03 Dec 2011

The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini #4

This one is a complete head-scratcher. It's a little after the Renaissance, obviously, but not long after. Why no specialist has ever noticed that Rubens' portrayal of the Duke of Buckingham in this oil sketch (left) is identical to his own self-portrait (right) from 15 years earlier is beyond...

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02 Dec 2011

The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini #3

Both portraits above will be in the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum (Cat. #163 and #159) and may even be hung near to each other where the similarity will surely be noticed.  The portrait of Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus (left), is assumed in the catalogue to be a reasonably good...

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01 Dec 2011

The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini #2

For a late portrait Raphael was asked to paint a Neapolitan princess he had never seen, a problem he solved by sending Giulio Romano to Naples do a drawing from life. The painted portrait (left) was mostly done by studio assistants after a design by Raphael but the master himself painted the...

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30 Nov 2011

The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini

On December 21st the Metropolitan Museum, New York, will be opening an exhibition titled The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini. As long-time users know, the whole idea behind this site and its blog is that art, especially Renaissance art, depicts the artist’s mind and in portraits...

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10 Nov 2011

The Importance of an Artist’s Turban

I've been looking forward to discussing turbans for some time because, for an art lover, a little knowledge can go a long way. Almost everyone thinks of them as oriental in some manner but, up until the end of the eighteenth century, you could find them all over Europe too....in the artist's...

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04 Nov 2011

Maurizio Cattelan at the Guggenheim

The Maurizio Cattelan exhibition opening today at the Guggenheim New York (on till Jan 22nd, 2012) is entitled All because it is meant to be a complete retrospective of the Italian artist’s career. In fact, aged 51, he has formally announced that this is also the end of his career and that he...

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27 Sep 2011

Matisse on Making a Portrait

In 1937 Henri Matisse made some charcoal portraits of Henry de Montherlant, a French playwright whom Matisse had met the year before. The artist’s account of the process is quite revealing. The issues which art historians traditionally assume to be important in a portrait – the personality...

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02 Sep 2011

Art Bulletin’s Bumper Issue

This month’s Art Bulletin, the magazine of the U.S. College Art Association, is a bumper issue as far as we are all concerned. One article by Michael Lobel reveals how John Sloan, a member of the Ashcan School in early twentieth-century America, posed figures in his street scenes as artists...

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29 Aug 2011

Petrarch on Imitation

I have always doubted whether the poets and writers in an artist's social circle have any greater understanding of visual art than we have. They are, of course, deeply familiar with poetic techniques in writing but seem blind to them in art. Thus the ability of a good writer to transform a text...

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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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30 Jul 2011 | 1 Comments

Titian is a dog

Some viewers remain convinced that artists subconsciously fused their features into their portraits of other people - as Leonardo misleadingly suggested - even though the evidence is now strong that face fusion was practiced consciously and with meaning. Artists, like writers, composers and...

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04 Jul 2011

Left Right, Open Closed: Eyes and Perception

I have explained under the theme Insight-Outsight how poetic painters often distinguish between two different modes of perception: outwards to see the exterior world of matter, inwards for insight into the soul and imagination. It is such a common theme in Western art that Picasso used it...

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15 May 2011

Wisdom and Leonardo’s Self-Portrait

One of the mysteries surrounding Leonardo’s so-called self-portrait (above center) is that it only emerged in the early nineteenth century. It was then decreed to be a self-portrait based on its likeness to the frontispiece portrait of Leonardo in Vasari’s Second Edition of The Lives of the...

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01 May 2011

Picasso’s Pain on Being an Artist

If Picasso saw an attractive subject, like a girl lying on a beach, he would cryptically say :

“What a pity one isn’t a painter! If one was a painter one could do her portrait!”

What did he mean? Picasso’s friends used to cite his remarks on art as though they were a form of popular...

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25 Apr 2011

Face Recognition

Organizing family photos is not my thing; can never get around it; and rarely look at them either. That is by way of explaining why my first brush with face recognition software was the above request from IPhoto to  explain my relationship to the woman above. I say ‘woman’ because my computer...

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