Thursday, November 30, 2017

Born on this day. in 1508. Andrea Palladio. Why we love columns

One way or another, most of us have encountered Andrea Palladio. His presence has been, and remains, quietly insistent in our daily lives - even though this great Italian architect was born 500 years ago, almost to the day, and his working life was spent in a relatively contained landscape between his birthplace, Padua, and the scene of some of his greatest triumphs, Venice.

Every building Palladio designed, from a simple farmhouse to his grand monastic churches such as San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, was a gem. Designed inside and out according to a sophisticated play of perfect geometry, each one remains an ideal to live up to. Handsomely crafted, imaginatively sited and bringing the best of classical Roman architecture up to date, his buildings had a profound influence on architecture worldwide.

 Andrea Palladio (30 November 1508 - 19 August 1580) was an architect active in the Republic of Venice. Palladio, influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, primarily by Vitruvius, is widely considered the most influential individual in the history of Western architecture. All of his buildings are located in what was the Venetian Republic, but his teachings, summarized in the architectural treatise Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (The Four Books of Architecture), gained him wide recognition. The city of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The frescoes in the Villa Caldogno main hall depict the different moments of the life in villa at Palladio's age

Images from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Born on this day in 1933. James Rosenquist, sign painter turned pop artist

November 29, 1933. James Rosenquist (born November 29, 1933 - March 31, 2017) was an American artist and one of the protagonists in the pop-art movement. In this image, he stands in front of his art work 'Brazil' which he created in 2004 at the art museum in Wolfsburg, Germany on Thursday, 17 February 2005.

The piece was part of a retrospective which included 150 works of art spanning across three decades, allowing an insight into the work of a leading representative of US American Pop Art. The exhibition ran until  June 5, 2005. The billboard painter-turned-artist's early works are also considered emblematic of a burgeoning consumer culture in America during the 1960s. Throughout his career, Rosenquist continued to create massive, provocative paintings, whose relevance hinges on their engagement with current economic, political, environmental, and scientific issues.

The artist was among the first to directly address the persuasive, even deceptive, powers of advertising by applying the Surrealist practice of juxtaposing seemingly unrelated subjects to fragmented commercial images and ads in a manner that highlights the omnipresence of ads.

An advocate for his fellow artists, Rosenquist used his prominent artistic reputation to help lobby for federal protection of artists' rights during the 1970s and was soon thereafter appointed to the National Council on the Arts.

Because he successfully moved beyond his early fascination with popular culture and mass media to address new issues, such as the intersection of science and aesthetics, Rosenquist is credited with being one the few Pop artists whose later work continues to be relevant.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Born on this day in 1912. Morris Louis

Morris Louis, Where, 252 x 362 cm. magna on canvas, 1960, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Born on the same day as William Blake but obviously not in the same year, Morris Louis could also be called an American Mystic. He spent his life in obscurity, painting away without much recognition, lonely, gifted and insecure. He was briefly proclaimed the king of abstract painters in 1966 but his reputation quickly faded out as did the style he, among others  better known. popularized. The lyric stain and transcendent wash was not to be the future of modern painting. (Robert Graves, Nothing If Not Critical. 200-203).

Morris Louis Bernstein (November 28, 1912 – September 7, 1962), known professionally as Morris Louis, was an American painter. During the 1950s he became one of the earliest exponents of Color Field painting. While living in Washington, D.C., Louis, along with Kenneth Noland and other Washington painters, formed an art movement that is known today as the Washington Color School.
From 1929 to 1933, he studied at the Maryland Institute of Fine and Applied Arts (now Maryland Institute College of Art) on a scholarship, but left shortly before completing the program. Louis worked at various odd jobs to support himself while painting and in 1935 was president of the Baltimore Artists' Association. From 1936 to 1940, he lived in New York and worked in the easel division of the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. During this period, he knew Arshile Gorky, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Jack Tworkov. He also dropped his last name.

He returned to his native Baltimore in 1940 and taught privately. In 1948, he pioneered the use of Magna paint - a newly developed oil based acrylic paint made for him by his friends, New York paintmakers Leonard Bocour and Sam Golden. In 1952, Louis moved to Washington, D.C.. Living in Washington, D.C., he was somewhat apart from the New York scene and he was working almost in isolation.

The basic point about Louis's work and that of other Color Field painters, sometimes known as the Washington Color School in contrast to most of the other new approaches of the late 1950s and early 1960s, is that they greatly simplified the idea of what constitutes the look of a finished painting. They continued in a tradition of painting exemplified by Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and Ad Reinhardt. Eliminating gestural, compositional drawing in favor of large areas of raw canvas, solid planes of thinned and fluid paint, utilizing an expressive and psychological use of flat, and intense color and allover, repetitive composition. He worked in a tiny space, 12 x 14 feet while his paintings ran as big as 9 x 20. That means that during his maturity, he may have never seen his biggest paintings stretched and on the wall.

No. 3
Louis characteristically applied extremely diluted, thinned paint to an unprimed, unstretched canvas, allowing it to flow over the inclined surface in effects sometimes suggestive of translucent color veils. The importance of Frankenthaler's example in Louis's development of this technique has been noted.  Louis reported (via the critic Clement Greenberg) that he thought of Frankenthaler as the bridge between Jackson Pollock and the possible. However, even more so than Frankenthaler, Louis eliminated the brush gesture.

Morris Louis was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1962 and soon after died at his home in Washington, D.C. on September 7, 1962. The cause of his illness was attributed to prolonged exposure to paint vapors.

In an exhibit in Washington DC in 2006, Blake Gopnik wrote, " Louis's pictures are as gorgeous as their original supporters claimed. In the earlier works, known as "veils," Louis got thin washes of poured paint to float across his canvases like frozen Northern Lights. In his later "Unfurleds" and "Stripes," undiluted colors glow like petrified rainbows. Ironically, that beauty made the painter's reputation fade."

"By the 1980s and '90s, there came to be a sense that Louis's work was just fiddling around with pretty paint. It was billed as self-indulgent, disengaged from things that really matter in the world or in art. It was simple-minded and content-free -- all looks and no brains. The art world equivalent of the hunky jock or dumb blonde."

"For all his canvases' immediate appeal, their effects turn out to depend on fiendishly complex structures. There's a buzzing play between how each looks from far away -- often legible and luminous -- and the clotted or fractured surfaces that make it up. When you come close to a Louis, you don't understand it any better; if anything, you get more perplexed about how it achieves its ends. (Louis was intensely secretive. Almost no one ever got to see him work; even his wife apparently came home each day to a tidied dining room, with few signs of what had gone on there other than a length or two of drying canvas drenched in paint.)"

But I think that Robert Hughes has the last relevant word on Louis, "For what it is, the work can still offer intense pleasure to the eye while inadvertently reminding you that beauty, in art, is not necessarily enough." Nothing if not Critical, pp 203.

Complete bio at:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Born on this day in 1922. Charles Schultz

Who doesn't love Peanuts and Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang? Last month's fire in Santa Rosa destroyed Schulz's  home, occupied by his widow but the museum is still standing. Born on November 26, 1922. Charles Monroe "Sparky" Schulz (November 26, 1922 - February 12, 2000) was an American cartoonist, whose comic strip Peanuts proved one of the most popular and influential in the history of the medium, and is still widely reprinted on a daily basis.

Last cartoons: 

His Obit:

Friday, November 24, 2017

Born on this day in 1864. Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec

November 24, 1864. Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa (24 November 1864 - 9 September 1901) was a French painter, printmaker, draughtsman, and illustrator, whose immersion in the colourful and theatrical life of fin de siècle Paris yielded an oeuvre of exciting, elegant and provocative images of the modern and sometimes decadent life of those times.

Toulouse-Lautrec's parents, the Comte and Comtesse, were first cousins (his grandmothers were sisters), and he suffered from congenital health conditions sometimes attributed to a family history of inbreeding.

At age 13, Toulouse-Lautrec fractured his right femur. At age 14, he fractured his left. The breaks did not heal properly. Modern physicians attribute this to an unknown genetic disorder, possibly pycnodysostosis (sometimes known as Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome), or a variant disorder along the lines of osteopetrosis, achondroplasia, or osteogenesis imperfecta.  Rickets aggravated by praecox virilism has also been suggested. Afterwards, his legs ceased to grow, so that as an adult he was extremely short (1.42 m or 4 ft 8 in).  He developed an adult-sized torso, while retaining his child-sized legs.  Additionally, he is reported to have had hypertrophied genitals.

Physically unable to participate in many activities enjoyed by males his age, Toulouse-Lautrec immersed himself in art. He became an important Post-Impressionist painter, art nouveau illustrator, and lithographer, and, through his works, recorded many details of the late-19th-century bohemian lifestyle in Paris. Toulouse-Lautrec contributed a number of illustrations to the magazine Le Rire during the mid-1890s.

In his less-than-20-year career, Toulouse-Lautrec created:

737 canvased paintings
275 watercolours
363 prints and posters
5,084 drawings
some ceramic and stained glass work
an unknown number of lost works

His debt to the Impressionists, particularly the more figurative painters like Manet and Degas, is apparent, for within his works, one can draw parallels to the detached barmaid at A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Manet and the behind-the-scenes ballet dancers of Degas. His style was also influenced by the classical Japanese woodprints which became popular in art circles in Paris.

He excelled at depicting people in their working environments, with the colour and movement of the gaudy nightlife present but the glamour stripped away. He was a master at painting crowd scenes where each figure was highly individualized.

More at:

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History:

Other links:
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec at the Museum of Modern Art
Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre at the National Gallery of Art
Toulouse-Lautrec and Paris exhibition at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Artcyclopedia

Images from Wikipedia

Thursday, November 23, 2017

On this day in 1883. José Clemente Orozco , Mexican Social Realist and Muralist

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate on this day. Today's birthdayt guy is José Clemente Orozco (November 23, 1883 - September 7, 1949). A few years ago I saw a show of his drawings down in San Jose and was so impressed by his bold vision. As with so many artists of the last century, he deserves to be better known. He was a Mexican social realist painter, who specialized in bold murals that established the Mexican Mural Renaissance together with murals by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and others.

Orozco was the most complex of the Mexican muralists, fond of the theme of human suffering, but less realistic and more fascinated by machines than Rivera. Mostly influenced by Symbolism, he was also a genre painter and lithographer. In this image, he looks over some of his drawings in his New York City apartment on Dec. 4, 1945.

Prometeo del Pomona College
Mural "Omnisciencia", 1925
Of "Los tres grandes" (The Three Greats) of the Mexican Muralists, José Clemente Orozco, notoriously introverted and pessimistic, is in many ways the least revered. One possible explanation for that is that, unlike his colleagues, David Siqueiros and Diego Rivera, Orozco openly criticized both the Mexican Revolution and the post-Revolution government. What was perceived as standoffishness was, by all accounts, the profound despair of a person who felt deeply for others. Orozco's style is a mixture of conventional, Renaissance-period compositions and modeling, emotionally expressive, modernist abstraction, typically dark, ominous palettes, and forms and iconography deriving from the country's indigenous, pre-colonial, pre-European art. Orozco's skill as a cartoonist and print maker is detectable not only in his style but also in his ability to communicate a complex message -- generally, timely political subjects -- simply and on a massive scale. The Mexican Muralist movement as a whole asserted the importance of large-scale public art and Orozco's murals, in particular, made space for bold, open social and political critique.é_Clemente_Orozco

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

On this day in 1904. Miguel Covarrubias

November 21, 1904. Miguel Covarrubias also known as José Miguel Covarrubias Duclaud (22 November 1904 - 4 February 1957) was a Mexican painter, caricaturist, illustrator, ethnologist and art historian. Miguel's artwork and celebrity caricatures have been featured in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair magazines. In this image: Covarrubias's caricature of himself as an Olmec.

Cover for Collier's Magazine, done during WWII. Caricature of Mussolini
From Sketches of Bali
Miguel Covarrubias was one of the most famous artists of his day, but chances are you’ve never heard of him. Caricaturists know his work- Al Hirschfeld studied under Covarrubias and shared a studio with him in 1924. He spoke of Covarrubias’ talent in the same breath as Daumier and Hogarth. Ethnologists and archaeologists know the name of Covarrubias as well. His analysis of pre-Columbian art and the culture of Bali led to books on the subject that have become classics. And his reputation as an anthropologist rivalled any of his peers in that field. Illustrator, caricaturist, anthropologist, author and educator… It’s high time you knew about Covarrubias too!

His art can be viewed at this website:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Born on this day. Paulus Potter

The Piebald Horse, 1650

The Young Bull. Potter's most famous painting. 1647

Two Horses in a Meadow
Paulus Potter was a Dutch painter who specialized in animals within landscapes, usually with a low vantage point. Before Potter died of tuberculosis at the age of 28, he succeeded in producing about 100 paintings.

When Paulus Potter died of tuberculosis before he was thirty years old, he had already profoundly influenced the way animals are depicted in European art. Potter created portraits of animals, making them his picture's focus, not just a backdrop for human action. The precocious son of a painter, his first dated work is from 1640. He entered Delft's Guild of Saint Luke in 1646 and later moved to The Hague. He is said to have wandered the Dutch countryside, sketchbook in hand, equally sensitive to how farm animals behave at different times of day and to light's vicissitudes from morning to dusk. Few of his contemporaries were more attuned to nature's moods or to the timeless harmony of beast, landscape, and weather. Potter's strong feeling for composition is seen in the way he grouped forms and used silhouette. His most successful paintings are small.

His contemporaries recognized Potter's talent. The famous Dr. Nicolas Tulp, who had spotted the young Rembrandt van Rijn's genius twenty years earlier, persuaded Potter to move to Amsterdam in 1652, whereupon he became Potter's mentor. In the 1800s, Potter's life-size The Young Bull was as famous as Rembrandt's Night Watch.Potter's etchings show the same sensitivity as his paintings.

Lidtke, Walter A., Michiel Plomp, and Axel Rüger. 2001. Vermeer and the Delft school. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 0-87099-973-7

All Images:

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sol LeWitt's Advice to Eva Hesse, read by Benedict Cumberbatch

Also, here’s a fantastic picture of Eva, who died at 34 of brain cancer, leaving behind loads of beautiful work—because she didn’t stop doing.

If you like Benedict Cumberbatch, this will make your day. If you like Sol LeWitt, this will make your week; if you also love and adore Eva Hesse, your entire month will be made. If you know none of these people and are just having a bad day, all will be made right in six minutes or less.

Dear Eva,
It will be almost a month since you wrote to me and you have possibly forgotten your state of mind (I doubt it though). You seem the same as always, and being you, hate every minute of it. Don’t! Learn to say “Fuck You” to the world once in a while. You have every right to. Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rambling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just

More at the link...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Born on this day in 1787. Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre

November 18, 1787. Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (18 November 1787 - 10 July 1851) was a French artist and physicist, recognized for his invention of the daguerreotype process of photography. He became known as one of the fathers of photography. Though he is most famous for his contributions to photography, he was also an accomplished painter and a developer of the diorama theatre. In this image: "Boulevard du Temple", taken by Daguerre in 1838 in Paris, includes the earliest known photograph of a person. The image shows a street, but because of the over ten minute exposure time the moving traffic does not appear. At the lower left, however, a man apparently having his boots polished, and the bootblack polishing them, were motionless enough for their images to be captured.

The shoe shiner working on Paris’ Boulevard du Temple one spring day in 1839 had no idea he would make his­tory. But Louis Daguerre’s groundbreaking image of the man and a customer is the first known instance of human beings captured in a photograph. Before Daguerre, people had only been represented in artworks. That changed when Daguerre fixed his lens on a Paris street and then exposed a silver-plated sheet of copper for several minutes (though others came into the frame, they did not stay long enough to be captured), developed and fixed the image using chemicals. The result was the first mirror-image photograph.

Unlike earlier efforts, daguerreotypes were sharp and permanent. And though they were eventually outpaced by newer innovations—daguerreotypes were not reproducible, nor could they be printed on paper—Daguerre did more than perhaps anyone else to show the vast potential of the new medium of photography.

The invention of photography:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Monet, Founder of Impressionism (Born Nov 14, 1840 - December 1926)

Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), 1872; the painting that gave its name to the style and artistic movement. Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

“When I look at nature I feel as if I’ll be able to paint it all and capture everything … then it vanishes,” Monet laments, perfectly capturing that elusive gap between what you see in your mind’s eye and what ends up on the canvas.  Monet

In the garden

Camille ?

Le Point Japanoise. 1923

Les Bassin au Nympheas 1917-1919

Nypheas, 1907

Nypheas 1908

Nyphjeas 1916-1919

Oscar-Claude Monet 14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) was a founder of French Impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting.The term "Impressionism" is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise), which was exhibited in 1874 in the first of the independent exhibitions mounted by Monet and his associates as an alternative to the Salon de Paris.

However, success did not come early or easily. In 1868, he wrote. “I must have undoubtedly been born under an unlucky star. I’ve just been turned out without even a shirt on my back from the inn in which I was staying. My family refused to help me any more. I don’t know where I’ll sleep. I was so upset yesterday that I was stupid enough to hurl myself into the water. Fortunately no harm was done.”

But he knew no other path and he kept on painting, although he had to write begging letters to his family for money, although his first wife Camille died after months of suffering. Monet painted her on her deathbed, a work full of grief and anger.

Nothing stopped him, not even the horrors of WW I. He could hear the guns from his home and Giverney and yet, he proclaimed, "They are going to have to slaughter me here as I paint." Nothing stopped him. Painting was everything.

"Art critic Jonathan Jones recently noted that “Monet makes all other art seem slightly false”, adding that the painter was “an unbeatable, unequalled artist whose popularity alone stops art snobs admitting that he is their favourite too”. It’s true that, as he and his fellow impressionists have been co-opted by the tourism industry, their work adorning everything from calendars to tea towels, so they have become increasingly dismissed as “chocolate box” painters.

Yet, as Andrew Graham-Dixon pointed out in his recent series on French art, to sneer at these “pretty” works is to forget that when they were first shown they were “raw and shocking”.  The Guardian

Complete Works:

Monet. Essay from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
The sketch in 19th century France
The roots of Modernism:
Monet at work in his Garden.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Painted Sculpture at the Legion of Honor

The latest show at the Legion of Honor is part of the new scholarship on Greek and Roman Sculpture. According to current belief, the sculptures were painted and in the most garish way possible. For decades, scholars have known that the sculptures were painted but in respect to the ancients, they refrained from imposing their version of taste on the works. 

No more. German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann decided that he knows better.  Using high-intensity lamps, ultraviolet light, cameras, plaster casts and jars of costly powdered minerals, he has spent the past quarter century painting sculptures and reliefs, believing that he has found the way, the truth and the light of ancient colors. He probably has the pigments right but does he have the colors right? What artist worth the name simply uses a color full strength, not tinting, not shading, not one iota of finesse? 

Would the people who created the lifelike Fayum portraits and the beautiful murals and mosaics that still exist have slathered art work with all the finesse of a toddler with a paint box? Showing teutonic stubbornness, Brinkmann has kept hammering away that his version is the true replica. Most iInstitutions have given in out of exhaustion if nothing else. Phidias,the creator of the Parthenon and much else, must be turning in his grave. 

Information from article “True Colors.” Smithsonian, July 2008 

Images from the Legion