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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.

Jean Arp: Making Something from Something…

Jean Arp - Torso, Navel, Mustache-Flower - 1930 - Oil on wood relief - 31 1/2 x 39 3/8 x 1 1/2 in. (80 x 100 x 3.8 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY (click photo for larger image)German-French artist Jean Arp (also known as Hans Arp 1886-1966) could turn anything into a work of art—and that’s exactly what he did!

Although his work is non-representational, it is all rooted in nature and very organic in form. He was also one of the first artists to let chance and randomness become part of his work.

Arp is best known for his multilayered, painted wood reliefs. By the time Arp created the work featured here, he had already perfected his assemblage technique: he drew designs on cardboard templates and had a carpenter execute them in wood. 

Arp was born in Alsace and studied at the Strasbourg School of Arts and Crafts, at Weimar (1905-7) and the Academie Julian, Paris (1908).  In 1912 he went to Munich where he knew Kandinsky and exhibited semi-figurative drawings at the second Blaue Reiter exhibition in 1912. In 1913 he exhibited with the Expressionists at the first Hebrstsalon (Autumn Salon) in Berlin. Aware of the developments within the French avant-garde through his contacts with such figures as Apollinaire, Max Jacob and Robert Delaunay, Arp exhibited his first abstracts and paper cutouts in Zurich in 1915, and began making shallow wooden reliefs and compositions of string nailed to canvas. In 1916 he was a founding member of Dada in Zurich, and he participated in the Berlin Dada exhibition of 1920. Arp is also associated with the Surrealist movement.


Time for a Vacation!

The team at What About Art? will be taking a vacation and then celebrating the Memorial Day Weekend. We’ll begin posting again on Monday, June 4th. See you then!


Nakedness and the Nude

Michelangelo - The Fall and Expulsion - 1509 - Fresco - Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome (click photo for larger image)The nude is classic, timeless, elemental, primal, and universal. Although our physical being eventually ends—in the hands of an artist, that fleeting, imperfect, and fragile “package” gains a noble immortality and perfection that transcends its mere physicality. While the nude suggests beauty in its purest form—nakedness implies vulnerability, fear, and shame.

Although there we certainly nude figures created by non-Western cultures dating back many thousands of years (particularly fertility figures and figures associated with religious practices) the tradition of the nude actually begins with the heroic male of the classical period in Greece (6th-5th century BCE). Thus, historically, with a few exceptions, the nude is mainly a phenomenon of Western art. Notably, the nude male and the nude female of that tradition were treated quite differently—and remain so to this day. The male nudes of Greco-Roman antiquity portrayed gods—and idealized versions of real heroes. From around the 4th century BCE and following, sculptors did begin to depict female nudes, but there were generally of goddesses such as Aphrodite and Venus (the latter being the Roman counterpart of Aphrodite). Generally, however, it remained indecorous for female portraits to depict nudity.

During the Middle Ages—and with the development of Christianity—the nude is rarely found except in depictions of Adam and Eve. Such scenes often show lovely nude bodies of which the owners are unashamed—until their first sin is committed. The figures then become naked—riddled with shame and not nearly as attractive.

With the Renaissance revival of antiquity, nudity began once again to become not only respectable, but indeed a major theme in the visual arts. The distinction between nudity and nakedness, however, also remained quite compelling—as seen in Michelangelo’s Fall and Expulsion panels on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. In his interpretation, the beautiful, perfect youths in the Garden suddenly become older, uglier, and even somewhat misshapen as a result of their sin.

It is interesting to note that the nakedness approach to the female form emerged quite strongly during the Modern era. But…that is a tale for another time!


Albert Marquet: A Style of Impressions

Albert Marquet - View from a Balcony - 1945 - Oil on canvas - 25 5/8 x 19 3/4 in. - Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, NYFrench painter Albert Marquet (1875-1947) was very involved with Fauvism during the early years of the twentieth century. Fauvism—the first movement of Modern Art—was a wild, vibrant style of expressionistic art that shocked the critics. It has since been recognized as one of the seminal forces that drove Modern Art. It’s practitioners were called the fauves, French for "wild beasts," as a term of derision, referring to their apparent lack of discipline. Once thought of as a minor, short-lived, movement, Fauvism paved the way to other significant developments in modernism in its disregard for natural forms and its love of unbridled color. 

Marquet participated in a group exhibition with Henri Matisse (1869-1954), André Derain (1880-1954) and Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958) at the "Salon d'Automne" in 1905. In the following year, Marquet traveled extensively through France and also visited Germany, Holland, North Africa, Russia and Scandinavia. Between 1940 and 1945, Marquet lived in Algiers. He only returned to Paris permanently in 1945, two years before his death. 

Albert Marquet developed his own style, which was influenced by his varied impressions during his travels. He moved from typical Fauvism to a simplified, calmer style more akin to Impressionism He remained faithful to that approach for the rest of his life. In addition to landscapes Marquet also produced some excellent figurative paintings, including several powerful female nudes and numerous portraits. The painting featured here was completed shortly after his final return to Paris.


Joshua Johnson: A Fantastic Naïf

Joshua Johnson - Family Group - c. 1800- Oil on canvas - 34 13/16 x 53 9/16 in. - National Gallery of Art - Washington, D.C.American painter from the Baltimore area, of African and European ancestry. Joshua Johnson (1763-1824) is often viewed as the first person of color to make a living as a painter in the United States. He is known for his naïve paintings of prominent Maryland residents. Documents dated from July 25, 1782, state that Johnson was the "son of a white man and a black slave woman owned by a William Wheeler, Sr." His father, George Johnson (also spelled Johnston in some documents) purchased Joshua, age 19, from William Wheeler, a small Baltimore-based farmer, confirmed by a bill of sale dating from October 6, 1764. Johnson received his freedom in 1782. From 1796 until his death, he advertised his skills, identifying himself as a portrait painter and limner. He moved frequently, residing often where other artists, specifically chair-makers, lived, which suggests that he might have provided extra income for himself by painting chairs. His frequent moves also suggest that he tended to work for clients near whom he lived. No records mention any educational or creative training, so he is regarded as a NaÏve artist.

“Naïfs” refers to those artists in mainstream societies who lack or reject conventional expertise in the representation or depiction of real objects. Naïfs are not to be confused with hobbyists, or “Sunday painters,” who paint for fun. The naïf creates with the same passion as the trained artist, but without the latter’s formal knowledge of (or training in) art. Two of the more famous Naïfs are Henri Rousseau (1844-1910)  and Grandma Moses (1860-1961). However, that Joshua Johnston was able to make his living as an artist—at the time he did so—is quite remarkable.

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