05 Nov 2010

Manet as Tintoretto

A large number of Manet's early copies after other masters are either self-portraits or depictions of other artists. Art is often the apparent subject. One of his copies is Tintoretto's Self-Portrait (above), of which Carol Armstrong, a Manet specialist, has made this very interesting...

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01 Nov 2010

Basquiat as Boone as Warhol

I just finished writing an entry on Jean-Michel Basquiat's strange portrait of Mary Boone when I realized I had missed something. It's an example of, no matter how much you see in truly poetic art, there is always something more. In this case, I had noted that Basquiat presents himself as a...

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31 Oct 2010

Analyzing Freud and the Queen

Britain's press went nuts when Lucian Freud gave the Queen a tiny portrait of herself, just 9" x 6", and notably ugly at that. She had spent hours posing for him over 19 months. She could not have been amused. Now we reveal on the site, for the first time, the reasons why Freud asked to paint...

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30 Oct 2010

The Frick’s Fiction

The Frick Collection's Portrait of Philip IV by Velazquez is described as one of the best portraits he ever painted. It is indeed magnificent and has just opened as a one-painting exhibition, accompanied by new explanations of what it means, until January 2011. The trouble is The Frick thinks...

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27 Oct 2010 | 2 Comments

Van Gogh’s Nose

Noses are important in art history. Ovid's middle name was Nose, or naso in Italian, and his Metamorphoses were for centuries artistic fodder for painters and sculptors alike. Maybe that's why Michelangelo was so interested in his own nose, telling Vasari, it seems, numerous stories about it....

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27 Oct 2010 | 2 Comments

Van Gogh’s Eyes

Cruising along the Lungotevere on a Vespa I had time to admire the vast self-portrait of Vincent on the back of a Roman tour bus. The poster, promoting yet another one-man show of his work, had a glorious reproduction of the artist in which every brush stroke was enlarged to about 3”.  What...

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09 Oct 2010

Rembrandt’s “Weakness”

Using short entries to explain art, we do not get much chance to quote the opinions of others striking the same chord. Hence this new segment called Quotations. Much of the time the quotes will point out a great master's "weakness", the type of comment that you should look out for too. Here's...

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05 Oct 2010

Painting Himself

I'm always on the look-out for contemporary artists who fit the mold and many do. Cindy Sherman, for instance, has made a career out of photographing herself as other people. Then along comes Liu Bolin. As you can see from the image above, he takes the concept very seriously: he paints himself....

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30 Sep 2010

Mona Lisa’s Bad Hair Day

After breakfast this morning I read an article on Tudor coinage – God knows why –but what a lucky break!  Who would ever have thought that England’s Bloody Mary and the Mona Lisa would have anything in common? But, first, some background. It has been fifteen years since Lillian Schwartz...

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29 Sep 2010

Rubens’ Commander is Rubens

A Rubens was recently sold at Christies described as Portrait of a Commander, three-quarter-length, being dressed for battle though any keen user of this site would recognize the image as Portrait of Rubens as a Commander being painted by two of his assistants (both alter egos of Rubens) in...

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26 Sep 2010

Face It! Anthea is Parmigianino

Fifteen years ago a computer scientist named Lillian Schwartz published her discovery that the proportions of the Mona Lisa’s face matched those of Leonardo in his famous Self-Portrait almost exactly, too exactly to be coincidence.1 Art historians with a sense of humor howled with laughter...

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15 Sep 2010

Sense and Nonsense about Caravaggio

Every writer from Caravaggio's day to our own has spoken of the artist's astonishing realism. One critic wrote a century after his birth that Caravaggio:

"recognized no other master than the model, without selecting [as artists had in the past] from the best forms of nature.....despising the...

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12 Sep 2010

Putin’s Portraits

Recent news from Russia suggests that Vladimir Putin is not a regular user of this website. According to The Art Newspaper he has approved plans to create the first National Portrait Gallery. “Society has a huge interest in our national history”, the Prime Minister declared, “and painted...

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07 Sep 2010

Fusion Confusion at The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection in London, an august institution, has a painting by Van Dyck of Paris, the mythological judge of beauty, posing by himself.  A detail of his face is illustrated above (left). Whatever else one has to say about this painting, there can be no doubt that the face of Paris...

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06 Sep 2010

Mauro Molinari

I turned up on the last day of an exhibition of  Mauro Molinari’s work at the Carlo Bilotti Museum in Rome, a small but fascinating show by an artist I did not know. There was only one visitor present, a short, happy Italian man in his mid-60’s who seemed more interested in us than Molinari’s...

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