iâ€™s, my writerly declarations, do upon reflection. I move nearer the wall on my left as we walk forward. My eyes move between the space in front of me and the wall, from which I now stand only a few feet; the paintings have swollen from my nearness such that my drifting eyes see no whole picture at once. Now my eyes enter a framed space: there is a beige hand, really just an outline of one, and now an arm, and now another hand-this one is much darker than the first-and they hold a baby, the lines of whose facial features are painted thickly, especially its solid black eyes that seem to stare at me. â€œThis is a picture of a baby held by hands,â€ I apprehend, and my eyes depart the painting. Helen has also been looking at it.â€œVan Gogh,â€ she begins, â€œpainted Madame Roulin and Her Baby in 1888, during his period in residence with the family. What was the first thing you saw in the painting?â€ I shrug.â€œA hand, I think, the lower of the two-thatâ€™s what I saw.â€â€œImpossible,â€ she gasps. â€œYou saw the babyâ€™s eyes first. He made your eyes go there by painting the picture in a certain way.â€ Helen has begun telling me just how the dead man did it, when I interrupt, protesting that it was actually the hand I saw first, much as I agreed that the babyâ€™s eyes are the workâ€™s focal points. To have seen as I maintain I did is scientifically impossible, she insists; theories of color and composition, laws of optics, preclude it; the painter, knowing such principles, made rational and conscious decisions as he painted, predetermining my visual path. â€œYou saw the babyâ€™s eyes first,â€ she pronounces, â€œunless thereâ€™s something wrong with your eyes.â€Fearing for my sight, I return home to make a study, make a curious discovery: â€œThere is a makeshift vase of yellow flowers on my desk as I type this sentence.â€ That is my first impression. I read the sentence I have just written, â€œThere is a makeshift vase of yellow flowers on my desk. . .â€ and it does not tell me what I know about the thing before me, which I have moved to the floor and out of sight. I saw, and I described: my description was not equivalent to what I saw; in fact, it was so poor that it was scarcely a vision of anything. Moving the item back to my desktop, I try again. â€œThere is a makeshift vase of yellow flowers on my desk as I type this sentence whose position has changed slightly, though the change seems negligible.â€ â€œFlowersâ€ is on my page, but it is no match for the flowers on my desk. The Iâ€™s that I have written, placed in my sentences to signify my authorial presence in the study, do not yet do enough of the work that my eyes have done with this still-life, so I keep writing. After a few pages, â€œflowersâ€ and flowers seem to be converging, and I have done it. But have I surely done it myself?Taking up â€œNot Looking at Picturesâ€ once more, we reenter the gallery, hurrying past a â€œSt. George and the Dragonâ€ that refuses to hang stably; having once appeared to be a 15th century Italian painting of unknown authorship, the object now seems to have grown 400 years younger, British, and come into a medium a bit more various than paint on canvas. We approach three objects further down the gallery hall, â€œGiorgionneâ€™s Castelfranco Madonna,â€ â€œTitianâ€™s Entombment at Venice,â€ and â€œVelasquezâ€™s Las Meninas,â€ which make it necessary to perform a bit of research outside the gallery: happily, each of Forsterâ€™s â€œpicturesâ€ has a discrete paint-on-canvas referent in the material world, although Titian painted at least four pictures called The Entombment during his career, most of which had been â€œat Veniceâ€ at some point in their histories-the picture I have selected among them seems to match Forsterâ€™s description, but one cannot be sure. Having wandered our share of miles down a verbal gallery space, we are finally treated to a look at pictures.Castelfranco Madonna and The Entombment hang next to one another, that we might see how Forsterâ€™s eyes treat them. He adverts to them in his essay as examples of pictures whose composition he has learned to identify using a special tool, the diagonal line; â€œWhen I find such a line I imagine I have gutted the pictureâ€™s secret,â€ he writes, before moving into and rather quickly over Castelfranco Madonna, which â€œhas such a line in the lance of the warrior-saintâ€ (132). Here stand a knight in armor on the left and a man wearing a frock on the right before a tall platform, where a Madonna sits on a light olive throne, a rosy red robe cloth draped over her right shoulder and across her lap, on which she cradles an infant with her right hand, her left hand grasping the throneâ€™s hard, rectangular armrest; the knightâ€™s wooden lance, blunt end resting on a beige tile in the monochrome parquet floor, indicating about one-third of the pictures width, rises towards the pictureâ€™s upper-left corner, crossing the knightâ€™s left forearm, grazing his iron-clad shoulder, moving just a bit behind his helmeted head, comes to a sharp gray point in the golden haze above, from which a maroon and cream flag drapes down towards the ground.We have seen the diagonal line Forster describes, though I doubt we have gutted anything; the line, the painted lines that form the lance, was surely no secret itself, but we may use it to imagine something: though he might find it against his profession, let us repeat the lance across the pictureâ€™s vertical axis, such that it falls into the priestâ€™s right hand, which he holds, fingers open and extended, across his right breast; now we extend both lances downward-they must pierce the parquet floor, or we betray perspective-until they meet beneath the ground. Now a V-shape safeguards Madonna in her throne, and we see that she is raised high and centered. Yet Giorgionne Giorgionne painted but one lance, one narrow diagonal form, and we have gone off the lines if we imagine any more. Whatever secrets of composition Castelfranco Madonna may have held died with Giorgionne, but this is not so lamentable. As we stand before this picture, we look at it, and see that its painter has kept nothing from us.Moving our eyes a few feet across the wall, we find The Entombment, and it seems that Forsterâ€™s eyes have done good work, for he has given us a line, not merely found one, and it gives us some direction:. . .beginning high on the left with the statue of Moses, it passes through the heads of Magdalene, Mary and the dead Christ, and plunges through the body of Joseph of Arimathea into the ground. Making a right angle to it, flits the winged Genius of Burial. And to the right, apart from it, and perpendicular, balancing the Moses, towers the statue of Faith. (132)
These are prosaic lines, and yet they move our eyes through the painted picture. Forster writes that this is one of his easiest pictures, that he looks at it intelligently, that the lines he has seen and the emotional life of the picture complement one another in his mind, and yet this picture is not easy, and the work he does with it is promising. He does not attend as long as we might like him to, offering us the â€œgrim alcove,â€ â€œsinister tusked pedestals,â€ and â€œsounds of lamentationâ€ before giving us color, bodily situation, lighting, and the appearance of the paint itself-and it is for them that we come, as much as we had come for the sounds in â€œNot Listening to Musicâ€-but Forster makes progress looking at pictures, and our appreciation does increase.Las Meninas looms nearly life-size in the distance, though we can only guess as much before walking towards it. As our feet strike the floor, we listen for our steps and cannot make them out distinctly: scuffles and screeches bounce around this box, the gallery, filling it to a capacity we did not anticipate with our eyes; we have been joined by Charles Mauron and Forster-together we approach the picture.We near the dimly lit interior space that Velasquez has painted, and I do not know where my eyes begin. Standing before this picture, we see the backside of a very tall canvas enter the frame from the left side; a man with dark chin-length hair, holding paint brush and palette, stands before the canvas, and it casts a shadow over him. Nine more figures appear to the painterâ€™s left, positioned at different depths. Framed rectangles appear on the back wall of this space, two of which are so lit up, suggesting particular images, not just the presence of pictures. There are three girls, dwarves, two women, a man, and a dog.But how do we begin looking at this picture for its figures; how have they been arranged? There are no diagonal lines to guide us through this picture, and so we turn to one possessing the sort of â€œnatural esthetic aptitudeâ€ that Forster says he lacks: under the tutelage of Mauron, we are to see this picture for its waves, though the painterâ€™s brush seems to have traced no such shape; the figuresâ€™ eyes do not signify a unified path of movement; and the bodies themselves, strewn across the dull salmon floor in such various and apparently disorganized manner, do not seem to wave at all. How can Mauron go so far off the lines; what right has he to put waves in this painting, where Velasquez has painted none? Asking this question, we have stopped looking at the picture, preferring to focus our enquiry on a Velasquez whose body, his painterly mind therein, died in 1660. What we now neglect is this pictureâ€™s only knowable painter, who is represented standing before a canvas that we cannot see; let us try looking at this Velasquez.His moustache is thick and brown, nearly black, as are his eyebrows, which hang over his sharp, crisply defined eyes. Light blue sleeves ruffle out of his dark vest, belted at the waist, on which a crimson dagger shape is emblazed, pointing down to the sharply painted brush that runs through a blurry beige shape that is a hand only by virtue of the paint brush it now seems to hold; whether its blurriness represents motion, we cannot say, but this hand that paints is paint itself, taking the form of a painted shape first, and a hand second.We have found the painter in Las Meninas, and it is over his head that the wave begins, cascading downward, sweeping over the curly auburn hair of a short, pale-skinned girl who stands in profile, bent at the waist towards a tiny girl, whose chest and upper torso are wrapped tightly in a white dress with beige overtones that blooms outward at the waist, falling to the floor almost as tablecloth from a round table; a carnation fixed to her breast, head turned slightly to her left, wispy blonde hair pinned to one side and drifting down to her shoulders, covering her ears, the girl gazes in our direction. Indeed, her eyes are so deep that we might linger in them until the gallery closes; yet we fool ourselves if we remain here too long, believing that it is we who have attracted their attention, for these are not young eyes. Over her blonde head, the wave proceeds, arcing over the head of a taller girl who stands slightly behind and to the left of the blonde girl in semi-profile, her eyes also appearing to face us; atop her head one wave ends, having given us some sense of the ceilingâ€™s height, and another begins, swooping down over a chubby-faced female dwarf who stands facing us, exiting the frame as it moves over the head of a shabbily dressed girl who stands in profile, her left foot stepping on a dog that lies on the floor, near us in the foreground. These are waves, we must remember, not two-dimensional curvilinear outlines; they have depth, and we see one nearing us as it moves from the painter to a blonde girl, receding from us as it passes over her rightmost attendant, nearing us again as it passes over the dwarf and out of the frame. We see a small shallow wave moving across the floor, from the right edge of the painterâ€™s canvas to the central blonde girlâ€™s hanging dress, to the dogâ€™s paws: this movement carves the pictureâ€™s foreground space, and, seeing that it is but a portion of the space Velasquez has painted, we may appreciate what a deep space this is.All of this seeing follows from Mauronâ€™s â€œcautiously underlinedâ€ themes, and it has helped us to look at this picture, though we have gutted no secret, and more remains to be seen. We still need help seeing the picture for what it is, an enormous painted canvas. Looking for the pictureâ€™s paint, we can scarcely find any such as a brushstroke might have left. An art history text book attributes this paucity of stroke to â€œoptical realism,â€ and Forster calls it the pictureâ€™s â€œsnap-shot quality,â€ but neither term sits very well with me; if the painting looks the way it does because of optical devices, these glass eyes surely have a strange way of seeing, and if such a lens could be fitted to a camera. . . . Let us speak no more of the camera, for the picture has been painted, and we get ourselves in the way if we try to shoot it. Though the paint may be difficult to see, looking at the picture, we do see what the painter has painted: there is the painter himself, the subject, standing off to the side, behind his easel, the canvas placed between we who look at the painting and he who paints; and there are his objects, front and center, that he may paint them and we may look at them. What we do not see is a mirror in which the painter might find his objects, and though we might conjecture it to be without the frame, we cannot know its size, shape or location; were the easel within the picture flipped round, we might guess at the mirrorâ€™s attributes and position, but, as a museum guard taps our shoulders, we remember that only one picture stands before us, and that its flipside is bare.It has got late, and the hour has come to leave the gallery. We retrace our steps towards the exit, our eyes now following our feet, too tired to run the walls one last time. Walking, our eyes shut; we hear a new music, our steps beating regularly, keeping time for the voices that surround us. These objects we have attended will sing all night-we may depend on it. Tomorrow, they will have new listeners, and there may be more song; tonight we leave our objects, not alone, but to themselves.As we walk down the galleryâ€™s concrete steps towards the avenue, no longer considering pictures, feeling a bit hungry and wondering where we might eat, not watching our feet as they shuffle towards the sidewalk, now feeling a bit relieved that our eyesâ€™ work is done, a city bus enters our field of view. It rumbles up to the curb, heaving to a halt; we hear a hissing, as the busâ€™s suspension lowers it to the ground; the doors fly open, and a few passengers exit. The busâ€™s doors close, it lunges from the curb, and we see a thin rectangular space pulling away from us: here was color, here was shape, here was text before the bus left us for its next stop; it had been an advertisement, perhaps one we had seen before, not likely worth our time or attention. Sitting down on the steps only moments later, the entire bus has become a problem. And yet buses do not become problems; buses are always buses, though they may seem problematic when we encounter them ourselves. Bringing our selves to bear on these objects, in the gallery or on the street, whether by accident or by choice, we begin to realize our subject-object problem. The gallery closes, the bus leaves for good, but the problem will not, cannot leave us. Our objects come and they go, only to be replaced by new ones. We are our selves, and though we may not know who we are or what we are like, we are present, wherever we might find ourselves, whatever objects complicate our presence. â€œNot looking at art leads to one goal only,â€ ends â€œNot Looking at Picturesâ€; â€œLooking at it leads to so manyâ€ (134). Looking at Forsterâ€™s art has led us, I think. But even as the body of a text offers up its last contour, though we say we have read this essay, looked at that painting, watched an ordinary city bus make a stop and considered the event no further, we find a conclusion only where we have tired of working. Looking at an artful essay, not just reading one and considering it read, we must know that the work we do as readers does not end on the last page: if we strive to be led, we will find ourselves moved from the end to the beginning anew; we will not only re-read, but re-see the text with older, wiser eyes, with a set of readerly expectations that have been transformed by the text that we read. If my essay truly ends with this sentence, I have done a poor job of writing it.Works CitedForster, E.M. Two Cheers for Democracy. New York and London: Harcourt, 1951.Giorgionne. Castelfranco Madonna. Oil on wood. Duomo, Castelfranco Veneto, ca. 1506.Pater, Walter. Selected Writings of Walter Pater, Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Columbia, 1974.Titian, The Entombment. Oil on Canvas. Madrid, 1576.Velasquez, Diego. Las Meninas. Oil on canvas. Madrid, 1656.