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Video transcript

(piano playing) Beth: We're at the unbelievably beautiful Getty Center looking at a portrait by Fernand Khnopff of Jeanne Kéfer, she's a little girl. Khnopff painted this in 1885. Steven: But he was Belgian. Beth: He was Belgian, he was considered a member of the Symbolist Movement so he's interested as an artist in depicting subjective, dreamy, personal states of mind. Steven: And this is very personal, very much about a state of mind but I'm not sure that I would call it dreamy in the tradition of symbolist manner. It's sort of straight forward at least in its representation but there's also a very subtle kind of intensity to it which is also a little transcendent in the symbolist sense. What I mean by that is we have this very sort of ordered structured environment. The architecture and the near right angles which are all a little off kilter, which I think is interesting because it suggests that we're coming at this from a very human perspective but then we have a little girl. She's so small in that space. Beth: Yeah and I think that the geometry that she's surrounded by of rectangles and squares and really, that's pretty much it. Rectangles and squares. There's one oval, the keyhole up there, that's the shape of her face. But yeah I think it suggests a kind of structure and order and the mind of a little girl who tries to make sense of the big world with its structures. Steven: I think that's true but then there's this interesting, Beth: To her. Steven: To her which is- Steven: Where she is looking directly at us and holding our gaze. Beth: Yeah and there's a sense of power to her childish view. Steven: There really is. Beth: Of maybe a kind of sense that she understands things about the world that maybe grown ups have forgotten somehow or lost sight of. Steven: So that has a kind of symbolist quality- Beth: Something kind of magical and imaginative and beautiful. Steven: And playful. Beth: And I think he's thinking very much about the color harmonies here. Steven: Oh, aren't they gorgeous? Beth: Yeah, the greens and the greys and the browns. Steven: Against the warm browns of her coat and ribbon. Beth: Yeah and it suggests this way that grown ups have made her and their environment into this pretty thing, that she's a decorative part of somehow- Steven: Except that- Steven: They betray a kind of intensity and a kind of intelligence and a kind of curiosity, a kind of knowledge as you said, that transcends all of the prettiness. Beth: Yeah and there she is, that solid triangle in the middle of all of those squares and rectangles. Steven: But looking directly at us- Steven: Absolutely directly out at us and holding us. Fabulous. Beth: Look at the bows on her shoes, they match the bow on her jacket and the bow on her hat. She has these eyes that are so penetrating. Steven: And then there's that intense sort of abstraction in the glass above her, you know? Beth: The reflection. Steven: It's really just gorgeous. (piano playing)