26 Mar 2015

Ssh! The Secret of Picasso’s Ear

Ears make sense as one of the five: touch, taste, sight, sound and smell. But who thinks about Picasso's ears? We mostly remember his eyes: deep, dark and powerful. Yet he himself - as I don't think has been noted before - seems to have been very conscious that he had large ears. Noddy, a...

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25 Mar 2015

Wisdom, Art and a Cat

I'm always on the lookout for written expressions of the basic ideas about visual art conveyed on EPPH. Here's one that backs up the concept that art and the practice of it leads to wisdom. A beautiful old Irish poem, now known as Pangur Bán after the anonymous author's cat, dates from no...

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20 Mar 2015

Whose God is on the dollar bill?

Art is too often seen as a literal representation of the artist's own small, physical world. The idea that it uses metaphoric language to express much larger, eternal truths shared by all mankind is seldom realized. The same happens with the dollar bill. Six local Republican legislators want to...

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05 Mar 2015

Picasso runs his fingers through her hair

No doubt in life Picasso did run his fingers through his girlfriend's hair. In the drawing (left) from 1906 he did so too, turning an image of Fernande into a representation of himself. He might have learnt the method from any number of artists including Michelangelo or Fra Filippo Lippi....

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26 Feb 2015

Art in Search of Self-Knowledge

One of the great shibboleths of art history is that High Renaissance masters depicted the exterior world. Few, of course, doubt that landscapes and portraits represent exterior nature. EPPH, on the other hand, argues that all scenes in art are internal in the long millennia-old search for...

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29 Dec 2014

For how long have we read the Bible literally?

I learnt an astonishing fact today.1 The habit of reading the Bible as though it is historically true (especially the New Testament) started during the Protestant Reformation which began in 1517 and lasted more than a century. For the first 1,500 years the New Testament like all scripture...

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02 Dec 2014 | 11 Comments

Your Go: Explain this picture!

OK, readers, this a chance to practice your own powers of perception and interpretation before I comment: 

Explain below what this Crucifixion scene might mean and the oddity of Christ’s loincloth. I am drawing attention to that particular detail because, as always, oddities, "errors" and...

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08 Nov 2014

3 Practical Ways to Understand Art

Artists of the past generally practised their craft from a very young age.They often prayed at their easels too. Today we who wish to understand their works cannot mimic their practice to any great extent. Yet their experience helped form their art. It probably included intellectual discussions...

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30 Oct 2014

An Artist’s Path to Certainty

How does a great artist know he is on the right track before being recognized as canonical? Van Gogh, for example, knew his own importance despite commercial and critical failure; Picasso was convinced at a very young age. The answer, I believe, is that they study art in ways few others do and...

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24 Oct 2014

Science, Religion and Art: Einstein on the Inner Tradition

Perhaps the most difficult part of understanding art is the Inner Tradition, the path that links not only all the world’s major religions but science, literature and music too. Religious believers strongly attached to a particular creed are unlikely to accept this; committed atheists like...

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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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03 Sep 2014 | 1 Comments

Leonardo’s Skull Rocks

Art is visual which means, contrary to a lot of theoretical discourse, so are its secrets. And if you train your eyes to search for similarity rather than difference, you'll be amazed at what you can discover. 

Few paintings have been analyzed as much as Leonardo's Virgin of the Rocks in...

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20 Aug 2014

The Craftsman’s Christ

This is a scene by an unknown 16th-century artist, probably Flemish, at a time when artisanal effort was admired not just for the perfection of the end-product but for the artisan’s closely-guarded knowledge of materials. Wood, stone, minerals, plant extracts, gold-work, smelting etc. No-one...

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28 Jul 2014 | 4 Comments

Ego’s Poetic Powers

EPPH has long argued that artists mute their ego to gain access to poetic depths. Yet in the passage below Colin Wilson, the English philosopher and novelist who died last year, describes a more balanced understanding in which poets identify with nature (see, for instance, Artists as Animals)...

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05 Jul 2014 | 1 Comments

Why art’s meaning repeats

There is never any new content in art [see definition below].1 Art’s meaning is true. Truth is constant. Thus, it must always be true. And it must always have been true, at least since the development of mankind. So, if art expresses fundamental truths about the human condition, it has...

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