Wednesday, November 28, 2018

William Blake, Born this day in 1757

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night: What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? Who else remembers reading this aloud in school, and marveling at asymmetry? Ah, William Blake, born on this day in 1757.

In his Life of William Blake (1863) Alexander Gilchrist warned his readers that Blake "neither wrote nor drew for the many, hardly for work'y-day men at all, rather for children and angels; himself 'a divine child,' whose playthings were sun, moon, and stars, the heavens and the earth." Yet Blake himself believed that his writings were of national importance and that they could be understood by a majority of men. Far from being an isolated mystic, Blake lived and worked in the teeming metropolis of London at a time of great social and political change that profoundly influenced his writing. After the peace established in 1762, the British Empire seemed secure, but the storm wave begun with the American Revolution in 1775 and the French Revolution in 1789 changed forever the way men looked at their relationship to the state and to the established church. Poet, painter, and engraver, Blake worked to bring about a change both in the social order and in the minds of men.

The Poetry Foundation

The William Blake Archive

Essay from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Monday, November 26, 2018

Happy birthday Charles Schultz, the Father of Charlie Brown

Happy Birthday to the father of Charlie Brown. November 26, 1922. Charles Monroe Schulz (November 26, 1922 - February 12, 2000), nicknamed Sparky, was an American cartoonist best known for the comic strip Peanuts (which featured the characters Charlie Brown and Snoopy, among others). He is widely regarded as one of the most influential cartoonists of all time, cited as a major influence by many later cartoonists, including Jim Davis, Bill Watterson, and Matt Groening. In this image: Good Grief, Charlie Brown! Celebrating Snoopy and the Enduring Power of Peanuts © Somerset House.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday Grab Bag: Erté to Nicholas Maes to the earliest image of an artist in Chinese History

the Nile

Russian-born French artist and designer Romain de Tirtoff, better known as "Erté", was born on this date in 1892. This is "The Nile

Willem van den Kerckhoven, his wife, their many children, and their several dogs in 1652. Plus horse arriving late for the picture. By Jan Mijtens, whose day is today (by which we mean that we don't know his birthday so today is a good as any day to post one of his paintings  

Youth: fond memories of warmer times, with boys swimming, 1655. Painted by Nicolas Maes, whose day is today.

Age:  Jacob Trip, looking patriarchal as well he might since he's in his 80s, painted around 1660 by Nicolaes Maes.

Dark-skinned cattle herder, likely of SE Asian origin, depicted on a screen within a mural painting from a Tang prince's tomb (738 AD). On the right stands the supposed painter of the screen, holding a brush in his hand - one of the earliest images of an artist in Chinese history.

Chinese Painting - Heilbrun time line of art

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The total sum of existing manuscripts in Old English

Four manuscripts in the British Library’s extensive exhibition Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War: The Vercelli Book, the Junius Manuscript, the Exeter Book, and the Beowulf Manuscript contain riddles, religious texts, elegies, and the oldest manuscript of the oldest known poem in English. These represent the sum total of extant original literary manuscripts in Old English, a tongue several centuries distant from our own but still embedded deep within the structure of every modern version of the language.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Free downloads of Comic Books and Pulp Fiction

The Digital Comic Museum offers free access to hundreds of pre-1959 comic books, uploaded by users who often offer historical research and commentary alongside high-quality scans.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Paulus Potter. Dutch painter of animals. Baptized this day in 1625

Orpheus Charming the animals
The Young Bulls

Paulus Potter, in full Paulus Pieterszoon Potter, Paulus also spelled Paul, (baptized November 20, 1625, Enkhuizen, Netherlands—buried January 17, 1654, Amsterdam), Dutch painter and etchercelebrated chiefly for his paintings of animals. Animals appear prominently in all of Potter’s works, sometimes singly but usually in small groups silhouetted against the sky, or in greater numbers with peasant figures and rustic buildings in an extensive landscape. Potter is one of the minor Dutch masters.

Potter entered the Guild of St. Luke at Delft in 1646. In 1649 he moved to The Hague, where in the following year he married Adriana, daughter of the architect Claes van Balkeneynde. In 1652 Potter settled in Amsterdam. He probably received his early training from his father, the painter Pieter Potter (c. 1597–1652), but his style shows little dependence upon that of earlier masters. In so short a career there was little development in style between the earlier and the later works, but 1647 seems to mark a peak in his achievement, for many of the finest paintings bear this date. Among works that depart from his normal scale or style, the huge Young Bull (1647), which is life-size, is his most celebrated though not necessarily his finest work, whereas Orpheus Charming the Beasts (1650) is an excursion into a poetic world. Potter’s etchings of animals show all the skill and sympathy of his paintings.

Paulus Potter died of tuberculosis before he was thirty years old, but 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.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Bronzino, Portrait painter of the Medici in late Renaissance Florence

Portrait of a lady

Portrait of a lady
Ladies in Red: Top, woman and her son. Lucky them, they are completely perfect because painted by Agnolo Bronzino. (Her dress is sheer perfection.)
Almost geometrically perfect portrait of a lady in red, with her lapdog, in 1537. Painted by Agnolo Bronzino of Florence. 

Bronzino, Portrait of Eleonora of Toledo with her son Giovanni, 1544-45, oil on panel, 115.00 x 96.00 cm (Galleria degli Uffizi)

Three portraits of Eleanor of Toldeo, wife of Cosimo I, de Medici, the ruler of Florence until 1574. 

Agnolo Bronzino, (1603-1672) whose real name was Agnolo di Cosimo and is most commonly referred to as Il Bronzino or simply Bronzino, was a stand-out artist of the second-wave of Italian Mannerism in the middle of the 16th century. He lived his entire life in Florence and modeled his painting style so closely to that of his mentor, Jacopo Pontormo, that art historians today still debate the credit of several paintings.

Succeeding where Pontormo had not, Bronzino eventually became court painter to the powerful Medici family of Florence and gained notoriety for his portraiture style that meshed a sometimes cynical realism depicting cold and often arrogant noblemen sitters with bold colors such as ice blue and raspberry red. His portraits have proven to be his primary legacy and influenced portraiture painting for a century following his death in 1572.

Bronzino took the principles developed by Pontormo and ran with them. The result was portraits that were immaculately realistic in detail, with his subjects exuding blank, stoic expressions, yet with a sense of nobility and haughtiness. His use of color is primarily what sets Bronzino's style apart from Pontormo's and earned him a permanent place among the great Italian Mannerists.

Young man w/ a book, 1530s. Implacable, unreadable. All expression displaced onto heads that ornament the furniture. 

Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time: the painting that defines all that is weird and wonderful about Italian mannerism.
Agnolo Bronzino's Allegory with Venus and Cupid (c1545) was bought in Paris (together with the Garofalo) in 1860. It was painted for the erotica-loving French King François I. Its last French owner, Edouard Beaucousin, kept it concealed behind a veil. A naked Venus, half kneeling, half seated, fills the foreground. Her parted lips are kissed by her supple son Cupid, who fondles her left breast. In the background, various allegorical figures represent the bad byproducts of carnal love. The National Gallery's first director, Charles Eastlake, thought the picture perfectly moral, but knew "clergymen & others" would not, so his restorer obliterated Venus's searching tongue and the nipple peeking between Cupid's fingers. Unbeknown to Eastlake (and only revealed by the 1958 restoration), the picture had long since been supplied with a veil occluding Venus's sex, and a myrtle branch covering Cupid's bottom. Even today, Bronzino's Allegory remains one of Bronzino's most sexually explicit paintings. 

Review of exhibit at the NY Times

Venus and Cupid. Kahn Academy 

Culture at the Medici Court

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Sonia Delaunay, Russian-French-Jewish woman artist, born on November 14, 1885

Sonia Delaunay was a multi-disciplinary abstract artist and key figure in the Parisian avant-garde. Alongside her husband, Robert Delaunay, she pioneered the movement Simultanism. Her exploration of the interaction between colors created a sense of depth and movement throughout her oeuvre. Born on November 14, 1885, in Russia (now part of the Ukraine) , she spent most of ther working life in Paris. Along with her husband Robert, she co-founded the art movement termed Orphism, known for its strong colors and geometric shapes. Her work extended beyond painting to textile design and stage set design. She was the first living female artist to have a retrospective at the Louvre in 1964, and in 1975 was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor. She died on December 5, 1979. 

Sonia Delaunay wearing one of her designs 

Most of Delaunay's designs are abstract. (In the 1910s she and Robert invented Modernist French Abstraction, what they called "Simultaneity.") But in her textiles she veers between a vocabulary of pure abstraction and organic forms, such as fruit, flowers, raindrops and leaves. Yet even at their most representational, her forms are felt first as rhythm and color—their identities as "things" are forever playing catch-up. And those forms sometimes take on multiple identities simultaneously, as if they are changing from petals to teardrops to feathers to tongues right before our eyes. Uncannily, Delaunay's patterns, whether stripes, spirals or flowers, rarely feel "designed" and then "applied"; rather, they are experienced as energies, as families of forms relating to one another—actively living and working out their fates within the fabric.

But long before Delaunay was a flourishing designer, she had already created the first purely abstract, Modernist works of textile and graphic design, including a baby blanket (1911) and the cover and book for Blaise Cendrars's epic poem "La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France" (1913). A monumental and innovative achievement, Delaunay's 6½-foot illuminated folding-scroll book design, utilizing abstract forms and numerous typefaces in several sizes and colors, "translates" Cendrars's poem into painting, or pure color movements.
Delaunay, who referred to color as "the skin of the world," saw the whole world as her canvas. 

Her abstract easel painting and design work flowed one out of the other. As a fashion designer (she and Robert, along with clients such as Gloria Swanson, wore her creations), she saw the body not merely as an armature for pattern, but as a set of rhythmic sculptural volumes—forms in motion. Breasts, shoulders, legs, waist, knees, front and back were all treated as dynamic shaped canvases. Moving bodies activate Delaunay's discs and polka dots like jugglers' balls and trigger her zigzagging color like lightning. At times she treats the head as the center of a target, at other times as an abstract fruit beautifully arranged on the "platter" of the shoulders. In her beachwear, Delaunay sometimes repeats the same patterns across bathing suit, jacket, purse and umbrella, creating overlapping and interweaving interactions. And in a one-piece woman's bathing suit from 1928, color dives into and breaks across the body like waves.

In her oil paintings, Delaunay worked almost exclusively with flat primary colors and simple geometric shapes, contrasting movement with countermovement. These extremely economical, brightly colored paintings can look deceptively naive, almost childlike. But she was a brilliant and poetic painter. Her vibrant and ebullient combinations of precisely measured color, like instrumental music, are felt as pure emotion.
"If there are geometric forms, it is because these simple and manageable elements have appeared suitable for the distribution of colors whose relations constitute the real object of our search, but these geometric forms do not characterize our art. The distribution of colors can be effected as well with complex forms, such as flowers, etc. ... only the handling of these would be a little more delicate."
— Sonia Delaunay, speaking at the Sorbonne, 1927

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Raising money to help those displaced by the fires

The local local artists at 3 Fish Studios are raising money & not taking fees to help those displaced by the fires consuming parts of California. Update:(11/13/18) . They have already raised $26,000..Today we donated $5,000 to both the Ventura County Community Foundation Hill Fire and Woolsey Fire Sudden and Urgent Needs Effort Fund and to the North Valley Community Foundation Camp Fire. Together we are making a difference.

Monday, November 12, 2018

William Hogarth. Born November 10, 1697.

Study of his servants

The Shrimp Girl 
William Hogarth, (born November 10, 1697, London, England—died October 26, 1764, London), the first great English-born artist to attract admiration abroad, best known for his moral and satirical engravings and paintings—e.g., A Rake’s Progress (eight scenes,1733). His attempts to build a reputation as a history painter and portraitist, however, met with financial disappointment, and his aesthetic theories had more influence in Romantic literature than in painting

The Beggar's Opera VI, 1731, Tate Britain's version
The great twentieth-century cartoonist David Low described William Hogarth as the grandfather of the political cartoon. What he meant was that while Hogarth didn't quite set the template for political cartoons as we now recognize them (Gillray did that a generation later), the medium wouldn't be the same without him. There's a great deal of truth in this, but not necessarily for the obvious reasons. Hogarth refined a pre-existing tradition of visual satire, taking it to previously unscaled heights of sophistication and skill. And, through the popularity of his output, he placed visual satire shoulder to shoulder with the textual satire of the times (the elderly Swift wrote a poem to the young Hogarth, praising him and proposing that they collaborate). But he also established a journalistic tradition that's still flourishing today. (from a review of his show at the Tate, 2007). Hogarth cared passionately about both, primarily for personal reasons but also because he believed in art as a vital creative force in society. 

A Rake's Progress, Plate 8, 1735, and retouched by Hogarth in 1763 by adding the Britannia emblem
Marriage à-la-mode, Shortly After the Marriage (scene two of six).
He despised the connoisseurs’ exclusive admiration for the Old Masters and their prejudice in favour of foreign artists. In his first major work, Masquerades and Operas, published independently of the booksellers in 1724, Hogarth attacked contemporary taste and expressed attitudes that were vigorously sustained throughout his life. Boldly questioning the standards of a powerful clique that was supported by the 3rd earl of Burlington, an influential art patron and architect, Hogarth’s first blow with the connoisseurs was shrewdly designed to appeal to his hero, Thornhill, who was himself suffering from Burlington’s Neoclassical revival. Thus, Hogarth made powerful enemies at the start of his career, and, when they retaliated about 1730 by nullifying royal interest in his work, he was cruelly disappointed. Indeed, despite his own intransigent frankness, Hogarth was always discouraged and offended when his opponents hit back.

First print in the series "A Harlot's Progress" Complete series on line at Wikipedia
In 1792, Hogarth married and while his marriage was childless, it was a happy union.. 

In the next few years, small paintings, which acknowledged a great debt to the early 18th-century painter Antoine Watteau and the elegance of French Rococo art, brought Hogarth an appreciative and wealthy clientele. Hogarth soon got tired of this and turned to works which showed the depth and breadth of contemporary life, all the good, the bad and the ugly.

A harlot's progress, Plate 
Hogarth wanted to extract entertaining and instructive incidents from life. In telling the story of a young country girl’s corruption in London and her consequent miseries, he not only ridiculed the viciousness and follies of society but painted an obvious moral. The engravings were aimed at a wide public, and their tremendous success immediately established Hogarth’s financial and artistic independence. He was henceforth free, unlike most of his colleagues, to follow his own creative inclinations. To safeguard his livelihood from unscrupulously pirated editions, he fought to obtain legislation protecting artist’s copyright and held back the eight-part Rake’s Progress until a law of that nature, known as the Hogarth Act, was passed in 1735. In the following year Hogarth moved into the house in Leicester Fields that he was to occupy until his death.

Gin Lane
London becomes a hell on earth as the poor drink themselves to death. 

Beer Street
Hogarth was in many ways a contradictory figure: a satirist who wanted to be part of the Establishment; a popular engraver who wished to be recognized as a serious artist. He succeeded in being all these things (although, in the first instance, at great personal cost). But first and foremost he was a polemicist. That may seem to be a pretty obvious thing to say when you look at A Rake's Progress (1735), or A Harlot's Progress (1732), or The Idle and Industrious Apprentice (1747), or Stages of Cruelty (1751). But what's truly interesting is the way he did it, because it was essentially contradictory. 

Take his most famous print, Gin Lane (1751). At face value it is identical, in intention and effect, to a modern tabloid headline. It was inspired by a news story Hogarth heard about a woman who murdered her infant daughter so she could sell her clothes to buy gin - the equivalent of a banner headline today about teenagers killing someone for money to buy crack. It's meant to shock; moreover, it's meant to shock the viewer into better behavior. Thus its companion piece, Beer Street (also 1751), showing the advantages of honest English ale over evil foreign gin. To this end it was sold cheaply in order to reach as wide an audience as possible. In other words, it was a kind of proto-popular journalism, the first glimmer of the developing mass media.

From the Art Bible: William Hogarth will be remembered as the father of satirical caricatures and moral paintings, a genre which would later develop into cartoons. His determination and stout middle-class values made him one of the most innovative artists of his generation and he brought art to the common man for the first time in history.

Biographical information from the Encyclopedia Britannica. 
Information on the print Gin Lane 
Gin Lane vs Beer Street.
144 art works:
What was missed in history class:
Art Bible: