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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.
Monday
May012017

Kandinsky: A Spiritual Experience…

Wassily Kandinsky - Flood Improvisation - 1913, oil on canvas, Lenbachhaus, Munich (click photo for larger image)Russian born painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) “sought to convey profound spirituality and the depth of human emotion through a universal visual language of abstract forms and colors that transcended cultural and physical boundaries.”

One of the pioneers of abstraction—Kandinsky wanted to translate music—which he believed to be the purest form of art—into a visual language. He is most closely associated with German Expressionism. The second phase of that movement—Der Blau Reiter (the Blue Rider) was, in fact, named after a painting of the same name by Kandinsky. Other artists associated with the group included Auguste Macke, Gabriele Münter, and Alexei Jawlensky.

Kandinsky most certainly had very high self-esteem. Indeed, he truly saw himself as a “prophet” whose mission was to share the ideal of abstraction with the world, for the betterment of society. He dubbed himself the first abstract artist. However, we now know that his earliest abstract work—after being tested through various methods—was actually created several years later than Kandinsky claimed it had been. In fact, there were a number of other artists creating abstract works at the same time the Kandinsky was working. Nevertheless, he was a brilliant artist and his work did lay the foundation for many of the modern and postmodern movements that would follow—among them Abstract Expressionism.

"Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colors, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.” - Wassily Kandinsky

Friday
Apr282017

Giovanni Pisano: “The First Modern Sculptor"


Giovanni Pisano - Plato - c. 1280 - Stone - Duomo, SienaItalian sculptor and architect Giovanni Pisano (c. 1250—c. 1314) is sometimes called the only true Gothic sculptor in Italy. He began his career under the classicist influence of his father (Nicola Pisano) and carried on this tradition after his father’s death, continuously reintegrating the antique style into more northerly and contemporary Gothic forms.

Nicola and Giovanni were the greatest sculptors of their period and stand at the head of the tradition of Italian sculpture, in the same way that Giotto (also featured on this site) stands at the head of the tradition of Italian painting. (In fact, we can assume that Giotto and Giovanni met one another, because Giovanni carved a marble statue of the Madonna and Child for the Arena Chapel in Padua, at the same time Giotto was painting there (in c. 1305).

Giovanni Pisano - Plato (detail) - c. 1280 - Stone - Duomo, SienaGiovanni's first major work independent of his father was the façade of Siena Cathedral. He never completed work above the line of the gables over the doors. But the lower part preserves its original decoration, and here is the first time one finds an Italian mason incorporating a major amount of large-scale figure sculpture into a façade design. This idea can only have come from France, however the figures are not in the embrasures of the portals but up above between the gables—representing a clear departure from the French tradition. It is not at all clear what prompted this choice—although some influence might have come from North of the Alps.

Although Giovanni’s style resembles that of his father, his works are more elegant and more emotionally charged. His art truly began what would develop into Italian Renaissance sculpture. The extraordinary works he created prompted the English sculptor Henry Moore to call him "the first modern sculptor".

Wednesday
Apr262017

Quote of the Day

“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” — Salvador Dali

Monday
Apr242017

Calvin Nicholls: Raising Paper to New Heights

Calvin Nicholls - from the Paper Zoo series (click photo for larger image)Contemporary artist Calvin Nicholls has worked for 25 years to perfect his medium of choice…Paper! But he doesn't just draw on it. He shapes it to create intricate works of staggering detail and beauty.

To make his art, Nicholls starts by observing real-life animals and their movements. He makes numerous sketches that he will later use as reference for his paper art. He then cuts up thousands of tiny pieces of paper and pastes them together to form each animal.

The texture he is able to achieve with this technique is astounding. Given that he's only working with white paper, the details must be exactly correct, in order to achieve the appropriate depth and shadowing to under a work believable. It's incredibly delicate work.

Calvin Nicholls - from the Paper Zoo series (click photo for larger image)Each small piece can take many weeks to complete, while the larger ones can take months, or even years.

Nicholls’ work has been featured in National Geographic, as well as in numerous galleries and art shows all over the world.

He uses X-ACTO knives, scalpels, and scissors in the construction of his critters. Fur is an especially difficult texture to create, and feathers are also quite difficult to replicate. So, animals provide a distinct challenge for this amazing artist.

Calvin Nicholls - from the Paper Zoo series (click photo for larger image)“I have been a full time paper sculpture artist since the mid 1980's during which time I have created pieces for advertising campaigns, private collectors, institutions, book publishers, corporate gift companies and galleries. I enjoy white on white due to the emphasis which is placed on texture and form. One of my most extensive collections includes over 75 pieces for Follett Library Resources in McHenry Illinois. My training was in graphic design at Sheridan College in Oakville Ontario and after several years of running my own freelance design studio I made the gradual transition to paper sculpture.”

The works featured here are from a series appropriately titled “Paper Zoo”. To learn more about Calvin Nicholls and to see additional works—visit his website and/or his Facebook page.

Friday
Apr212017

Elizabeth Catlett: An Icon of Expressionism

Elizabeth Catlett - Woman Fixing Her Hair - 1993 - Magogany and opals - 27 x 18 x 13 in. (68.6 x 45.7 x 33 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York African-American born sculptor and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012) is best known for the sculptures and prints she produced during the 1960s and 1970s—which are seen as politically charged. Her works often focus on the female experience.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Catlett graduated from Howard University in 1935. She later received a master’s degree from the State University of Iowa.  During the 1940s, Catlett taught art at a number of schools and began to exhibit with other African American artists who would go on to equally illustrative careers, including Robert Blackburn, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Norman Lewis, Archibald Motley, and Charles White. She became the “promotion director” for the George Washington Carver School in Harlem. In 1946, she received a Rosenwald Fun Fellowship that allowed her to travel to Mexico, where she studied wood carving and ceramic sculpture at the Escuela de Pintura y Esculture, in Esmeralda. She later moved to Mexico, married, and became a Mexican citizen.

Her work is a mixture of the abstract and the figurative, in the Modernist tradition, with clear influences from African and Mexican artistic traditions, as well. According to the Catlett, the main purpose of her work is to convey social messages rather than pure aesthetics. While not very well known to the general public, her work is heavily studied by art students looking to depict race, gender and class issues.

Woman Fixing Her Hair is a late sculpture that embodies the characteristics of her best work. Its subject, a nude woman caught in the act of her daily toiletry, is familiar and empathetic. Melding human form and furniture into a seamless whole, the artist navigates a line between abstraction and realism, cubism and biomorphism. Her exquisite handling of natural material-the smoothly polished mahogany and luminous opals-conveys the beauty that she sees in her subject matter.” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)