09 Jan 2014 | 7 Comments

Keith Haring’s Secret Knowledge

EPPH has already shown how at least 7 major artists depicted themselves as lions (see below). There are more to come but many are by Old Masters and are quite subtle. Here’s an obvious example, an actual self-portrait, by an artist who was all the rage in 1980’s New York, Keith Haring. Why...

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15 Dec 2013

Lotto’s Lion and The Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine

After the recent post about how Sir Edwin Landseer became a couple of dogs (seriously), I thought it would be a good idea to keep up the pace and show how Lorenzo Lotto became a lion. Near the lower edge of one of his greatest masterpieces, The Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine (1524), is the...

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18 Nov 2013

Giacometti’s Visual Illusion Blows My Mind

Yesterday, after posting the entry on Giacometti’s Self-portrait with Brush (above), I saw something astonishing. It's a good reminder that even when you think you understand, there's still more to know. And it comes with perserverance and the right approach. The more you look, the more you...

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14 Oct 2013

The Error of Art History

Yesterday I wrote about how some errors make the world interesting and beautiful. This one does not. 

Read the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who rarely saw great art, and you will learn about it on every page because the truths he knew are those of poetic painters too. The biggest mistake...

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18 Sep 2013

A Hair-raising Tool to Understand Art

It's interesting to learn something new about an artwork but even more exhilarating to learn the craft itself by acquiring the mental tools used to interpret what few can see. We all paint the world the way we think it or are told to think it by convention, our parents or experts. We only see...

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14 Jul 2013

Resemblance in an Animated Face

Can two quite different faces each resemble the artist? The answer is yes, because the visual processes of the brain do not need to see similarity in all features. Your visual cortex is clever and can color in what you cannot see or have not seen. It makes allowances. You may only have glimpsed...

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12 Apr 2013 | 7 Comments

How a Scientist Solved the Puzzle of the Mona Lisa

The true identity of Leonardo's Mona Lisa has been a long-running mystery captivating generations of art lovers and scholars. Yet the most crucial piece of information about the Mona Lisa missing from standard textbooks is that the proportions of the Mona Lisa’s face differ from an earlier...

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10 Apr 2013 | 1 Comments

Leonardo’s Facial Mystery

The discovery that great portraits do not depict identifiable people, as long believed, is a real eye-opener. (See the book free online titled Every Painter Paints Himself.) Yet the significance of what you can now see in portraiture can only be grasped when one recognizes that even depictions...

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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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09 Mar 2013

Proust’s and Degas’ Disappearing Models

Literature and its methods are a useful yardstick by which to judge our knowledge and understanding of the visual arts. For instance, the known fact accepted by literary critics that many friends and acquaintances of Marcel Proust, the great French writer of the early 20th century, thought they...

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25 Jan 2013 | 3 Comments

Picasso’s Unseen Portrait at the Metropolitan Museum

I was going to write about how the objects most frequently depicted by the Cubists in their café still-lifes – pipe, bottle, glass and guitar – were used not primarily as items characteristic of café-life as Rosalind Krauss and others have argued. At least that is not their meaning. They do...

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23 Dec 2012

1, 2, 3. Please start here.

"The poets", a great literary critic once wrote, "do not read the same books as the academics or do not read them in the same way." She added, to explain how all great poetry is on the same path, that the gnosis of mind, or inner wisdom they search for, has been known and formulated in every...

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20 Dec 2012

Whose face is the Sphinx?

I've been trying to read while a Nova documentary, The Riddle of the Sphinx, played in the background. The narrator described how an Egyptian stone carver called Fahi had been commissioned to sculpt a small-scale version using local stone. "Which face should he give it?" was the burning...

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01 Dec 2012

Pointing at the Edge

If you cruise the various interpretations on this site, you might have noticed a tendency to explain a figure with an arm or hand pointing to or touching the edge of the image as the artist himself painting a self-portrait. Michael Fried first noticed this phenomenon in an early painting by...

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17 Nov 2012

Mental images from Holbein, Ingres and Picasso

It is well-known that Picasso admired Ingres' portrait drawings like the one above on the left. Separately I have shown how Ingres, like other great masters, changed the facial features of his sitters to fuse them with his own. Not all portraits were changed like that but many of the important...

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