Danaë


Gustav Klimt, Danaë, 1907

Corregio, Rembrandt, and Titian are hard acts to follow, as they each paint Danaë in their own unique way, perhaps that is why no one attempted to paint her for three hundred years. Yet, Klimt’s Danaë differs from the rest in the emotion it evokes. Opposed to a sprawling scene that can be viewed in either Titian’s or Rembrandt’s, Klimt’s canvas is enveloped with Danaë’s body and presence. Danaë curls into a fetal pose creating a sense of maternal care and development. She represents a pure love untainted by worldly corruption.

Danaë was born to King of Argos and his wife Eurydice; however the king wanted a son and asked the Oracle if his fate would change. The oracle instead told him that his daughter’s son would end up killing him, but at the time Danaë was childless. No grandfather wants to be killed by his grandson, so of course the only option is to lock your daughter up in a tower. That doesn’t stop Zeus though from coming in the form of golden rain and impregnating her. She later births a baby boy named Perseus, and they are both cast out of Argos and put in a wooden box in the sea. Zeus takes care of his baby mama, though, and asks Poseidon to calm the sea in order for the two to survive. They wash ashore to Seriphos and a man named Dictys raises Perseus. As usual, Dictys gets the hots for Danaë, and he agrees not to pursue her as long as Perseus will slay Medusa. Perseus is triumphant and plans to return home until he hears about the athletic games being held in Larissa. There he sees the elderly king, his grandfather, and while participating in discus, he accidently strikes the king in the head fulfilling the prophecy. As my dear friend Justin Timberlake would say, what goes around, goes, goes around, comes all the way back around. 

Klimt does give homage to the masters’ paintings of Danaë as he paints her with her leg up alike to Titian’s. He does not attempt to hide the erotic scene and paints the rain in his famous gold as to highlight the act. Her eyes are closed and her lips slightly parted as she delights in affection of Zeus. The thin purple veil alludes to royalty in her lineage and the foreshadowing of the godchild to come.
  • 7:00 AM

Feast in House of Levi

Paolo Veronese, Feast in the House of Levi, 1573

Created not to express the pious scene of the Last Supper, but to emphasize the grandeur of life in Venice, Veronese's Feast in the House of Levi was one of the most controversial paintings of its time. With the setting extremely similar to the Last Supper, critics were appalled at the blasphemous scene. The Inquisition, in full force at the time, accused Veronese of heresy - a capital sin. He did show some remorse and was acquitted of his crimes. Veronese was criticized for not showing enough respect to the sacred subject of his painting, putting fools and midgets at the table with Christ himself.

The piece itself is rich with color and a strong rule of thirds in place. The architecture displayed is grand, with a Giotto-esque sky framed in the background. With color and decorative additions, from pillars to tablecloths and a feast upon the table, Veronese's piece screams opulence, which was directly opposite to the teaching of Jesus. It could also be a veiled criticism at the Church, which was also overly opulent; something being criticized at the time by the entire Reformation movement.

Looking into each area of the scene, one can see how honestly blasé Veronese was about adding sacrilegious characters into his piece. In a seat traditionally reserved for Mary Magdalene is a dog, sitting at a table with the rest of the drunkards - even people dressed as Germans, who the Venetians were not fans of. Putting Jesus in the same scene, let alone sharing a meal with drunks, was terribly disrespectful to strict Catholic views. In order to respect the rules of the Inquisition, and probably save his hide, Veronese changed the title from The Last Supper to Feast in the House of LeviAfter the enforcers of the Inquisition accused him of heresy, he promised to remove the dog and the Germans. He never touched the work again, as he doubted Inquisition's power in Venice, which extremely limited at the time. So it was left blasphemous as ever, with a dog just getting some quality time with the drunk Germans. 

  • 7:00 AM

Osiris und Isis

Anselm Kiefer, Osiris und Isis, 1985-87

Anselm Kiefer lives and breathes myth. His artistic journey is one of reconciliation. His photographs reconcile Germanic mythology with the leading mythology of the day, Nazism. His installation pieces reconcile destruction and beauty. While he grew up in a German society that wished to forget the past, he was remembering it.

So why Egyptian? And why on such a large scale? Measuring in at 150 in. X 220.5 in. X 6.5 in., this piece towers over the viewers. The painting converges right in front of you, imtimidating you even further. The brick feels visceral, solid, and dirty with history.

The whole effect is one of transportation. You're in the world of  gods, not of men. The galactic-looking sky and the wires strung across the canvas don't scream Osiris and Isis, but the title does. So here's the story. There once was a god named Osiris who ruled Egypt at a time of peace and plenty. His queen was Isis, the ideal mother and wife. Why was she so ideal? Because she combed the desert for her husband's body parts, but we haven't gotten to that yet. Osiris had a brother, Set. Set murders Osiris in a jealous rage and scatters the body parts across Egypt. Cue Isis and her amazing detective work. She not only finds every body part but re-members them enough to have a child with Osiris who would later rule Egypt himself, Horus. Because that's how biology works.

In this painting, Osiris' body parts are symbolized by the broken pieces of pottery, and Isis' efforts by the strands of cable connecting them together. Those broken shards are also Germany, shattered after WWII, trying to re-member a cultural narrative devoid of Nazis or reparations.

  • 7:00 AM

Office in a Small City

Edward Hopper, Office in a Small City, 1953
Hopper's painting accesses a unique emotional dichotomy. It communicates a loneliness, an empty, blank perspective, a man who, while above the city, has no connection to it. He sees the city as it truly is, and thereby separates himself from it.  The simpleness, the pure uncluttered nature of Hopper's piece builds on the emotion, or lack thereof, of the painting. On the other hand, the soft tones and easy lines make the piece consumable. It's easy to look at, to take in. It'scomfortable.

Beyond these two elements, however, lies a third: it's relatable. Not person among us hasn't felt empty, or meaningless, at some point. Everyone views themselves, in one way or another, as detached from society. Most of all, everyone has sat at a desk, looked out a window, and wished themselves somewhere else.

"My aim was to try to give the sense of an isolated and lonely office interior rather high in the air, with the office furniture which has a very definite meaning to me," Hopper said in regard to his work. He attempts, and succeeds, at creating a separated and elevated sense of space. The man looks down at the city from its highest point, but by doing so removes himself from it. Or vice versa: he separates himself in order to view the city from above. Superiority comes at the cost of loneliness.
  • 7:00 AM

Narcissus

Caravaggio, Narcissus, 1599

"For as his own bright image he surveyed,
He fell in love with the fantastic shade;
And over the fair resemblance hung unmoved,
Nor knew, fond youth! It was himself he loved."      
--Ovid, Metamorphoses.                                               

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a handsome youth who had un-resistible attraction to many who saw him. One was the nymph Echo, who could only repeat the last thing that anyone said. When Echo encountered Narcissus in the woods and revealed her love to him, Narcissus cruelly rejected her. She wasted away to nothing but her voice. Though Narcissus disdained the affection of others, he became the victim of his own attractiveness. Later, Narcissus came to a still pool. When he caught sight of his own reflection, he fell to his knee, gazing at himself in fascination. For days he was tantalized by his image, unable to drink or eat. When he finally died, the gods turned him into a narcissus, which stands with its head bent as if still gazing at its own reflection. 

Caravaggio captured the moment when Narcissus lost himself in his own beauty. Surrounded by darkness, the figure and his reflection form a circle, which, on the one hand, rejects external world, while on the other hand, completes the unity of self and the idea of self. According to the story, Narcissus didn't know what he looked like beforehand, because otherwise he would be gazing at a mirror or the back of a silver spoon. Therefore, if one agrees that Narcissus represents the idea of ultimate beauty, one must also acknowledge the power of witnessing such a beauty. Thus on my conjecture, although Narcissus's excessive love of himself is almost tangible in this painting, still, Caravaggio conveyed a message rather upholds the importance of recognizing the beauty within oneself, instead of criticizing narcissism. 
  • 11:04 PM

Madonna With Long Neck

Parmigianino, Madonna With Long Neck, 1534
Madonna With Long Neck, along with a few other equally dimensionally-confusing and anatomically-impossible paintings illustrate Mannerism perfectly. In Fleming's Arts and Ideas, Mannerism is summed up by the phrase "nothing new, no one great." The giants who were Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello (oh, I missed a turtle?) and da Vinci were gone, and the freshman painters who were left weren't too keen to follow those acts.

So what did they do instead? They painted biblical scenes, like this one, with a twist (or better, a tug). Here, Parmigianino overemphasizes the leg of the angel, the torso and upper leg of the Christ child, and, like the title gives away, Madonna's long neck. The exaggeration of limbs was a popular photoshop effect, as painters thought it increased the beauty of the body part being emphasized.

What do I think? I think this painting's been skewed just a liiiiitttlllee too much, leaving each figure too slim and too long. I think the column that's supposed to parallel Madonna's neck and give the vertical line rhythm is too far to the left, smooshing those poor angels into the corner. That was another characteristic of Mannerism, off-center subjects. Some paintings do it well, but this one, not so much.

And can we talk about the miniature person in the bottom right-hand corner? What is he even doing there? Well, it turns out, he was supposed to have company. Notice the disembodied foot next to the little guy, there was supposed to be at least one other figure there. Another clue to the painting's unfinished state is the row of painted bases for more columns directly behind our bite-sized prophet. If those columns had been finished, and the swirling blue skyscape behind it, I probably wouldn't cringe at this painting so much. The columns would increase depth and create a downward-sloping, three-dimensional chevron stretching from the angel's fingers in the top left corner, to Madonna's shiny knee, and out into the void aided by those hypothetical columns. The composition would feel more angel-friendly, at the least.

Although I still think that column is too short...

  • 7:00 AM

Atlas And The Hesperides

John Singer Sargent, Atlas And The Hesperides, 1922

We enter a scene of rest and serenity, complimented by the blue floor the nymphs lie on. That is of course before we see the sun, the rays bursting from behind this man’s sculpted form. A perfect match of colors, blue and orange, separated by the horizon. Atlas kneels with all his strength and immortality, bearing the weight of his suffering. For what he holds is a punishment. The way he holds the universe above him, preventing the sky from crushing the home we populate, shows a man trapped from either side. Confined by the sky that rests upon his back, as well as the soil that holds his weight, pushes back against him. If this wasn’t enough, the columns border him on either side, placing Atlas within a square. He was given this task for his siding with the Titans in Greek mythology.

This painting was one of Sargent’s later works, completed in between 1922 to 1925. John Singer Sargent died at age 69 in April of 1925. Age has no bearing on the beauty one can capture on canvas. What Sargent does so well with this painting is the colors, the proportions, and the composition with its geometrical aspects. First off, the colors Sargent captures, with the shadows, is modern and creates depth. He has taken a classical myth and painted the scene in an Art Deco style. He captures the cleanliness of straight lines and order. Next, Sargent captures the human form. The bottom half consists of nymphs laced with a sense of sexuality in their positioning while they slumber away. Finally, Sargent creates a well-balanced work through shape. The painting possesses strong linear lines that divide the painting in half; other lines push in towards Atlas, further emphasizing his prison. Beyond the lines, Sargent uses circles to stress the weight Atlas supports. The heaviness of it all, each side pushing in, contorts Atlas' body into a sphere. The Celestial sphere invades the canvas, which is also a circle, creating the sense of importance in Atlas’ job.

What makes this piece so great is how Sargent displays his understanding of his profession, as well as his skill. He accurately paints the pain and beauty of Atlas’ story. This is the work of a master.


  • 7:00 AM

The Death of Orpheus

Henri Leopold Lévy,  The Death of Orpheus, 1870

The tale of Orpheus goes thusly: spawn of Apollo and Calliope, Orpheus had a supernatural gift for music. With his sick tunes he tamed wild animals, wooed women, and drowned out the cries of the Sirens. Orpheus marries Eurydice, and then, on the same day, Eurydice steps in a viper pit and dies. Lyre in hand, Orpheus descends to the Underworld and makes a deal with Hades. Eurydice may return with Orpheus, but only if Orpheus can lead the way without once looking back at his wife. He fails. Eurydice fades back into the Underworld, this time as a permanent resident. Myths abound describing the nature of Orpheus's death. In the thralls of grief he kills himself, or Zeus strikes him down with lightning. Two fit with this painting: one, he is torn apart by female followers of Dionysus, called Maenads, because Orpheus refused to worship.  In the other, Orpheus has sworn off women, and an angry mob of would-be lovers murder him for it.

In the distance, Orpheus's killers rejoice. The head, divorced from his body, lies at the center. While pale and deathly, a slight yellow glow radiates from it, and his body clings still to his lyre. Even in death, he lives on. Through his music, through his legend. Doves flit over the corpse, representing the purity and devotion of the musician. Despite the naturally grotesque subject of the painting, Lévy minimizes the gore. Orpheus's head leaks only a few red brushstrokes, and the body, while grayed with death, has no contortion about it, but stretches gracefully on the shore, as if in sleep. His eyes are not open in terror, nor his mouth agape with fear. He has peace in death, because he knows who waits below.

Compositionally, Lévy's piece centers on the head. The two streams cross exactly at that point, and the brightest colors revolve around Orpheus's decapitated dome. The bottom river creates a diagonal, further dividing body from head. While the body may have stopped moving, the head, symbolizing the soul, has one journey left.

  • 7:00 AM

The Tempest

Giorgione, The Tempest, 1508

I sat in my friend's kitchen, restlessly glancing about the room from a dining room chair. I felt uncomfortable and restless as this was my first visit to this particular acquaintance's home, and I now found myself left to my own devices as he talked to his parents about family matters. Not the show, mind you, as I would gladly have joined in on that conversation. I had already occupied myself with admiring from afar the various collections of pottery, fine china, and contemporary paintings about the room, and nothing seemed to take my mind away from the inherent awkwardness of my situation.

With few options left, I turned to a nearby collection of pocket-sized books - the kind that line the check-out lines of Barnes & Noble - and stumbled upon a volume frankly titled The Art Book. I promptly began flipping through the pages, nodding at this painting or that in approval until I came upon one that caught me in a way that others hadn't. It held my attention in a way I was not yet accustomed to, and I couldn't put my finger on why.

The painting that so captivated me was Giorgione's The Tempest, a work that has divided art historians, educators, and uppity bloggers in regards to its interpretation for decades. Some insist that the painting depicts Adam and Eve with a newborn Cain shortly following their banishment from Eden. Others evoke the story of Mary and Joseph and their escape to Egypt. These interpretations rely on the presence of the male figure to hold under scrutiny, however, scrutiny reveals that the male figure did not exist early in the painting's development.

This X-ray of The Tempest taken in the 1930s reveals that a nude woman was originally in the place of the soldier that graces the final painting. The discovery of the image beneath the surface may have shattered all attempts to crack the symbolism of the piece, but that wouldn't do the determination of art critics justice at all. Instead, the discovery only added to the mystery of the piece already present in its dissident symbols of the broken column, the bridge that spans the stream, and the suckling baby cradled in the woman's arms. But the mystery of the piece is what keeps me coming back after all, the fun of a puzzle is in the challenge, not the solution.

Besides, the painting has a kind of quiet majesty to it. Though a storm looms in the background, alive with lightning and roaring thunder, the characters seem not to care. They do not look back, they do not look worried. They simply look at one another, and at the viewer. In their gaze lies all the peace of the landscape: The soft glow of the stormy skies, the calm water of the stream, the majestic bird atop the tower. It grabs you, and holds you there firmly. So firmly, that you may not notice a friend in the doorway, motioning that he's ready to go.

  • 7:00 AM

Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Nicolaes Tulp

RembrandtAnatomy Lesson of Doctor Nicolaes Tulp, 1632

Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Nicolaes Tulp became one of Rembrandt's more famous paintings. After moving away from portraits and self-portraits, he moved towards different subjects and more complex works. This anatomy lesson clearly shows his talent. The detail in the painting is amazing. The corpse, which is being dissected, looks like an actual corpse. The color in his face and body is gone and his paleness contrasts the other men in the painting. The attention to detail can also be seen in the forearm, which is being dissected. The veins, muscles, and bones can be seen in the opening of the arm and seems atomically correct. The expressions on the mens' faces are concentrated and each different from the other as they learn. 

Rembrandt was probably commissioned by the Guild of Surgeons, specifically those seven who are featured in the painting. In Amsterdam, twice a week, a leading physician would give a theory lesson. Every year in the winter, one public autopsy would be held. This was done in the winter because the stench of the dead body was most bearable at this time. The surgeon elected to demonstrate the dissection was called a Praelector. Doctor Nicolaes Tulp became the Praelector three years earlier and gave his first autopsy in 1631 and his second in 1632, which is the one represented by the painting. Public autopsy's were performed on criminals who had been hanged for their crimes. The man in this painting is 28-year-old Adriaan Adriaansz. The autopsy was held on the same day of the execution. In this painting a lot can be seen from body movement. Not only can the members of the guild be viewed as intrigued by whats going on, but also notice that some of their eyes are not looking directly at the hand being dissected. Some of their gazes look to the book sitting on the right. The book is probably a book that demonstrates the muscular structure. Dr. Tulp also holds up his left hand in order to show how the muscles flex and work together. 

The painting has received a fair amount of criticism, especially with the anatomical correctness of the hand being dissected. The main criticism was whether the flexor or extensor muscles are represented. I find this extreme considering how ridiculous it would be if he painted a dissected forearm from the distance he did correctly. The amount of detail in the painting is already impressive. The light source of the painting comes from overhead so that there is light for the doctor to perform the dissection. There is little color in the painting besides the red on the veins of the arm. This attracts the viewers eye to the forearm.
  • 7:00 AM

The Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

Pieter Bruegel, The Landscape with the fall of Icarus, 1560

The Landscape with the fall of Icarus demonstrates the outcomes of right versus wrong. In modern society, people experience tragic events of lying and dishonest behavior. This painting relates to these current events and reminds society: honesty trumps disobeying morality. This mythical painting resembles the concept of an immoral behavior turning against them.

The Greek Myth of Icarus ignited with the killing of Talus. Daedalus’s (Talus' uncle) jealousy forced irrational behavior and ultimately ended with Talus’s brutal murder. The goddess of Athena presented Daedalus with wax wings to escape exile. But Icarus, Daedalus son, remained hostage in the king’s place. Daedalus’s integrity saved Icarus. When freed, Daedalus presented his son with a pair of wax wings and a warning (to distant himself from the sun). Icarus ignored his father warning and died.   

Society discovers stubbornness and selfish behavior. People ignore the ethical acts and listen to their own conscience. Found throughout history, non-trustworthy individuals eventually find themselves’ in trouble. In the 1970s, Nixon stole information from the Democratic Party. Now history textbooks mention Watergate. During the 1990s, Bill Clinton became the second impeached president for falsely testifying about his affair. These events only represent a small portion of dishonesty acts.   

The myth of Icarus still portrays its meaning today. People that pursue wrong acts never end well. The Landscape with the fall of Icarus illustrates the importance of listening to others and a reminder of the unethical consequences.

  • 7:00 AM

The Night Watch

The Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1642

The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, 
or much more famously known as The Night Watch is a misnomer. The painting, in reality, merely depicted a multitude of fashionably stout men marching out. However, it's the enveloping darkness around the characters that brings confusion to viewers and critics alike. According to some, it's purely the dark finish that has left modern day viewers under the impression of nightfall. But that does not seem to be the main focal point of this painting. Rather, Rembrandt van Rijin skillfully uses a technique called chiaroscuro, varying character expression, and seemingly fluid movement to broadcast his adeptness in painting. Chiaroscuro, especially highlighted in The Night Watch, is where the artist uses vastly different light and dark colors in one painting. Rembrandt van Rijin accentuates the young girl with the chicken in left and the two men in the center with Christ-worthy blinding light while immersing the rest of the background painting with dark colors. 

The detailed portrayal of the character expression, as well as their stances, also brings about an aura of tension and stress. Instead of a march, usually orderly and confident, the march here is disarrayed and confused, as if the two leaders, Fabulous Frans and Wondrous Willem, have no clue what they should be doing. The chaos that clutters the background adds to the feeling of drifting aimlessly. With fingers, spears, and a variety of other weapons pointing in nearly all directions, it seems as if this Night Watch was the cheapest one for the city. Perhaps they misunderstood their orders and had prepared themselves for a fashion watch instead. Clearly they're trying to make a fashion statement with their sweet hats, intricately combed beards, and coffee-filter collars.

Finally, perhaps the most commendable, is Rembrandt's usage of movement. Unlike fellow paintings of the time, the individuals in his painting seem be fluid, as if they could begin walking at any moment. Compared to other paintings around the mid-sixteen hundreds, a majority of them portraits or still-life paintings, Rembrandt's The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch outshines them all.
  • 7:00 AM

Hercules Slaying the Nemean Lion


Francisco de Zurbaran, Hercules Slaying the Nemean Lion, 1634

Hercules led a cursed life. His struggles began with Zeus for the thousandth time failing to remain loyal to his wife, Hera. He impregnated a young woman, Alcemene, in the guise of her husband, who would return from war later that night. The same night, Alcemene’s real husband sired a son, meaning that she gave birth to fraternal twins from two different fathers, one mortal and one divine. Hera was displeased and tried to prevent Hercules from arriving; after she gave birth, Alcemene abandoned him to avoid Hera’s divine wrath. Athena, several times Hercules’ protector, deceived Hera and brought Hercules to her for her to nurse. Hera’s divine milk granted him supernatural powers, but she cast him out after he bit her. Athena returned him to Alcemene and his mortal brother, Iphicles. Hera essayed again to murder the boy. She sent two serpents to kill him and his brother, but he strangled them. He grew up and married Megara, daughter of the king of Thebes. Hera caused him to go insane, and he slaughtered all of their children.

To make up for this, the gods told him that he had to perform ten labors for his hated rival, Eurystheus, king of Argos. Francisco de Zurbaran painted his first task—killing the Nemean Lion. This beast hid in Cleone and terrorized the townsfolk. It lured young men to their deaths in a cave. Its fur was impervious to blades, and its claws could cut through any armor. Hercules, after much effort, killed the lion in one of two ways. He managed to shoot the lion through its mouth, or he wrestled the lion to the ground and strangled it to death. Zurbaran shows him engaged in a struggle for his life with the lion inside the dark cave, slowly leaching its vitality. This was the first of twelve labors he would eventually complete—Eurystheus assigned him two extra. After he finished these, he continued a life of torment and servitude, every bit as dark and fearful as Zurbaran’s painting. He did get what he wanted in the end, as Zeus made him a God while Hercules lay dying. His legend persists to this day, and we can still see his constellation in the night sky.
  • 7:00 AM

Sleeping Venus

Giorgione, Sleeping Venus, 1510
The first thing you'll notice is, "She's nude." Giorgione's painting places the female figure at the center, making it the main focus of the painting. He was one of the first artists to portray this style of subject and has been claimed to be one of the starting points of Modern Art. While we see a bare body, Venus exposed in the open, the painting automatically carries a sense of sexuality with it. But that does not make it dirty in anyway.

What Giorgione has captured is the beauty of the female form, where artists before him in many cases failed to understand what women actually look like. Renaissance artists often painted women with the characteristics of muscular men and an absence of breasts (See anything by Michaelangelo). Giorgione uses line in such a way that Venus' body rolls with the landscape. The hills are layered, flowing in a rhythm, which Venus flows along with. Richard Brafford said, "He has taken this subject seriously and for the first time the female nude is painted poetry with a new visual language."

 Sleeping Venus Sleeping Venus (or Reclining Venus) has been depicted several times by numerous artistic legends such as Titian, Goya, Velazquez, and Manet. Giorgione's was the first. Unfortunately, Giorgione was unable to complete the masterpiece because he died before completion. Titian, who was a close friend,  finished it and later completed his own version of it. The interesting idea behind Sleeping Venus is while it was the last masterpiece to Giorgione, it also marked a new beginning to the world of Art.

  • 11:37 PM

Head of Medusa

Peter Paul Rubens, Head of Medusa, 1617

Peter Paul Rubens, a Flemish painter well known for his extravagant, colorful treatment of mythological subjects, painted this depiction of the gorgon Medusa in the early 1600s. According to Greek myth, the Gorgon sisters were cursed by Athena after the wisdom goddess caught Poseidon having a tryst with the oldest, Medusa, in Athena's temple. (Totes awk.) The Gorgons's new, cursed form, with venomous snakes for hair, was so ugly that it turned those who saw them to stone. Eventually, Perseus beheaded Medusa, saving himself from her petrification effect by only looking at her in the reflection of his polished shield. It is at this moment that Rubens depicts her severed head, with her still-writhing snakes curling and fighting among themselves. 

The head lies on a sparsely-vegetated rock ledge, blood leaking from her neck. The snakes are joined by other poisonous, noxious creatures, such as scorpions, newts, and spiders. Although Medusa herself is dead, the snakes are still fighting among themselves, biting and coiling around each other in a scene of chaos and fury. One even sinks its fangs into Medusa's forehead. Vividly depicted, of all shapes, types, and colors, the profusion of venomous reptiles even includes the mythical - a two-headed snake, which may be the amphisbaena. One appears to be giving birth, and others are being formed from droplets of Medusa's blood. Some locks of her natural hair (one of the features often mentioned as her most beautiful before her transformation) are visible underneath the snakes, complementing the conflicting imagery of birth and death. The face itself appears shocked and pallid, teeth slightly bared and the whites of the eyes showing. Red highlights show on the face, reflected from the vivid gore below. The effect is disturbing and openly shocking.

Other depictions of Medusa were rare in this time period; Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci both painted convex, circular shields depicting her severed head, and paintings of her were placed at the entrance of buildings for centuries as a way to ward off evil. More recent philosophies propose that Medusa represents the fear of castration, or the meaninglessness of the universe (really). Philosophers will say anything.
  • 7:00 AM

Nine Dragons Hand Scroll

 Chen Rong, Nine Dragons Hand Scroll, 1244 
If you couldn't tell by this, one of his more well-known works, Chen Rong specialized in painting dragons. Created during the Song Dynasty, the Nine Dragons painting emits a vibe of raw power and yet lithe grace.

An avid follower of the Dao concept, Chen Rong was the Song Dynasty's hipster, painting with only black rather than the bright colors of other paintings during the time. He was not elaborate with his materials, for he used the most basic black ink and mere paper instead of silk.

The dragons that Chen Rong creates seemingly circulate the painting, ceaseless in their movements. Some scholars interpret the disappearing and reappearing dragons as a painting representation of meditation in Daoism. Nevertheless, the inky smoke, the wispy clouds, and the playful yet ferocious dragons represent a beautiful part of the Chinese culture where Dragons are revered.

  • 7:00 AM

Amor and Psyche

Edvard Munch, Amor and Psyche, 1907
Call Munch’s Amor and Psyche a representation of myth without the myth. Amor, more commonly known as Cupid, lacks any sense of godliness. He has no wings, no bow, and no arrow. Munch has also taken Psyche’s astounding beauty that gave her the ability to seduce a god. She merely looks tired and deformed.

Munch attacks his subject matter in an entirely different way than all other painters our class has examined this year. His post-impressionism seeks to represent more abstract ideas than the Renaissance styles. These painters focused on literal representation and their symbolism extended only so far as to include halos and chimeras. Now, you may say I am overlooking very important and big exceptions, but guess what? This is my blog post, and I am tired of looking at angels, saints, and Jesus. Now, you know your class has looked at way too many religious paintings when the Catholic kid says something like this. So buckle up and ride along with my gross, untruthful generalization. I miss my Munch, and I want him back for a day.

Metamorphoses describes the tale of Psyche and Cupid as thus. A princess named Psyche possesses such beauty that the goddess Venus becomes jealous. So she sends her son Cupid down to take care of the problem. Cupid’s mission is simple: make Psyche fall in love with the ugliest dude he can find. There’s only one problem. Cupid has kind of a soft spot for beautiful princesses. So instead he secretly marries Psyche, but does not allow her to know his true identity. Henceforth, Cupid only visits her in the dead of night. Finally, she gets fed up with this arrangement and lights a lamp. She then discovers Cupid’s godhood. Needless to say this causes some complications for their relationship, but it all works out in the end.

I’d call this a rather peachy story, but Munch rejects that interpretation. Instead he plays with the idea of darkness and the fragile structure of the mind within these godlike figures. Notice the heavy, black brush strokes over Amor. These are prison bars. They are on Psyche’s face as well. The background has similar brush strokes, but they are white. I imagine the whiteness represents Psyche’s turning on of the light. The light then begins to illuminate the two figures. It has reached all of Psyche’s body and Amor’s shoulders. In the myth, Psyche discovers Cupid’s godliness. In Munch’s painting, she discovers a lonely, naked man. Also, the beauty Psyche supposedly possesses does not seem apparent. She looks blurred and delicate. These two bigger than life figures are really fleeting ideas that can be repressed. Amor, or love, and Psyche, the mind, are illogical. Munch did not want these things in his life, along with God. I believe I have already written a blog post talking about Munch’s atheism, but to reiterate Munch thought the world too ugly of a place to be created by a perfect all-knowing entity. There are only people, and they create myths in order to explain the things they cannot understand, such as the mind and emotions. However in Munch’s time, Freud had dissected the mind. Myths were no longer needed and to Munch, neither was love or rationality.

  • 7:00 AM

Rape of Europa

Titian, Rape of Europa, 1562

I am confused, amazed, and confused. I know the rape of Europa. I know that Jupiter falls in love with her and takes her away from her family and home and brings her to Crete to have his way with her. I know that he does all of this in the form of a white bull, and I know that this sexual act, like most sexual acts form gods, had a purpose. In this case, the rape of Europa was to raise Europe. She would give birth to Minos after this consummation, and he would begin to build Europe. So yes, I know the story. But, what amazes me about this piece is how fearless Titian portrays some dangerous emotions in this saddening scene, or what I thought was supposed to be a saddening scene.

The opposition and contrast of all of these emotions pull me in every direction. From the sky clearing at one end to the dangers of a storm in another, to Europa's fear and sexuality in her body language. I cannot tell whether or not Titian enjoys or hates this, whether he is condoning Jupiter, or damning him for kidnapping Europa. She clearly has some fear, fear for falling into the dark ocean beneath her and of her attacker, but her position and glance towards the cupids suggest her excitement as well. Titian paints her with her clothing barley draped over her body and clinging on to Jupiter because it is what she must do to not fall to another fate. She accepts and appears ready to meet her other fate with Jupiter in Crete.

Titian's colors suggest warmth and darkness. They bring light and happiness with the brightness of the sky, and the background matched with the red in her clothing flows away from her. The darkness that they travel towards matches the deep colors of the ocean. All of this contrast makes this piece so interesting for Titian to paint for Philip II. In Spain, Phillip II had many religious and mythological paintings from Titian. He used Titian's mastery to help illuminate his own masculinity and image. The Rape of Europa perfectly illustrates this with the masculinity of the white bull taking control of the scene and Europa. Though I am a little confused about Titian's feelings towards this event, I do love this piece and all of the levels Titian brings to it by contradicting famous stories and bringing new light to them.

  • 7:00 AM

Raising of the Brazen Serpent

Jacopo Tintoretto, Raising of the Brazen Serpent,  1575
The backstory to Tintoretto's piece comes from Numbers 21:6-9. The Jewish people were wandering about the desert, slandered against God. God, not a fan of being slandered, sent to plague the Jews "fiery serpents." The serpents bit and killed many a slanderous Jew until they had enough of dying by snakebite. They went to Moses, and Moses went to God. God commanded Moses to forge a bronze snake and stick it up on a pole, and anyone who gazed upon the snake would live.

Tintoretto plays with intense light-dark contrast, which also serves to draw the eye to the focal point of the painting - the healing of the damned. The upper portion features dramatically poised angels. The lines follow the edge of the clouds down to the feet of the hanging angel, forming a downward triangle towards the slightly off-center centerpiece. The lower half serves also to point to the bright miracle. The path of writhing bodies and discolored corpses surges upward, and Tintoretto creates a gradually increasing brightness along this path, further enforcing its motion.

Yet for all the stress Tintoretto lays on this point, it still only composes a mere fraction of the piece. The darkness far outweighs the light, and the corpses outnumber the living. Though God chooses to offer salvation for the afflicted, Tintoretto reminds us that God also chose to afflict them in the first place.
  • 7:00 AM

The Union of Earth and Water

Peter Paul Rubens, The Union of Earth and Water, 1618
Rubens began his artistic career as an apprentice to Tobias Verhaecht. After developing his skills as an artist he began to create his own works. Rubens was greatly influenced by Italian Renaissance painters like Michelangelo and Raphael, and he was also influenced by Venetian painters like Titian. These artists techniques and style inspired Rubens as a 17th-century painter and made him one of the greatest Baroque artists. In The Union of Earth and Water Rubens' style can be seen and the influences he had can also be seen in the painting. The way he paints his human figures mirror that of the artwork of the painters of the Italian Renaissance. The sensuality of the nude forms and the warm brown coloring of the figures reflect Ruben's respect for these painters and Classical style. This painting also reminds me of the paintings of Botticelli, such as Primavera and The Birth of Venus, in not only the forms and the way the woman stands as the primary focus of the painting, but also in the mythical background in the painting. 

In this painting, Earth and Water join each other. The female who represents Earth holds in her right hand a horn of plenty and a tiger is seen touching the fruit. These items embody Earth as they symbolize life and living creatures which Earth provides. The woman in the painting is Cybele, the Anatolian Earth goddess. Cybele is known to be associated with animals, especially lions, which makes since as a lion is painted beside her. She has also been called Mother of the Gods. Water is represented by Neptune, the Roman god of the sea and the water. He holds his trident in his hand and water is nearby and touches the Earth on the ground to show the union as well. The woman who unites the two, is Victory -  also Nike in Greek mythology. She has been known to be the Winged Goddess of Victory. Her wings can be seen as she is supposed to have flown down from Olympus in order to unite them. During battles, Nike would fly around and award soldiers with fame and glory. In this painting her presence is significant because it makes the ceremony glorified. The man blowing the conch is Triton. Triton is the Greek god who is the messenger of the sea. He used his conch in order to calm or raise the waves of the sea. His presence also makes this union important because if Triton is blowing his conch, it's a big deal. The two children painted at the bottom have no special meaning in the painting.

Ruben's message behind the painting was that when Earth and Water united they would bring wealth, plenty, and prosperity to mankind. Ruben also gave his painting a message that dealt with problems during his time. The union of Antwerp and the River Scheldt is represented by this painting. Earlier, the Dutch had blocked off the mouth, which prevented Flanders from having an outlet to the sea. Their union can be seen in this painting as water that has been connected to Earth.
  • 7:00 AM

Four Apostles

Durer, The Four Apostles 1526
During the Reformation, Durer displayed his opinion in favor of Luther and his religious practices. Painting The Four Apostles, Durer illustrates his Protestant faith and dedication to the practices. Protestants do not believe in icons, which is why painters who believed in this practice had to commission their own paintings, such as this piece. In reference to Protestantism, Saints John, Peter, Mark, and Paul all make up the main teachings of this church. Because of the push towards self teaching, Durer hides the saints with his meticulous drapery that draws the eye towards the split of the piece, and in turn the division of religion during the Reformation.

Along with the saints embodying the new age of religion, Durer also paints them symbolizing the Four Temperaments. St. John the Evangelist represents Sanguine, impulsive and outgoing. St. Peter is the quiet and trustworthy Phlegmatic. Choleric, the more dominate and leader-like of the four temperaments, is St. Mark, which seems curious because he is the most hidden and unnoticed figure in the piece. This may be because of Durer rebelling against this Church and adopting Luther's practices. And lastly, St. Paul is referred to as Melancholic, those who usually study vigorously and appear as perfectionists.

It is no mistake that the temperaments dealing with creativity and hard study appear largest in Durer's piece. St. John and St. Paul both served as foundation for the upcoming religious practices. This further proves Durer's push towards innovation and support in the reformation are clearly seen though his work. This particular piece was given to the town council of Nuremburg, Germany, where Lutherans thrived and reformation took hold.  

  • 10:28 PM

Rothko's Seagram Murals - Part VII

Rothko's Seagram Murals: 
A Tumultuous Journey to the Tate
Part VII

Mark Rothko, Maroon on Red (Section 4), 1959
Taking into consideration the many merits of the Tate Museum, it becomes possible to see how Rothko would have been acquiescent in displaying his paintings there, despite his general aversion to museums. Against the backdrop of the Seagram Murals commission, the advantages of the Tate exhibition space ultimately sets up an opposition with the Four Seasons restaurant. “Rothko had always wanted his single paintings hung low, so they would confront and surround the viewer. But throughout the Four Seasons room, his mural would have to be hung above the diners’ heads, or they would not be seen” (Breslin 378). The huge amount of dissatisfaction felt after the Seagram commission weighed next to the compliance of Reid and the Tate Museum, made the Tate become an infinitely more attractive possibility. Reid successfully addressed all of the disappointments of the Seagram Murals commission by eventually providing Rothko with an ideal space for the display of his paintings. Although Rothko gave only a small selection of paintings from the Seagram commission to the Tate, the rest of the known Seagram Mural panels were given to his newly formed foundation (Clearwater and Rothko 46-7). Since his donation, the panels have been spread across the globe: nine at the Tate Museum, seven at the Kawamura Museum of Modern Art in Japan, thirteen at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and a few others remain in the ownership of Rothko’s children.

Works Cited
Ashton, Dore. About Rothko. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. 

Breslin, James E. B. Mark Rothko: A Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Clearwater, Bonnie, and Mark Rothko. Mark Rothko, Works on Paper. New York: Hudson Hills Press in association with the Mark Rothko Foundation and the American Federation of Arts, 1984. 

Rothko, Mark. Mark Rothko, Paintings, 1948-1969: April 1-30 1983, the Pace Gallery. New York: Pace Gallery Publications, 1983. 

Rothko, Mark, and David Anfam. Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas : Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 

Rothko, Mark, and Marc Glimcher. The Art of Mark Rothko: Into an Unknown World. New York: C.N. Potter, 1991. 

Rothko, Mark, and Miguel López-Remiro. Writings on Art. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. 

Rothko, Mark, and Oliver Wick. Rothko. Milan: Skira, 2007. 

Seiberling, Dorothy. “The Varied Art of Four Pioneers: Mark Rothko.” Life, November 16, 1959.  

Ed. Note: Barstow alumna Sydney Ayers, '09, has graciously allowed My Kid Could Paint That to publish one of her recent papers on Mark Rothko. We will present the paper in seven parts. Ayers studies art history at Dartmouth University, and this spring she will complete her senior honors thesis on the English country houses of architect Robert Adam.
  • 7:00 AM

Rothko's Seagram Murals - Part VI

Rothko's Seagram Murals: 
A Tumultuous Journey to the Tate
Part VI

Mark Rothko, Red on Maroon (Section 74), 1959

Also extremely imperative to Rothko was that his paintings would have a space of their own at the Tate—they would have their own room and be the focal point of the space. As Rothko said in an interview with Life in 1959: “A painting is not a picture of an experience, it is an experience” (Seiberling, 82). He believed that the paintings needed to be looked at and confronted in a neutral space so that the viewer can engage with the experience the paintings present. Upon a visit to Rothko’s studio to see the murals, art critic Dore Ashton commented:

“Rothko watched my reaction as I examined the arrangement of large canvases and said, ‘I have made a place’… It was a long visit, with intermittent conversation, and at the end, as I was taking my leave, Rothko said: ‘They are not pictures’” (155). Through his claim of “making a place,” Rothko exposes his belief that the murals were an entity that created its own sense of place, not needing or wanting outside influences as a physical anchor.

This leads to the consensus that Rothko rejected the Seagram commission because his paintings would not be the focus of the restaurant goers; instead the paintings would fade into the background as potential viewers became lost in the expensive food and frivolous conversation. On the contrary, through the Tate exhibition “he was being offered ‘a separate space’ for a selection of already existing paintings, and that space was not a dining room” (Breslin 513). The stark contrast between the commercial Four Seasons Restaurant and the Tate’s Gallery 18 was never more clear—previously devalued as merely “wall decorations” (Breslin 373), Rothko’s paintings were now being offered a sanctuary of their own.


Ed. Note: Barstow alumna Sydney Ayers, '09, has graciously allowed My Kid Could Paint That to publish one of her recent papers on Mark Rothko. We will present the paper in seven parts. Ayers studies art history at Dartmouth University, and this spring she will complete her senior honors thesis on the English country houses of architect Robert Adam.
  • 7:00 AM

Rothko's Seagram Murals - Part V

Rothko's Seagram Murals: 
A Tumultuous Journey to the Tate
Part V

Mark Rothko, Red on Maroon (Section 5), 1959

However, arguably the most important factor in his decision to donate his works to the Tate Museum was the fact that the Tate was willing to work with Rothko in order to meet his exact wishes and requirements. Rothko was very particular in his specifications for exhibitions; Reid knew that Rothko could, and would, pull out of the negotiations, as he had in the past with the Seagram commission, if he was not completely satisfied with the arrangements. Throughout the process of negotiating the terms of his gift, Rothko was extremely concerned with the exact layout and scheme of his gallery space:

"Rothko asked Reid to send him a model of the gallery room so that he would have a better idea of what would be a feasible arrangement. In September Reid sent him a plan of gallery 18, and in November he brought him a simple cardboard fold-up model. Together they selected eight of the dark mural panels and canvas studies to join the mural already at the Tate" (Clearwater and Rothko 47-8).

Rothko was so caught up in the details that he even sent Reid a sample of the color on his studio walls, so that the gallery could be painted to match (Ashton 156). Reid agreed to all of Rothko’s terms; the main reason Rothko’s gift was realized was due to the fact that Reid was willing to concede almost any point to Rothko.


Ed. Note: Barstow alumna Sydney Ayers, '09, has graciously allowed My Kid Could Paint That to publish one of her recent papers on Mark Rothko. We will present the paper in seven parts. Ayers studies art history at Dartmouth University, and this spring she will complete her senior honors thesis on the English country houses of architect Robert Adam.

  • 7:00 AM