18 May 2015

Still-lifes by Peale and Core

Names are important in art. The American master Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) had three sons who became painters: Rembrandt, Raphaelle [sic] and Titian. His fourth son was Rubens. Raphaelle is thought to be America’s first still-life painter who, on occasion, punned on his name as in the...

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02 Dec 2014

How Portraiture Causes Blindness

Specialisation has crippled art history, blinding its practitioners to what is common. For over six years EPPH has been arguing that many portraits by major artists are fusions of the artist's facial features with the sitter's. They were never intended (by the artist, at least) as an accurate...

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24 Sep 2014 | 2 Comments

Reading Art: Manet, Picasso and Alfonso Ponce de Leon

My vision, like most people’s, is often cloudy which is why when the sun breaks and I gain some understanding, I get excited. You must excuse me. It may sometimes seem as if no-one before me has made similar observations. After all, all my entries on EPPH must include something unknown to...

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25 Jun 2014 | 2 Comments

Is self-representation self-centered?

(On vacation. A re-post from last summer)

The practical and philosophical issue of whether figures in art depict the artist or the apparent character is well expressed by two different translations of the same text in a Upanishad. The passage in question helps explain why art, though focused...

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25 Feb 2014


Many great artists I follow use a feature other than the face to identify themselves in pictures that are not self-portraits. Given that all their figures represent the artist, they need a variety of methods to hide and reveal their self-references. Stripes were one of Courbet's favorites. In...

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13 Jan 2014

Good Art is Not Original

There are some no-nos on EPPH to make conventional minds scream. No biography. Who cares how many women Picasso lived with? It makes no difference to the meaning of Guernica or even to images nominally depicting his loves. No historical or literal reading either. Art is for the ages; the true...

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26 Nov 2013 | 2 Comments

Tips to Tell Art from Illustration

My definition of art, as I've said before, is not as wide as that used by the public and most scholars. I do not believe, for instance, that children create art nor the vast majority of adult painters. True artists paint themselves; they paint inwards and they paint the wisdom of the ages.  


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10 Nov 2013 | 3 Comments

Why Art is So Similar

Some readers question whether the common themes of art explained here really exist because, in their minds, art is a product of individual expression. No wonder. That is what children are told and art lovers too. Picasso, for instance, is said to have often painted the romantic and sexual...

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05 Aug 2013

Why Creative People Are Eccentric

Giorgio Vasari's account of the lives of great artists is full of odd behavior. But even if Vasari's history is part-fiction - as we now know it is - eccentricity is a good sign in a creative mind and quite common. Shelley Carson, a psychologist and lecturer at Harvard, recounts how the...

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03 Apr 2013 | 3 Comments

Art as a Spiritual Guidebook

Some readers may wonder - not many, I hope - how and why I describe so many different figures in art, from the Middle Ages to Picasso, as yet another representation of the artist. It can seem repetitive and boring, even simplistic. Yet it is a basic fact that needs constant repetition precisely...

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26 Mar 2013

When Degas made a boob ...on purpose

In a new entry published today you can see for the first time ever how Edgar Degas turned his friend, Edouard Manet (above), into the driver of a carriage holding his whip as a paintbrush flecked with white paint. He then transformed the artist's coat into a single-breasted jacket.1 The...

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20 Mar 2013 | 2 Comments

How Degas drew a top hat…

Art is so pregnant that even in a "simple" sketch like Degas' Edouard Manet at the Races (c. 1865) there is always something more. I thought I had drained the drawing when I finished writing about it yesterday (see entry). And, then, this morning I suddenly noticed Manet's halo! Degas has drawn...

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03 Mar 2013

Gauguin Wrestles with Art

Gauguin's great painting of Jacob wrestling with the Angel is commonly known as Vision after the Sermon, perhaps to make sense of the women who were obviously not present in the Bible story. Two years ago I explained the scene as taking place in Gauguin's own mind as the painter, represented by...

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18 Feb 2013

1+1=1: The Divided Self in Manet’s Railway

What is the girl up to? Who are they? What's happening? Why do they wear the same color clothes? Why is the girl's hair so odd?

In my explanation two years ago of Edouard Manet’s The Railway (1873) I noted that the extended arm of the girl, an alter ego, is “painting” the background and...

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11 Dec 2012

Memory Holloway and Picasso

Memory Holloway, an art historian at the University of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, has written a wonderful book on a magnificent group of etchings by Pablo Picasso. It is titled Making Time: Picasso's Suite 347. Suite 347 is the name given to 347 etchings that the Spanish artist produced in his...

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