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Worth Watching
  • Empires - The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
    Empires - The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
    A fascinating and highly entertaining look at one of the most important families of the Renaissance era--the Medici.
  • Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting / Grand Tour / Odyssey / Pains of Glass)
    Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting / Grand Tour / Odyssey / Pains of Glass)

    “Sister Wendy Beckett has transformed public appreciation of art through her astonishing knowledge, insight and passion for painting and painters.” This set includes Sister Wendy's Story of Painting, Sister Wendy's Odyssey, and Sister Wendy's Grand Tour. Simultaneously delightful and scholarly--this is a must have for anyone interested in art history.

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
    Exit Through the Gift Shop
    When British stencil artist Banksy traveled to Los Angeles to work, he came across obscure French filmmaker Thierry Guetta and his badly organized collection of videotapes involving the activities of graffiti artists. Inspired, Banksy assembled them with new footage to create this talked-about documentary, and the result is a mind-boggling and odd film (so strange as to be thought a hoax by some) about outsider artists and the definition of art itself.
  • The Impressionists
    The Impressionists
    A dramatization of the Impressionist movement as seen through the eyes of Claude Monet. Highly entertaining and informative.
  • The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution
    The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution
    A very personal and revealing look at the personalities that created Impressionism.

Quote of the Day

"The joy of achieving in a landscape a perfect comprehension of a blade of grass.. as beautiful as a tree or a mountain.. What most of all interests me is the calligraphy of the tiles on a roof or that of a tree scanned leaf by leaf, branch by branch.” - Joan Miró


Gertrude Stein: A Self-Styled Genius

Pablo Picasso - Gertrude Stein - 1905-06 - Oil on canvas - 39-3/8 x 32 in. (100 x 81.3cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New YorkNovelist, poet, and playwright Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was born in Pittsburgh. She moved to Paris in 1903 and would spend the rest of her life in the French capital. Stein hosted a salon in Paris where Matisse, Picasso, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many more artists would meet. Together with her brother Leo, Stein created an impressive art collection. Between 1903 and 1914, the siblings accumulated art by Gauguin, Cézanne, Renoir, Delacroix, and Toulouse-Lautrec, among others. (You can read more about each of these artists on What About Art?)

Gertrude and Leo would split their collection after they ceased living together, but Gertrude’s reputation in the art world only grew. At the time, art critic Henry McBride wrote that Gertrude “collected geniuses rather than masterpieces. She recognized them a long way off.” Stein was especially appreciative of Pablo Picasso’s work—although she didn’t take to it right from the start. He painted her portrait in 1906—now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—and she continued to support his work when it transitioned to Cubism.

Stein was known as a genius in her own right for her own literary work, although her only book to reach a wide public was The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), which was actually Stein’s own autobiography. 

Stein’s importance in the art world cannot be underestimated. Her support of early modern artists helped the careers of many artists who are now considered modern masters. Not at all humble in her estimation of herself, Stein observed, “Einstein was the creative philosophic mind of the century, and I have been the creative literary mind of the century.” 

For Picasso, Stein’s early patronage and friendship was critical to his success. He painted this portrait of her between 1905 and 1906 at the end of his so-called "Rose Period." Her body is reduced to simple masses—a foreshadowing of his adoption of Cubism—and portrays her face almost like a mask with heavy lidded eyes, reflecting his recent encounter with Iberian sculpture.


Daniele Da Volterra: A Michelangesque Mannerist

Daniele da Volterra - Michelangelo Buonaroti - c. 1544 - Oil on wood - 34 3/4 x 25 1/4 in. (88.3 x 64.1 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New YorkOne of the works featured here has only recently been identified as the work of Daniele da Volterra (1509-1566) Michelangelo’s faithful follower and the author of a bronze bust of the great Florentine artist. Indeed, an inventory drawn up after Daniele's death lists "a portrait of Michelangelo on panel." It was probably painted about 1545, when Michelangelo would have been seventy. It was the source for numerous copies. The portrait looks unfinished, but Daniele has fully described the sculptor's features and his left hand, almost as though recalling Michelangelo's notion that, "It is necessary to keep one's compass in one's eyes and not in the hand, for the hands execute, but the eye judges.”

Daniele da Volterra - Bust of Michelangelo - Bronze, black patina, on black marble plinth - height: 13.8 in. (35 cm) - Musée du Louvre, Paris (click photo for larger image)Daniele da Volterra was a Mannerist painter and sculptor who probably first studied in Siena. Sometime after 1535 he moved to Rome. While there, he became a pupil and close friend of Michelangelo. He painted significant a fresco frieze in the Massimi Palace depicting the story of Fabius Maximus. That same year he painted his most famous work, the Descent from the Cross, in the Orsini Chapel of the church of Trinità dei Monti in Rome. He also painted Massacre of the Innocents and David Killing Goliath, among others.

In 1559 Pope Paul IV assigned him the task of painting in draperies to cover the nudity of many of the figures in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. For his performance of this task Daniele earned the nickname Il Braghettone (or Brachettone; “The Breeches Maker”), as well as an undeserved posthumous reputation as a prude.  


Did You Know?

Paul Gauguin, who later went on to influence Matisse and Picasso, had a very rocky friendship with Vincent Van Gogh. Some speculate that this might be because it was Gauguin, not Van Gogh himself, who cut off Vincent’s earlobe. Gauguin was an expert fencer, and while this explanation of the ear-lopping cannot be definitively confirmed, it is widely accepted. It is certainly true that he was a man with a temper—who also happened to be very good with a sword.


Henry Percy Gray

Henry Percy Gray - Landscape with Oaks and Stream - 1927 - Watercolor on canvas - Private collection (click photo for larger image)American artist Henry Percy Gray (1869-1952) was born into a San Francisco family with broad literary and artistic tastes. He studied at the San Francisco School of Design. While he had some early Impressionistic tendencies, his basic approach to composition and color was derived from the Barbizon School and Tonalism, which were emphasized at the School of Design. 

In 1895 Gray moved to New York City where he spent 11 years working as head of the art department for the New York Journal.  While in NYC he studied at the Art Students League and with William Merritt Chase.  Gray returned to San Francisco in 1906 and joined the art department of the Examiner where he remained until about 1915.  By that time he had established himself as a professional landscape painter. 

From 1918-23 Gray maintained a studio in San Francisco's old Monkey Block (now the Transamerica Pyramid), which also served as his living quarters. Around 1910, he began signing his paintings in script instead of the block letters he had used since student days. 

In 1923 Gray married and settled in Monterey, where the newlyweds purchased for their home—and had rebuilt on another site—the historic Casa Bonifacio. Working from his studio attached to the house, Gray attained total mastery of his watercolor technique. In 1939 they sold the home, and after two years in San Francisco, settled in San Anselmo in Marin County. 

Gray is primarily known for his romantic and lush depictions of the Northern California landscape.