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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.
Monday
Nov192018

Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer: A Multi-Talented Artist

Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, Head of Medusa, 1915, ink on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum (click photo for larger image)Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (1865–1953) was a French Symbolist/Art Nouveau artist whose works include paintings, drawings, ceramics, furniture and interior design. In 1896 he exhibited his first pastels and paintings under the name Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer; he'd added the last two syllables of his mother's maiden name (Goldhurmer), likely to differentiate himself from other people named Lévy. 

His paintings soon became popular with the public and among fellow artists as well. He earned high praise for the academic attention to detail with which he captured figures lost in a Pre-Raphaelite haze of melancholy, contrasted with bright Impressionist coloration. 

His works in ink are particularly compelling and embody an influence of the Renaissance. He also exerted a powerful influence on the development of ceramics.

Friday
Nov162018

Edvard Munch: The Fragility of Life

Edvard Munch - The Sick Child - 1907 - Oil on canvas - 1187 x 1210 mm - Tate Modern, London (click photo for larger image)Norwegian Symbolist/Expressionist painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a leader in the revolt against the naturalistic dictates of 19th-century academic painting and also went beyond the naturalism still inherent  in Impressionism. His concentration on emotional essentials sometimes led to radical simplifications of form and an expressive, rather than descriptive, use of color. You can read more about Munch on What About Art?.

The Sick Child touches on the fragility of life. It draws upon Munch’s personal memories, including the trauma of his sister’s death, and visits to dying patients with his doctor father. He described the 1885 painting as ‘a breakthrough in my art’ and made several subsequent versions, of which [the one featured here] is the fourth.” (Tate Modern, London) 

All modern art was considered ‘degenerate’ by the National Socialist (Nazi) party. Expressionism was particularly singled out, and the work featured here was given that label. In 1937, German museums were purged of modern art by the government, with a total of some 15,550 works being removed. A selection of these was then put on show in Munich in an exhibition titled Entartete Kunst (meaning degenerate art). This exhibit was carefully staged so as to encourage the public to mock the work. At the same time an exhibition of traditionally painted and sculpted work was held, which extolled the Nazi party and Hitler’s view of the virtues of German life: ‘Kinder, Küche, Kirche’: roughly, family, home and church. Ironically, this official Nazi art was a mirror image of the socialist realism of the hated Communists.

Some of the degenerate art was sold at auction in Switzerland in 1939 and more was disposed of through private dealers. About 5,000 items were secretly burned in Berlin later that year. The Sick Child was sold at the 1939 auction.

Wednesday
Nov142018

Quote of the Day

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Monday
Nov122018

Jean Clouet: Delicacy and Depth of Characterization

Jean Clouet - Guillaume Budé - ca. 1536 - Oil on Wood - 15 5/8 x 13 1/2 in. (39.7 x 34.3 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (click photo for larger image)Although he lived in France for most of his life, records show that Jean Clouet (c. 1485-1541) was not French by origin and was never naturalized. He was one of the chief painters to Francis I as early as 1516 and was appointed groom of the chamber from 1523 forward. As such, he enjoyed the salary and social position granted to the most prominent poets and scholars of the time. In the early 1520s he lived in Tours and from 1529 in Paris. He painted chiefly portraits, but, at least iIn the earlier part of his career, he produced religious subjects.

“Painter to King Francis I, Jean Clouet played a key role in establishing the Renaissance portraiture tradition in France, yet this is his only extant painted portrait. It depicts Guillaume Budé, librarian to Francis I and the leading humanist of sixteenth-century France…. Budé’s fingers hold his page, as if interrupted. With the quill in his right hand, he has written in Greek, ‘While it seems to be good to get what one desires, the greatest good is not to desire what one does not need’ (Joannes Stobaeus, 3.5.18).” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)

Friday
Nov092018

James Ensor: Bizarre Fantasy and Sardonic Social Commentary

James Ensor - Comical Repast (Banquet of the Starved) - ca. 1917-18 - Oil on canvas - 45 1/2 x 57 1/4 in. (115.6 x 145.4 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (click photo for larger image)Belgian artist James Ensor (1860-1949) quickly stepped off the path of traditional painting and began to develop a revolutionary style that reflected his own take on modern life. Abandoning the usage of illusionism and one-point perspective to organize the image depicted, he began to build volume with patches of color across the surface of the canvas. His canvases are bursting with imagery that impresses the viewer with its presence. The artist was particularly intrigued by commenting on society’s shortcomings through carnival themes. His social commentary evolved from being subtle to overtly cynical.

“The current title of this painting reflects the two names it was given during Ensor’s lifetime. Scholars have interpreted the enigmatic scene as a critique of the German occupation of Belgium during World War I, which the artist experienced firsthand. The grouping around the table evokes the Last Supper, but Christ and the Apostles are replaced by ill-behaved, grotesque, and masked figures—some of Ensor’s favorite motifs. Their meager meal, including insects and a raw onion, may evoke the near-famine that Belgians endured. Ensor underscored the theme of mortality by quoting three of his works depicting rowdy skeletons in the background.” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)