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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?

The Art Institute of Chicago holds Edward Hopper’s famous painting, “Nighthawks”. Hopper allegedly based the painting on a diner that was located in New York City’s Greenwich Village, in an area where Greenwich Street meets 11th Street and 7th Avenue (Mulry Square). But he actually based the painting on an all-night coffee stand. “I simplified the scene a great deal and made the restaurant bigger,” he said. “Unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.”


Klimt and the “Golden Phase” — What Goes Around Comes Around!

Gustav Klimt - Der Kuss (The Kiss) - Oil on canvas - 180 x 180 cm - Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna (click photo for larger image)In 1897, Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt’s (1862-1918) mature style emerged, and he founded the Vienna Sezession, a group of painters who revolted against academic art in favor of a highly decorative style similar to Art Nouveau. 

Klimt rarely traveled, but trips in 1903 to Venice and Ravenna, both famous for their beautiful mosaics, most likely inspired his gold technique The early Byzantine mosaics of San Vitale clearly made a lasting impression on him, and their influence is reflected in the development of his “golden style.” It was at this time that he began his so-called “Golden-Phase.” The “golden style” is noteworthy for the use of gold and sometimes silver leaf. There is a sense of horror vacui as almost all surfaces are ornately covered, frequently with geometric or floral elements. The figure takes on the quality of an icon and often appears to inhabit multiple environments. One of the most superb examples of Klimt’s “golden style” is his 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer 1 and The Kiss (1907-8). Klimt's 'Golden Phase' was marked by positive critical reaction and success.

The Kiss was painted at the highpoint of Klimt’s “Golden Phase”, during which period he painted a number of works in a similar gilded style. This work is a perfect square. The canvas depicts a couple embracing, their bodies entwined in elaborate robes decorated in a style influenced by both linear constructs of the contemporary Art Nouveau style, the organic forms of the earlier Arts and Crafts movement, and the influence of mosaics and medieval art. The work is composed of conventional oil paint with applied layers of gold leaf, an aspect that gives it its strikingly modern, yet evocative appearance. The Kiss is widely regarded as a masterpiece of the early modern period. It is a symbol of Vienna Jugendstil--Viennese Art Nouveau--and is considered Klimt's most popular work.

It is perhaps ironic that many Modern artists—in their determination to create something “new”—often returned to the art of the medieval world for inspiration. Their struggle was to break free from standards established during the Italian Renaissance, which had been in place for over four-hundred years. It is not at all uncommon to find many of the characteristics deeply embedded in the artistic traditions of the Byzantine Empire and Middle Ages reapplied and reinvented in Modern Art. “What Goes Around Comes Around”


“The Late” Claude Monet  

Claude Monet - Water Lilies - c. 1920 - Oil on canvas - 200 x 425 cm - Museum of Modern Art, New York (click photo for larger image)When one looks at the late work of Claude Monet (1840-1926), it’s impossible not to see the “modernism” of Impressionism. In the past, the highly abstract nature of the work was “blamed” on Monet’s failing eyesight. However, we now recognize that the artist’s vision was never more clear.

Monet didn’t engage in all of the debates going on among artists during that time, about theory, the directions art was taking, and so forth. He remained at Giverny, tending those gardens that were his studio—and painting. He lived and worked in his own world, of his own creation. He undoubtedly heard of the “abstraction” that was emerging in art, but was likely not affected by it. Instead—as he had always done—he followed the directions of his own imagination, his own view of his reality. By so doing, he created some of the most “modern” — most “abstract” images of the twentieth century. The history of art continues to owe Monet a great debt. It is worth noting that the interest of such postmodernists as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko in the work of the Impressionist master contributed, in part, to the resurrection of Impressionism by art historians. It wasn’t until the late 1940s and early 1950s that a revisitation at last appropriately gave that movement its proper stature in the history of art.

The work featured here is one of the three large water lily paintings by Monet housed in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. It shows a pond covered with water lilies, with reflections of clouds overhead.


Quote of the Day

“If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” - Edward Hopper


Properzia de’Rossi: A “Life”

Properzia de’Rossi - Joseph and Potiphar's Wife - 1520s - Marble - Museo de San Petronio, Bologna (click photo for larger image)Properzia de’Rossi (ca. 1490-1530) was an Italian sculptor, and one of the few recorded women artists in the 16th century. She is the only woman to whom Giorgio Vasari ( 1511-1574) gives a "life" in his  Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, considered the ideological foundation of art historical writing. 

Her inclusion in that work indicates that she was an exceptional artist. Unfortunately, she died young and the only sure work in marble by her hand is a relief for the portal of the Cathedral of Bologna representing the Old Testament story of the Chastity of Joseph. This relief emphasizes the contrast between the voluptuous, eager wife of Potiphar and Joseph's determination to escape her and remain true to his beliefs. This marble relief was commissioned by the Fabbrica of San Petronio for the façade of San Petronio in Bologna.

According to Vasari, Properzia began her career by carving peach stones. One of them, which he described as engraved with the entire Passion, has been identified as forming part of a necklace (Pesaro, Palazzo Bonamini-Pepoli). An engraved cherry stone (Florence, Uffizi) has been attributed to her, as well as 11 carved peach stones set in a device of filigree silver (Bologna, Museo Civico).

To learn more about Properzia and other women artists, I recommend watching “The Story of Women and Art” hosted by Amanda Vickery. She’ll show you some of those peach stones Properzia carved!

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