Renaissance Portraiture: Propoganda and Photography of the Times
Jackie Wullschlager has an interesting piece in the Financial Times on an exhibition of Renaissance portraiture
at the National Gallery in London in cooperation with the Prado Madrid. Looking at oil paintings of faces and figures, it takes some imagination to get out of the current associations and see them as they fit into society of those times:
Humanism and the medium of oil paint were more or less born together. Each enhanced the other as the greatest artists of the day embraced a medium offering un-rivalled scope for depth, naturalism, refinement, psychological complexity. Early likenesses were destined not for the wall but to evoke absent loved ones or – as in Holbein’s treacherously flattering “Anne of Cleves” for Henry VIII – to prepare marriage alliances; once surveyed, or when the subject turned up, they were stored in boxes: thus the small size. In the 16th century, however, their purpose evolved to became more decorative, larger, and more subtly propagandist.
There was no photography, so paintings were the equivalent. I did a quick check in Wikipedia on the history of watercolor painting
. Although the earliest examples were ancient, it really began in the Renaissance, yet they were seen as a medium for naturalist work - producing images of wildlife and plants. So oils remained the choice for portraits. I wonder how much economics and time sensitivity played into the smaller image format. Certainly the easy of storing images when someone was around had to be part, much the way we keep snapshots. But also a full-blown large oil portrait would have taken much longer to make and been far more expensive.
One overarching story is the dissemination of portraiture down the social scale. By 1554, satirist Pietro Aretino, whose own sumptuous portrait by Titian hangs in the Palazzo Pitti, lamented that “even tailors and vintners are given life by painters” – and indeed, a highly engaging work is Giovanni Battista Moroni’s courteous “The Tailor”, caught still holding scissors and cloth, to incline his head to listen to us.
I suspect that and the need to create images in shorter periods of time were similarly large driving factors of the format. The article has some real insight and makes me wish I had business taking me to London and dropping me off briefly at the National.
Labels: art, painting, portraiture, Renaissance
Open Mouth, Insert Politician's Foot
It's almost too easy to find gaffes among the political during the election. But this one is too good. "Joe the Plumber" became a subject of the final presidential debate. Turns out he's not a licensed plumber and his name isn't Joe
. Apparently he has become popular among some parts of the Republican party for criticizing Barak Obama's tax policies. Maybe they should have made sure that he could get his own name and background right first before relying on his political rhetoric.
Labels: mistakes, Politics, presidential election
Australians Forced to Use Filtered Web
The Australian government is planning to filter Internet content, and citizens of the country will not be able to opt out
. Instead, they'll be given the option of which set of blacklists to use: one that blocks content deemed inappropriate for children and another of illegal material. There's plenty of concern in the country, whether from librarians who worry about what might be added to the blacklist or ISPs who say that the technology is dicey enough that it will significantly slow all Internet traffic. Some tests suggest that the filters will incorrectly block about 10,000 pages from each million, which is another way of saying that one percent of all sites will be unviewable for no reason at all.
Labels: Australia, censorship, Internet
Comic Art Museums and Believing Someone Else's Press
The Guardian reported on a new German museum of comic art
. In it, the writer accepted a claim that it was the first museum devoted to comics in the world. That's the problem of beleiving what you read. San Francisco has had one
since 1987; there is a cartoon art museum in Florida and two in New York City
; and the National Cartoon Museum opened in 1974
under the name the International Museum of Comic Art. I knew offhand about the one in San Francisco, and about 20 seconds of searching the web revealed these others. There may well be others. It was sloppy work to assume that because someone claims something to be original that it is.
Labels: art, articles, comics, museums
Color-Coordinated Art Buying
The Guardian's Arts Diary has a short piece that is both amusing and distressing at the same time. According to someone from Christie's, well-heeled collectors have some small reasons that guide their choices
in large investments into art. They prefer bright, cheerful colors over brown; get confused if you have to plug something in; and want items smaller than the average Park Avenue elevator. Nothing like elevated aesthetics.
Labels: aesthetics, art, collectors
Leonard Nimoy's Full Body Project
Wandering in Northampton, Mass. the other day I stepped into the R. Michelson Gallery
because I noticed that it had a showing of Leonard Nimoy's photography. The building is an old bank and the photos were in the vault - a collection of images from several of the photographer's topic projects. Some of teh new material is a departure from his typical work and shows a new range for his eye.
In the past, Nimoy has concentrated on studies of the female figure - well lighted, shot, and printed, and certainly imaginative. For example, there are images from his black & white project
and the Shekhina
(Jewish concept of a female spirit of God) project. But after a point you have to start asking how much more can be done with the perfect body of an actor, dancer, athlete, or model. It's just that so much has been said visually about the subject that finding something new becomes difficult.
Nimoy finally realized this and had a chance to shoot what he calls the full body project
: images of large women who are part of a burlesque review. While some of the photos are homages to classic images, I found that the personality of the participants came though with a sparkling strength - far different from his other work. Instead of images of nude bodies, he achieved images of nude women. They aren't classically beautiful, but they are in many ways far more interesting than physical "perfection," and help remind that the very concept is ephemeral. (Just look at the work of Rubens.)
Nimoy is working on a new project - Who Do You Think You Are?
- in which he tries getting people to reveal secrets about themselves in front of the camera and show their "other selves." It seems to me that this new direction of more confrontation and exploration of people relates in a way to his background as an actor, where he had to become a vehicle to allow a character not himself to come forth. His latest work is a visual aspect of the same process of discovery and creation.
Labels: Leonard Nimoy, nudes, photography, projects, women
A New Twist
I'm going to put more effort into this blog but am expanding the scope. Instead of just photography, it will also cover more traditional art forms as I find myself spending a lot more time with a sketchbook and pen/pencil/charcoal in my hand.