The impossible things are often the most beautiful

Vladimir Tatlin’s Momunet to the Third International might be one of my favorite non-existent pieces of art.

It is considered technically impossible to assemble in the state Tatlin sketched it in. It was meant to be taller than the Eiffel Tower. It was meant to show the aspirations of the USSR, and define the age of modernity, among other things.

Is it a sad thing that Tatlin’s dream structure cannot actually be built? Or is it beautiful that we can imagine it and sort of bask in the wonders of the human mind, in all the far fetched and delusional thoughts, plans, and wants?

Halloween with Hieronymous

What sort of night full of spooks, thrills, screams, (or for some of us, exams and sleep) would be complete without some supremely creepy details from The Garden of Earthly Delights? Hieronymous Bosch’s triptych has its right and final panel descending into the depths of Hell, a rather dark and sulfuric place that is full of torture, inevitable death, and the surreal.

Also, just on a side note, I’m drinking one of those giant obnoxious cans of tea or lemonade or whatever. I only bought it because I am in a cafe with wicked fast internet and unfortunately this is the only thing that remotely tempted me. And now i have this ridiculously large tin of tea/lemonade/whatever and I feel rather silly. Who needs 24 oz. of this stuff all at once?!

 

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss

There’s something so terrifying and gorgeous about Klimt’s work.

All of it has these seeping tones of sensuality, but The Kiss is still an ultimate favorite. People all over the world know this painting, and it is one of the most popular images from art history anywhere.

What I love about it is the uncertainty of what’s going on. Is he kissing her, about to push her off the precipice her feet so delicately grip? Is he saving her, comforting her, or forcing her into this embrace? What happens to the characters Klimt paints is really up to the viewer. Right now, as it goes in my life, the precipice is the future. It’s the next step, and these gorgeously painted creatures know no more about it than I do.

 

The Kiss

Edvard Munch doesn’t really circumvent anything. He goes right for what he’s feeling- betrayal, heartbreak, being misunderstood, isolation, narcissism. His art speaks volumes and it’s full of mysticism and outright feelingThe Kiss has been one of my favorite works of his for a very long time- it’s right up there with his The Dance of Life.

There’s something so brooding about Munch’s work that I relate to. The simplicity of what he’s feeling is so obvious, but there are also many layers one can look for in this blatent display of emotions. What was the catalyst? What are the consequences? What are the implications of looking at this work this way?

The Kiss can be interpreted in many different ways to me. It shows how a kiss can momentarily combine two anatomies into one, or it can show, if you want to be dark, how emotions and expressions of such can feel imprisoning and claustrophobic- this kiss has implications beyond just the shared embrace. The Kiss can also be looked at in the two ways Munch showed it- a moment of being bare to the person you are kissing, or a moment of modesty and false promises. A clothed person could be hiding more.

In this way, Munch’s obvious emotions really just create more questions than answers. I love his works more than words could ever try and express.

Bryan Pearce: The most amazing artist you’ve probably never heard of.

Flowers on the Windowsill

St. Ives from the Cemetery

St. Ives from Fernlea Terrace

One of my Art History professors in Switzerland, Dr. Brian Stanford, taught a class on how art and the brain work together. We studied people who end up with  unorthodox circumstances and how their art is different from classical ideas of “art” and accomplished art.

Bryan Pearce, a Cornwall native, was born with Phenylketonuria, which resulted in his brain not developing normally. As a result, his art has amazing perspectives, use of color, and the most naive, gorgeous landscapes I’ve ever seen. I haven’t been lucky enough to personally see his work (I didn’t make it to the Tate when I was in London) but emotionally it is somewhat unsettling in a wonderful way.

What’s amazing about Mr. Pearce is that he began exhibiting regularly and remained an artist his entire life. He was England’s most famous naive artist, and with his disease he lived to the age of 77– something almost unheard of! Luckily, because he started working and exhibiting in his 30’s, there are many prints and paintings of his that exist (prolific artists are the best- they have so much to show).

What does $120,000,000 mean?

Yesterday at Sotheby’s, Edvard Munch’s pastel on board “The Scream” sold for a whopping $119,900,00.00 dollars, to an anonymous phone bidder.

At the most expensive art work ever sold at auction, what does this mean? Why is “The Scream” worth so much? I know that many (superior) websites and blogs have already written about this, but as a vehement fan of everything Edvard Munch, “The Scream” especially draws my attention.

1. It’s the last copy of “The Scream” available !

There are four editions of Munch’s “Scream”- three are in Norweigan museums. Rumors that a family in Qatar purchased the final pastel and board “Scream” are of course, just rumors, but it means that possibly the final “Scream” will be available to those outside Norway. (Unless the anonymous phone bidder was another Norwegian!) Basically, once this “Scream” is gone, there won’t be another coming up for bid unless the Norwegian museums become extraordinarily strapped for cash, which I doubt will occur.

2. This piece is iconic.

This doesn’t really need to be said, but it needs to be emphasized. “The Scream” ranks up with Da Vinci’s “The Mona Lisa” as far as pop culture influence goes. Everybody knows it. Too bad that Munch didn’t live to see his piece become so wonderful. Munch himself was a depressed man who died alone just before Norway was liberated in World War II. His life is punctuated by death, tragedy, and general melancholy. It’s a rare masterpiece by a fantastic Expressionist artist, something to be treasured more for it’s breakthrough technique and feeling rather than just for it’s popularity in our culture.

3. The name says it all.

Artists are a brandthese days. “I own a Matisse still life”, or “Yes, well this is a rare Goya that we have here!” are things that people like saying. Paintings by well known artists, especially good paintings, are harder and harder to come by, as they’ve been mostly snatched up by museums or private collectors. The opportunity to own a Rothko, a Picasso, or even a Munch is not one to be missed. Most of the masterpieces, from the Renaissance onward, are gone, and with them the chance to own a priceless piece of art. Every chance that is there must be seized, so to say.

4. Art is an investment (and a status symbol).

Since the 1990’s, art has been a solid investment of capital. Art prices have not been dipping, and while sometimes at the annual auctions with Christie’s and Sotheby’s the estimates end up being more than the final bid, art has been a winner for a solid 20+ years now. If you have the money, and you want the prestige, art is a perfect place to go. Corporations these days are even beginning to invest in art- notably Deutsche Bank, which has amassed an impressive collection and even gives tours of it’s collection.

5. Money doesn’t really seem to matter to some.

If you can pay $120 million for a piece of art, what can’t you buy? The art market in the last 20 years has underlined the fabulously wealthy and their want for some legitimacy in the world. Russia’s explosion into the art market,  Middle Eastern money, and South American and Asian dealers and elite are all vying for the few pieces that are worth buying, because the price is worth the class that comes with it. If you own eight homes, drive whatever car you fancy, and money is no object, picking up a fabulous piece at an auction seems almost compulsory.

My take on the auction: Money doesn’t matter, clearly, but I hope that whoever purchased “The Scream” makes it available to the public for at least a little while before it becomes cloistered in a private collection. If the bidder were to even let it tour a few major museums first, well, that would be most excellent!

I feel that the significance of “The Scream” was missed a bit, that perhaps sensationalism and rarity drove the price upward rather than the sheer talent that Munch possessed. “The Scream” was first created in 1892- an incredibly early date for such a modern, non-representational piece. It’s pure Expressionism, and much more abstract for it’s time than anything produced in the 19th century. Decades ahead, Munch’s “The Scream” has given the art world a look into his brilliant, tormented mind. I really hope that the significance of the piece isn’t lost on the bidder.

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

Seattle Art Museum

Any chance to be close to art is a chance I’ll take. I’m an Art History major who loves art to the point that I have cried in front of a  painting. Yup.

The Seattle Art Museum has a rather brilliant collection of art, and they had an ENORMOUS retrospect of Paul Gauguin, the French badass, asshole, and artistic genius. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs in the Gauguin exhibit, but trust me: it was awesome! However, it was:

-Very crowded

-Full of babies (WHATTTT?)

-Really really dark

The rest of the museum was super quiet as a result, which was fantastic for me! I was able to take lots of pictures from weird angles and not get judged- I tend to take pictures from the floor, or sit on benches and balance the camera on my head because my hands aren’t stable enough.

My favorite part is the old Italian wing, where they have lots of Byzantine paintings with amazing gold gilding, mostly on wood. The Baroque room is ostentatious and ridiculous, but nonetheless entertaining. The museum has a really great collection of objects and is laid out in a really great way so that you don’t feel crowded by other people or feel like you’ve seen the art before- I always go back and find something new every time I visit.

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.

Sunday

Paul Signac’s “Sunday”, painted 1888-1890, feels like a vignette of a moment in time. I love the posture of the man over the fire and how the woman and the man aren’t facing one another.

Even the cat is removed, and seems almost unnatural in the scene. There are lots of interpretations of the painting, but to me it feels either like a relaxing Sunday morning for the bourgeois or a tense moment between a couple. Either way, I love it.

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!

Edward Hopper

Summer Interior

Summer Evening

Self Portrait

Road in Maine

I apologize for the lack of “real-time” posts. School has begun. Most of them are wonderful, I’m taking a course in 20th century art that seems to be promising, taught by a fiesty Bulgarian woman with enough knowledge to saturate our brains for the semester. My Spanish class is going well, though I’m a bit rusty, as I expected. I was in an Economics course, but the moment I walked in I felt so lost. There were curves, and charts, and the lecture hall was far too large to warrant any great personal increase of knowledge. I instead transferred into a Women’s Studies course- I am a feminist, and taking any sort of Gender Studies classes has always appealed to me.

Now, on to the actual visual aspect of the post! Edward Hopper is Americana goodness. I’m more of a German/Swiss/Europe in general art lover, but something about Edward Hopper’s brushstrokes and his use of color really feels so American. It’s realism but it’s not totally realistic, and it’s marvelous. He paints landscapes that could only belong on the East Coast and characters that feel more American than any I’ve seen. His portrayal of summer evenings, private moments, and urban happenings are perfection.

Botticelli

 

(1: Pallas and the Centaur. 2: Primavera. 3: Birth of Venus)

As an Art History major, I like the exact some blockbuster art pieces and artists the world does.

Botticelli is no exception. Just visiting the Uffizi in Florence and crowding into the Botticelli room is a testament to his art. Personally, I find his color schemes fascinating, and I love how he places his figures. The movement isn’t totally natural, and everything is just a little too serene. It’s like this moment of perfect calm before something else happens. His works are teeming with all this tension that is delightful to revel in.

Do you ever make up stories about a work of art?  What are some of your favorite artists and/or works? I’m always looking for new artists to look at!

Right now I’m rather infatuated with Agnolo Bronzino, anything German Expressionism/Die Brücke, Jacques Louis-David, Edvard Munch, Mathias Grünewald, Albrecht Dürer.