Boris Anisfeld’s Flight Above the Black Sea: Made in His Mind or a Balloon?

THE DAILY PIC: Anisfeld's bird's-eye view of the Black Sea at the Brooklyn Museum has Renaissance roots.

THE DAILY PIC (#1625): This week that the Pic is spending among the European holdings of the Brooklyn Museum has hit on some pretty obscure works and artists, but none as new to me as Clouds over the Black Sea – Crimea, painted in 1906 by Boris Anisfeld. He fled the Russian revolution in 1917, and not long after arriving in the U.S. got a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum.

Anisfeld’s sense of color and vaguely Fauve approach remind me of early works by Nicholas Roerich, another emigre Russian artist that I’m fascinated by and have written about. (Really, do click that Roerich link – it reveals some astonishing things about our changing tastes and artistic canon.)

But Clouds over the Black Sea strikes an even more remote chord in me: Its bird’s-eye perspective makes me think of the map of Venice drawn in 1500 by the great (and great unknown) Jacopo dei Barbari, who made the first attempt to adopt such a view. The flight over Venice in Jacopo’s map is completely artificial: He calculated his view-from-above using measurements made nearer ground level. I wonder if Anisfeld also imagined-up his flight above the clouds, or if he perched on a mountaintop – or in a balloon – to make it.

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