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  • 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.

Van Eyck: The Arnolfini Marriage

Jan van Eyck - Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife 1434 - Oil on oak, 82 x 60 cm (32.3 x 23.6 in) National Gallery, London (click photo for larger image)"The Arnolfini Marriage" is a name that has been given to this untitled double portrait by Jan van Eyck (c. 1390-1441). It is one of the greatest celebrations of human mutuality. This painting reveals to us the inner meaning of a true marriage. Giovanni Arnolfini, a prosperous Italian banker who had settled in Bruges, and his wife Giovanna Cenami, stand side by side in the bridal chamber, facing towards the viewer. The husband is holding out his wife's hand. Despite the restricted space, the painter has contrived to surround them with a host of symbols. To the left, the oranges placed on the low table and the windowsill are a reminder of an original innocence, of an age before sin. Above the couple's heads, the candle that has been left burning in broad daylight on one of the branches of an ornate copper chandelier can be interpreted as the nuptial flame, or as the eye of God. The small dog in the foreground is an emblem of fidelity and love. Meanwhile, the marriage bed with its bright red curtains evokes the physical act of love which, according to Christian doctrine, is an essential part of the perfect union of man and wife.

Although all these different elements are highly charged with meaning, they are of secondary importance compared to the mirror, the focal point of the whole composition. It has often been noted that two tiny figures can be seen reflected in it, their image captured as they cross the threshold of the room. They are the painter himself and a young man, doubtless arriving to act as witnesses to the marriage. The essential point, however, is the fact that the convex mirror is able to absorb and reflect in a single image both the floor and the ceiling of the room, as well as the sky and the garden outside, both of which are otherwise barely visible through the side window. The mirror acts as a sort of hole in the texture of space. It sucks the entire visual world into itself, transforming it into a representation. The cubic space in which the Arnolfinis stand is a prefiguration of the techniques of perspective, which were still to come.


Quote of the Day

“I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.” - Frida Kahlo 


Boticelli’s “Primavera”

Sandro Botticelli - Primavera - c. 1482 - Tempera on panel, 203 x 314 cm (79.9 x 123.6 in) - Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (click photo for larger image)The “Primavera” is one of the most famous paintings by Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445-1510). It’s source may possibly be the classical poet, Ovid—or a more generalized celebration of the month of May. “The Primavera” is special in that it is one of the first surviving paintings from the post-classical period that depicts classical gods almost naked and life-size. Some of the figures are based on ancient sculptures. But these are not direct copies. Rather, they are translated into Botticelli's own unconventional formal language, which includes slender figures whose bodies at times seem slightly elongated. The women's domed stomachs that demonstrate the contemporary ideal of beauty. Venus is standing in the center of the picture, set slightly back from the other figures. Above her, Cupid is aiming one of his arrows of love at the Three Graces, who are elegantly dancing a roundel. The garden of the goddess of love is guarded by Mercury on the left. Mercury, who is lightly clad in a red cloak covered with flames, is wearing a helmet and carrying a sword, clearly characterizing him as the guardian of the garden. The messenger of the gods is also identified by means of his winged shoes and the caduceus staff which he used to drive two snakes apart and make peace. Botticelli has depicted the snakes as winged dragons. From the right, Zephyr, the god of the winds, is forcefully pushing his way in, in pursuit of the nymph Chloris. Next to her walks Flora, the goddess of spring, who is scattering flowers.


Kirchner’s “Bern with Belltower”

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Bern with Belltower, 1935, oil on canvas, 70.5 x 80.65 cm (27.75 x 31.75 in) Minneapolis Institute of ArtsThe charming setting as subject matter was a rarity for German Expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938). In 1917, Kirchner left Germany for Switzerland where he settled in an alpine house at Davos. He became a new influence in the Swiss art world, which had been relatively untouched by Expressionism. At an age when most artists begin to settle and mellow, Kirchner found new vigor in the idolatry of Swiss students. The peaceful beauty and vast expanse of the high Alps, as well as the political stability of Switzerland, must also have contributed to the new brightness and precision evident in Bern. This new style, Kirchner's last period, began in 1925. Nothing of his expressive power is lost in the grandeur, gaiety and light.


Did You Know?

Samuel F. B. Morse was best remembered for inventing the Morse code and for introducing the daguerreotype process  of photography into the United States.  History forgets that he was also a gifted artist.