Friday, March 31, 2017

Today's birthday guy: Pascin

Hermine in Bed, watercolor

Portrait of Lucy Krohg, c. 1925, oil and pencil on canvas
More important artists were born today like Constable and more powerful ones born this week like Goya and Van Gogh, but I decided to go with somebody who was not that important but whose sweet paintings are many people's favorites.

March 31, 1885. Julius Mordecai Pincas, (March 31, 1885 - June 5, 1930) known as Pascin, Jules Pascin, or the "Prince of Montparnasse", was born in Bulgaria. During World War I, he worked in the United States. He is best known as a painter in Paris, where he was strongly identified with the Modernist movement and the artistic circles of Montparnasse. Having struggled with depression and alcoholism, he committed suicide at the age of 45. In this image: Jules Pascin, Hermine in bed.

Images from Wikipedia/ Creative Commons liscense

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Raphael Sanzio

Probable self-portrait drawing by Raphael in his teens

Saint George and the Dragon, a small work early work
Raphael Sanzio, Italian painter and master builder (Madonna Sistina School of Athens), born in March 28 in Urbino (d. 1520) Gregorian calendar date. Urbino, Italy was a cultural center that encouraged the Arts. Raphael’s father, Giovanni Santi, was a court painter for the Duke of Urbino, Federigo da Montefeltro.

Giovanni Santi, Raphael's father; Christ supported by two angels, c.1490
His father Giovanni taught the young Raphael basic painting techniques and exposed him to the principles of humanistic philosophy at the Duke of Urbino’s court. It was clear from the beginning that Raphael possesed a prodigious talent. His father died when Raphael was 11 and even at that early age, Raphael was able to take over his father's workshop and later, became an apprentice to Perugino, one of the famous painters of the era.

In 1504 he moved to Florence and in 1508 he moved to Rome, where he soon attracted the attention of the Pope and nobility of the city. From 1508 to 1511, he created on of the most famous works of the Renaissance, "The School of Athens, " for the pope.

The School of Athens

The School of Athens (Italian: Scuola di Atene) is one of the most famous frescoes in Renaissance art. It was painted between 1509 and 1511 as a part of Raphael's commission to decorate the rooms now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The Stanza della Segnatura was the first of the rooms to be decorated, and "The School of Athens," representing Philosophy, was probably the second painting to be finished there, after La Disputa(Theology) on the opposite wall, and the Parnassus (Literature). The picture has long been seen as "Raphael's masterpiece and the perfect embodiment of the classical spirit of the Renaissance. (Wikipedia

Presumed portrait age 33 (wikipedia) 

His career falls naturally into three phases and three styles, first described by Giorgio Vasari: his early years in Umbria, then a period of about four years (1504–1508) absorbing the artistic traditions of Florence, followed by his last hectic and triumphant twelve years in Rome, working for two Popes and their close associates.

Red chalk study for the Villa Farnesina Three Graces

Sistine Madonna (1512). One of the most famous paintings of the Madonna ever made.
 Dying young (age 37) only enhanced his reuptation. Vasari claims that he died of "excessive Lust" for his mistress. La Fornaria. Well, it makes a nice story but we will never know. Rome was not the most healthy city in the Renaissance and he could have died from the malarial fevers that were epidenic in the city, typhus, typhoid.. you name it, the Renaissance had it and no way to cure it

La Fornarina, Raphael's mistress
Margareti Luti, or the baker's daughter is in this portrait wearing a lot of bare skin with an oriental style hat plus jewel on her dark hair. Her breasts are bare with the left one partially covered by her hand. Her posture of partially covering the breast and the stomach mirrors that of the classical sculptures that were being discovered at the time.

Her left hand rests between her thighs, the fingers splayed out and outlined by the deep, bloody-red of her discarded gown.  On her left arm there is a narrow leather band on which is the name of the artist – RAPHAEL URBINAS.  On the third finger of her left hand she appears to be wearing a ruby wedding band.  The presence of a ring was only discovered in the early part of the twenty-first century when the painting underwent some X-Ray analysis during restoration and cleaning work and which has occasioned volumes of discussion. Whether or not the painting was of Raphael's mistress or of the mistress of his patron Agostino Chigi is also controversial.

Raphael's tomb in the Pantheon. The Madonna is by Lorenzetto.

After his death, the influence of his celebrated rival Michelangelo was more widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries, when Raphael's more serene and harmonious qualities were again regarded as the highest models.

While his reputation has risen and fallen with the tides of artistic taste, for those who like a certain type of Renaissance religious art, his work has never gone out of fashion.

Complete Works:
The Met: 
Architecture in Renaissance Italy 
Leonardo da Vinci: 
Renaissance Drawings:

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Morning News

Museo del Prado, Madrid
Women artists who influended the Renaissand and Baroque

Sunday Morning News from Bay Area Art Grind 

Judy Chicago and SFMOMA Need help: On April 26, 2017, as part of SFMOMA's San Francisco, CA celebration of the one-year anniversary of their new building, pioneering feminist artist Judy Chicago will create Be No More, an immersive dry ice environment in the Howard Street Corridor that will be illuminated at dusk by dozens of road flares, creating a visual metaphor for a new reality. Chicago's history with SFMOMA is a long one, dating back to the 1979 premiere of The Dinner Party, her iconic work now permanently housed in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.…

Donald Judd: The persistent disbeliever

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.