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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.

Entries in Modern Art (175)


Peggy Guggenheim: A Major Force in the Art World

Peggy Guggenheim and Jackson Pollock in front of Mural (1943), CA. 1946, (Courtesy of (click photo for larger image)Socialite Peggy Guggenheim (1897-1979) was born into the wealthy Guggenheim family of New York City. The niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, who founded New York’s Guggenheim Museum, she rose to prominence as an important collector of art. In 1912, when she turned 21, Peggy inherited $2.5 million (valued at $35.3 million today) and moved to Paris, where she befriended Man Ray, Constantin Brancusi, and Marcel Duchamp.

In 1938, she established a modern art gallery in London and began seriously collecting art, focusing on Surrealist and abstract art. Through Duchamp, she created many connections in the art world and exhibited works by important modernists like Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp, and Max Ernst. After one year, she decided to shut the gallery and focus her efforts on creating a museum.

Peggy settled in Venice in 1949 and established the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to showcase her impressive collection of modern art. Today, it is still one of the biggest attractions in Venice and highlights Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism by both European and American artists.

In the summer of 1943, she commissioned a young and relatively unknown Jackson Pollock to paint a mural for her Manhattan townhouse. The work he produce (Mural) turned out to be his first large painting, and the largest work he would ever create.

Learn more about Peggy Guggenheim at Jill Kiefer’s presentation, TOMORROW—March 9th, at the Bethany Arts Community (at 4:00 PM). Admission is FREE! Search for more info about the artists mentioned here on What About Art?


Women Art Professionals

Gertrude Stein sitting on a sofa in her Paris studio, with a portrait of her by Pablo Picasso, 1930. (Photo: Wide World Photos, Inc. via the Library of Congress) (click photo for larger image)Women art professionals have been referred to as “the bargains of our time” and the latest statistics bear out that claim—alas. And yet, there is a history of female art professionals that reveals the enormous contributions—and significant changes—that female art professionals have made possible. 

Please join us THIS Saturday (March 9, 2019) at 4:30 PM, at the Bethany Arts Community. Jill Kiefer will deliver a program on this topic, and will discuss women art historians, art critics, dealers, collectors, curators, art educators, and contemporary artists who have and continue to make a difference for women working in the arts. We’ll also take a look at some of the most famous muses in the history of art, who not only inspired masterworks—but artists’ careers. Admission is FREE!


William H. Johnson: A Major American Artist  

William H. Johnson - Soldiers’ Morning Bath - ca. 1941-1942 - tempera and pen and ink with pencil on paper - 16 x 20 1/4 in. - Smithsonian American Art Museum - Washington, D.C. (click photo for larger image)By almost any standard, William H. Johnson (1901–1970) can be considered a major American artist. Yet he died in poverty and obscurity. Johnson produced hundreds of works in a virtuosic, eclectic career that spanned several decades as well as several continents. It was not until very recently, however, that his work began to receive the attention it deserves.

Born in South Carolina to a poor African-American family, Johnson moved to New York at age seventeen. Working a variety of jobs, he saved enough money to pay for an art education at the prestigious National Academy of Design. His mastery of the academy's rigorous standards gained him both numerous awards and the respect of his teachers and fellow students.

Johnson spent the late 1920s in France, absorbing the lessons of modernism. As a result, his work became more expressive and emotional. During this same period, he met and fell in love with Danish artist Holcha Krake, whom he married in 1930. The couple spent most of the '30s in Scandinavia, where Johnson's interest in primitivism and folk art began to have a noticeable impact on his work.

Returning with Holcha to the U.S. in 1938, Johnson immersed himself in the traditions of Afro-America, producing work characterized by its stunning, eloquent, folk art simplicity. A Greenwich Village resident, he became a familiar, if somewhat aloof, figure on the New York art scene. He was also a well-established part of the African-American artistic community at a time when most black artists were still riding the crest of the Harlem Renaissance.

Although Johnson enjoyed a certain degree of success as an artist in this country and abroad, financial security remained elusive. Following his wife's death in 1944, Johnson's physical and mental health declined dramatically. In a tragic and drawn-out conclusion to a life of immense creativity, Johnson spent his last twenty-three years in a state hospital on Long Island. By the time of his death in 1970, he had slipped into obscurity. After his death, his entire life's work was almost disposed of to save storage fees, but it was rescued by friends at the last moment. Over a thousand paintings by Johnson are now part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution's Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Oskar Schlemmer: A Master of Form  

Oskar Schlemmer - Bauhaus Stairway - 1932 - Oil on canvas - 63 7/8 x 45" (162.3 x 114.3 cm) - Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York (click photo for larger image)Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943) was a multi-talented German artist who achieved success as a painter, sculptor, choreographer, and designer. He was well-known for his abstract yet precise paintings of the human form as well as for his avant-garde ballet productions.

In 1920, architect Walter Gropius invited Schlemmer to teach at the Bauhaus school in Weimar, where he made significant contributions in numerous departments (sculpture, mural painting, metal work, and life drawing) but truly left his mark in the stage workshop.

Throughout the 1920s Schlemmer was commissioned to paint several murals in both private residences and public spaces, such as the former Bauhaus in Weimar (1923), which the Nazis destroyed in 1930, and the Folkwang Museum in Essen (1928–30), which the Nazis vandalized, dismantled, and removed in 1933. Schlemmer left the Bauhaus in 1929.

The gallery label at MoMA describes this work as follows:

“Bauhaus Stairway depicts the Bauhaus, a school founded in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius, famous for its visionary integration of technology, art, and design. Although Schlemmer made this painting three years after he left his teaching position at the Bauhaus, the works gridded structure, streamlined modular bodies and predominant palette of primary colors capture the schools vibrant design spirit. The carefully choreographed arrangement of the figures and the man en pointe at the top of the stairs reflects Schlemmer’s role as the creator of many important dance and theatrical productions at the Bauhaus. Schlemmer painted this work as Hitler assumed power, shortly before the Nazis closed the Bauhaus for good. He was among many artists persecuted by the Nazis, whose work they deemed ‘degenerate’ and often destroyed.”


Max Pechstein: A More Authentic Existence

Max Pechstein - The Red House - 1911 - Oil on canvas - 35 × 27 in. (88.9 × 68.5 cm) - The Art Institute of Chicago (click photo for larger image)Painter and printmaker Max Pechstein (1881-1955) was among those artists who were park of Die Brücke (The Bridge) group—the first phase of German Expressionism. Indeed, he was a leading member.

Die Brücke artists regularly worked together, both in their studios as well as out of doors; this communal approach contributed to the early consistency of their style and reflected an important aspect of their utopian program. Echoing larger social concerns about health at the time, Max Pechstein and his colleagues often escaped the constraints of city life to find a more authentic existence in nature, documenting their experiences in their work. Later, after his relocation to Berlin in 1908, he also made solitary trips to Nidden, a remote fishing village on the Baltic Sea. Pechstein painted The Red House (featured here) during the second of these trips, attracted to the expansive dunes and forests of the region, as well as the local people and architecture.

Pechstein was a founding member of several avant-garde groups, including Berlin's "New Secession" (1910) and the Novembergruppe (1918). He was also elected a member of the Prussian Academy of Art. He taught at the Berlin Academy for ten years (1923-33), until he was dismissed by the Nazis because of the so-called degenerate nature of his art. Reinstated in 1945, Pechstein was the recipient of numerous awards before he died in West Berlin at the age of 73.