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Sunday, June 30, 2019

#Language and Life

#Language and Life

Arteries of Industry: paintings of canals 2

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 04:30 AM PDT

During the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth century, and until the spread of the railways a hundred years later, canals across Europe had been major routes for the transport of grain and other farm produce, raw materials for and products from new industrial sites. By the end of the nineteenth century, their commercial use was in decline or had already ceased, and many canals lay derelict.

Emilio Gola (1851–1923), Along the Milan Canal (c 1890-92), oil on canvas, 101.5 x 149 cm, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Wikimedia Commons.

The Italian city of Milan also had a thriving network of five canals, until they were covered over from the 1930s onwards. When Emilio Gola painted this view Along the Milan Canal in about 1890-92, they already seem to be in relative disuse, more of a place to hang your washing out on a bright winter’s day, with snow still on the rooves of the tenement blocks.

Alfred Sisley (1839–1899), The Canal du Loing at Moret (1892), oil on canvas, 73 x 93 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Wikimedia Commons.

Late in his career, Sisley was still painting his way along The Canal du Loing at Moret (1892), in a thoroughly wintry scene this time.

Théo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926), Canal in Flanders (1894), oil on canvas, 152.4 x 203.2 cm, Private collection. WikiArt.
Théo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926), Canal in Flanders (1894), oil on canvas, 152.4 x 203.2 cm, Private collection. WikiArt.

For Théo van Rysselberghe, the eycatching geometry of a Canal in Flanders (1894) was too good an opportunity for this combination of radical perspective projection, rhythmic trees, and meticulous reflections, which together make this one of the great Divisionist paintings.

Karl Schuster (1854–1925), Fishermen’s Houses on the City Canal (1896), oil on canvas, 65.5 × 75.5 cm, location not known. Wikimedia Commons.

Karl Friedrich H Schuster is now an obscure artist, but his view of Fishermen’s Houses on the City Canal painted in 1896 shows another urban canal in steady decay, then only used by fishermen to keep their punts.

In North America, canals had enjoyed a similar period of growth, followed by steady decline with the advent of railroads. Some major ship canals, including those used to link the Great Lakes, remain in heavy use, though.

Edward Lamson Henry (1841-1919), Nearing the Bend (c 1900), pencil and watercolour, 35 x 88.3 cm, Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany, NY. Wikimedia Commons.

In about 1900, Edward Lamson Henry painted this watercolour of Nearing the Bend, which shows only too well the eventual fate of many canals, providing trips out for locals and tourists. Like many ‘narrow boats’ built for smaller canals, this is being hauled at a sedate pace by the team of horses at the right edge of the painting.

Helen Hyde (1868–1919), Moonlight on the Viga Canal (1912), colour woodcut print, dimensions not known, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

The final work, before moving on to look at Venice, is Helen Hyde’s unusual nocturne, a colour woodcut, showing Moonlight on the Viga Canal (1912). This canal runs from Mexico City to the suburb of Santa Anita.

One city has become so strongly associated with canals that I can’t complete this pair of articles without looking briefly at them: Venice, traditionally founded by refugees on a group of 118 islands in a lagoon at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea, in around 421 CE. Rather than being dug in dry land, its canals are the remains of the watery gaps between islands.

Venice came to prominence as an artistic centre in the Renaissance, and since then its unique features have been recorded in paint by a rich stream of painters.

Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal) (1697–1768), The Bucintoro at the Molo on Ascension Day (1759-61), oil, 583 x 1018 cm, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London. Wikimedia Commons.

Many of the most famous views of the canals of Venice were painted, appropriately, by Canaletto, who built his reputation on them. Although they appear to be faithful depictions, and it has been claimed that he used a camera obscura for the purpose, careful analysis has shown that he exercised ample creative licence. Some feature crowds attending major festivities, such as The Bucintoro at the Molo on Ascension Day (1759-61).

Francesco Guardi (1712–93) Regatta at the Rialto Bridge (1770-9), oil on canvas, 125.7 x 77.5 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX. Wikimedia Commons.

His successor Francesco Guardi is less well-known, but maintained the tradition, with his Regatta at the Rialto Bridge from 1770-9 (above) and an undated view of The Bucintoro Festival of Venice (below).

Francesco Guardi (1712–93) The Bucintoro Festival of Venice (date unknown), oil on canvas, 98 x 138 cm, Statens Museum for Kunst, København, Denmark. Wikimedia Commons.
Martín Rico y Ortega (1833–1908), A Canal in Venice (c 1875), oil on canvas, 50.2 x 67.9 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons.

A century later, a new generation of views of the canals was painted not by a Venetian, but by the Spaniard Martín Rico. Many of these show lesser-known canals and less-frequented areas, like A Canal in Venice from about 1875. Although populated by the occasional gondola and a small clutch of children, they have a wonderful air of peace and serenity. His broken reflections are painted quite tightly although he is reputed to have painted mainly en plein air.

John Singer Sargent, Scuola di San Rocco (c 1903), watercolour on paper, 35.6 x 50.8 cm, Private collection. WikiArt.
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), Scuola di San Rocco (c 1903), watercolour on paper, 35.6 x 50.8 cm, Private collection. WikiArt.

For many of us, though, the canals of Venice will always be associated with the brilliant bravura brushstrokes of John Singer Sargent.

Last Week on My Mac: Last of the Mojave

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 12:00 AM PDT

Some time in the next week or two, Apple should release macOS 10.14.6, almost certainly the last version of Mojave we’ll see, and the last macOS to run on the ‘cheesegrater’ Mac Pro. Unless something goes seriously wrong, the next macOS release after that will be Catalina, probably towards the end of September.

This update looks set to be accompanied by an EFI firmware update, perhaps for all supported models. Among other things, that should provide a firm base for the rejigging of volumes required for Catalina’s new read-only system volume, and for its other requirements. It’s easier on users if the first major release doesn’t have to include an EFI firmware update too.

I’m sure that Mac Pro 2010/2012 owners will try to find a way to run Catalina on those wonderful old systems, but officially this is the last version of macOS that will run on those models, some of them due to celebrate their ninth birthday in July. Although their users will point at their low entry price of just under $/€/£ 2000, the better variants were twice that price, plus the cost of a Metal-capable graphics card, additional memory and storage. Apple has always been a premium brand, but they must have repaid their cost many times over during that period.

Mojave still has a fair share of bugs which need to be fixed. I don’t know what impact 10.14.6 will have on the list that I maintain here, but it would be good to see some of the more severe items at the top being finally knocked on the head.

However, I’ll surprised if Apple comes up with a better way of identifying 32-bit software before we hurtle on to 10.15 and it all breaks. Being able to resize APFS disk images without using Terminal would be highly desirable, as would some relief from the promiscuous writing of quarantine flags to documents opened by sandboxed apps, but I fear that the latter is probably here to haunt us well into the future.

Losing all access to 32-bit apps is going to be more serious than many seem to think. Only recently, I had to fall back to using an old 32-bit OCR app to make sense of 161 pages of French, where the current version of that product didn’t want to help. I can see that I’ll have to upgrade my old VMWare Fusion licence and keep a Mojave virtual machine to hand, loaded with those old and indispensible tools just in case they’re needed.

I for one will be sad to see the last of Mojave, which I have enjoyed even more than I did Sierra. I’ve run it on two 27-inch iMacs, one with a Fusion Drive, the other an iMac Pro with its T2 and wickedly quick SSD, and a non-T2 MacBook Pro, and it has seldom done anything unpleasant. My iMac Pro runs 24/7 for periods of around a month between restarts, something I was never able to achieve in Sierra with its periodic collapse of automatic backing up.

I wasn’t particularly enthused at the prospect of Dark Mode, which I barely used during Mojave’s beta phase, but once I tried it on a 27-inch display I was converted. My biggest regrets in Mojave have been with bundled apps like the App Store, which never ceases to annoy and disappoint. Then I rarely use Mail, can’t remember the last time I accidentally opened News, and will be glad to see the back of iTunes at last. Probably the only Apple app which is almost constantly in use on my iMac Pro is Safari, which for the moment at least Apple seems content to leave as a native macOS app rather than revamping it into something alien.

There’s plenty of unresolved business, though, in Mojave. In general, fears over the side-effects of its privacy protection haven’t been justified. I’ve recently tested a series of apps like Alfred which rely on being given the right levels of access, and most have coped well, albeit with significant additional burdens on both developer and user.

For me the remaining issues, which are only being worsened in Catalina, are those levels of access which the programmer can’t address, at present Full Disk Access in particular. Users are still expected to add apps to that list themselves, an action which they can and do get wrong. Protecting users from making this error is something for which Apple has accepted no responsibility, leaving it to developers to struggle with little or no support from macOS. The end result is that, for some users, protection of their privacy worsens their experience of macOS, which isn’t a good trade-off at all.

I hope that your update to macOS 10.14.6 goes smoothly, and proves a stepping-stone to Catalina.