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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.

Did You Know?

Dutch painter Piet Mondrian often worked on paintings until his hands were blistered and he was in tears of frustration. Some people find it difficult to understand why straight lines and grids might have frustrated him so easily.


Jacopo da Pontormo: A Decidedly Modern Painter

Jacopo Pontormo - St John the Evangelist - c. 1525 - Oil on wood - Cappella Capponi, Santa Felicità, Florence (click photo for larger image)First generation Mannerist Jacopo da Pontormo (1494-1557) broke away from High Renaissance classicism, to create a more personal, expressive style that is distinctly modern—when placed in the broader context of art history. This style—Mannerism—developed between 1520 and 1600, and reflected the tension that marked Europe at this time in history. Mannerism rejected the calm balance that was a characteristic of the Renaissance ideal, in favor of emotion and distortion.

The authorship on accompanying tondos to the one featured here is not clearly known. However, this bald St John, with a long beard shares, the same uneasy and sorrowful humanity lavished on the body of Christ in the Deposition by Jacopo Pontormo in the same chapel. Thus, this tondo can certainly be attributed to Pontormo. All figures of the Evangelists located in the Cappella Capponi, Santa Felicità, Florence—with their distinctly “Michelangelesque” flavor, possess a vigor deriving from their twisted heads that push forward. The first generation of Mannerists were wholly and completely obsessed with Michelangelo.


Quote of the Day

”My heart beats more for a rougher, commoner, more vulgar that offers direct access to the terrible, the crude, the magnificent, the ordinary, the grotesque and the banal in life. An art that can always be right there for us, in the realest things of life.” - Max Beckmann


Impressionism on Film

Scene from The Impressionists (2006) BBC Miniseries (click photo for larger image)The Impressionists (2006) is a “three hour mini-series [produced by the BBC] that tells the intimate history of a most illustrious brotherhood of Impressionist artists—Claude Monet (1840-1926), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), and Édouard Manet (1832-1883).

Entirely based on documentary evidence, special effects transport the viewer inside some of the world's best-loved paintings—and lives.” Many of the artworks seen in the film were re-created using the same techniques the artists employed at the time. Julian Glover (playing an 80-year old Claude Monet) acts as the narrator of a journey through the Impressionist years—one characterized by enormous highs, lows, struggles, losses, and triumphs. A series of this type cannot include all of the details and artists of an age, and many important painters of the movement have, sadly, been excluded. Such omissions tend to fog up some of the “truths” about the history of Impressionism, its origins, and fail to accurately assign credit where credit is due, in terms of where certain achievements of Impressionism should be placed. In addition, from a filmic perspective, the program tends to be a bit “on the nose”—most likely in the interest of satisfying the goals of a docudrama. While it’s far from perfect, however, The Impressionists is still very much worth a watch. Most of what is seen is true—and the viewer will definitely have a better understanding of Impressionism and some of its major figures, after having seen it. All of the portrayals are excellent—and the “story” — though not exactly riveting — is thoroughly entertaining and flows well. It’s certainly meaty enough to encourage further investigation into this significant movement in the history of art.

Claude Monet - Camille (The Woman in a Green Dress) - 1866 - Oil on canvas - 231 × 151 cm (90.9 × 59.4 in) - Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen, Germany (click photo for larger image)I lead a film program for the Scarsdale Adult School. We view films about art and artists—each followed by a presentation designed to separate the facts from the fictions. These sessions include lively discussions that are engaging and thought provoking. Our class takes place in the lovely screening room at the Scarsdale Public Library. The Impressionists will be leading our Fall 2016 series, and will cover two sessions (given the length of the mini-series). Tuesdays, October 11th and 18th, will be our dates. I will also be offering a three-part art history class on Impressionism: The Fleeting Aspects of Color and Light for the Center for Continuing Educationon Thursdays—November 3rd, 10th and 17th. Finally, I’ll be leading a tour of Impressionist works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (for CCE) on Thursday, December 8th, as well.

Please check out the above websites for my Fall 2016 program offerings. I hope to see you there!


Paul Cézanne: Seeing Through Appearances

Paul Cézanne - The House with the Cracked Walls - 1892–94 - Oil on canvas - 31 1/2 x 25 1/4 in. (80 x 64.1 cm) Metropolitan Museum of Art (click photo for larger image)After his father’s death in 1886, Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) became financially independent. He had married Marie-Hortense six months earlier, and, after a year in Paris in 1888, she and their son moved there permanently. Cézanne himself then settled in Aix-de Provence where he remained, except for a few visits to the capital, to Fontainebleau, to Jura in Switzerland, and to the home of Claude Monet in Giverny. In 1895, the art dealer Ambroise Vollard set up the first one-man exhibition of Cézanne’s work (more than 100 canvases). Nevertheless, although young artists and some art lovers were beginning to show enthusiasm for his painting, the public still remained unreceptive.

As the 19th century came to a close, Cézanne’s art was increasing in depth, in concentrated richness of color, and in skill of composition. From 1890 to 1905, he produced one masterpiece after another—each representing his new vision. He was obsessed with his work, which was time-consuming, since he painted slowly. Cézanne often chose abandoned sites near his studio outside Aix as his subjects, but he depicted the house featured here, with its sinister crevice, only once. The artist remained committed to seeing through appearances to the logic of underlying formal structure, throughout his lifetime.

Maurice Denis - Homage à Cézanne - 1900 - Oil on canvas - 1.8 x 2.4 m - Musée d’Orsay, Paris (click photo for larger image)By the turn of the century Cézanne’s fame had finally begun to spread. Because he was rarely seen by anyone, he also became something of a legendary figure. He exhibited at the widely attended annual Salon des Indépendants in 1899 and at the Universal Exposition held in Paris in 1900. His works were, at long last, sought after by galleries. The Caillebotte collection opened at the Luxembourg Gallery in Paris with two Cézannes. The National Gallery in Berlin purchased a landscape as early as 1900. Young artists esteemed Cézanne; in 1901, the young Symbolist painter Maurice Denis (1870-1943) painted Homage à Cézanne, a picture of the artist (Cézanne) admiring one of his still lifes.