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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.

Pieter Aertsen - Cook in Front of the Stove - 1559 - Oil on wood, 172,5 x 82 cm - Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (click photo for larger image)Even though he never painted a picture not containing a human figure, Netherlandish painter Pieter Aertsen (1508-1575) played an essential role in the emergence of the still-life by granting a dominating place to objects and to victuals, which he represents in all their triviality. While it’s very apparent that every element was keenly observed by the artist—the image has nonetheless been recomposed in the studio. “What cook would place small fowls and a heavy leg of lamb on the same spit?” It’s also worth noting that this artist was also an early contributor to what would become genre painting—scenes of everyday people leading everyday lives.

IMAGE 473 AERTSEN: Pieter Aertsen - Cook in Front of the Stove - 1559 - Oil on wood, 172,5 x 82 cm - Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

Netherlandish painting; Northern Renaissance


Quote of the Day

"A sincere artist is not one who makes a faithful attempt to puton to canvas what is in front of him, but one who tries to create something which is, in itself, a living thing." - William Dobell


The Dabous Giraffes

Dabous Giraffes - Petroglyph - 9000-5000 BC - 20 feet high - Niger, AfricaDabous Giraffes Replica (click photo for larger image)“Dabous Giraffes”—a neolithic petroglyph of a male and female giraffe— created by an unknown artist. Completed between 9000 and 5000 BC, the carving is 20 feet (around 6 metres) in height and highly detailed. These giraffes (plus 828 other small petroglyphs of animals and human figures) were carved into rock near the Air mountains of Niger. Designs engraved along with the giraffe images suggest a shamanistic significance. The giraffe carvings were first documented by one David Depuy in 1987, while he was on a photographic excursion. A field site expedition took place ten years later, organized by the Trust for African Rock Art (TARA), for the purposes of determining how to to preserve the petroglyph. People had become aware of the site’s existence—attempts were being made to steal pieces from it—the surface was getting worn from being walked on—and it was being covered with graffiti. In 1998, the Bradshaw Foundation proposed the idea of creating a reproduction of the petroglyph that would do the original no harm. But moulding petroglyphs is often looked down upon because past mouldings were made by people who didn’t entirely master the necessary techniques. They degraded the originals, leaving horrible-looking latex, resin, or plaster remains in the hollows and around the petroglyphs which permanently defaced them. Another criticism was that moulding changes the chemistry of the surface rock and prevents any future varnish study. So, with a project of this nature, scale, and delicacy, permission was needed from both UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the government of Niger. The team assembled made a preliminary expedition to the site to determine the viability of a moulding process. In January 1999, the Bradshaw Foundation, in association with the Trust for African Rock Art, the National Geographic Society, UNESCO and the Niger government, accepted responsibility for the task. The company of Ateliers Pierre Merindol in Avignon, France was hired to execute the work—and did so with great precision and success. Local people continued to be used to guard the site and ongoing work being done—a process which took about two years. Silicone was used to create the mould. The first aluminum cast of the giraffes was gifted to the nearby town of Agadez, at the International Airport Terminal, and subsequent casts have appeared in exhibits around the world. It was a long, arduous, and costly journey—and once again the arts culture surrounding it was multi-layered. But we now have a way to successfully reproduce such works at these—without damage to the original. Petroglyphs are very vulnerable to the elements, so having them reproduced is essential.


The Epic of Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Clay Tablet - 18th century BC (click photo for larger image)The original text of The Epic of Gilgamesh (a legendary ruler of Uruk, and his search for immortality) is the world’s first truly great work of literature. It was written in cuneiform on clay tablets. The first surviving version of the combined epic, known as the "Old Babylonian", dates to the 18th century BC, but there are many versions of it. Apart from being a literary masterpiece—it’s an extraordinary piece of visual art. The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five Sumerian poems about 'Bilgamesh' (Sumerian for 'Gilgamesh'), king of Uruk. These independent stories were used as source material for a combined epic. The “Old Babylonian” is titled after its incipit, “Shūtur eli sharrī("Surpassing All Other Kings"). 


Did You Know?

The sculptor, Auguste Rodin, died of frostbite in 1917, when the French government refused him financial aid for a flat. Yet they kept his statues warmly housed in museums.