Saturday, September 30, 2017

Caravaggio, Born September 28, 1571

A portrait of the Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio 

I might be a day late but I didn't forget Caravaggio’s birthday - there were two wonderful previews this week, one at SFMOMA and the other at the CJM which I was privilged enough to attend but more on them later. 

His life was tempestuous and his art influenced artists for centuries. Born Michelangelo Amrisi in Milan when it was part of the Spanish Empire he trained there before moving to Rome in his 20's, when Rome was the epicenter of art in Italy and indeed, in Europe at the time.

In Rome, he developed a considerable name as an artist, and as a violent, touchy and provocative man. A brawl led to a death sentence for murder and forced him to flee to Naples. He killed a man in a bungled castration attempt. A documentary by Andrew Graham-Dixon, one of the world's leading art historians disclosed that the killing followed a dispute between the two over Fillide Melandroni, a female prostitute, whose services both men sought.

In Naples, he again established himself as one of the most prominent Italian painters of his generation. He traveled in 1607 to Malta and on to Sicily, and pursued a papal pardon for his sentence. In 1609 he returned to Naples, where he was involved in a violent clash; his face was disfigured and rumours of his death circulated. Questions about his mental state arose from his erratic and bizarre behavior. He died in 1610 under uncertain circumstances while on his way from Naples to Rome. Reports stated that he died of a fever, but suggestions have been made that he was murdered or that he died of lead poisoning. He was only 38 when he died.

Questions about his sexuality have been asked since he first started painting his disturbing works of young street boys, obviously for sale to the rough trade of Baroque Rome. As Jonathan Jones wrote in his article in the Guardian," In my mind, it is the risk of Caravaggio's sexual passion for male flesh that gives his art its incomparable kick of reality; Caravaggio's paintings go way beyond "realism", the 19th-century art movement that tried to show the world as it truly is."

Sick Bacchus 1503. Wikipedia Foundation

The Lute Player, 1506 Wiki Art 

Penitent Magdelene. Wiki Art. 1507

The Fortune Teller
John the Baptist
From Jonathan Jones: in Caravaggio's painting St John the Baptist in the Capitoline Museum, Rome. Here he hugs a ram while sitting on luxurious red and white sheets. Golden light bathes the youth's legs while a fall of shadow leads the eye, once again, to his penis – another pose based on one of Michelangelo's nudes in the Sistine Chapel.

Last two Paintings:

On his lust, talent and power: Caravaggio's sexuality is at the heart of his genius. His paintings are acts of defiance in an age when the wrong kind of love could get you executed. This fact has shaped perceptions of his art for centuries. He was virtually forgotten in the respectable Victorian age, when his florid young men were just too much for corseted psyches to take, then rediscovered in the 20th century. . . .

Rumi. Born on this day in 1207

BBC Website
Rumi 30 September 1207 – 17 December 1273

Rumi's influence transcends national borders and ethnic divisions: Iranians, Tajiks, Turks, Greeks, Pashtuns, other Central Asian Muslims, and the Muslims of South Asia have greatly appreciated his spiritual legacy for the past seven centuries. His poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages and transposed into various formats. Rumi has been described as the "most popular poet”[ and the "best selling poet" in the United States.

It was his meeting with the dervish Shams-e Tabrizi on 15 November 1244 that completely changed his life. From an accomplished teacher and jurist, Rumi was transformed into an ascetic.

Shams had travelled throughout the Middle East searching and praying for someone who could "endure my company". A voice said to him, "What will you give in return?" Shams replied, "My head!" The voice then said, "The one you seek is Jalal ud-Din of Konya." On the night of 5 December 1248, as Rumi and Shams were talking, Shams was called to the back door. He went out, never to be seen again. It is rumoured that Shams was murdered with the connivance of Rumi's son, 'Ala' ud-Din; if so, Shams indeed gave his head for the privilege of mystical friendship.

Rumi's love for, and his bereavement at the death of, Shams found their expression in an outpouring of lyric poems, Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi. He himself went out searching for Shams and journeyed again to Damascus. There, he realised:

Why should I seek? I am the same as
He. His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself

Double-page illuminated frontispiece, 1st book (daftar) of the Collection of poems (Masnavi-i ma'navi), 1461 manuscript

Bowl of Reflections with Rumi's poetry, early 13th century. Brooklyn Museum.

Tomb in Konya. Epitaph. When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men
In other verses in the Masnavi, Rumi describes in detail the universal message of love:

The lover’s cause is separate from all other causes
Love is the astrolabe of God's mysteries

Rumi died on 17 December 1273 in Konya; his body was interred beside that of his father, and a splendid shrine, the Yeşil Türbe (Green Tomb, today the Mevlâna Museum), was erected over his place of burial.

When a baby is taken from the wet nurse,
it easily forgets her
and starts eating solid food.

Seeds feed awhile on ground,
then lift up into the sun.

So you should taste the filtered light
and work your way toward wisdom
with no personal covering.

That's how you came here, like a star
without a name.  Move across the night sky
with those anonymous lights.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Podcast from the Art Newspaper Weekender: How the Getty is shaping southern California's art scene

Podcast episode three: how the Getty is shaping southern California’s art scene


The story behind Pacific Standard Time in Los Angeles, Ming Wong on the historic queer art show in Taipei, plus an exclusive audio work by Zardulu the Mythmaker
Podcast episode three here 

The Art Newspaper Weekender's Los Angeles correspondent Jori Finkel tells the story behind Pacific Standard Time (PST), a collaborative cultural programme that includes more than 70 shows and events at almost 80 partner institutions across the county. This year's theme, LA/LA, looks at the culture of Los Angeles and Latin America. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

National Poetry Day

 Looks like this is being celebrated mostly in the UK which is a shame. The US needs real poetry, now more than ever . I was able to go to SFMOMA yesterday to preview the new show on Walker Evans which is over the top big - too much to take in during one visit. Then over to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to see their new exhibit on how contemporary artists intrepret traditional Jewish folk tales. Both shows deserve a few review but first.. POETRY.

National Poetry Day‏Verified account @PoetryDayUK  Win 10 poetry anthologies by following & tweeting poetry at us today #NationalPoetryDay ! Ts&Cs here

 Macmillan Children's‏. Happy National Poetry Day! What poems are you reading today? Let us know!

Today is National Poetry Day! Please take the time to read this beauty from William Wordsworth. #NationalPoetryDay @TfL – at Kilburn Tube Station

It's National Poetry Day. Read about Seamus Heaney's translation of #Beowulf in which old metres are given new forms …

Poetry Foundation:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dith Pran, born on this day in1942. Witness to the Killing Fields

September 27, 1942. Dith Pran (27 September 1942 - 30 March 2008) was a Cambodian photojournalist best known as a refugee and survivor of the Cambodian genocide. He was the subject of the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields (1984). He was portrayed in the film by first-time actor Haing S. Ngor (1940 - 1996), who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance

Died in 2008: DITH PRAN:" My job was to remember that, please, everybody must stop the killing field, not allow this to exist again. One is enough, too many. One time is too many. If they can do that for me, my spirit will be happy."

Monday, September 25, 2017

Today's birthday. Mark Rothko

September 25, 1903. Mark Rothko (September 25, 1903 - February 25, 1970), was a Russian-American painter. He is classified as an abstract expressionist, although he himself rejected this label, and even resisted classification as an "abstract painter". In this image: A visitor passes three paintings by US-painter Mark Rothko which are on exhibition at the Foundation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland, on February 15, 2001.

The angst-driven art of Mark Rothko continues to convey powerful messages long after the heyday of Abstract Expression.

For Mark Rothko, a central figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement that dominated world art in the decades following World War II, painting was all about emotion and spiritual feelings. Despite the formal qualities of his mature works--featuring large rectangles of carefully nuanced hues--Rothko did not consider them in terms of design and color. "There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing," he said. "The subject is crucial and only that subject matter is valid which is tragic and timeless." For this artist it was content, not form, that mattered.   May, Stephen. "Rothko: emotion in the abstract.(Mark Rothko)." World and I 13.n7 (July 1998): 110(8). Diversity Studies Collection. Thomson Gale. City College of San Francisco. 12 Oct. 2006

Rothko was part of the New York School, a group of painters including Adolph Gottlieb, Franz Kline, Barnett Newman, and Jackson Pollock that emerged after 1945 as a fresh, new, collective voice in the visual arts. All sought to create art that was free of conventional subject matter yet loaded with meaning. None, however, attacked the challenge of abstract painting with more thought, passion, and innovation than Rothko

Born in Ruddia into an Orthodox Jewish family, he was largely Self-taught.  Rothko (1903-1970) emigrated to Portland, Oregon, at the age of ten. After studying on scholar, ship at Yale University for less than two years, he dropped out to attend classes briefly and sporadically at the Art Students League in New York. He considered himself self-taught, although early inspirations came from Expressionist Max Weber (one of his teachers) and Milton Avery, whose broad, simplified areas of glowing color impressed Rothko.

It took him years of work and experiment until he dropped the figure from his painting and began the abstract works by which he is best known. 1949 saw his breakthough to complete abstraction with No 5 (untitled) and No. 13 of Magenta, Black, Green on Orange.

"I am not an abstractionist," Rothko claimed in 1957. "I am not interested in relationships of color or form or anything else. ... I'm interested in expressing basic human emotions--tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on."

May, Stephen. "Rothko: emotion in the abstract.(Mark Rothko)." World and I 13.n7 (July 1998): 110(8). Diversity Studies Collection. Thomson Gale. City College of San Francisco. 12 Oct. 2006

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Poem: Myth by Muriel Rukeyser

Goddess. 2017. @ Nancy Ewart
Long afterward, Oedipus, old and blinded, walked the 
roads.      He smelled a familiar smell.        It was 
the Sphinx.      Oedipus said, "I want to ask one question. 
Why didn't I recognize my mother?"      "You gave the 
wrong answer," said the Sphinx.     "But that was what 
made everything possible," said Oedipus.      "No," she said. 
"When I asked, What walks on four legs in the morning, 
two at noon, and three in the evening, you answered, 
Man.      You didn't say anything about woman." 
"When you say Man," said Oedipus, "you include women 
too.      Everyone knows that."       She said, "That's what 
you think."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

How to be an artist by Joseph Albers

Josef Albers, Interaction of Color, 1963. Francis Frost.
 Take three colors and turn them into four.

When Albers began his famous course on color, he asked his students to choose a red sheet of paper from a pack that included various different shades of the hue.

“Though there are innumerable colors—shades and tones—in daily vocabulary, there are only about 30 color names,” Albers explained in his book Interaction of Color (1963). For this reason, Albers found little use in talking about color, believing our lexicon was far too limited to capture its nuance.

Instead, he led his students through a series of trial-and-error experiments, so that they could teach themselves about the relativity of color: how a single color can take on a different quality or intensity depending on the colors that surround it.

For Albers, colored paper was the perfect tool for these exercises—it was cheap, flat, uniformly colored, and (as a bonus) mess-free. In one study, he asked his students to select three pieces of paper, all of different colors, and manipulate them in such a way that they appeared as four distinct hues. In another, he challenged them to do just the opposite—make four colors appear as three.

“In order to use color effectively, it is necessary to recognize that color deceives continually,” Albers wrote of these assignments.
In 2013, the Yale University Press released an iPad version of Albers’s color studies in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Interaction of Color. The app features virtual colored paper, which users can digitally cut and paste to sensitize their eyes to the illusions of color.

 Draw your name backwards and upside down.

To demonstrate the focus that drawing required, Albers led his students through a simple exercise. First, he asked them to write down their names on a sheet of paper and hold up their hands when they completed the task. The students scribbled their names and shot their hands up within seconds. Then, Albers challenged them to write their names backwards—and hands took longer to rise. Finally, he invited his students to write their names backwards and upside down.

To do this accurately, the students needed to focus, taking their time to envision the letter forms in their minds before writing anything down. This state of intense concentration, Albers told his students, is needed for every act of drawing.

Use your hands to make newspaper sculptures

Draw the spaces between the chair legs

hough he demanded focus, Albers also wanted his students to be absorbed by mundane visual phenomena, whether that be the flash of light when a television turns off, or the movement of color when a tea bag enters hot water. According to Albers, artists needed to have open eyes, sensitive to the lines, forms, and hues that are often overlooked.

Drawing the shapes (or “negative spaces”) between objects—whether that be chair legs, milk bottles, or plant leaves—would help students develop this sense of heightened perception. If students focused more on these in-between forms, they would learn to make stronger compositions, and might even become better people.

For Albers, art lessons always doubled as life lessons, and he believed that students who cultivated “visual empathy” would also develop social empathy. “Respect the other material, or color—or your neighbor. Respect the one you weren’t paying attention to,” he told his classes.

In so doing, Albers wanted to rid art and society from hierarchy. “We no longer draw distinctions between ‘carrying’ and ‘being carried’; we no longer admit divisions between ‘serving’ and ‘being served,’ between ‘decoration’ and ‘that which is decorated,’” he taught his students. “Every element must simultaneously help and be helped by the whole, support and be supported.”

Embodying these lessons, as you might imagine, takes time. Fifteen years after he graduated from Albers’s classroom, Rauschenberg admitted, “I’m still learning what he taught me.”

Complete article at

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stanford celebrates the lasting impression of artist and educator Pedro de Lemos

Let us now praise men who should be more famous because of what they did. The arts are too often neglected when it comes time to pass around prizes so this celebration comes as welcome recognition of an man who was far more important than most of us realize.

Pedro Joseph de Lemos (1882-1954) was a visionary and guardian of art at Stanford.

As the first director and curator of the Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery (now the Stanford Art Gallery), de Lemos transformed the exhibition space into one of the most important artistic venues in California. He also served as director of the Stanford University Museum (today’s Cantor Arts Center) after it was damaged in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

De Lemos’ impact, along with the centennial anniversary of the Stanford Art Gallery, will be celebrated as the Department of Art and Art History presents Lasting Impressions of Pedro de Lemos: The Centennial Exhibition, which runs from Oct. 3 through Dec. 3.

More at:

How to get there and shuttle Information:

Monday, September 18, 2017

On this day: Anthonij (Anton) Rudolf Mauve

September 18, 1838. Anthonij (Anton) Rudolf Mauve (18 September 1838, Zaandam, North Holland - 5 February 1888, Arnhem) was a Dutch realist painter who was a leading member of the Hague School. He signed his paintings 'A. Mauve' or with a monogrammed 'A.M.'. A master colorist, he was a very significant early influence on his cousin-in-law Vincent van Gogh. In this image: Morning Ride on the Beach (1876), oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Degas' pastels

Drawn in Colour: Degas from the BurrellThe intensity and sensuality of Edgar Degas, the great voyeur of late 19th century art whose pastels are as potent as his paintings, should scintillate in this exhibition of his works from Glasgow’s Burrell Collection.
National Gallery, London, from 20 September until 7 May.
From the Guardian on Line

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

She had some horses by Joy Harjo.

She had some horses.
She had horses who were bodies of sand.

By Joy Harjo
I. She Had Some Horses

She had some horses.
She had horses who were bodies of sand.
She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.
She had horses who were skins of ocean water.
She had horses who were the blue air of sky.
She had horses who were fur and teeth.
She had horses who were clay and would break.
She had horses who were splintered red cliff.

She had some horses.

She had horses with eyes of trains.
She had horses with full, brown thighs.
She had horses who laughed too much.
She had horses who threw rocks at glass houses.
She had horses who licked razor blades.

She had some horses.

She had horses who danced in their mothers' arms.
She had horses who thought they were the sun and their
bodies shone and burned like stars.
She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.
She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet
in stalls of their own making.

She had some horses.

She had horses who liked Creek Stomp Dance songs.
She had horses who cried in their beer.
She had horses who spit at male queens who made
them afraid of themselves.
She had horses who said they weren't afraid.
She had horses who lied.
She had horses who told the truth, who were stripped
bare of their tongues.

She had some horses.

She had horses who called themselves, "horse."
She had horses who called themselves, "spirit," and kept
their voices secret and to themselves.
She had horses who had no names.
She had horses who had books of names.

She had some horses.

She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.
She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence, who
carried knives to protect themselves from ghosts.
She had horses who waited for destruction.
She had horses who waited for resurrection.

She had some horses.

She had horses who got down on their knees for any saviour.
She had horses who thought their high price had saved them.
She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her
bed at night and prayed.

She had some horses.

She had some horses she loved.
She had some horses she hated.

These were the same horses.

Born Today. Ben Shahn

September 12, 1898. Ben Shahn (September 12, 1898 - March 14, 1969) was a Lithuanian-born American artist. He is best known for his works of social realism, his left-wing political views, and his series of lectures published as "The Shape of Content." In this image: Lithuanian-born American social realist painter Ben Shahn is seen at his studio on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Dec. 12, 1938.

Owl #1

Susannah and the Elders
The Shape of Content:

The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti.

Images from Wikipedia and the Smithsonian page on American Art

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hannah Hill. Women in art

Embroidery created by contemporary UK textile artist Hannah Hill aka Hanecdote

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Born on this day: Jacob Lawrence

From the "Migration Series" 

Jacob Lawrence (September 7, 1917 – June 9, 2000) is among the best-known 20th-century African-American painters. He was only 23 years old when he gained national recognition with his 60-panel Migration Series, painted on cardboard. The series depicted the Great Migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North. 

His mother moved to NYC when he was 13 where he was able to take art classes. Even after dropping out of school at 16, he continuted to study art, taking classes at the Harlem Art Workshop and being encouraged to continue his studies (while working in a laundromat and for a printer) by the noted African American artist, Charles Alston. He served in WW II, and continued to paint, even though most of those works have been lost. He and his wife moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1970 and both continued to work and paint until their deaths. Lawrence died in 2000. 

"The series is notable for the language it does not use. Lawrence was not a propagandist. He eschewed the caricatural apparatus of Popular Front Social Realism, then at its high tide in America. Considering the violence and pathos of so much of his subject matter - prisons, deserted villages, city slums, race riots, labor camps - his images are restrained, and all the more piercing for their lack of bombast. When he painted a lynching, for instance, he left out the dangling body and the jeering crowd: there is only bare earth, a branch, an empty noose, and the huddled lump of a grieving woman. " Essay by Robert Hughes:

Lawrence had said of his series, then titled Migration of The Negro, that he painted without worrying about who would see it. The paintings aren’t as concerned with a white gaze as they are with getting the story clear and right. The series is intensely narrative and cinematic in its repetition. The panels share a base brown color, making the yellows, blues, reds, and oranges pop. The captions are stark, matter-of-fact articulations of each scene. Lawrence painted them in quick succession, almost in assembly-line fashion, applying the same colors to preserve uniformity.    

A part of this series was featured in a 1941 issue of Fortune Magazine. The collection is now held by two museums: the odd-numbered paintings are on exhibit in the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and the even-numbered are on display at MOMA in New York. Lawrence's works are in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Phillips Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and Reynolda House Museum of American Art. He is widely known for his modernist illustrations of everyday life as well as epic narratives of African American history and historical figures.

When Lawrence’s Migration Series was shown in New York in 2015, Apollo Magazine wrote: This is a rare chance to see the full 60-panel set of Jacob Lawrence’s astoundingly powerful ‘Migration Series’ completed in 1941 when he was just 23 years old. It tells the story of the Great Movement North, when millions of African Americans living in the southern states of the US left for northern ones. Lynching, environmental disasters, the Great Depression, peonage, plunder, the deliberate dismantling of any ideas of Eeconstruction and more drew out a mass of over 6 million black Southerners, from 1910 through the early 1970s, to Northern and Western cities.

Pool Hall
Fleeing flood, famine, poverty and injustice, they went to find work (better justice and education were bonuses) in the industrialised cities of Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St Louis and, above all, New York. In 1910 just 92,000 African Americans lived in New York; by 1940 there were 458,000; by 1970 1.7 million. It was one of the largest demographic events of the 20th century.


More than 40 years after black migration ended, as we witness an unconscionable number of black men and women die at the hands of law enforcement, as protests, “riots,” and uprisings overtake the Northern American cities to which our families fled, the warmth of both Northern and Southern suns still proves harsh.  From The painter’s migration series was a first draft of history for one of black America’s defining moments. Syreeta McFadden

The Jacob Lawrence and Gwen Center: