A material Utopia: The Metropolitan Museum of Art collections

Aquamanile- Lion, c. 1400, Nuremburg

 The Lamentation, 1480, Spain

Detail of “The Hunters Enter the Woods”- Tapestry, c. 1500, Flemish

Velvet Panel, late 15th century, Italian

Standing Cup, late 16th century, Breslau, Germany

Minnekätschen, 1325-1350, German

Julius Caesar, by the workshop of Colin Nouahilher, French, 1541

Ivory casket, 14th century, French

Grisaille panel, 1240, French

Fresco on canvas, 12th century, Castile-Leon, Spain

Gold casket, 16th century, Italian

Once upon a time…

Or, in 2010, I went to New York City with my friend Exa. We took the train in from Westport where I was visiting my aunts, and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. WHAT. A. COLLECTION. My heart literally could not stop beating super fast the entire time we were there. It was a utopia of visual delight- my eyes were drawn to every corner, ceiling and floor tile- every surface had some form of art on it. I’ve recently begun the AWESOME process of going through the collections they post online, and I spent a good couple of hours drooling over some particular things.

Please revel in the glory of  material objects! That sounds bad, but they’re too lovely to ignore.

All images from http://www.metmuseum.org

Picasso

My sophomore year of college, I took an Art History course focused on one of art’s most fascinating figures: Pablo Picasso. It was taught by Professor Stanford, a brilliant and witty professor from Cornwall.

He taught the class as a personal view into Picasso’s mentality as he was creating his works, and he illuminated so much about Picasso for me. I had always wondered why this guy who drew portraits like an insane person was so famous.

Picasso was a born genius, a bad ass, an insanely intelligent and talented man who was extraordinarily prodigious- I think he produced over 30,000 pieces in his life. However, the more I learned about Picasso the artist and Picasso the man, the more I was disgusted by the man.

Picasso, for all his brilliance, was an ass. He was a womanizer who never remained faithful to his lovers, and he loved babies and children. However, as soon as his children were grown, he didn’t want them anymore- the naivete of children did something to him, but as adults they were more nuisances than anything. Paloma Picasso had to fight to keep her father’s last name. He left behind chaos with the various lovers he had, and he seemed to feed off of the drama he created himself.

When people quote Picasso and worship the man rather than the art he produced, I have a problem with that. Morally, he was twisted at best. There is nothing wrong with finding melody and poetry in paintings of his or any of his work at all. However, people should know that the man who created these pieces was a rather cruel person prone to creating heart break, disappointment, and destruction, along with emotional abuse.

To speak personally, when I visited the Reina Sofia in Madrid, I saw Guernica, his amazing masterpiece- and I was emotionally overcome by the violence and pain writhing within the painting. I was touched by this work, utterly entranced, and could have spent hours in front of the painting. However, I was not entranced by the man the more I learned about him.

11 Things

1.  I’m deathly afraid of deep water or water where I can’t see the bottom. Despite the fact that I am a varsity swimmer and very good at swimming.

2. I can bend my thumbs all the way backwards. All. The. Way. It’s really weird and creepy.

3. I do not like babies. I think they are weird and creepy. They have no motor skills, and not a lot of cognitive functions, and their proportions are off, and they just make me feel really uncomfortable in every way. Also, their form of communicating in shrieks, giggles and other high pitched forms are grating. I do not ever want to have a child of my own, either.

4. When I was a kid I didn’t think adults slept, so I wanted to be a veterinarian during the day and an artist at night! Until I figured out that I’m too emotional about animals, that is.

5. I love snakes, spiders, amphibians, and all generally creepy crawley things. In fact, if I could start over, I might major in Biology and get a grad degree in Herpetology- the study of reptiles and amphibians. I also am a spider saver, and will go to great lengths to make sure that our arachnid friends aren’t harmed by people who want to squish them.

6. I have about 300,000 photographs on my portable hard drive, and that’s just from the last three years.

7. My favorite movie is a tie between “The Brothers Bloom” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (the Gene Wilder one, di certo).

8. I used to have a huge gap in my teeth, and I sort of wish I had been able to keep it.

9. My family has a little dilapidated house in Cape Cod, and it’s one of my favorite places on earth to be. I can ride my bike everywhere, and the buildings are all old and symmetrical. It’s my favorite Americana place to be.

10. I’m the biggest The Office fan there has or ever will be. Seriously.

11. My middle name is “Lee” after Robert E. Lee, the Confederate General- the first daughter in my family has gotten that middle name since…well, the Civil War.

James Gillray: Talented cartoonist with razor sharp wit.

I love old engravings, prints, and paintings.

I also love humor.

So, the summation of these two would be the incredibly detailed and hilarious etchings and cartoons by none other than James Gillray.

As a side note, I pray that I never get gout, as the bottom etching makes it look most unfortunate to have a mustachio-ed beast attached to ones foot.

 

 

67th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

I think that often times, my generation feels that World War II is so far away, because we couldn’t imagine ourselves letting atrocities such as Auschwitz happen. However, it’s only been 67 years.

In 2010, I visited Auschwitz, trying to get a feel for what happened there. It was controversial to go- I did not want in any way to feel like a “tourist”- this is a terrible place, where lives where lost in despicable ways. It was haunting how mathematical and efficient everything at the camp was- it was almost as though once one walked under the sign, “Arbeit macht frei” (Work will make you free), that humanity was erased.

When Hannah and I went, we weren’t prepared for how emotionally exhausted we would end up being. It was spring in Poland when we visited, and flowers were blooming on the grass in the camp. It felt eerie to see life sprouting in this place. We went through and saw photographs of all the prisoners , before they tattooed the serial numbers on their arms. Exhibits of the Zyklon-B cyanide tins they used to kill people in the “showers” were on display, as well as a massive glass case of hair- slowly turning into colorless reminders.

We made the walk along a street with cars to Birkenau, the second part of Auschwitz. Again, the out-of-body feeling came on, because we were walking down a sunny street on a place bordering a town, walking to a heinous place where unspeakable things occurred. The railroad tracks are still in place, and the barbed wire remains. Hannah and I felt so drained by the whole thing. We left Auschwitz on a small Polish bus (which was really just a van) and Hannah promptly fell asleep due to all of the things we had just seen. I stayed awake, watching the country side change into Krakow.

May we never forget.

 

The Ghent Altarpiece- Favorite Art Things

The Ghent Altarpiece, a polyptych (meaning many parts) by the van Eyck brothers in Flanders in 1432, is one of the most beautiful works of art ever created by human hands. It’s done with multiple layers of glazes and oils, and is so amazingly detailed that I’m surprised Art Google hasn’t had it photographed with their amazing cameras yet!

This is a perfect example of detailed 15th century Flemish art, full of symbolism, detail, and obvious care for the shadows and layers that the artists composed. I’m not religious at all, but this work is so incredible that even agnostics like me can’t ignore the sheer beauty and quality put into the Altarpiece! I’ve complied many detail images, please enjoy and revel in the amazing skill of the van Eyck brothers!

Polyptych closed.

Polyptych open- full glory!

Angels expressions- seriously amazing detail of the jewels and brocades.

The Virgin Mary, resplendent in jewels, piously reading a book.

Detail of an angel’s sleeve.

Detail of the crown in the Altarpiece

Eve in her nakedness- she and Adam are a severe, stark contrast to the richy robed angels, saints, and virgins in the rest of the polyptich- meant to make the viewer feel uncomfortable and see how sin strips one bare. (Of course, Eve’s “sin” was seeking intelligence, and after that women are forever stereotyped as the unintelligent ones? Come on!)

This is the last detail- I wish I could find some of the actual background of Ghent- you can literally see the church where this was kept! So beautiful!

Thinking that this was made 500+ years ago blows my mind, and makes me appreciate the skill and hard work that went into this altarpiece. I hope you are in as much awe as I!

Paul Rule Archive: Continued

My fascination with this archive of a globe trotting, fashionable family has led to me regularly going through and finding more and more of their old slides fantastic.

This time I focused on style. Although I only uploaded three photographs, there are dozens more where style, though subtle, peeks through and makes me feel inspired. Click the link through each photograph to look at it and delve into the wonders of vintage photography!

This year in review.

Five best things that have happened this year:

1. Went to Sicily, Istanbul, Zürich, and had fantastic adventures.

2. Worked really hard this summer, both jobs were challenging but I think I did really well.

3. Made some beautiful photographs that I’m truly proud of.

4. Was gifted some beautiful lenses for my Olympus OM-20 that have made me feel creative again.

5. Did really well academically this semester, improved my Spanish.

Five worst things that have happened this year.

1. Maggie, my spaniel, died while I was at school in Europe. She was my best friend.

2. Had to leave Franklin, say goodbye to all my friends- I’m really bad at saying goodbye.

3. Struggled with this new school, making friends, seeing people I never thought I would have to again.

4. Was really sick for over three weeks, sicker than I’ve been in years.

5. Being with people who don’t want to learn more and who are complacent where they are.

What have I learned this year:

-I have to constantly, actively work at gaining knowledge. I am more resilient than I thought. I have to push myself to be more creative, because I am good at it.

Was the year what you imagined?

-Not at all. I didn’t think that I would have to face all my old fears again, and I didn’t expect that. I had more adventures than I thought I would. My summer wasn’t anything special but it subtly pushed me to do my best, and I was proud that I did so.

What have you been watching this year?

The Office, constantly. I started watching more 1990’s films, and got really into Lord of the Rings.

Who have you been with this year?

I hung out with Hannah, but not enough. Julia a ton, which was glorious. My roommate weirdly became my closest friend this fall. My sister, but not enough either.

What is the best thing you’ve read?

Thomas Cahill’s books, which are witty, informed, hilarious, and brilliant. Also anything about Ernest Shackleton.

Did you do something this year that you’ve never done before?

I did more things alone than I ever had before, discovered how good I am at being independent. I taught my own art class to children, which was incredibly difficult but so rewarding.

What was your biggest success in 2011?

Remaining true to myself, despite the fact that my environment switched 180 degrees.

Best buy?

Blue velvet 90’s dress.

What did you spend the most money on?

Film, good food while travelling.

What more did you wish you had done?

I wish I had gone out of my comfort zone more, I wish I had written more letters.

What did you do on your birthday?

Went to Zurich, spent the day in the Kunsthaus and in book shops.

How would you describe your style in 2011?

Thrift store grandma-y with a lot of black.

Paul Rule Photographic Archive

Alright, so Flickr being the treasure trove it was delivered: a multi-generational, globe trotting family, slowly being revealed in wonderful old Kodachrome slides scanned onto Flickr.

I’d like to give you a taste of the amazingness that is this photographic archive!

You can find all these photographs by clicking through to the Flickr set. I’ll probably add up more of these to this blog, I find them fascinating and inspiring.

Mystery Vintage Postcards (can anybody decipher?)

Lugano has a tiny shop where vecchie cartoline are sold (antique post cards). For about 1 CHF (Swiss franc), I bought about 25 of them when I first moved. I sent them off to various friends and families, but kept a few with beautiful images and lovely script- before fountain pens became a thing of the past!

These postcards are from 1938 and…I don’t know when, perhaps a decade or two before? If anybody can speak pre-WWII German or Swiss-German, and you want to spend some quality time deciphering these, well- go ahead! Let me know if you do!

Tschüß!

Elusive & Reclusive: Piet Mondrian

Ocean, 1914

Pier and Ocean, 1915

Fox Trot B

Yellow Red and Blue

Broadway Boogie Woogie

I am Dutch. I can trace my family lineage back almost 500 years. I’m also an introvert and quite like being alone.

Perhaps it is for those reasons that I am enamored with fellow Dutchman Piet Mondrian and his work. Perhaps it’s also because they are visual poetry. It’s more than those reasons, for sure, because there is something so ethereal and yet grounded in his work.

His masterpiece, Broadway Boogie Woogie, is a post WWII triumph of life, color and pure energy. However, in reality, Piet was quite reclusive, living in almost monastic like style. He had chairs and tables made from orange crates, and his walls were almost totally bare in his New York City apartment. He also rarely saw friends. Trying to find a biography that is colorful and full of fun facts about Piet Mondrian isn’t possible; the world simply doesn’t have that sort of information, like with Picasso or Salvador Dali. Instead, however, he left us with some incredible works that, in person, are even more beautiful. We are left to wonder what being Piet Mondrian is like, but for me that is almost as fun as knowing.

Seriously, if you are in New York, check out the MoMA, as it has Broadway Boogie Woogie taking up an entire wall on it’s own. The Kunsthaus in Zurich, Switzerland, has a small, diagonal Mondrian that is charming and sort of disarming, because the paint is slightly cracking and giving it a morbid edge to the timeless line and color.

Unfortunately, his final and unfinished ultimate masterpiece, Victory Boogie Woogie, is in private hands.

(I have lost the source websites for these images! If you know don’t hesitate to tell me!)

Vintage Toblerone Ads: Das ist gut, ja?

Toblerone ad, 1904

1957 ad

1974 ad

There is nothing better than opening up the oddly triangular shaped, yellow cardboard boxes that contain Toblerone chocolate. I myself have been in a long term relationship with Toblerone chocolate for over a decade now, with no end in sight.

This post comes during a particularly rough patch of Toblerone craving. Bear with me, readers; my food cravings may more than once make cameos on the blog.

Images courtesy of the Toblerone Facebook page. 

Art Talk: Henri Rousseau

Self Portrait

The Dream

The Sleeping Gypsy

Let’s talk about Henri Rousseau. Seriously. It’s about time we discuss this hilarious man. He’s French, he’s a “primitive” artist (which means he’s untrained and paints in such a manner) and he’s amazing. As a French postal worker, he began painting, and is today considered a self-taught genius. In his day though, he was seen as a nutter. Seriously. Eventually he started painting so much that his job started falling to the wayside, and thusly he got transferred to the middle of nowhere France. Rousseau apparently thought this was so he would have more time to paint- yes, they did that for me!- but really, they were getting him out of their bureaucratic hair by exiling him, essentially.

Looking at his paintings, you could crop off any one part and still have an amazing piece of art. Even if you would crop out the main playings, like the gypsy or the lion, the way that he paints a landscape and creates this surrealistic environment for his characters- it’s pure awesome, pure talent. You clever man, you.

All images: Wikimedia

 

Hark a Vagrant Goodness

I am fairly sure that I have already boasted heavily about Hark a Vagrant once or twice.

I can’t help it, so here goes Gush Session Number Two

Kate Beaton is a hilarious Canadian comic artist who is HISTORICALLY ACCURATE (mostly), hilarious, and is so skilled with words and characters. Who else could make one feel sympathy for poor Napoleon while Josephine is attacked by a suitor on the couch? Who else could make French Versailles prostitution involve little French dogs, or have Tesla’s inventions ruined by tossed bloomers?

Only the brilliant Kate Beaton.

If you haven’t already, check out her comic website, Hark a Vagrant 

 

 

 

This is an environment of welcoming, and you should just get the hell out of here.

I’m getting packed for taking my sister to college.

In this last week before she’s left, it’s gotten super sad; I’m all sorts of big sister emotions about her leaving for college. She’s going to have a great time, but selfish me wants her to stick around. I’ll be alone at home with the rents for two weeks smothered by their love and attention- where’s the other sibling to spread it out?!

This morning we went to the No Sweat Cafe for the third weekend in a row. Except, this time, it was our last time for a few months. We were both sort of silent, and I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to cry and tell her not to go, but I also wanted to tell her to cut loose and have a great time. I might have done both, just not in those words or actions.

 

Also spent time at the confectionery this week, and hanging around the downtown area. Our Gothic cathedral is surprisingly legitimate and I walked around inside thoroughly impressed. However, it must be known that our cathedral’s exterior plans and probably interior plans are copied almost exactly from a cathedral in France.  So, it’s coolness is either downgraded or upgraded, depending on how you see this forgery.

The cowboy working the juke box makes this a favorite photograph of mine.

Emily’s “I’m driving!” face.