10 Nov 2010

Gauguin’s Method

I was reading about Gauguin today and his own explanation of The Vision after the Sermon: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel. It struck me that if I was trying to explain this image I would say the same: that the figures in the foreground represent the artist imagining or “painting” the scene...

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08 Nov 2010

The Reincarnation of Great Masters

Two recent entries, Manet's Croquet at Boulogne on the website and his Copy of Tintoretto's Self-Portrait posted on this blog, have both discussed the feeling, quite common among great artists, that they are reincarnations of one another. I see it all the time in the paintings themselves (eg....

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05 Nov 2010

Dante Pops Up Again!

No art historian has yet commented, positively or otherwise, on how the presence of Dante’s profile in Michelangelo’s Last Judgement makes sense within the overall concept that Michelangelo himself pronounced: “every painter paints himself.” Nevertheless, Elizabeth Cropper has recently...

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05 Nov 2010

Manet as Tintoretto

A large number of Manet's early copies after other masters are either self-portraits or depictions of other artists. Art is often the apparent subject. One of his copies is Tintoretto's Self-Portrait (above), of which Carol Armstrong, a Manet specialist, has made this very interesting...

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01 Nov 2010

Basquiat as Boone as Warhol

I just finished writing an entry on Jean-Michel Basquiat's strange portrait of Mary Boone when I realized I had missed something. It's an example of, no matter how much you see in truly poetic art, there is always something more. In this case, I had noted that Basquiat presents himself as a...

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31 Oct 2010

Analyzing Freud and the Queen

Britain's press went nuts when Lucian Freud gave the Queen a tiny portrait of herself, just 9" x 6", and notably ugly at that. She had spent hours posing for him over 19 months. She could not have been amused. Now we reveal on the site, for the first time, the reasons why Freud asked to paint...

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30 Oct 2010

The Frick’s Fiction

The Frick Collection's Portrait of Philip IV by Velazquez is described as one of the best portraits he ever painted. It is indeed magnificent and has just opened as a one-painting exhibition, accompanied by new explanations of what it means, until January 2011. The trouble is The Frick thinks...

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27 Oct 2010 | 2 Comments

Van Gogh’s Nose

Noses are important in art history. Ovid's middle name was Nose, or naso in Italian, and his Metamorphoses were for centuries artistic fodder for painters and sculptors alike. Maybe that's why Michelangelo was so interested in his own nose, telling Vasari, it seems, numerous stories about it....

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27 Oct 2010 | 2 Comments

Van Gogh’s Eyes

Cruising along the Lungotevere on a Vespa I had time to admire the vast self-portrait of Vincent on the back of a Roman tour bus. The poster, promoting yet another one-man show of his work, had a glorious reproduction of the artist in which every brush stroke was enlarged to about 3”.  What...

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25 Oct 2010

Pamela H. Smith’s Body of the Artisan

Much of the new information on this website, the revelations that surprise, come not from literature, art historical writing or aesthetic theory, but from visual images themselves. It may seem odd but I learnt much of what I know by studying Edouard Manet's paintings. These findings were then...

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21 Oct 2010

Inner Tradition Reading List

Here, as promised, is a highly subjective Introductory Reading List for those who would like to learn more about The Inner Tradition, that strain of thought common to mystics in all religions that believes divinity is inside us, not out. It is important because most of the Western world's most...

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19 Oct 2010

Wisdom in the Chilean Dark

Everyone has their own memorable moment in the story of the Chilean miners. Mine came after the first few of the buried men arrived on the surface. One declared in translation: “Underground, I was with God and the Devil. They fought each other, and God won.” I found it riveting.

Catholic and...

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09 Oct 2010

Rembrandt’s “Weakness”

Using short entries to explain art, we do not get much chance to quote the opinions of others striking the same chord. Hence this new segment called Quotations. Much of the time the quotes will point out a great master's "weakness", the type of comment that you should look out for too. Here's...

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07 Oct 2010

Bronzino in Florence

The current show  of Bronzino’s paintings at Palzzo Strozzi in Florence is a marvel, beautifully organized and arranged. With 70 Bronzinos, a room-full of portraits and vast tapestries designed by the master, it is a sumptuous display of an artist who should be better known. The catalogue, on...

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05 Oct 2010

Painting Himself

I'm always on the look-out for contemporary artists who fit the mold and many do. Cindy Sherman, for instance, has made a career out of photographing herself as other people. Then along comes Liu Bolin. As you can see from the image above, he takes the concept very seriously: he paints himself....

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