17 Oct 2014

Brushing up on the Painter’s Sword

The mind of an artist is poetic so, if you want to understand painting and sculpture, read poets. Their literary metaphors are the artist’s visual ones. However, beware: poets understand visual art no better than most people. Emile Zola, Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé all wrote...

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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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16 Feb 2014

Is Stoning Stephen Grinding Colors?

In the wider world of art history where the word "art" has not been properly defined, the search for meaning is more complex and difficult than it is here. If biologists studied different types of trees without agreeing on what a tree was, they too would sound confused. That's why the search...

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28 Sep 2013

How Manet and other artists shoot their paintings

Have you ever shot your mother? Directors shoot movies and nearly everyone has made a snap-shot with a camera but few imagine that artists shoot paintings. In fact they have shot nearly every canvas with a gun in it since the devilish implements were invented. The Irish poet Seamus Heaney...

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29 Oct 2012

Leonardo’s Hurricane Sandy

With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the East Coast of the United States tonight, I thought I should take the opportunity to tell our users there that we are thinking of them and wish them well. We're in it too. If you have a second to take your mind off the monstrous storm outside - before the...

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25 Jul 2012

Manet’s Little Cavaliers

Major artists are often inspired by earlier masterpieces yet when the young Edouard Manet entered the Louvre to copy whatever he wanted he chose an insignificant little painting. Yes, it was then attributed to Velazquez but Manet, with an in-depth knowledge of technique, is likely to have...

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12 Jul 2012

Ink Flies in a Mind

If anyone doubts that St. Sebastian holds a special place in the creative mind as a symbol of the artist’s self and the idea that every painter paints himself, then take a look at Jaff Seijas’ self-portrait above. It is not proof but it is telling. I came across it on the web a few days...

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17 Apr 2012

St. George and the Dragon: Background

The legend of St. George is a mix of sources so dense with poetic allusion that the saint’s prominence in great art was almost inevitable. Today the narrative is not widely known but in the Middle Ages St. George’s story was a gripping and charming tale with roots in classical myth. 

19 Apr 2011

Why Artists Execute Themselves

Time and again we have shown how an execution in art depicts an artist executing his picture, even when the genders are switched. Judith executes Holofernes' head, David Goliath's head. That is, in part, why so many artists have portrayed themselves as David. In Italian there is even a pun on...

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