Jose Capuletti

Do not let yourself be satisfied with seeing pictures of paintings and sculptures on Facebook. I mentioned seeing the paintings of Jose Capuletti in an earlier post. Now I will try to convey my real experience.

In 1968 (I believe) Capuletti’s paintings were being shown at the tiny Hammer gallery on 57th street, a little more than a block east of Carnegie Hall. I had seen the ad in The New York Times. I had not seen his work before, had only read the fine short essay of praise by Ayn Rand. When I entered the front door of the gallery and looked at the nearest painting, it was as if an explosion had gone off in my head—a kind, loving, liquid explosion of exalted sight. I had been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and had been fascinated by many of the great works there, but I had seen nothing like this. No matter what the subject—a woman on a horse, a hilly vineyard, a naked woman kneeling, a curving, falling, slip of paper—it was as if I were newly born and using my eyes for the first time.

“I can see!” I thought, “and the act my seeing is an end in itself. There’s nothing more pleasurable, more joyous, in the whole universe!” After an hour or so of pure ecstasy I walked out (I had to get out, for I needed space to exult, to breathe, to swing my arms and legs) lifted in spirit, knowing I had experienced the highest joy I had ever felt. All I could then do as I walked home was to look art the tops of buildings in the sunlight. Everything else seemed irrelevant.

Since then I have seen photos of Capuletti’s work, but there is nothing there. The irrepressible, living radiance is gone. The camera has killed it. Trying to describe that radiance is impossible It was as if Capuletti had grasped the sun itself and held it up to me to look into without fear of damaging my eyes. If you have not seen a Capuletti painting first hand it is it you were blind. If you ever get a chance to see a work (and, of course, I mean a mature work. Of his early works I have no knowledge.) of this greatest of masters, do not pass it by.

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