Painting: The Flip Side

The precision of the small has delighted men through the ages. French scribes charmed medieval dukes with their illuminated books of hours. Persian miniaturists captivated jaded sultans with their courtly fables of princess and peri. Dissolute French aristocrats wore miniature portraits of their mistresses in medallions around their necks.

Even now, while the big names in painting fill museum walls with mammoth abstractions, the practitioners of the minuscule thrive quietly.

Tiny paintings are intrinsically no more interesting than large ones. The danger that the behemoths run is of be coming bombastic; midgets must combat a tendency to seem cloyingly cute. Since...

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