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Photo: Cologne, Germany, police.
This painting by the artist Pietro Bellotti was found in a dumpster in Germany.

German dumpsters are yielding up treasures these days. In one case the rightful owners are unknown and being sought; in another, an owner realized in time that he’d left a valuable painting in an airport. (We all know how that can happen when our flight is called and we jump up. But we’re more likely to leave a sweater than a Tanguy.)

Naomi Rea writes about the unknown owners at Artnet News: “Police in Germany are appealing to the public for tips about the origins of two 17th-century paintings that mysteriously ended up in the garbage at a highway rest stop last month.

“According to authorities in the western city of Cologne, a 64-year-old man stumbled upon the two oil paintings in a dumpster at a rest stop near Ohrenbach on May 18. The man, who was taking a driving break at the stop at around 4 p.m., took the paintings with him and later turned them in to police in Cologne.

“After the paintings were examined by an expert, police concluded that they are both 17th-century originals, and have put out a public appeal to find their owner: ‘Who knows the paintings shown and / or how they got into the dumpster at the service area?’

“The first painting is a raucous self-portrait by the Italian painter Pietro Bellotti, dated to 1665. The other is a portrait of a boy by the Dutch Old Master Samuel van Hoogstraten, which has not been dated.

“The auction record for a Belloti is $190,000, achieved at the Swiss house Koller Auktionen in 2010, according to Artnet’s Price Database. There are multiple versions of the painting, and a very similar portrait, titled Self-Portrait of the Artist as Laughter, was put up for sale at Christie’s London in 2006 (estimate: $55,000–$91,000). … Other versions of the Bellotti painting are in the collection of the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, the Pinacoteca di Brera, and a third was once part of the Scheufelen Collection in Stuttgart.

“Meanwhile, works by Van Hoogstraten, who studied under Rembrandt in Amsterdam, have sold for as much as $788,000 (at Christie’s Monaco in 1993). The artist is best known for his experiments with perspective.” More at Artnet News, here.

In related news, a surrealist work turned up in another German dumpster. Check out Jesse O’Neill’s New York Post article from December.

“A surrealist painting worth $340,000 was recovered from a paper-recycling dumpster in Germany, police say.

“The valuable artwork, by French painter Yves Tanguy, was accidentally left behind by a businessman at Duesseldorf’s airport. The flier had forgotten the painting, which was packaged in cardboard, at an airport check-in counter before he boarded a flight to Tel Aviv, Israel, on Nov. 27.

“By the time the man landed in Israel, realized what he’d done and contacted police, the 16-by-24-inch masterpiece had disappeared. The mystery was solved only after the businessman’s nephew traveled to the airport from Belgium and talked with police. An inspector was able to trace the painting to a recycling dumpster used by the airport’s cleaning company.”

More at the New York Post, here. At least in that case, the owner knew where to look.

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Photo: Oxia Palus and Lebenson Gallery London.
The Hidden Picture of Beatrice Hastings by Amedeo Modigliani was created by Oxia Palus using AI technology.

Nowadays, art and science work hand in hand. Consider this story about how artificial intelligence was used to reveal an unknown painting by a great master. It starts with the practice of “overpainting.”

Suzanne’s art professor overpainted because he wanted you to sense what was underneath. But at Hyperallergic, Lauren Moya Ford writes, “Artists paint over their finished canvases for many reasons — out of frustration at a failed design, because they lack the funds to buy more material, or even to spite whoever or whatever they’ve depicted.

“The latter was the case in Amedeo Modigliani’s ‘Portrait of a Girl‘ (1917), an oil painting of a sullen, seated brunette now held in the collection of the Tate. X-ray studies of the canvas conducted by the museum in 2018 revealed that the piece was originally a full-length portrait of another woman, a slender blonde with angular, elongated features. A portion of this hidden painting — now on view at Lebenson Gallery in London — was uncovered and reconstructed by two scientists using a combination of stereoscopic imaging, artificial intelligence technology, and 3D printing.

“Neuroscientist Anthony Bourached and physicist George Cann joined forces in London in January 2019 to found Oxia Palus, a scientific project that uses machine learning to reconstruct what the duo calls ‘NeoMasters,’ or artworks that have been previously hidden from view under the layers of later paintings. Their past efforts have uncovered a Blue Period nude by Picasso, a Madonna by Leonardo da Vinci, and a landscape painting by Santiago Rusiñol that was later painted over by Picasso, the artist’s friend and mentee. To discover these ‘lost’ works, Bourached and Cann apply a neural style transfer algorithm to X-rays of paintings that are suspected to have another artwork hidden below their surfaces. The technology utilizes imagery from the scan, as well as information from the artist’s other works, to reproduce colors, brushstrokes, and other distinguishing features.

“Unlike conservators or other art specialists, Bourached and Cann bring uniquely non-art areas of expertise to the pieces they analyze.

‘George’s inspiration comes from his research on the surface of Mars for the detection of life,’ Bourached explains in a recent email to Hyperallergic. …

“Who was the woman whose likeness has suddenly been unearthed more than 100 years later? She’s thought to be Modigliani’s ex-lover and muse, the English poet, writer, and literary critic Beatrice Hastings. … The two years that the couple shared an apartment in Montparnasse were creatively productive for both: Hastings published prolifically, and is known to have posed for at least 14 of Modigliani’s portraits. But their relationship was also plagued by alcohol addictions, explosive personalities, and violent confrontations. …

“It was perhaps to symbolically scorn his former lover that Modigliani painted over her portrait in 1917, but, thanks to the two London scientists, Hastings has found a way to see the light again. As she wrote in 1937, ‘Civilized woman wants something more than to be the means to a man’s life. She wants to live herself.’ ” More at Hyperallergic, here.

Who gets the last word about what an artist shows to the world? At some point, the work no longer belongs to the artist but to the public. The only way an artist gets final say, I suspect, is to have some acolyte like Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra, who burned all the novelist’s letters after her death. Cassandra thought that whatever her sister wanted done was more important than what posterity might want.

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Photo: Jörg Gläscher via DesignBoom.
A photographer built nine massive waves of deadwood in a forest near Hamburg, Germany.

A few years ago, I blogged about seeing Patrick Dougherty’s giant stick sculptures in Salem, Mass. He was getting a lot of attention at the time, and I studied up on him at the Smithsonian.

So I was reminded of Dougherty and the beautiful possibilities of sticks when John sent me a link to an article at This Is Colossal. The German photographer Jörg Gläscher, or @joerg_glaescher on Instagram, is the artist. (Colossal was tipped off to the story at This Isn’t Happiness.)

Grace Ebert reported, “As the fear of a second wave of COVID-19 swept through Germany in the fall of 2020, photographer and artist Jörg Gläscher decided to channel his own worry into a project that felt similarly vast and domineering. ‘I was working (with the idea of) the pure power of nature, the all-destroying force, which brings one of the richest countries in the world to a completely still stand,’ he tells Colossal. …

“Between November 2020 and March 2021, Gläscher spent his days in a secluded location near Hamburg, where he gathered deadwood and constructed nine massive crests — the largest of which spans four meters high and nine meters wide — that overwhelm the forest floor in undulating layers of branches and twigs. Each iteration, which he photographed and then promptly destroyed in order to reuse the materials, overwhelms the existing landscape with pools of the formerly thriving matter.

“Gläscher’s installations are part of a larger diaristic project he began at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, he published a few magazines to present the works that range from photography to sculpture in one place. … Find more of his multi-media projects on his site and Instagram.” Great photos here.

I like thinking about an artist pursuing a project suggesting tidal waves when, like him, we were all isolating ourselves from the tidal wave of Covid. There is something intriguing about his taking the waves apart and reconstructing them in different forms. Doesn’t coronavirus do that, too?

The Covid Art Museum on Instagram was and still is an artistic response to the pandemic. And considering that the pandemic wave hasn’t yet crested worldwide, I’m sure we’ll be seeing other, Covid-inspired artworks — not to mention, more art from sticks.

As Patrick Dougherty has said, “A stick is an imaginative object. … I think we have a kind of shadow life of our hunting and gathering past, especially in our childhood play. Because a stick — a piece of wood — is an object that has an incredible amount of vibration for us.”

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Photo: Leong Leong.
Leong Leong’s Ray Fishtown in Philadelphia is meant to surround residents with art. A Russian philanthropist is collaborating on the project.

I thought this article about including original art and artists’ studios in residential buildings was interesting. I confess, however, that the extreme wealth of the young Russian woman who is behind the concept makes me uncomfortable. She’s the daughter of an oligarch, and it’s hard for me to believe anyone makes a fortune in Russia without workers suffering. Of course, we also have guys like that.

As Taylor Dafoe reported at Artnet News, “Russian collector Dasha Zhukova, who founded Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, has launched a new real-estate venture with the aim of bringing residential apartments, art studios, and exhibition spaces together under one roof.

“Ray, as Zhukova’s new business is called, already has two major developments underway, in Manhattan and Philadelphia. Its website describes them as ‘vertical villages’ and notes that prices will be ‘accessible.’ …

“Mexico City-based architect Frida Escobedo, who in 2018 became the youngest architect ever commissioned to build London’s Serpentine Pavilion, will lead the design of the 21-story development Ray Harlem.

“The building’s first four floors will serve as the new home of Harlem’s historic National Black Theatre, founded in 1968 by Barbara Ann Teer, and will include spaces for performance, events, and retail. The rest of the building will feature 222 apartments, artist studios, co-working spaces, as well as communal kitchens and libraries. …

“Ray Fishtown, a 110-unit building in Philadelphia designed by the architecture firm Leong Leong, is under construction now and boasts a similar slate of amenities, including a half-dozen street-level artist studios. New York artist Rashid Johnson will create a living greenhouse in the building’s lobby while Philadelphia-based artist Michelle Lopez will add a text-based intervention on the split brick facade. Lopez will also work out of a studio at the development and become its inaugural artist in residence when it opens. …

“Designer Suzanne Demisch, who’s been recruited by Ray to work on the upcoming projects, tells Artnet News that the firm will look to work with ’emerging and established artists, designers, and architects’ who are ‘local’ and ‘forward-thinking.’

“Demisch, who’s worked with Zhukova on various projects for a decade, says the philanthropist first articulated her vision for Ray five or six years ago. … ‘She asked me if I would join her in defying the traditional boundaries of architecture and design in the residential field and [creating] more equitable access to the built spaces of the future.’  

“Zhukova seems to have taken some inspiration for Ray from the Garage Museum building, which was designed by Rem Koolhaas and has proved to be as big a draw as the programming inside, Zhukova told the Wall Street Journal. … 

“ ‘Even if [visitors] had seen all the shows that we had on, they would just stay and hang out in our lobby,’ she said. ‘They would hang out in our cafe for hours on end—just come back day after day because they wanted to be in that environment.’ 

“Each of Ray’s developments will offer its future inhabitants a grip of perks calibrated to the creative culture of their respective cities and neighborhoods, including workshops with local artists and live events sponsored by nearby arts organizations.”

More at Artnet, here, and at Ray Fishtown, here. The pandemic undoubtedly slowed the Ray timeline, but I’m going to keep an eye on it and see how it turns out. I’m especially curious how they plan to deliver the “equitable” aspect as I feel sure they’ll be able to get high-paying buyers with a concept like that.

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Photo: Michelle Groskopf.
At home in Arizona, James Turrell views plans for the access road to his giant desert artwork. “Tight contour lines near the center represent the steep slope to the summit,” the
Smithsonian reports.

What is the difference between intensity and obsession, and does the latter ever benefit humanity? Read this story and be the judge. It’s about an artist in his late 70s who as a young man spent a year in jail for teaching other young men how to avoid the draft — and Vietnam. An unusual person.

At the Smithsonian magazine, Wil S. Hylton describes James Turrell’s massive art project in the desert.

“It was a cloudless day in northern Arizona,” writes Hylton, “and James Turrell wanted to show me an illusion. We climbed into his pickup truck and drove into the desert. After a few miles, he turned off the pavement to follow a dusty road; then he turned off the road and barreled across the desiccated landscape. When we reached the base of a red volcano, he shifted into four-wheel-drive. …

“The engine groaned and Turrell gripped the wheel with two hands as we climbed. Here and there we lost traction and slipped backward a few feet, but eventually we reached the top. The desert stretched for miles around, a patchwork of green and gold and brown, with the snowcapped peaks of the San Francisco mountains on the horizon.

“Turrell pointed down. ‘You see how the area right below us seems to be the lowest point?’ he asked. I followed his gaze, and it was true: The desert appeared to slope toward us from every direction, as if the volcano were sitting at the bottom of an immense bowl. ‘But it can’t be,’ Turrell said, ‘or we’d be surrounded by water. This is an illusion that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry talked about. You have to be between 500 and 600 feet above the terrain for it to happen.’ …

“Turrell, who turns 78 this year, has spent half a century challenging the conventions of art. While most of his contemporaries work with paint, clay or stone, Turrell is a sculptor of light. He will arrive at a museum with a construction crew, black out the exterior windows, and build a new structure inside — creating a labyrinth of halls and chambers, which he blasts with light in such a way that glowing shapes materialize. In some pieces, a ghostly cube will appear to hover in the middle distance. In others, a 14-foot wedge of green shimmers before your eyes. One series that Turrell calls ‘Ganzfelds’ fills the room with a neon haze. To step inside is to feel as if you are falling through a radioactive cloud. In another series, ‘Skyspaces,‘ Turrell makes a hole in the roof of a building, then winnows the edges around the opening to a sharp point. The sky above appears to flatten on the same plane as the rest of the ceiling, while supersaturated tones of light infuse the room below.

“Turrell’s work can be found in 30 countries around the world. He has produced nearly 100 Skyspaces alone. … The volcano is different. It is Turrell’s most ambitious project, but also his most personal. He has spent 45 years designing a series of tunnels and chambers inside to capture celestial light. Yet Turrell has rarely allowed anyone to visit the work in progress. Known as Roden Crater, it stands 580 feet tall and nearly two miles wide. One of the tunnels that Turrell has completed is 854 feet long.

When the moon passes overhead, its light streams down the tunnel, refracting through a six-foot-diameter lens and projecting an image of the moon onto an eight-foot-high disk of white marble below.

“The work is built to align most perfectly during the Major Lunar Standstill every 18.61 years. The next occurrence will be in April 2025. To calculate the alignment, Turrell worked closely with astronomers and astrophysicists. Because the universe is expanding, he must account for imperceptible changes in the geometry of the galaxy. He has designed the tunnel, like other features of the crater, to be most precise in about 2,000 years. Turrell’s friends sometimes joke that’s also when he’ll finish the project. …

“One thing I came to understand about Turrell was that, deep in his marrow, the crater was not just a vision but a kind of duty. The decades of struggle to gather funds, perfect the design and continue work on the project were culminating in the twilight of his life with a painful recognition that time was running out. … He had, reluctantly, shifted his focus to drafting meticulous blueprints for the crater, so that if he did not complete it, someone else could. But there was little peace in that. He seemed to be torn between the forces of obsession and mortality.

“That began to change a few years ago, when Turrell got a call from Kanye West. Like countless others, West wanted to visit the crater. But for reasons even Turrell cannot explain, he agreed to give West a private tour. Late one night, they wandered for hours through the underground chambers, staring at the stars and basking in ethereal light. Afterward, West offered to donate $10 million to the project, which Turrell, who has received many more offers than actual donations over the years, regarded as a compliment, but little more. Then the money appeared.”

Whoa!

Read the whole story at the Smithsonian, here.

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These are real New Yorker covers, but for a laugh (or a tear), check out fake pandemic covers created for an art class, here.

In New York, an art teacher’s creative idea in the pandemic was to make magazine covers in the style of the New Yorker magazine. The next thing the students knew, their work had gone viral on social media.

Michael Cavna writes at the Washington Post, “A masked woman pauses to perch between two worlds: the Zoom-room confines of her virtual life this past year, and the real physical realm of a post-pandemic future. As her classmates spring across a laptop keyboard, the emotional moment resonates, a split-second frozen in art.

“Its creator, Lauren Van Stone, a New York college student originally from Connecticut, rendered the work to empathize with anyone else enduring virtual learning. ‘I felt inspired to illustrate a piece that focused on the tentative reopening of schools,’ she says, ‘and the mixed feelings that many students will inevitably have upon re-entering society.’

“Van Stone created the artwork for her third-year illustration class taught this semester by Tomer Hanuka [@tropical_toxic on Twitter] at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Hanuka had asked his students to create moving-past-the-pandemic works in the style of a New Yorker magazine cover — and was so impressed with the finished pieces that he shared some of them last week on Twitter.

“Soon, the virtual world was as moved by the students’ art as Hanuka was. Within a few days, the first tweet in the viral thread of 17 works attracted more than 130,000 likes and more than 30,000 retweets. Nearly 60,000 liked Dou Hong’s poignant image of two figures on a park bench: One is of a woman, the other an outline filled with names of covid victims. …

“Hanuka, a veteran illustrator who has contributed covers to the New Yorker, was shocked by the public response. … He had merely sought to give the student artworks some exposure beyond the classroom. But his timing couldn’t have been better: As millions of Americans are vaccinated daily amid cultural debates over evolving social and medical protocol, the art reflects the year we’re emerging from — and where we hope soon to be. …

“The assignment was to analyze the storytelling mechanisms within ‘classic’ New Yorker covers and create original ideas using some of that visual vocabulary.

‘It’s about observing a seemingly mundane detail that, by the way it’s presented, illuminates a bigger story,’ says Hanuka. …

“Amy Young, who’s originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, created a powerful cover showing a family around the table with the deceased matriarch missing, her living husband and their wall picture bathed in the lavender tint of loss. Existing alongside the buoyant hope of vaccination, she says, is the ‘grief, sorrow and perhaps even bitterness experienced by those whose loved ones have already passed away. I wanted to show that duality of emotions in my cover, and how they can find co-existence in a family.’ …

“Katrina Catacutan, from Baltimore, drew a reunion with her significant other, in a home brimming with her collection of pandemic plants that evolved to include ‘propagating cacti’ and various vegetables.

“Once their works were posted on Twitter, the students were stunned by the impassioned response. ‘It really showed me just how powerful art is, in the way it can connect countless people from across the world over one shared feeling or image,’ says Jane McIlvaine of New York, who depicted a cat watching its formerly locked-down owner exit their home. …

“As for their teacher, he is not only wowed by the outcome, but also by how his young artists have persevered academically during the pandemic. Some of them hold day jobs, and some have been cut off from their families for a year. Yet, Hanuka says, ‘They had the emotional bandwidth to gather for four hours a week — and that’s just my class — to discuss color choices and compositions with all the gravity and focus these topics demand. … They were asked to find logic in the chaos — to make sense of it, by way of beauty. They practiced their craft rigorously and showed up.’ ”

See the covers at the Washington Post.

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Photos: Barbara Haddock Taylor.
After Baltimore artist Juliet Ames started decorating salt boxes with images associated with Baltimore, others joined in.

What do think of when you see a headline with the phrase “salt boxes.” I was a bit slow, first picturing the boxes of table salt used in old-time kitchens, then New England’s saltbox architecture.

Turns out it referred to the clunky plywood containers for the de-icing salt used on sidewalks and streets.

In an article at the Baltimore Sun, we learn, “The artist Juliet Ames has always loved salt boxes because she has always loved snow. She says she looks forward to the day every fall when the boxes appear on street corners because she thinks ‘it means that a snow day could be around the corner.’

“She’d always wanted to decorate one, especially the boxes that lacked even the stenciled words ‘salt box.’

“ ‘They looked sad,’ she said. ‘A naked salt box needs a dress.’

“Fearful of getting into trouble for damaging city property, she restrained herself — until the day in mid-December when she found herself contemplating a criminally unadorned salt box in Hampden [a Baltimore neighborhood]. Snow was in the forecast.

“ ‘I knew it had to be this box,’ she said. ‘That night, I Tweeted the picture of the decorated box out … and said, “Somebody vandalized the salt box.” ‘

“The next day, she received an email from the city’s Department of Transportation.

“ ‘We told her that we loved the salt boxes and that we looked forward to seeing more as long as they have a salt theme or highlight something special in the surrounding neighborhood,’ said German Vigil, communications manager for the DOT. Ames didn’t need more encouragement. …

“In the past two months, more than 100 of the decorated salt boxes have appeared around Baltimore, including more than 25 adorned by Ames herself.”

You can see a great collection of photos at the Sun, but here are a few descriptions.

The Sun says, “Literary icon Edgar Allan Poe stares out moodily from the front of a salt box across the street from the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Central Branch. And yes, that’s a raven perched atop his head — a nod to the Bard of Baltimore’s most famous poem and its cryptically croaking bird.

‘I was trying to subtly work in a reference to “nevermore,” Ames said, ‘because there is never more salt. A lot of the boxes have been empty this year.’

The newspaper’s caption for the photo below explains, “Adjacent to the Baltimore School for the Arts is one of its most famous alumni. His hat on backwards, quizzical eyes hooded, mouth open as if preparing to speak is none other than Salt Pac Shakur. (Salt Shaker, get it?) Tupac Shakur studied acting at the high school in the 1980s, where, according to his former teachers, the soon-to-be-renowned rapper had a special gift for performing Shakespeare.”

Among the photos you can see online is one of the “I Love the Morton Salt Girl,” whose slogan you doubtless remember: “When it rains, it pours.” Ames told the Sun, “I have a tattoo of the Morton Salt Girl on my leg that I got five or six years ago. I like her imagery, I love to cook, and we always had canisters of Morton salt when I was growing up.”

One box features jazz great Cab Calloway “looking over his shoulder and warbling a version of his trademark ‘hi-de-ho.’ Ames said, “I first learned about Cab Calloway from a Janet Jackson video in the 1990s. My mom was so excited. She told me, ‘Oh, he’s from Baltimore!’ Even though Cab technically wasn’t technically born here, we like to claim him.”

Two of the other themes shown were particularly interesting to me: local favorite Old Bay seasoning and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The seasoning is for the famed blue-claw crabs associated with Baltimore. Ames said, “That’s the only salt box where I painted the actual lid instead of decorating a yellow plywood panel that attaches to the front of the box. I was painting the lid bright red while people were passing by, and no one questioned what I was doing.”

But why is Minnesota native “F. Salt Fitzgerald” connected to Baltimore? Apparently, he wrote his 1934 novel Tender Is the Night while he was living there. “I decided to have him recline while drinking a martini,” Ames said.

I’ve lost count of the cities that claim Fitzgerald.

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Photo: Angelika Porst.
New examinations of John the Baptist wall paintings in Augsburg cathedral date them to more than 1,000 years ago
. Above, a decorative detail of the frescoes in the southern transept, which were only revealed in the 1930s.

A word to the wise for artists who hope their work will still be enjoyed in 1,000 years: try frescoes. The Oxford dictionary describes a fresco as “a painting done rapidly in watercolor on wet plaster on a wall or ceiling, so that the colors penetrate the plaster and become fixed as it dries.”

So even though watercolor is transient, plaster holds it.

Catherine Hickley reports at the Art Newspaper, “A series of frescoes showing the life and death of John the Baptist in the cathedral of the Bavarian city of Augsburg have been recently dated to the first decade of the 11th century, ranking them among the oldest wall paintings in a medieval church north of the Alps.

“The frescoes, located high in the southern transept of the church, were whitewashed over and forgotten until the 1930s, when they were uncovered. But it was not until conservation work began on the roof structure in 2009 that they could be proven to date back to the construction of the cathedral more than 1,000 years ago.

Dendrochronological tests revealed that wood in the masonry dated from AD1000, contradicting the previously held dating of the cathedral to around AD1065. The new dating ‘fits with what we know about a massive destruction in 994,’ says Birgit Neuhäuser, a spokeswoman for the Bavarian State Office for Heritage Protection.

“ ‘The oldest frescoes are the first layer above the masonry, and are therefore part of the original decor of the church,’ Neuhäuser says. ‘We can assume that in the case of an important Episcopal church, the frescoes would have been painted soon after the construction, so soon after AD1000.’

“In artistic style, the frescoes bear a strong resemblance to the tenth-century wall paintings at the Church of St George on the island of Reichenau on Lake Constance, near Germany’s border with Switzerland. The island owes its Unesco World Heritage status [read about a World Heritage site I visited, here] in part to the frescoes. Apart from the Reichenau church frescoes, the Augsburg paintings are the biggest preserved frescoes of their era in the German-speaking countries, says Mathias Pfeil, the head of the Bavarian State Office for Heritage Protection. …

“Given the height of the frescoes in the church, there is no need for special conservation measures in the long term, according to Neuhäuser. ‘They are not under any particular stress’ from the humidity or heat generated by visitors’ traffic, she says. ‘After cleaning and conservation, they are in a stable and sustainable condition.’

“The team plans to examine the roof area and the northern transept of the church for further fresco remnants. The research and conservation work is financed by the Beate and Hans Peter Autenrieth Foundation, the Siegfried and Elfriede Denzel Foundation and the Augsburg diocese.” More at the Art Newspaper, here.

Have you ever seen any frescoes? I saw Leonardo da Vinci’s frequently restored Last Supper in Milan when I was a teen. I really liked doing a research project about the frescoes of Giotto in high school although I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen any Giottos except in pictures. Below, I’ve added a nice dragon fresco from the Cloisters. (I wrote about my 2019 visit there in this post.)

Twelfth Century Spanish fresco at the Met Cloisters in New York City.

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Photo: @JasonThorne_RPP on Twitter
Seattle artist Stacy Milrany has come up with a new twist on the Little Free Library concept: Take some art, leave some art.

You know about the Little Free Library movement (e.g., here and at Fake Flamenco, here). And you know about the miniature art gallery that blossomed in Boston at the start of the pandemic (here). But did you know about the Little Free Art Library in Seattle? You may be interested to see how the idea evolved from something the artist had done for her mother. Cathy Free at the Washington Post has the story.

“Stacy Milrany probably runs the only art gallery in the country where visitors are encouraged to walk away with the art. And as far as she knows, her Little Free Art Gallery in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood is likely the only museum where all of the works will fit neatly in a pocket.

“Milrany’s miniature gallery, which opened for public view on Dec. 13, sits five feet off the ground inside a white wooden box in front of her house. The head curator and painter said she based her idea on the popular Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods coast to coast.

‘The idea is pretty simple — anyone is welcome to leave a piece, take a piece or just have a look around and enjoy what’s inside,’ said Milrany, a painter who runs a small, appointment-only gallery featuring her works. …

“Milrany gave her wee museum a contemporary design [and] installed a tiny bench and small plastic people who, she said, appear to be reflecting on the art. The bench and people are part of the permanent collection and not for the taking. …

“Said Milrany, ‘Just the surprise of seeing what people put in there has made this super fun for me.’ So far, she has seen works featuring bulldogs, masked heroes and a chicken farmer, as well as intricate collages and painted seashells.

“It was March 2019 when she first started creating miniature art pieces. … Milrany’s mother had just been diagnosed with cancer and was about to begin chemotherapy treatment in Portland, Ore., about 2½ hours away from her home.

“ ‘I decided if I couldn’t be with her every day she was going through treatment, I could offer a little piece of something via UPS every single day — something made by a human hand to add some brightness to those dark days,’ she said.

“Friends and gallery visitors offered to help when they learned what Milrany was doing for her mother, and together they created 140 pieces of mixed-media pieces of art measuring 4-by-6 inches each. Her mother, who is now healthy, said the daily deliveries helped her to get through the most difficult time of her life, Milrany said.

“When the pandemic took hold in Seattle last year, she decided to expand her idea and paint 500 more small artworks and send them to people who were isolated because of the virus. She called her project ‘Dose of Art.’

“ ‘I put a notice on Instagram and people started asking me to mail them to people who were in nursing homes or their moms or dads who were home alone,’ Milrany said. …

“Then last month, Milrany came up with the idea for her Little Free Art Gallery.

“A carpenter friend helped her build an 18-by-15-inch cedar display case, paint it white and install it on a post out front, along with a sign:

“ ‘Welcome to the smallest free-est art gallery in the world. Have a look around! If you’d like to take a piece, please leave another piece in its place for the next art-lover who comes around.’ …

“ ‘In three days, 10 pieces had come and gone,’ Milrany said. She was a bit saddened, however, to discover that one of her plastic miniature gallery figures — a character she named Chef — had gone missing.

“Milrany posted a sign asking for the return of her ‘4.7 inch chef and arts patron’ — and a week later, an anonymous donor mailed her an entire new set of whimsical plastic people to place inside the museum. …

“Many of the people who tuck artwork inside her gallery are Seattle-area artists, delighted to find a new venue for their work.

“Artist A. McLean Emenegger created a piece that features her grandfather as a young man, enjoying some time with a friend. ‘It’s a nod to joyful abandon,’ said Emenegger, 53, who added beeswax, sewing thread and bits of turquoise and coral to an old family photo for her contribution. … She said, ‘There’s something charming and reassuring about the Little Free Library concept. And translating that into an art exchange is genius.’

“Burton Holt, an artist who primarily creates works with found objects, donated a piece he’d made from colorful rubber bands. ‘The gallery is a real shot in the arm for the neighborhood in these difficult times,’ said Holt, 80, a retired ship captain.”

More at the Washington Post, here. Follow Milrany on Instagram @stacy_milrany_art.

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Photo: Nobu Koch/ Sealaska Heritage
Haida artist Sgwaayaans TJ Young paints the cedar house post he created called “Waasguu (Seawolf) hunting two killerwhales.”

It makes me happy when people are proud of their culture, especially people who have long felt marginalized. Today in Alaska, increasing numbers of indigenous residents are embracing their history and art.

Jennifer Nalewicki writes at the Smithsonian, “A community-wide effort began in Juneau in late 2017, when Sealaska Heritage Institute, a private nonprofit that promotes cultural diversity through the arts and public services, announced its plans to make ‘Juneau the Northwest Coast arts capital of the world.’ They’d meet this goal through the promotion and support of several Indigenous cultures that are strongly interwoven into the fabric of the region, and whose works exemplify this artistic style.

“By definition, Northwest Coast art is recognizable by its usage of ‘formline designs,’ according to The Canadian Encyclopedia, or ‘the continuous, flowing, curvilinear lines that turn, swell and diminish in a prescribed manner.’ The term was coined by art historian and author Bill Holm in his 1965 book Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form. Indigenous artists, particularly the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples, … apply this style of art in everything from drawings and paintings to sculptures and weavings. …

“A closer look at Juneau reveals a city populated by art museums, galleries, murals and statues promoting the artistic endeavors of local artists. Public art can be seen all over the city, from the Old Witch totem pole created by Haida carver Dwight Wallace in 1880 that creeps up the side of the State Office Building to the ‘Raven Discovering Mankind in a Clam Shell’ mural by painter Bill Ray, Jr. located on the side of the City Municipal Building. …

“One of the first steps Sealaska Heritage took to reach its goal occurred in 2015, when it opened phase one of its Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus. … Once complete, the 6,000-square-foot campus will [comprise] both indoor and outdoor spaces that are designed for artists to create different mediums of Northwest Coast art, both on a small and ‘monumental scale,’ the latter of which will include totem poles and canoes. …

Photo: Nobu Koch/ Sealaska Heritage
Ravenstail and Chilkat weaver Lily Hope works on a Chilkat robe.

“Lily Hope, a Juneau native known for her colorful and intricate weavings that have been on display at the Alaska State Museum, Portland Art Museum and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, is hopeful that Juneau’s Indigenous art scene will get the recognition that it deserves. As a member of the Tlingit people, she has been weaving since she was 14 years old, when her late mother taught her the craft.

“Now 40, Hope continues their legacy by weaving arm bands, face masks and jewelry using techniques she mastered while working alongside her mother for many years. Hope also serves as the president and co-founder of Spirit Uprising, a nonprofit ‘dedicated to preserving the integrity of Ravenstail and Chilkat weaving.’ …

“ ‘Our focus is on art forms that were starting to become extinct,’ [Rosita Worl, president of Sealaska Heritage,] says. ‘We want Northwest Coast art to be recognizable and to be everywhere. We’re working with our local congressional district to try to get it to become a designated national treasure. … We want art everywhere in our community, from street signs around Juneau to pieces on street corners. When people visit Juneau, we want them to be excited about our art.’ “

More at the Smithsonian, here.

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Photo: Hog Island Audubon
Rosalie Haizlett at work during her artist residency at an Audubon camp in Maine.

January is a time of year that gardeners turn to seed catalogs and travelers start to make plans. This year many travelers are remaking plans for adventures they had to cancel last year. Maybe it will be safer now. Who knows?

There’s a kind of vacation I particularly like reading about — artists’ retreats — and this one in Maine is intriguing because it combines a love of birds with an artistic pursuit. The three 2020 artists, whose residencies were canceled, have been invited back for 2021, and I desperately hope for all of us — especially those of us who haven’t felt able to take risks this year — that the world will be safe enough for a bit more fun and satisfaction by then.

Hog Island Audubon alumna Lindsay McNamara writes, “Nestled along the Gulf of Maine and Muscongus Bay, lies a forested island in a small Maine fishing town. Hog Island is rich in history and has also been instrumental in the environmental education movement in the US. Since 1936, residential sessions at Hog Island Audubon Camp have been led by some of the most respected naturalists and environmental educators in the nation, inspiring scores of scientists, school and university educators, and conservation leaders.

“In 2014, Audubon added artists to that list. The Artist-in-Residence (AiR) program brings artists across disciplines and subject matter from all over the world to enjoy hands-on nature discovery in a creative, rustic retreat setting.

“Over the last six years, nearly 20 artists have joined the Hog Island family. I had the honor of asking these talented folks about their experiences on the Island.

“As bird nerds, it is no surprise that our conversations began with talks of favorite birds on and off the Island. Tom Schaefer, author of Nature’s People: The Hog Island Story from Mabel Loomis Todd to Audubon and 2014 AiR, … explained, ‘As far as birds are concerned, it’s hard not to be impressed with the Atlantic Puffins, but I’d have to say the Osprey I scared up while hiking the perimeter of the Island was my favorite. In 1981, Osprey were still making their comeback. Pretty exciting bird for my life list.’

“Other favorite Hog Island birds included … Roseate and Arctic Terns, Winter Wren, Bald Eagle, Hermit Thrush, Black-throated Green Warbler, and Common Loon. 2019 AiR and watercolor painter Rosalie Haizlett explained, ‘My favorite bird on the island was the Common Loon, because I could hear its wails so clearly from my little cabin in the evenings. The sound was simultaneously melancholy and calming and while at first it gave me an eerie feeling, I soon grew accustomed to it and enjoyed it.’

“Chats quickly shifted to favorite birds in general. … 2017 AiR and painter Michael Boardman joked, “As an artist I should say ‘the bird that sits still long enough to sketch,’ but it’s really a Snowy Owl.’

“2015 AiR, program coordinator, and printmaker, Sherrie York said … ‘As an artist, I am particularly drawn to birds with a strong graphic character. I often joke that Harlequin Ducks, with their bold and bright plumage, must have evolved just to inspire printmakers. …

“ ‘As a group, the birds that inspire me most are those that have some sort of direct relationship with water: seabirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl. I grew up and lived most of my life in Colorado, in the arid interior of the United States. A couple of years ago I moved to Maine, and now live about 20 minutes from Hog Island. Both places are strongly tied to water but the relationships are very different. Whatever our human relationships to water might be, water birds can connect us and help us understand the challenges and needs of our particular region.’ …

“Many artists spoke of an elevated sense of place. Mr. Schaefer elaborated, ‘Hog Island is three-hundred-plus undeveloped acres in one of the most beautiful summer destinations on the planet. Mecca for hikers, climbers, birders, sailors, artists — vacationers of many different feathers.’ …

“ ‘That cabin, that island, and the world that envelops it gave me the room that I needed to think about some of the themes I’m obsessed with: birds, how we should think about them, what they mean in our lives, and what we mean in theirs,’ explained 2018 AiR and author Mark Hedden.

“2015 AiR and playwright Rebecca Gilman shared, ‘One night, I was startled awake by the weirdest, loudest sound. … It took me a while, but I eventually figured out there were seals out in the water, barking. I grew up in Alabama and I live in Wisconsin, so that was a first for me.’

“Ms. Haizlett explained … ‘I would often see students of all ages sketching in the woods or on the beach, and it made my heart happy to see people connecting with the natural world through the arts, which is how I also learn most effectively. I was invited to teach several nature illustration workshops while I was there, and those art and nature parties where some of my favorite experiences at Hog Island.’

“Oil painter and 2019 AiR Ralph Grady James shared his fondest memories: ‘First, I loved hearing the loons calling on the water while sitting on the cabin porch as the sun set. I also loved seeing the lobster boats tending their traps. It is not often in these days having that much peace and quiet away from others especially surrounded by the beauty in that place.’ …

“Paper artist and 2018 AiR Ingrid Erickson shared, ‘One of my fondest memories of Hog Island is of sitting on the porch in the evening, as the sky turned inky and filled with stars after my last solo walk on the beach. The night sky over Hog Island on a clear night is probably the least light polluted view of the night sky I’ve had in some time.’ …

” ‘My time on Hog Island,’ [Ms. Haizlett concluded], ‘was a beautiful confirmation to me that I’m on the right path.’ ”

More at Hog Island Audubon, here.

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Photo: Robert W. Hart / Dallas News contributor
Ron Olsen, who launched the rock art trail, holds one of the hundreds of painted rocks at Parr Park in Grapevine, Texas.

People like to paint rocks. It’s an art that’s simultaneously permanent and impermanent. In New Shoreham, for example, the beloved Painted Rock is like a mural or community bulletin board (there’s a real bulletin board, too, online). I’ve blogged about it often, including in 2015, here.

In the summer, you need to photograph your artwork quickly because the rock gets painted over faster than you can say Jack Robinson. But an archaeologist would find all the layers still underneath, and the rock itself has probably been there since the last Ice Age.

Similarly, there are small, smooth rocks people paint for sale, for charity, or for gifts. In a May post I wrote about local kids painting rocks during the pandemic and raising money for medical workers.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post has a story on another pandemic-inspired rock project, one featuring thousands of painted rocks from around the country.

Cathy Free reports, “Chris Penny figures that his mail carrier must have spectacular biceps by now.

“Most every day for the past seven months, when the carrier arrives at Penny’s home in Grapevine, Tex., he unloads a few heavy bins and hauls them one by one up the driveway to Penny’s front porch.

“The boxes are filled with packages containing painted rocks, most of them intricate works of art, handmade and mailed from people all over the country. Since the beginning of the pandemic, people have been sending them to Penny so that he and his family can place them along the Parr Park Rock Art Trail — a mile-long public walking path that has become a wonderland of more than 4,000 art rocks. …

‘These aren’t just any rocks — they’re works of art,’ said Penny, 44. …

“The rocks — painted to resemble everything from the Beatles to Mickey Mouse to a face mask — started arriving at Penny’s house ever since he bought a bunch on eBay after noticing a dozen painted rocks scattered along a nature trail in Parr Park. Penny said he knew right away that he wanted to flood the trail with them and make it a destination.

“Penny learned that the colorful rocks he’d stumbled upon were painted by [Grapevine photographer and RV dealer] Ron Olsen and his three grown children in March, after Olsen returned from a trip to Iceland and discovered that Grapevine, a city of around 46,000 people, had practically become a ghost town due to the nationwide coronavirus shutdown. …

“Soon, he and Penny decided to join forces to transform the trail into an artsy attraction for anyone in Grapevine and beyond who wanted to escape the stress of covid-19 for a while.

“ ‘We wanted to make it a getaway for people and give parents something safe to do outdoors with their children,’ said Olsen, 62. …

“Penny, who runs the nonprofit Broken Crayon, focused on helping women and children living in poverty in the United States and Ghana, said the project has provided his family with something fun and positive to do close to home during the pandemic.

“In the early days in March, after he’d painted several dozen rocks with his daughters and bought dozens more online, Penny posted on Facebook, asking anyone who would like to contribute to the project to mail him their rocks and he’d pay for the shipping. …

“Penny said he’s contributed almost $10,000 of his own money for shipping costs (rocks are heavy), although many people now pay to ship their rock masterpieces on their own. …

“All along the nature trail, visitors will now find painted owls, unicorns, tigers and humpback whales, along with the emblems of favorite sports teams, salutes to fallen soldiers and paintings of beloved cartoon characters and classic cars. Somebody even mailed Penny a giant tic-tac-toe board. …

“Penny’s favorite part of the project is that every rock tells a story. ‘Some people have painted rocks in memory of family members who have died, and others have painted memories of high school, like a favorite teacher or a favorite song,’ he said. ‘One woman painted a rock to honor her daughter because she’s serving with the military in Afghanistan and she misses her.’ …

“Whether a rock is painted by a professional artist or a 2-year-old doesn’t matter, Penny said. ‘When it comes down to it, there’s really no such thing as a bad rock,’ he said.”

Check out photos of some beautiful rocks at the Washington Post, here.

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Along the Minuteman Bikeway, one finds a variety of art exhibits that stay up about a year.

There are some really good bike paths in my neck of the woods, although they don’t all connect yet because some property owners fear them. But where they do exist, they give delight to all kinds of people, not just bikers. In many sections, artists have put up temporary displays, which add to the delight.

As I showed, here, the Bruce Freeman Trail currently has imaginatively painted doors by Umbrella Arts Center artists.

And when Cate McQuaid reported in the Boston Globe about crocheted plastic-bag art in the Arlington section of the Minuteman Trail, I knew I had to check it out. Three good things at once: a pretty walk, art, and volunteers fighting to end plastic litter!

While hunting the location of “Persistence: A Community Response to Pervasive Plastic,” I also got to see the Colony installation, which was scheduled to come down. It consisted of castle-like architecture that invited visitors to add their own little elements — for example, Fisher-Price “Sesame Street” figures.

About the crocheted creations, McQuaid wrote, “Plastic persists, breaking down into microplastics, which fish eat — and if we eat fish, we also eat plastic. But there’s another reason ‘Persistence: A Community Response to Pervasive Plastic,’ an installation by Michelle Lougee along the Minuteman Bikeway, got its title.

“ ‘It’s also the persistence it took everyone to get through this time, and who helped our project persist,’ said organizer Cecily Miller, public art curator for the Arlington Commission of Arts & Culture.

“The project kicked off late last year, with rosy hopes of community crafters coming together to crochet plastic bags. Lougee would turn the components they made into sculptures of aquatic microorganisms and suspend them from trees along the Bikeway overlooking Spy Pond. Workshops and meetups kept the momentum going. Miller says more than 100 people were collecting plastic, flattening, and folding it into plastic yarn, and doing the needlework. Then came the fog of COVID-19.

“ ‘Do the plastic bags hold the virus? Can we quarantine them? Nobody really knew the answers,’ Miller said.

“Miller and Lougee forged ahead with plastic the sculptor had in storage. The social element of the project came to a halt. They posted online resources for volunteers at home. …

“ ‘We had people who did more than they would have done without the pandemic,’ Lougee said. ‘Some people were happy to have this to focus on.’ “

They persisted. The display will be up through Halloween of next year. See www.artsarlington.org/artist-in-residence. And read more from Cate McQuaid at the Globe, here.

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Photo: Damien Finch et al
Mud-wasp “nests go hard and mineralise over time,” reports the BBC. “(1) Dating nest material on top of the paintings gives a minimum age only.” (2) Removing the nest allows researchers to ascertain the maximum age.

Prehistoric cave paintings, it seems, still have secrets for the enterprising to unravel. Researchers, with the active support of the local Aboriginal community, recently learned that calcified wasp nests could help determine when some of those paintings were created.

Jonathan Amos reported at the BBC, “When the veteran telecoms engineer Damien Finch went on a three-week bush walk in Australia’s Kimberley region, he became enthralled with its rock art. On his return home, he tried to find out more about these enigmatic aboriginal paintings and engravings.

” ‘I couldn’t believe how little was known about them; we didn’t even know how old they were,’ Damien said. ‘It seemed disrespectful that scientists hadn’t studied this stuff more; it was downplaying the importance of the culture,’ he told BBC News.

“Now, 10 years on and in his 60s, Damien is putting that right. He’s approaching the end of his doctoral research on the topic, and in [a February issue of] Science Advances journal, has published his own efforts to age the Kimberley’s so-called Gwion figures.

“These feature finely painted human forms, often in elaborate ceremonial dress and carrying spears and boomerangs. It was thought they were painted some 16,000 years ago, but the University of Melbourne investigator has been able to show the likely age is [about] 12,000 years ago.

“Dating rock art is really hard. Aboriginal artists use iron oxide pigments (ochre) which contain no organic material and are therefore resistant to any radiocarbon analysis.

“Damien has got around this by studying instead the scraps of organic matter stuck on top of and underneath the paintings. And for this, he’s working with wasps. In particular, the ones that build nests out of mud. …

“When the female wasp gathers her mud supplies she inevitably picks up fragments of charcoal from the Kimberley’s fire-prone landscape. And this charcoal can be radiocarbon dated. … Material that smothers pigment gives a minimum age; underlying material provides a maximum age.

“A distribution of dates from many locations enables an estimate to be made for when the Gwion style was in vogue. …

“The paintings [Damien] and his team have been working on are, of course, sites of immense cultural significance. All the sampling was guided and approved by representatives from the traditional owners of the artwork.

‘We couldn’t have done what we did without their active support and encouragement,’ ‘Damien told BBC News.

“He’s hopeful the mud-wasp dating technique can now be used at more locations right across the north of Australia, and perhaps at other rock art locations in the Americas and Europe.”

More at the BBC, here.

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Photo: Purple
Jean-Philippe Delhomme, an artist, was hired by the Musée d’Orsay to bring humor to promotion on the museum’s Instagram account.

Back in January, Lanre Bakare wrote at the Guardian about an artist that the Musée d’Orsay in Paris hired to make weekly contributions to its Instagram account. Naturally I wondered how Covid-19 had affected this effort. Answer: Not at all.

Bakare wrote, “One of France’s most celebrated and august art institutions has taken a novel approach to embracing technology while breathing new life into its collection – by installing an Instagram artist-in-residence who imagines the social media accounts of famous artists from history.

“The Paris museum Musée d’Orsay has invited the illustrator Jean-Philippe Delhomme to take over its Instagram account every Monday during 2020. On the account he will post a different drawing each week, depicting an artist as a contemporary social media user. …

“The Orsay president, Laurence des Cars, told Le Figaro that the purpose of the project was to bring more visibility to its artists from centuries ago. ‘The aim [of the residency] is to bring these artists of the second half of the 19th century closer by enrolling them in today’s interactions.’ …

“The idea was not to ‘desecrate works’ but to draw attention to a particular moment in an artist’s biography, and through ‘contemporary commentaries, fictitious or not, to evoke the adhesions or antagonisms aroused.’

“Delhomme released a book last year called Artists’ Instagrams: The Never Seen Instagrams of the Greatest Artists, in which he depicted the social media accounts of Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo and Paul Gauguin. ‘If Instagram had existed a century ago, there would be no art criticism today,’ he told the Guardian at the time. ‘Only thumbs-ups and emojis.’ …

“He wanted to focus on artists who were famous to the ‘point of creating mythologies around themselves. … That’s what was fun about it. They’re the gods of art. It’s like doing the Instagram of Mount Olympus. Artists want to be seen – even the most serious ones. Why wouldn’t they show off like everyone else?’ …

“Orsay was widely praised last year for its ground-breaking exhibition Black Models: From Géricault to Matisse, which displayed French masterpieces but renamed them in honour of the black subjects in the pictures but absent from the narratives.”

More at the Guardian.

There’s also a nice interview with Delhomme at ArtNews.

ARTNEWS: “Since you do a weekly post, do you plan out in advance which works to tackle?

DELHOMME: “No, no, no — I don’t plan ahead of time. At the beginning of this collaboration, I took walks in the museum with Sylvie Patry, the museum’s head of collections and conservation. It was wonderful.

“I started looking at the paintings in a much more intimate way. Obviously I can’t go back there for a while, but I have my own memories and I’m reading biographies of artists, trying to deepen my knowledge of nineteenth–century art history.

“I’m reading Michael Fried on Manet. Thinking of the current lockdown situation, one of the posts I did was on Henri Fantin-Latour’s ‘La Liseuse’ [‘The Reader,’ 1861] — and of course it speaks to us today: we’re in our rooms, we can’t go out. It’s a challenge to be absorbed by at-home activities.”

If you’re on Instagram, check out @Jean-Philippe Delhomme and @museeorsay.

Art: Jean-Philippe Delhomme
Delhomme knows that artists must adapt to changing media tastes, like using Instagram to promote their work. What if the Greats had to do that? he asks.

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