Monday, March 31, 2008

The painting Adolf Hitler liked

Unpopular heroes are marked with dislike and nobody wish to share their taste for something. Is there a killer or criminal preferring special type of meal, necktie or hair style? I am sure you will avoid of the same liking. How about paintings?

Let's take one of the most destructive man in human history. He had a passion in art and he owned a collection of artworks. Some say his cultural pretensions meant nothing. Others feel very differently about it. The National Gallery in London made a discovery recently. It reveals an interesting fact about a medieval erotic painting Cupid Complaining to Venus by the German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach the Elder. The point is: the painting was once part of Adolf Hitler’s private collection.

Cupid Complaining to Venus by Lucas Cranach the Elder
Cupid Complaining to Venus by Lucas Cranach the Elder (about 1525). Oil on wood, 81.3 x 54.6 cm. Cupid complains to Venus that he has been stung by bees. He holds in his hand the honeycomb that has been stolen from them. The Latin verses in the upper right point up the moral message in this picture that life’s brief pleasure is mixed with pain.

The research has been carrying out by Dr Birgit Schwartz. The National Gallery believes that her identification of the painting in a photograph of Hitler’s private gallery is correct. The photograph is in an album that is part of Hitler’s former library of 1200 volumes.

For some people many problems arise with this finding. It looks like the artwork got stained and deflated by watching, touching and probably fantasised by the dictator. Shell we watch it, touch it and fantasise about it in spite of all that? Should we mind?

There is an excellent article by Jonathan Jones here (and I have to admit I like to read his articles a lot) throwing light on the historical background of the painting. It is long and worthy to read. Another insightful text about the painting is here.

So, read through and come back. What opinion do you share on the topic? Do you mind who owned a painting you admire? Or will you reconsider your emotions towards the masterpiece?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Temptation of St Anthony

I encountered that legend by reading the book of Gustave Flaubert. This quite surrealistic text caused excitement and storm in my fantasy. The story of St Anthony was very inspiring to many other artists in history, probably because it gave freedom to imagination and creativity of the people. Particularly in the age - when media and the flood of fantastic images was missing - they could stand in the role of visionaries depicting monsters, worlds, creatures the ordinary peasant could fear of to death.

Here is a little selection of paintings dealing with the subject.

Hieronymus Bosch The Temptation of St Anthony
Hieronymus Bosch c. 1500; Oil on panel
Bosch's spiritual heroes were the saints who endured both physical and mental torment, yet remained steadfast. Among the saints, Bosch's favorite was Saint Anthony, the subject of his triptych The Temptation of Saint Anthony which features physical punishment on the left wing, a Black Mass in the center, and the blandishments of food and sex on the right wing. St. Anthony's triumph over such trials is mirrored by those of other hermit saints and by the Passion of Christ. In Bosch's day, temptation not only had the meaning it has today, but also meant physical/mental assault by demons. So St Anthony is not only tempted by the pleasures of the flesh and so on, he is also beaten up and terrorized by the demons. The central panel of this triptych illustrates the kneeling figure of St Anthony being tormented by devils. These include a man with a thistle for a head, and a fish that is half gondola. Bizarre and singular as such images seem to us, many would have been familiar to Bosch's contemporaries because they relate to Flemish proverbs and religious terminology. What is so extraordinary is that these imaginary creatures are painted with utter conviction, as though they truly existed. He has invested each bizarre or outlandish creation with the same obvious realism as the naturalistic animal and human elements. His nightmarish images seem to possess an inexplicable surrealistic power.

Martin Schongauer The Temptation of St Anthony
Martin Schongauer ca. 1470–75, Engraving
Saint Anthony gazes serenely out at the viewer as frenzied demons grab at his limbs, clothes, and hair and pound him with sticks. Schongauer depicted these imagined creatures in a remarkably convincing way. His realistic description of their scales and fur point to his direct observation of animals, yet he compiled these naturalistic details to produce some of the most fantastic and grotesque fabrications in the history of printmaking. Although this is one of Schongauer's earliest prints, it was probably his most influential: Vasari recounted that even Michelangelo made a color drawing of the work at the age of thirteen.

Mathis Grünewald The Temptation of St Anthony
Mathis Grünewald, c. 1515
It was painted for the monastery of St. Anthony Isenheim. Grünewald shows the saint harassed by hideous demons in the wilderness. The figure on the left suffers from the skin disease ergotism, known as "St. Anthony's fire", caused by eating contaminated rye.The work's original viewers were from hospital dedicated to skin diseases attached to monastery.

Max Ernst The Temptation of St Anthony
Max Ernst, 1945
Clearly inspired by Grünwald's painting on the same subject, but transmogrifies the landscape into dead water and "fishbone forest". Although Ernst lived in America from 1941, the setting of this work, painted in the wake of Second World War for a Hollywood film set evokes the devastated cities of Europe. St Anthony is inextricably entangled in a dense web of nightmarish creatures, phantasmagoria of the subconscious mind.

Salvador Dali The Temptation of St Anthony
Salvador Dali, 1946
In this picture temptation appears to Saint Anthony successively in the form of a horse in the foreground representing strength, sometimes also symbol of voluptuousness, and in the form of the elephant which follows it, carrying on its back the golden cup of lust in which a nude woman is standing precariously balanced on the fragile pedestal, a figure which emphasizes the erotic character of the composition. The other elephants are carrying buildings on their backs; the first of these is a obelisk inspired by that of Bernini in Rome, the second and third are burdened with Venetian edifices in the style of Palladio. In the background another elephant carries a tall tower which is not without phallic overtones, and in the clouds one can glimpse a few fragments of the Escorial, symbol of temporal and spiritual order. This picture was painted in the studio that the artist occupied for a few days next to the Colony Restaurant in New York. It is the first and only time that he participated in a contest. It was an invitational artistic competition for a painting of the theme of the temptation of Saint Anthony, organised in 1946 by the Loew Lewin Company, a movie- producing firm. The winning picture was to figure in a film taken from the story "Bel Ami" by Maupassant. Eleven painters took part in the competition, among them Leonora Carrington, Dali, Paul Delvaux, Max Ernst, and Dorothea Tanning. The prize was given to Max Ernst by jury composed of Alfred Barr, Marcel Duchamp, and Sidney Janis. All these works were shown at an exhibition in Brussels and in Rome during 1947.

Salvator Rosa The Temptation of St Anthony
Salvator Rosa, 1646
St. Anthony was particularly solicitous about animals, to which a whimsical picture by Salvator Rosa represents him as preaching. From his practices, perhaps, arose the custom of blessings passed on animals still practised at Rome; he regarded all God's creatures as worthy of protection. The painting contains Rosa's own portrait.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Apple To Offer Subscription Music Service?

Apple makes a change in strategy. A year ago, Chief Executive Steve Jobs said he didn't believe most consumers wanted to rent their music and that Apple had no plans to offer a music subscription service. "Never say never, but customers don't seem to be interested in it," Jobs told Reuters then.

The Apple company logo at the Apple store in New York. Foto: Don Emmert / AFP / Getty Images

iTunes is today the biggest online seller of music. Apple may be rethinking how it sells music, offering a subscription service. "Apple's position might be changing, in part because of competition in the online music market, where music is increasingly sold without digital copyright protections that keep it tied to one device."


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Warhol and his rare art

There are always works of art the public does not see so often. Such are the Ten Portraits Reconsidered by Andy Warhol. The paintings will be on view at The Jewish Museum, New York, through August 3, 2008. When it premiered in 1980, Warhol’s Ten Portraits of the Twentieth Century was met with both admiration and hostility.

Andy Warhol - Sarah Bernhardt painting
Andy Warhol, Sarah Bernhardt from Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century, 1980, synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas. Private collection. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society, New York/Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.

The series depicts such luminaries of Jewish culture as Sarah Bernhardt, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, the Marx Brothers, Golda Meir, and Franz Kafka, among others. On view in this exhibition are the photographs that Warhol used as source images, several preliminary sketches, a preparatory collage, an edition of the final silk-screen print portfolio (of which 200 were published), and one of the five complete sets of paintings that he made for the series. The drawings and source photographs have not previously been exhibited alongside the finished pictures. Additional materials related to the portraits, including the list of nearly 100 “famous Jews” prepared by Warhol’s dealer, and television coverage of the artist’s trip to Miami for the world premiere of the series, will shed light on their creation and display. Following its New York City showing, the exhibition will travel to the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA (October 12, 2008 – January 25, 2009).

The Jewish Museum initially showed three sets of paintings and an edition of prints in the fall of 1980. While Jewish audiences tended to embrace Warhol’s series, several leading art critics dismissed it as crass and exploitative. In the twenty-eight years since its debut, Ten Portraits has continued to confront viewers with these questions: Why did a Pop artist who otherwise displayed little interest in Jewish culture or causes create a series devoted to eminent Jews? How do we reconcile Warhol’s commercial motives with the high-minded portrayal of cultural and historical icons? How has our view of Ten Portraits changed since its first showing?

Andy Warhol - Sigmund Freud painting, rare artwork
Andy Warhol, Sigmund Freud (detail) from Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century, 1980, synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas. Private collection. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society, New York/Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.

Unlike many of Warhol’s portraits, Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century depicts subjects whom the artist never met. Warhol was evasive when asked to divulge his selection criteria for the series and once told a reporter that he chose these ten subjects “because I liked the faces.” The idea for Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century originated with Ronald Feldman, a New York gallerist, who commissioned it with Israeli art dealer Alexander Harari.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I am a born artist and oil canvas paintings are my passion

Internet discussions are full of similar (and a bit naive) requests: I am a beginner, where do I start? How to begin my career in art? I want to sell my paintings and really want to paint and sell and I want to grow my art skills but I don't know how to start and where. I don't know what's going on in today's art market, how much money to sell my work for and where? Do really anyone buy my paintings? Do I need to attend classes, or anyone can suggest me anything?

prophet and the folks drawing by Michal SplhoProphet and his contemporaries, drawing by Michal Splho

What would you answer to that guy? Is it worthy to express true opinion to his questions? A girl with good heart came and gave suggestion:

I would attend classes. I would go to art school and get a bachelors of science. You will learn how to make a professional portfolio, and how to work in the world of art. I go to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I learned there is so much more I need to learn. I learned how to communicate with people. I learned the value of art history.

Not bad answer, isn't it? A single-minded guy see the thing clearly without any obstacles, the success guaranteed:

Very simple, as fast as you make your project you start exhibit it here and there. Just like fair, town hall, and some small size painting you sale in gift item shop and you contact all embassies to sale your item in another country.

If that does not help, a real artist bothers to give a sound advice:

OK, I am an artist, I can help you now and give you notes, advice and little projects to get you where you need to be.
My questions are: Can you come up with your own ideas for an art painting? Do you understand value, do you know the primary and secondary colors? This will allow me to know where you are as an artist.

Looks like the requesting guy should turn to that artist, but if the answer is still not yet satisfactory, another clever ideas are coming:

First thing you need to do is get some work created before you start worrying about the rest. If you have the passion you say you do, this will be easy work. Do a few paintings and then get a portfolio together. Try to find a niche subject that you like to portray. Depending on how you want to sell your work, there are multiple venues - from local craft fairs to galleries. If you want to grow your skill, you should definitely take classes that will teach you varied technique. The rest comes with practice as you develop your own style. Many artists sell work as a secondary source of income, and much is freelance. Good luck.

Can you still breathe well? The guy is lucky and another expert advice follows:

In my opinion, before you start painting you should have a pretty solid course in drawing. They are different, but you still will find ways of expressing volume/form, and some painters use line in their paintings. Also, color theory. Start with a limited palette and don't just use black or white to lighten or darken colors...

Finally, some light:

Most of all, I think you need to paint because you NEED to paint. Not because you want to sell art and make money. If you want to do that, it's actually harder to make it, because you're less willing to put the time and passion into learning art.

This is the short guide to fulfill your desire to develop your talent. Are you a born genius? Do you have all the questions the guy expressed in the beginning of that article? Then the answers are right for you. And what's my suggestion? What would I answer to the questions? I would say: A born artist should know all that.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Painting of Renoir on view

We all know the basic set of paintings, which represent each master of brush and color in books about art. To see other aspects of their work, to see rare paintings you need to travel around the world. One of such a paintings is Young Woman in White Reading painted by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Jeune femme en blanc lisant Young Woman in White Reading
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), ‘Jeune femme en blanc lisant’ (Young Woman in White Reading), 1873. Photo © National Gallery of Ireland.

The National Gallery of Ireland has placed on view this recent acquisition. The painting, which is the first Renoir to enter the collection, was purchased at auction, at Sotheby’s Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art in New York (November 2007).

Janet McLean, the National Gallery’s Curator of European Art 1850-1950, says that this recent acquisition is considered a fine example of the artist’s work and will strengthen the Gallery’s collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.

Painted in 1873, the painting depicts a fashionably dressed woman seated on a sofa absorbed in a book. The sitter is unknown, although it may portray Camille Monet, wife of the artist Claude Monet. Capturing an informal, everyday moment with an immediate accuracy, the painting also anticipates the motif of the intimate interior.

Do you find it attractive?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Volcano on ice - the icon Katarina Witt

Is there a person you can steel horses with? This German expression indicates someone you can share everything with, that you can share all sides with. Someone that is honest, trustworthy, funny – a little bit of everything. I cannot say whether Katarina Witt is such a person, but certainly she is a phenomenon functioning as a symbol transformed into myth. It was possible because of the right combination of the political climate, historical timing, exploitation of great amount of talent – at the time, when there were all conditions ready.

Katarina has ended her show career on ice one week ago in Hannover, with show in great style in front of audience of eight thousand people. She drew thunderous applause with a final performance as Carmen – the role that accompanied her greatest triumph. She showed a video montage of her career that dated back to when longtime coach Jutta Müller first began to groom the five-year-old for ice skating glory.

Carmen, Olympic games 1988

Thousands of young people spent their youth on ice. Just handful could become the top of glacier. Salvador Dalí once wrote, that you can be a best draughtsman in the world, but if there is no angel standing by you and leading your hand, your artwork will not be good nor attractive nor successful. Maybe here lies the secret of Katarina Witt's myth. How else can we comprehend the difference, when after perfect "athletic" performance of Debi Thomas enters Katarina and whole world suddenly revives, the atmosphere gets charged with energy, beauty, charm not much connected to physical abilities of the skater. It is aureole, shining phenomenon which is filling the stadium and the hearts of fans watching the competition at home. She fascinates, sweeps to agreement, excitement, evoking feelings of closeness. Surely you remember it.

Broadway medley, World championship 1988. Just a few figure skaters can end up their performance with tap dancing sequence.

It is a story of a girl willing to believe in hard toil, give up the pleasures of childhood, one of the million, who could break down the jail and scheme of mediocrity, where the people are imprisoned from the beginning of time. Charm, sensuality, a character of perfectionist, success in dominating the figure skating domain nearly for a decade, unbelievable ability to gain an international sympathy of audience. Embodiment of great self control – which is paradoxically, feared by mass, because it feels threat of getting under control. In spite of this mass acceptes and embraces her.

Gala program, World championship 1987. Tango.

She could endure a life disclosing a pattern, which opens a way out of the trap – for those who see and want to see and those who hear and want to hear. The price paid if you waste the opportunity in early childhood is lifelong wandering on the side line, if not in a blind street. The desire for comfort is imprisoning, there is no escape anymore.

Where have all the flowers gone, Olympic games 1994

The combination of a little dictator in person of Frau Müller, system controlling everything including the first touch of love, which had to end as "responsible" people arranged it, and incredibly stubborn and ambitious girl, who resolved to touch the sky and stars – this all made possible the rise of phenomenon. In addition the incredible ability to come through when she had to, to withstand pressure and skate better than she normally did in practice.

Rare performance from 1978, aged 13.

A bowl of rice and apple instead of good lunch after hard, seven hours training, ban on chocolate, which could be eaten in precious moments behind the back of the coach Frau Müller, long years of discomfort in own body, endless hours of boring training of obligatories. Six times gold on European championship, four times gold on World championship, two consecutive Olympic gold medals. Only one person in history of figure skating could do it.

Video montage in farewell show last Tuesday.

There are several ways you can pay tribute to somebody. I have chosen my own approach. What is the meaning of the toil of that ambitious person? First of all setting of co-ordinates, which enlighten the way wandering mankind is undertaking for centuries.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Apple logo mystery

Developing company needs to establish it's distinct identity. Such an identity is typically reflected in the company's logo. There is a text giving deeper insight into ideas and thoughts behind this process.

apple logo semiotics
A past chairman of the Apple Products division is explaining the logo: "Our logo is a great mystery. It is a symbol of pleasure and knowledge, partially eaten away and displaying the colours of the rainbow, but not in the proper order. We couldn't wish for a more fitting logo: pleasure, knowledge, hope and anarchy".

Clearly, the bitten apple refers both to the story of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden and to association of IBM with the east coast and the "Big Apple" of New York. The psychedelic mixed-up rainbow (green, yellow, orange, red, violet and blue) signifies the west coast hippie era of the 1960s, with its associations of idealism and 'doing your own thing'. Thus, despite representing a binary opposition to the IBM logo, the multi-colored Apple logo seeks to signify a rejection of the binarism reflected in the 'black-and-white' (or rather monochrome)linearity of IBM logo.

Does your company have logo with the deeper meaning too? Leave here a link, it can be featured in next post!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Portrait and Gertrude Stein case

As an artist involved in portraits painting I am often faced with a discrepancy of my view of the painted model and the sitter's or his relatives opinion. Always there is something around lips or nose they cannot recognise as corresponding to real image. Many times I have to agree with them regarding resemblance of the painting. On the contrary I am convinced of my vision too, which is considering the problem in a different way.

The purpose of a naturalistic painting is to approximate the image to the visible world and deceive the eye. There are many problems involved in this process, mostly because reality does not look like flat canvas, but the painting on flat canvas can look like reality. Efforts to reach exact likenesses led to the invention of photography, but painting has a bit different dimension, I believe.

I think that painting on canvas is the interpretation of the model, and this is the most important part of the artwork. There is a story about Gertrude Stein and Picasso giving more light to the problem. Once she looked at the portrait he painted for her and she said:"It doesn’t look anything like me". Picasso responded immediately: “In time it will”.

Pablo Picasso and his painting of Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein

I tried to find resemblance of the portrait to Ms. Stein's photographs many times. I did not find much of her in the painting, neither did my friends. Here lies the main point – it is about interpretation, and this is something we remember best. It is a code helping us memorize the reality, which is so rich and constantly changing, that it is impossible to remember it as a whole. The role of the artist is to select, reduce naturalistic information and to create a symbol easy to remember and recall.

Of course, the purpose of such a painting is that it's subject should be recognised, that's the pleasure we get from it. Nevertheless I have a feeling that even not recognizable drawing or painting can bring a lot of joy too. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Drawing facing the reversal of values

It happened many times in history. An artist appeared and paved a new way and many admirers and shades started to follow it. A century later people changed their taste. The works of art representing a valid ideal of beauty suddenly changed into examples not worthy to follow, not worthy to deal with. The ideals lost their validity.

Michelangelo Buonarotti

This instability of values can be discomforting to someone. We like order of things valid yesterday, today and tomorrow too. If a gold was a gold and a shit was a shit, we have unconscious desire to maintain this order of values forever. The problems start if the order is inverted, when the gold becomes a shit and vice versa. Especially the older generations start paying attention, because they suspect attack on the society foundation, which they built for ages with great effort. On the contrary the young generation perceives this change of taste as a development and progress.

So that is the flow of history. We dedicate our youth to progress and we ward off the attacks on the society foundation when getting old. It is uneasy to keep distance here. How can we apprehend objectively this change of taste and values? Is it really a decline or is it progress moving the limits further?

Hans Holbein the younger:
Hans Holbein

With the turn of the century came a new means of grasping the ways in which the mind plays with elements of sensory experience and out of them shapes new patterns.

Classical civilization and it's values were shaken, when romantics began sought out the primitives, which a few centuries later led to an interest in Negro sculptures among the Cubists. There is a remarkable difference in what was considered as "a painting" by Renaissance master and what is considered as "a painting" in contemporary gallery – many times a Renaissance master would not even think of it as of painting.

I noticed a shift in perceiving of old masters drawings. The virtuosity of it was balanced by decades of hard work. The attitude of a pretentious modern artist changed a lot towards such art as he considers it to be obsolete now. Here lies a reason behind my decision to create a mini show of the giants acknowledged by history, who reached the highest level of the challenging "craft". I think it is pretty distant from the contemporary discipline called "drawing", where there is enough to draw a twisted line and proclaim it as interpretation of mutual relationship and energy, which we can or do not have to see.

Leonardo da Vinci:
Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

Raphael Santi:
Raphael Santi
Selfportrait. You can estimate Raphael's age here to be the teenager in his bloom. That's why we are staggered by the maturity and perfection of drawing.

Raphael Santi
Pope Julius II

Raphael Santi
The portrait of a girl with enticing glance and mysterious smile gives suggestion, that Raphael was very aware of Leonardo's paintings, particularly of Mona Lisa. He could adopt the most essential features into his works. Just imagine a peasant, not much aware even of his own name, entering a church after a whole week of toil and facing such a seductive glance and smile of beautiful Madona on an altar painting, he never even dreamed of. Would not you be looking forward to visiting the church regularly and meeting with such a glamour? Would not you be looking forward to entering the Paradise? The art was that powerful...

Raphael Santi

Raphael Santi

Peter Paul Rubens:
Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Comics 2.

From time to time I will post a handfdul of comics drawings. There is nothing more to say. Enjoy it.