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Art

Mailer on the money

Tuesday, 11 June, 2019

A parable from The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing by the late Norman Mailer:

“The story is that Robert Rauschenberg was once given the gift of a pastel from Willem de Kooning. Rauschenberg, with de Kooning’s permission, erased the pastel and then signed it ‘Pastel by de Kooning Erased by Robert Rauschenberg’, after which he sold it. The story bothered me. There was something profound there, but how to get a hold of it? Then it came to me: Rauschenberg was saying that the artist has the same right to print money as the financier: Money is nothing but authority imprinted upon emptiness.”

Willem de Kooning


Summer No. 2

Monday, 10 June, 2019

Because Summer No. 1 isn’t working out that well… so far. This painting, “Summer No. 2”, is by the artist Zhongwen Hu, who divides her time between China and the USA.

Summer No. 2


See Klimt, not #Klimt, in Vienna, not #Vienna

Sunday, 9 June, 2019

With Barcelona and Dubrovnik and Venice groaning under the weight of overtourism, land-locked Vienna has decided to target the dread hashtag, so beloved of hipster tourists. Following the techlash, now comes the #hashtaglash.

“This is an invitation from Vienna — an ideal place for a little bit of digital detox and for creating moments that you, and you alone, can treasure forever. Because Vienna is far more colorful when not seen through the lens of a smartphone camera.”

Vienna


Banksy in Venice

Friday, 24 May, 2019

“If you don’t own a train company then you go and paint on one instead,” said Banksy in the book Banksy: You Are an Acceptable Level of Threat. The street artist was referring to the British government’s decision to privatize rail networks “to make millions for a cabal of financiers, largely at the taxpayers expense.” Is Banksy a genius? Some have criticized the “obviousness” of his work and accused it of being “anarchy-lite” geared towards a middle-class hipster audience, while the satirist Charlie Brooker wrote in the Guardian that “…his work looks dazzlingly clever to idiots.”

Still, if you don’t own a cruise ship, you go and paint one in Venice instead. Hilarious.


Blue Monday

Monday, 20 May, 2019

Femme assise au fichu (Melancholy Woman) was painted by Pablo Picasso in 1901. The woman here is probably in a cell in the Saint-Lazare women’s prison in Paris, which Picasso visited several times to make drawings for the paintings of his “Blue Period”. With these portraits, Picasso developed a way of representing poverty and isolation at a time when many would have preferred to avert their eyes from such subjects.

Femme assise au fichu can be seen at The Young Picasso — Blue and Rose Periods exhibition until 16 June at the Fondation Beyeler, near Basel in Switzerland.

Picasso


The Last Supper: Nabokov and Leonardo

Friday, 3 May, 2019

The world is marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, artist and inventor. In the town of Vinci in Tuscany, the Museo Leonardiano is exhibiting the artist’s first known drawing, dated 5 August 1473. From 24 May to 13 October, an exhibition will open at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace, featuring 200 Leonardo drawings. The Louvre expects huge demand for its da Vinci exhibition in October, urging visitors to book a time slot ahead of their visit and, staying in France, a tapestry based on Leonardo’s Last Supper will be displayed at the Château du Clos Lucé in the Loire Valley, where he spent the final years of his life, between 1516 and 1519. It’s the first time the tapestry has been outside the Vatican museum since the 16th century.

The great writer Vladimir Nabokov was fascinated by The Last Supper and oblique references to the mural can be found throughout his books. In fact, the young Nabokov composed a poem in 1918 entitled, The Last Supper.

The Last Supper

The reflective hour of an austere supper
Prophecies of betrayal and parting
A nocturnal pearl illuminates
the oleander petals.

Apostle leans towards apostle
Christ has silvery hands
Candles pray brightly, and along the table
nocturnal moths crawl.

Vladimir Nabokov (1899 – 1977)

The Last Supper


Paintings painted

Sunday, 28 April, 2019

The Spanish artist Julio Anaya Cabanding paints paintings. Using graffitied walls as his canvas, he recreates famous paintings with astonishing detail, including their ornate frames. His logic? By taking a photo of an Old Master in a museum such as the Prado in Madrid, he “liberates” the image from “the sacrum of the institution” and he then puts it in a place where it has never been seen or will be seen in a very different way.

Painted Vermeer


A familiar feeling

Wednesday, 24 April, 2019

Alessandra Olanow is an illustrator living in Brooklyn, New York City.

Proofreading


The Extremadura Pietà

Friday, 19 April, 2019

The Counter-Reformation in Spain was dominated by mystics such as Saint Teresa of Ávila, Saint John of the Cross, Teresa de Cartagena, Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Juan de Avila. The artist who painted their prayers was Luis de Morales (1509 – 1586), who was born and buried in Badajoz, a remote town in Extremadura near the Portuguese border. Talent will out, however, and despite his relatively isolated location, Morales acquired fame and some fortune, as this snippet from his Prado profile highlights:

“For a large part of his life, Morales had an active artistic career that frequently obliged him to travel to arrange commissions, execute them or oversee their completion by the workshop. Otherwise, like many other artists in the region, he rounded off his finances with other sources of income. He owned houses and land in the city as well as vines, olives and livestock in the surrounding area. The markedly rural profile of both the artist and the milieu he lived in is evident too when we recall that Bishop Juan de Ribera paid him for several commissions in kind: wheat and barley, or ‘a Friesian horse with bit and saddle'”.

Luis de Morales completed his Extremadura Pietà sometime between 1565 and 1570. The figures of Mary and her crucified son are marked by grace and beauty despite the prevailing mood of anguish and grief. The Italian word pietà means “pity” or “compassion” and today, Good Friday, is when we should show some.

The Extremadura Pietà


The shock and awe of the Röttgen Pietà

Thursday, 18 April, 2019

Gothic art sought to create an impact. The Röttgen Pietà, sculpted in wood circa 1300 and now in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn, succeeded in spades. It was created expressly to evoke an emotional response in its viewers. What did they feel when they saw it? Shock, awe, terror, horror, disgust, distaste, fear, fascination… It’s obvious that this Christ clearly died from his crucifixion, but it’s also obvious that this undernourished man led a hard life. The message is that he’s one of us mediaeval folk.

Then, there’s Mary. What does her expression convey? Traditionally, she’s often depicted at peace because she’s aware of the impending Resurrection so her son’s death, while tragic, is temporary. This Mary, however, appears to be bewildered and aggrieved There’s no hint that she’ll see her son alive again. Again, the intent of the artist is to show that God and his mother experienced enormous pain and suffering.

Röttgen Pietà

Our week of pietà meditations began on Monday in Spain and that’s where it will end tomorrow with another graphic work that seeks to get viewers to feel a personal connection to the pain and death of the divine as painted by “El Divino”.


Giovanni Bellini: Pietà di Brera

Wednesday, 17 April, 2019

One of the most elegant parts of Milan’s Centro Storico district is Brera. The streets are lined with upmarket food shops and hip fashion boutiques, and the cobbled alleys fill up at night with people enjoying fine Milanese dining at sidewalk restaurants and cafés. A must-visit is the fresco-filled, 15th-century Santa Maria del Carmine church and, soul saved, the next stop has to be the Pinacoteca di Brera, with its magnificent collection of Italian art spanning the centuries.

One of the great treasures of the Pinacoteca di Brera is the Pietà di Brera by Giovanni Bellini, which dates from around 1460. When it was first revealed, the pietà was accompanied by verses composed by Propertius, the great poet of the Augustan age. He speaks of the capacity of an image to provoke tears — and anyone looking at the faces of Mary and Christ here cannot be unaffected by the the mother and son drama being played out. The pain depicted by Bellini reflects all human suffering and solitude.

Pietà di Brera