Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Road Less Travelled

Adolph Gottlieb was one of the founders of the Abstract Expressionist movement. His work went from figural portraits in the 20's and 30's, to large amalgamations of images that resemble collages in the 40's, to stark divided canvases in the 50's and 60's. These later works are the ones he is best known for, the ones that require the viewer to study the painting and think about what is not represented, as Gottlieb himself put it,"...the very nature of abstract thought is to reduce the complexity of all of life and to bring it down to something very simple which embodies all this complexity"(from an interview of Gottlieb by Martin Friedman, 1962).

That is part of the challenge of Abstract Expressionism, it begs the viewer to invest in the work with their own thoughts and interpretations, and for this reason, many people are put-off by it. Some people would rather have the art do the work and entertain them, or clearly reflect the skill of the artist, and therefore abstract works, which seek to say a lot with very little, leave them wanting more.

Apaquogue is named for a road in East Hampton where the artist had a home.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Private Gifts Turned Public Treasures

Today is the birthday of famed Russian goldsmith Peter Carl Faberge. This egg was made by his shop in 1903 for presentation from Tsar Nicholas III to Tsarina Alexandra in commemoration of 200th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg by Peter the Great. The royal tradition of  gifting elaborate Easter eggs began with Tsar Alexander III, and continued until the revolution in 1917.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bringing the Modern to Tradition

 The Modern Song (Modan bushi) by K. Kotani,1930. (Detail.) The Japan Society (Credit: Exhibition organized and circulated by Art Services International, Alexandria, Va.)

The Japan Society is currently hosting an exhibition of Japanese art from the Art Deco period. The work presented shows us a country working to combine tradition with the modern western world whose influence had been felt in Japan for a while, but whose culture was only then beginning to be adapted. This can be seen most prominently in the depiction of the Japanese version of the "Flapper," or modern early 20th century woman, who was up-ending society in the west, as well.

The exhibition runs through June 10th at the Japan Society, NYC.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Abstracted Jazz

The Mellow Pad by Stuart Davis, 1945-51, The Brooklyn Museum

American artist Stuart Davis believed that abstract painting could impart more of the meaning of the work than a straight figurative interpretation. This work is about American jazz and giving a viewer a sense of the relaxed "coolness" inherent in its form. The name "Mellow Pad" refers to slag used by the musicians for a low-key place to hang out.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hidden Meanings

The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1533, The National Gallery, London.

Hans Holbein the Younger was born in Germany but spent most of his career in England as the court painter to Henry VIII. His work was strongly influenced by the Northern Renaissance painters like Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Wyden. Their realistic style rendered in bright jewel tones, was his style, as well. This portrait of two men thought to be ambassadors to the English court from France, is filled with hints and puzzles about the men's lives, and even a message for we viewers. On the bottom of the piece in the center, you see a skull painted in Anamorphic perspective. It is seen only from particular angles and is thought be placed there to remind us all of our mortality.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Carved History

To memorialize his triumph over the "barbarians" this carved cameo was created that shows the Emperor Augustus receiving the crown of victory and seated among the gods on the upper level, while his soldiers handle the captives below.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

For Liz

Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein, 1963, MOMA, NYC

The Tate Modern and the Art Institute of Chicago have organized a retrospective of one of the most popular and controversial Pop artists of the 20th century, Roy Lichtenstein. The exhibition opens at the AIC today and runs through Sept, 3rd. The controversy about his work stems from his "lifting" images from 1950's and 60's comic books, enlarging them, and rendering them in paint. This part of his career is only the tip of the iceberg, as his work went in many other directions through-out his long career.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Binh Danh is a Vietnamese photographer who used images from victims killed in war in his native homeland as subjects for his work. In this series, the artist uses images exposed on plant life and then paired with butterflies to memorialize them.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Glass Jewels

Stained Glass Panel in Frank Lloyd Wright Style at Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix.

Frank Lloyd Wright always liked to create an entire environment in his buildings and homes. He designed furniture, rugs, light fixtures, stained glass, pottery, fabrics - whatever a home would need. His student Albert McArthur, who collaborated with Wright on the design, included a glass panel typical of his teacher's style that now serves as a beautiful focal point at the entrance.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stacked Blocks by Design

Vintage Postcard of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel

The hotel opened in 1929 and was the first resort complex in the Phoenix area. Two brothers from Chicago named McArthur, asked their brother Albert McArthur, who had studied with Frank Lloyd Wright to design the hotel complex. McArthur and Wright collaborated on the design and it's detials and McArther used Wright's "textile block" design to create the "Biltmore Block" from which the buildings are constructed.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On the Water

Although the title seems to indicate that this work was done in Venice, Italy, it tongue-in-cheek, because it was actually done in Suffolk England, the city of Walberswick, to be exact. Mackintosh who was working primarily as an architect, took-up watercolor (an earlier pursuit) when commissions slowed.

Monday, May 14, 2012


This C.R. Mackintosh watercolor was done after he had arrived in the south of France on the  Mediterranean coast where he was struck by the natural rock formations and sets them up in this painting as a contrast to the roofs of the buildings.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Influence from Afar

Chinese Wallpaper design, 18th century, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Chinese produced wallpapers that were made for export, primarily to Europe in the 18th century as part of the movement known as Chinoiserie, in which Chinese porcelains, and in this case wallpaper, were collected and displayed. They were beautiful objects in themselves, but also prized because they were expensive and difficult to obtain.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wildlife at Home

In My Orchard, a wallpaper design by C.F.A. Voysey, 1929, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Another wallpaper design by Voysey, who actually claimed to prefer bare wooden walls to walls covered in paper, certainly did a lot of designs for wallpapers and even had them in his own home, which was called The Orchard.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

More Strawberries

Wallpaper design with Strawberries by C.F.A. Voysey, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

This is another Victorian design for wallpaper by the architect and designer Charles Voysey. His work was influenced by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain, and also by the Art Nouveau movement. World War I interfered with his commissions for building homes and decorating them, but in 1931, a retrospective of his work held at the Batsford Gallery, brought recognition for his work.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Strawberry Thief

The Strawberry Thief by William Morris, 1883.

British Arts & Crafts movement artist, designer, and founder William Morris has been featured on this blog before. This is one is his most popular design based on birds going after the strawberries in his garden. It is both beautiful, inspired by medieval tapestries, and lighthearted.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Brilliant Poppies

Unikko (Poppy) Design by Maija Isloa for Marimekko, 1965.

The Finnish textile company Marimekko created some of the most iconic designs from the mid-twentieth century. The bright bold prints created by artists like Isloa were exactly what people were attracted to, with their colors and shapes.

Friday, May 04, 2012

City on the Lake

Designed by a panel led by architect Danial Burnham and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition made Chicago the leading force in architecture, a prominence the city is still known for today. The style is classically influenced by the Greeks and Romans, but the designed on a  faux city built onto the lake. More than 27 million people came to see the sights, among them, the first use of electric lighting designed and installed by George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla, using his invention of AC current.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

We're Shocked Too

Yesterday, a version of this iconic artwork broke all auction records when it sold for $119.9 million dollars making it the highest amount a work of art has ever sold for. It is actually not surprising, as The Scream has become one of the most recognized art works in the world along with the Mona Lisa and American Gothic.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Classic Beauty

Daybreak by Maxfield Parrish, 1922, Private Collection.

Parrish's father was an artist and he was encouraged by his family to pursue a career as an artist. He had a good deal of success as an artist, but also as an illustrator who added life and color to many books. This is one of his most famous pieces and is still available as a print today, also still very popular.

There is a retrospective of Parrish's work through September 2, 2012 at The National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, RI.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

No Such Thing

This sculpture was originally intended to sit in front of the Standard Oil of Ohio building (now BP) in Public Square. It was also supposed to sit with the stamp part down, so the handle would be up in the air. "Free" was a reference to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument for Civil War military from the area. BP donated the sculpture to the city, who had it placed in Willard Park.
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