In 1959, John Ashbery, considered by many to be America’s greatest living poet, encountered a small circular painting by 16th-century Italian artist Francesco Parmigianino. He found the small circular painting “haunting, beguiling” and “surprisingly tiny with an unearthly glimmer.” But it was not until the early 1970s that he would write the first lines of the poem it inspired: “As Parmigianino did it, the right hand bigger than the head….”
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror was published in 1975 as part of a collection that won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. And a decade later, it would inspire a limited-edition artist’s book, now on view for the first time at MAG, with prints by such modern masters (and friends of Ashbery) as Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Jim Dine, Richard Avedon, and Larry Rivers.
The show should have special significance for local audiences. A native of Rochester, Ashbery took art classes at the Memorial Art Gallery as a young boy and at one time entertained the idea of being an artist. Tuesday, June 2, he’ll be back to speak on his life and work.
Pictured: Parmigianino’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirrot (ca. 1524) is now in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.