I carry this with me everywhere,” Tony Bennett said, pulling a small sketchbook out of the pocket of his tailored jacket. ”They’re mostly people in restaurants. I go to a lot of sushi bars.” After winning six Grammys and selling more than 30 million records in his 46-year career, Bennett will see the first coffee-table book of his artwork, What My Heart Has Seen, published in September by Rizzoli, in conjunction with a solo art show of his work at New York’s Eleanor Ettinger Gallery, Sept. 20-26.
Recently strolling through a retrospective of one of his favorite artists, Winslow Homer, at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (running through Sept. 22), Bennett was clearly moved as he offered his views on this quintessential American painter. ”I only do watercolors, oils, and sketches — and that makes Homer a god to me,” Bennett said reverently.
The Life Line (1884)
”This knocks me out. Look at how the waves are moving. It’s amazing. The thing that’s fascinating about Homer, the thing that I love more than anything else, is that his paintings actually move. One of the faults of painting — where music wins out over painting — is that music has a beat, whereas painting just captures a moment and stops. Even Rembrandt, Michelangelo — no matter how great the painting is, and God knows they’re beautiful — they stop. They freeze. Homer has a way of making the waves go this way and that way, and boom, boom! it makes it move. It creates a tension that’s just fantastic. Amazing. It’s a great victory for painting.”
”This watercolor is extraordinary. In its time, the depiction of a woman as a teacher was quite novel. It’s a beautiful work. Homer was a real social commentator, and he was among the first to depict women as workers after the Civil War. Beautiful. Everyone else thought that a woman should just stay in the kitchen. This is an important painting. It’s just gorgeous.”
An Adirondack Lake (1870)
”Beautiful. Wonderful nature. David Hockney, who is a good friend of mine, once told me, ‘Nature never lets you down.’ If you stay with nature, it’s just the greatest. You learn something every time. This painting speaks for itself. It tells a whole story. It’s about someone in search of something. It’s a beautiful painting. Wow.”