Monday, December 31, 2018

Sailing into 2019

Sailing into the New Year

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Don't forget your New Year's Resolutions

IF you're getting ready to write down your resolutions (and them promptly forget about them) 😇 "Portrait of a Woman Holding a Pencil and a Drawing Book," Robert-Jacques Lefèvre, France, circa 1808

Artists born on December 30


Saturday, December 29, 2018

Memories of Sister Wendy

Interview with Charlie Rose

Sister Wendy "does" Michelangelo:

Sister Wendy eventually wrote some 25 books, including collections of poetry and meditations, and made a dozen documentaries, many released on DVD. She always returned to the austere seclusion that was her home for nearly a half-century, although her trailer was upgraded in 1994.

Sister Wendy: Feb 25,1930 - December 26, 2018

A whole page of videos: 1000 Masterpieces

Story of Painting

LA Times:


Friday, December 28, 2018

Félix Edouard Vallotton. Born on this day in 1865

December 28, 1865. Félix Edouard Vallotton (December 28, 1865 - December 29, 1925) was a Swiss/French painter and printmaker associated with Les Nabis. He was an important figure in the development of the modern woodcut. 

Félix Vallotton, in full Félix Edouard Vallotton, (born December 28, 1865, Lausanne, Switzerland—died December 28, 1925, Paris, France), Swiss-born French graphic artist and painter known for his paintings of nudes and interiors and in particular for his distinctive woodcuts.

 Vallotton worked in woodcut almost exclusively throughout the 1890s. In 1892 he began associating with a group of artists called the Nabis (from Hebrew navi, meaning “prophet,” or “seer”)—Édouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, Ker-Xavier Roussel, and Maurice Denis. Vallotton exhibited with them for the first time that year at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Though only loosely affiliated with the group, Vallotton, like them, looked to Symbolist artists and to the Japanese tradition of woodcut. Both stressed the flatness of the surface and the use of simplified abstract forms, strong lines (evident in Vallotton’s prints), and bold colors. 

Road at St Paul (Var) 1922 

Internet Archive here

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Nativity According to Luke: For unto us a child is given. .

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a signt o you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  The Gospel According to Luke

On the way to Bethlehem

Luke describes the event. “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered… Joseph went to Bethlehem to be registered with Mary, who was with child.” For Bruegel, the event is contemporary, taking place in his native Belgium in the harshest of winters. Mary and Joseph are just two more poor people trudging through the freezing air to queue for this ruthlessly imposed bureaucracy. The only thing that distinguishes them in the general misery and chaos is the proverbial donkey.

Not what you think: copy of Census at Bethlehem by Pieter Bruegel's son Pieter the Younger.

Bruegel's details: Peddlers with heavy packs, moving slowly across the ice to reach frigid Bethlehem. 

 Children have a snow ball fight. 

Joseph and Mary are almost lost in the chaos as they make their way into the city

Friday, December 21, 2018

Welcome to the Winter Solstice

The passage tomb at Newgrange is probably Ireland’s most iconic archaeological site and it is indelibly linked with the winter solstice. This date marks the shortest day of the year and it appears to have been a time of special significance for the people who built this great passage tomb. Indeed, the whole monument was designed around capturing the first rays of sunshine on the morning of the solstice.
Due to the natural slope of the ground the floor of the passageway at Newgrange rises gradually as you journey from the entrance to the inner burial chamber. This means that the floor of the burial chamber is actually 2m higher than the floor at the entrance. As a result no light can reach the inner recesses of the tomb, which remain in nearly total darkness for most of the year. However on the 21st of December something very special occurs (and a number of days either side). As the sun rises above the eastern horizon a single beam of sunlight creeps slowly up along the tomb’s passageway until it reaches the dark confines of the burial chamber. The near perpetual darkness is broken and the inner and most sacred confines of this ancient tomb are, for short time, illuminated.
To ensure this solstice event occurred the tomb builders had to construct a special ‘roof box’ above the passageway. This was located roughly 2.5m in from the entrance and was in essence a stone lined window. The extra height provided by the ‘roof box’ allowed the sun’s rays to reach the very back of the tomb. The entire monument is modelled around this single beam of light and considerable planning must have gone into working out the exact time and angle of the solstice sunrise and how to capture its rays for maximum effect.
The winter solstice was obviously an incredibly important date for the builders of Newgrange. It marked the end of the old year and the start of the new one. It was a significant moment in the farming calendar, from that day on the days would gradually grow longer and eventually warmer. Moreover, it may also have symbolically marked an important moment in the human life cycle. It is hard not see parallels with the old sun ‘dying’ on this day and the new one being ‘born anew' and a human belief system based on the principle that people would similarly be reborn when they died.
Today we can only speculate on why the builders of Newgrange put such emphasis on the winter solstice sunrise. However, there is no denying that 5000 years later there is still a sense of magic and wonderment when the darkest recesses of Newgrange light up on the 21st of December. Photos Irish Tourism Board

I Ching for the Solstice. Anne Heche. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Io Io Io Saturnalia

Today is the first day of Saturnalia, the holiday to beat all holidays, the festival the poet Catullus called it "the best of days". (Catullus, XIV)

It's the predecessor to Christmas, the Roman equivalent to the earlier Greek holiday of Kronia, and a week long carnival where everything was enjoyed to the max. 

It began on December 17th (on the Julian calendar), as a religious festival to the god Saturn involving a sacrifice at the temple, a public banquet, gift-giving and continual partying. The clearly enjoyable aspect of this holiday meant it eventually expanded to an entire week. 

Saturnalia was extended first to three and eventually to seven days. The date has been connected with the winter sowing season, which in modern Italy varies from October to January. Remarkably like the Greek Kronia, it was the liveliest festival of the year. All work and business were suspended. Slaves were given temporary freedom to say and do what they liked, and certain moral restrictions were eased. The streets were infected with a Mardi Gras madness; a mock king was chosen (Saturnalicius princeps); the seasonal greeting io Saturnalia was heard everywhere. The closing days of the Saturnalia were known as Sigillaria, because of the custom of making, toward the end of the festival, presents of candles, wax models of fruit, and waxen statuettes which were fashioned by the sigillarii or manufacturers of small figures in wax and other media. The cult statue of Saturn himself, traditionally bound at the feet with woolen bands, was untied, presumably to come out and join the fun

Catullus gets annoyed at a friend for his miserly gift on Saturnalia

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Remedios Varo. Born on this day in 1908

This is the hermit. [above] He is now beyond normal time and space; his body is made up of two triangles, one upright and one inverted, which form a six-pointed star, symbol of time and space in ancient esoteric teachings. Inside his open chest there is a yin-yang symbol representing inner harmony. This is the most beautiful symbol of all (at least I think so), for it is enclosed in a circle, and has come to signify equilibrium.

December 16, 1908. Remedios Varo Uranga (16 December 1908 - 8 October 1963) was a Spanish-Mexican para-surrealist painter and anarchist. Born in Girona, Spain in 1908, she studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid. She is known as one of the world famous para-surrealist artists of the 20th Century. During the Spanish Civil War she fled to Paris where she was greatly influenced by the surrealist movement. She met her second husband, the French surrealist poet Benjamin Péret, in Barcelona. In this image: Remedios Varo (Spanish/Mexican 1908-1963), Vampiros vegetarianos. Oil on canvas. Painted in 1962. Estimate: $1,500,000 - 2,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2015.

Remedios Varo, original name in full María de los Remedios Alicia Rodriga Varo y Uranga, (born December 16, 1908, Anglès, Girona, Spain—died October 8, 1963, Mexico City, Mexico), Spanish-Mexican artist who played an integral role in the Mexico City-based Surrealist movement. She is known for her enigmatic paintings of androgynous beings engaged in magic arts or the occult.Varo was raised in a well-educated family. Her father, a hydraulics engineer, taught her technical drawing when she was young. His job required frequent travel, and the family traveled throughout Spain and North Africa before settling in Madrid in 1917. In Madrid she attended Catholic school and then pursued art at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, graduating in 1930 with a degree to teach drawing. In the mid-1930s, while living in Barcelona, Varo began to involve herself in Surrealism and joined the avant-garde artists’ group Logicophobista. In 1936 she met Surrealist poet Benjamin Péret, with whom she fled Spain for Paris and whom she married in 1937. They were soon absorbed into the activities of the Surrealist movement there, and Varo exhibited with the group and published drawings in Surrealist publications.
In late 1941 the couple fled again, this time to Mexico to escape Nazi-occupied France. In Mexico City they connected with locals, such as writer Octavio Paz, as well as other exiled artists and writers, among them Wolfgang Paalen, Gordon Onslow Ford, and Leonora Carrington, who became Varo’s closest friend. Varo’s first pursuits in Mexico City were in commercial art, interior and costume design, and restoration of pre-Columbian pottery. She began to devote her time entirely to painting only in 1953, by which time she had separated from Péret and was romantically involved with Austrian businessman Walter Gruen, who supported her painting activity. In large part, her paintings are populated with strange humans engaged in mystical and alchemical activity in dreamlike atmospheres. Her compositions also include architectural features that make direct reference to medieval art and show her expert draftsmanship. She was an admirer of Hiëronymus Bosch, whose mysterious compositions undoubtedly influenced her. She had a well-received first solo exhibition in Mexico City in 1956 and continued to exhibit thereafter. Varo created the bulk of her work in the last 10 years of her life. She died of a heart attack at age 54. From 
National Museum of Women in the Arts: Life and Legacy:

Friday, December 14, 2018

Willem Claesz Heda. Born December 14, 1594

An early and eceptively simple still life by Willem Claesz Heda, born OTD 1594. Already doing the lemon peel thing, although not so expertly as in later works. Inlaid knife handle would also become a fave. Willem Claesz Heda, (born c. 1594, Haarlem?, Neth.—died Aug. 24, 1680, Haarlem), one of the principal Dutch Baroque still life painters.
Early in his career Heda produced some figure subjects, but nearly all of his known works are still lifes, of which the earliest dated example is a “Vanitas” of 1621. His most characteristic works are restrained compositions of glass and metal vessels delicately arranged on a table with oysters, a half-peeled lemon, or other motifs that display his precise draftsmanship and his skill in imitating the varied qualities of different light-reflecting surfaces. His colour range is a subdued one of silvery grays, golden yellows, and browns, the naturalistic effects being achieved by accurate tone values.

Table piled with food and drink around wild Neptunian nautilus cup. Love pilgrim-as-wineglass-holder! How soon before plate of glasses crashes to ground, though? By Willem Claesz Heda of Haarlem.

The blackberry pie never gets old in Willem Claesz Heda's studio. Or perhaps his long-suffering wife just kept baking them. This one is from 1640.

Blackberry pie for lunch. But the broken glass is not appealing. And time is passing for Willem Claesz Heda, born on this day in 1593. A table laid with oysters, a lemon, and beer invites the viewer to associate visual and culinary pleasure. But a closer look reveals broken glass and a cone of paper (intended to hold spices) torn from an almanac, both reminders of our swiftly passing days. Heda made a name for himself as an artist by achieving a variety of pictorial effects, such as the illusion of polished silver, glistening oysters, or reflective glass, while working almost exclusively in shades of gray.

Wonderful mixtures of the ordinary and the extraordinary on tables of Willem Claesz Heda of Haarlem

Now there's a ham on the table! And we see both ends of the table! And the glass is strangely big! Willem Claesz Heda, born on this day 1593, getting crazy in his old age in 1656.

Maybe Willem Claesz Heda thinks, still life is getting boring. I know, I'll put the table in front of a classical landscape! Then he thinks, oops, was bad idea. Does not finish the painting. Still, today is his birthday.

Not much is known about Willem Heda (1594-1680). He lived all his life in Haarlem and joined the St Luke's guild there in 1631, holding a series of posts. While Heda painted several figure studies early in his career, he later concentrated exclusively on still lifes. Heda was the consummate master in depicting light reflected on smooth, shiny surfaces such as pewter, silver or brass candlesticks. He often depicted the same objects in different paintings, which became known as ‘banquets’ or ‘breakfasts’.


As the visitor enters, he or she will be dazzled by a necklace of radiating diamonds and sapphires created by Cartier in London in 1937 for the Maharajah of Nawanagar. Flanking it are a 1902 photograph of Queen Alexandra, the wife of Britain’s King Edward II, and a 1911 photograph of Maharajah of Patiala, each with their chests virtually upholstered with strands of pearls. I believe that this necklace was shown at a similar exhibit at the Asian.

The jeweled tiger’s-head finial, 1787-1793, is from the gold throne of Tipu Sultan of Mysore, said to be a fierce enemy of the British and prior to that, a deadly enemy of the Mughal rulers of India. 

The Legion of Honor curators point out:
  • The British “Raj” (from the Hindustani word for rule) gets the attention in television series, but it lasted less than a century, from 1858 to 1947. The Mughals, a dynasty with roots in Central Asia, ruled India from 1526 until the mid-1800s, bringing Persian and Islamic influences to Indian design. The later rulers of the Mugal Dynasty spend most of their time fighting the Hindu kingdoms in the south and brought a era of religious intolerance toward the Hindus in the lands ruled by the Mughals. The first two Mughal rulers, especially Barbur,  were tolerant. But that didn't last. 
  • In the 1660s, Louis XIV acquired thousands of diamonds sourced from India — the foundation of the French Crown Jewels. At one point, the collection included the supposedly cursed Hope diamond, now on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
  • In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Indian maharajas and other notables “were actually deprived of any true military and political purpose,” the exhibit text notes. They particularly lost power after Indian independence in 1947. The antidote? “More and more extravagant jewelry.”


    Through: Feb. 24, 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
    Where: Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue and Clement Street, San Francisco
    Admission: $13-$28′ 415-750-3600,

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Zinaida Serebriakova , Russian, later French 20th century woman painter.

At The dressing table. The painting that led to public recognition. 1909 
Zinaida Serebriakova - born in the Ukraine on December 12, 1884. She was a member of the Benois family, one of the more artistic families of the Russian Empire, descended from a man who fled to Russian during the French revolution and whose descendants became artists, architects, sculptors and even an actor. 

Her grandfather, Nicholas Benois, was a famous architect, chairman of the Society of Architects and member of the Russian Academy of Science. Her uncle, Alexandre Benois, was a famous painter, founder of the Mir iskusstva art group. Her father, Yevgeny Nikolayevich Lanceray [Wikidata], was a well-known sculptor, and her mother, who was Alexandre Benois' sister, had a talent for drawing. One of Zinaida's brothers, Nikolay Lanceray, was a talented architect, and her other brother, Yevgeny Yevgenyevich Lanceray, had an important place in Russian and Soviet art as a master of monumental painting and graphic art
The Russian-English actor and writer Peter Ustinov was also related to her.
Self Portrait 1911

Country Girl

Bleaching Cloth
In 1917, the Russian Revolution destroyed her secure life. Her husband died of typhoid contacted in a Bolshevik jail, of course, her money and her family's estate were confiscated. She was left penniless with four children to raise. 

House of Cards
"She did not want to switch to the futurist style popular in the art of the early Soviet period, nor paint portraits of commissars, but she found some work at the Kharkov Archaeological Museum, where she made pencil drawings of the exhibits. In December 1920 she moved to her grandfather’s apartment in Petrograd. After the October Revolution, inhabitants of private apartments were forced to share them with additional inhabitants, but Serebriakova was lucky - she was quartered with artists from the Moscow Art Theatre. Thus, Serebriakova's work during this period focuses on theatre life. 
Also around this time, Serebriakova's daughter, Tatiana, entered the academy of ballet, and Serebriakova created a series of pastels on the Mariinsky Theater."
In 1924, she was able to leave Russia and move to Paris, having received a commission to paint a large decorative mural. She was able to get her two youngest children out of Russia but did not see her two oldest children until the thaw in Russian politics until Khruschiev, 35 years later. 
She was now able to travel , visiting Africa, Morocco, and the Atlas mountains of Morocco. Her love of beauty as well as respect for her subjects shines through all of her paintings.  

Zinaida Serebriakova died in Paris on 19 September 1967, at the age of 82. She is buried in Paris, at the Russian cemetery at Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois