Friday, September 30, 2011

The Pursuit of Perfection

Forget perfection; only God is perfect. Go for excellence. (William Herring)

John Singleton Copley   Paul Revere  
Oil on canvas, 87,5 x 71,5 cm  
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jaws of Darkness | Caravaggio in Art and Life

On this day in 1571, the artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born in Milan, Italy. He would later be referred to as simply, "Caravaggio."

His short life was a dichotomy of darkness and light, eerily reflected in his use of chiaroscuro, a technique he refined in his paintings. In art, chiaroscuro describes the strong contrast of light and dark, resulting in a bold composition and realistic rendering of objects. Caravaggio took chiaroscuro to new heights in painting, yet his life was marked by a similarly bold contrast of light and dark.

CARAVAGGIO   Boy Peeling a Fruit  
c. 1593
Oil on canvas, 75,5 x 64,4 cm  
Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell'Arte Roberto Longhi, Florence

 As a young boy, Caravaggio lost his father to a plague, and his mother died when he was about 13, just as he began a four year apprenticeship to the artist Simone Peterzano. His young adulthood was marred by brawls, outbursts of violent behavior, killing and imprisonment. As he aged, he grew increasingly turbulent, and was imprisoned a second time for a violent incident. The court documents of his trials and proceedings show a troubled and chaotic man, so fearful of his enemies that he slept with his dagger. This was the blackness of his life, the "jaws of darkness" from which he could not escape.

CARAVAGGIO   St Jerome  
c. 1606  
Oil on canvas, 112 x 157 cm
   Galleria Borghese, Rome

In stark contrast, his artistic career flourished, although the heightened realism of his paintings often offended his patrons, resulting in some of his works being repainted to suit their modesty. Through the use of chiaroscuro and realism, Caravaggio depicted his human subjects with intense naturalism. His compositions often portray biblical figures experiencing an episode of keen emotional or psychological conflict, or at the precise moment of  an event, such as in Judith Beheading Holofernes (1599). He also mastered still life, and genre scenes of musicians and fortune tellers. This was the light of his life, the blinding brightness against the obsidian darkness.

CARAVAGGIO   The Fortune Teller 
Oil on canvas, 99 x 131 cm 
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Caravaggio's art has greatly influenced other artists such as Vermeer, Rembrandt, La Tour, Delacroix, Courbet and Manet. His art and life have been the subject of recent books and articles, including the latest by Andrew Graham-Dixon, Caravaggio - A Life Sacred and Profane.

Article main source:
Secondary source: Andrew Graham-Dixon, Caravaggio - A Life Sacred and Profane.
The quote"jaws of darkness" is from Wm. Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream
Web Gallery Of Art

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The View from the Summit

Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance toward the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point. Climb slowly, steadily, enjoying each passing moment; and the view from the summit will serve as a fitting climax for the journey. (Harold V. Melchert)

 Caspar David Friedrich   Morning in the Mountains  
Oil on canvas, 135 x 170 cm  
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

5 Tips for an Art Museum Visit

Planning a museum visit? A few important tips can help make your trip more enjoyable:

    Leonardo da Vinci   Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci  
    Oil on wood, 38,8 x 36,7 cm  
    National Gallery of Art, Washington
  1. Research the museum. View the museum's website for important info, such as visiting hours, location, parking, restroom and handicap services, and availability of a cafe/restaurant. Although this may seem like a no brainer, skipping this step could result in a less than ideal visit. While researching the museum info, look for special exhibits, programs, guest speakers, and other events. You might want to time your visit to include one of these features. If you will be taking children, most major museums have childrens' programs, often with hands on experiences. Again, check the website for these special programs. Call the museum to see if there is a slower attendance day, which would give you and your little art collectors more "breathing room."
  2. Give yourself plenty of time to tour the museum. A national gallery or major city museum will take at least 3 to 4 hours for a thorough visit, and this is on the conservative side. Your pace will be determined by the size of the crowd, your art preferences, if you are touring with children, and if you are a "skimmer" or "contemplator." Contemplators may stop for most artworks, while skimmers cruise the gallery to spot works which interest them. They then spend time at those particular art pieces. Touring a museum with children requires a brisk, and lively strategy, and works best when the adult's focus is on the children's experience.
  3. Consider taking a guided "docent" tour. On our first trip to the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC, we participated in a guided tour. Our extremely knowledgeable and likable guide showed us a handful of major artworks, giving us mini lectures on each one. We were able to learn more about those artworks than had we toured the museum independently. A guided tour often includes a variety of artwork in various media, such as paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, jewelry, textiles and furniture. Guided tours are also very good choices for the older school aged child, as the docent will frequently engage the children in the learning process by asking them questions, and encouraging discussions.  Most docents are specially trained to give an informative yet interesting tour. If you are really under time constraints, choose a tour. You will see some major pieces and also get a feel for the rest of the museum.
  4. Be open to the variety of artwork and media. Its tempting to walk through only those rooms which have your favorite kind of artwork, yet keeping an open mind can lead to surprising and delightful discoveries. If you have been to the museum before, start your tour in a gallery room which you usually avoid or haven't visited before, and spend some time in there. Try to see the artwork in the socioeconomic context in which it was created. Compare it and contrast it with your favorite artwork. How are they similar, or dissimilar? Try to find something to like about it, such as the color, shape, or size. You don't have to like the whole piece to appreciate it.  Ask questions. You may end up liking something you never thought you would!
     John Singleton Copley   Brook Watson and the Shark  
    Oil on canvas, 182 x 230 cm
    National Gallery of Art, Washington
  5. Research one work of art or particular artist before your visit. Although you do not have to be an art historian to appreciate art, knowing a little bit about a certain piece or artist will help your visit immensely. For example, one of my favorite artists is John Singleton Copley, and I love his painting "Watson and the Shark." Prior to my museum visit, I read about the painting, so when I saw it, I was able to understand and enjoy it more. I had read about the reason for the painting, how it was painted, who it was about, and more. To find an artist or artwork to "study," simply browse the museum website before your visit. Most museums have some of their collection online. You can select a piece, research it a little, then head off to the museum. Your viewing experience will be better for it, and, when you return with a friend, you can share your new found knowledge about the artwork! And that is one of the best reasons to visit an art museum!
Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing. (Camille Pissarro)

File:Pissarro-zwei schwatzende Frauen am Meer.jpg
Two Women Chatting by the Sea, 1856, Camille Pissarro
10 7/8 x 16 1/8 in
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Monday, September 26, 2011

Daily Art Quote

I cannot live without books. (Thomas Jefferson)

Jean-Baptiste Greuze   Student with a Lesson-book  
1757   Oil on canvas, 63 x 49 cm
 Carlo Dolci   St Catherine Reading a Book   Oil on canvas

 Sébastien Stoskopff    Books and a Candle   1625   Oil on canvas 
 Gerbrand van den Eekhout   Scholar with his Books  
1671   Oil on canvas, 64,5 x 49 cm

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Daily Art Quote

Imagination is the highest kite one can fly. (Lauren Bacall)

 Samuel van Hoogstraten   Still-Life   1666-68  
Oil on canvas, 63 x 79 cm
   Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe