John Singer Sargent and the Haiti Earthquake

John Singer SargentFour years ago today was the 7.0 M earthquake in Haiti that killed over 200,000 people. The death toll was so high because it struck the most populated area of the country. In all, over three million people were affected by it. I think Haiti is an embarrassment to the west. There is no reason for us to allow its people to live in such poverty and suffer so much. But of course, that’s the modern American way: people are divided into the winners and the losers—the producers and the moochers. If someone was a winner, they would be smart enough not to be born in Haiti. The country is still suffering as a result of that earthquake four years ago. But you won’t see it covered much in America. Al Jazeera America did a pretty good job of covering it the last couple of days, as far as I could tell. For more information see CEPR’s Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch.

On this day in 1729, the conservative icon Edmund Burke was born. Actually, he was fairly liberal until the French Revolution. And then he saw that some people we behaving badly and so he ran back to the womb of conservatism: faith in aristocracy. In other words, he was a reactionary. But it’s important to remember that although people like David Brooks and George Will like to quote Burke, there is little that connects him to the modern conservative movement. Regardless, if you ever feel the need to read Burke, read William Hazlitt instead.

Other birthdays: sculptor Francois Duquesnoy (1597); novelist and playwright Frances Brooke (1724); French painter Jean Beraud (1849); writer Jack London (1876); singer Tex Ritter (1905); philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1906); singer-songwriter Ray Price (1926); screenwriter Alan Sharp (1934); boxer Joe Frazier (1944); actor Kirstie Alley (63); one of the worst people in the world and a substantial reason our politics is so bad, Rush Limbaugh (63); crime fiction novelist Walter Mosley (62); radio personality Howard Stern (60); actor Oliver Platt (54); probably evil businessman Jeff Bezos (50); and multi-media artist Rob Zombie (49).

The day, however, belongs to the great painter John Singer Sargent who was born on this day in 1856. He was primarily a portrait painter, and an extremely successful one. Those are mostly what you see when you see him in a museum, because that’s what people paid him for. But his landscapes and city paintings are quite different, and I think much more compelling. A good example of this is the following Street in Venice, that I think is just wonderful:

Street in Venice - Sargent

Happy birthday John Singer Sargent!

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