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Art History Today
Midlands, United Kingdom
Professional Art Historian, Phd in Poussin,
Interests: music, art history, films, (classical through to rock), literature (mainly modern crime mystery).
Recent Activity
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From my researches into the mirror and art I know that Leonardo knew a lot about optics and reflections, so why this “puzzling anomaly?” Continue reading
Posted 4 hours ago at Art History Today
François Boucher, The Painter in his Studio, 1730-1735, oil on canvas, 27 x 22 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. François Boucher, The Landscape Painter, oil on canvas, 37.9 x 25.6 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Gustat Lundborg, Portrait of François Boucher, 1741, pastel on blue paper, 65 x 50 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. George Morland, The Artist in his Studio with his Man Gibbs, c. 1802, oil on canvas, 63.5 x 76.2 cm, Nottingham City Museums and Gallery. George Morland, The Old Water Mill, 1790, oil on canvas, 100.3 x 12.0 cm, Yale Centre for British Art. James Barry,... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Squalorscape: From Bratby’s Kitchen Sink Art to Francis Bacon’s Grimey Glory. A yearning for grime and squalor continued to be shown by later artists such as Gwen John whose brother Augustus complained about her desire to inhabit slum-houses and low dens in the “Fitzrovia” district of London, and later, Paris. Though John was a confirmed bohemian who actually mixed with gypsies, he believed that despite squalor being a good subject for painting, it did not follow that the artist had to actually live under such conditions. But the lure of the louche prevailed with some artists such as Orpen, Sickert... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Towards Chaos: Sickert’s Studio. For most people Walter Sickert’s name is likely to conjure up grotesquely looking nudes splayed across beds in crepuscular bedrooms in rachitic, rundown houses, either alone or in the company of some male watcher. These have been erroneously connected with the infamous Jack the Ripper whose bedroom he thought he had rented (above) when the “Camden Town Murder” series was actually suggested by the brutal killing of a prostitute Emily Dimmock in Camden Town in September 1907. These pictures which affronted many people and led to some artists breaking their friendship with Sickert like Fred Brown... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Object Relations & the Modern Studio. “...flat and a studio with a tin roof. Watertight all round. North light. Half finished picture, eight by twelve. The Living God. Cartoons, drawings, studies, two painter’s ladders, two chairs, kettle, frypan and an oil stove. All you could want.”1 Joyce Cary, The Horses’s Mouth. Sometimes we do not even see the artist at all, or the artist does not make it obvious he is the craftsman making pictures in his studio. An image of Henry Fuseli’s studio is captured by an anonymous artist of the British school. He does not show Fuseli at... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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From Balzac to Picasso: The Studio and the Pursuit of the Perfect Motif. Fitzgerald’s painting shows the process of creativity in the studio, but in the nineteenth-century such glimpses into the private domain of the artist were forbidden. The best illustration of the mystique of the studio is told in a short story by Balzac: Le Chef-d’oeuvre (The Unknown Masterpiece), published in 1831. This story concerns an artist, Frenhofer, who is working on his masterpiece in his studio, safe from prying eyes. However, two other painters persuade Frenhofer to open up his studio and show the work that he is... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Dreaming and Creation in the Nineteenth-Century Studio. Dreams and visions are present in representations of the studio. Last week we saw Vasari’s St Luke painting a vision of the Virgin appearing to him in his atelier, and the even stranger sight of Father Rufilus illustrating strange creatures of the imagination in a medieval manuscript that contained him. The latter falls under allegory and we could add to this images like Luca’s Giordano’s imaginative painting of Rubens in his studio surrounded by famous allegories that appear in his paintings like the Peace and War in London. According to one interpretation, Giordano... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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The Bohemian Studio. The word “bohemia” originally referred to vagabondage, or more specifically the life of the gipsy wayfarer. Bohemia in fact was a kingdom, but was absorbed into what became Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia), the home of the gypsies.1 “Bohemianism” later became associated with culture at the margins embodied in the legions of uprooted, intellectuals, poets, artists, musicians who lived in uncomfortable circumstances in Paris, perhaps most famously portrayed, albeit romantically, in Henri Murger’s Scènes de la vie de bohème (1851), later more famously turned into an opera by Puccini (1896). The bohemian studio had its own... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Turner’s Wretched Studio. Another controversial member of the R.A. was J.M.W. Turner who preferred to keep his studio activity secret. Over a long career Turner had a fair number of residences and studios of different sizes. Between 1806 and 1811 he lived in a small house in Hammersmith, with a riverside garden and a summer house that he turned into a studio.1 Not for Turner an indoor room with lights and walls; in reply to a query about painting in the open air, Turner said that “lights and a room were absurdities, and that a picture could be painted anywhere.”... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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The Squalid Studio: Barry to Turner “In the chill winter of 1804, the fifty-four year old Irish painter James Barry was living in distressed circumstances in London, just north of Oxford Street (above). He huddled in an upstairs room, his ground floor studio too cold to inhabit, the windows blanketed with snow, blocking out any vestiges of daylight. Barry’s magnum opus, The Birth of Pandora, stretched across the studio wall: a vast canvas measuring 10 feet high and over 17 feet wide. The front of Barry’s house, in an otherwise, smart, newly constructed terrace, was spattered with mud; the shutters... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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The Studio in the 18th Century. In the eighteenth-century- particularly in France and Britain-there is a shift away from images of the studio that are, in the words of Waterfield, “didactic and descriptive” towards more idiosyncratic representations of the painter’s studio.1 One important theme that emerges is that of the squalid and dishevelled artist, which- in France- may reflect certain lax standards associated with the rococo movement. One of its leading artists, François Boucher, produces images of dishabille painters working in untidy studios. Such images might be seen as examples of attempts to bestow a kind of chicness on squalor,... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Towards the Academy. As Carl Goldstein states in his survey of the academy in western art, the organisation should be distinguished from other entities like workshops, clubs and schools, although there was inevitably a certain amount of overlap.1 Clubs existed in the early modern to bind artists, intellectuals and men of virtue together; the workshop would be an additional presence but not the same as a workshop in itself. There were differences too: a workshop would not encourage the study of literature and poetry, or music. For example, a painting of members of the French Academy, set up in 1642,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at Art History Today
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The Pictor Vulgaris & the Studio. After the renaissance period, images of the artist in their studio become more common, especially in the Netherlands. Here, where matter-of-fact realism prevailed, we see the artist’s studio becoming more recognisable as a real space. Rembrandt is, of course, the main exponent of this. In the early painting we saw him staring intently at a canvas he had either painted, or was contemplating putting his brush to. In a later self-portrait at Kenwood House Rembrandt shows himself before an easel which we assume is set up in his own studio. This may be true,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at Art History Today
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A Room at the Back of the Shop Picking up a thread from the renaissance idea of the artists’ studio, namely that of the difference between the bottega and the studiolo which becomes more visible as a concept, especially in northern Europe during the seventeenth-century: when we arrive in this century, the idea of a private room separate from the noisy, busy workshop or household is present in literary and visual culture. We famously read of Montaigne’s arrière- boutique or “room at the back of the shop,” which is a metaphor for mental solitude as well as a physical space... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at Art History Today
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The Image of the Artist at Work. According to James Hall, the genre of the painter depicting him or herself at work in the studio corresponded roughly with the practice of prospective sitters and patrons visiting the artist’s studio.1 This may have evolved from the medieval convention of showing artists on site, as in the manuscript illumination of Father Rufillus shown earlier, or more pertinently for the art of painting, the genre of St Luke painting the Virgin where St Luke is “on-site” because he has gone to the Virgin’s palace to paint her.2 There are examples of “visits” in... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at Art History Today
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The Studio in the Kitchen & the Alchemist’s Laboratory. If we find no comfortable fit between the scholar’s study and the artist’s studio in the renaissance, we cannot say the same of the alchemist’s workshop since this space overlapped with the kitchen which in turn was closer in atmosphere and function to the painter’s studio than the scholar’s study.1 Moreover, a number of first-rank artists like Altdorfer, Botticelli, Dürer and even Parmigianino are thought to have been interested in the science. One of Dürer’s drawings done during his stay in Venice, circa 1495 seems to have alchemical motifs such as... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at Art History Today
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The Renaissance Studiolo. There is also some ambiguity tied up with using the word studio as it needn’t specifically refer to a space in which painting is practised. Studio comes from “studiolo,” meaning a room for contemplation, like a study which was a place for reflection where the artist would be presented “not as a craftsman but a scholar.” A reconstructed one in the Met, New York gives some idea of the tranquillity of the studiolo. This differs from the renaissance workshop or bottega which is a place of production.1 Although these two rooms would have had different functions, they... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at Art History Today
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The Artist’s Studio in the Renaissance. The image of the artist in their studio constitutes a genre in itself, but where did it originate? There are not many examples of the painter at work in their studio in the renaissance period; artists would not have felt the need to represent themselves at work in their studio, especially as there wouldn’t have been a market for it. The odd representation of the artist in their studio doesn’t throw much light on it as an idea in the renaissance as in the case of Parmigianino’s red chalk drawing of an artist’s studio... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at Art History Today
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The Concept of the Artist’s Studio. As Waterfield’s quote implies, the best place to search for the origins of the genre of the “Artist’s Studio” is in those images that depict the space where the artist works; but even a cursory trawl through the image databank shows that the issue is complex since the studio as a subject in art really only appears after the renaissance in the seventeenth-century- see below. Pre- renaissance, for example in the medieval period, we certainly see artists painting either themselves or worldly- and unworldly things- but they hardly inhabit what could categorically be called... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at Art History Today
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“How have artists’ studios been seen by the artists who occupy them, and by other artists, and by their publics, over the past four hundred years? What are the myths that have developed around this type of space? Do certain ideas, or motifs, characterise depictions of the artist’s studio? And can types of studious be arranged into valid categories? These are some of the issues that this book, and the exhibition that inspired it, attempt to illuminate, using examples primarily taken from the British tradition.” 1 The Artist’s Studio in History. This course has its origins in an exhibition on... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at Art History Today
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So this is coming up at Christie’s in the Old Master sale. Whether it’s by Rembrandt or not, it’s a fine old master. Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2017 at Art History Today
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1 ) Map of Different World Cultures. 2) Unknown artist, John de Mandeville, 1459. 3) Cotton plant as imagined and drawn by John Mandeville; "There grew there [India] a wonderful tree which bore tiny lambs on the endes of its branches. These branches were so pliable that they bent down to allow the lambs to feed when they are hungrie." 4) Descent of the Ganges (Mahabalipuram), Bay of Bengal, c. 7th cent AD. 5) Descent of the Ganges (Mahabalipuram) viewed by Indian women. 6) Yakshi from Bharut, c. 100 BC, stone, 2.14 m, Indian Museum, Calcutta. 7) Female figure with... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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Coda: Silk, Painting & Florence Throughout this course we have looked at the art of the Silk Roads. To end we shall consider the link between silks and a famous painting in Florence: Masaccio’s Madonna and Christ. In this painting the Virgin Mary wears a purple cloak that is embroidered with words. This is an example of Tiraz, namely borders of textiles embellished in Arabic with silk threads.[1] These were “standard for all textiles in Islamic countries” and they became much admired in Christian countries, as a result of Silk Road commerce. It is probably the case that the renaissance... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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“Cultural Traces” in Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Good and Bad Government frescoes. During one of his most aesthetic moments, Berenson enthused about the similarities between Japanese art and Lorenzetti’s paintings. Berenson developed an interest in Asian art, and more significantly made comparisons between it and western painting when he was part of the Bostonian group of scholars, art historians and aesthetes. In his early career this kind of intercultural comparison took the form of commenting on the “similarity” of the Venetian Carlo Crivelli and the Sienese Ambrogio Lorenzetti to Asian art; though later Berenson in his famous surveys of renaissance painting would... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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St Francis on the Silk Roads. If the mappamondo that once hung in the Town Hall were an indication of Siena’s interest in Asia, this would be the cartographical equivalent of connecting St Francis on the road to Siena emulating the behaviour of whirling dervishes of the mystical Arabian Sufis who journeyed along the Silk Roads.[1] Whether this can be called an example of religious diffusionism or parallel occurrence remains open to question; but the link whether imaginative or real has not deterred art historians, both living and dead, from connecting the Assisi monk with African and Asian religious groups.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today