Monday, July 31, 2017

Dubuffet and the Art Brut

July 31, 1901. Jean Philippe Arthur Dubuffet (31 July 1901 - 12 May 1985) was a French painter and sculptor. His idealistic approach to aesthetics embraced so called "low art" and eschewed traditional standards of beauty in favor of what he believed to be a more authentic and humanistic approach to image-making. In this image: A young lady looks at "Paysage charbonneux" by French artist Jean Dubuffet dated 1946, and valued at 3.5 million Marks (1.5 million Dollars) at the 34th International fair for modern art "Art Cologne" in Cologne, Germany, Friday, November 3, 2000.

 Grand Maitre Of The Outsider

Monsieur Plume with Creases in his Trousers

The Cow with the Subtle Nose
Influenced by Hans Prinzhorn's book Artistry of the Mentally Ill, Dubuffet coined the term art brut (meaning "raw art," often referred to as 'outsider art') for art produced by non-professionals working outside aesthetic norms, such as art by psychiatric patients, prisoners, and children.

Dubuffet felt that the simple life of the everyday human being contained more art and poetry than did academic art, or great painting. He found the latter to be isolating, mundane, and pretentious, and wrote in his Prospectus aux amateurs de tout genre that his aim was 'not the mere gratification of a handful of specialists, but rather the man in the street when he comes home from is the man in the street whom I feel closest to, with whom I want to make friends and enter into confidence, and he is the one I want to please and enchant by means of my work.' To that end,

Dubuffet began to search for an art form in which everyone could participate and by which everyone could be entertained. He sought to create an art as free from intellectual concerns as Art Brut, and as a result, his work often appears primitive and childlike. His form is often compared to wall scratchings and children's art. Nonetheless, Dubuffet appeared to be quite erudite when it came to writing about his own work.

According to prominent art critic Hilton Kramer, "There is only one thing wrong with the essays Dubuffet has written on his own work: their dazzling intellectual finesse makes nonsense of his claim to a free and untutored primitivism. They show us a mandarin literary personality, full of chic phrases and up-to-date ideas, that is quite the opposite of the naive visionary."
Dubuffet and the art brut

Friday, July 28, 2017

Today we celebrate Judith Leyster and Beatrix Potter

Judith Leyster, Self Portrait

A day to celebrate the creativity of two great women artists and the courage of two women in the face of threats and bullying. McCain kept everybody guessing until the last vote, but two other Republicans were at least equally—and perhaps more—instrumental in killing the latest, and maybe final version of the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare: Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. (1)

Judith Jans Leyster (also Leijster) (c. July 28, 1609[1]– February 10, 1660) was a Dutch Golden Age painter. She painted genre works, portraits, and still lifes. Typically for the male centric art world, her entire oeuvre was attributed to Frans Hals or to her husband, Jan Miense Molenaer, until 1893 when Hofstede de Groot first attributed seven paintings to her, six of which are signed with her distinctive monogram 'JL*’.

Her brewmaster father went bankrupt, and it's possible that she learned to paint to help out her family - which was an unusual choice for a women in the 17th century. She was probably the first women admitted to the artist's guild in Dutch Haarlem, who was a painter, had her own studio and taught several students. After her marriage, she didn't paint that much - no surprise given the work piled on women who married, had children, kept the house, took care of the children (she had 5),  and probably alse ran the business sie of her husband's business.

She specialized in portrait-like genre scenes of, typically, one to three figures, who generally exude good cheer, and are shown against a plain background. Many are children; others men with drink. Leyster was particularly innovative in her domestic genre scenes. These are quiet scenes of women at home, often with candle- or lamplight, particularly from a woman's point of view. The Proposition (Mauritshuis, The Hague) is an unusual variant on these scenes, said by some to show a girl receiving unwelcome advances,

The Proposition. She is SO not into him.

Merry Trio

Portrait of a man with a beard

Better late than never but given today’s political climate maybe the last of these kinds of shows we will see:

Beatrix Potter was born #onthisday in 1866. These are her original illustrations to the 1909 book ‘The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies’. When preparing this book, Potter was staying with her aunt and uncle in Wales where she made many studies of the garden. She had described it on an earlier visit as 'the prettiest kind of garden, where bright old-fashioned flowers grow amongst the currant bushes.

Delightful illustations, beloved author and a passionate conservationist.

How like the art newsletter which I subscribe too, to pass up two important women artists in favor of a man who was more of a trickster and a game player than an artist.

July 28, 1887. Marcel Duchamp (28 July 1887 - 2 October 1968) was a French artist whose work is most often associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Considered by some to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Duchamp's output influenced the development of post-World War I Western art. He advised modern art collectors, such as Peggy Guggenheim and other prominent figures, thereby helping to shape the tastes of Western art during this period. In this image: Marcel Duchamp's wanted poster is seen as part of the exhibit, "Inventing Marcel Duchamp:The Dynamics of Portrature," at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, on Tuesday, March 24, 2009  

1. Vote against trumpcare (really, lack of care)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

George Grosz, savage, powerful artist

July 26, 2017. George Grosz (July 26, 1893 - July 6, 1959) was a German artist known especially for his savagely caricatural drawings of Berlin life in the 1920s. He was a prominent member of the Berlin Dada and New Objectivity group during the Weimar Republic before he emigrated to the United States in 1933.

n his drawings, usually in pen and ink which he sometimes developed further with watercolor, Grosz did much to create the image most have of Berlin and the Weimar Republic in the 1920s. Corpulent businessmen, wounded soldiers, prostitutes, sex crimes and orgies were his great subjects (for example, see Fit for Active Service). His draftsmanship was excellent although the works for which he is best known adopt a deliberately crude form of caricature.

Portrait of turmoil … George Grosz's Down with Liebknecht, 1918. Courtesy Richard Nagy gallery

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Today's birthday. Thomas Eakins, America's 19th century master realist painter

July 25, 2017. Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins (July 25, 1844 - June 25, 1916) was an American realist painter, photographer,[2] sculptor, and fine arts educator. He is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important artists in American art history. In this image: A person views Thomas Eakins' "The Gross Clinic," at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, on Jan. 5, 2007. To help finance a $68 million deal to keep the masterpiece in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts said Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007, that it has sold another Eakins painting, "The Cello Player."

The critic Clement Greenberg once described Thomas Eakins’s signature brand of darkness as “an ideal chiaroscuro.” Eakins was known to knock down even the brightness of a cheerful blue sky with a sober dimming wash. (article on cleaning the painting by Randy Kennedy, July18, 2010) 

Thomas Eakins, The Swimming Hole, 1884/5
Oil on canvas, 32 1/4 x 46 1/4 in.
(Courtesy Amon Carter Museum)

,,, One of the things that I liked about Eakins is that his work is not controversial for the sake of being controversial; there’s no sense of “look at what I did, see how modern and transgressive and just oh-so-chic I am.” He certainly had the ego and used it, sometimes to his own detriment, but the grand standing that so often passes for talent in modern art is just not on display.

From an article that i wrote for the blog Venetian Red: 

The Gross Clinic

Thomas Eakins: The Champion Single Scull (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull), 1871
Oil on canvas, 32 1/4 x 46 1/4 inches, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Wrestlers, 1899, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California

Monday, July 24, 2017

Today's birthday. Alfons Maria Mucha , the king of Art Nouveau

July 24, 2017. Alfons Maria Mucha (24 July 1860 - 14 July 1939), known in English as Alphonse Mucha, was a Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist, known best for his distinct style. He produced many paintings, illustrations, advertisements, postcards, and designs. In this image: The "Slav Epic", a cycle of 20 allegories tracing the history of the Slavic people and inspired in part by mythology, by Art Nouveau Czech artist Alfons Mucha, at the National Gallery in Prague."The Slav Epic" by Alfons Mucha, a Czech Art Nouveau gem, went on display in Prague, fulfilling the wish of the artist who spent 18 years on the series of paintings from 1910 to 1928.

The rising tide of fascism during the late 1930s resulted in Mucha's works and his Slavic nationalism being denounced in the press as ‘reactionary.'   Mucha’s Slav nationalism and Jewish roots made him a primary target of the Gestapo during Nazi occupation.

When German troops moved into Czechoslovakia during the spring of 1939, Mucha was among the first persons to be arrested by the Gestapo. During his interrogation, the aging artist became ill with pneumonia. Though released eventually, he may have been weakened by this event. He died in Prague on 14 July 1939, due to lung infection, and was interred there in the Vyšehrad cemetery. 

Savonnerie de Bagnolet, 1897

Biscuits LeFèvre-Utile

Byzantine Heads: Brunette (wikipedia)

Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.2: The Celebration of Svantovít (1912) from Wikipedia

Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.20: The Apotheosis of the Slavs, Slavs for Humanity (1926). from Wikipedia
Four Seasons

An introduction to the Works of Mucha (Public Domain)

Mucha Foundation: 

Gallery of his work:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Yesterday was the Feast Day of Mary of Magdala, otherwise known as Mary Magdalene

Georges de La Tour. Magdalene with the Smoking Flame. 1640

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) - Conversione della Maddalena (Maria Maddalena penitente

Caravaggio, Martha and Mary Magdalene. 1598

 Yesterday was the Feast of Mary of Magdala, the Apostle to the Apostles, a saint whose memory has been much maligned over the millennia by misogynist clergy and laymen. The recently discovered gospel of Mary Magdalene is extremely important for it exposes the erroneous view that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute. This was and a piece of theological fiction; it presents the most straightforward and convincing argument in any early Christian writing for the legitimacy of women's leadership; it offers a sharp critique of illegitimate power and a utopian vision of spiritual perfection; it challenges our rather romantic views about the harmony and unanimity of the first Christians; and it asks us to rethink the basis for church authority. All written in the name of a woman.

Who was she? In the New Testament, we read that Mary of Magdala (her hometown, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee) was a leading figure among those attracted to Jesus. When the men in that company abandoned him at the hour of mortal danger, Mary of Magdala was one of the women who stayed with him, even to the Crucifixion. She was present at the tomb, the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection and the first to preach the “Good News” of that miracle.

We should remember that four Gospels are not eyewitness accounts. They were written 35 to 65 years after Jesus’ death, from separate oral traditions that had taken form in dispersed Christian communities. Jesus died in about the year a.d. 30. The Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke date to about 65 to 85, and have sources and themes in common. The Gospel of John was composed around 90 to 95 and is distinct.

Caravaggio 1595

She was a popular figure in the early days of Christianity, too, for different reasons, and some Gnostic groups claimed that she was the leader of the Church rather than James or Peter. An early gospel has been discovered which gives credence to that belief. Mary of Magdala has become a popular Biblical figure once again, due to the popularity of the novel The DaVinci Code, a real hodge podge of a novel which many now take as fact. But the story is popular because that problem of “how”—whether love should be eros or agape; sensual or spiritual; a matter of longing or consummation—defines the human condition. (Smithsonian, 2006)

She was also a compelling figure to artists because of her combination of religious repentance (according to what became Church Doctrine) and eroticism. 

Images from Wikipedia

Friday, July 21, 2017

Born on this day in 1577: Adam Willaerts

Adam Willaerts (21 July 1577 – 4 April 1664) was a Dutch Golden Age painter. Willaerts (occasionally Willarts, Willers) was born in London to Flemish parents who had fled from Antwerp for religious reasons. By 1585 the family lived in Leiden. From 1597 until his death, Adam lived and worked in Utrecht. He became a member of the Utrecht Guild of St. Luke in 1611 and subsequently became its dean in 1620. His sons Cornelis, Abraham, and Isaac followed in his footsteps.

He was known as a painter of river and canal pieces, coastal landscapes, fish-markets, processions, and genre scenes. He also painted villages and marine battle scenes.

Images from Wikipedia

"In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art" at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Allison Smith, Ghost Photography, (Skansen Revisited) 1891–1981 (detail), 2015. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Marie Andersson. In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art—Allison Smith and Christina Zetterlund. On view July 20, 2017–July 3, 2018 at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.
. Allison Smith, Ghost Photography, (Skansen Revisited) 1891–1981 (detail), 2015. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Marie Andersson. In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art—Allison Smith and Christina Zetterlund. On view July 20, 2017–July 3, 2018 at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum rethinks the ancient practice of havruta—the study of religious texts by people in pairs—for the contemporary art community. In their current show  In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art, the museum has brought Bay Area artists together with a scholar, scientist, writer, or other professional of his or her choice for a ten-week fellowship in creativity. The resulting collaborations are presented in The Museum’s Sala Webb Education Center.

The current show is a dialogue between Allison Smith, a local artist and Christina Zetterlund, a craft and design historian and theoretician based at the Konstfack in Sweden.. Their work is informed by a quote from the Talmud that two shcolars working together sharpen each other.

"Smith was born and raised in Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., where her father has long been employed by the Central Intelligence Agency. “He makes spy gadgets and does a lot of Internet stuff he can’t tell me about,” she says. As a child, she would travel with her accountant mother, a folk-art buff, to juried craft fairs along the East Coast. Her father’s job brought the family to Iran in the late 1970s. There, they lived on a small American base with a large geodesic dome, which Smith later learned housed a satellite dish and was her father’s workplace until the family was evacuated in advance of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.” Artnews, 2015

Smith has created a number of projects that consider traditional craft and historical reenactments in the context of the United States. Smith first met Zetterlund during her recent residency in Stockholm and they discovered a shared interest in the politics of handcraft and its use in both progressive and conservative social movements. Through a series of emails, shared texts, Skype sessions, and in-person visits in Stockholm and San Francisco, their exchanges have explored the role of traditional craft in constructions of nationalism and processes of colonization, and have specifically delved into the writings and teachings of the Jewish Swedish educator, Otto Salomon (1849–1907; born in Gothenburg, Sweden), whose work focused on the concept of sljöd (pronounced sloyd), a term which can be defined as “craft” or manual “skill.” Slöjd, also known as Educational sloyd, was a system of handicraft-based education started by Uno Cygnaeus in Finland in 1865. The system was further refined and promoted worldwide, including adoption in the United States, until the early 20th Century.

The new work created for this exhibition, titled Models for a System, will be presented in an installation that plays with the conventions of period rooms and living history museums.

Smith has exhibited her work nationally and internationally since 1995. She has produced over twenty-five solo exhibitions, installations, performances, and artist-led participatory projects for venues such as SFMoMA, Public Art Fund, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, The Arts Club of Chicago, among many others. Smith has exhibited her work in group exhibitions at galleries and museums including MoMA P.S.1; Palais de Tokyo; the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art; Mass MoCA; The Andy Warhol Museum; and the Tang Museum. She was, until recently, Associate Professor and Chair of the Sculpture Program at California College of the Arts and is now Associate Professor of Art at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Art in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gerard Horenbout, aka The Master of James IV of Scotland.

 Great Medieval miniature. Banquet of Dives, Lazarus as leper at door (w/ rattle) and dead below. Miniature from 1510 by Gerard Horenbout,

Gerard Horenbout (c. 1465–c. 1541) was a Flemish miniaturist, a late example of the Flemish Primitives. He is "likely and widely accepted" to be the Master of James IV of Scotland.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Happy Birthday, Sir Joshua!

Born on this day 1723: Joshua Reynolds. Later "Sir Joshua" but here, at age 24, still wondering about himself. Fantastic self-portrait.

The Age of Innocence

Sir Joshua Reynolds RA FRS FRSA (16 July 1723 – 23 February 1792) was an influential eighteenth-century English painter, specialising in portraits. According to John Russell, he was one of the major European painters of the 18th Century. He promoted the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was a founder and first president of the Royal Academy of Arts, and was knighted by George III in 1769.

Lady Elizabeth Delmé and her children in 1778, back when big hair was a real thing

Reynolds was the leading English portraitist of the 18th century. Through study of ancient and Italian Renaissance art, and of the work of Rembrandt, Rubens and Van Dyck, he brought great variety and dignity to British portraiture.

Reynolds was born at Plympton in Devon, the son of a headmaster and fellow of Balliol College, Oxford: a more educated background than that of most painters. He was apprenticed in 1740 to the fashionable London portraitist Thomas Hudson, who also trained Wright of Derby. He spent 1749-52 abroad, mainly in Italy, and set up practice in London shortly after his return.

He soon established himself as the leading portrait painter, though he was never popular with George III. He was a key figure in the intellectual life of London, and a friend of Dr. Johnson. When the Royal Academy was founded in 1768, Reynolds was elected its first President. Although believing that history painting was the noblest work of the painter, he had little opportunity to practice it, and his greatest works are his portraits.

His paintings are not perfectly preserved due to faulty technique. The carmine reds have faded, leaving flesh-tones paler than intended, and the bitumen used in the blacks has tended to crack. 

Images from Wikipedia

Friday, July 14, 2017

La Marseillaise from Casablanca. Vive La France

What does this horde of slaves,
Of traitors and conspiratorial kings want?
For whom are these vile chains,
These long-prepared irons? (repeat)
Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
What fury it must arouse!
It is us they dare plan
To return to the old slavery!

The Marseillaise was a revolutionary song, an anthem to freedom, a patriotic call to mobilize all the citizens and an exhortation to fight against tyranny and foreign invasion. The French National Convention adopted it as the Republic's anthem in 1795. It acquired its nickname after being sung in Paris by volunteers from Marseille marching to the capital. The song is the first example of the "European march" anthemic style. The anthem's evocative melody and lyrics have led to its widespread use as a song of revolution and its incorporation into many pieces of classical and popular music.

We need to reclaim our own songs for their original intent as a protest against oppression and greedy, tyrannical government. This version from the movie Casablanca is still one of the most moving renditions, set as it was during WW II and as a hymn of resistance to the Nazis. Ironic to think that the director and the actors had no idea how how important and what a classic this movie would become.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Upcoming at the Legion: Sarah Lucas

Max Hollerin's latest "contribution" to the Legion. The "work" looks like some kind of spider doll ready to give birth to dozens of spiders - oh, and the preview (out at the Legion as far away from the rest of the city that you can get), is at night, in a place with limited parking and only accessible by one bus,
From the e-mail notice:  Be among the first to preview Sarah Lucas: Good Muse, the latest contemporary exhibition at the Legion of Honor. Join us for an after hours sneak peek of the exhibition before doors officially open to the public this weekend.

The galleries will be open until 8:45 pm and refreshments provided at a cash bar. Space is limited, RSVP today!

Today's Birthday: Amedeo Clemente Modigliani

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (Italian pronunciation: [ameˈdɛːo modiʎˈʎaːni]; Livorno, 12 July 1884 – Paris, 24 January 1920) was an Italian Jewish painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He is known for portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by elongation of faces and figures, that were not received well during his lifetime, but later found acceptance. Modigliani spent his youth in Italy, where he studied the art of antiquity and the Renaissance until he moved to Paris in 1906. There he came into contact with prominent artists such as Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brâncuși.

Modigliani's œuvre includes paintings and drawings. From 1909 to 1914, however, he devoted himself mainly to sculpture. His main subject was portraits and full figures of humans, both in the images and in the sculptures. During his life, Amedeo Modigliani had little success, but after his death he achieved greater popularity and his works of art achieved high prices. He died at age 35 in Paris of tubercular meningitis.

Happy Birthday to Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, born on this day in 1884: 

The best of his nudes

The Affair that changed him: At six feet tall, raven-haired and ravishingly beautiful, 21-year-old Anna Akhmatova proved something of a sensation when she arrived in Paris on the arm of her husband in 1910 – people would turn to look at her in the street. The couple were on their honeymoon, and, being poets of some repute in their native Russia, headed straight for Montparnasse, then the favoured haunt of the Parisian avant garde. Here they mingled with the penniless painters, sculptors, poets and composers who had moved to the area from the increasingly chichi Montmartre, in search of cheap rent, cheap cafés and run-down buildings that might serve as studios.

One such artist was the 25-year-old Amedeo Modigliani, who had arrived from Italy four years before. With an aristocratic Roman nose, a strong jaw and a mop of jet-black hair, he enchanted Anna, and the two became inseparable ...

Kneeling Blue Caryatid, c191; thought to have been inspired by the visits the pair made to the Louvre’s Egyptian gallery (GETTY)
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