Wednesday, November 22, 2017

On this day in 1904. Miguel Covarrubias

November 21, 1904. Miguel Covarrubias also known as José Miguel Covarrubias Duclaud (22 November 1904 - 4 February 1957) was a Mexican painter, caricaturist, illustrator, ethnologist and art historian. Miguel's artwork and celebrity caricatures have been featured in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair magazines. In this image: Covarrubias's caricature of himself as an Olmec.

Cover for Collier's Magazine, done during WWII. Caricature of Mussolini
From Sketches of Bali
Miguel Covarrubias was one of the most famous artists of his day, but chances are you’ve never heard of him. Caricaturists know his work- Al Hirschfeld studied under Covarrubias and shared a studio with him in 1924. He spoke of Covarrubias’ talent in the same breath as Daumier and Hogarth. Ethnologists and archaeologists know the name of Covarrubias as well. His analysis of pre-Columbian art and the culture of Bali led to books on the subject that have become classics. And his reputation as an anthropologist rivalled any of his peers in that field. Illustrator, caricaturist, anthropologist, author and educator… It’s high time you knew about Covarrubias too!

His art can be viewed at this website:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Born on this day. Paulus Potter

The Piebald Horse, 1650

The Young Bull. Potter's most famous painting. 1647

Two Horses in a Meadow
Paulus Potter was a Dutch painter who specialized in animals within landscapes, usually with a low vantage point. Before Potter died of tuberculosis at the age of 28, he succeeded in producing about 100 paintings.

When Paulus Potter died of tuberculosis before he was thirty years old, he had already profoundly influenced the way animals are depicted in European art. Potter created portraits of animals, making them his picture's focus, not just a backdrop for human action. The precocious son of a painter, his first dated work is from 1640. He entered Delft's Guild of Saint Luke in 1646 and later moved to The Hague. He is said to have wandered the Dutch countryside, sketchbook in hand, equally sensitive to how farm animals behave at different times of day and to light's vicissitudes from morning to dusk. Few of his contemporaries were more attuned to nature's moods or to the timeless harmony of beast, landscape, and weather. Potter's strong feeling for composition is seen in the way he grouped forms and used silhouette. His most successful paintings are small.

His contemporaries recognized Potter's talent. The famous Dr. Nicolas Tulp, who had spotted the young Rembrandt van Rijn's genius twenty years earlier, persuaded Potter to move to Amsterdam in 1652, whereupon he became Potter's mentor. In the 1800s, Potter's life-size The Young Bull was as famous as Rembrandt's Night Watch.Potter's etchings show the same sensitivity as his paintings.

Lidtke, Walter A., Michiel Plomp, and Axel Rüger. 2001. Vermeer and the Delft school. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 0-87099-973-7

All Images:

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sol LeWitt's Advice to Eva Hesse, read by Benedict Cumberbatch

Also, here’s a fantastic picture of Eva, who died at 34 of brain cancer, leaving behind loads of beautiful work—because she didn’t stop doing.

If you like Benedict Cumberbatch, this will make your day. If you like Sol LeWitt, this will make your week; if you also love and adore Eva Hesse, your entire month will be made. If you know none of these people and are just having a bad day, all will be made right in six minutes or less.

Dear Eva,
It will be almost a month since you wrote to me and you have possibly forgotten your state of mind (I doubt it though). You seem the same as always, and being you, hate every minute of it. Don’t! Learn to say “Fuck You” to the world once in a while. You have every right to. Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rambling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just

More at the link...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Born on this day in 1787. Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre

November 18, 1787. Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (18 November 1787 - 10 July 1851) was a French artist and physicist, recognized for his invention of the daguerreotype process of photography. He became known as one of the fathers of photography. Though he is most famous for his contributions to photography, he was also an accomplished painter and a developer of the diorama theatre. In this image: "Boulevard du Temple", taken by Daguerre in 1838 in Paris, includes the earliest known photograph of a person. The image shows a street, but because of the over ten minute exposure time the moving traffic does not appear. At the lower left, however, a man apparently having his boots polished, and the bootblack polishing them, were motionless enough for their images to be captured.

The shoe shiner working on Paris’ Boulevard du Temple one spring day in 1839 had no idea he would make his­tory. But Louis Daguerre’s groundbreaking image of the man and a customer is the first known instance of human beings captured in a photograph. Before Daguerre, people had only been represented in artworks. That changed when Daguerre fixed his lens on a Paris street and then exposed a silver-plated sheet of copper for several minutes (though others came into the frame, they did not stay long enough to be captured), developed and fixed the image using chemicals. The result was the first mirror-image photograph.

Unlike earlier efforts, daguerreotypes were sharp and permanent. And though they were eventually outpaced by newer innovations—daguerreotypes were not reproducible, nor could they be printed on paper—Daguerre did more than perhaps anyone else to show the vast potential of the new medium of photography.

The invention of photography:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Monet, Founder of Impressionism (Born Nov 14, 1840 - December 1926)

Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), 1872; the painting that gave its name to the style and artistic movement. Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

“When I look at nature I feel as if I’ll be able to paint it all and capture everything … then it vanishes,” Monet laments, perfectly capturing that elusive gap between what you see in your mind’s eye and what ends up on the canvas.  Monet

In the garden

Camille ?

Le Point Japanoise. 1923

Les Bassin au Nympheas 1917-1919

Nypheas, 1907

Nypheas 1908

Nyphjeas 1916-1919

Oscar-Claude Monet 14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) was a founder of French Impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting.The term "Impressionism" is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise), which was exhibited in 1874 in the first of the independent exhibitions mounted by Monet and his associates as an alternative to the Salon de Paris.

However, success did not come early or easily. In 1868, he wrote. “I must have undoubtedly been born under an unlucky star. I’ve just been turned out without even a shirt on my back from the inn in which I was staying. My family refused to help me any more. I don’t know where I’ll sleep. I was so upset yesterday that I was stupid enough to hurl myself into the water. Fortunately no harm was done.”

But he knew no other path and he kept on painting, although he had to write begging letters to his family for money, although his first wife Camille died after months of suffering. Monet painted her on her deathbed, a work full of grief and anger.

Nothing stopped him, not even the horrors of WW I. He could hear the guns from his home and Giverney and yet, he proclaimed, "They are going to have to slaughter me here as I paint." Nothing stopped him. Painting was everything.

"Art critic Jonathan Jones recently noted that “Monet makes all other art seem slightly false”, adding that the painter was “an unbeatable, unequalled artist whose popularity alone stops art snobs admitting that he is their favourite too”. It’s true that, as he and his fellow impressionists have been co-opted by the tourism industry, their work adorning everything from calendars to tea towels, so they have become increasingly dismissed as “chocolate box” painters.

Yet, as Andrew Graham-Dixon pointed out in his recent series on French art, to sneer at these “pretty” works is to forget that when they were first shown they were “raw and shocking”.  The Guardian

Complete Works:

Monet. Essay from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
The sketch in 19th century France
The roots of Modernism:
Monet at work in his Garden.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Painted Sculpture at the Legion of Honor

The latest show at the Legion of Honor is part of the new scholarship on Greek and Roman Sculpture. According to current belief, the sculptures were painted and in the most garish way possible. For decades, scholars have known that the sculptures were painted but in respect to the ancients, they refrained from imposing their version of taste on the works. 

No more. German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann decided that he knows better.  Using high-intensity lamps, ultraviolet light, cameras, plaster casts and jars of costly powdered minerals, he has spent the past quarter century painting sculptures and reliefs, believing that he has found the way, the truth and the light of ancient colors. He probably has the pigments right but does he have the colors right? What artist worth the name simply uses a color full strength, not tinting, not shading, not one iota of finesse? 

Would the people who created the lifelike Fayum portraits and the beautiful murals and mosaics that still exist have slathered art work with all the finesse of a toddler with a paint box? Showing teutonic stubbornness, Brinkmann has kept hammering away that his version is the true replica. Most iInstitutions have given in out of exhaustion if nothing else. Phidias,the creator of the Parthenon and much else, must be turning in his grave. 

Information from article “True Colors.” Smithsonian, July 2008 

Images from the Legion 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

American Resistance

Diana R. Fisher will be posting her book on line, chapter by chapter:

"IN honor of the 2017 election results, which some have called a Tsunami for the Resistance, I am posting chapter 1 today. This chapter catalogues the emergence of the Resistance, which is America’s response to an out-of-touch Democratic Party, a President who shows no interest in compromise, and the reach of conservative donors’ usage of Dark Money. It is still going through peer-review. I will post a revised peer-reviewed draft when reviews are back and I have responded to them."

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day, 2017

"It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. As a result of its immediate popularity, parts of the poem were used in propaganda efforts and appeals to recruit soldiers and raise money selling war bonds. Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world's most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. The poem and poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada, where "In Flanders Fields" is one of the nation's best-known literary works. The poem is also widely known in the United States, where it is associated with Memorial Day."

Long read with a lot of external links:

Friday, November 10, 2017

Couture Korea at the Asian

Reconstruction on based on an eighteenthcentury painting. Ramie, silk, and polyester. Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation. Photograph © Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation.
The Asian Art Museum, in collaboration with the Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation in Seoul, is hosting a show on Korean couture, with fashions ranging from re-creations of Joseon Dynasty ceremonial clothing (dynasty that ruled Korea 1392 to 1910) to Korean fashions of the 21st century. For audiences to grasp the fine points of this age-old system, the exhibition opens with an overview of the Confucian customs and principles that ruled aristocratic dress in Joseon-dynasty Korea. The exhibit is the history of Korea, told through clothing.

The fashions in the show are the antithesis of what many now think of as Korean culture. This is the traditional, non-flashy, non glitzy Korea, in existence decades before K-Pop. For those who think that Korean culture is K-Pop, the show is a revelation but they will have to put aside their expectations of boy bands with dyed blonde hair, loud music, synchronized dancing and skin tight pants on skinny bodies.

For Hyonjeong Kim Han, the museum’s associate curator of Korean art, the real signature of Korean fashion isn’t any one particular technique or garment: It’s the overall sense of subtlety and restraint that distinguishes it from other cultures’ traditions of dress. The aesthetic on view is of subtle elegance,  compelling in its simplicity and muted colors.

Korean society was ruled by their version of Neo-Confucianism, an attempt to create a more rationalist and secular form of Confucianism by rejecting superstitious and mystical elements of Taoism and Buddhism. Rank and status were all, with the society ranged in a rigid hierarchy with the monarch on top and workers on the bottom. Women were second class, if considered at all, again nothing new if one is familiar with the position of women in traditional Asian societies. However, by watching Korean traditional soap operas, it is possible to get a sense of how aristocratic women welded power behind the scenes but showing nothing but restraint and modesty in public. 

King Yeongjo's outer robe (dopo), 2015.
Reconstruction on based on a pre1740 garment. Silk. 
The work is exquisite, with clothing ranging from a re-creation of King Yeongjo’s pre-1740 dopo (robe), various 18th-century women’s ensembles and layers of silk undergarments, alongside contemporary clothing stitched from hardworking denim and even high-tech neoprene. Re-creations of Joseon dynasty (1392–1910) garments using handmade fabrics are showcased in the first gallery, This gallery, for me the most interesting, is built around displaying the hanbok, a traditional Korean ensemble that Han says is “probably the most familiar piece of Korean dress.” For women, hanbok includes a high, full chima (skirt) over a longer jeogori (blouse). For men, the hanbok includes the addition of baji (pants) and an outer po (robe). Most of the garments in the first gallery have been reproduced based on historic relics and representations of fashion in the art of the period and everything sewn by hand with amazing precision and skill.

Man's coat (gu'ui), 2015.
Reconstruction based on a late sixteenthto early seventeenthcentury garment. Sheepskin. Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation. Photograph © Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation
Laws governed which classes could wear certain colors, combinations of garments, materials (such as silk, cotton, and ramie — a fine linen-like fiber) and even accessories like scholars’ stiff horsehair hats. Viewers accustomed to the brighter colors of Japanese kinomos will be surprised at the prevalence of white garments, but as Han explained, “Koreans have highly revered the beauty of the color white, and that of the unadorned, the pure, the plain,” Han added “That concept and reverence relate to the Korean people’s love for white-ware pottery, like the traditional Moon Jar we have on view in our gallery.” The bright colors are reserved for children's clothing, for infant mortality was high in pre-20th century Korea and it was a cause for celebration when a child reached his first birthday.

 Based on a nineteenthcentury photograph. Silk. Arumjigi Culture Keepers Founda on. Photograph © Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation.

Ceremonial costume for a boy’s first birthday (dolbok), 2017.
Reconstructon based on a Joseondynasty ensemble. Silk with jade buttons and goldstamped belt. Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundaton. Photograph © Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Ceremonial costume for a girl’s first birthday (dolbok), 2017.
tion based on a Joseondynasty ensemble. Silk. Arumjigi Culture Keepers Founda on. Photograph © Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation.

Bridal robe (hwarot), 2015. Reconstruction on based on a Joseondynasty garment. Silk. Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation. Photograph © Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

It looks like a wedding was about the only time that Korean women were allowed to wear bright colors. 

Coat inspired by a tradi onal man’s po, 2013, by Jin Teok (Korean, b. 1934).
Silk organza.
Jin Teok Studio. Photograph © Arumjigi Culture Keepers 

Strata, from the Earth series, 2000, by Jin Teok (Korean, b. 1934).
on. Jin Teok Studio. Photograph © Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation.

The last two galleries showcase modern styles by designers Jin Teok, Im Seonoc and Jung Misun as well as looks from Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld that were inspired by Korean artistic traditions. I found this section the least interesting but then, my interest is on traditional Korean and its culture and art. Others might be more interested in the contemporary side of fashion and at least, the Asian gives these designers a rare opportunity to present their work to a wider public.

This show is the last one planned before the Museum expands next year when certain areas of the space will be closed for a while. As is usual with the Asian, the scope of the exhibit is ambitious, looking to cover Korean's past and look into its future through clothing, a multi layered approach which is more successful in the first gallery dealing with traditional Korean culture than in the following two galleries showing contemporary Korean fashion.

It is also another smart move on the part of the museum's leadership to look beyond its traditional focus on Chinese art and into the histories, cultures and increasing importance of other peoples of Asia and Southeast Asia - not only Korean, but Indian, Filipino, Burma (now Myanmar) Thailand and Mongolia.

Back in 2013, the Asian presented a show of art from the Joseon Dynasty, one of the longest ruling dynasties in the world. At the time I wrote, "the grim side of Korean history is not what the show is about - of course not when the focus is court history (and clothing worn by the elite)- but how can one ignore it? According to one article I read, 40 - 50% of the population were slaves and the remaining 40% farmers whose labor supported layers and layers of hierarchy. " Today the focus is on fashion, another item that is for the elite, however beautiful the work is. In a way, it is a relief to turn away from the problems we have with North Korean and the fear of war to bask in this beauty. 

Exhibition Hours: Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 AM to 5 PM. Closed Mondays.

Exhibition Admission: FREE for museum members and children (12 & under. On weekdays, $20 for adults and $15 for seniors (65 & over), youth (13–17) and college students (with ID). On weekends, $25 for adults and $20 for seniors (65 & over), youth (13–17) and college students (with ID). On Target First Free Sundays admission to the exhibition is $10.

General Museum Admission: FREE for museum members, $15 for adults, $10 for seniors (65+), college students with ID, and youth (13–17). FREE for children under 12 and SFUSD students with ID. General admission is FREE to all on Target First Free Sundays (the first Sunday of every month). 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Maurice Utrillo, the painter of Montmarte

Ruelle des Gobelins à Paris, 1921

Normally I just celebrate birthdays but this guy is so well known that I could not pass up this chance to mention him. I bet that a lot of us had posters of his art in our rooms or in our dorms. I remember when he was extremely popular although I also like the work of his mother, Suzanne Valadon. Utrillo died on this day in 1955 - more into the 20th century that I realized. Born in the Montmartre quarter of Paris (December 26, 1883), Utrillo was one of the few famous painters of Montmartre who was born there. 

Born illegitimate, his mother never admitted who the real father ways - it's possible that she didn't know. She was only 18 when he was born and left him to the care of her mother, Maurice's  grandmother. He became an alcoholic very early in life, a disease which plagued him throughout his long life. Maurice also never studied art, either formally or informally which give his paintings their refreshing directness and simplicity, so in tune with 20th century artistic likes.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Suzanne encour­aged him to paint—perhaps as a kind of therapy to counter his own demons and alcohol, which the boy succumbed to as an adoles­cent. Or maybe it was a way to make some money as they were desperately poor. Prior to that, Maurice had not shown any interest at all in painting. However, soon after he would become one of the most active painters in Mont­martre, and in 1924 he exhib­ited along­side his mother for the first time. Yet his alcoholism was such a problem that his lwife, Lucie, had to lock the alcohol away in a cupboard in order to almost force Utrillo to return to painting. Nevertheless, he lived into his 70's and became extremely popular, if not wealthy.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Yesterday's Birthday: Jean-Baptiste Chardin (a day late but too important to forget)

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (French: [ʃaʁdɛ̃]; 2 November 1699 – 6 December 1779) was an 18th-century French painter. He is considered a master of still life, and is also noted for his genre paintings which depict kitchen maids, children, and domestic activities. Carefully balanced composition, soft diffusion of light, and granular impasto characterize his work.

Chardin worked very slowly and painted only slightly more than 200 pictures (about four a year) total.

Jean-Siméon Chardin, Le Faiseur de Châteaux de Cartes (Boy Building a House of Cards), 1735 at Waddesdon Manor

Chardin's work had little in common with the Rococo painting that dominated French art in the 18th century. At a time when history painting was considered the supreme classification for public art, Chardin's subjects of choice were viewed as minor categories.

Largely self-taught, Chardin was greatly influenced by the realism and subject matter of the 17th-century Low Country masters. Despite his unconventional portrayal of the ascendant bourgeoisie, early support came from patrons in the French aristocracy, including Louis XV. Though his popularity rested initially on paintings of animals and fruit, by the 1730s he introduced kitchen utensils into his work (The Copper Cistern, ca.1735, Louvre). Soon figures populated his scenes as well, supposedly in response to a portrait painter who challenged him to take up the genre. Woman Sealing a Letter (ca. 1733), which may have been his first attempt, was followed by half-length compositions of children saying grace, as in Le Bénédicité, and kitchen maids in moments of reflection. These humble scenes deal with simple, everyday activities, yet they also have functioned as a source of documentary information about a level of French society not hitherto considered a worthy subject for painting.  The pictures are noteworthy for their formal structure and pictorial harmony.

Chardin has said about painting, "Who said one paints with colors? One employs colors, but one paints with feeling."

He favored simple yet beautifully textured still lifes, and sensitively handled domestic interiors and genre paintings. Simple, even stark, paintings of common household items (Still Life with a Smoker's Box) and an uncanny ability to portray children's innocence in an unsentimental manner (Boy with a Top [right]) nevertheless found an appreciative audience in his time, and account for his timeless appeal.

"To see Chardin's work en masse, in the midst of a period stuffed with every kind of jerky innovation, narcissistic blurting and trashy "relevance," is to be reminded that lucidity, deliberation, probity and calm are still the chief virtues of the art of painting." From Robert Hughes, "Nothing If Not Critical”

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November 1, Medieval Style

The first page of November’s calendar is a riot of colour and decoration. Crowning the page is a lizard-bird hybrid creature, with a green head, lurid red lips, red feet and a long, feathered tail. 

More about the Book of St. Omer here: