Friday, March 24, 2017

Birthdays: Weston, William Morris, Juan Gris, Yayoi Kusama!, Agnes Martin

March 24, 1886. Edward Henry Weston (March 24, 1886 - January 1, 1958) was a 20th century American photographer. He has been called one of the most innovative and influential American photographers In this image: The 1937 gelatin silver print of a ranch along the San Simeon Highway in California, left, taken by Edward Weston is one of many viewed by Bruce Polonsky, standing, and Betsy McCutchen at the Portland Art Musuem in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2004. Weston's use of crisp resolution, negative space and light patterns can be seen in each of the artist's photos currently on exhibit at the Museum in the show, "Edward Weston: A Photographer's Love of Life", through Nov. 28.

Cabbage and Vine fabric

Design for "Tulip and Willow" indigo-discharge wood-block printed fabric, 1873.
Happy Birthday to artist and textile designer William Morris, March 24  in 1834:

William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was an English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist. Associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement, he was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production. His literary contributions helped to establish the modern fantasy genre, while he played a significant role in propagating the early socialist movement in Britain.

Portrait of Picasso, 1912, oil on canvas, the Art Institute of Chicago
 Happy Birthday to Spanish painter and sculptor Juan Gris, born March 23  in 1887:

José Victoriano (Carmelo Carlos) González-Pérez (March 23, 1887 – May 11, 1927), better known as Juan Gris (Spanish: [ˈxwan ˈɡɾis]; French: [gʀi]), was a Spanish painter and sculptor born in Madrid who lived and worked in France most of his life. Closely connected to the innovative artistic genre Cubism, his works are among the movement's most distinctive.

 Happy 88th B-day (Born March 22, 1929( to "polka dot queen" Yayoi Kusama! TBT to her work in

Yayoi Kusama (草間 彌生 or 弥生 Kusama Yayoi, born March 22, 1929) is a Japanese artist and writer. Throughout her career she has worked in a wide variety of media, including painting, collage, soft sculpture, performance art, and environmental installations, most of which exhibit her thematic interest in psychedelic colors, repetition, and pattern. A precursor of the pop art, minimalist and feminist art movements, Kusama influenced her contemporaries such as Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and George Segal and exhibited works alongside the likes of them.

She's become so popular that people destroy her work taking selfies of their smug faces. Too bad she had to join the increasing list of artists whose work has been damaged or destroyed by careless, thoughtless, selfish people.

Eternal Love for Pumpkins

Happy Birthday to abstract American painter Agnes Martin, born March 22 in 1912:

Nancy Princenthal's recent award-winning Martin biography chronicles how she was hospitalized several times for paranoid schizophrenia and required medication, while her homosexuality was manifest during a time when hostility and violence were not uncommon. But Princenthal correctly warns against the temptation to make strict biographical interpretations of the work, which Martin also resisted.

We love a good story of a crazy, disaffected artist, alienated from society and clinging to art as a desperate life raft. In Martin's unruffled but resolute retrospective, that's a distraction that also falls away. (Christopher Knight, LA TImes, April, 2016).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Anthony van Dyck

March 22, 1599. Sir Anthony van Dyck (22 March 1599 - 9 December 1641) was a Flemish Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England. He is most famous for his portraits of Charles I of England and his family and court, painted with a relaxed elegance that was to be the dominant influence on English portrait-painting for the next 150 years. He also painted biblical and mythological subjects, displayed outstanding facility as a draftsman, and was an important innovator in watercolour and etching. In this image: Auction workers pose for photographers as they hold a portrait made by Anthony van Dyck, during a pre-auction photo-op for the 'Old Master Paintings and Early British Paintings, Drawings & Watercolours' sale in Sotheby's auction house in central London, Friday July 3, 2009.

Charles I

Self Portrait

Charles I and Henrietta Maria

Anthony van Dyck was born in Antwerp in 1599, the son of a draper, Frans. His mother died when he was seven, and a few years later his father was effectively declared bankrupt. Many of his 11 siblings joined the church. Anthony, however, became one of the best portrait painters who ever lived.

Luckily, his skills were developing fast and in 1617 he had a great stroke of luck when hhe Antwerp Dominican church, which had commissioned renowned artists to execute a cycle of paintings, invited Van Dyck. Van Dyck painted his "Jesus Bearing the Cross" for which he received the same amount as his celebrated elders van Balen and Rubens. Fame seemed to be beckoning. Within a year, the artist who was already running his own studio was officially recognized as a master by gaining admission to the Saint Luke guild.

Rubens, who had probably been employing him since 1617 to paint tapestry cartoons, wrote in a letter to a patron that he rated the youth, then 19, as the best among his disciples. A vist to Italy, contacts with European royals and his increasing popularity lead to him becoming court painter to Charles I. Some critics have complained that his later work became stylized and routine; would that all routine work look so fresh and accomplished!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Happy Birthday Bach

J.S. #Bach was born #OTD in 1685. A new post with a … a performance on @metmuseum pedal #harpsichord #MetMusic

Cantata's Website:

 Let's celebrate the birth of our favourite composer with his festive 'Gloria':

Partita 2 BWV1004 "Ciaccona" #DavidGarrett  @YouTube

Listen to the Brandenburg Concertos today on this special occasion

Komm, Jesu, komm! at last year's #BBCProms


Monday, March 20, 2017

William Henry Johnson

March 18, 1901. William Henry Johnson (March 18, 1901-1970) was an African American painter born in Florence, South Carolina, and is becoming more widely recognized as one of the greatest American artists of the 20th Century. He became a student at the National Academy of Design in New York. This his image provided by the Smithsonian's American Art Museum shows the painting Children Dance, ca. 1944, by William H. Johnson. The work is on loan from the museum to the White House of President Barack Obama, where it is currently on display. Photo: Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Born in South Carolina, he was able to get to New York to study art, which would have been imposible for him as a black man in the South. He was able to move to Europe where he met and married Danish textile artist Holcha Krake. When WW II began to rumble on the horizon, the couple moved back to the United States where Johnson found work as a teacher at the Harlem Community Art Center. After his wife's death in 1944, Johnson's behavior became erratic and he was found to be suffering from syphillis. In 1947, he was committed to the Central Islip State Hospital on Long Island where he spent the last 23 years of his life, dying in 1970.

So many questions about his health remain unanswered. Why was his syphillis untreated until it became life threatening? Where did he contact it and how? Because of his illness a caretaker declared him unfit and unable to pay storage fees. We have his later works because Helen Harriton, Mary Beattie Brady and others arranged to pay the fees.

Johnson's belongings were delivered to the Harmon Foundation with unconditional rights over all works. The foundation would use the works to advance interracial understanding and support African American achievements in the fine arts. On April 19, 1967, the Harmon Foundation gave more than 1,000 paintings, watercolors, and prints by Johnson to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. (Wikipedia

What’s stunning is the few short years, from 1939 (When Johnson returned to the US) to 1945, in which he was able to produce work in this mature style–colorful, geometric, using the rhythm of repeating shapes. It’s deceptively childlike. And wow, is it beautiful! The work from that period is mostly narrative. It’s lively even when the subject matter is dark, as when he depicts a young soldier leaving his family farm for World War II, or when he depicts injured soldiers.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Georges de La Tour

March 19, 1593. Georges de La Tour (March 19, 1593 - January 30, 1652) was a French Baroque painter, who spent most of his working life in the Duchy of Lorraine, which was temporarily absorbed into France between 1641 and 1648. He painted mostly religious chiaroscuro scenes lit by candlelight. In this image: Harald Marx, left, director of the Old Masters Painting Gallery Dresden, and Stephane Loire, curator of the Louvre, inspect the oil painting "L' adoration des Bergers" (The admiration of the herdsmen) made by George de La Tour in the 17th century, in a studio of the Old Masters Painting Gallery in Dresden, Germany, Friday, Oct. 21, 2005.

de La Tour (1593-1652) was quickly forgotten after his death. Changing taste, such as that of the Rocco for froth and frills, made his more somber and thoughtful works unfashionable. He was never taken up by the court, didn't live in Paris and was, according to some things I've read, a bit of a curmudgeon. de La Tour had to wait until 1972 for some scholarly sleuths to turn up a handful of paintings for a first little show in Paris.

Not much is known of his life except that he worked in the Lorraine region of France, and somehow picked up the influence of Caravaggio. He first painted daylight scenes of mainly lowlife characters, but then, came a sea change and his paintings take on an emotional, interior spiritual tone. His only brush with the court came when Louis XIII bought a painting of his of St. Sebastian.

The Fortune Teller (at the Met)

While an old gypsy crone tells his fortune, a naive youth is robbed by her accomplices, a subject popular among Caravaggesque painters throughout Europe in the seventeenth century. La Tour’s painting can be interpreted as a genre or theatrical scene, or as an allusion to the parable of the prodigal son. The inscription on the painting includes the name of the town where La Tour lived, Lunéville in Lorraine.

One of his early masterpieces—“The Fortune Teller”—deals with cheating and a con directed at a naive, easily cheated character. The painting is brightly colored, the figures move with stylized gestures and there is a web of glances between the main characters.

The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds

Magdalene with the Smoking Flame, Louvre

In the 1640's, his work becomes darker, deeper, richer. He loses interest in the criminal underworld and he became a religious painter. Mary Magdalene, the Holy Family, apostles and others are portrayed against  a black/brown background, lit by a single candle. The palate is somber but not depressing and the mood is one of quiet contemplation, light by a solitary fire.

Joseph the Carpenter The Louvre

The Choirboy

It is possible that the horrors of the Thirty Year's War prompted de La Tour to seek a more spiritual meaning in his life, away from the death and destruction. But we don't know for sure. We will never know unless some relevant document emerges from an obscure hiding place.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Homage to Howard Hodgkin

Sir Howard Hodgkin, who has died aged 84, was literally a broad-brush artist, the width of whose lush, pigment-loaded strokes was accentuated in all but the later paintings by the smallness of the surface. Their impact was intensified by his habit of incorporating the frame, actual or suggested, as part of the picture. From his obit in the Guardian

Monday, March 13, 2017

Happy Birthday Alexej von Jawlensky

March 13, 1864. Alexej Georgewitsch von Jawlensky (13 March 1864 - 15 March 1941) was a Russian expressionist painter active in Germany. He was a key member of the New Munich Artist's Association (Neue Künstlervereinigung München), Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) group and later the Die Blaue Vier (The Blue Four). In this image: Employees hold Alexej von Jawlensky's "Schokko mit Tellerhut" or "Schokko with Wide-Brimmed Hat", at Sotheby's in London, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008. The painting is expected to realize 6.5-8.5 million pounds (US $12.8-$16.8 million; euro 8.8-11.5 million) in a Feb. 5 sale.

I could never pronounce his name but I loved his brightly colored paintings from the beginning. He was part of a group that revolutionized painting in the 20th century and thankfully, he wasn't one of the talented crew that was killed in WW I.

Young Girl in a Flowered Hat