Third Time’s the Charm

It’s amazing to think that Michelangelo’s sculpture of David was just a giant slab of marble at one point. Interestingly enough, though, when Michelangelo began sculpting David’s infamous figure, two other artists had already attempted to sculpt the marble and left it unfinished.

40 years prior to Michelangelo beginning David, Agostino di Duccio had begun sculpting a figure in the same marble. It’s believed that Agostino’s inexperience with large scale figure sculpture was the main reason for his abandoning the marble piece.

The marble sat unused for almost 10 years before Antonio Rossellino decided to take a crack at it in 1475. He is believed to have left the marble unfinished because of its unstable and delicate nature. He believed the marble seemed unable to support any sculpture carved into it, so it was left unfinished yet again.

Michelangelo came around some time later in 1501, at only 26 years old, and worked with the marble for three years. His hard work clearly paid off, resulting in the widely acclaimed representation of David of Goliath. To add to his success, he also completed the statue without adding more marble or significantly cutting it down.

This piece helped Michelangelo secure his place in the art community, showing his true mastery for sculpture. He would go on to complete the Sistine Chapel and become one of the most celebrated artists of not only his time, but of history as well.

Seeing Stars

We’re all familiar with star-filled skies from looking out at the night sky, whether it be from walking outside, camping or even through the window of an asylum.

That’s right, an asylum.

For Vincent Van Gogh, he saw The Starry Night through the window at a psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy in 1889 (below).

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The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

This and many of Van Gogh’s prominent works resulted from his voluntary stay at the St. Paul Mausole from 1889-1890. After a breakdown in 1888, when he infamously cut off his own ear, he was hospitalized on and off and suffered from delusions and hallucinations. Local townspeople even nicknamed him “fou roux” or the “redheaded madman.” He found acceptance and understanding with the staff and fellow patients at St. Paul Mausole, though, and he was encouraged to paint throughout his stay.

The Starry Night was an idea Van Gogh had outlined before his arrival at St. Paul’s, but he found that the view from his room at night would be the main landscape he would paint from. Much of the piece was from observation but he spent a majority of the time working on it in a small studio provided to him at the hospital, during daylight hours.

The above selection shows some of the work he also completed at the asylum, including portraits of staff and fellow patients, and irises from near the buildings. Large fields and gardens surround St. Paul’s, and Van Gogh had been interested in nature his whole life, so it’s fitting that much of his work resembled a combination of the two.

He may have only sold one of his pieces during his lifetime but I think he’d be pretty impressed with the mark he has left on the art world, even posthumously.

Go for the Gold

Michael Phelps. Carl Lewis. Gabby Douglas. Olympic champions like these are memorable for their athletic ability, but what if there are other non-athletic areas they excel in as well? How can we recognize that as well?

From 1912-1952, this idea was taken into consideration (to a point) and Olympic medals were given out for fine arts. As long as the work was themed around an athletic endeavor, an artist could medal in the Olympics.

Imagine being able to bring home an Olympic medal for your artwork. I won an award in high school for one of my pieces and I thought that felt pretty impressive. That’s far from being nationally and internationally recognized for artistic talent, though.

 

The first year for this competition in the modern Olympic games, Walter Winans won a gold medal for his sculpture, An American Trotter (pictured below). He had previously gotten a gold medal in the 1908 Olympics for shooting, making him the first modern Olympic champion in both artistic and athletic competition.

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An American Trotter by Walter Winans

During this period, the Olympic games awarded 151 bronze, silver and gold medals to fine art submissions like Winans’. These included various paintings, illustrations and more sculptures.

Interestingly enough, many artists had beef with the fine arts competition of the Olympic games. The competition was started by outsiders of the artistic community and the artists didn’t always agree with the criteria or judgments, which resulted in many artists not entering work in the competition.

Understanding this, and the removal of such competition in the games today, it seems that the Olympics may be better suited in judging athletic excellence. Leaving the art competitions to the art critics and focusing on athletic performance, the Olympics have obviously done the right thing and remained the highest recognition for athletes around the world.