Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter! Current Exhibits Worth a Look

I hope everyone is enjoying spring holidays! April has been quite a month here in Edmonton. We had a lot of dreadful weather (it's finally above freezing for a few days, but I'm not sure I should really get my hopes up just yet!). I always get a terrible case of cabin fever this time of year, but I think I'm recovering. I could certainly go for a trip to a beach somewhere, though!

For now, I will have to console myself by browsing the art events going on around the world right now. I find museums are a great way to beat the spring-is-not-so-springy-blues (that is, if you happen to live in a part of the world where it's not 365 days of sunshine - and if you do, I am afraid to say that I hate you just a little right now).

If you are in rainy old England and need a chance to escape the endless Royal Wedding coverage, the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester (known as "Chi" to the locals, I'm told) is holding an exhibit entitled "House of Fairytales", featuring works by a number of artists, including Fiona Banner, Peter Blake, Spartacus Chetwynd, Mat Collishaw, Dexter Dalwood, Simon English, Paula Rego, Bob & Roberta Smith, Kiki Smith, Gavin Turk, and Rachel Whiteread. There is also as a display of some of Gormenghast author Mervyn Peake's most well-known illustrations and prints (House of Fairytales runs from now until June 17th, while the Mervyn Peake display will be on until July 19th). I wish I could see the Peake exhibit - his work has always fascinated me (and creeped me out just a little). Thank you to Philip Eberell for bringing these exhibits to my attention!

The Art Gallery of Alberta has two great looking exhibits that I haven't had the chance to see yet. Walter J. Phillips: Water and Woods is running from now until June 5th, and it will focus on Phillips' woodcuts and watercolors. His artwork has a distinctive Japanese quality that was very popular in the 1930s (you can see some examples of his work on the AGA website).

The AGA will also be showing Nature and Spirit: Emily Carr's Coastal Landscapes. If you aren't familiar with Carr, then you're not Canadian...When I first arrived in Canada, I swear every other phrase that came off people's lips was "Emily Carr"(well, that and the "Group of Seven," a group of Canadian landscape artists with whom she's associated). I was a little weirded out. Canadians are proud of their national icons in a way that sometimes baffles me, but in Carr's case, I think they're onto something. I really love her work, even though she's so beloved in Canada that it feels embarrassing to admit to liking her!(I can't really think of an equivalent that people of other nations could relate her to - perhaps she's something like Collette is for French literature? Her legend really extends beyond that of any other Canadian artist, which is all the more impressive when one considers that she was a woman). The image below is Odds and Ends, which Carr painted in 1939.

image courtesy wikimedia commons.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Art History Carnival April 2011

Welcome to the April 5, 2011 edition of art history carnival.

art history

Anyone with an interest in art has come across numerous works that have been attributed to famous artists, but the evidence is often lacking. I frequently receive emails from readers asking me my opinion on works they plan to purchase. They often want to know whether I agree with appraisals that claim the sketches/paintings are by Rossetti, etc. When in doubt (which is ever time!) I prefer to err on the side of skepticism. I still find these stories fascinating, however, as I'm sure most of you do.

That's why I found Zsombor J√©kely post Botticelli in Esztergom? posted at Medieval Hungary so fascinating. The post examines the history around some frescoes attributed to Botticelli in Esztergom. There's plenty of detail here to provide armchair art history sleuths with arguments for and against the attribution. The frescoes themselves are lovely, but are they by Botticelli? Read and decide for yourselves!

Andy Warhol (seen above looking remarkably nondescript back in 1963 - a year after creating the Marilyn series) produced a plethora of iconic artworks, among which the Marilyn Diptych stands out as a piece of modern art so ubiquitous that it's become dull - which is doubtless exactly what Warhol would have wanted. (As an aside, I sometimes wonder what he would think of those dreadful "Warhol-inspired" photos of suburban couples that interior designers seem to think are so clever. Argh). Anyway, I was pleased to see the lesser-known Gold Marilyn being featured by Susan Benford in her post Famous Paintings: Gold Marilyn posted at Famous Paintings Reviewed - An Art History Blog.

H Niyazi's Not Renaissance: Marian symbolism & the constancy of Virgil posted at Three Pipe Problem examines themes found in artistic representations of the Virgin Mary during the Renaissance. Niyazi notes that "the Renaissance is commonly described as a rebirth of learning from antiquity. It was also the inheritor of rich visual and literary traditions that persisted through the Early Christian and Middle Ages. This post examines two of the most prominent of these." Not to give too much of a spoiler, but I found Niyazi's discussion of depictions of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding quite fascinating! (Fun fact: did you know the Council of Trent "forbade the depiction of the Nursing Virgin due to the nudity suggested by the exposed breast"?!).

Pre-Raphaelite paintings are filled with symbolism. It can take hours to find all the little details that the artists have put into their work. This is true of almost all of the paintings produced up until the middle of the last century. The symbolic language of the plants found within paintings is a world unto itself. It would take me forever to learn what every flower means! David Packwood's piece Landscape and Symbol: The Secret Life of Plants. posted at Art History Today examines the use of dandelions--in particular--and landscape--in general--in both Renaissance and Pre-Raphaelite art. Dandelions abound in William Holman Hunt's Rienzi (shown above) and can also be seen in Raphael's Entombment. Are there any parallels in the artists' use of these motifs? Read for yourself!


The romance of luxury travel was once epitomized by the extravagant Orient Express. Helen Webberley has written about efforts to revive the architecture of some of the more iconic stops along the train route in her post Pera Palace Istanbul and the Orient Express posted at ART and ARCHITECTURE, mainly, saying, "At first, limited board and lodgings opened up for European visitors arriving in Istanbul. But when the worldwide famous Orient Express train chose Istanbul as its last stop in the East in 1883, the monied classes wanted something special. So Compagnie Internationale de Wagon Lits, owners of the Orient Express Train, bought Pera Palace Hotel and made it exquisite. This post looks at the most recent renovation of the hotel, restoring the hotel to its turn-of-the-century beauty." The restored main hall is pictured above.


Vik Muniz is a Brazilian-born, Brooklyn-based artist who creates art using unusual mediums, such as sugar, wire and chocolate. Gabriela Rusu has done a profile of the artist, with images of some of his works in her post People who inspire me: Vik Muniz posted at Gabriela Rusu Fine Art.

Finally, on the lighter side, I ran across something that many of you will probably not consider art, but it made me smile. Inside Beat an arts and entertainment blog, sent me a link to a post with images from the Bent Objects website. Bent Objects uses wire and everyday objects to create darkly amusing vignettes (reminiscent of Far Side cartoons). Have fun!

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