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Posts Tagged ‘painting’

After decades as a commercial artist doing illustrations and portraits, Ben Wohlberg has “retired” to focus on abstract painting and gardening with his wife, Catherine. Once a year, they open to the public the grounds of their lovely summer home located on a shady dirt road. And what a treat that is!

I love the colors of the abstract paintings, which speak to me of the water, sky, flowers, butterflies, and mist that surround the couple on the island they love. In the blues of one with a flight of rose color lifting the upper right corner, I sense a bird flying in a studio window and swooping past a mirror that captures the feeling of its freedom rather than its photograph.

Seeing these paintings on easels around the grounds brings something extra to both. Note the “galrage” below (gallery in a garage) and the sculpture called “Man and Nature in Balance.”

More at Wohlberg’s website and in a video that features two islands the painter loves.

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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: Remko de Waal/ANP/AFP via Getty Images.
Rembrandt’s restored ‘Night Watch’ at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

A project to restore a Rembrandt called “Night Watch” has received a lot of attention recently, but at the risk of repeating what you already know, I’d just like to point out that trimming a work of art can seriously affect its greatness.

How many times have building renovations cut paintings to fit or squashed them into too small a space to be properly appreciated. I think, for example, of the many special WPA paintings in US post offices that have been significantly altered over the years. I understand competing needs, but it’s a loss.

What was lost in Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch,’ the New York Times says, was a sense of movement. The original was “asymmetrical: The large arch that stands behind the crowd was in the middle, and the group’s leaders were on the right. Rembrandt painted them this way to create a sense of movement through the canvas.

“Once the new pieces were restored, so was the balance, [said Rijksmuseum’s director, Taco Dibbits.] ‘You really get the physical feeling that Banninck Cocq and his colleagues really walk towards you.’ “

The main focus of the recent news coverage, however, was on how experts used artificial intelligence (AI) — along with an early copy of the original painting — to reimagine Rembrandt’s intentions.

Nina Siegal reported at the Times, “Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” has been a national icon in the Netherlands ever since it was painted in 1642, but even that didn’t protect it.

“In 1715, the monumental canvas was cut down on all four sides to fit onto a wall between two doors in Amsterdam’s Town Hall. The snipped pieces were lost. Since the 19th century, the trimmed painting has been housed in the Rijksmuseum, where it is displayed as the museum’s centerpiece, at the focal point of its Gallery of Honor.

“[Now] for the first time in more than three centuries, it will be possible for the public to see the painting ‘nearly as it was intended,’ said the museum’s director, Taco Dibbits. …

“Rather than hiring a painter to reconstruct the missing pieces, the museum’s senior scientist, Robert Erdmann, trained a computer to recreate them pixel by pixel in Rembrandt’s style. A project of this complexity was possible thanks to a relatively new technology known as convolutional neural networks, a class of artificial-intelligence algorithms designed to help computers make sense of images, Erdmann said.”

As amazing as AI is, the work would not have been possible if a less renowned painter hadn’t made an early copy of Rembrandt’s work.

“Indications already existed of how the original ‘Night Watch’ likely looked,” Siegal continues, “thanks to a copy made by Gerrit Lundens, another 17th-century Dutch painter. He made his replica within 12 years of the original, before it was trimmed.

“Lundens’s copy is less than one-fifth the size of Rembrandt’s monumental canvas, but it is thought to be mostly faithful to the original. It was useful as a model for the missing pieces, even if Lundens’s style was nowhere near as detailed as Rembrandt’s. Lundens’s composition is also much looser, with the figures spread out more haphazardly across the canvas, so it could not be used to make a one-to-one reconstruction.

“The Rijksmuseum recently made high-resolution scans of Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch,’ as part of a multimillion-dollar, multiyear restoration project, initiated in 2019. Those scans provided Erdmann with precise information about the details and colors in Rembrandt’s original, which the algorithms used to recreate the missing sections using Lundens’s copy as a guide. The images were then printed on canvas, attached to metal plates for stability and varnished to look like a painting.” More at the Times, here.

The Guardian also covered the story, quoting the Dibbits as saying, “With the addition especially on the left and the bottom, an empty space is created in the painting where they march towards. When the painting was cut [the lieutenants] were in the centre, but Rembrandt intended them to be off-centre marching towards that empty space, and that is the genius that Rembrandt understands: you create movement, a dynamic of the troops marching towards the left of the painting. …

“I am always hoping that somebody will call up one day to say that they have the missing pieces. I can understand that the bottom part and top might not be saved but on the left hand you have three figures, so it is surprising that they didn’t surface because at the time in 1715 Rembrandt was already much appreciated and an expensive artist.”

Update 8/11/21 — Michiel of Cook & Drink went to the exhibit, sending a picture and comment: “The AI-part adds a lot of value to the overall painting, but obviously it’s a reconstruction. This is clearly visible (the painting lies a bit deeper than the reconstruction) and that helps to appreciate both the original and the extended version. We’ve seen the painting many times, always in its original frame. To see it without a frame was also special. Very nice to see so many people interested in this project. It’s special to see the combination of very advanced IT, AI, art and history.”

Nice to see a line for art!

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Talk about making delicious lemonade out of unwanted lemons! Here’s what two creative friends came up with during lockdown.

Sarah Buttenwieser writes at the Daily Hampshire Gazette, “Like so many of us, artist Katy Schneider worried about how to face quarantine and its uncertainty. Rather than bake sourdough, she reached for a bunch of discarded 3-by-4-inch aluminum slides from Smith College, where she’s taught art for 30 years.

‘I knew I could repurpose the aluminum plates,’ Schneider says. ‘I knew I needed a project to get through quarantine. I like working on things that are the same size.’

“She decided to paint shoes each day. ‘I wanted to play with color and texture,’ she says. ‘These tiny paintings became an exercise to keep me in the studio.’

“After a few weeks, she shared the images with friends, inviting them to write stories or poems about the paintings. … Her most loyal respondent was musician, music teacher and songwriter Jim Armenti.

“ ‘Jim wrote about every single shoe painting,’ Schneider says. There were 40 paintings.

“Schneider moved on from shoes. She began to paint other things she found around her house, like ‘laundry in a laundry basket.’ … Meanwhile, she kept sending Armenti images.

“ ‘Jim continued to write a poem about each painting. It was like we became beholden to one another to complete this daily practice, which has become essential. As soon as I am in my basement sitting with my paints, I feel more relaxed. …

“ ‘Unlike portraiture, which I’ve done so much of, these paintings are of things I’ve never focused upon,’ Schneider says. ‘I feel no pressure to match my best work, because I don’t have best work of these objects; it’s all new discoveries. I’m creating these weirdly joyful images during an abysmal time. It’s energizing. I’m having fun with it.’ …

“Schneider enjoys the fact that the slide dividers worked to protect history — slides — and that she’s repurposing them to create an historical document.

“ ‘These images preserve this time in history, as the slides did before they were digitized,’ she reflects. ‘We are all going through this at once, but alone, and there’s something echoed in that from the tiny images, each divided by squares on the wall, as the dividers kept the slides from one another originally.’ …

“Armenti … loved ‘the solidity of the project right away. It was in my wheelhouse. I just like to do the thing — write the poem — much as I like live performance.’

“He doesn’t watch videos of his musical performances and he doesn’t like to return to the poems he’s written, either. Instead, he considers the poems ‘part of my day.’ …

“Before 8:30 a.m., he responds to email, completes chess moves, takes language lessons online — Spanish, Italian and Turkish — and writes a poem in response to Schneider’s daily painting.

“ ‘I think of her paintings as being of things that are overlooked,’ Armenti conjectures. ‘I like to let a narrative emerge from them, for them to take me on an emotional journey.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Concord Art.
Silver Linings: Paintings, Process and Poetryis an exhibit of Katy Schneider paintings and Jim Armenti poems. Visitors can see it at Concord Art until May 13, 2021. Covid safety rules are in force.

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Photo: Ottaviano Caruso/AWA.
Restoration experts are working on Violante Ferroni’s painting Saint John of God Feeds the Poor.

An arts foundation in Italy asks, Where are the female Renaissance artists? Although many women who might have pursued some kind of art were probably bent over a tub of suds, there are others who created but are forgotten.

Sylvia Poggioli reported at National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition” about new efforts to right centuries of wrong.

“Florence is one of the main stops on any art lover’s European itinerary. At the Uffizi Galleries, visitors can have their fill of works by Renaissance masters Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. Of course, none of these artists are women.

“In 2009, a new nonprofit foundation in Florence started to investigate why.

” ‘I started going into museum storages and attics and checking what was actually there, what works by women,’ says Linda Falcone, the director of Advancing Women Artists.

‘It was something that had never been done before because no one had ever before asked the question, “Where are the women?” ‘

“In the years since, AWA has shed light on a forgotten part of the art world, identifying some 2,000 works by women artists that had been gathering dust in Italy’s public museums and in damp churches. It has also financed the restoration of 70 works spanning the 16th to the 20th centuries.

“The organization was founded by Jane Fortune, an American philanthropist who died in 2018. Fortune was an intrepid art detective whom Florentines nicknamed ‘Indiana Jane’ in homage to her native state and her Renaissance treasure hunting skills. …

“During the Renaissance, Falcone says, ‘Women didn’t have citizenship. They couldn’t produce art as a profession. They couldn’t issue invoices. They couldn’t study anatomy.’ …

“A few Italian women were able to study painting in their fathers’ studios — most notably Artemisia Gentileschi, daughter of the 17th century painter Orazio Gentileschi. AWA is responsible for restoring David and Bathsheba, one of her paintings that was found after being hidden in a Florentine palazzo’s attic for 3-1/2 centuries.

“The group also rediscovered a 21-ft.-long canvas depicting 13 life-size males — the only known Last Supper painted by a woman. It is by the 16th century Dominican nun Plautilla Nelli — whose workshop was inside a convent in Florence. …

“Says [Falcone], ‘Nelli actually chooses sort of the key moment in which Christ announces his betrayal. And you have all of the apostles feeling the emotion of that very serious news. And so she is able to do a study of their responses, of their psychological responses.’ And, unlike most Last Suppers by male artists, Nelli puts food on the table, says Falcone.

‘She has lettuce, she has salt cellars, a lot of wine, bread for every apostle and knives and forks and beans and lamb — she did a Last Supper were people were meant to eat, first of all.’

“[Unlike] male artists of the time, Nelli signed her canvas — adding the words ‘pray for the paintress.’

“The nun’s works were prized by Florentines during the 16th century because they were believed to be imbued with spirituality. Her contemporary, the art historian Giorgio Vasari, wrote that she ‘would have done marvelous things if, like men, she had been able to study and to devote herself to drawing and copying living and natural things.’ …

“With backing from Advancing Women Artists, [art restorer Elizabeth Wicks] is currently restoring two large works by Violante Ferroni, an 18th century child prodigy of whom little is known today. …

“At the time, female artists were usually limited to painting still-lifes and small portraits. But while still in her 20s, Ferroni was awarded a prestigious commission by Florence’s San Giovanni di Dio hospital to paint two ovals — each of them 8-by-11 1/2 feet — with spiritual scenes to help heal the ill. The subject was usually reserved for men. …

“Falcone says that through restoration work, documentation and exhibits, AWA has contributed to a growing worldwide interest in and awareness of art by women. Yet the organization recently announced it is shutting down next June because it does not have sufficient funds to expand.”

More at NPR, here.

Photo: Francesco Cacchiani/AWA
Restoration expert Elizabeth Wicks and the nonprofit Advancing Women Artists have recently been restoring works by Violante Ferroni, a forgotten 18th century woman.

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The result of my grandson’s class in Japanese marbling technique. Suminagashi, or “ink-floating” on paper, has been around since the 12th century.

Not long ago, my older grandson’s class, which is studying Japan, went to the Boston Children’s Museum. The museum features an entire traditional home that was shipped from Japan years ago and rebuilt indoors.

While there, the 8-year-olds practiced an ancient painting technique, Japanese Suminagashi, which uses the unpredictable swirling of water to create one-of-a-kind images.

I love the idea of one-of-a-kind. Children are one-of-a-kind, too, all wonderful in their own way, and I like to hear about them getting a break from standardized-testing molds.

According to the website Beyond the Chalkboard, in which the Boston Children’s Museum helps teachers with enrichment activities, “Suminagashi, Japanese for ‘ink-floating,’ is a paper marbling technique that was practiced in Japan as early as the 12th century.  Creating these beautifully marbled pieces of paper encourages children to relax, focus and observe the changing swirls in front of them. …

“It is very important that everything used in this activity (the brushes, trays and jars) be as clean as possible. The trays or tubs you use should be at least 2 1/2” deep. Tupperware containers and some aluminum pie tins will work. Make sure that the paper you are using is smaller than the width and length of the trays.

“Fill each tray with 2 inches of room-temperature water, making sure to keep the water free of dust, oil or soap. Pour a small amount of sumi ink into each empty baby food jar, and have pairs of students share a jar.”

The instructions include advice on first discussing what swirls are and also what children already know about Japan.

Here are the instructions, in part.

“1. Make sure your hands and the water tray are CLEAN while you fill it with water. Keep the water and the papers free of dust, oil and soap.
“2. Find a steady place to lay your two brushes, wooden skewers or toothpicks.  Place one brush or skewer on the left side of the water tray and one on the right side.  Dip the left side brush or skewer into the ink.  If using a brush, you only need a little bit of ink!  The surface of the water will pull ink from the brush.  …
“3. Carefully touch the very tip of the inked brush or skewer just to the surface of the water in the middle of the tray.  …
“4. Lay down the inked brush and pick up the other brush (the un-inked one on the right side of the tray).  Touch the end of this brush or skewer either to the side of your nose (your nose has lots of oil on it), to a bar of soap, or (just barely) to the top of a detergent bottle.  Touch the tip of this oily or soapy brush/skewer to the water INSIDE THE DOT of ink (or the center of the tray, if you can’t see the ink yet).  You might see the ink that is floating on the surface of the water move away from where you touched. …
“5. Repeat, alternating between brushes, and always touch the brush tips in the middle of the ink circle on the surface of the water. You should soon see many concentric circles. Once you feel you have enough, you can gently blow across the surface of the water to start creating swirls. …
“6. When you like what you see on the water, pick up a piece of paper, holding it from the sides.  Bring the ends together a bit so the middle of the paper bends down toward the water — now you can lay the paper on the water, starting from the center and quickly laying down the sides and letting go. It may take some practice to get this to be a quick, smooth motion. …
“7. Now lift the paper off the water (if there seems to be a wash of ‘loose’ ink on the surface of the paper, try gently, quickly rinsing the paper under the faucet). The ink that actually printed will stay on the paper.
“8. Lay the your print on the newspaper to dry.”

More here and at Suminagashi.com. My grandson also alerted me to a Japanese anime called My Neighbor Totoro that he saw in school, and my husband and I got it from Netflix. We like Japanese animations.

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Photo: Honolulu Museum of Art
“Black Lava Bridge, Hana Coast No. 1,” 1939, by Georgia O’Keeffe.
 

Who knew that the great Southwest artist Georgia O’Keeffe also painted Hawaii? I myself was surprised to read the report at the New York Times of a new exhibit showcasing the artist’s Hawaii art.

William L. Hamilton writes, “Finding out Georgia O’Keeffe had a Hawaiian period is kind of like finding out Brian Wilson had a desert period.

“But here it is: ‘Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawaiʻi,‘ 17 eye-popping paradisal paintings, produced in a nine-week visit in 1939, and now on display at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, through Oct. 28.

“It is the first time the largely unknown group has been shown together since its original exhibition in 1940 at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, An American Place, in New York. In addition, there are two oil sketches never before exhibited. And not a bleached skull in sight.

“As with previous shows on artists — including Frida Kahlo and Claude Monet — the Garden has also mounted a living display of the subjects depicted in the artworks, and more. In the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory are over 300 tropical plant types, representing the three major groups of flora in Hawaii. …

“[The] air is palpable in the humidly colored, freshly amplified palette of her paintings of hibiscus, wild ginger, pink ornamental banana, and the sea and landscapes in the library gallery, with its muted gray background, as meditatively sensual as a Hawaiian open-air church.

“That air also hangs, warmly spiced, in the Conservatory, with a profuse display of the natural exoticism of the islands that goes well beyond the painter’s depiction. …

“ ‘Every single portrait she painted — the heliconia, calliandra — they’re all imported,’ Todd Forrest, the Garden’s vice president for horticulture and living collections, said of O’Keeffe’s output. ‘That’s the sort of flora people have in their mind’s eye when they think of the islands.’ …

“Missing from her vision, as eager to absorb the overwhelming newness of the place as she was, were Hawaii’s true nobility: the hundreds upon hundreds of native species that exist nowhere else. To its credit, the Conservatory has represented them too, a group rarer to see than even the paintings. …

“O’Keeffe, of course, is an art world star, one of the first of the 20th century’s artists singled out for celebrity. Her larger-than-life flowers are famous too. Since 1924, she had studied and depicted them — gone to the startling heart of them — with her original style. …

“She was already a celebrity in 1939 when at 51, self-created and self-confident, she was asked by N.W. Ayer & Son, a Philadelphia advertising agency, to travel to the islands to produce two print-ad images for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, later Dole. Not known for commercial work, O’Keeffe had completed a commission in 1936 — what would be the largest of her flower paintings — for the Elizabeth Arden Sport Salon in New York. …

“ ‘What she wanted was an adventure,’ [Honolulu Museum of Art deputy director Theresa Papanikolas] said. …

“ ‘Many of the native plants are endangered and therefore they can’t be shipped,’ explained Francisca Coelho, who designed the edenic installation. The Garden worked with the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii, which provided cuttings and seedlings of natives legally transportable. …

“And there are tiny groves of pineapples. O’Keeffe cavalierly neglected to paint any while she was in Hawaii on Dole’s dime. Her sponsors had to send her a pineapple when she got back to New York. Ignoring that, she painted a pineapple plant from her memory of being in the fields — a budding fruit guarded like a queen by its threatening wreath of swordlike leaves and fire-colored dirt.

“ ‘I laughed so hard,’ said Christine Gentes, who was visiting the Garden from Chicago with her daughter and sister. ‘She did it for an ad, and turned it into a painting. I mean, she really resisted. Artists never like to do that kind of work.’ ”

Lots of great pictures here and here.

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The artist I have in mind is four. Here are some watercolors he painted over a couple days at Christmas.

The Christmas tree is green along the left side, but this artist likes lots of color. He is careful to keep colors from running together and getting muddy.

He paints snowmen and people in twos.

The still life features a banana, apples, grapes, a pear and limes.

I love that over two days, his people evolved to have hair, arms and a discernible smile. I’m smiling, too..

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https://suzannesmomsblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/123016-snowmen.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If you can get to the N.C. Wyeth exhibit at the Concord Museum by September 18, I think it will be worth your while.

You’re familiar with the family of painters, the Wyeths, right? Best known are Nathaniel C., his son Andrew, and Andrew’s son, Jamie. Perhaps you have been to the Brandywine Museum in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania, which got its start with generations of Wyeth art.

N.C. fell in love with Henry D. Thoreau‘s writing in 1909, made several pilgrimages to Concord, and eventually conceived of a book that he would illustrate , calling it Men of Concord: And Some Others as Portrayed in the Journal of Henry David Thoreau.

The Concord Museum and the Concord Library are each hosting exhibits related to the book, but if you like N.C.’s art, the museum exhibit is the one to see. It’s small but informative and lovely to look at.

N.C. was known for heroic illustrations of classics like Treasure Island, and his characters’ facial expressions and body postures always tell a story. That might be too literal for some art lovers, but I like it. I like the looks on the faces of three men Thoreau described in his journal as “slimy.” I like the watchful, coiled bodies of the muskrat hunters on the river, and the youthful innocence of N.C.’s Thoreau — a quality I have never associated with the writer.

One fanciful painting with bluebirds in a bubble of light like angels over Thoreau’s head seems like hagiography. It’s not my favorite work here, but it’s an intriguing summary of the writer’s interests. And people do make a religion out of Thoreau and Transcendentalism, so maybe it’s not surprising. The whole Concord gang — including Bronson Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson — is in the show, minus most of the brilliant women, of course.

One thing I learned was that N.C. had his pencil sketches converted into glass slides, and then he projected them onto the Renaissance board he favored so he could work directly on the enlarged sketch.

More on the museum website.

The hut is a replica of the cabin Thoreau stayed in at Walden Pond and is located on the grounds of the museum.

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Back when Netscape was the browser of choice, I clicked every day on What’s Cool, and I think that is how I learned about the Museum Of Bad Art (MOBA), “a community-based, private institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms and in all its glory.” I read that many pieces were pulled out of dumpsters and attics — or found abandoned by the side of the road.

Twenty years later, I got to wondering if MOBA was still around. I found lots of information on their expanded website.

“MOBA was founded in the fall of 1993 and presented its first show in March 1994. The response was overwhelming. Since then, MOBA’s collection and ambitions have grown exponentially.

“Initially, MOBA was housed in the basement of a private home in Boston. This meager exhibition space limited the museum to being a regional cultural resource for the New England area.

“As the only museum dedicated to bringing the worst of art to the widest of audiences we felt morally compelled to explore new, more creative ways of bringing this priceless collection of quality bad art to a global audience. Another Boston-area cultural institution, Dedham Community Theatre, generously allowed MOBA the use of their basement. Our first permanent gallery is now conveniently located just outside the men’s room in a 1927 movie theatre.

“The ambiance created such a convivial atmosphere, that when we went looking for a second location, the only place that was up to our quality standards was another theatre basement. The Somerville Theater in Davis Square, Somerville MA is now our second gallery.”

MOBA now exhibits online, publishes an email newsletter called MOBA News, and offers the book Museum of Bad Art : Masterworks. More here.

It was hard to pick one piece of art to show you from the many great examples online. But what’s not to love about the landscape below?

Says MOBA, “The wild westerly wind that devastated this peaceful bucolic landscape was strong enough to denude mature trees, grossly distort fair weather clouds, rend the fur from a cow, bend a wrought iron weather vane, and induce panic in a basset hound whose ears and tongue point due east. …

“In the note accompanying his donation, Mr. Roots wrote, ‘I was happy with the way the barn turned out. It was when I started animals and people that [I realized] I was having problems with proportions.’

“He enjoys other creative pursuits in addition to painting. ‘I have won the World’s Worst Poetry Contest in Pismo Beach, CA, placing 1st, 2nd, and 4th in separate years., [and] I have made many bottles of home brew and wine.’ ”

Art: Bob “Grandpa” Roots
“On a Windy Day,” Donated to the Museum of Bad Art

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I liked this story about a 91-year-old artist having his first solo show. John sent it to me. I hope the Arlington Advocate leaves it up for a while. (I know that all the profiles I wrote for the newspaper chain of which the Advocate is a part — and all my theater reviews — are long gone.)

A solo exhibition called ‘Umberto Centofante: A Life’s Work” was featured at the Arlington Center for the Arts (ACA) until last week and highlighted 40 years of still lifes, portraits and landscapes.

Heather Beasley Doyle writes, “When Umberto Centofante tells a story about his life or talks about his art, a distinct, almost palpable energy underscores his words. His eyes light up, his body springs lightly and a hearty laugh punctuates his paragraphs. …

“Centofante’s life began in Pontecorvo, Italy, where he grew up on his family’s farm. When he was eight years old, he says, his teacher gave him a sketchbook to take home with him.

“ ‘All of a sudden some ideas came into my head,’ Centofante recalled, and he filled the book with drawings of farm life. …

“The drawings earned him a prize and the opportunity to receive professional art instruction — a chance he had to pass up so he could help work the farm. Eventually, Centofante became a police officer and worked in Rome. After World War Two ended, he emigrated from Italy, bound for the Boston area and a job as a truck mechanic at Garwood Industries in Brighton he secured with help from an uncle who lived in Milton. Centofante had never been a mechanic, but he learned with the same intuition that had enabled him to fill the sketchbook.

“Centofante is ‘self-taught in everything,’ including painting, according to the oldest of his four children, Elaine Gleason. …

“In the Gibbs Gallery, Centofante’s paintings of boats ferrying passengers through white-capped brilliant blue seas share space with glowing, color-soaked portraits of children and exacting, nearly monochromatic nature scenes such as ‘High Moon.’ …

“Centofante says he never sketches out a project ahead of time — that he spends more time thinking and planning a painting than setting paint to canvas.

“ ‘I don’t design; I just start. I find the resolution very quickly,’ he explained. …

“Asked why he paints, he replied simply: ‘It makes me feel good.’ ”

Read more of the story at the Arlington Advocate.

Photo: Arlington.Wicked.Local.com

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Art: Thomas Hart Benton
One of my favorites: Spring on the Missouri, 1945, oil and tempera on Masonite panel. On loan to the PEM from the North Carolina Museum of Art.

 

 

When I was moonlighting as a theater reviewer, I always liked to “sleep on it” before writing anything, just in case my unconscious had anything useful to add.

Well, I slept on the big Thomas Hart Benton exhibition I saw yesterday, and sleep confirmed that certain lesser-known aspects of his work are troubling. I still adore the wavy energy of his landscapes, people, horses, trains, clouds, smoke, even fence posts. I still love the way Benton honors ordinary people and ordinary jobs and the way his paintings comment on social injustice.

But I really did not like the gruesome murals of invading armies that Benton created to jolt overly complacent Americans after Pearl Harbor. There was something cheap about them.

Of course, there was a lot more than that to the exhibition “American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood,” a sweeping retrospective of most of the artist’s work: murals showing Indians or slaves being mistreated, paintings of the the vibrant life of the West and Midwest, detailed depictions of the inner workings of Hollywood sets, designs for the Henry Fonda version of The Grapes of Wrath, illustrations for an edition of Huckleberry Finn, posters touting the contributions of African Americans to the war effort.

The day before, I had been hearing about Irving Berlin’s dedication to the war effort, and I think these two different artists conveyed, more viscerally than I had previously experienced, the underlying fear prevalent at that time. Since I grew up after it was all over, I probably unconsciously assumed that everyone always knew the Allies would win.

Do go to the show at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. You have until September 7. An enormous array of Benton’s work has been gathered from near and far — and there are some intriguing movie clips. (I was moved by a character’s tears to put The Grapes of Wrath on my Netflix list.)

Details of the exhibition here, at the PEM website.

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After Brian Bailey started to follow this blog, I took a look at his own WordPress blog. The first thing I saw was the watercolor below. I said, “Oh, wow.” Then I looked through his other drawings and watercolors and liked them just as much. So I want to share the Art of Brian site with you.

I’ve always loved watercolors, the gentle suggestiveness, the uncertainty of how the the paints will run. Although good work takes a lot of skill, there’s an element of the unexpected that to me is about the randomness of experience and the beauty of randomness.

Here are some thoughts from Brian on one of his recent paintings.

“When pulling together the shapes and lines that make up a composition it can be challenging to determine how much information is enough.  Some of my favorite drawings and paintings exhibit a very economical approach to line, saying just enough to let the viewer see what the artist sees.  In recent weeks, I’ve been doing many gesture drawings, as I’ve mentioned before, and I’m trying to let my paintings be, somewhat, more gestural.  I started my painting today outside with lots of light and finished it at home by bumping up the shadows and contrast.  I’m really trying to stop myself from overworking each painting.”

Brian also has an Etsy store. I am liking everything I see there.

Art: Brian Bailey
The Orange Van, Watercolor, 4″ x 4″, © 2015

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Art: Van Gogh
Moulin d’Alphonse, painted in Arles in southern France.

Once again, a master’s work has been rediscovered. This time the master is Van Gogh, and the work’s identification is all thanks to a sister-in-law who knew a great artist when she saw one.

Dalya Alberge at the Guardian has the story. “A landscape by Vincent van Gogh is to be exhibited for the first time in more than 100 years following the discovery of crucial evidence that firmly traces back its history directly to the artist.

“The significance of two handwritten numbers scribbled almost imperceptibly on the back had been overlooked until now. They have been found to correspond precisely with those on two separate lists of Van Gogh’s works drawn up by Johanna, wife of the artist’s brother, Theo.

“Johanna, who was widowed in 1891 – months after Vincent’s death – singlehandedly generated interest in his art. She brought it to the attention of critics and dealers, organising exhibitions, although she obviously could never have envisaged the millions that his works would fetch today.

“Le Moulin d’Alphonse Daudet à Fontvieille, which depicts vivid green grapevines leading up to a windmill with broken wings in the distance, is a work on paper that he created with graphite, reed pen and ink and watercolour shortly after he reached Arles, in the south of France. It dates from 1888, two years before his untimely death.” More here.

When I was sixteen, I passed through Arles on a kind of tour. I am sorry to say the only thing I remember clearly is that the teacher said you had to translate “to Arles” as “en Arles” instead of “à Arles,” as you would say for other cities. Only guess what! A quick Google search informs me “en Arles” is only for people stuck in the 19th century.

On me pose très souvent la question de savoir si je me suis trompé en disant à Arles (vs. en Arles). Et bien non, à part si vous êtes resté au IXème siècle …

David Larlet is the source, and I have no idea if he is an expert. I assure you I wasn’t 16 in the 19th century, but my teacher was rather old fashioned.

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When Suzanne was two, she and John used to watch a TV show with a theme song that went like this: “Stop the pigeon, stop the pigeon, stop the pigeon — now!”

One day we took the train to New York City, and in spite of the fact that Suzanne never saw pigeons where we lived, she took one look at the city’s official bird and started singing, “Stop the pigeon!”

So unlike many people, I have some good feelings associated with pigeons, and I am getting a big kick from the pigeons I photographed near city hall yesterday.

Someone with a sense of humor has decorated the barrier around the construction site for the  new Government Center T stop with pigeon portraiture.

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