Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Day The Prozac Train Was Late

The Day The Prozac Train Was Late by Pieter Artschool
What was the Dutch School of Depressionism? Who knows? But its greatest icon was non-other than an aptly named young man, Pieter Artschool. He won an art contest named, "Can You Draw The Bunny?" and was thrilled to learn that yes, indeed, he did have some inborn talent.

He spent all of his savings on art instruction, but alas, he had little more to show for it than a quaint ability to copy other people's work, which is exactly what he did. He began sneaking into art museums at night, absconding with lesser-known artist's works, then modifying them enough to prevent recognition. He then sold them as his own creations. The Day The Prozac Train Was Late is an excellent example of his creative genius and technique. The original was Johann Christian Brueghel's Peasant Festival, a merry work celebrating the Dutch peasant's ability to subsist on beer, bread, and onions. As well as attempting to dance in wooden shoes after drinking drinking themselves silly.

By creatively muting the colors, turning the smiles upside-down, and repainting the beautiful Dutch sky the color of a horrible mud, he transformed Brueghel's canvas into his own stunning masterpiece. It hung in a museum in Amsterdam until it was spotted by a relative of Brueghel's who brought it to the attention of the authorities.

Poor Pieter Artschool, a young man who desperately longed to be a master painter, was hung in the vacant lot next to the museum.

Just paint it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Art

For those of you who enjoy beautiful art of the Christmas season there are several online exhibits offering shows of the Christmas story.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a wonderful exhibit featuring historic paintings set to words and music. Also, the Louve has an exhibit of art of the Christmas season.

Thanks to all who have visited my blog and left comments; I value each of them. May the blessings of Christmas be with each of you during the coming year.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Does Art Really Matter?

Winter Sunrise by Richard Edde
We have all been touched in some way by the events of our day. Terrorism, economic downturn, and fractured political processes have planted the seed of uncertainty in our lives. So in these tumultuous times it begs the question: does art really matter?

Art can transport us to a new place and, for a moment, allow us to forget our present troubles. But to me, art is not totally escapist. Art provides a sensory experience that can be truly restorative. Art gives our eyes and mind a chance to rest, to muse, to think. Looking at art, we reconnect with our inner spirit, a spirit that is rich in thoughts, feelings, and dreams.

While some consider art to be about things, it is only superficially about objects. It is about ideas and emotions expressed in paint or music or poetry. It is a conversation with our inner selves and our desire to come to terms with our humanness and ultimately, touch the infinite.

Art is the basic need of human survival. It is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way to understand things with our hearts when we cannot with our minds.

Art connects us with the deepest human longing for meaning and our desire to touch the infinite.

Just paint it!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rembrandt's Whore

Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels attributed to Rembrandt
Twenty year-old Hendrickje Stoffels makes the journey from her Dutch village to Amsterdam to model for Rembrandt, forty-three. Rembrandt has her pose for his paintings and soon falls in love with her. Because of a contract he has signed regarding not being able to marry after his former wife's death, he is not able to marry her and thus she becomes his mistress. The lifelong affair produces a child, Cornelia.

Stoffels is later condemned and publicly labeled a whore by the Catholic Church. Their love goes far beyond the physical, however, and it is the young woman who ends up caring for the painter, protecting him from his voracious creditors and the Amsterdam politicians who would exploit his formidable talent. Stoffels encourages Rembrandt as he struggles to remain true to his vision against the spirit of a conservative philistine society.

The second half of Rembrandt's life was characterized by bankruptcy, illness, and his downfall from Amsterdam's best known painter to his exploitation by people who took advantage of his precarious situation. Stoffels stood by him and provided him with care and emotional support.

It is because of Hendrickje that Rembrandt was able to live, having lost his wife Saskia and children in a tragic manner.

Just paint it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Love From An Insane Asylum

Untitled by Adolf Wolfli
In an earlier post, I wrote about Martin Rameriz, an artist who painted from his room in a California mental hospital. Now consider the art of Adolf Wolfli (1864-1930). Born in Switzerland, he was orphaned before his 10th birthday and spent most of his youth in a succession of foster homes or on the streets.

In 1890, he was sentenced to two years in prison for the attempted molestation of two young girls, and in 1895, after a third incident of alleged molestation of a 3 1/2 year-old girl, was committed to the Waldau Psychiatric Clinic in Bern, where he remained until his death in 1930. He spent most of his time at the mental hospital in isolation and by 1910 was writing and drawing. His early works were restless, symmetrical drawings on newspapers.

In 1908, Wolfli commenced his epic autobiography and it would consume the remaining 22 years of his life. The text, interspersed with poetry, musical compositions, and 3000 illustrations, totaled more than 25,000 pages. The epic was hand-bound by Wolfli and stacked in his cell. Consisting of 45 volumes, his autobiography eventually reached a height of more than six feet. The fascinating illustrations (see above) of the narrative are labyrinthine creations of densely combined text and idiosyncratic motifs.

A few days before his death, Wolfli lamented that he would be unable to complete the final section of the autobiography, a grandiose finale of nearly 3000 more songs, which he titled, "Funeral March." His works have been shown throughout Europe and the United States.

Just paint it!

Friday, October 23, 2009

World's Oldest Oil Paintings

Buddhist murals from Afghanistan's famed Bamian caves are the world's oldest known oil paintings, according to a new chemical analysis. (See photos of the paintings and the cliffs that housed them).

The finds, dated to around the 7th century CE, predate the origins of similar sophisticated painting techniques in medieval Europe and the Mediterranean by more than a hundred years.

The discovery may also provide insights into cultural exchange along the Silk Road connecting east and west Asia during that time period.

Using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, scientists found that samples from twelve caves and the two giant Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban contained oil- and resin-based paints - likely the earliest known use for either substance for painting.

The analysis, done by Yoko Taniguchi of Japan, showed the murals were painted using a structured, multilayered technique reminiscent of early European methods.

Just paint it!