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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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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09 Feb 2014

Artists and the Thumb-hole of a Guitar

I read once that Cézanne prepared his palette with as many as 18 pigments and lined them up in a series like musical scales.1 It’s an apt analogy because painters have long portrayed musicians as an allegory of their own poetic performance in the studio. When Manet and Courbet painted...

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05 Jan 2014 | 2 Comments

How God became Woman

Art is so pregnant that it can take months for its hidden meaning to emerge in your thought. That’s why we try to enter the artist's mind, not just through social customs and the religious dogma of a period but also through art's own culture which, though barely known, is simpler to recall...

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14 Apr 2011

Beyond Face Fusion

“Face fusion” is not the only way an artist can insert his or her identity into the portrait of someone else. Courbet’s 1846 Portrait of H.J. van Wisselingh (above left) demonstrates another. An art historian, Rae Becker, has shown how Wisselingh’s clothing accords “with contemporary notions of...

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13 Jan 2011

How Swords Become Paintbrushes

Even though artists across the ages have morphed swords into paintbrushes and spears into etching needles, few have ever been recognized. Indeed the use of weapons as visual metaphors for the tools of an artist is so widespread in art generally that it would take a book to prove. The task is ...

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08 Jan 2011

Picasso and Paul McCartney’s Two Fingers

Alberti’s Window, an art history blog, has an intriguing video of Paul McCartney discussing the origin of his song Two Fingers. McCartney was in the waiting-room of a hospital staring at a poster of Picasso’s painting, The Old Guitarist (above left), when he wondered what chord the old man was...

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