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.