Happy Birthday Alphonse Mucha, born July 24, 1860
Chec Art Noveau artist Alphonse Mucha is probably best known for his work in commercial art, especially the theater posters he designed for Sarah Bernhardt. There is a wonderful museum of his work in Prague that I had visited with great joy. As it turns out, he was not happy to be known only for his commercial work and wanted to leave behind a true artistic legacy. Throughout the history of art, of all the different genres of painting, history had always been the most prestigious, the one that distiguished a true master. Mucha’s biggest dream was to paint a series of paintings depicting the history of the Slavs. He was finally able to find the financing for this mega project towards the end of his life and he painted a series of 20 paintings between 1910 - 1928, The Slav Epic. As great as these paintings are, people still love and recognize Alphonse Mucha for his decorative lithographs.His postcards and posters are still reproduced, and his work is very familar to a lot of people, even if they don’t know who he is. Mucha’s everlasting fame has always been and probably will continue to be through his commercial art - life is funny that way.
Happy Birthday Edward Hopper, born July 22, 1882
Edward Hopper is one of my favorite artists, his depictions of the disconnect so common in the American landscape resonating on a very personal level. Hopper has the amazing capability to express that feeling of isolation, whether his subject be a single individual in a private setting, many individuals in public settings or even a house by the side of the road with no protagonist in sight. He always seems to capture the sense of being on the outside, looking in - some even say it’s a voyeuristic point of view. I always fancied being able to feel the cold in those people’s… places’ souls, not reflecting on the fact that what I was actually seeing was the cold I felt in my soul as I endured my days in the Ameircan suburban environment. . I am living in the city for the summer and oddly enough, as walk about the type of places Hopper depicted in his work, I feel enveloped by a sense of belonging. The people I run into on the subway, in the street, in the cafes, seemingly isolated from their neighbors by their iphones or headphones don’t seem so bleak and lonely. And when I look out my window in the morning, it is not in search of the warmth of the sun like A Woman in the Sun but rather feeling the reflections of my own glow on the scene outside my window.
When I look at Hopper’s work with this lightness of being, I see great art… that I still love… but can’t seem to feel the desolation I felt before… So I can’t help but wonder how much of ourselves do we bring into our art vieweing experience?
How would Degas have painted contemporary New York I wonder?
Happy Birthday Degas, born July 19, 1834
Due to his bellowed ballerinas, Edgar Degas is probably one of the best known and most widely reproduced artist of the Impressionist era. Most little girls grow up with one of his ballerinas gracing the walls of their bedrooms, totally clueless to the subversive interpretation. Like the other Impressionists Degas painted scenes of modernity, mostly in or around Paris. Industrialization had changed the world and brought economic prosperity to France; Paris was going through what we refer to as “urban regeneration” these days and was home of spectacles. Degas chose to concentrate on behind-the-scenes, the vices caused by modern life - prostitutes in brothels, little ballerinas one step away from becoming prostitutes, being watched like a hawk by their mamas or elderly gentlemen, daily toils of the washerwoman, the shop-girl or even gentlemen at the races in search of a diversion.
Today as I look around New York, I see that it is the ultimate scene of modernity and spectacle. Although the people crowding the cafés around town may be artists, writers, students or even tourists as opposed to the people living on the fringes of society, I still can’t help but wonder how Degas would have painted them… What kind of vices would he have found to highlight ?
Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, Üsküdar, Architect SİNAN, 1543-48
Koca SİNAN (The Great SİNAN) as he is known in Turkey died on July 17, 1588 leaving behind over 360 architectural masterpieces large and small, constructed for the elite of Ottoman society. I have a personal preference for the two mosques he built for Mihrimah Sultan, the precious daughter of Suleyman the Magnificent due to the romantic mythology associated with them - one in Üsküdar on the Asian side of the Bosphorus and one on Edirnekapi next to the Land Walls of the city. The Üsküdar mosque was the first of the two mosques SİNAN built for Mihrimah Sultan. For more information on Mihrimah Sultan, her mosques and her relationship with the Great SİNAN (Koca SİNAN) ….http://www.sedefscorner.com/2014/01/ottoman-princess-mihrimah-sultan.html
Rembrandt van Rijn, Flora, ca. 1654, @metmuseum
Happy Birthday Rembrandt, born July 15, 1606
The figure of Flora is based on Rembrandt’s late wife, Saskia, who had passed away in 1642. I have always loved this depiction of the goddess of Spring for its reality. Although inspired by Titian’s Flora, Rembrandt chooses to interpret this sensual goddess as an aging woman in fancy clothes with an expression revealing real life experience. As the Met Label points out “She seems to understand that flowers - emblematic of youth, beauty and love - will fade away.”* And here in lies the significance and timelessness of art - the genius of Rembrandt does not fade away with time, neither does the love it inspires on all who lay their eyes upon it.
Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907, neuegalerieny
Happy Birthday Gustav Klimt, born July 14, 1862
I have always loved Gustav Klimt’s decorative style as a leading artist of the Viennese fin-de-siecle but besides his commanding visuality I have another reason to feel a certain affinity to his iconic golden paintings it seems. Byzantine mosaics may have been a primary source of influence on the artist’s work. Klimt’s visit to Venice and Ravenna in 1903 is thought to have made a lasting impression and influenced his “golden style.” He is said to have started his so-called “golden-period” at this time. * I had always been so consumed with his subject matter and the physicality of Klimt’s work that I never wondered about his sources of influence before. Having a special place in my heart for Byzantine art, now I can say that Klimt’s work resonates with me in a very personal way.
Self-Portrait as a Lute Player, 1626-18, Wadsworth Atheneum
Happy Birthday Artemisia Gentileschi, born July 8, 1593.
Artemisia Gentileschi was the first female artist to be accepted into the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence. She was first trained in her father, Orazio Gentileschi’s studio which was not so unusual since female members of some artist’s families were known to work in their workshops. What was unusual was for these women to be recognized as artists in their own right, their names surviving to posterity.
Artemisia could be the icon for overcoming life’s tragedies as well as female empowerment. She was raped by Agostino Tassi, the artist her father had entrusted with her education. There was an infamous trial where Artemisia was further humiliated by being examined by a midwife in front of a judge and tortured by cords being tightly wound around her fingers. The result of the trial is buried in history with the only fact remaining the speedy marriage of Artemisia to Pietro Stiattesi and had to leave Rome for Florence.
Artemisia did not let the trauma she suffered overtake her; quite the contrary, she went onto become a celebrated artist. Her clients were rich, aristocrats who invited her to come and paint in the most famous capitals of Europe. Artemisia is best known for her gruesome interpretations of the Biblical story of Judith and Holofernes - which is believed to be her way of dealing with the trauma of her rape and trial. Although Artemisia Gentileschi is considered to be a great artist today, her name became obscure after her death.
Personally, I find her Susannah and the Elders, a story artists loved to paint, the only interpretation doing justice to the Biblical story instead of visualizing voyeuristic male fantasies. But, I chose to include here an Artemisia I have not yet seen, the newly acquired Self-Portrait as a Lute Player at the Wadsworth Atheneum. The only time I was at this museum was to see the Caravaggio and his Followers show two years ago where I had sadly noted the lack of a work by Artemisia. Now that they have acquired one for themselves I think I am going to have to make a special trip to Connecticut because this lady deserves to be honored and celebrated.
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Monkeys, 1943
Happy birthday Frida Kahlo, born July 6, 1907
"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here and I’m just as strange as you." - Frida Kahlo
Edictum Diocletiani de Pretiis Rerum Venalium, Emperor Diocletian’s Edict on Maximum Prices of Products and Labor, Roman, Bodrum Castle
This edict was prepared on Sept 1 AD 301 by the order of Emperor Diocletian to stave off a financial crisis and to prevent inflation. Several copies of these have been found in important Anatolian cities - Pergamon, Aizonai, Aphrodisias, Stratonikiea.
This inscription has been incised by a man if Halikarnassos who was unfamiliar with Latin. As a result, he has written the text in the same form as it had had been provided to him as a draft. The entire edict consisted of 37 parts, this is only the 9th and some of the 10th parts.
Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait of an Old Man with his Grandson, c. 1490, Louvre Museum
Happy Fathers Day!