Turns out it only takes me a quarter of an hour to go from yeah-it’s-an-ok-painting-I-guess to god-you’re-right-that’s-amazing-I-never-realised.
Great art explained – YouTube I’m James Payne, a curator, gallerist and a passionate art lover. I am on a mission to demystify the art world and discover the stories behind the world’s greatest paintings and sculptures. Each episode will focus on one piece of art and break it down, using clear and concise language free of ‘art-speak’.
I missed Van Gogh’s birthday last month, again. I meant to post these links earlier.
Warrior artist – Dublin Review of Books Anyone who dips into Van Gogh’s letters will be struck by how much and how widely he read. He devoured and used books up as he did the people around him, though he never used people in a malicious way. It was just that few could match or live up to his passionate intensity. As Mariella Guzzoni, an independent scholar and art curator, writes: “It should be said . . . that though Vincent cherished books, he was not a book collector. More precisely, he was a book-user. For him, it was not important to physically possess books, but to make them his own.”
There’s more to his story than just him, though.
The woman who made Vincent van Gogh – The New York Times Twenty-one months after her marriage, Jo was alone, stunned at the fecund dose of life she had just experienced, and at what was left to her from that life: approximately 400 paintings and several hundred drawings by her brother-in-law.
The brothers’ dying so young, Vincent at 37 and Theo at 33, and without the artist having achieved renown — Theo had managed to sell only a few of his paintings — would seem to have ensured that Vincent van Gogh’s work would subsist eternally in a netherworld of obscurity. Instead, his name, art and story merged to form the basis of an industry that stormed the globe, arguably surpassing the fame of any other artist in history. That happened in large part thanks to Jo van Gogh-Bonger. She was small in stature and riddled with self-doubt, had no background in art or business and faced an art world that was a thoroughly male preserve. Her full story has only recently been uncovered. It is only now that we know how van Gogh became van Gogh.
It’s a fascinating read, his sister-in-law Jo van Gogh-Bonger was remarkable. Here’s a photo of her from around 1909.
And there were other important women in his life too.
The fascinating lives of Vincent van Gogh’s three sisters – Hyperallergic Vincent van Gogh’s three sisters — Willemien (Wil), Elisabeth (Lies), and Anna van Gogh — are highlighted in the historical biography The Van Gogh Sisters by Willem-Jan Verlinden (Thames & Hudson). The book was originally published in Dutch in 2016; the English version, translated by Yvette Rosenberg and Brendan Monaghan, includes previously unpublished letters, largely the result of research completed after the Dutch version was first released.
Through letters between the siblings, we read that Lies was frustrated that women didn’t have more professional options that were socially acceptable. We learn about how Wil often copied Vincent’s drawings and was his favorite model, and that the two wrote to each other about art and literature and inquired about one another’s mental health. The book draws you in with stories about the siblings’ pursuits of jobs, love, and artistic curiosities, as well as lush portrayals of each family home.
How Van Gogh paid for his mentally ill sister’s care decades after his death – The Guardian Vincent van Gogh remained penniless throughout his tragic life, which ended in suicide shortly after a stay in a mental asylum. Yet two decades later, paintings he had given to his sister were sold to pay for her stay in a psychiatric hospital, commanding such high prices that the proceeds funded years of treatment, according to letters published in a new book.
Willemien, the youngest of Van Gogh’s three sisters, shared his love of art and literature and, like him, struggled with her mental health. While Van Gogh was committed to an asylum after cutting off part of his ear and giving it to a prostitute in a fit of madness, his sister was institutionalised for almost 40 years until her death in 1941.
In 1909, the oldest sister, Anna, wrote of selling a picture that he had given Willemien, enabling her to pay for medical costs: “I remember when Wil got the painting from Vincent, but what a figure! Who would have thought that Vincent would contribute to Wil’s upkeep in this way?”
Speaking of selling Van Goghs, here’s a very realistic/utterly fake portrait of him by the ‘post photographer’ Bas Uterwijk that’s for sale.
I’m still struggling with all this, to be honest. Am I right in thinking that I can spend 20 Tezos (about £100) on something that’s exactly the same as the 1620×2048 .png file I can download if I right-click on the image on the webpage?
At the same time, the NFT backlash has been furious. Highly visible NFT evangelists make unrealistic claims to be freeing artists from the problems of institutional gatekeepers, but there are clearly still problematic dynamics of race, class, power, and gender that shape these markets too, and artists still find themselves partly reliant on social media platforms and traditional institutions to build audiences and accrue value for their work.
It wasn’t meant to be like this, obviously. Here’s Anil Dash, the man behind the technology.
NFTs weren’t supposed to end like this – The Atlantic The idea behind NFTs was, and is, profound. Technology should be enabling artists to exercise control over their work, to more easily sell it, to more strongly protect against others appropriating it without permission. By devising the technology specifically for artistic use, McCoy and I hoped we might prevent it from becoming yet another method of exploiting creative professionals. But nothing went the way it was supposed to. Our dream of empowering artists hasn’t yet come true, but it has yielded a lot of commercially exploitable hype.
It seems to me that the broken art market is still far from being fixed. I wonder what the folks at Sedition make of all this.
Featured image Works by Vincent on exhibition in Antwerp, Belgium, 1914. Van Gogh Museum Documentation, Amsterdam
Vincent van Gogh: The Starry Night – LEGO Ideas Clips and brackets form the swirling cloud; plates stack to form the hillsides and bushes; curve parts build up to become the cypress tree. My favorite part is the inclined plate stack on the right, capturing the angled brush strokes within the moon-lit cloud. … I love putting the minifigure before the 3D scenery. It is like watching the artist work on the painting in real time.
Venice, 1570s, and Paolo Veronese, who had been commissioned by the Dominicans to paint the Last Supper, finds himself up against the Venetian version of the Spanish Inquisition. His depiction of this biblical scene seemed irregular, to say the least. Perhaps even blasphemous?
The Lost Last Supper – Yale University Press Blog That dog, what is the dog doing there, a dog in the vicinity of Jesus, this is surely blasphemy? He should have painted Mary Magdalene there, should he not? Yes, but he did not think she would look right in that spot. And that bloody nose? That’s not fitting, is it? Yes, but it was intended as a servant who had had an accident. And what about that man there, the one who looks so German, armed with a halberd? That would take some time to explain. Please answer! You see, we painters are accustomed to taking the same liberties as poets and madmen, and so I painted those two halberdiers, one eating and the other drinking at the foot of the stairs, yes, but so that they can immediately be of service, because I believe that a man as wealthy as the host would have had such servants. And that fellow who looks like a court jester, with a parrot on his fist, what is he doing there? He is there for decoration, as is customary. And who is sitting at the Lord’s table? The twelve Apostles. What is Saint Peter doing, the first one sitting there? He is carving the lamb into portions for the whole table. And the man beside him? He is holding up his plate. And the next one? He is picking his teeth with a fork. Who do you think was actually present? I believe there was only Christ and his apostles, but if there is any space remaining in a painting then I fill it with figures of my own invention. So did someone commission you to include Germans and jesters and people of that sort? No, Sirs, but I saw that I had lots of space, so I could add a great deal.
The Holy Tribunal determines that this rabble is not worthy to accompany such a sacred event, and orders the dog, the bloody nose, the tooth-picker, the Germans, all of it, to be painted over. But the artist, with the permission of the Dominicans, has a better idea.
He barely changes the painting at all, he just gives it a different name, and that is what it is still called today in the Accademia: Feast in the House of Levi, and if paintings were allowed to have a subtitle, in this case it might be: or, Hoodwinking the Inquisition.
who took us to his lodging close by, and did shew us a little flower-pot of his doing, the finest thing that ever, I think, I saw in my life; the drops of dew hanging on the leaves, so as I was forced, again and again, to put my finger to it, to feel whether my eyes were deceived or no. He do ask 70l. for it: I had the vanity to bid him 20l.; but a better picture I never saw in my whole life; and it is worth going twenty miles to see it.
Around the time Peyps was poking the painting of Verelst, another northern European painter, Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts, was also causing confusion with the brush, creating his masterpiece known as The Reverse of a Framed Painting (ca. 1670), an image that is, to modern eyes at least, his most striking.
I love it, but I wonder how it was initially shown off. The gag would be wholly lost if this painting of a frame was itself framed. But weren’t all paintings framed?
I’ve been revisiting my post earlier in the week about the online worldwide Van Gogh exhibition. As well as high resolution scans of the actual paintings, the curators have documented the backs of them too — sturdy, wooden frames covered in gallery stickers. They remind me of airport tags on luggage.
Wheatfield with Crows was in Manchester? I would have loved to have seen that.
Dutch museums unveil free digital collection of 1,000+ artworks by Van Gogh – My Modern Met Van Gogh Worldwide is a new project by a group of Dutch museums which presents a digital collection of over 1,000 of the artist’s masterpieces. Building off the digitized collection begun several years ago by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, almost half of the post-Impressionist works of this prolific artist are now available to view—with scholarly commentary—from the safety of your own home.
Take a wander yourself, there’s so much to take in.
Van Gogh Worldwide Van Gogh Worldwide is a free digital platform providing art-historical and technical data about the work of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). The artist produced a total of approximately 2000 artworks, and the aim of Van Gogh Worldwide is to present data for these in an accessible way, via a user-friendly website.
The resolution of each image is wonderful, allowing you to get closer to the paintings than you probably could in real life.
And you can even view the paintings in a raking light, to get a sense of just how heavily textured and expressive these were. Not quite as three-dimensional as Timur Zagirov’s wooden blocks, but still.
A year ago I shared an article about British Airways being fined a record £183,000,000 by the ICO for a data breach in 2018. Here’s an update to that story.
BA fined record £20m for customer data breach – The Guardian The fine is the biggest ever issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), but a fraction of the £183m fine initially announced last year. This was reduced after investigators accepted BA’s representations about the circumstances of the attack; and was reduced further to take into account the dire financial position of BA since the onset of Covid-19.
They’re not having an easy time, to say the least. I wonder how successful this auction was for them.
With the exception of Terry Frost’s 1997 painting Colour Down the Side 1968, which is expected to go for £20,000 to £30,000 ($25,000 to $37,000), each work in the online sale is estimated below £15,000 ($19,000).
Well, that Bridget Riley looks to have sold for £1,875,000. That would have helped towards that ICO fine…
Then there’s this odd story about (another) one of his selfies.
Self-portrait or portrait of Theo? – Van Gogh Museum Van Gogh specialists from the museum recently returned to study the two portraits afresh. A publication on photographs of Vincent and Theo contained new insights regarding the likenesses and differences between the physical appearance of the two brothers. Some researchers had also harboured prolonged doubts about the identification made in 2011.
The resulting discussion made it clear that, based on all sources and arguments, it was not possible to determine with certainty which of the brothers is depicted on the portrait that was identified as being of Theo van Gogh in 2011. The decision has therefore been taken to use the title Self-Portrait or Portrait of Theo van Gogh for this painting from now on.
He’s not the only one using ‘deep learning’ networks to understand more about Van Gogh and his work.
MIT CSAIL develops AI to show how artists created their famous paintings – designboom You mightn’t have thought that Vincent van Gogh and artificial intelligence go hand-in-hand, but thanks to a system developed by researchers at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), we can now see his painting technique like never before. The system, called ‘Timecraft’, takes the image of a finished painting and analyzes how it was likely to have been originally created. The resulting time-lapse videos provide an amazing insight into renowned works from famous artists such as Cezanne and van Gogh.
But let’s not forget what brought us all here in the first place, some incredible imagery.
The first digital art center in Paris, established in a restored 19th-century foundry, the Atelier des Lumières creates monumental digital exhibitions that surround visitors with the pictorial world of the greatest artists.
Van Gogh, Starry Night – Atelier des Lumières The new digital exhibition in the Atelier des Lumières immerses visitors in the paintings of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), a genius who was not recognised during his lifetime and who transformed painting. Projected on all the surface of the Atelier, this new visual and musical production retraces the intense life of the artist, who, during the last ten years of his life, painted more than 2,000 pictures, which are now in collections around the world.
You remember I mentioned one of Christo’s final projects was going to involve the Arc de Triomphe? The one he’d been working on since the sixties? It looks like it’s still going ahead.
It’s Christo’s final show. But is it the last we’ll see of him? – The New York Times Christo’s team “are extraordinarily competent, and they know all the nuances of the Arc de Triomphe project, because they’ve been there working on everything,” said Jonathan Fineberg, a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia who has written extensively on Christo and Jeanne-Claude. “They know exactly what Christo wanted to do, and Christo wanted this project to be built whether he was there or not.”
It would be a fitting trubute. Here, perhaps, is another.
A 3D mural by artist Leon Keer wraps a French housing complex like a gift – Colossal Dutch artist Leon Keer is known for his large-scale anamorphic and Trompe-l’œil projects, transforming the sides of buildings and sidewalks into illusory public art. His latest mural, titled “Safe House,” turns the side of a housing complex in Morlaix, France, into a massive, wrapped gift. Despite its flat surface, the gold paper appears to crinkle and bulge under the bright, imperfectly cut tape. “It is not obvious for everybody to have a roof over their head. Your home is precious and gives you the comfort and protection, a gift for the necessary needs in life. In honor of the great Christo and Jeanne-Claude,” the artist writes in a statement.
Hockney: ‘His paintings are full of movement. What people love about Van Gogh’s paintings is that all the brush marks are visible and you can see how they are painted. When you’re drawing one blade of grass you’re looking and then you see more. And then you see the other blades of grass and you’re always seeing more. Well, that’s exciting to me and it was exciting to Van Gogh. I mean, he saw very clearly’.
That visit to the Netherlands wasn’t without incident, but here’s an interview with another artist from Yorkshire whose latest work goes back to nature in a visually similar way.
Interview: Damien Hirst – Idler
I’d always made more money the next year than the year before. But it was unsustainable and it bites your arse. They all love you. The bank loves you, and the accountants love you, because they’re taking your money. Every year you get more and more people as well. One guy is taking 10 per cent and then it’s another guy taking 10 per cent and another guy taking 10 per cent and it’s all a big party. But before you know it, suddenly you’ve got an overdraft when before you had loads of cash. The people who give you the overdraft are your best mates as well, smiling at you and telling you that you’re amazing so you keep doing it. […]
You start by thinking you’ll get one assistant and before you know it you’ve got biographers, fire eaters, jugglers, fucking minstrels and lyre players all wandering around. They’re all saying they aren’t being paid enough and they all need assistants. Then one night you ask the lyre player to play for you and they say: “My lyre is all scratched up and I did ask for a lyre technician but you said not yet and if I had one I could come and play for you now.” So you’ve got to have a lyre technician and then you better get him an Uber account too.
It’s the weekend! I’ll drink to that, though perhaps not with one of these.
During the Renaissance, drinking wine was a fight against physics – Gastro Obscura
The difficulty was the point. Courtiers were expected to embody the ideal of “sprezzatura,” a hard-to-translate word that combines the senses of elegance, sophistication, and nonchalance. In other words, you were supposed to be good at everything, without ever seeming to put any effort into it. What could be a better demonstration of sprezzatura than casually raising one of these sloshing, top-heavy goblets and taking a sip?
You can see some of them being used in this painting from 1563, Paolo Veronese’s “The Wedding at Cana,” amongst some other wonderful details. Click through for a close-up.
Dazzling coronavirus painting by biologist David Goodsell – Kottke
“You have to admit, these viruses are so symmetrical that they’re beautiful,” said Mr. Goodsell, an associate professor at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. “Are bright colors and pretty stuff the right approach? The jury’s still out. I’m not trying to make these things look dangerous, I want people to understand how they’re built.”
colors.lol – Overly descriptive color palettes
Created as a fun way to discover interesting color combinations. Palettes are hand-selected from the Twitter bot @colorschemez. The feed randomly generates color combinations as well as their descriptions, with each color being matched with an adjective from a list of over 20,000 words.
A painting and photography duo poking fun at fine art – It’s Nice That
The idea behind the project is for the pair to travel to locations any arts aficionado may recognise. Environments painted by Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet or Vincent Van Gogh are all visited, but rather than replicating their celebrated works, Hank chooses to paint the pattern of his shirt instead.
The point being that his images are the product of him looking directly at nature and depicting or representing what he sees by transmitting his sensory reaction through his fingers onto paper via a pencil, rather than mediating the process through a photograph.
His pictures are a record of how he, uniquely, is experiencing reality of his subject and the space in which it exists. The one-eyed mechanical camera flattens out all this individual nuance.
“The only real things in life are food and love in that order, just like our little dog Ruby. I really believe this and the source of art is love.”
I was blown away when I first saw his ipad paintings up close in Saltaire. These look just as charming.
I’m currently re-reading this coffee table book about the guy and enjoyed Brain Pickings’ recenttweets about him, so it was sad to read that one of his paintings has just been stolen.
Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum closed by virus – ABC News
“I’m shocked and unbelievably annoyed that this has happened,” said Singer Laren museum director Jan Rudolph de Lorm. “This beautiful and moving painting by one of our greatest artists stolen – removed from the community,” he added. “It is very bad for the Groninger Museum, it is very bad for the Singer, but it is terrible for us all because art exists to be seen and shared by us, the community, to enjoy to draw inspiration from and to draw comfort from, especially in these difficult times.”
Problems for museums over here, too.
Anish Kapoor fan gets stuck in virtual exhibition – The Art Newspaper
A man had to be rescued by the London Fire Brigade after getting lost while taking part in a virtual museum tour. As museums worldwide have had to shut their doors to help fight the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), many institutions have instead put their creative efforts into online engagement with the public, including providing a plethora of virtual tours of their collections and exhibitions. Unfortunately, in some cases, not enough attention has been paid to the visitor experience.