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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.

Preston’s Precisionism

Preston Dickinson - Factory - c. 1920 - Oil on canvas - Height: 75.88 cm (29.88 in.), Width: 64.14 cm (25.25 in.) Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH (click photo for larger image)American artist Preston Dickinson (1891-1930) was among those modern artists known as Precisionists. Dickinson grew up in New York, where he worked as an office boy in a marine architect’s firm. One of the partners of the company was so impressed by the young boy’s sketches that he offered to pay for his tuition at the Art Students League. Dickinson studied there for four years, then traveled to France, where he sketched at the Louvre and exhibited at the Salons. On his return to New York, he painted images of Manhattan and the Harlem River while selling socks door-to-door to support himself. He moved to Spain in 1930 but died a few months later from pneumonia, at the age of forty-one.

Precisionism is a smooth, sharply defined painting style used by several American artists in representational canvases executed primarily during the 1920s. While Precisionism can be seen as a tendency present in American art since the colonial period, the style of 20th-century Precisionist painters had its origins in Cubism, Futurism and Orphism. Unlike the artists affiliated with the latter movements, the Precisionists did not issue manifestos. They were not a school or movement with a formal program. During the 1920s, however, many of them exhibited their works together, particularly at the Daniel Gallery in New York City.


Jack Tworkov: Broad Strokes

Jack Tworkov - West 23rd - 1963 - Oil on canvas - 60 in. x 6 ft. 8 in. - Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) - New York, NY (click photo for larger image)Jack Tworkov (1900-1982) was a Polish-born American painter. An exponent of Abstract Expressionism, Tworkov was a founding member of the New York School, whose style was characterized by gestural brushwork.

Tworkov immigrated to the United States in 1913. After receiving a degree in creative writing from Columbia University (1923), he returned to his earlier interest in painting. While Tworkov’s early paintings reflect a profound admiration for the work of Paul Cézanne. While working for the WPA federal arts project in 1935, however, he met the painter Willem de Kooning. (Cézanne and de Kooning are both discussed elsewhere on What About Art?)

Tworkov subsequently abandoned his figurative style. After World War II he joined de Kooning and other artists, who together evolved Abstract Expressionism. By 1955 Tworkov revealed his mature style in works that are built up of countless diagonal strokes of paint, creating shimmering atmospheric fields of color. Later he replaced the multitude of flickering lines with broad strokes, such as seen in the work featured here.

From 1963 to 1969, Tworkov was chairman of the department of art at Yale University. Many of his writings about art were published posthumously in The Extreme of the Middle (2009), edited by Mira Schor.


Did You Know?

When the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in 1911, the empty space it left on the wall attracted more visitors than the painting had.


Lord Frederic Leighton and Victorian Classicism

Lord Frederic Leighton - Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna - 1853-1855 - The National Gallery, London (click photo for larger image)Victorian Classicism was a British form of historical painting inspired by the art and architecture of Classical Greece and Rome. In the 19th century, an increasing number of Western Europeans made the Grand Tour to Mediterranean lands. There was a great popular interest in the region's lost civilizations and exotic cultures, and this fascination fueled the rise of Classicism in Britain, and Orientalism. Orientalism, which was primarily centered in continental Europe, refers to the imitation or depiction of aspects in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian cultures.

The Classicists were closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelites, and artists in each movement were influenced by both styles, to some degree. Both movements were highly romantic and were inspired by similar historical and mythological themes. The key distinction is that the Classicists epitomized the rigid academic standards of painting, while the Pre-Raphaelites were initially formed as a rebellion against those same standards.

English painter and sculptor Lord Frederic Leighton (1830-1896) was one of the leading Classicists, and in his lifetime was considered by many to be among the finest painter of his generation. Leighton was a great admirer of Italian Renaissance painting (which hearkened back to the classical era) and showed, for his time, an advanced appreciation of the early Italian painters, including Cimabue and Giotto (both discussed elsewhere on What About Art?). He drew heavily on 15th- and 16th-century sources when working on Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna (featured here). Ironically, the altarpiece shown by Leighton (now in the Uffizi) is today recognized to have be done by the artist Duccio (also discussed on What About Art?), not Cimabue.


Konrad Witz: Immediate and Convincing Scenes

Conrad Witz - Miraculous Draught of Fishes - 1443-44 - Tempera on wood, 132 x 151 cm - Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva (click photo for larger image)Konrad Witz (c. 1410-1446) was a German-born painter from Rottweil in Swabia. He was active in Switzerland and is generally considered a member of the Swiss school. He entered the painters' guild in Basle in 1434 and apparently spent the rest of his career there and in Geneva. Little else is known of him and few paintings by him survive. These few, however, show that he was remarkably advanced in his naturalism, suggesting a knowledge of the work of his contemporaries Jan van Eyck and the Master of Flémalle (both discussed elsewhere on What About Art?) Instead of the soft lines and lyrical qualities that characterize International Gothic Style works, we find in Witz's paintings more monumental figures, whose ample draperies further emphasize their solidity.

Witz's most famous works are the four surviving panels (forming two wings) from the altarpiece of St Peter, which he painted for the cathedral in Geneva. His Miraculous Draught of Fishes, featured here, is Witz's masterpiece and his only signed and dated work. The landscape setting depicts part of Lake Geneva (one of the earliest recognizable landscapes in art). Witz’s naturalism is even more remarkable in his observation of reflection and refraction in the water.

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