Archive for the ‘Art History’ Category

Vincent van Gogh Mail Art

July 28, 2016 1 comment



This is a letter Vincent van Gogh sent to his brother Theo with a little drawing of a street scene with carriages. It was part of the Art Institute show last spring and it made me smile. It was great to see it up close. Vincent had such beautiful handwriting. I suppose he was writing in French, despite he and his brother being Dutch, because of they were living in France.

Printmaking Was the Original Photography

Jan Lievens by Lucas Emil Vorsterman 1530 to 1545

Jan Lievens etching by Lucas Emil Vorsterman (1530 to 1545). An almost 500 year old selfie.


I had long thought of painting as “what we had before photography” but have revised the idea that photography replaced painting as it replaced printmaking much more. I now realize that printmaking fulfilled the functions of modern photography much more closely. A painting catches our attention for being in color but it is only a single object. Printmaking does the two things photography excels at: it creates multiples through mechanical reproduction.

There is a nice exhibit right now at the Museum of the Art Institute of Dutch, Flemish and Netherlandish portrait etchings from the 15th and early 16th Centuries. Selfies are not new at all; they are just now easy for a huge number of people to make and distribute. One placard in the exhibit stated that the portraits not only confirmed fame, they could also create it. Sound familiar to you?

Seeing so many etching portraits made for circulation made me feel that people of this time period would have loved social media just as much as we do now if they had it. In a way, they did have social media, it was a lot slower. Getting picture out took a great deal of skill, time and paper.

Download Free Art History Books



The Met NYC has a collections of art history books you can read online or download for free here. Exhibit catalogs are also in the collection. This would be particularly sweet if you have a tablet like an iPad. I downloaded a PDF of Vincent van Gogh: The Drawings. Now I can have more art history books without trying to figure out how to fit them on my jammed book shelves.

12 Favorite Artworks from SOFA Chicago 2003

July 29, 2015 1 comment

Not one but two Little Free Libraries have cropped up this year less than a block from where I live, and I took an old SOFA catalog from one. SOFA, the show for Sculpture, Objects & Functional Art, puts out a massive catalog of the gallerists’ wares. Here are my twelve favorite items to inspire you.

SOFA 2003 01

This would be great to hold all my arts and crafts supplies. I love the descending sizes of drawers. I would have flipped the hinges on the right cabinet door 180 degrees to be on the outside though. Maybe some day I will be able to build one!

Read more…

Categories: Art History, Chicago, Sculpture

Detroit Institute of Art’s Collection at Risk

DIA building


Auguste Rodin’s sculpture ‘The Thinker’ is shown outside the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, Tuesday, July 10, 2012. / Paul Sancya/Associated Press [source]


City finances are really bad in Detroit and a once-sacred cow is now looking like cheeseburgers in an ongoing downturn economy.  This has led to an unprecedented area of inquiry about ownership of and leveraging as assets valuable historical works in the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection:

The possible forced sale of some of the DIA’s greatest treasures — including some of the world’s most famous paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, and scores of other masterpieces, is sending shock waves through the museum world.

“There would be hue and cry the likes of which you’ve never heard,” said Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, D.C. “The museum should be a rallying point for the rebirth of Detroit and not a source of funds.”

Museums are not required by federal accounting rules to list their collections as assets. However, at the request of the Free Press, art dealers in New York and metro Detroit reviewed a list of 38 of the greatest masterpieces owned by the museum and estimated a market value of at least $2.5 billion with pieces such as Bruegel’s “The Wedding Dance,” van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait” and Matisse’s “The Window” all carrying estimates of between $100 million and $150 million each.

The estimates amount to educated guesses, however, because works of such historical value and quality hardly ever come on the market.

Even by considering selling off artwork, Orr, the DIA and the city are entering uncharted territory. Art law experts said that they were unaware of any precedents of a city being forced to sell works in a municipal bankruptcy.

Read the whole article at:

Categories: Art History

Picasso’s “Rinsed Print”

March 28, 2013 1 comment



Jacqueline by Pablo Picasso, linocut, 1959


I love the simple but brilliant technical execution of this piece.  The image has a nice smoky bluish color most like the above photograph.  Referred to in the museum exhibition as a “rinsed print”, the steps are wonderfully simple.  The uncut block was printed onto the page in a solid filed of black.  Then the lines were cut for the drawing; the lines of the portrait were cut into the same block which was inked in a layer of transparent white and printed onto the solid black field.  The black had a bluish tinge, which resulted in the final colour of the print.

The ease of this technique is that there is less cutting of the block.  You only have to actually cut the lines away that you want to show as a positive, instead of doing the reverse and cutting away all of the negative space to expose the lines of the image.  You have to print the page twice to make this work but the effect of the more transparent, glaze-like second ink is visually interesting.





Related: Matisse Monoprints

Categories: Art History, Printmaking

Anna Pavlova with Jack

Anna Pavlova with Jack

This studio portrait of ballet dancer Anna Pavlova shows her with a pet swan named Jack.  She left behind so many wonderful images and dance photographs; this one is fitting for Pavlova who had danced portraying a swan so many times.  This plate is from Anna Pavlova: In Art & Life [1932] by spouse Victor Dandré and he indicated Jack as her favorite swan.  There are many warm stories of the couple’s pets and the dancer’s love of nature and animals.

The book is laid out in sections detailing her career, impact on dance, personal life, tours, charitable works and final hours.  It’s a bit heart wrenching in its loving tribute as Dandré took to writing it after her death in 1931.  He meshes what had to have been a lifetime of notes and records as her manager with his personal recollections in such an engrossing manner.  What I know about dance would not fill a thimble but I do love a good biography.