04 Nov 2015 | 2 Comments

Giacometti Paints Himself (1966 Video)

In a 1966 video (link below) Alberto Giacometti paints a portrait of Ernst Scheidegger, a Swiss photographer. We see how carefully and precisely he builds up the geometric structure of a face. What caught my attention, though, not knowing German, was the English transcript of the dialogue. In...

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25 Jul 2015

Gauguin’s Nose

This is a little-known self-portrait of Paul Gauguin. The features seem to add up. That lantern jaw, signature moustache and the long, curling hair have been seen before. But, stop! What did he do to his nose? It's classical, Roman and as straight as a brush. It looks nothing like his true one....

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10 Jul 2015

Hair, Brushes and Art

In pointing out yesterday that George Romney’s The Clavering Children (above) is more about Romney and his art than his young sitters, I left out a few points. Hair and its resonance.

Hair resembles a paintbrush and is brushed; and like art, is styled. Flying metaphorically, both have...

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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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05 Feb 2015 | 1 Comments

Do you draw your own features unintentionally?

Readers, especially artists, I could do with some help. Do you reproduce your own features without meaning to? Do you have examples? Many initial viewers, usually those who can draw, ask me whether artists fused faces (see above) intentionally or unintentionally. They say that it’s well-known...

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11 Jan 2015

Hans Memling and Cubism

Every time I look at this Portrait of a Man by Hans Memling I feel a little sick. I’m serious. It makes me slightly nauseous. Perhaps Walter Pater, the 19th-century art historian, felt similarly about the Mona Lisa. He described her as a weirdo and he's right.1 No Renaissance woman had...

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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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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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19 Jul 2014 | 1 Comments

How many features does a face need?

How much information do we need to recognize a face? Astonishingly little. Here George Washington’s can be recognized in the handle of a wooden seal (c.1810). This explains, perhaps, how artists can continuously convey their features in other objects, in landscapes or still-lifes for example,...

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17 Jul 2014 | 1 Comments

Bacon’s Frank about Portraiture

Occasionally an artist's recorded thoughts give hints that their views on portraiture are not conventional. I have quite a collection of them. However someone just sent me this 1971 statement by Francis Bacon in which he completely rejects the standard view still widely held in the art world...

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26 May 2014 | 1 Comments

Magic from Matisse and Michelangelo

What does Matisse’s figure from Dance II (1910) have to do with Michelangelo’s St Peter from the Last Judgment (1534-41). More than you might think. Bear with me. Both are nude against a blue sky, facing us and facing left; both look a little hunch-backed. Matisse’s dances;...

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13 May 2014

Giacometti on his Sitters’ Inner Being

So much of the poetic method in art remains a closely-held secret. Like initiates in a mystery religion, great artists have long had a common understanding that what they prize in their creative process should not be shared with the unappreciative masses or their visually-handicapped patrons....

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08 May 2014

Dutch Royals Are All Artists

I received a message from the Rijksmuseum that their superlative site, the Rijkstudio, now has a collection of Dutch royal portraits. Anyone who has seen on EPPH how portraits of British, Italian and French royalty resemble the artist might wonder whether the Dutch did the same. After all even...

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13 Mar 2014

Flat Noses on a Frontal Face

A year ago I used this early portrait drawing by Ingres (left) to demonstrate that Picasso's combination of faces from differing viewpoints, a hallmark of Cubism, was a technique practiced by earlier artists for a similar reason. Ingres, for instance, drew Monsieur Devillers' face frontally but...

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22 Jan 2014 | 2 Comments

What’s Wrong with the Art World?

What is wrong with the art world? Why can't they see Van Gogh's self-portrait in the fireplace (above)? It is so obvious that a child would recognize it if shown. Whatever the reason, no expert can. That means that this colorful and late self-portrait by Van Gogh, a great rarity, is estimated...

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