January 01, 2000

Painting in Bedroom Tones

Painting in Bedroom Tones

French has many idioms derived from the world of painting. For example, instead of “hobby” the French often say “violin d’Ingres” (Ingres’ violin) – apparently Domi-nique Ingres loved to play the violin. But then this is not a Survival French column, and we can certainly come up with some colorful idioms from the Russian world of painting.

Those who revere the splendid colors of Ivan Aivazovsky’s canvasses (see Russian Life, July 1997) will understand the idiom – достойно кисти Айва­зовского (worthy of Aivazovsky’s hand). The phrase is widely applied to picturesque scenes or landscapes. But, of late, it has been used to express admiration (or amazement) over almost anything, often in the ironical sense.

At the other end of the spectrum, a poor or mediocre canvas may be called a мазня or пачкотня (daub) – terms used often by socialist realists to denigrate the work of abstract painters.

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