07 Mar 2016 | 1 Comments

Try Sleeping on Dürer’s Pillows

Surprise, surprise. In great art you never stop seeing new perceptions in long-familar images because art by its very nature exists on multiple levels. And seeing them without help from others is both edifying and deeply satisfying, certain to brighten your spirits on a dull day. Our subject...

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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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06 Oct 2014 | 1 Comments

Dürer, Titian, Art and Blasphemy

For those who have trouble - I certainly did - understanding how artists like Dürer (top) and Titian (below) could have portrayed themselves as Christ, here is a poem attributed to an 11th-century spiritual master of the Greek Orthodox Church.1 The truth he writes about - that we are...

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09 Sep 2013 | 2 Comments

Art’s Unknown Frown

Artists frown. Constantly. Why? Charles Darwin considered the corrugator, the muscle which results in a frown, as the most remarkable of the human face because it irresistably conveys the idea of mind.1 And that's why, in my opinion, artists have used it for centuries not only in their own...

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20 Apr 2013

Do you know what it means to come home?

Think differently. The old ways are often dull and didactic. Take, for instance, paintings and prints that seem to illustrate Bible stories. Why treat them as a narrative when mystical Christians, among whom must be counted many great Western artists, would not have thought of them as...

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08 Mar 2013

Dürer’s Foreign Language

"The art of painting cannot be truly judged save by such that are themselves good painters: from others, verily is it hidden, even as a strange tongue."

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)1

If, as I believe, Dürer disguised himself as a lion in the sketch at right, no wonder he described art...

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12 Jul 2012

Ink Flies in a Mind

If anyone doubts that St. Sebastian holds a special place in the creative mind as a symbol of the artist’s self and the idea that every painter paints himself, then take a look at Jaff Seijas’ self-portrait above. It is not proof but it is telling. I came across it on the web a few days...

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28 May 2012

Coins, tablets and Dürer

Coins draw groans. Walk into a roomful of coins in a museum and even the most ardent art lovers hurry through in the hope of finding some painting or sculpture on the other side. Nevertheless the designs on coins are one of the glories of Greek art in antiquity. Talented artists designed the...

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24 May 2012

Durer: “For Christ’s sake, can’t you see that….

An article featured on the Home page of The Art Newspaper's website announces the opening of an important exhibition on Dürer. It reports, however, that Dürer’s Munich Self-portrait (above): “continues to baffle observers. Despite the fact that Christian iconography is now more or less...

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18 May 2012

Joseph Leo Koerner and the Artist as Christ

Occasionally I see an image that turns on a light and helps illuminate an artist's way of seeing quite concisely. Fittingly, an illumination is one of them. The best book ever written on self-portraiture is probably Joseph Leo Koerner’s The Moment of Self-portraiture in German Renaissance Art...

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23 Mar 2012

Poems are Animals

A recent exhibition posted an interesting quote by the poet Ted Hughes. It was somewhat out of their context but in ours because I, of course, argue that true art is like a visual poem. Remember as you read it that although many published poems are true poetry, very few paintings are true art:


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23 Feb 2012

Faces in Our Minds

Humanity’s existence is so dependent on recognizing faces that our visual system specializes in it, reserving a large proportion of the brain’s neurons solely for that purpose. Amazingly we can even recognize a person in profile when we have only ever seen them from the front. The brain...

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17 Sep 2011

Artists are Animals

“Artists are animals” may seem like a derogatory statement but artists are animals and both art and intelligence are products of nature. We are not separate. We all play our part in the cosmos, all created by similar processes: rats, mice, cats, lions, birds, humans etc. etc. Artists, mystics...

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30 Aug 2011

Do Poets understand Painting?

A couple of days ago I questioned whether the poets in an artist’s social circle have any greater understanding of their friend’s art than we do. I am always surprised by how art historians give so much credit to the opinions of poets in the first place. They do not have a good record. All...

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02 Aug 2011

Dürer’s Portrait of Philip Melanchthon (1526)

Durer’s 1526 Portrait of Philip Melanchthon is notable for the manner in which the artist treats the eyes. One eye is large, bright and clear; the other mostly unseen, the tip of its eyelash just visible above the clouds. This contrast between a large eye and an unseen one is made more...

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