Friday, December 14, 2018

Willem Claesz Heda. Born December 14, 1594

An early and eceptively simple still life by Willem Claesz Heda, born OTD 1594. Already doing the lemon peel thing, although not so expertly as in later works. Inlaid knife handle would also become a fave. Willem Claesz Heda, (born c. 1594, Haarlem?, Neth.—died Aug. 24, 1680, Haarlem), one of the principal Dutch Baroque still life painters.
Early in his career Heda produced some figure subjects, but nearly all of his known works are still lifes, of which the earliest dated example is a “Vanitas” of 1621. His most characteristic works are restrained compositions of glass and metal vessels delicately arranged on a table with oysters, a half-peeled lemon, or other motifs that display his precise draftsmanship and his skill in imitating the varied qualities of different light-reflecting surfaces. His colour range is a subdued one of silvery grays, golden yellows, and browns, the naturalistic effects being achieved by accurate tone values.

Table piled with food and drink around wild Neptunian nautilus cup. Love pilgrim-as-wineglass-holder! How soon before plate of glasses crashes to ground, though? By Willem Claesz Heda of Haarlem.

The blackberry pie never gets old in Willem Claesz Heda's studio. Or perhaps his long-suffering wife just kept baking them. This one is from 1640.

Blackberry pie for lunch. But the broken glass is not appealing. And time is passing for Willem Claesz Heda, born on this day in 1593. A table laid with oysters, a lemon, and beer invites the viewer to associate visual and culinary pleasure. But a closer look reveals broken glass and a cone of paper (intended to hold spices) torn from an almanac, both reminders of our swiftly passing days. Heda made a name for himself as an artist by achieving a variety of pictorial effects, such as the illusion of polished silver, glistening oysters, or reflective glass, while working almost exclusively in shades of gray.

Wonderful mixtures of the ordinary and the extraordinary on tables of Willem Claesz Heda of Haarlem

Now there's a ham on the table! And we see both ends of the table! And the glass is strangely big! Willem Claesz Heda, born on this day 1593, getting crazy in his old age in 1656.

Maybe Willem Claesz Heda thinks, still life is getting boring. I know, I'll put the table in front of a classical landscape! Then he thinks, oops, was bad idea. Does not finish the painting. Still, today is his birthday.

Not much is known about Willem Heda (1594-1680). He lived all his life in Haarlem and joined the St Luke's guild there in 1631, holding a series of posts. While Heda painted several figure studies early in his career, he later concentrated exclusively on still lifes. Heda was the consummate master in depicting light reflected on smooth, shiny surfaces such as pewter, silver or brass candlesticks. He often depicted the same objects in different paintings, which became known as ‘banquets’ or ‘breakfasts’.


As the visitor enters, he or she will be dazzled by a necklace of radiating diamonds and sapphires created by Cartier in London in 1937 for the Maharajah of Nawanagar. Flanking it are a 1902 photograph of Queen Alexandra, the wife of Britain’s King Edward II, and a 1911 photograph of Maharajah of Patiala, each with their chests virtually upholstered with strands of pearls. I believe that this necklace was shown at a similar exhibit at the Asian.

The jeweled tiger’s-head finial, 1787-1793, is from the gold throne of Tipu Sultan of Mysore, said to be a fierce enemy of the British and prior to that, a deadly enemy of the Mughal rulers of India. 

The Legion of Honor curators point out:
  • The British “Raj” (from the Hindustani word for rule) gets the attention in television series, but it lasted less than a century, from 1858 to 1947. The Mughals, a dynasty with roots in Central Asia, ruled India from 1526 until the mid-1800s, bringing Persian and Islamic influences to Indian design. The later rulers of the Mugal Dynasty spend most of their time fighting the Hindu kingdoms in the south and brought a era of religious intolerance toward the Hindus in the lands ruled by the Mughals. The first two Mughal rulers, especially Barbur,  were tolerant. But that didn't last. 
  • In the 1660s, Louis XIV acquired thousands of diamonds sourced from India — the foundation of the French Crown Jewels. At one point, the collection included the supposedly cursed Hope diamond, now on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
  • In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Indian maharajas and other notables “were actually deprived of any true military and political purpose,” the exhibit text notes. They particularly lost power after Indian independence in 1947. The antidote? “More and more extravagant jewelry.”


    Through: Feb. 24, 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
    Where: Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue and Clement Street, San Francisco
    Admission: $13-$28′ 415-750-3600,

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Zinaida Serebriakova , Russian, later French 20th century woman painter.

At The dressing table. The painting that led to public recognition. 1909 
Zinaida Serebriakova - born in the Ukraine on December 12, 1884. She was a member of the Benois family, one of the more artistic families of the Russian Empire, descended from a man who fled to Russian during the French revolution and whose descendants became artists, architects, sculptors and even an actor. 

Her grandfather, Nicholas Benois, was a famous architect, chairman of the Society of Architects and member of the Russian Academy of Science. Her uncle, Alexandre Benois, was a famous painter, founder of the Mir iskusstva art group. Her father, Yevgeny Nikolayevich Lanceray [Wikidata], was a well-known sculptor, and her mother, who was Alexandre Benois' sister, had a talent for drawing. One of Zinaida's brothers, Nikolay Lanceray, was a talented architect, and her other brother, Yevgeny Yevgenyevich Lanceray, had an important place in Russian and Soviet art as a master of monumental painting and graphic art
The Russian-English actor and writer Peter Ustinov was also related to her.
Self Portrait 1911

Country Girl

Bleaching Cloth
In 1917, the Russian Revolution destroyed her secure life. Her husband died of typhoid contacted in a Bolshevik jail, of course, her money and her family's estate were confiscated. She was left penniless with four children to raise. 

House of Cards
"She did not want to switch to the futurist style popular in the art of the early Soviet period, nor paint portraits of commissars, but she found some work at the Kharkov Archaeological Museum, where she made pencil drawings of the exhibits. In December 1920 she moved to her grandfather’s apartment in Petrograd. After the October Revolution, inhabitants of private apartments were forced to share them with additional inhabitants, but Serebriakova was lucky - she was quartered with artists from the Moscow Art Theatre. Thus, Serebriakova's work during this period focuses on theatre life. 
Also around this time, Serebriakova's daughter, Tatiana, entered the academy of ballet, and Serebriakova created a series of pastels on the Mariinsky Theater."
In 1924, she was able to leave Russia and move to Paris, having received a commission to paint a large decorative mural. She was able to get her two youngest children out of Russia but did not see her two oldest children until the thaw in Russian politics until Khruschiev, 35 years later. 
She was now able to travel , visiting Africa, Morocco, and the Atlas mountains of Morocco. Her love of beauty as well as respect for her subjects shines through all of her paintings.  

Zinaida Serebriakova died in Paris on 19 September 1967, at the age of 82. She is buried in Paris, at the Russian cemetery at Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Mark Tobey. Born on this day in 1890

December 11, 1890. Mark George Tobey (December 11, 1890 - April 24, 1976) was an American painter. His densely structured compositions, inspired by Asian calligraphy, resemble Abstract expressionism, although the motives for his compositions differ philosophically from most Abstract Expressionist painters. His work was widely recognized throughout the United States and Europe. In 1921, Tobey founded the art department at The Cornish School in Seattle, Washington

Mark Tobey, Canticle, 1954, casein on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, 1986.6.79

Abstraction and spirituality are intimately entwined in the delicate works of Mark Tobey, whom, along with Morris Graves, Life magazine described as a mystical painter. Canticle refers to liturgical hymns from the bible. Tobey acknowledged that the abstract harmony of music was an important source of inspiration: “When I play the piano for several hours, everything is clarified in my visual imagination afterwards.” The intricate pattern of delicate marks that animate the surface (critics called it “white writing”) was inspired by the artist’s study of Arabic and Japanese calligraphy.

Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection, 2014

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Costanza and Bernini - a tale of love, obsession and survival.

With lips slightly parted and eyes fixed on a point in the distance, a breathtaking marble portrait of Costanza Piccolomini appears alive. Carved by Gianlorenzo Bernini in 1636–37 for his own pleasure, the portrait of Costanza is one of his most captivating works, but until now little has been known about its subject.

For centuries Costanza was identified only as Bernini's mistress, who later incited his rage by betraying him for his brother. Author Sarah McPhee corrects and expands this story in her remarkable biography of a sculpture and its subject. Bernini's Beloved sets the bust and Costanza's own life—her childhood and noble name, her marriage, affair, fall from grace, and recovery—against the backdrop of Baroque Rome. Beautifully illustrated and written, this fascinating story expands our understanding of the woman whose intelligence and passion served as inspiration for Bernini's celebrated sculpture, and who courageously forged a life for herself in the decades following its creation.

"The ability to bring a dead person back to life is usually the province of miracle-working saints, but it’s also within the power of an extraordinary biographer, and that’s certainly true of the author of this book. The “beloved” in the title is Costanza Piccolomini Bonarelli, mistress of the most celebrated Italian artist of the 1600s, Gianlorenzo Bernini, before their affair crashed in flames due to Costanza’s dalliance with Bernini’s brother.

Until the publication of this biography, nothing had been written about Costanza’s life, beyond brief mentions in biographies of Bernini of her ill-fated affair with the famous artist. Even scholars well versed in the world of 17th-century Rome assumed there wasn’t much to be learned about this attractive but obscure woman. Sarah McPhee proves how wrong they were! Using to the fullest documents that other scholars had ignored, she brings to life a strong, intelligent, passionate and determined woman who refused to be cowed by scandal.

The mistresses of famous men are often disposable commodities, forgotten as soon as they’re cast aside, especially when the affairs are brief. But the case of Costanza and Bernini was different for several reasons. For one, while the affair was going on (1636-7) the artist carved an astonishingly beautiful “breathing” likeness of Costanza in white marble: the only intimate, personal portrait among Bernini’s many images of his otherwise wealthy and powerful clients. Another reason is that the sudden end of their affair was so lurid it had all Rome in a state of shock. When Bernini found out that Costanza was carrying on an affair with his brother Luigi, he went mad with rage. Armed with a sword, he chased Luigi around Rome, even trying to kick down the door of the church where his terrified brother had taken refuge. Luigi left town, so it was Costanza who received the brunt of Bernini’s rage. He hired a thug who slashed her face with a razor.

We might think that a woman so disfigured and disgraced would have slunk off, never to be heard from again, but Costanza did no such thing. Her husband Matteo, who worked as a sculptor in Bernini’s studio, and who may well have turned a blind eye to his wife’s affair with his boss, didn’t throw Costanza out of their house. The Pope pardoned Bernini and arranged for him to marry a wealthy young aristocrat - who says crime doesnt't pay if you are the favorite of a powerful man. But Costanza and Matteo’s life together continued, and they prospered, becoming successful collectors and art dealers. After Matteo’s death Costanza continued their business, proving herself a shrewd, successful businesswoman.

But her sexually independent ways must have continued, because a year after Matteo’s death she gave birth to her only child, a daughter who bore her mother’s last name (Piccolomini) and whose father remains unknown. The author makes a good case, however, for the father being a high-ranking cleric named Domenico Salvetti. That Salvetti was a friend of Pope Alexander VII Chigi, Bernini’s last great papal patron, is ironic, but it also shows that Costanza moved in high social circles. At the time of her death in 1662, she was a wealthy and well-respected woman."

In addition to bringing its subject to life through words, the book also contains a large number of illustrations, including many of Bernini’s captivating bust of Costanza, shown from many different viewpoints.

Bernini's Beloved: A Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini Hardcover – April 30, 2012
by Sarah McPhee  (Author)

Friday, December 7, 2018

Remembering December 7th

My dad was in the Pacific and we didn't hear from him for three years. The family did not know if he was still alive until early in 1945. I thought I was a history geek but I didn't realize that the Japanese attacked across the Pacific. I knew that they had invaded China and had bombed Shanghai and other Chinese cities. But the rest, I didn't know. 

I would be remiss if I didn't post this today:  Speech by FDR. 

"Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation. As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire."  From The Bitchy Historian 

NY Times Time Machine