Sunday, December 28, 2008


Doves Drinking from a Fountain, 5th Century. Ravenna, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.

The technique of making pictures or patterns from small pieces of colored stone or glass set into cement or plaster. It was invented by the Romans and first used for pavements. In the Early Christian and Byzantine periods it was adapted for wall and ceiling decoration; outstanding surviving examples include the 6th century mosaics of San Vitale,Ravenna. Mosaic has also been used for the decoration of the facades of medieval churches and in modern architecture. (Michael Clarke)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Joy to the World

Host of Angels from The Nativity by Gerard David- Flemish, active by about 1484, died 1523. Tempera on wood, 11 1/2 x 26 1/2 ". Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
A little Christmas greeting from our table to yours. Thanks to all my readers for tuning in with listening ears (I mean eyes...) I've really enjoyed writing this blog for a whole year now. Here's to another year of art history in many different forms :) Peace to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Andy Warhol says 'Merry Christmas'

Christmas Fairy, 1954. Ink on white bond paper. 11 x 8".
Study for Star of Wonder, 1960. Ink and gouache on Strathmore Seconds paper. 23 x 29". Tiffany & Co. Archives.
Faries Playing Instruments, 1957. Stamped gold collage and ink on Strathmore paper. 22 x 28".

"That was my life in the '50s: greeting cards and watercolors and now and then a coffee house poetry reading." for Andy the illustrator, anything he was fond of could become material for a card. This included fruit, like the fruit he sold off a truck as a child to help his poor family's finances; angels, like the 'angel in the sky' his classmate and childhood friend Philip Pearlstein compared him to; stars, because he was always 'star struck'. (John Loring)
"And the bigger the box, the less present..." - Andy Warhol, 12-25-1983.
From the book, Greetings from Andy (Warhol,) Christmas at Tiffany's, by John Loring.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Anne-Francoise Couloumy

Le Cafe New Yorkais

Couloumy was born in Paris in 1961 and was educated at the Ecole National Superieure des Arts Decoratifs. She's enjoyed much success and has sold out shows in Paris, London and New York. She really reminds me of Vermeer and Hammershoi for her interior subject matter, the light and shadow and intricate details. There is a stillness and quiet and even a sense of loneliness that seems to be present in all of the paintings I've seen... which really reminds me of Hopper. Visit her website here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Compound Piers

The nave of Durham Cathedral, England, begun around 1093. (the orange eraser pointing out the compound piers)

Compound or Cluster Pier - A pier composed of a group or cluster of members, especially characteristic of Gothic architecture. (They support the transverse arches of the vaults.) (Gardner)

Pier - A vertical, freestanding masonry support.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Minoan Linear 'A'

Developed from a pictographic around 1700-1450 BC, it was yet more cursive than its predecessor and included between 76 and 90 signs. Written from left to right, examples have been found inscribed in stone, metal and clay and written with ink on pottery. It has not been deciphered. (Rose Folsum)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Religious Manuscript Woodcuts

The Journey of the Magi. Leben der Heiligen Drei Konige, by Johannes Hildesheimus. H. Knoblochtzer, Strassburg, about 1484.
The Annunciation. Gaistlich usslegong des lebes Ihesu Cristi. Johann Zainer, Ulm, about 1485.
The Annunciation. Meditationes, by Johannes de Turrecremata. Ulrich Han and Simon Nicholi Chardella, Rome. 1473.
The Virgin and Child. Book cover for Historia...Trium regum, by Johannes Hildesheimus. Rocciola, Modena, 1490.

These lovely woodcuts are taken from a Christmas Story book published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It was published in the 1950s. All the images are housed at the Met. I don't really have much information about the artists or the books they may have appeared in. Since we are nearing Christmas I wanted to share them just for the pure beauty of them...enjoy!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gerard David

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard David. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Gerard David (1450-1523). Netherlandish painter active chiefly in Bruges from about 1484. His style follows that of Rogier van der Weyden, but he was also influenced by th taste in Antwerp for Italianate ornament. (Brockhampton).
(The Marriage at Cana, 1503 at the Louvre is an example of this style of work... sorry I don't have an image of that one to show you!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Notes to Myself... Richard Diebenkorn

Self-portrait - no date. Sketchbook sheet, private collection.
Urbana No. 6, 1953. Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX

Cityscape I, 1963. MOMA - San Francisco.

Girl with Flowered Background, 1962

Urban No. 4, 1953.

Coat I, III, IV, V, 1990. Etchings, private collection.
Notes to myself on beginning a painting...
1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.
2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to b valued - except as a stimulus for further moves.
3. Do search. But in order to find other than what is searched for.
4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.
5. Don't 'discover' a subject - of any kind.
6. Somehow don't be bored - but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.
7. Mistakes can't be erased but they move you from your present position.
8. Keep thinking about Polyanna.
9. Tolerate chaos.
10. Be careful only in a perverse way.
From the Art of Richard Diebenkorn by Jane Livingston. Published by Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Albert Swinden

Flower Still Life in Browns and Red, 1940. Gouache on paper, 13 x 16 ". From the estate of the artist. Available through Childs gallery of Boston.

Born in Birmingham, England, Albert Swinden moved to Chicago at the age of 18 to study at the Art Institute. In the mid-1920s, he moved to New York where he studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League of NY. He was a student of famed Abstract Expressionist artist Hans Hofmann and as a result, developed a strong interest in Synthetic Cubism and Neoplasticism, a movement made popular in the 1910s by artist Piet Mondrian. Typically recognized for his abstract style, he was the founder of American Abstract Artists. (from American Art Review magazine, December, 2008)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Edward Steichen

Katharine Cornell and Basil Rathbone as 'Romeo and Juliet' in the Broadway production
George Gershwin

Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg - actress and head of production for MCM.

Isadora Duncan at the steps of the Parthenon
1897-1973. American photographer in both world wars, and also an innovative fashion and portrait photographer.
**Continued*** He was born in Luxembourg and came to the US in 1881 and became a US citizen in 1901. Steichen was actually a painter before he became a photographer. In 1905 with Alfred Stieglitz, he helped create the 'Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession'.
I'm a big fan of his portraiture, I love the black and white imagery, the lighting and especially the era of fashion, hairstyles and 'social mindset.'

Friday, December 5, 2008

Quill Pen

Quill Pen- Made from a primary flight feather of any large bird, usually a goose or turkey, but also a swan, crow, peacock, etc. The feather is soaked in water, cured (hardened) in hot sand, a small slit is made for the middle of the nib, and the quill is cut to form a pen. Some scribes prefer to omit curing and store the cut quills in water always.
The direct ancestor of the quill was the reed pen cut to a broad edge. Reeds wrote beautifully on papyrus, but as this began to be replaced by parchment around the 6th century A.D., the sharp, crisp quality of a quill better suited the silky smooth surface of the skin. Also, feathers were more plentiful in Europe than were the reeds used by Mediterranean scribes. As paper largely replaced parchment in Europe in the late 15th century, the quill remained. It was not until the flexible steel nib was developed in the 1830s that the quill began to die out as the Western World's writing tool. Nonetheless, many scribes today favor the quill for its incomparably crisp strokes and hairlines as well as its sensitive balance of strength and flexibility in writing, especially on parchment. (Rose Folsum)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Short Lesson in Japanese Woodcutting Tools...

No. 1 is the Hangito tool, the most useful and important tool in woodblock printmaking. (also called the kiridashi. It is capable of cutting intricate, flowing lines that are at the heart of Japanese printmaking. All the outlines in the print are carved with this knife. No. 3 is the Komasuki tool or round gouge. It has a semi-circular tip used for clearing away wood around the areas carved in outlines using the hangito.
No. 2 is the Aisuki - a flat-bladed chisel. It's used for 'cleaning up' carved areas so they're not so jagged. No. 4 is the Sankakuto - a V-shaped gouge. It's a Western influenced cutting tool and was not originally used by Japanese ukiyo-e carvers. *

top left - made with the sankakuto tool top right- made with the hangito tool
bottom left - made with komasuki tool bottom right - made with aisuki tool

Here's the print of the woodcut above.

The following are some prints by Antonio Frasconi **- a renowned Western printmaker... these are woodblock prints - although I'm not sure if they are printed in the traditional Japanese method.

* from the book, Japanese Woodblock Printmaking by Rebecca Salter
**Images from the book, At Christmas Time by Valerie Worth and Antonio Frasconi.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Interior of the Grand Bouillon, Restaurant du Chalet, F549. Paris, 1887. 21 3/4 x 25 5/8". Private collection.
Interior of a Restaurant, F342. Paris, 1887. Oil on canvas 18 1/8 x 22 1/2". Museum Kroller-Muller, Otterlo.
"I hope I shall be able to make some drawings in which there is something human." - Vincent van Gogh.
I have a personal love for interior scenes - they give a sense of daily life and what it may feel like to have lived in a certain place and time. For me, they can be a vehicle of time travel - if you will... depending how long I gaze at a painting. It's funny how many interior scenes are timeless except for the differences in clothing fashions.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Deconstruction in Architecture

Gunter Behnisch, Hysolar Institute Building, University of Stuttgart, 1987.

Deconstruction- A method of analysis proceeding by re-reading the received art-historical picture and showing where and how it is false to the realities of the cultures in attempts to explain and to the meanings of particular works of art - or in this case architecture. (Gardner)

'Deconstruction in architecture proposes to disorient the observer. To this end, the conventional categories of architecture are set aside and our expectations based upon them upset. Order, harmony, balance, symmetry, regularity, clarity, consistency, continuity, completeness are replaced by their negatives: disorder, dissonance, and so on. We are meant to be confused by a haphazardry of volumes, masses, planes, borders, lighting, locations, directions, spatial relations and disguised structural facts. According to deconstructionist theory, it's the very absence of the assurances given us by habit and the traditional architecture that create the presence of a deconstructed building.' (Gardner)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Night Herons

Otto Eckmann. Night Herons - Three Philosophers, 1896. Color woodcut, printed in watercolor on Japanese vellum, 26.5 x 46 cm.
"With Eckmann, sentimentality in ornament was perhaps extinguished for good. He was, if not its final mainstay, nevertheless the one who lent ornament enough attraction to arouse the desire to preserve it... He always made me think of Chopin. Neither of them troubled themselves with the pure line of construction... His fingers quiver on the line like those of a violinist on the strings." (Henry van de Velde - from Gabriele Fahr-Becker's Art Nouveau).

Monday, November 24, 2008


Mark Tansey, Innocent Eye Test,** 1981. Oil on canvas, 6' 6" x 10'. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
A postmodern approach which sets aside Modernist formalism, Expressionism, and Realism in favor of picture-making, where idea and subject matter determine what the picture will look like. As in Conceptual Art, the artist begins with an idea and the picture follows. (Gardner)
**The Innocent Eye Test refers to a term primarily used by John Ruskin a famous, British art critic of the 19th century. He referred to it as the ideal condition for viewing art, much as a child who might see art without preconception for what it actually is; or a blind man, who sees the world for the first time. For a truly 'innocent eye' to be tested we might resort to a non-human subject - in this case, a cow. (Gardner)

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Helen Frankenthaler, Bay Side, 1967. Acrylic on canvas, 6'2"x 6' 9". Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York.

Soak Stain- A technique of paintings pioneered by Helen Frankenthaler in which the artist drenches the fabric of raw canvas with fluid paint to achieve flowing, lyrical, painterly effects. (Gardner)

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Glimpse into 1880s Paris...

Edouard Manet. At the Cafe, study of legs. Circa 1880. Watercolor, 7 1/4 x 4 3/4 ". Musee du Louvre (Cabinet des Dessins), Paris.

"...Have you noticed how mysteriously pretty women look, at night in carriages? ...They seem to have something shadowy, ghostly, mask-like about them... a veiled look, a voluptuous appearance, things one can guess at and not clearly see, a vague hue, a night smile, with lights falling on their features, all those half-reflections which swim beneath their hats, the great touches of black they have in their eyes, their very skirts, so full of shadows..." (from , Manette Salomon by Edmond and Jules de Goncourt - published in 1866.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Picasso Peace Posters


Picasso designed his first posters in 1948, at age 67. This was astonishingly late, seeing as he had devoted himself to other applied arts such as book illustration, ballet costumes and sets, tapestries, and carpets from very nearly the start of his career. Over the following 2 decades, Picasso produced approximately 70 posters - and his treatment of image and word were extremely unconventional. Intrigued by his playful and emotionally charged style, it is collectors - more than art historians - who have done justice to Picasso's poster art. (Marc Gundel)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Air Bridge

The 'synapse' between two separate sequential strokes in which the pen's, or brush's, movement above the paper can be charted without having been graphically recorded. (Rose Folsum)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Camille Pissarro

Apple Gatherers, 1891. Gouache on silk on paper, 10 1/4 x 8 5/8 in. The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, 2001.
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). French painter, printmaker, and draughtsman, born on St. Thomas in the West Indies, where his parents (a French Jewish father and a Creole mother) ran a prosperous general store. He was educated at boarding school in Paris, but returned to the Caribbean and didn't settle in France until 1855. In 1859 he met Monet, and with him became a central figure of Impressionism. Pissarro was the only artist who participated in all 8 Impressionist exhibitions and he was a much-respected father figure to his colleagues - he was about a decade older than most of the other members of the group. He's famous for his genre scenes. By 1895, his eyesight was going and caused him to give up painting out of doors and many of his late works are urban scenes painted from windows in Paris and elsewhere. He's best known for his landscapes and city views, he painted usually from Paris hotels.
He had 5 painter sons, of whom the most important was the eldest, Lucien (1863-1944). He was often overshadowed by his more famous father but he was an important figure in helping to introduce Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism to England. His daughter, Orovida Pissarro (1893-1968), often known simply as 'Orovida', was a painter and etcher , mainly of animal subjects. (Ian Chilvers)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dark Abstraction

Dark Abstraction, 1924. Oil on canvas, 25 x 21 in.

It is surprising to me to see how many people separate the objective from the abstract. Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is often the most definite form of the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint.
-Georgia O'Keeffe

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Josef Albers

Homage to the Square, 1964. 30 x 30 in. Tate Gallery, London

4 squares of yellow nest together. Despite a rigid format, they float freely, creating an optical illusion of another dimension. Each area has been painted in a single color. The paint has been applied with a knife, directly from the tube.
Joseph Albers was born in Bottrup, Holland in 1888 and died in New Haven, CT in 1976. Between 1920-23, Albers studied at the famous Bauhaus school. He joined the staff in 1923. He is from Holland but moved to the USA in 1933, where he taught many established artists at the Black Mountain College and Yale University. His influential book The Interaction of Color was published in 1963. In this he explores the perception of color, which was a dominant theme throughout his life. (Butler, Van Cleve, Stirling)

**Apologies for the quality of this photo... after several attempts, I just couldn't get a clear one!**

Monday, November 10, 2008

Celtic Spirals

An example of how to make a spiral border
The spiral design comes from the cross-slab at Aberlemno, Angus, in Scotland. A good working understanding of the use of the triskele (an archetypal symbol of power, later called the 'legs of man') is needed to conceive such a design.
When early man observed the beauty of nature's spirals it is not surprising that the spiral would become a potent symbol for creation and growth. It is the only decorative motive used in Christian Celtic art proven to have its roots in the preceding pagan period, the best examples of which are found on stone monuments such as the decorated kerb-stone at the entrance to the burial chamber at Newgrange, Co. Meath, in Ireland, which dates from around 3000 BC.
(from the book, Knotwork and Spirals by Courtney Davis)