Saturday, April 29, 2017

Not a birthday: Carlo Crivelli

This perfectly preserved work is one of the artist's most exquisite pictures. Flemish painting may have inspired the remarkable precision of detail in the background, where turbaned figures (infidels) stroll. Trompe-l’oeil details are played against the doll-like prettiness of the Virgin. The apples and fly are symbols of sin and evil and are opposed to the cucumber and the goldfinch, symbols of redemption. Crivelli’s signature is on what looks like a piece of paper attached to the watered-silk cloth with wax. The Met here

Did not have a show here until 2015: If your admiration for Italian Renaissance painting is more culturally received than deeply felt, “Ornament and Illusion: Carlo Crivelli of Venice” at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is the show to see. It is the first exhibition in an American museum devoted to Crivelli, a great but neglected Early Renaissance master, and his fabulously fraught panel paintings, with their charged emotional moods, exquisitely detailed and richly appointed settings, gleaming trompe l’oeil jewels and tracts of gold gilt. There are only 26 paintings here, but they form a thrilling, seductive and edifying experience"...   NY Times here

Friday, April 28, 2017

Urs Fischer at the Legion

"Urs Fischer: The Public & the Private," at the Legion of Honor purports to be a dialogue between contemporay and traditional art. If this is supposed to be a conversation, it's one between a tone deaf contemporary artist and the grace and beauty of traditional art and Rodin at the Legion. I understand the desire of our museum curators to introduce us, the obviously brain dead in their opinion, to modern art. Might I suggest that the latest exhibit would have worked better in some open, empty space. Putting this junk next to Rodin or in a room of 18th century paintings just highlights its crude nature.

He's a hot shot in the world of contemporary art, winning many prizes and accolades. Well, good for him. But I prefer to view my Rubens and Rembrandt without the distraction of crude art.

“In the 100 year history of the Legion of Honor,” says the director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in a press release, “this is the first exhibition to bring works by a contemporary artist into dialogue with a wide range of the Museum’s permanent holdings.”

Not exactly true as Charles Desmaris points out, but no matter. The mantra of the day is "shake it up babe." Never mind that works of this nature abound in in the galleries and studios of the Bay Area. But we only have ONE museum that honors the giants of Western art. One Rubens. One Rembrant, A few half dozen Gothic masterpieces. You can love art, love contemporary art - I can think of a dozen artists whose work I like - and still wish that the one oasis of tradition would be respected for what it is.

Christopher Knight of the LA TImes was not impressed either: here

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Today's birthday. John James Audubon

April 26, 1785. John James Audubon (Jean-Jacques Audubon) (April 26, 1785 - January 27, 1851) was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. He was notable for his expansive studies to document all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats. His major work, a color-plate book entitled The Birds of America (1827-1839), is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed. Audubon identified 25 new species. In this image: John James Audubon (1785-1851), Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), Study for Havell pl. no. 76, ca. 1825. Watercolor, pastel, graphite, black ink, oil, gouache, black chalk, collage, and outlining with a stylus on paper, with selective glazing on paper, laid on card; 25 13/16 x 39 3/8 in. (65.6 x 100 cm). New-York Historical Society, Purchased for the Society by public subscription from Mrs. John J. Audubon, 1863.17.76.

"His story is a dramatic and surprising one. Audubon was not born in America, but saw more of the North American continent than virtually anyone alive, and even in his own time he came to exemplify America – the place of wilderness and wild things. The history of his life reveals his era and his nation: he lived in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina and New York – traveled everywhere from Labrador to the Dry Tortugas off Florida, from the Republic of Texas to the mouth of the Yellowstone – was a merchant, salesman, teacher, hunter, itinerant portraitist and woodsman, an artist and a scientist. He was, in a sense, a one-man compendium of American culture of his time. And his growing apprehension about the destruction of nature became a prophecy of his nation’s convictions in the century after his death."  More at ...

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bridget Riley

Movement in Squares, 1961
Shadow Play

Riley, Bridget , 1931

Bridget Riley studied at Goldsmiths College (1949–52) and at the Royal College of Art (1952–55) in London. Riley represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1968 where she was the first British artist to be awarded the International Prize for Painting. Movement in Squares (1961) is an important early example of Riley’s mature and distinctive style, and the artist herself sees the work as marking the beginning of her breakthrough into pure abstraction. Working only in black and white, Riley used simple geometric shapes – squares in this instance – to create an intense and unsettling optical experience. The height of the squares remains constant across the entire canvas, but minute differences in the width creates the sense of a structural contraction towards the centre of the painting.


Review from the Telegraph

Images from Wikipedia and Creative Commons

The Civil War In American History

The Civil War was a watershed moment in US history, and it figures centrally in any American history curriculum. If you missed this course during high school or college, not to worry. Now, thanks to Yale University, you can revisit this historical moment with Prof. David Blight, one of the nation’s leading Civil War scholars. The Civil War and Reconstruction “explores the causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877,” looking at how the United States was transformed on multiple levels: racially, socially, politically, constitutionally and morally. You can access the 27 free lectures, presented in audio and video, via YouTubeiTunes, and the Yale web site (plus a syllabus).

Monday, April 24, 2017

Today's Birthday: De Kooning

April 24, 1904. Willem de Kooning (April 24, 1904 - March 19, 1997) was a Dutch American abstract expressionist artist who was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In the post-World War II era, de Kooning painted in a style that came to be referred to as Abstract expressionism or Action painting, and was part of a group of artists that came to be known as the New York School. Other painters in this group included Jackson Pollock, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann, Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston, and Clyfford Still.

Abstract Expressionism, and particularly de Kooning’s macho brand of it, began to attract skepticism almost as soon as its progenitors hit the big time. It was a heroic style. It came swaddled in a heroic rhetoric that was ripe for ridicule. De Kooning’s blowsy, self-destructive emotional life — his binge drinking and bed hopping, pursued at full tilt in the ’60s — only inflated the target.

Half a century of methodical picking apart and parody have ensued: Every subsequent movement in American art has been, to one degree or another, in revolt against Abstract Expressionism (the movement is the subject of a major show this fall at the Museum of Modern Art).

But a target is a singular thing; de Kooning was many. An instinctive innovator, he switched seamlessly between abstraction and figuration, between color and black-and-white, between urban and pastoral subjects, and between drawing, sculpture, and painting   Waltham. 781-736-3434,

"I don't paint to live,I live to paint" Happy B'Day leader in the development of Abstract Expressionism
de kooning woman 

images from Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Birthday Richard Diebenkorn

April 22, 1922. Richard Clifford Diebenkorn Jr. was born on April 22, 1922 in Portland, Oregon. His family moved to San Francisco, California, when he was two years old. From the age of four or five he was continually drawing. In 1940, Diebenkorn entered Stanford University, where he met his first two artistic mentors, Professor Victor Arnautoff who guided Diebenkorn in classical formal discipline with oil paint, and Daniel Mendelowitz, with whom he shared a passion for the work of Edward Hopper. Hopper's influence can be seen in Diebenkorn's representational work of this time. In this image: Richard Diebenkorn's painting 'Ocean Park No.129', 1984.

 The period of Diebenkorn's figurative work corresponds (with the exception of the last of the Berkeley abstractions in 1955) to his remaining years as a teacher in the Bay Area (until about 1966). With Park, Bischoff and other artists such as Nathan Oliveira (b 1928), William Theo Brown (b 1919) and Paul Wonner (b 1920), Diebenkorn became known as one of the founders of the Bay Area figurative school.

 The surface of Diebenkorn's paintings tells the viewer much about the manner in which he works. This is true of all of his work. The multi-layered, built-up quality of the surface reveals many revisions and corrections. This is evidence of an active feedback between artist and canvas. Some critics view this aspect of Diebenkorn's work negatively and accuse him of uncertainty and imprecision. On the contrary, "getting it right" is Diebenkorn's chief objective and he does not mind revising things to realize a composition where everything is essential -- nothing is left out.

Reflections on the Painting of Richard Diebenkorn: THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.
Gregory Eanes
April 7, 1993

Friday, April 21, 2017

Today's birthday genius: Charlotte Brontë

‘I sat a long time by the window, looking out over the silent grounds and silvered fields, and waiting for I know not what’ – Jane Eyre

Author Charlotte Brontë was born #onthisday in 1814. Published in 1847 under the pen name ‘Currer Bell’, the novel is Brontë’s best-known work. This image shows Jane at a window in Lowood School – one of the many parts of the book that have parallels with Brontë’s own life. The print was made by Ethel Gabain in 1922:

The three Brontë sisters, with their proto-feminist ideology and the barely veiled feral rage that runs like an undercurrent through their books, would always mesh well with the feminist anger that’s so prevalent today. But the thing that makes them a near-perfect fit — the thing that both To Walk Invisible and The Moors use as the sisters’ chief antagonist — is the problem of their brother, the much-despised alcoholic Branwell. It’s Branwell who, like a living embodiment of the patriarchy, keeps trying to hold the sisters back, and Branwell whom they must defeat.

More at:

Portrait by George Richmond
(1850, chalk on paper)

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.
Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs.
It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Today's Birthday Person:Miró

April 20, 1893. BARCELONA.- April 20, 1893.- Joan Miró i Ferrà was a Spanish Catalan painter, sculptor, and ceramist born in Barcelona. Earning international acclaim, his work has been interpreted as Surrealism, a sandbox for the subconscious mind, a re-creation of the childlike, and a manifestation of Catalan pride. In numerous interviews dating from the 1930s onwards, Miró expressed contempt for conventional painting methods as a way of supporting bourgeois society, and famously declared an "assassination of painting" in favour of upsetting the visual elements of established painting. In this image: Joan Miro, Femme, 1949 and Oiseau Lunaire, 1946 (back) Successio Miro_ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012. Photo Jonty Wilde.

Ouotes: I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music.
The works must be conceived with fire in the soul but executed with clinical coolness.
Throughout the time in which I am working on a canvas I can feel how I am beginning to love it, with that love which is born of slow comprehension.

"Though a lover of poetry who often created titles out of fanciful imagery--A Star caresses the breast of a black woman (1938), The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers (1941) -he was hardly glib. To emphasize a point, in fact, he often used a click of the tongue or a swing of his fist instead of a word. "America has influenced me greatly because of the vitality that you have," he said. "It has a push." Then he punched his fist through the air to show what kind of push." (Smithsonian). 

Over decades, Miro created myriad personal symbols of monstrous feet, grotesque women, twisted ears, enormous eyes, spiraling letters, clustering stars, dancing insects, playful demons, ink-spot birds, stick animals, escape ladders, angry cats, barking dogs and much more. Sometimes a canvas seems to brim with as many symbols as a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. But where Bosch is the alchemist of darkness, Miro is the prince of light and color. It is hard to enter a room full of Miros without breaking into a smile and feeling a dollop of joy. *1993 Smithsonian Institution)ó

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Jan Davidsz. de Heem

Vase of Flowers, 1660, part of Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild collection. It was purchased by the National Gallery of Art in 1961

Still life with books and a violin, 1628,
The Dutch painters of the 17th Century displayed a delight and skill in portraying flowers and items from "ordinary life" that has never been excelled. De Heem’s paintings also reflected the great interest in botany at that time, and this work includes exotic flowers and plants brought back from faraway places, such as the tulip, originally imported into Europe from Turkey in the 1550s.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hare by Durer; not your typical Easter Bunny