First Impressions

Our parents want the best for us. Sometimes, though, they can try to lead us away from our dreams, thinking that we’ll be better off in the end. It’s happened to many people not just now but in the past, and specifically to one infamous Claude Monet.

Monet’s father wanted him to be a grocer, not a painter. Imagine the father of Impressionism managing a grocery store for his whole life instead of painting. Regardless of how interesting those aisle displays most likely would’ve been, the world, and Monet, would’ve missed out on something huge.

By the time he was 16, Monet had attended a traditional kind of schooling and learned from other artists that served as mentors. Displeased with the way art was being taught, Monet befriended other like-minded artists when he moved to Paris and together they began a new style and era of painting.

Conversely to the more widely accepted style of painting, Monet and his friends painted in a way that depicted the visual “impression” of a scene, and not necessarily the specific structures and detail (below).

The painting featured above, Impression: Sunset, was partly the inspiration for the name Impressionism. An art critic repeated the term in a derogatory manner after seeing Monet’s exhibit, but the group of artists began using the name to refer to themselves from then onward.

The story is similar to the naming of the Purdue Boilermakers, a representation that originally began as a negative remark on the kind of utilitarian education that Purdue initially offered. The Boilermakers have paralleled the success of Impressionism by turning those terms into some of the widest known and influential in the world.

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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.

Framed Picasso

I don’t mean a framed art work by Picasso, but rather a point in time when Picasso was framed for a crime. Specifically, stealing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911.

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The gap on the wall of the where the Mona Lisa was exhibited

Now the actual thief was found a year later with the Mona Lisa in his trunk a mile away from the Louvre. Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian museum handyman had hidden away in a broom closet until everyone, including staff, had left the museum on a weekend. He then took the Mona Lisa off it’s stand and walked out with it under his jacket.

And no one noticed.

I guess in 1911 there weren’t many safety precautions except for security guards, but I’m sure this encouraged the Louvre to beef up their standards.

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The police record of Vincenzo Peruggia

Many people were suspected of the theft, the most famous being Picasso.

 

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Picasso pictured with the Mona Lisa

 

The group that Picasso associated himself with had a known thief in it. Gery Pieret, the man in question, had even stolen some sculptures from the Louvre previously and presented them as a gift to Picasso because Picasso had taken a liking to them.

Therefore, it’s pretty obvious to see how some of the members of his group were suspected of stealing one of the most priceless paintings in the Louvre.

Nevertheless, Picasso was cool under pressure despite the allegations, denied everything and was released. It turns out Peruggia had intended to return the Mona Lisa to Italy, where he believed it rightfully belonged. He was even praised by some Italian museums for his attempt. He served only around 7 months for his crime before being released.

1911 was part of an interesting era to say the least. While I don’t endorse any kind of criminal behavior I hope this inspires you to stand strong in the truth and what you know even when you might be standing alone, and of course inspire you to create. You might even create a piece so good someone will try to steal it from a museum someday.

 

Women in Art

“This is so good you wouldn’t know it was done by a woman.”

It’s amazing to think this was said about a woman’s artwork only half a century ago (especially as a compliment). About Lee Krasner’s  work too, the wife of Jackson Pollock, both prominent abstract artists. Krasner is just one example of many women who have been belittled or underrepresented in the art world.

In acknowledgement of International Women’s day I thought I would explore the progress that female artists have made over the years and bring awareness to the inequality that continues today.

Women face significant disadvantages in the world, economically and socially, and have for hundreds of years. Specifically in art, women have generally been considered muses or inspiration, serving as subjects for male artists, rather than being recognized or judged fairly for any talent they possess.

For example, in 1723, Dutch painter Margareta Haverman was expelled from the Académie Royale when a painting she submitted was judged too good to have been done by a woman (example of her work previous to that below).

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A Vase of Flowers by Margareta Haverman, 1716

The negative repercussions of female artists’ work have discouraged many women and explain why there are so few in the history books. In my Art History course, we haven’t gone over any female artists. I almost didn’t notice until now, but it’s true, halfway through the semester and not a single woman’s work yet. Nearly every piece has had a woman in it, so it’s obvious they were a part of the art community, but it’s clear women were not encouraged to create art themselves, or at least not celebrated for it.

Granted we’ve mostly been discussing the Renaissance, when dowries and hoop skirts were popular and women had extremely limited freedom and rights in general. Surprisingly, though, while we no longer need to trade livestock or money in exchange for our hand in marriage (usually), women artists are still significantly underrepresented in fine arts.

Similar to how International Women’s day brings attention to the inequalities suffered by women in today’s society, an organization called the Guerilla Girls  highlights these and others through art (see picture below).

Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum? 1989 by Guerrilla Girls
Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum? 1989 Guerrilla Girls

This group of female artists and art professionals has helped re-frame the question “Why haven’t there been more great women artists in Western history?” to instead ask “Why haven’t more women been considered great artists throughout Western history?”

I’ll leave you pondering that question, and I hope this post has inspired you to pay more attention to the female artists you come across and pause to give them their due recognition (or even a little more to account for lost times).

Classic Ink

Tattoos are forever.

Even with laser removal methods today, this is good advice to have in mind before committing to a tattoo. Tattoos have even been found on mummies, thousands of years after they got their ink.

Something that has changed along with those times has been the style of tattoos – understandingly so as the reasons and recipients have changed as well. Different cultures tattoo(ed) for religious or health reasons. Majority of people getting tattoos in the Western world, though, were sailors or those outside of mainstream society – hobos, etc.

These days you’d be hard-pressed to find someone without a tattoo but if you pick two (or even a few) from a crowd, it’s not likely their ink will be in the same style or subject matter.

The old-fashioned or classic tattoo style that was common among early Western tattoos, has taken a modern twist today with some artists. Bold, thick lines and bright colors characterize this style. Tattoo artists still replicate this style of art today, as this tumblr page shows.

Since I’ve been on Instagram more this pas week I’ve found some amazing artists’ accounts. The classic style of tattoo is far from old news I’ve learned recently, as many tattoo artists display this vintage ink.

Paul Dobleman is just one of many tattoo artists on Instagram that have continued a modern version of this classic style.

I hope this has enlightened you on a modern day piece of history and serves as inspiration for your creative endeavors.