Monday, December 24, 2012

MWA X: Lotto's Nativity

What better way to celebrate the holidays then with another beautiful Monthly Work of Art. This is The Nativity (image: NGA) by the Venetian Renaissance painter Lorenzo Lotto (ca. 1480-ca. 1557). This oil on panel work is dated to 1523. Lotto is seen by some art historians as a proto-Mannerist, and this is evident in the way that he contorts the bodies, especially that of the Christ child. The shimmering blue/pink of Mary's garments and her elongated body are other signs of early Mannerism at work. You'll notice, however, something strange in the picture, and I don't mean the naked flying babies at the top. In the upper left there's a crucifix. Its presence is clearly anachronistic (Jesus was just born in the picture), but it serves to foreshadow for the viewer his eventual death and the establishment of the Christian faith. My memories of growing up in the Catholic Church were that they always put more weight on his death and resurrection. Personally, I preferred the stories of his birth. So in that spirit I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Biography Clinic at the Leon Levy Center

A few days ago I received word that my application was accepted and I had been granted a seat in the first "biography clinic" sponsored by the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the Graduate Center, the City University of New York. According to the write-up, the clinic will cover "the nuts and bolts of life writing, from conception through completion." This 2-day workshop takes place next month and is geared toward those writing or planning to write their first biographies. In my application I spoke about my work on the sculptor John Gibson (1790-1866), the subject of my doctoral dissertation, and that upon completion my project will be the first survey of his life and work, which I hope to publish afterwards as a book. The carte-de-visite you see here of Gibson was taken by the photographer Frederic Jones in London about 1860 and shows Gibson as the gentleman-bohemian artist that he liked to suggest he was (image: NPG). Among the scheduled speakers for the workshop will be a publisher and agent, as well as a number of established biographers, so I'm definitely looking forward to attending this workshop and very grateful to the Leon Levy Center for accepting my application.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Random Musings 13

It's been a while since I posted one of these "Random Musings," briefly bringing in a hodge-podge of stories. This week there were a few things worth noting. The first has to do with the destruction...excuse me, "renovation"...of the New York Public Library's main research building. bklynbiblio followers may recall that I (and others!) have had a few things to say about this plan here and here. This week the NYPL released the official reconstruction plans, with swanky drawings (image above) and an eye-catching video on their website, to demonstrate how incredible the renovation will be to the public at large. The biggest attraction is that everyone will have wonderful views of Bryant Park. The worst part about the release of these plans is that it's going to have exactly the effect they want: suddenly now even I'm finding myself instinctively rethinking my criticism. That doesn't mean I support the changes; rather, it means the advertising about the changes is designed to make you think it's for the greater good and to make you forget all the negative things about the historic building and its collections. This is Mad Men in action, 2012 style. Even though this week noted preservationist Ada Louise Huxtable published an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal about the destruction of this building, this is one of those moments where it's obvious now that it's irrelevant what people think. The NYPL is moving forward with their plans.

Elsewhere in NYC depressing news, the MTA has announced that starting in March they're raising prices again for the subways and buses. My 30-day unlimited pass is going up to $112 and a regular one-way pass will now be $2.50. This is the 4th increase in 5 years. Word has it that FEMA is supposedly going to pay for the hundreds of millions of dollars of repairs and operational costs the MTA suffered as a result of Hurricane Sandy, so apparently this increase was just a regularly scheduled one. I have to admit that following the hurricane I was among those who were impressed by how quickly the MTA got mass transit back up and running, so I can't completely knock them these days. The fact that the MTA chairman Joseph J. Lhota is suddenly so popular for that must be the reason why he's resigning...and apparently running for Mayor next year.

On a more positive side of things, New York magazine has published their 8th annual "Reasons to Love NY," which is always a delightful reminder of why NYC is so great. Among the highlights this year: our governor (Andrew Cuomo) isn't afraid to talk about global warming; our mayor (Michael Bloomberg) isn't afraid to talk gun control; Donald Trump finally became the joke we always knew he was; you can get anything in a bodega; and we screw in public (my favorite of them all!). You can read all these and more here.

In the art world, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin, made news recently after conservation work on a 17th-century French painting suddenly revealed that the nude woman you see on the left was actually a mythological subject, with images of the god Zeus/Jupiter and a putto/Cupid. The over-painting probably had been done in the 19th century. It's always amazing to me how art can surprise us still sometimes. Here's an article about it from The Art Newspaper.

And last but not least, Archaeology magazine has issued their annual "Top 10 Discoveries" for 2012. They had previously discounted the whole Mayan-end-of-the-world story, so that wasn't on the list. Two of the more interesting that did make the list, however, are the discovery of the remains of "Frankenstein"-like creatures made of body parts from different people all laid to rest in a ritualistic grave in Scotland, and a 2000-year-old bag filled with coins and jewelry in Israel that was probably hidden by a woman during an uprising with the Romans. The best, however, has to be the image you see here. It's a 37,000-year-old stone engraving found in France depicting, of all things, a vulva. There's not much one can say after that, is there?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Auction Sales of 2012

Every once and a while, I like to track on bklynbiblio information about auction sales for works of art when I think something significant or monumental has happened. 2012 has turned out to be a rather startling year, with a number of paintings being sold at auction at incredible prices, some breaking records. The November sale of Contemporary Art at Sotheby's brought in $375 million, followed almost immediately by Christie's similar sale with a record of nearly $500 million in sales. These are simply staggering amounts of money for works of art. Two pictures by the Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko sold at auction this year for more than $87 million and $75 million each. But my favorite Ab Ex painter, Franz Kline (1910-1962), reached a record high for his work with Untitled, 1957 (pictured above), which sold at Christie's New York in November for $40.4 million. (bklynbiblio readers may recall my having written about Kline when it was his 100th birthday. I love how his thick, exuberant application of monochromatic paints allude to Chinese/Japanese calligraphy.) Of course, the biggest sale of the year, however, was one of Edvard Munch's versions of The Scream, 1895, which sold at Sotheby's in May for $119.9 million, making it currently the most money ever paid for a work of art at auction (note that it's not an oil painting, but rather pastel on board). You can see this interesting slideshow with images from the Huffington Post with the 20 most expensive works sold at auction this year, ranging from the $119.9 million to a paltry $23 million for an abstract painting by Wassily Kandinsky. It's at least somewhat reassuring to know that not everything in the top 20 was "modern"; works by John Constable and Raphael made it on the list too.

There's a decent Wikipedia entry on the "List of Most Expensive Paintings" that is worth consulting, as it combines both auction sales with private sales. As expensive as these aforementioned auction prices are, it's astounding to realize that this year's Munch still only ranks as #8 in the hierarchy, the most expensive painting ever sold being a version of Paul Cézanne's Card Players, 1892-93, for $259 million. What is perhaps most disturbing about this list, however, is that of the top 17 highest-ranking sale prices, 10 of them have all taken place just since the year 2006! This is extraordinary when you realize that we've supposedly been suffering through tough economic times these past few years. Clearly the so-called global 1% haven't been impacted and can easily inflate the art market.

And just when you think you've heard it all, this very week Christie's sold the painting you see here at its Victorian sale for a shocking record price of almost $1 million. The picture, The White Owl, 1856, by William James Webbe, was discovered in someone's attic, cleaned, and sold at auction for about 9 times more than the estimated price. Now, when compared to the sales mentioned above, this is really nothing. But for a Victorian picture, it's astounding. The picture is being called a Pre-Raphaelite work for its stark, photographic realism, but it's not officially a Pre-Raphaelite painting. I mean, I think it's fair to say that I'm relatively familiar with Victorian art, certainly the art of the Pre-Raphaelites, and I've never even heard of this guy! What gets me even more is...who the heck has $1 million to buy a picture of an owl? I think it shows that although one can talk all about these sales and declare them records of sale prices, in the long run they say more about the competitive streak among bidders who vie for these works, rather than the intrinsic value of the works themselves. It seems fair to say that most art collectors today clearly are more interested in art as a commodity and want to flip it to make a profit. Sadly, aesthetics and the work's value solely as a work of art no longer seem to be worth anything.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Aida at the Met

I felt quite privileged on Wednesday night to go to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. I was the guest of a friend (who for his own political reasons wishes to remain unidentified), who had been given amazing Grand Tier tickets for free. We went to see Giuseppe Verdi's opera Aida, which had its premiere in Cairo on December 24, 1871. The opera was fantastic. I had seen Aida in the past on television, but this was the first time I had seen it live. Although I'm not an active opera buff, I do enjoy going when I can, and Italian operas are of course the best (yes, I'm biased). I've seen live both Tosca (my favorite libretto) and La Traviata (possibly my favorite musical score) a number of times. Aida is the story of the pseudonymous Ethiopian princess enslaved to the Egyptian princess Amneris, both of whom are in love with the Egyptian general Radamès, although he is in love only with Aida. Of course there love is doomed and there's a tragic ending. For our performance, Aida was performed by soprano Liudmyla Monasyrska, and she did a truly magnificent job. She sang beautifully, and I was entranced by two of her arias. The other performers were quite good, although none of them stood out for me as well as the soprano. The orchestra was aptly conducted by Fabio Luisi, but I found the tuba player a bit too loud at times, to the point that he overpowered the singers. The famous triumphal march scene was spectacular, however, and the ballet sequences well choreographed. I realized that the triumphal march was scored by Verdi so that it could be repeated again and again to accommodate the size of the actual parade on stage. In some performances, an entire retinue of animals including elephants and giraffes have been included, extending the musical sequence a great deal, but in this performance they kept it to a minimum. It's a shame actually because it is such beautiful music, and believe me when I tell you that you know this music and love it as well. (Here's a YouTube video of the scene as performed in the past at the Met Opera.) I did find it strange to realize afterwards that all the main singers in the performance were from former Soviet countries (Ukraine, Russia, Georgia), which I think says much about the globalism of the arts in the new millennium.

On a personal note, it was interesting to go back to the Met Opera the other night (image at right was the view from our seats!), because I had not been to that theater since my very first live opera experience...30 years ago! Zio PL had gotten free tickets, and since Zia FL couldn't go, he took me. I remember my parents driving me into the City where we met him at Lincoln Center. We saw Rigoletto from one of the tiers...and I actually sat next to Mia Farrow and Woody Allen (they left during intermission). It was an amazing experience overall, but one I could hardly share with classmates the next day as they all thought it was weird that I would even want to go to an opera. In retrospect, it was definitely one of those rewarding experiences that I have cherished my whole life. I just hope it's not another 30 years before I go back there again!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12 at 12:12 PM

This is the last time in most of our lifetimes that we will ever encounter a series of recurring digits on the calendar and clock such as this exact moment. (The next one won't be until 1:01 AM on 01/01/2101!) So what are/were you doing at exactly that moment? Comment on my blog post, my Facebook page, Twitter site, or just email me, and I will record everyone's action for posterity. Assuming of course the world doesn't end, as some die-hard fatalists are predicting.

No sooner did I post this, then Tweet/Facebook it, I went back to preparing for my Asian art class and completely forgot about it! At 12:12 PM, I was engrossed in watching a video about the contemporary Chinese artist Lin Tianmiao, whose exhibition at the Asia Society is absolutely superb. You can see the Comments section for a few responses as to what you were doing as 12:12 PM, but here are others that were texted and emailed to me. You're action have been immortalized!
DPG: “Sitting at my desk in my office with country music wafting thru my walls, not my choice, thanks to the good ole boys in the shop. Wishing I were somewhere else, NYC would be my pick at this moment or most moments for that matter.”
AA: “I was in a meeting with an advertiser and didn’t even realize the milestone had passed.”
DC: “Buying a bag of chips and a can of soda.  Dirty chips cracked pepper and sea salt, San Pellegrino pompelmo (my favorite).”
GM: “I was reading New York magazine and listening to NPR. Even though I should be working.” (Earlier he had threatened to flash an old lady!)
MB: “Having lunch with Owen, I am assuming because I didn’t look at the clock.”
DL: "I was wishing it was Monday. I'm off of work on Monday!!! My co-worker was grieving. His mother passed away today at 12:12 exactly."
KB: "I was cooking pasta for lunch. And thinking about a budget for a grant application."
RM: "I was mentoring my 8-year-old girl."

Downton Abbey: 25 Days and Counting

According to the official countdown on the PBS website (as of when I'm writing this post), it's 25 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes until the premiere of season 3 of Downton Abbey. I can't wait! Once Christmas and New Year's are over, there's always a bit of a let-down as the worst of cold winter starts to kick in with no other major even to look forward to. So it's a great relief that one can look forward to this amazing television show, about which I've blogged before. Some of the actors have been in NYC promoting the upcoming season and they were on the Today show this morning. The new season already has aired in the UK, but it begins in the US on January 6. Shirley MacLaine joins the cast this season as Martha Levinson, Lady Cora's American mother, a perfect foil for the Dowager Countess, Lady Violet (Maggie Smith). After the wonderful post-World War I Christmas-themed finale (where a long-anticipated marriage proposal finally took place), rumor has it the wedding will go forward but not without a few bumps in the road, including word that the family fortune has gone up in smoke. And will poor Mr. Bates the valet finally be released from prison so he and Anna, the head maid, can be together as we all so desperately want them to be? Let's face it: the show is  basically a big romantic soap opera. But it's SO good! What makes the show superb is the writing, carried out so adeptly by a fantastic crew of actors and gilded with amazing costumes and sets. If you haven't seen seasons 1 or 2 of this show yet, you can stream all the episodes on Netflix and I'm sure lots of other places, but I already own the DVD sets for seasons 1 and 2 and will be adding season 3 to my list as well. You will be hooked like everyone else.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Review: The Development of the Art Market in England

In the most recent issue of the UK-based Art Libraries Journal (vol. 38, no. 1, 2013), you will find my review of the book The Development of the Art Market in England: Money as Muse, 1730-1900 by Thomas M. Bayer and John R. Page (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011). Because of limitations with the number of words, however, I had to edit down my review. This is normal practice, so there certainly were no concerns about that. Below is the full version as I initially wrote it, going into a little more depth about the individual chapters and other areas. I've added images as well as they relate to various components of the book. The first image below is William Hogarth's 3rd print from the series A Rake's Progress, 1735; the second below is William Powell Frith's The Derby Day, 1856-58, one of the most commercially successful paintings of the 19th century (both from Tate Britain). The image you see here, James Durden's A Country Auction, has nothing to do with the book, but I thought it provided a nice visual summary about the book.


Art history today is arguably more pluralistic and wide-ranging in its methodologies than ever before. Therefore, it is surprising that in the introduction to Thomas M. Bayer and John R. Page’s book The Development of the Art Market in England they perceive a ‘persistent prejudice that commoditization is inherently damaging to the aesthetic merit and quality of art products’.(1) For traditional connoisseurs who focus on an art object’s uniqueness and the artist’s inherent genius, this may be true. But few in the field of art history and criticism today would challenge Bayer and Page’s hypothesis, that art is a commodity, and key to its economic value is the role of the art dealer as the middleman between artist as producer and collector as consumer. Indeed, Bayer and Page’s text is an important, if occasionally faulty, contribution to art history. Their work is especially valuable to those who study British art, as it helps advance serious scholarship in a discipline often considered sub-standard to the study of French and Italian art.

Bayer and Page focus on England from about 1700 to 1900 because it was during this time that Britain experienced an increasing economic growth due to the industrial revolution and worldwide colonization. Moreover, because Britain was free from civil wars and outside incursions at this time—events that decimated large parts of the European continent—the country was able to maintain a level of economic stability and thus generate a steady market for the sale of art. The authors contend that the old idea that art follows wealth is no longer valid, that in fact these two principles worked reciprocally, supporting and nurturing one another, with the art dealer the fulcrum in this exchange. They focus almost exclusively on paintings, and their primary research comes from the extant records of dealers such as Agnew’s and Arthur Tooth. To this they extracted quantitative data from the scholarship of Algernon Graves and George Redford, as well as Christie’s auction catalogs, to create a statistical and econometric analysis of how and what types of paintings sold in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.(2)

This book then is about production, commodity, and consumption, and thus favors business, finance, and economics over art history. It is part of Pickering & Chatto’s ‘Financial History’ series. This is not to say that the art history student cannot glean something from it, for indeed the authors have much to offer those who wish to learn more about how the London-based art world evolved in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. When it comes to Bayer and Page’s actual research, however, with their numerous tables and charts, the art historian accustomed to images and interpretations of works of art will be disappointed. Yet, in reading closely a text which argues that art dealers and the commoditization of paintings directed taste and stylistic developments in England, the art historian will find him/herself with a refreshing take on how the art world developed over this time period.

The first chapter is a discussion of the art market in seventeenth-century Netherlands and serves as the model for the commoditization of art. By 1700 this market shifted to London, then the largest and richest city in Europe. The early art market dealt exclusively with Old Masters, and it was only later in the century that an increase in the sale of contemporary native English artists overtook that of Old Masters, a paradigm shift that would swing back and forth for art dealers over the course of the two centuries. The next three chapters focus on the different ways native art established itself in England: instructional and theoretical manuals on painting published in London by authors such as Jonathan Richardson, William Hogarth, and Joshua Reynolds; the first art schools and commercial galleries such as Vauxhall Gardens, ultimately culminating in the establishment of the Royal Academy in 1768; and the role of art criticism and auction houses in establishing ideas about taste.

Chapter five is one of the more interesting. From their original research, the authors determined that during the eighteenth century art dealers used auctions exclusively to sell paintings, but this practice changed drastically from the 1830s on, when art dealers became the largest consumers of paintings at auction, in order to resell the pictures at inflated costs. The primary reason for this shift was the power of the reproductive print. The success of the print market in England began with Hogarth and helped nurture support for contemporary native English painters. Through the sale of prints after paintings, the public had the opportunity to own a piece of the painting, while the actual picture could be owned by one person or reinvested in the art market. Chapters six, seven, nine, and ten focus on the Victorian art market’s taste for native English painters. Whereas art dealers in the eighteenth century were less stable in their businesses, during the Victorian period many (Agnew’s, Colnaghi, Gambart, Tooth, etc.) rose to power as stakeholders in the production and sale of art. These art dealers asserted their power when they purchased from artists not only their pictures but their copyright, enabling the dealers to ensure future success through reproductive prints and traveling exhibitions. The last of these chapters discusses how the art market began to fail at the end of the Victorian period with the introduction of new international styles (e.g. Impressionism), the failure of touring pictures due to new cinematic experiences, and the development of cheap photographic reproductions which obviated the once successful market for high-quality prints.

The strength of the authors’ work is most evident when they provide specific case studies. For instance, chapter eight focuses on the auction house Christie’s and its sale practices over the centuries. Other close studies include discussion of dealers (e.g. Arthur Tooth & Sons, pp. 113-17), commercial enterprises (e.g. Grosvenor Gallery, pp. 191-201), and successful painters (e.g. William Powell Frith, pp. 154-58).(3) Their work on the Victorian period itself is substantial and thus more useful than that of the eighteenth century. This is partly because more archival material survives from that period, but also because the book is taken from Bayer’s 2001 doctoral dissertation on the Victorian art market.(4) Bayer is an interdisciplinary art historian with related studies in history and economics, and Page is a certified public accountant and professor of accounting at Tulane. As specialists in the world of financial history, they certainly seem qualified to write on this topic.

Unfortunately, a surprising number of grammatical and spelling errors appear frequently in the text, suggesting poor proofreading at times, and over-editing with the appearance of double words and incorrect phrasing.  These errors continue onto the website ( designed to complement the text with images that are not in the book.  The painter John Singleton Copley, for instance, appears frequently on the website as Copely.  The quality of the images on the website, arranged by chapter, are low resolution files and often poor in quality, so they serve little use.  For a book priced at £60 ($99), the authors could have arranged for black-and-white images in the text of just a few of the most frequently discussed paintings.  More appropriately, they should have published prints after these paintings, since that is such a critical part of their thesis.

The website includes a promising link at the bottom that reads ‘Is the Art Market Like the Stock Market?’  It opens to a series of hyperlinks that relate to PowerPoint slides, but not a single link works, making the entire site worthless.  The closest one comes to thoughts on their analogy to the stock market is when the authors, in the book, propose that ‘painters are firms which produce products …, dealers are specialists and brokers, critics are analysts and the auction house is the stock exchange’.(5) Although thought provoking, missing from this analogy is the collector as consumer/investor.  Bayer and Page have authored a text that offers a close analysis of the painting market, and spend ample time discussing the art dealer, artist, and auction house, but in ignoring the collector, they have omitted a vital part of this stock market analogy.  For those interested in the collector, particularly during the Victorian period, Dianne Sachko Macleod’s superb work Art and the Victorian Middle Class offers an interesting parallel by focusing on how certain industrialists operated as private collectors.(6)

Despite these criticisms, Bayer and Page’s text contributes to the literature in art history and financial history, and also could be consulted by researchers working on an array of related subjects, from British socio-economic history to marketing strategies over time. Although the publisher’s website suggests the text is intended for the general reader, it is for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and academics. The scholarly apparatus seems ample and well-documented, with thirty-four pages of endnotes, a bibliography of archival, primary, and secondary sources, and a full index. The book itself has a sturdy hard cover and sewn binding that holds up well to regular use, and seems to be an appropriate purchase for college and university libraries, particularly with school programs in international studies, art history, and business/finance/marketing. Bayer and Page have not have written a perfect book on the history of the art market in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England, and scholars inevitably will have more questions than answers based on their research. However, they have opened the door to an understudied area, upon which future scholars will be able contribute and thus expand, as it were, a new market on the commoditization of art.

1. Bayer and Page, 7.
2. Algernon Graves, Art Sales from Early in the Eighteenth Century to Early in the Twentieth Century, 3 vols (London, 1918-21); George Redford, Art Sales: A History of Sales of Pictures & Other Works of Art (London, 1888).
3. The section on Tooth was previously published as a longer essay by the authors, ‘Arthur Tooth: A London Art Dealer in the Spotlight, 1870-71’, Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 9, no. 1 (Spring 2010),
4. Thomas M. Bayer, ‘Money as Muse: The Origin and Development of the Art Market in Victorian England, a Process of Commodification’, Diss. Tulane University, 2001.
5. Bayer and Page, 143.
6. Dianne Sachko Macleod, Art and the Victorian Middle Class: Money and the Making of Cultural Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Friday, November 30, 2012

Books of 2012

The annual release of the "100 Notable Books of 2012" by The New York Times always gives me an opportunity to blog about books and reading, something as a writer I probably should do more often. Followers of bklynbiblio may recall my past posts about this list in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, all written right around this time of the year. Not surprisingly, as in the past, I haven't had a chance to read anything on this year's list, but keeping track of these lists is useful in helping pick up some works that I can put on my "future read" list and see how they hold up over time. The NYT list once again is divided between non-fiction and fiction/short stories/poetry. Of the fiction titles, only 2 also appear on Amazon's top 10 Best Books of the Year, which is the lowest number so far since I began comparing the two. It seems the gap between what's popular and what's respected is widening. That said, Hilary Mantel's Tudor-themed historical novel about Anne Boleyn and the Tudor court, Bring Up the Bodies, is on both lists, even appearing at #1 on Amazon's, so that may be worth checking out. From the NYT list in fiction, I know I will eventually read Toni Morrison's Home, as I do admire her writing about the African-American experience (Beloved was brilliant). In non-fiction, however, I've already had on my "to read" list Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy by Paul Thomas Murphy, an account of the numerous attempts on the life of Queen Victoria over her 64-year reign, so I'm pleased to know that appears on the list.

Since last year's post on this topic, I've read 29 books (which, interestingly, was the same as last year). Among my noteworthy art historical reads were: Linda Bolton's take on the 19th-century modernist Edouard Manet, part of the History and Techniques of the Great Masters series (1989); Kate Culkin's biography of Harriet Hosmer, the 19th-century American lesbian sculptor (2012); and--rather surprisingly--Netsuke: Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1982) by Barbra Teri Okada, an exhibition catalogue on the ivory- and wood-carved Japanese figurines that originally served the practical purpose of keeping an inro (purse) attached to an obi (sash) of a kimono. This last book was related to having taught an introductory course on Asian art this semester. I also read Karen Armstrong's Islam: A Short History (2009 edition). A former nun, she has written about a number of world religions with what seems like an open mind. In this book, her last chapter on religious fundamentalism in an age of terrorism is superb. Everyone should be required to read it.

A year ago, I was in New Haven on a fellowship at the Yale Center for British Art, reading for pleasure The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (2006). Sadly, it is my least-favorite of her novels. This year I did finally read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (2009, English edition), which was on the NYT 2010 list, and I agree that it was the best of the books in the trilogy (the misogyny prevalent in the first two books is completely rewritten here). One of my other favorite novels of the year was Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym (1953), a novelist whose English tea cozy characters have greater depth than you'd ever imagine. A few other noteworthy novels I read this year were James Joyce's Dubliners (1914; short stories), Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence (1920), Agatha Christie's Nemesis (1971), and Julie Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic (2011, on the NYT 2011 list). I am at present slowly reading 2 novels: The Pickwick Papers, the first novel by Charles Dickens (1837), which I started a long time ago but never finished; and History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason (2012), an ambiguous tale of a young man that starts in 1907 Amsterdam. With a painting by Surrealist René Magritte as the cover image, the book must be good!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rediscovered Art by the Solomons

It's been a while since I last blogged about the work my friend/colleague Carolyn Conroy and I have done on the gay Anglo-Jewish artist Simeon Solomon and our Simeon Solomon Research Archive. She has continued to provide updates to it and add more images, having secured permissions from some museums to add works from their collections. This has helped make the site grow tremendously and improve greatly in its usefulness to researchers. Two recent additions to the site, however, are worth further promotion. The first relates to the discovery of a heretofore unknown portrait of the Duke of Wellington from 1844 by Abraham Solomon, Simeon's elder brother. The portrait was made from a daguerreotype and then used to make engravings. You can see images and read more about it by visiting the SSRA page about the discovery. Our second addition to the site relates to the picture you see here, A Young Teacher, 1861, by Simeon's sister Rebecca Solomon. Although this painting was published as a black-and-white image in a 1988 article in Burlington Magazine, this is the first time it ever has been seen in color, and it's a beautiful work of art. We are very appreciative to the owner for providing us with a digital image of the painting from his collection and allowing us to put it on the SSRA. The painting shows an Indian ayah, or children's nurse, who watches the family baby while being instructed rather precociously by the young girl who is also in her charge. Although the subject may seem like Victorian sentimental kitsch, the picture says much about race relations through the presence of Indian servants in Victorian middle class homes. It's important to remember that just a few years before Rebecca painted this, the Sepoy uprising led to the slaughter of numerous British citizens and Indians, and subsequently the official absorption of India into the British Empire (about which I've blogged regarding a painting by Edward Armitage). Thus, although one might find it sweet that the little girl is teaching her ayah, in fact the painting suggests the political agenda of imperialism: the British are superior to the Indian race, and therefore they have the right and moral obligation to educate and rule over them. For more about Rebecca Solomon, you can read my biographical essay about her.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

DW: Christmas 2012

There's nothing more delightfully Dickensian than a Victorian-themed Christmas. Throw in The Doctor, some aliens in Victorian clothing, man-eating snowman creatures, and what a fun-filled Christmas it will be! Yes, clips for the upcoming annual Doctor Who Christmas special have been released, and it looks like great fun. (Here's last year's post.) We see some familiar alien faces, and the first episode with his new companion, pictured above. A Victorian girl who will be brought to the future? Rather clever, I must say. Below are two video clips: first, a brief prequel that picks up where we last saw The Doctor, mourning the loss of his companions the Ponds; second, the preview clip for the upcoming episode, also starring Richard E. Grant as the bad guy. Since I don't have official plans for Christmas yet, I'll be happy to curl up with some hot cocoa and watch this on BBC America.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


This past week a story went viral online about a young man who found his doppelgänger in a portrait by an unknown 16th-century Italian artist at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A doppelgänger (from the German meaning "double goer") is a ghostly double--not a spirit, but an actual person. The resemblance between him and the portrait is rather uncanny. Notice how people in the article speculate that he might have to lose the tie-dye shirt and wear a bigger codpiece though? But, like others, the story made me wonder if anyone else had ever seen their doppelgänger in art.

When I was younger, I thought I bore a striking resemblance to the messenger god Mercury in Botticelli's Primavera (Spring), ca. 1478, from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. You see a detail of Mercury here, but click here for the full picture. It's perhaps not a coincidence that this painting also just happens to be my all-time favorite in the history of art. Of course, the resemblance was perhaps much more true some twenty years ago when I was younger and had a mane of curly hair. Back then, people also used to think I looked like actor Kirk Cameron or singer/songwriter Richard Marx. But the weirdest thing lately is having heard a few people say I look like Derek Jeter! Doppelgänger to a baseball player? Hm...I think I'd rather look like someone in a Renaissance painting.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Helping Animals after Sandy

Hurricane Sandy (plus the annoying Nor'easter that whipped through the other day) has impacted so many people in the NYC area, that it's a challenge in some ways to determine what is the best way to help out. Although I feel terribly about families who still are without power and who lost everything, I also am concerned about those for whom We Are Their Voice: the animals affected by the storm. I've made a donation to the ASPCA (bklynbiblio readers know I actively support them), as they are working hard to provide shelter and food for pets as their families deal with the aftermath of the storm on their lives. I've also now made a donation to support the New York Aquarium (part of the Wildlife Conservation Society, located on Coney Island), which suffered horrific damage from the storm. They are now closed with no idea when they will reopen. I've not had an opportunity to visit yet, but I can guarantee that once they are back up and running I will be going for the first time. I was very happy to hear that, despite the setbacks to the facilities, almost all of the animals survived and are doing well. Watch this heart-warming video segment from yesterday's Today show so you can learn more about how they are all coping, and see how one baby walrus provided the staff with hope that the New York Aquarium will recover and be better than ever. If you want to help these organizations, follow the links above to donate.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

First Snowstorm: 2012-2013 Fall/Winter

When I posted yesterday about our first snowfall, I wasn't expecting it to actually turn into our first snowstorm! The Nor'easter (that curiously seems to have been named Athena by some meteorologists) packed a punch in terms of snow accumulation that surprised me. The heat in my apartment wasn't working and I was getting quite chilly here in Brooklyn, so my friend AA invited me to stay with him in NJ, so off I went through the snowfall, first on the F train then on the PATH train. When I arrived in Jersey City, the snow was coming down like a blizzard accompanied by a howling wind, but his apartment was toasty warm, so it all worked out well. Some neighborhoods lost power again, but fortunately it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I was back in Brooklyn this morning and took this picture, which shows that even though some trees made it through Hurricane Sandy unscathed, the heavy wet snow was too much for them. (Yes, readers, A Tree Falls in Brooklyn.) It's strange how last year we had an early snowfall in October, but we never had a snowstorm after that. The last time I reported about that was almost two years ago on December 26, 2010.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

First Snowfall: 2012-2013 Fall/Winter

As if Hurricane Sandy wasn't enough weather to deal with for a while, we're having a Nor'easter! It's 2:45pm and it's snowing here in Brooklyn. With the wind chill, it's about 24 degrees out. The map above (image: NBC meteorologist Raphael Miranda's Facebook page) shows the tracking of snow and rain for the tri-state area. There will be high winds and potential flooding later into tomorrow. This is nuts. I realize it's November, but this is early for snow. Of course, it's not as early as last year's snowfall in October! Can you say "global warming"?

Four More for Forty-Four

Four years ago, I blogged briefly about Barack Obama becoming our 44th President, and I followed up with my thoughts on the day of his inauguration. (I also couldn't resist reviewing the cultural events of the inauguration.) Regular bklynbiblio readers know that I intentionally avoid blogging about politics because I think others do it much better than I, and because politics is frequently divisive and painful I choose not to engage with it. That said, the election is a time for reflection, and so I thought I'd take a few moments to write about why I'm thrilled that America has reelected Obama. He may have won the electoral vote (as of now, 303 to 206), but he just barely won the popular vote (50% to 48%). Clearly Obama has a long road ahead of him that is going to be filled with obstacles. He will have to be steadfast on some issues, and make great allowances on others. Admittedly, he may not have a very successful second term at all. And yet I'm still thrilled that he was reelected.

During Obama's January 2009 inauguration, I wrote the following: "I'm not so naive as to think that Obama is a magician whose going to make all our problems go away, nor do I think he's a miracle worker who will heal all our woes. But I do believe that Obama brings a sense of education and righteousness and charisma that makes me believe in the possibility that our problems will dissipate and our ills go away. That belief is what we need right now, more than ever." Do I still believe that? Yes, but with some hesitation based on the past four years. According to critics, Obama's two major strikes against him during his first term have been his inability to successfully reinvigorate the economy and his move toward socialized health care. Do I agree with these critics? Perhaps, although I'm more sympathetic on his health care reforms than I am on his economic recovery. Clearly Obama isn't an economist or a financial expert or a business entrepreneur. That said, I'm not sure that even if he were any of these that he would have done a better job (note: if he were any of these things, he probably would have been a Republican). I'm not convinced that Obama or Romney or anyone in the government has the answers to fixing the economy. Personally, I think Obama and Congress need to create a non-partisan think-tank of economists, financial specialists, and business executives--people who are not in or running for political office!--and have them hash out ideas and make recommendations as to how to jump-start the economy. There has to be a middle ground between all the stalled attempts between Republicans and Democrats to fix the economy, and I can't help but feel that this middle ground is comprised of individuals who are knowledgeable from hands-on experience and (more importantly) are not in political office. As for health care, to me this is a no-brainer. Health care and insurance costs are astronomically high, and everyone is entitled to reasonably priced medical assistance. The obvious option is for the government to place restrictions on health care costs, but that will never happen because no one would allow the government to monitor and control the insurance and medical industries. The only other option then is to provide a government-sponsored form of health care that allows for everyone to be able to receive medical assistance. Of course that is going to be an outrageous fortune and a financial burden on the American people. But it is at least an option available to people who currently have no option at all, and left unchecked health care costs are going to sky-rocket.

While some of you reading this post may agree with me, I know there are others who will adamantly disagree with me. That's fine. That's why this is America. To quote my dear friend CF, who commented on my inaugural post: "To be able to disagree with our leaders and not face imprisonment, torture or banishment, that is what makes America unique." Although most people in my circle of family and friends are Democrats, others are Republicans, and I respect that we all have different opinions about these things. People assume I'm a Democrat and of course I am (a gay, art-loving writer, educator, and librarian?--hello!), but I publicly admit that I'm not as leftist as people assume. I'm not anti-Republican. I think there are points about the Republican party's platform, such as lessening government involvement and aspects of business politics, that are important and need to be taken into consideration. But I more firmly believe the Democratic party is right in its progressive move forward in the realm of civil rights. For me, the biggest mistake the Republican party ever made was aligning itself with the fundamentalist Christian population. America is (theoretically) about the division of church and state, and whatever personal religious affiliation an individuals has, those tenets must be overlooked to ensure that all Americans are treated equally from a socio-legal perspective, regardless of their own affiliations. In the long run, that is to me the most important part of this election and why I'm thrilled Obama has been reelected. To me, the fundamentalist Christian right has kept the Republican party from evolving and moving forward in understanding that the old way of doing things has to change. We need to start embracing change and moving forward. We can no longer keep looking back to the past like it was some sort of utopian America.

According to the Huffington Post, Obama secured anywhere from 70-75% of the Hispanic/Latino vote, and Republicans are admitting that they didn't work hard enough in that area. I'm not sure why exactly Republicans (in general) seem less aware of the power of this particular demographic group, but the fact remains that America is rapidly becoming more Hispanic/Latino, and the traditional White community that founded this nation is losing its place as the dominant socio-political group. I'm not sure where Blacks fit into this, but in some odd twist of fate, I think in a few decades Blacks and Whites will together be dominated by the rising Hispanic/Latino population. Let's face it: America is changing. Republicans--and Democrats--need to recognize this. We have a responsibility to become bi-lingual and learn Spanish (it's on my to-do list for 2013). I don't mean because immigrants coming to America aren't learning English; clearly people coming to the United States have a responsibility to learn English. But English-speaking Americans have an equal responsibility to recognize the rising power and influence of Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America with the United States, and we must learn to engage with these people and nations by becoming equally bi-lingual--as so many of them are--in order to engage more peacefully with them economically, socially, and politically. 

And then there is the gay community. Maryland and Maine have now voted for the recognition of gay marriage, raising the number of states to do this to eight (Washington soon will be nine, plus Washington, D.C. already recognizes gay marriage). Wisconsin has elected the nation's first openly-gay senator. And our President and Vice-President openly support gay marriage, although they see it as a state issue, not a federal issue (another no-brainer since people are married by the laws of a state, not by the laws of the nation). I've blogged about gay marriage, so I won't repeat my thoughts on that right now. Admittedly it may seem like I'm pleading for the gay community as a group deserving special treatment, but the fact is gay marriage as a political platform is beyond any one individual's personal interest. This is about civil rights: all Americans are entitled to equal rights. And this struggle is no different from the battles that women have had to fight for the right to abortions, and African-Americans have had to fight for desegregation and equal rights beyond the color of their skin. As a country where democracy flourishes stronger than anywhere else on the planet, we have a responsibility to show the rest of the world that America is a progressive nation when it comes to civil rights. I cannot help but believe, from the rhetoric I have heard, that to have voted Romney into office would have set the nation backwards in its progress toward a more national acknowledgment of basic civil rights for the gay community.

What's interesting to me though is that these two issues I bring up about the Hispanic/Latino and gay communities will not always be this way. As I recently said to some of my friends, I believe there will be a time in say thirty years from now when gays and Hispanic/Latinos will have become so mainstream in American social politics that the current perception of special interest pleading will have dissipated. Indeed, I anticipate and expect a significant number of gays and Hispanics/Latinos actually will be Republicans. I wouldn't even be surprised if in say 2046 America elects as President its first gay Republican, a successful bi-lingual business entrepreneur whose parents were from the state of Puerto Rico, or perhaps immigrants from Mexico or Argentina. And perhaps it will be under that future President that the civil rights debate will be over the ethical treatment of clones, i.e. if cloned humans are entitled to equal rights since they weren't "born" but "made." Okay, so maybe that's a stretch into sci-fi, but I think you see what I'm implying. Life in America is going to keep evolving, and there will be new issues to tackle that Americans will debate and politicize. Eventually, however, they will settle those issues progressively as America has done in the past. That is what I see and hope for the future. And that future begins now. That's why I'm thrilled Obama has been reelected. As for 2016...anyone thinking Hilary Clinton could be our first woman President?

Friday, November 2, 2012

MWA IX: Kahlo's Self

Since my last Monthly Work of Art post was about Goya and themed for Halloween, I thought in celebration of Mexico's Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) that I would share a picture by Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), one of Mexico's greatest painters who was married (rather tumultuously) to another of Mexico's great painters, Diego Rivera. Kahlo fascinates me as she does everyone for her hidden visual language and constant self-reflective portraits that seem like surrealist dreamscapes. I'm no Kahlo scholar, though, so rather than try to talk about this particular self-portrait, I thought I would provide an excerpt from the collection database at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, where this picture resides.

"Like many paintings by Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky focuses on a particular event in the artist’s life. It commemorates the brief affair Kahlo had with the exiled Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky shortly after his arrival in Mexico in 1937. In this painting, she presents herself elegantly clothed in a long embroidered skirt, fringed shawl, and delicate gold jewelry. Flowers and coils of red yarn adorn her hair and adroitly applied makeup highlights her features. Poised and confident in her stage-like setting, Kahlo holds a bouquet of flowers and a letter of dedication to Trotsky that states, 'with all my love.' . . . Kahlo, like many Mexican artists working after the Revolutionary decade that began in 1910, was influenced in her art and life by the nationalistic fervor known as Mexicanidad. The artists involved in this movement rejected European influences and favored a return to the country’s native roots and folk traditions. Kahlo often wore the distinctive clothing of the Tehuantepec women in southwest Mexico; she also looked to pre-Columbian art and Mexican folk art for forms and symbols in her paintings. The compositional elements of the stage and curtains, for example, draw upon Mexican vernacular paintings called retablos, devotional images of the Virgin or Christian saints painted on tin, which Kahlo collected."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MWA VIII: Goya's Caprichos

Better late than never, as they say. It may be October 31st, but it's not too late to do another Monthly Work of Art, and the etching The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la razón produce monstruos) from his series Los Caprichos, 1797-98, seems appropriate for today. I actually just paired this with Fuseli's Nightmare, 1781 (about which I once blogged), on my students' midterm exam as comparison images. Goya was a great Spanish artist who eventually became the official painter to the king, Carlos IV. But in this series of etchings he began to explore fables, morality, and superstitious tales, and produced some extraordinary images in the process. This work has been seen in art history as a statement on the transition from Neoclassicism to Romanticism. The "sleep" of the rational mind can produce monstrous visions. On one hand, this is a good thing, as it means the artist is free from restraints and can allow his imagination to run wild. On the other hand, this is a bad thing, because without restraint one can go a little crazy. Whatever the interpretation, it seems like a lovely, haunting image appropriate for today. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Exit Sandy

I'm still rather surprised that I did not lose power with this hurricane, although my Internet and cable television did go out about 8:30 pm and didn't come back on until this morning. In general my neighborhood is fine as well, but I'm one of the lucky ones. About 15 people have died. Millions of people are without power, and the devastation is far and wide throughout NY and NJ especially. Sections of Queens are flooded, other areas devastated by fires. Apparently Asbury Park (where the boys & I spent some fun summer afternoons) lost its boardwalk and the restaurants and shops there are all seriously damaged. Subway tunnels are flooded to their ceilings in some cases, and they're thinking it will take 4 to 5 days before subways are running normally again. The Battery and Holland tunnels are also flooded and still closed. Lower Manhattan below 30th St. is in total darkness. In fact, the picture I took this morning from the Brooklyn side of the East River shows lower Manhattan and Jersey City in the distance. It's eerie to see no activity or lights. But the clean-up has begun, slowly but surely, and people will have to be patient. I'm supposed to be heading to Florida in a few days but there's no word yet as to when officially the airports will reopen. Nature clearly knows who's the boss and has taught us a lesson.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Arriving

Although it seems like southern New Jersey near Atlantic City may get hit with the eye of the hurricane, we're all feeling the brunt of his huge storm (image: NASA). The wind gusts have been increasing and the rain, though not severe, has been steady. The worst of it is supposed to start this evening and into tonight. The biggest fear seems to be flooding for all coastal areas, as later the high tide with the full moon is going to make the onrush of waves even more severe. On the latest news report, I heard winds were sustained at 90mph and there were recorded gusts of up to 70mph at JFK already. The wind has already toppled a crane on top of the new tallest residential building at 57th Street & 6th Avenue. The crane is dangling off the building, so they're in the process of evacuating that neighborhood right now. My friends and I are all as prepared as we can be, waiting it out in our own homes. I'm grading papers this afternoon, although we have received word that classes have been canceled for tomorrow, which makes sense since there is no word yet as to when the MTA will be reopening the subways and starting bus service again. I'm also pigging out on a cinnamon streusel cake I made Saturday night...having now devoured 2/3rds of it. Hopefully the power won't go off, but you never know. We will see what happens...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sandy on Her Way

I haven't blogged lately because I've been so busy, but the impending arrival of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy seems worthy of commentary, as it was 14 months ago when I blogged about Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene heading our way. It seems a bit bizarre to me that after having lived in Florida for a number of years, I'm going through 2 hurricanes in NYC. Then again, we've also had 2 tornadoes touch down in Brooklyn in the past year, and a snowstorm in October 2011. Nah, there's no weather shift or global warming going on! Pa-lease! Anyway, I spent yesterday afternoon chilling out with AA and hundreds of other NYers in Washington Square Park just going about our business like nothing was happening, but I did my emergency supply shopping for food in the evening, as you can see below. And, yes, those are the same Santeria candles I bought last year. Hey, they worked! The MTA is planning to shut down the subway system later today, and since this is such a large, slow-moving storm, we may be feeling it for a few days. We will see how things go!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Barbra in Brooklyn Has Arrived!

It never ceases to amaze me how fast time flies. It was only five months ago in May when I announced that I had gotten tickets to see Barbra Streisand perform here in Brooklyn. That day has now arrived. And I'm still quite freaking excited! Timed with the concert is Barbra's new album, Release Me (cover image above), a collection of previously unreleased recordings from 1963 to the present. I listened to it for the first time tonight, and some of the songs have that Broadway sound, others her crooning '70s sound (which I like), but I think I need to listen to them a few more times to fully appreciate them. Included is the song "Home" from The Wiz. I have no doubt she'll be singing that at the concert. Brooklyn is, after all, her hometown. You can download the album from iTunes or Amazon.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

MWA VII: Noguchi's Core

I realize I'm just barely getting this in today, the last day of September, but I want this month's MWA to be by Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988), as I finally went to Long Island City on September 15 to visit for the first time the Noguchi Museum. It was just fantastic. The installations in the gardens and indoor/outdoor museum building epitomized the usually impossible feat of balancing the industrial with the organic. The monumentality of these exquisite stone sculptures was awe-inspiring to me. I realize I seem a bit overly enthusiastic, but visiting the Noguchi Museum and seeing his works reaffirmed for me two things I've discovered about myself in the study of sculpture. The first is that I have a stronger affinity for stone over metal, because of its organic quality. The Zen-like space in the sculpture seen here makes me feel the stone can breathe. The second discovery is that in circumambulating sculpture in the round I have a much greater appreciation for how it occupies space and how we and it speak to one another. The fact that his works are abstract only make this kind of interactive quality more personal and self-reflective. Of course I see the influences of Brancusi, Hepworth, and Chabo on Noguchi, but what that tells me is how they were part of a new generation of sculptors who amplified the vitality of nature by carving natural stone. This particular work by Noguchi is Core (Cored Sculpture), 1978, basalt. Here are a few other pictures I took of the installations and work currently on display at the museum.

DW: Farewell to the Ponds

Last night was the mid-season finale for Doctor Who with the episode "The Angels Take Manhattan." Most notably, this episode was the last in which the Doctor's devoted companions for the past few seasons, Amy Pond and and her faithful husband Rory Williams, ended their time with the Doctor in a rather sad, time-traveling farewell, which also happened to take place in 1930s NYC. Having chased aliens through multiple galaxies, traveled millions of years through time, meeting their child as an adult upon giving birth to her (really great episode!), and restarting the universe with a another mirror-image big bang (don't ask, you had to watch it), the Ponds have entered a new dimension of past companions in Doctor Who lore. And what better alien creature to bring into this mess but the most frightening aliens they've ever had: the Weeping Angels (aka Lonely Assassins). The Angels "kill" by sending their victims back in time just by touching them, and then feed on the potential energy created by the vanished person's life. The best part is that they freeze when you look at them--they turn into statues!--so don't blink. Yes, what makes them so freaky is that any statue around you could be a Weeping Angel, and not just a figure in stone or bronze. So don't blink! Or they may touch you and send you back in time. (You know the art historian-studying-sculpture in me LOVES the Weeping Angels concept. Check out how creepy they are below!) Alas, I can't say the episode touched me as much as I had anticipated, but then again for me this whole version of Dr. Matt Smith hasn't compared to Dr. David Tennant, as I've noted before. Still, it's sad to see the Ponds go. We await the next Christmas special and season with a new companion.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday!

bklynbiblio turns 4 years old on Wednesday! We are now at 375 posts. Our top 3 tags still remain the same: "New York" (91), "19th-century art" (58), and "gay" (57), with "England" and "photography" just behind. Who knew we would be going this long? Thanks as always to my readers for your ongoing support these past 4 years.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

MWA VI: Demuth's Ptown Tower

Any guesses why I've chosen this work as August's Monthly Work of Art? The answer will be revealed soon enough! Until then, here's what the American Wing curatorial staff have to say about the 1920 watercolor by Charles Demuth, After Sir Christopher Wren, in the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: "Demuth spent several summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts, located at the tip of Cape Cod and a popular summer destination for artists and writers in the early twentieth century. He painted a number of Provincetown landmarks, including this view of the Center Methodist Episcopal Church. In this watercolor, the church's prominent steeple and spire rise above the surrounding residential architecture. Built in 1860, the church had been designed in a variant of the English Baroque style, which is often associated with the architect Christopher Wren (1632-1723). Certain elements of Demuth's composition are indebted to his knowledge of Cubism and Futurism. Repeated, diagonal "lines of force" break the area of the sky into fragments, and the houses in the foreground seem crystallized from multiple planes; however, the overall effect is legible and cohesive. In demonstrating that he could apply his Precisionist style to more traditional subjects as well as modern industrial ones, Demuth remained a painter of the American scene."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Anna Fahr Video

Some of you will recall, I'm sure, how thrilled I was to announce back in June the art video collaboration I had embarked on with painter Meera Thompson and filmmaker Anna Fahr. Well, Anna has done it again with another short video about painter Phyllis Chillingworth. Whereas I think the video collaboration we did was quite thought-provoking and placed Meera's paintings in a larger artistic, educational, and historical framework, this video about Phyllis's work is more personal and Romantic with its references to nature and her childhood. You'll love it, I'm sure. To see more work by the very talented Anna Fahr, go to her Vimeo site here.