Monday, November 23, 2009

Check out Arts Unite Blog

Check out Jennifer Hartman's blog which is providing a forum for contributors in different arts disciplines: theater, music, dance and visual art. A grad student at the University of North Texas (my alma mater!) is working on a blogging project for a multimedia class. Visit her blog and make a comment!

I am really excited about other teachers using the blog as a virtual classroom! Free, convenient, and easily accessible, it is an excellent tool to use with students in the classroom. You can check out her blog in the blog title or in the blog list on the right. Good luck Jennifer!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #12 - Stormy Coast Scene after a Shipwreck

Stormy Coast Scene after a Shipwreck, Horace Vernet , Oil on canvas, 23 1/4 x 28 3/8 in. (59 x 72 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This painting is chilling...also painted by Émile-Jean-Horace Vernet, it is a scene of people rescuing victims from a shipwreck that are washed up on the rocky shore. The waves are dominating the image, and the people are tiny in comparison. The Romanticists were enthralled with this idea of the raw power and destruction of nature, and this painting is evident of that interest. A woman is limply being fished out of the sea, either unconscious or dead; the viewer is not sure which it is which adds to the drama. Another man is swimming to shore and grabs at the rocks as he tries to get back on land. If you have ever spent time on a coast and witnessed the power of a storm, you may have a glimpse into this artwork. This vulnerability of man in nature is a common theme in Romantic painting.

The right side of the painting is made up of the rocky shore. I have had my own dramatic event on a rocky shoreline; while snorkeling off the coast of Cozumel, I got caught in a strong surf which pushed and pulled me to and from the rocks (the coast is not a sandy beach, but made of lava rocks as sharp as razor blades). As I was pushed towards the sharp rocks, I tried to grab for them, but then the swell would pull me away back to sea. This happened about 3 or 4 cycles when my husband recognized my precarious situation and called for me to swim back to him, which I did. We both swam back down the shoreline until we found a better place to access a friendlier part of the beach. I will tell you, when I got back on land my legs felt like Jello!! I knew that I had been in a situation that was beyond my swimming skills and without his help I might have had a different outcome. I truly felt as though he had saved my life.

What is interesting about Vernet's painting, is that he shows a tiny slice of the aftermath of the shipwreck. We don't see the ship or any other survivors, so we are left wondering about the rest of the story. What kind of ship was it? Where was it headed? Were there other people on the boat? Are they still drifting about in the sea? When we view art, we may have an obvious connection as my own story above relates. There can be parallels in our lives with the great art we see. By keeping a painting's narrative open and ambigous we are invited to construct our own story or even recall a life event of our own that parallels the picture. I love rocks and though they are beautiful, they can be deadly to our fragile existence. Perhaps you can conjour your own story about this painting; I know I have tasted salt water and felt fear in a vulnerable moment at sea, and it is a feeling and moment I will never forget.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #11 - The Start of the Race of the Riderless Horses

The Start of the Race of the Riderless Horses, 1820, Horace Vernet, Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 21 1/4 in. (46 x 54 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I just love this painting! It is full of drama and excitement (elements of Romanticism) - the horses are portrayed with power and glory. The artist, Horace Vernet, grew up in an aristocratic French family, the son of another famous painter, Carle Vernet. His career was jump started as a result of his heritage and financial means, and he sprang onto the art scene exhibiting his first artwork at the Salon when he was 23. From the beginning of his career he was known for his paintings of horses, images of soldiers and large scale battle scenes, which were widely popular. He was skilled at capturing battles as a journalist would, including details that might be left out by other artists. He was a very successful artist whose patrons included the kings and emperors of France as well as wealthy members of the upper-middle class.

This scene, the race of the riderless horses, was an event that took place in Rome alongside the annual Carnival celebration in Rome. Much like the running of the bulls in Paloma, Spain, the festival and the race attracted tourists from all over Europe. Barberi horses, a breed of small, fast horses from the coast of northern Africa, were the horses who ran the race. They would race over a mile without jockeys, spurred on by irritating bits of metal attached to their bodies as well as the setting off of firecrackers and loud, boisterous crowds. And, like the running of the bulls, once the horses let loose, people on the streets could be crushed by the raw power of the horses, so many spectators watched from the safety of balconies above the street level.

Vernet is showing the moment before the race has begun, when the grooms are trying to control the huge animals which are decorated with ribbons for identification purposes. The drama of being in such close quarters with such powerful animals is displayed in the center - a black horse has fallen on a groom and there is terror in his face as he realizes he could be trampled to death in a moment. Another groom, muscles rippling with effort, is trying to contain the wild beast. There is yet another groom in the background adding his strength to control the situation. We see spectators in the balconies that are hung with red drapery for the celebration. Some are not even interested in the scene below, but are looking off to some other happening in the distance.

The Romanticists loved to focus on the power and uncontrollable aspect of nature and the interest in horses was a favorite subject in their paintings. This particular scene was especially exciting: it showed a time when the power and fury of these magnificent beasts was set free and could also be seen as a symbol of freeing human spirits from the bondage of modern civilization.

Self-Portrait, Emile Jean Horace Vernet, 1835, Oil on canvas, 47 × 39 cm (18.50 × 15.35 in)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #10 - Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct

Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct, 1818, Théodore Gericault, Oil on canvas, 98 1/2 x 86 1/2 in. (250.2 x 219.7 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Géricault is considered to be one of the most important painters in the movement of Romanticism. He studied under Carle Vernet, but broke away from formal study, copying Renaissance and Baroque painters. He was an independent artist interested in exploring is own artistic vision. He worked across many genres and was not only a painter but a talented printmaker. He painted scenes of contemporary events as well as portraits, horses, genre scenes and landscapes. He died young, at age 32, after sustaining an injury and disease that rapidly shortened his life. One of his landmark paintings is the Raft of the Medusa.

Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct is one of his largest paintings. The scene is romantic, with its dramatically lit sky and grand view of river and the countryside. The Roman aqueduct is the focal point in the center of the composition - the sky is a dramatic backdrop highlighting this antiquity with its rounded arches. There are bathers in the foreground, but there seems to be no narrative that they are involved in save washing the dust off from their day. This painting seems to be nothing more than a glorious landscape, perhaps paying homage to the Roman aqueduct which could allude to the passage of time.

Check out the essay found on the Met's website about Romanticism.

Self portrait, 27 x 37 cm (10,6 x 14,5 inches), Oil on canvas

Sunday, October 04, 2009

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #8 - The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus

The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus, 1789, Carle Vernet (Antoine Charles Horace) (French, 1758–1836), Oil on canvas, 51 1/8 x 172 1/2 in. (129.9 x 438.2 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This panoramic painting by Carle Vernet is a monumental history painting over 14' wide. The size alone would have gotten a lot of attention from the Salon, but he also displays a confident technical ability. He painting this piece as the Revolution was garnering strength and hoped that it would gain him full membership in the Academy.

The subject comes again from Roman history as described by the Roman historian Livy. The composition shows a throng of people witnessing the triumphant arrival of Amelius Paulus in Rome. Paulus, seated on the right side in a golden chariot, the men and women lauding him upon his return to Rome. The light is dramatically focused on Aemilius Paulus with the background full of examples of classical architecture. Because there are many monuments in this painting, the work is reminiscent of the vedute that people loved buying during their Grand Tour.

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #9 - Minerva Protecting the Young King of Rome

Minerva Protecting the Young King of Rome, 1811
Joseph-Antoine Romagnési, Plaster, painted to resemble yellowish stone; green marbleized wood (frame only)
45 1/2 x 29 in. (115.6 x 73.7 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ah, Roman mythology! The Neoclassical artists loved nothing more than to revisit these stories and see how well they could create the ideal aesthetic. In this relief sculpture, Minerva, the Roman Goddess of war and wisdom, is sheltering the child of Napoleon who he named as his heir and the King of Rome. Her pose is a classical stance from Greek and Roman sculpture, the contrapposto pose. The boy has his arm draped around a she-wolf which reminds the viewer about the legend of Romulus & Remus, the two brothers who were the founders of Rome, suckled and raised by a protective she-wolf.

This sculpture was created commemorating the birth of François-Chrles-Joseph, known as Napoleon II. Finally Napoleon had an heir to his empire. This piece is highly propagandistic - Napoleon wanted to have art and symbols tying his son to the glory of Rome and the empire that leaders continued to try to emulate.

Not a lot is known about Ramagnéi's early career. He became a professional artist after the Revolution. The sculpture, though created in plaster, was painted to look like the more lasting material stone. Marble was more costly, so it also made it look more expensive and precious. It was common for sculptors of this time to complete their designs in plaster and then take it to a professional stone carver to complete it in stone. This work was never realized in marble.

Monday, September 14, 2009

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #7 - The Death of Socrates

The Death of Socrates, Jacques-Louis David, 1787, Oil on canvas, 51 x 77 1/4 in. (129.5 x 196.2 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

David is one of my personal favorite artists! His work is so powerful, so spare, so beautiful! He was privy to a superior education and the style of his training contributed to his rise as one of the great history painters. One of his early teachers was François Boucher, and though he was anxious to win the Academy's greatest honor, the Prix de Rome, it was not a fait accompli for him; his first submission was not accepted. Though he did not receive the Prix de Rome when he first attempted it, he had other commissions and prizes during his years as a student. He finally got to study at the French Academy in Rome and that is where he really connected with the classical influence that would inform his own work. As the AcDec guide states: "David became one of the most influential and successful artists of the 1780s, and some of his most important works were completed in the years leading up to the Revolution." He became very active in the politics surrounding the Revolution. "David also played a prominent role in the development of propaganda for the new Republic, staging funerals for martyrs of the Revolution, designing festivals for new secular heroes, and helping to construct a new body of symbolic imagery for the new political regime."

Because of his political bent and his artistic genius, Napolean commissioned him to create portraits of him as a statesman and as a powerful military leader. This is one of my favorite paintings of Napoleon:

Napoleon Crossing the Alps (also known as Napoleon at the Saint-Bernard Pass or Bonaparte Crossing the Alps) is the title given to the five versions of an oil on canvas equestrian portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte painted by the French artist Jacques-Louis David between 1801 and 1805. Initially commissioned by the Spanish Ambassador to France, the composition shows a strongly idealized view of the real crossing that Napoleon and his army made across the Alps in 1800.

This piece of David, The Death of Socrates, was a painting he did during the early years of his career. The scene is powerful and emotional, Socrates has been accused by his society of corrupting the youth and has been sentenced to death. He chooses to be in control of his fate by drinking hemlock, a poison that kills someone slowly. He is in a prison cell - there are shackles and chains on the floor adding to the drama of the situation. Socrates is depicted as a trim, muscular and youthful man even though he is also shown as being advanced in age. His devotees are surrounding him as he points to the heavens and assures them that his soul will remain immortal. His other hand reaches out to the poison in a distracted kind of way. He is calm and assured, though his disciples are emotional and beginning to grieve his imminent death.

Back to my comment about David's spare paintings - his neoclassical scenes have an emphasis on the drama of the human predicament rather than a busy background. He uses light to increase the dramatic tension and focus the attention on the central figures. This stark, stage-like setting is very different from the frivolous, soft paintings of Rococo. Line is emphasized over color which was thought to be associated with intellectual thought rather than the emotional and sensual flavor of Rococo. This subject of classical history was meant to appeal to educated, literary people who were interested in the expanded thinking of the Enlightenment.

Self-portrait, Jacques-Louis David, 1794, Oil on canvas, 31.69 x 25.24 inches / 80.5 x 64.1 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

Sunday, September 13, 2009

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #6 - Modern Rome

Modern Rome, 1757, Giovanni Paolo Panini, Oil on canvas, 67 3/4 x 91 3/4 in. (172.1 x 233 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

We move away from the frivolity of the Rococo movement into an artistic return to the classical ideal. The classic aesthetic that the Greeks and Romans created continue to inspire artists through the ages. Neoclassical art can vary widely, but it looks back to classical art in one way or another. One reason for the rise of interest in classicism was the unearthing of the ruins in Pompeii and Herculaneum near Naples, Italy. These discoveries excited the people in the 18th century - they could see how people worked and lived ages before them.

The Grand Tour became a standard part of the education of privileged young men. Italy was at the heart of the Grand Tour - travelers would visit the important cities and sites studying, sketching and collecting artwork as a memento of their trip. Artists catered to this enthusiastic audience for all things classical. Panini was one of the great masters of vedute, or "view paintings" which were popular with the visitors to Italy on the Grand Tour.

This work by Panini, Modern Rome shows a very large gallery with paintings hung floor to ceiling; each painting is of a monument or building of "modern Rome" depicted from the eras of the Renaissance and Baroque. Gentlemen are portrayed in the gallery looking at the paintings. Panini even put in a self-portrait - he's dressed in gray, seated in an armchair and looking out of the painting. The paintings showcase the works of art and architecture a travelers would see on his Grand Tour.

Portrait of Giovanni Paolo Panini, 1705, Oil on canvas, 29.92 inches wide 37.99 inches high

Thursday, September 10, 2009

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #5 - Shepherd's Idyll

Shepherd's Idyll, François Boucher, 1768, Oil on canvas, 94 1/2 x 93 1/2 in. (240 x 237.5 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

François Boucher's artwork is indicative of the mature phase of the Rococo movement and is sometimes thought of as "high rococo." He was born into a working class family, but he gained entrance into the Royal Academy and then had the opportunity to study at the French Academy in Rome. He eventually was categorized as a history painter within the Royal Academy, the highest level you could achieve. Perhaps his biggest claim to fame was being a favorite painter for Madame de Pompadour. He even used her likeness in some of the goddesses in mythological scenes he created.

He was particularly fond of a subcategory of history painting called "gallant mythologies" - scenes that depicted the loves of the gods of antiquity. He drew heavily from Watteau's idea of fête galante, but Boucher's style was full of fantasy. He composed his paintings with a theatrical bent.

Let's look at Shepherd's Idyll. This painting was made two years before his death, so it is part of his mature work. It is very large - on the scale of a history painting. But this is not a scene of action and drama, but a bucolic scene depicting a moment of leisure in the life of this shepherd. The people in the painting are all dressed simply, but they are not dressed in work clothes. The 3 women and the children form an adoring circle around the relaxed figure of the shepherd.

This painting is known as an idyll, which means a charming, bucolic scene of rural life. The people are idealized, young, beautiful, living together in harmony. Though the shepherd is a working class man, it appears his life is carefree and not so involved with working! The wealthy class wanted to fantasize that the working class did not suffer excess toil, so had them portrayed as their own lives were - free of worry and hard work.

Boucher's palette was comprised of pastel tones and bright whites. He had a very painterly style - loose and free. He painted to satisfy the tastes of his clientele. He catered to the decorative style that the aristocracy craved. The salons of Paris were held by aristocratic women. They were sophisticated and loved a beautiful environment. This image closes out the Rococo period and is the epitome of the style - luxury, frivolity, soft colors, relaxation!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Artist of the Week - Edward Burtynsky

Check out the documentary film of his work.

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #4 - Broken Eggs

Broken Eggs, 1756, Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French, 1725–1805), Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 37 in. (73 x 94 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I love Greuze! What a genre painter he was! His paintings were didactic and moralizing - with plenty of drama. Greuze was accepted into the Academy and painted this piece, Broken Eggs, while studying in the French Royal Academy in Rome. He wanted to achieve the status of history painter, but it was not to be - during his career he never broke free of genre painter. This really upset him! Because he could not achieve the higher level with the Academy, he refused to exhibit his work at the Salons for over thirty years! Take that!

Let's get to the drama.....the scene is set inside a lower class home, there is little furniture and the walls and floor are unpainted and cracked. A young girl is in the foreground, and she looks forlorn. The basket next to her is filled with eggs, but a few have spilled out of the basket and one is broken on the floor. She has just returned from trying to sell her eggs. The young man behind her also appears to have just entered the house from the street and he is removing his hat.

The old woman is not happy. She is grasping the young man's hand and pointing to the broken egg as though he is to blame, but he has a bewildered look on his face. The young boy tries to reassemble the egg in a fruitless gesture. The scene is about much more than the actual broken egg - the broken egg was also symbolic for a young girl's lost virtue. The older woman demands that the young man be accountable, but it's unclear how the scene will resolve itself. Greuze has captured a moment of drama and the viewer is given the opportunity to be the judge of the situation (and perhaps use the scene as a moralizing tale for young people in their own households!).

Self-Portrait, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1780s, Oil on canvas, 56 x 46 cm, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #3 - Wine Cooler

Wine cooler, 1753, French; Vincennes, Soft-paste porcelain, H. 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm), W. 10 1/4 in. (26 cm), Diam. 8 in. (20.3 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Vicennes porcelain factory started in 1740 in the town of Vincennes just east of Paris. Louis XV was a major shareholder in the operation initially but acquired full ownership in 1759 and it became a national factory at that time. Before the factory in France, porcelain was imported from China.

Porcelain is a beautiful white ceramic material that when fired has a glassy surface. There are two types of porcelain made from a white clay called kaolin - hard-paste and soft-paste. Soft-paste porcelain is more challenging to produce because it has a lower clay content and is more difficult to shape. The Vincennes Manufactory produced high quality products. They enjoyed royal patronage and had superior skill working with the more challenging material.

The function of the wine cooler was to keep a bottle chilled. There is a central decorative panel with gold accents on the handles and panel. The background color, a beautiful turquoise called blue céleste, was first developed the year this was made and was a color unique to the factory. The naturalistic design is typical of Rococo - flora and foliage painted in a soft pastel palette of pinks, blues and greens. The manufacturers of fine ceramics are identified by a mark (or logo) on the bottom of the piece. The wine cooler has a "double-Louis" mark that has two intertwined letter "L's" with a letter "A" and a dot at the top and bottom. These marks changed from time to time which helps historians date works to the time frame they would have been manufactured in.

Needless to say, these items were enjoyed by the aristocracy. A table service could have as many as five hundred pieces: plates, platters, serving dishes and coolers for bottles and glasses! French porcelain of the 18th century was elegant, elaborate, glitzy and highly decorative. Imagine sitting down for dinner and being surrounded by so many beautiful pieces - ooh la la!

Portrait of Louis XV of France

Saturday, September 05, 2009

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #2 - Soap Bubbles

Soap Bubbles, ca. 1734, Jean Siméon Chardin (French, 1699–1779), Oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin was not born into a monied, aristocratic family and did not have access to a formal education in art. He was largely self-taught and considered himself a successful still life and genre painter. He did exhibit his work regularly at the Salons and had a supportive group of patrons. Because he painted simple scenes of typical households, people and animals, his work was embraced by people from different social strata. He sold print reproductions of his paintings which also allowed people of different socio-economic levels to have access to his art.

Soap Bubbles is a simple genre scene that is simple in its composition and color palette. You can see the influence he had from the Dutch Baroque painters. There is something voyeuristic about this painting - a young man is absorbed in the bubble that he is blowing. As it grows bigger and bigger, a small boy peeps over the windowsill, watching with excitement and wonder the act of bubble blowing. When was the last time YOU blew a bubble? Remember the opalescent colors that swirl on the surface? Isn't it interesting (and comforting!) that centuries later, we still find this activity fun and entertaining? Blowing a REAL bubble is not something your iPhone can do! Virtual bubbles are just not the same!

What may not be so obvious on the surface of this painting is the direct portrayal of social class. It was the wealthier patron that could afford to purchase an original oil painting. The elite patron had an interest in having a simple life scene which showed a moment that any social class would have enjoyed displayed in their home. But this young man is not from an affluent class. Though he is groomed and clean, his clothes do not fit him and show signs of wear. His jacket sleeves are too short and it is torn at one shoulder. This image illustrated a moment in the lives of those beneath them in class and rank, and it was something they enjoyed viewing. Interesting - so much in common (the joys of blowing bubbles) and yet also worlds apart (money and privilege).

Soap bubbles are so fragile, we know how delicate and fleeting they are! This image can represent the fleeting nature of life, so the viewer could consider the image on more than one level. Michael Levey has written about Chardin's genre paintings from his book Rococo to Revolution: Major Trends in Eighteenth-Century Painting, "Chardin refers us back to ordinary experience, concentrating it with almost microscopic intensity, tingeing it with the hint of the moral and educative, yet still not telling any specific story."

Self Portrait, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, 1771, Pastel on paper, 46 x 37.5 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #1 - Mezzetin

Mezzetin, probably 1718–20 Jean Antoine Watteau (French, 1684–1721), Oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In an art history class a few years ago, the professor had a free response question on an exam: "Choose your favorite art movement and tell me why you chose it." I surprised myself when I chose Rococo and proceeded to list the things that made my heart sing: pure entertainment, lots of pink putti, FABULOUS clothing, lovely soft colors oozing on the canvas, lots of outdoors romping, parties and last but not least, Love. Who would have thunk it!

The images this year begin with this lovely movement, Rococo. It's birth was in France, and Jean Antoine Watteau is credited for being at the forefront of the movement. An innovative artist, he painted in a looser, more painterly style than his contemporaries. His most notable contribution to art is the creation of a new genre the Académie des Beaux-Arts called the "fête galante" or gallant party. These paintings showed groups of elegantly dressed aristocrats enjoying outdoor gatherings. His submission to the Académie did not fit into their accepted genres. The hierarchy of the genres ranked the works according to their subjects: #1 history paintings, #2 portraits, #3 genre scenes and #4 still life and landscapes. The fête galante genre loosened up this rigid hierarchy and the Académie, which was historically very conservative, began to open up to new subjects and styles. It was important to individual artists to be accepted by the Académie for a successful livelihood as a professional artist.

Mezzetin shows us Watteau's interest in the theater as subject matter for his paintings. In this painting, Mezzetin (which means "half-measure") is one of the stock character actors in an Italian commedia dell'arte. There are a couple of not so subtle messages in this composition. The female figure in the background (a statue painted in the grisaillle technique) has her back turned to the wistful troubadour. He appears to be singing a love song, perhaps about unrequited love; he is fully engaged, lost in his own world.

The Louvre has a marvelous collection of Rococo art, both decorative arts and paintings. Can't get to Paris to see the Louvre's Rococo collection? Check out the virtual tour of the Watteau Room in the Louvre!

Portrait of Jean-Antoine Watteau by Rosalba Carriera.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Guess the Famous Painting and feed the poor!

Daumier, Honore, The Painter at His Easel, c. 1870-75, Oil on panel, 33.5 x 27 cm, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Wiliamstown

Thanks to Susan Benford creator of the fine art Masterpiece Cards set (see a link to her website in My Blog List), I followed the link to this great art game on the "Free Education and Free Rice" site. Click on the post title above to play the game. Here is what they say about their site:

FreeRice is a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Program. Our partner is the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

FreeRice has two goals:

* Provide education to everyone for free.
* Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free. This is made possible by the generosity of the sponsors who advertise on this site.

Whether you are CEO of a large corporation or a street child in a poor country, improving your education can improve your life. It is a great investment in yourself. Perhaps even greater is the investment your donated rice makes in hungry human beings, enabling them to function and be productive. Somewhere in the world, a person is eating rice that you helped provide. Thank you.

For those of you who love art history, this is a fabulous place to review your knowledge about fine art - it is so fun (and addictive) PLUS you are helping someone in the world and every little bit we can do to make the world a better place matters! See how you do!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Summer Vacation

Puppy, Jeff Koons, 1992, Guggenheim Bilbao

I've been on vacation this summer and so has the blog! One of my favorite parts of my summer vacation was visiting museums in Spain as well as at home! Here's a list of the museums I visited this summer and what I saw there:

Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, Spain - a private guided tour of the permanent collection in all its glory!

Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain - Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe and the fabulous Richard Serra's "The Matter of Time" and the permanent collection.

Museo Picasso de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, "Kees Van Dongen" and the early works of the great Pablo Picasso.

My visits to the next 5 museums were part of the Museum Forum for Teachers sponsored by the Nasher Sculpture Center - a thrilling experience being able to spend an entire day in each museum with the education staff!

The Rachofsky House, Dallas, Texas, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" a site-specific installation by Ricci Albenda.

Dallas Museum of Art,, Dallas, Texas, "Private Universes" an exciting contemporary art exhibit.

Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas, explorations of the permanent collection.

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, "Butchers, Dragons, Gods & Skeletons"an innovative installation marrying the permanent collection with beautiful films by Philip Haas.

Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth, Fort Worth, Texas, William Kentridge - Five Themes a survey of this South Africa contemporary artist.

It was a stimulating, exciting, enlightening summer and I'm ready to take it into the classroom!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kimbell Art Museum's New Michelangelo Painting

Michelangelo, The Torment of Saint Anthony, c. 1487–88. Oil and tempera on panel, 18 1/2 x 13 1/4 in. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

What an exciting addition to the Kimbell's already stellar permanent collection! This painting by Michelangelo was produced after being permitted to see Domenico Ghirlandaio's print and painting collection. Michelangelo was placed by his father into apprenticeship with Ghirlandaio for three years in 1488 "under the following conditions: That the said Michelangelo shall remain with the above-named during all the said time, to the end that they may teach him to paint and to exercise their vocation, and that the above-named shall have full command over him, paying him in the course of these three years threnty-four florins, as wages..." (exerpt from Lives of the Most Eminent Painters) He was particularly interested in Martin Schongauer's engraving The Temptation of Saint Anthony. A young artist, he created his own version of the biblical story.

Here is quoted text from Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Most Eminent Painters regarding this very painting: "Now it chanced that when Domenico was painting the great chapel of Santa Maria Novella, he one day went out, and Michelangelo then set himself to draw the scaffolding, with some trestles, the various utensils of the art, and some of those young men who were then working there. Domenico having returned and seen the drawing of Michelangelo exclaimed, 'This boy knows more than I do,' standing in amaze at the originality and novelty of manner which the judgment imparted to him by Heaven had enabled a mere child to exhibit. For the work was, in truth, rather such as might have fully satisfied the artist, had it been performed by the hand of an experienced master. But if it was possible to Michelangelo to effect so much, that happened because all the gifts of nature were in him enhanced, and strengthened by study and exercise, wherefore he daily produced works of increased excellence, as began clearly to be made manifest in the copy which he made of a plate engraved by the German Martino, and which procured him a very great name. This engraving was one which had just then been brought to Florence, and represented St. Anthony tormented by devils. It is a copperplate, and Michelangelo copied it with a pen in such a manner as had never before been seen. He painted it in colours also; and, the better to imitate the strange forms of some among those devils, he bought fish which had scales somewhat resembling those on the demons; in this painted copy he displayed so much ability that his credit and reputation were greatly increased thereby."

Vasari is credited to have begun the history of art with this excellent accounting, though some say his narrative is biased. Be that as it may, I procured my volume from an estate sale and have not had the time to read it in full. I feel it rising to the top of book pile to be read this summer. Oh, happy day - a summer to read and a new masterpiece to see this fall when it arrives at the Kimbell. Check out the link in the post title to the Kimbell's page about the acquisition of the painting.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Artist of the Week - 6EMEIA

It's an unusually wet spring here in Dallas with lots of rain. I was awakened at 4:00 this morning by another storm blowing through. We take storm drains for granted, but the lowly storm drain keeps our streets from becoming rivers (at least most of the time). Check out the work of these South American artists! They are hard at work painting the cityscape they live in. It's great to have some color and humor on the street!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Artist of the Week - Ju Duoqi

The Vegetable Museum - 04, Ju Duoqi, 2008
The Third of May 2008
C-Print Size A: 120x150cm Edition: 6 Size B: 80x100cm Edition: 12

(Blogger's note: It was a subconscious act that I chose "The Third of May" for my Third of May post! Only AFTER I viewed the post did I see the cosmic nature of it. Those of you who know me well know how much I LOVE cosmic events!)

What is it about food art that we love so? I think it is because we love food AND art - when they come together it is fun and interesting. Ju Duoqi is a Chinese artist who reinterprets classic paintings using vegetables as her medium. She photographs the scene she has created and prints editions for sale. Click on the post title to go to a site that features The Vegetable Museum. She displays sensitivity and humor in her work. Before going, I'd like to leave you with one quote from the site that captures her feeling about her work: "Everything has a spirit, each vegetable, each person, and each second, under careful observation, has extraordinary meaning." Here is a link to a video interviewing the artist at work.

The Vegetable Museum - 07, Ju Duoqi, 2008
Napoleon on Potatos
C-Print Size A: 150x120cm Edition: 6 Size B: 100x80cm Edition: 12

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Meadows Museum - Etruscan Temple and the Tomb

Diadem, Late 4th c. B.C., Gold.
From Populonia. Florence, National Archaeological Museum

Over spring break I visited the Meadows Museum on the SMU campus to see this incredible exhibit reflecting the Etruscan culture (it will be displayed through May 17, 2009). The exhibit has quite a depth and breadth with over 300 objects exhibited - it is the largest exhibit of Etruscan art shown in the United States, and it is right here in Dallas! The Meadows Museum is honoring the 15th anniversary of SMU professor P. Gregory Warden’s groundbreaking archaeological excavation in Poggio Colla, Italy with this exhibition dedicated to the great ancestors of Rome. The Etruscan culture served as a kind of bridge between the Greeks and the Romans, eventually becoming absorbed into the Roman culture.

This diadem, which is a type of crown or ornamental headband, is just one of the spectacular pieces in the exhibit. Made of gold, the leaves are delicate and soft. The gold is handled expertly and it is remarkable to me that it is in such good shape because it appears to be so fragile.

I attended a lecture that evening: Weaving as Worship: The Role of Women in Etruscan Religious Ritual given by Dr. Gretchen Meyers. I have been a weaver for more than 30 years. The archeological excavation mentioned above has produced scores of weaving implements and tools. It was interesting to see images of the site and hear the ideas Dr. Meyers had about the role of elite women in the production of sacred textiles. Women had great freedom and an unusually active role in the Etruscan culture. It's hard to describe the excitement I felt realizing that I have continued an activity that happened so many centuries ago. I feel a connection to those women and know what it might have been like for them to produce these fabrics.

Lekythos. Attic. Attributed to the Amasis Painter. Terracotta (Black Figure). Height: 6 ¾ inches (17.15 cm). Ca. 550-530 B.C. Metropolitan Museum of Art (31.11.10

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Artist of the Week - Julian Beever

Anamorphic illusions are images that are drawn in a certain way so that when they are viewed from a special angle they appear three dimensional. This technique was used as far back as Renaissance times, but Julian Beever is well known for his sidewalk chalk drawings that utilize this method. You may have received an email that featured images of his work - I know he's cycled through my inbox more than once!

Let's look at one of his images in the "regular" view.....
Making Poverty History, Julian Beever

Here's how he has to draw it to get it look three dimensional....
Making Poverty History, Julian Beever

For my art history students, this oblique anamorphic technique is closely related to tromp l'oeil (which in French means "trick the eye") - actually, I think it is also tricking our brain!! You can only see the image as might expect to find it from one particular viewpoint. Remember Hans Holbein the Younger's work? It has an anamorphic skull in the lower section of the composition positioned between the Ambassadors. You see the distorted view as you look at the painting straight on:
The French Ambassadors, Hans Holbein the Younger, Oil on oak, 1533


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Art Technique - Watercolor

Fishing Boats on the Beach, Vincent van Gogh, Watercolor, 1888

One of my Freshmen Art I classes is playing with watercolor as we create our "head shots of the Gods" for the DMA student art exhibition in April. I have been encouraging them to play with the medium and discover what techniques they can incorporate into their skill set. Some think that watercolor is challenging because it is a lively material. It can be. The beauty of watercolor is the clarity of the paint and the "life" it has when it hits the paper. It definitely takes some practice to explore its qualities and it is easy to overwork the paint and end up with a muddy blob.

I am encouraging my young painters to check out this website and look at some of the painting demonstrations. It might give you some ideas that you will want to incorporate into your portraits! I've put two images in this post, one I did at a workshop and a watercolor by Vincent van Gogh. He handled the paint much like I have been demonstrating for our portraits - big patches of local color (a solid hue) with outlining to define shapes. I'm excited to see what you discover when we get back from spring break!

Snagged, Christine Miller, Watercolor, 2007

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Artist of the Week - Louis Comfort Tiffany

Magnolias and Irises, 1908, Leaded Favrile-glass window, 60 1/4 x 42 in.

Louis Comfort Tiffany was a remarkable and versatile artist. He started as a painter but quickly expanded into a variety of media. Rising to prominence during the Gilded Age of the industrial rise in America, he was a contributor to the Aesthetic Movement which believed in the importance of the decorative arts. Interiors became integrated environments in which every object, surface and treatment related to the whole. Tiffany's workshop grew as private patrons, civic institutions and churches commissioned his work.

Tiffany was truly innovative. The type of glass available to him was very limited. Coming out of a painting tradition, it is no surprise that he saw glass as a medium that he could "paint" with. Because he did not have a wide variety of glass to work with, he was instrumental in having new types of treatment made to the glass such as opalescence, variegated shades, molded textures, tonal gradations and layered colors to obtain different effects.

His windows were narratives of biblical stories, portraits of his patrons, or were landscape scenes. Like Monet, he loved the garden and created verdant scenes of trees, flowers and water. All of his windows were carefully designed and assembled one piece of glass at a time. Check out this site about stained glass to see how these windows are made!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Artist of the Week - Salvador Dali

Galatea of the Spheres, Oil on Canvas, 1952

Salvador and his wife Gala had an incredible bond. He depended on her completely. Unable to cope with managing his life (like making change for a taxi or arranging for a meal for himself) Gala ordered his universe. She was everything to him, but one of the most important roles she had was as his muse. Dali painted his wife numerous times.

This painting is astounding - he portrays her classic beauty with emotion and grace. He does this as he visually shatters her image into perfect orbs that swirl in tandem with each other. They dance above the earth suspended between the sky and the tranquil sea. In the mid-twentieth century he was contemplating the theories of Freud in the new field of psychology as well as Heisenberg and physics. They were powerful influences on his art (as were many, many other things!).

Why did I choose Dali this evening - well, all things Spain right now (with my Spain trip coming up in June). Dali comes from Spain and you can see the dramatic Spanish terrain in many of his paintings. I guess I've been particularly interested in him in the last few years. I read a great biography about him. Though associated strongly with the Surrealist movement, Dali renounced any official affiliation. He was a loner.

Summer before last I had an opportunity to see his work in person. Mr. Miller & I visited the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Wow! It was fantastic! A museum devoted to Dali with a broad spectrum of his work displayed. I could have spent the day there (though it is not that large) just looking at his work (I only got about an hour). Complex, detailed, beautiful and enigmatic, you can study one piece for long periods of time drinking in every detail. Astounding, compelling and powerful, Salvador Dali's art leaves me breathless!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Smarthistory - An overview of the period 1907-1960 - AP Art History Assignment

René Magritte, La Condition humaine, 1933

Next in our series of blasting through modernism is this installment from Smarthistory (please listen to their podcast-link in post title). It's a wonderful dialogue that echoed many things we have been referencing in class - the modeling of the figure, classicism, and the use of dark and light (chiaroscuro). Plus there are some of the ideas we talked about at the last DMA Late Night - exploring the the nature of color, reducing objects down to their simplest forms, and manipulating the viewer's eye and mind.

Ah, the glory of art!! I do love it so! The "isms" this post covers are Picasso (they talk about cubism, though do not feature a piece from that movement in this podcast), surrealism and and "Neo-Plasticism" (a term Mondrian termed to characterize a non-representational form that consisted of a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines with the use of the three primary colors). Enjoy the ride, mis niños!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dallas Museum of Art Technology Teacher Workshop

Janine Antoni Lick and Lather 1993 (made of chocolate and soap)

I'm attending a great workshop at the DMA designed to help teachers incorporate technology into the classroom. This workshop is focused on blogging. Blogging is so much fun! I LOVE using it in the classroom and this year I have used it more than I ever have before.

As part of this workshop, we have been exploring the Center for Creative Connections. The museum changes the focus of materials regularly and the space allows visitors to have a more tactile experience with materials that artworks are made from. There is lots of stuff to touch!

The label for this piece says: "Through intimate acts and her choice of materials that will eventually disappear, the artist confronts her relationship with herself." There is a lot to consider here: the body is constantly changing through cellular replacement and the regeneration of organs and systems; we change every single minute of every single day; these materials are common and precious (have you ever NEEDED soap or chocolate and they weren't available at that moment?); both materials are plastic (meaning they are pliable and formable) and can be either inexpensive or expensive; the sculpture uses an additive process (adding the material to create the artwork) and a subtractive process (taking material away to change the artwork); how do we use additive and subtractive processes in our lives; how successful are we in the relationships we have with ourselves? Consider these ideas in regards to your own relationship with yourself - are you:

What ideas or questions are generated for you?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

One good food art post deserves another

Garden Bento by Sakurako Kitsa

So the Charm City Cakes post was so fun and yummy looking, I couldn't resist finding another fun food post. Really - food art is so groovy! The color, texture and edibility are all so irresistible! I'm posting another blog post that collects different food compositions. Why don't you try to make a creation of your own this coming weekend!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Art of the Cake

Duff Goldman, Baker/Owner of Charm City Cakes

Ahhhh, the art of food. Lately I've been watching the Food Network and am truly amazed at the creations that very talented people create in the form of dessert. The Ace of Cakes is especially fun and amazing. They create really amazing cakes for all events - weddings, anniversaries, parties, celebrations for people of all ages, young and old. Their Starship Enterprise cake, an exact replica of the ship, is astounding. The post headline is a link to their website.

Their show features a few cakes in each episode and shows each baker in the process of building their masterpiece. There are many things they have to take into consideration as they created their sculptured confections (and a lot of problem solving!): how will they support different parts to keep the entire cake intact, what colors are appropriate, how do they scale the designs to be appropriate to the size of the cake, and what details will enhance the design? These cakes are truly works of art but meant to be totally consumed! In the end, each cake needs to be not only beautiful but delicious as well! Check out this link for their show on the Food Network and see some videos about their cakes.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Virtual tour of Sistine Chapel - Smarthistory

AP Art History students - please use this post to comment on the videos you watched from Smarthistory's website that are the virtual tours of the Sistine Chapel ceiling and the wall of The Last Judgment. Here is the link to the Sistine Chapel Ceiling and for The Last Judgment. Can't wait to hear what you have to say!!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Artist of the Week - Barry B. Doyle

Flamingo at Rest - Image copyright © 2007 by Barry B. Doyle, used with permission.

One of our TAG parents, Barry Doyle, is quite the artist and I asked him if I could include his work in my blog. His son Colin ('05) and Tory ('06) both attended TAG and are also very artistic!

I specifically wanted to feature his photography for my AP Studio Art students. Several are going to use photography for their concentrations this semester. I recommend that my students look at the work of other artists in order to inform their own visual vocabulary. Digital cameras have made taking pictures so exciting! You can instantly see what image you have captured, download it quickly into your computer, move it about easily or modify it with the help of Photoshop. The key element in becoming a great photographer is developing a keen eye and learning how to frame the image for a striking composition. Check out his flickr photostream to see more of his work.

Barry has a book coming out featuring his photographs of Dallas - "Dallas Iconography" will be available to purchase from Amazon soon. Here's what the Dallas Visitor's Bureau says about his upcoming publication: " Just what we've needed and a fitting tribute to our beautiful city. The versatile Dallas Iconography serves as a useful guide for visitors, a valued commemorative gift and the perfect souvenir. And besides its utilitarian function, this impressive work of fine art and design makes an elegant coffee table book. --Jay Burress, VP Sales & Marketing, Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau". I'm excited to see his book - his work is evident that talented and gifted students spring from talented and gifted parents! Kudos, Barry!!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Facade of the Gothic Cathedral

Rose Window, Chartres Cathedral

The glory of the Gothic Cathedral - I consider these architectural structures to be incredible testaments to man's ambition, devotion and pride. They are truly incredible structures, ever soaring, reaching higher and higher into the sky. Man's engineering skills were astonishing considering the tools and technology they had back in the time we call the Middle Ages.

The link in this post's title will take you to a wonderful video that explains how to "read" the facade of a Gothic Cathedral. Very nice and enlightening. Check it out...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Smarthistory - An overview of the period 1848-1907 - AP Art History Assignment Due 2/1/09

Works Discussed:
William Holman Hunt, Strayed Sheep (Our English Coasts), oil on canvas, 1852 (Tate Britain)
Claude Monet, Boulevard des Capucines, oil on canvas, 1873 (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City)
Vincent Van Gogh, Potato Eaters, oil on canvas, 1885 (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

Art History students - remember the timeline I gave you that mapped from the Renaissance to Contemporary art movements? Well, Smarthistory has 3 podcasts that give a brief overview of the dates listed above. I want you to listen to the first podcast and respond. Please click on this Post title to navigate to the blog site, listen to the podcast then come back to my blog and post a comment about what you learned. Be sure to have your timeline with you and chart the progress.

For your added pleasure (& entertainment!), I added links to the individual artists. You can learn all about them and see the body of their work. Just to help you track them on your ISM Timeline, Holman was a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Monet was instrumental in the Impressionism movement, and Van Gogh is inseparable from the Post-Impressionism movement.

(This is a 4th 6 weeks homework blog assisgnment #1)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Art History DMA Late Night Modern Art Adventure

"Cathedral", 1947, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas, 71 1/2 x 35 in., Dallas Museum of Art

I HATE not getting to go to a party that I planned! And that's how it turned out for this month's DMA Late Night excursion with my Art History class. Kudos to those who went and poor me that I had this stupid virus for two days. Oh well. Anyway, I have NO IDEA what Jenny took you to see, what you did, what you said or what you thought! So I'm dying to know! As extra credit for the next six weeks, make a comment to this post and tell me about YOUR experience! What did you learn? Inquiring minds want to know.

Since I wasn't there, I decided to create my own experience and chose the Jackson Pollock that the museum owns. If you are in the mood for something fun, click on the post headline for an interactive Pollock site - you can make your OWN Pollock painting. Every time you click the mouse, the color changes. Try it - it's fun! Technology is soooooo cool - and this is a fun, fun blend of technology with an art history story!

Jackson Pollock certainly rocked the art world in the mid-twentieth century. A student of Thomas Hart Benton, Pollock tapped into his own energy for painting in a literal way. He believed that new times (this was shortly after the dropping of the bomb) required new techniques and ways of expressing ourselves. As so many other art movements, Impressionism, Cubism, Dadism, Pollock's radical way of painting and it's end result (someone dubbed him "Jack the Dripper") stirred controversy. But he was in a group of other change makers - Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning - the Abstract Expressionists. Check out this great, informative website about Pollock to get a better sense of his place in art history. To see Pollock in action check out this video made in 1951 that Pollock narrates. There is another video that features clips from the 2002 movie "Pollock" starring Ed Harris.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Pantheon

How this place thrills me! Even before I traveled to Italy last summer and got this picture of the coffered ceiling, when I would get to the page in my art history textbook about the Pantheon, I would shiver. The innovative thinking and the flawless execution just blow me away when I think back to the building of this temple in the 2nd century A.D.

And to think I might not have made it! We had been touring Rome all day (can you imagine Rome in a day?) - the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's, the Forum, the Colosseum - I called it the Roman march. And it was hot! Marching, marching in the heat - pressing on to the next fabulous place to see. By the time we got deposited into some square, my group was exhausted. There was another group from our bus that was going to walk the few blocks to see the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. My group was pooped and wanted to have a gelato and sit. I didn't blame them one bit - I wanted to do the same.

But - this might be my only chance to see the Pantheon. How could I live with myself if I got back home and didn't make the supreme effort (that it seemed at the time) to go there? Would I ever forgive myself? NO! In a split second I knew I had to go - and was it ever worth it! The marble, the light, the sacred geometry enveloping me in its glory. It was truly a high point of my trip to Italy. The link in the Post title from the blog of is quite delightful - check it out! And, for my students, it also touches on the Hagia Sophia and the dome of Brunelleschi. Very nice!