Piero di Cosimo @ The National Gallery

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Peter Schjeldahl reviews Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., on view through May 3, 2015.

Schjeldahl writes that di Cosimo "devoured influences—Leonardo, Filippino Lippi, Flemish painting—and espoused radical ideas, notably a borderline heretical vision of human prehistory as brutally primitive. Compulsively original, he wouldn’t hold still to be revered. The glancing ironies and the frequent wild humor of his art remain freshly confounding… The most uncanny quality of Piero’s art, for me, is the seductive expressiveness of characters who seem neither quite real nor merely imagined… Piero’s art is a multitudinous pictorial theatre, at which attendance amounts to complicity. Trying to assess the works in their historical context is hard. They keep spilling into the present tense."

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