Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Money talks, integrity walks. Norton Simon Museum gets to keep 2 Cranach's,looted from a Jewish_Dutch art dealer by the Nazis.

 Money talks, integrity walks. A US appeals court upholds ruling on Nazi-looted Cranachs.  A US appeal court in San Francisco has upheld an earlier ruling from 2016 in favour of California’s Norton Simon Museum, allowing the museum to keep a pair of Cranach paintings of Adam and Eve that were looted by the Nazis during the Second World War. 

The orignal owner, Jewish-Dutch Art Dealer Jacques Goudstikker fled Holland, just prior to the Nazi invasion. He died in an accident on the ship that carried his family to safety in South America. He had turned over his business, including an art gallery, to his associate who then turned around and sold the lot, at fire sale prices, to Hermann Goring. 

The works, which were stolen from Dutch art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, had been recovered following the war but returned to the Dutch Government which then claimed that the Goudstikker heirs failed to meet the deadline (through a technality)  to claim them back. The Dutch then put them in a Dutch museum and sold them off to anybody but the original Jewish heirs. 

The Dutch government later sold them to a Russian, George Stroganoff-Sherbatoff,  who claimed they were his, looted by the Soviets in 1931 but later sold at auction by the Soviets. He then sold them to Norton Simon who  brought the paintings to America. This week’s ruling concludes a more than decade-long legal battle initiated by Marei von Saher, Goudstikker’s daughter-in-law, seeking to claim ownership of the Cranachs, recently valued at $24m.

I went to a talk on this issue years ago. The representative, from Christie's, was neutral but it was clear from his presentation that the Dutch, along with every other European government, was refusing, in every way possible, to return looted art to the original heirs or, since most of them didn't survive the war, to the heirs. 

Wikipedia Article: 

In which a Dutch journalist exposes the bad dealing of the Dutch Government: Following World War II, the Allied forces recovered these treasures from Germany and gave them to the Dutch government as part of 'amicable restitution of rights', with the intention of returning them to their rightful owners; however, instead of returning them to Goudstikker's wife Desi, who sought their recovery from 1946 to 1952, they were retained as part of the Netherlands' National Collection. Between 1996 and 1998, Dutch investigative journalist Pieter den Hollander attracted international attention with his exposé of how the post-war restitution of stolen art often ignored the rights of the legal owners, eventually documenting it in his book De zaak Goudstikker (The Goudstikker Case), published by Meulenhoff in 1998. At that time, Goudstikker's heirs sued for possession of these works, but their claim was rejected by the State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science. Official investigations, however, confirmed the mishandling of postwar restitutions, and as a result, the Dutch government created the Restitutions Committee to review claims to art treasures in the government's possession. On the recommendations of the Herkomst Gezocht (Origins Unknown) Committee chaired by R. E. O. Ekkart (nl), after eight years of legal battles, in 2006 the Dutch government restored 202 paintings to Goudstikker's sole remaining heir, his daughter-in-law Marei von Saher, Goudstikker's wife Desi and only son Edo both having died in 1996; many of them were sold at auction in 2007 for almost $10 million.

......“a misguided effort to keep [the works] in the museum, despite the clear fact that they were looted from this Jewish family.”



Monday, July 30, 2018

Henry Moore, British sculptor. Born on this day in 1898. "To be an artist is to believe in life"

July 30, 1898. Henry Spencer Moore OM CH FBA (30 July 1898 - 31 August 1986) was an English artist. He is best known for his semi-abstract monumental bronze sculptures which are located around the world as public works of art. In this image: Henry Moore, Two Seated Women and a Child, 83.5 x 107 inches, tapestry (wool, cotton and silk), Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation and the Henry Moore family

"To be an artist is to believe in life"

He was one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, born on July 30, 1898,  in Castleford, England. He was the 7th of 8th children, the son of a miner. He served in WW I, was gassed and got an ex-serviceman's grant to study art, both in Leeds and London. 

Numerous commissions and exhibitions in the 1930s enabled Moore’s reputation as a leading avant-garde artist to grow, but in 1939 war broke out again. Moore was recruited as an official war artist and produced his now famous drawings of people sheltering in the London Underground during the Blitz.  

In September 1940, the Moores’ London flat was damaged by bombing and the couple moved to Perry Green, Hertfordshire. Hoglands, a farmhouse in the hamlet, became home for the rest of their lives. Their daughter Mary was born in 1946. Over time, Moore developed outbuildings into studios and Irina created beautiful gardens. Landscape was important to Moore and his work is often associated with nature. The human body is another recurring motif in the artist’s work and in Perry Green the analogies between the body and landscape could be readily explored. 

International success characterized Moore’s career from the 1950s onward. In 1977 he established the Henry Moore Foundation to encourage wider enjoyment and opportunities in the arts.

In August 1986 Henry Moore died in Perry Green.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

St Olaf's Feast day and a link to some real facts about the Vikings.

feast of the viking saint Olaf/Olav. The earliest surviving prayers for him, in a book from 11th-century Exeter, describe him as 'a wall, shield + sword of the faith'

Harley MS 2961, f. 123v
Learn more about vikings at

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Judith Leyster. Born on this day in 1609.

Born on this day in 1609, in Haarlem, (Holland), Judith Leyster. Here, by herself, laughing along with her subject. Hope she didn't really wear a big white collar while painting! For decades, her work was attributed to Frans Hals -finally, she is getting her due.

Her work was clearly influenced by genre paintings created by noted Haarlem artist Frans Hals, which led to attribution errors. Although well known during her lifetime, Leyster and her work were largely forgotten after her death until 1893, when a painting acquired by the Louvre was found to have Leyster’s distinctive monogram (her initials entwined with a five-pointed star) hidden under a false signature reading “Frans Hals.” This discovery led to renewed research and appreciation of Leyster's oeuvre, which had previously been confused with that of Hals.


She was erased from art history for centuries. https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2016/04/04/daughters-of-the-guild/

No great women artists? Look again. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/23/arts/design/23leyster.html

23 Art works: https://www.wikiart.org/en/judith-leyster

Thursday, July 26, 2018

George Grosz. Born on this day in 1893

Germany, A Winter's Tale. 1817-1918
Wikipedia: My Drawings expressed my despair, hate and disillusionment, I drew drunkards; puking men; men with clenched fists cursing at the moon. ... I drew a man, face filled with fright, washing blood from his hands ... I drew lonely little men fleeing madly through empty streets. I drew a cross-section of tenement house: through one window could be seen a man attacking his wife; through another, two people making love; from a third hung a suicide with body covered by swarming flies. I drew soldiers without noses; war cripples with crustacean-like steel arms; two medical soldiers putting a violent infantryman into a strait-jacket made of a horse blanket ... I drew a skeleton dressed as a recruit being examined for military duty. I also wrote poetry. — George Grosz

Ecce Homo

George Grosz, (born July 26, 1893, Berlin, Ger.—died July 6, 1959, West Berlin, W.Ger. [now in Berlin]), German artist whose caricatures and paintings provided some of the most vitriolic social criticism of his time.

After studying art in Dresden and Berlin from 1909 to 1912, Grosz sold caricatures to magazines and spent time in Paris during 1913. When World War I broke out, he volunteered for the infantry, but he was invalided in 1915 and moved into a garret studio in Berlin. There he sketched prostitutes, disfigured veterans, and other personifications of the ravages of war. In 1917 he was recalled to the army as a trainer, but shortly thereafter he was placed in a military asylum and was discharged as unfit.

By the war’s end in 1918, Grosz had developed an unmistakable graphic style that combined a highly expressive use of line with ferocious social caricature. Out of his wartime experiences and his observations of chaotic postwar Germany grew a series of drawings savagely attacking militarism, war profiteering, the gulf between rich and poor, social decadence, and Nazism. In drawingcollections such as The Face of the Ruling Class (1921) and Ecce Homo (1922), Grosz depicts fat Junkers, greedy capitalists, smug bourgeoisie, drinkers, and lechers—as well as hollow-faced factory labourers, the poor, and the unemployed.

At this time Grosz belonged to the Berlin Dada art movement, having befriended the German Dadaist brothers Wieland Herzfelde and John Heartfield in 1915. Gradually, Grosz became associated with the Neue Sachlichkeit (“New Objectivity”) movement, which embraced realism as a tool of satirical social criticism.

After immigrating to the United States in 1933 to teach at the Art Students League in New York City, Grosz’s work became less misanthropic, as he drew magazine cartoons, nudes, and landscapes. He became a U.S. citizen in 1938. During World War II he showed his old pessimism in sharply coloured, teeming canvases such as The Survivor (1944). So famous and threatening were Grosz’s depictions of war and corruption that the Nazis designated him “Cultural Bolshevist Number One.” A French critic called his work “the most definitive catalog of man’s depravity in all history.” Grosz died in West Berlin about three weeks after returning to his native country for a visit.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thomas Eakins. Born on this day in 1844

The Gross Clinic
Detail from The Gross Clinic

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.

So it often struck scholars as odd that his greatest symphony of darkness and light — the huge, still unsettling “Gross Clinic” from 1875, showing an operation in a surgical theater, a bloody union of human progress and frailty — always seemed to have a little too much light in it, in all the wrong places. The two figures standing in a corridor behind the godlike surgeon Dr. Samuel D. Gross appeared to be emerging from an orange inferno, with parts of their clothes aflame, drawing the viewer’s eye away from the drama at the painting’s center. Many of the medical students arrayed in the darkened galleries above were too bright and reddish, as if some were fiddling with flashlights.

From the 2010 Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibit of the newly cleaned "Gross Clinic." 

According to the Heilbrunn time line of Art History, Eakins was the most uncompromising realist painter in American history. He dedicated his career in depicting the human figure in all forms of art - painting, sculpture, watercolor and photography.  

Lecture from the National Gallery of Art (uTube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdFzqZiGofA

Friday, July 20, 2018

Morandi. Born on this day in 1890

Morandi cannot be closely identified with a particular school of painting. His major influence was the work of French Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, whose emphasis on form and flat areas of colour Morandi emulated throughout his career. Morandi first exhibited his work in 1914 in Bologna with the Futurist painters, and in 1918–19 he was associated with the Metaphysical school, a group who painted in a style developed by Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà. Artists who worked in the Metaphysical painting style attempted to imbue everyday objects with a dreamlike atmosphere of mystery.

Morandi developed an intimate approach to art that, directed by a highly refined formal sensibility, gave his quiet landscapes and disarmingly simple still-life compositions a delicacy of tone and extraordinary subtlety of design. His gentle, lyrical colours are subdued and limited to clay-toned whites, drab greens, and umber browns, with occasional highlights of terra-cotta. Morandi’s paintings of bottles and jars convey a mood of contemplative repose reminiscent of the work of Piero della Francesca, an Italian Renaissance artist whom he admired.

I have seen some of his works and they don’t appeal to me. The dull colors, the static bottles, all of which are supposed to represent stillness and just seem boring. But some people love his work. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Degas. Born on this day in 1834

Edgar Degas was born on this day in 1834. This work, "The Dance Class," and its variant in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, represent the most ambitious paintings devoted to the theme of the dance.

From the New Yorker: An air of Dickensian tragic irony attends Degas’s last years, when, like an avatar of Marley’s ghost, he dragged the chains of his spent obsessions. He seems to have learned in 1870 that his eyesight was defective. It worsened with age. The condition, which made him painfully sensitive to light, probably played a role in the turn toward tactility in his late works, exploiting memories of visual form that were lodged in his wrist and inner eye. He often worked surfaces with his fingers. The physicality of his charcoals and pastels, after the early eighteen-nineties, positively explodes in strong blacks and blazing colors. He increasingly relies on a motif of the female back, arranged diagonally at an angle from the side, like a raked and tilted shelf. Meanwhile, his sculptures of dancers and horses ride a jet stream of perfect realization, as if less produced than discovered. Degas rarely appeared in public, except at auctions of his art. He stopped working in 1912. In wintry isolation, he survived until 1917, dying at the age of eighty-three.

He never reconciled himself to being thought of as a leader of the impressionist movement although he was one of the most active and powerful members. Degas became renowned for his depictions of modern Parisian women  such as dancers, cafe singers and laundresses. Degas’s style differed from the Impressionists in that he preferred to paint indoors from sketches or memory rather than in the open air, and his work displayed a quality of line, foregoing the characteristic Impressionist detached brush strokes. Known for his keen observation of naturalistic movement, Degas’s realistic style set him apart from his Impressionist contemporaries.

He seems to have believed that an artist can have no private life and his cruel wit alienated most of his friends. His reputation as a curmudgeon was well deserved as was his open Antisemitism. 

From Wikipedia: The Dreyfus Affair, which divided Paris from the 1890s to the early 1900s, further intensified his anti-Semitism. By the mid-1890s, he had broken off relations with all of his Jewish friends, publicly disavowed his previous friendships with Jewish artists, and refused to use models who he believed might be Jewish. He also fired a model who was Protestant. He remained an outspoken anti-Semite and member of the anti-Semitic "Anti-Dreyfusards" until his death.





Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Caravaggio. Died on this day in 1610

July 18, 1610. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (29 September 1571 - 18 July 1610) was an Italian artist active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1593 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque school of painting. In this image: A photographer and a cameraman take a picture of Caravaggio's painting "The calling of Saints Peter and Andrew" in Rome, Monday, Nov. 20, 2006. The painting, owned by Queen Elizabeth II, languished for years in a dusty storeroom before being identified as the work of Italian master Caravaggio, on show at the Gate Termini Art Gallery in Rome.

We know a lot about this life and much of it involves the police. This was a man with a severe case of emotional incontinence, someone known to the law in more than one state for bouts of violence, but also a man whose genius and talent for innovation was recognized by the very same people who had the power to destroy him. 

The art historian Michael Fried's new book, After Caravaggio, which has just been published by Yale University Press, looks at the painter's followers and the long shadow he cast over the 17th century. 

It follows Fried's 2010 publication The Moment of Caravaggio, where he focused on how the Italian Baroque artist propelled the emergence of the "gallery picture" as a distinct genre that moved away from traditional altarpieces and religious commissions. 

"Part of the larger argument of both After Caravaggio and The Moment of Caravaggio is that in the first decades of the 1600s, Rome saw the rise of marvellous private galleries owned by nobles and cardinals, who bought and commissioned works by artists like Caravaggio," Fried says. "Artists became aware of the natural competition that took place in those galleries, because if you hang pictures alongside one another, they will fight among themselves to find out which is strongest. Caravaggio was the big winner here." 

The new book elaborates on many of the themes that have animated Fried's work since his spirited attack on Minimalism in his 1967 essay Art and Objecthood. But this new work, he says, is not an attempt to lay an absolute bedrock for this history of Modernism. "The direction I always want to go is not, here is something happening for the first time—there's nothing that ever begins like that, there is always something before. But instead, if you think about these pictures this way, this is how you can make sense of them." 

Perhaps the last painting he produced, the stunning David with the Head of Goliath, painted while on the run in 1610 just before he succumbed to fever, says it all: David is a portrait of the young artist while Goliath’s head brings us Caravaggio brought low by his loving and living. Such is the stuff of legend.

At the National Gallery here

Review of a number of new books on him here

Helibrun Time line of art. Baroque art here

Caravaggio and his followers here