Tuesday, April 30, 2013



When I decided to do Art for A-Z this year, I thought it would be an easier challenge than last year’s, but it was more work than I anticipated. However, I did get to look at beautiful pictures every day, so I can’t complain!

And I did find a Z artist—Taddeo Zuccaro, a Renaissance painter. I thought it would be fun to show his version of The Conversion of St. Paul and compare it with Caravaggio’s, which I presented here. I’ve also included it below.

Zuccaro’s version, which is a preparatory study for an altarpiece, is a pen-and-ink drawing with brown wash, black chalk, and lead white on blue paper. Caravaggio’s, of course, is a full color painting. But the subjects are similar: both portray the moment when Saul of Tarsas is struck by a light from Heaven, hears the voice of Christ, and falls from his horse. Despite the similarities, there are great differences in composition (particularly the dominance of the horse in Caravaggio’s version) and emotional power. I love to see how different artists treat the same subject.

Zuccaro's Conversion of St. Paul
Caravaggio's Conversion of St Paul

Congratulations to all A-Zers at the end of this challenge! Now let’s all go grab some ZZZZ’s.


Monday, April 29, 2013



Young Woman with Water Pitcher


Ever since I read Girl with a Pearl Earring, I’ve been a fan of Johannes (Jan) Vermeer. Vermeer (1632-1675) was a Dutch painter best known for interior scenes and for his use of lighting. He tended to use the same one or two rooms in his own home for his paintings, and many of them show the same backgrounds and floor pattern.



In this painting Vermeer used the natural light coming through the window to illuminate the face of his model. The window was used in several of his paintings, as was the map on the wall and the tablecloth. He was one of the few artists at the time to use the brilliant ultramarine blue of the young woman’s dress. The blue pigment was made from lapis lazuli, a gemstone, which made it very expensive. Vermeer was hardly rich—he did not make many paintings in his short lifetime and had eleven children--but his mother-in-law was quite well to do and probably provided him with some financial support. He may also have received some support from a wealthy patron. Nevertheless, his financial troubles mounted, and upon his early death his wife was left in debt; she attributed his death to financial pressures.

It’s unfortunate that Vermeer’s slow and deliberate style of painting coupled with his brief life span deprived the world of more of his paintings, but we can be grateful for the ones we do have.
As a footnote, one of Vermeer's paintings was stolen in the robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The paintings remain unrecovered.

Saturday, April 27, 2013



The X

A post of few words today…”The X” by Ronald Bladen.

Friday, April 26, 2013



James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s most famous painting is also one of the most parodied in the history of art; probably only the Mona Lisa rivals it as a pop culture icon. Though it’s popularly called Whistler’s Mother, the painting’s title is really Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1.


Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, which is also the hometown of Jack Kerouac—quite an interesting legacy for a small industrial town. His own legacy is much more varied than many people know who are familiar only with the portrait of his mother. Working in Paris, he became friendly with several of the Impressionists, as well as with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the pre-Raphaelite painters; Whistler’s work incorporates some of the style of each movement as well as many other influences, but it is also uniquely his own, distinguished by his use of monochrome tones. He often titled his paintings “nocturnes” or “harmonies”.

Nocturne in Black and Gold--The Falling Rocket

Symphony in White: The White Girl

Grand Canal Amsterdam




Vincent van Gogh

 Of course, V had to be for Vincent, probably my favorite artist and the favorite of very many people. It’s so sad that he never knew how popular and lauded he would become, because his life was nothing but a series of failures, disappointments, hurts, failed relationships, and self-destructive actions. Yet today he is hailed as one of the greatest and most innovative artists of all time.

Vincent van Gogh had tried several professions in his youth, most notably as an art dealer (with his brother Theo) and a preacher. In everything he tried he ended up alienating other people, largely because of his overenthusiastic and perfectionist approach to everything. I won’t go into a detailed biography here; for those who want to learn more about this troubled and brilliant artist, I highly recommend this excellent biography:




So much has been said about van Gogh that I don’t need to elaborate here. Instead I give you these wonderful examples of his art to enjoy.



(just for fun—van Gogh’s Irises and a photo I took)

Café Terrace

Starry Night

Almond Blossoms (showing Japanese influence)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013




Paolo Uccello (1397–1475) was a Florentine artist of the Renaissance, the time when artists were discovering perspective, and he was fascinated by it. He worked endlessly on perfecting the technique of foreshortening to add depth to his painting. In his best known work, The Battle of San Romano, we can see how he used these new techniques, although it seems crude compared to later Renaissance paintings.
The Battle of San Romano
Under the rump of the rearing white horse in the center lies the body of a soldier, his feet touching the bottom edge of the frame, his body stretched toward the back of the picture; this is foreshortening. The figure is very small in comparison to the others, but it is probably the earliest instance of this technique being used to represent a figure in depth. Furthermore, the lances lying on the ground all point toward the rear, what came to be known as the “vanishing point” of a painting, something that Renaissance artists perfected as part of the illusion of dimension.

Here are a few other examples of his painting.

The Hunt
The Magi
St. Francis

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


 Tom Thomson

 Tom Thomson (1877–1917) was a Canadian painter who is associated with the group of Canadian artists called the Group of Seven, although that group wasn’t officially formed until after Thomson’s death. Nevertheless, he had a great influence on them. These artists concentrated on painting the landscape and wilderness of Canada in a post-Impressionist style, using bold colors and brushstrokes and thick applications of paint.
Thomson drowned at age thirty-nine under somewhat mysterious circumstances.   As he had only begun painting seriously in 1912, his creative period was short, yet he left behind hundreds of small sketches and full paintings and a long-lasting legacy.

Northern Lights

Snow in the Woods
West Wind

Pine Island Georgian Bay


Monday, April 22, 2013


Silhouettes: Kara Walker


We’ve all seen silhouettes. The black cutouts against a white background, usually in the form of a profile of a person. We admire the skill it takes to do this well, but is it really art?


In the hands of Kara Walker, it is absolutely art. Walker is an African American artist who uses the medium of silhouette to examine very frankly themes of slavery, race, sexuality, and identity. A lot of her work is highly controversial; she doesn’t pull any punches in her imagery, which can be raw and shocking. She’s best known for large installations that cover the walls of galleries and museums. She became the youngest person to be awarded the so-called “genius” grant of the MacArthur Foundation when she was twenty-seven.


Because I’m not a controversy-seeking person, I include some of her less(?) disturbing images in this post (you’re welcome). For a more complete selection of her work, see here.
A museum installation

Saturday, April 20, 2013




Henri Rousseau is best known for his almost primitive style and the charm he brought to his subjects. He spent his youth working as a toll collector in Paris. He didn’t begin painting seriously until his early forties; he retired at age forty-nine to become a full-time painter.

His most well-known paintings are jungle scenes, but they depict a jungle that’s more of a paradisical dream than a realistic depiction. Probably his most famous painting, in fact, is called The Dream:



Don’t you love the eyes on that lion? He looks more like a pet than a danger to the woman. In fact, she looks quite in command of the whole scene!


In The Sleeping Gypsy, Rousseau manages to convey both danger and a delightful sense of whimsy:



Here are some more examples of his simple and delightful style:


Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised)
The Avenue at the Park at St. Cloud

Carnival Evening




Just about everyone doing this challenge gets stuck on Q. I couldn’t find any painters or paintings beginning with Q that I wanted to write about. So here are some portraits of Queens (the royal kind, not the New York borough).

Queen Ceopatra, by William Waterhouse

Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII, by Hans Holbein


Queen Elizabeth I, by Nicholas Hilliard


Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII

Marie Antoinette, by Elisabeth Vigee le Brun

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Is for…Two “P” Paintings


Not much to say today. I thought I’d let the paintings do the talking and show two dramatically different styles of art from two dramatically different eras. So here today, two masters of the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries, of the traditional and the surreal: Pieter Breugel the Elder and Salvador Dali.


Breugel, Peasant Wedding


Dali, The Persistence of Memory










Georgia O’Keeffe is probably the best known woman artist today, at least in the United States. Her images, especially of flowers, appear on calendars, posters, note cards, and many other products. She is one of the few painters who’s become almost a household name; it would be hard to find a person who has never heard of her or seen one of her images.
Georgia O'Keeffe, Grey Hills

Pineapple Bud
She painted flowers as no one else did: by getting deep inside them, exposing their soul, the sensuality along with the delicacy, finding the infinite in a tiny stamen, eternity in a petal. And she found beauty in ordinary, even unpleasant subjects: an old barn, a plain adobe church, an animal’s skull. Though she lived and worked much of her life in New Mexico, her career really began in New York, where her work was first exhibited by her future husband,
photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who owned an art gallery. It came as a surprise to me the first time I saw one of her city paintings in a museum.

  O'Keeffe, New York Night and City Night


She eventually bought a ranch in New Mexico and spent much of her time there, but she and Stieglitz remained married and she was at his side when he died in 1946. She herself lived to the age of ninety-eight and died in Santa Fe in 1986, and her ashes were scattered over a mesa in New Mexico near her ranch. It seems like an appropriate ending for one who loved and mastered the beauty of nature.


Chestnut Tree

Portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe, by Alfred Stieglitz

Monday, April 15, 2013


René Magritte (1898-1967)

Magritte, born in Belgium, was a surrealist, but even more an artist of wit who played with the notions of perception and reality. Many of his images have become famous on book covers, record albums, posters, and other forms, maybe none more so than this one:


The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe)
It seems to be a self-contradictory statement, but it’s actually a philosophical one: the picture is a painting of a pipe, not the actual thing. It’s a playful statement on the nature of reality, as is most of his work. If an image is not a real thing, can we ever know what reality actually is?

 This is one of my favorites:



Not to Be Reproduced

Is it about the impossibility of self-knowledge? Or of complete knowledge of another? Is it an individual hiding from himself? Or is it nothing at all except a reversal of the common mirror scene? Interestingly enough, this painting was commissioned as a portrait!
Here are some more examples of Magritte’s wit and subversion of reality:


Time Transfixed


The Empire of Light