Category Archives: art

The Colorful World of Frida Kahlo

Everyone knows Frida Kahlo. After all, she’s the woman with all the monkeys and the unibrow right? Her face is everywhere from bags to coasters to Barbie dolls. But Frida Kahlo symbolizes much more than a doll or a pillowcase to people around the world. Continue reading

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Art and Religion: The Renaissance Catholic Church

NOV / DEC 2015: BY CHARITY BISHOP

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Upon the arrival of Katharine of Aragon to the great city of London, as she progressed through the streets at the side of a child Henry Tudor, she saw a number of pageants at each point blending the virtues of faith with chivalry and symbolism of the period. Her arrival was such a lavish event that her mother expressed some concern that “too much expense” had been made, in “honoring” a humble daughter of Spain. But pageants, tournaments, and suchlike were a popular form of entertainment, for nobility and peasants alike. Thousands flocked to observe them and just as many made annual pilgrimages to shrines and churches across Europe, observing religious imagery and symbolism along the way (the pilgrimage being representative of our journey from salvation onwards). And once Katharine reached the palace, there she found hundreds of tapestries illustrating Biblical events for her continual study and pleasure. Continue reading

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Michelangelo Buonarroti

NOV / DEC 2015: BY MARIANNA KAPLUN

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“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” — Michelangelo

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961) is a biographical novel of Michelangelo Buonarroti and his troubles while painting the Sistine Chapel at the urging of Pope Julius II, written by American author Irving Stone. Stone lived in Italy for years, visiting many of the locations in Rome and Florence, worked in marble quarries, and apprenticed himself to a marble sculptor. A primary source for the novel is Michelangelo’s correspondence, all 495 letters of which Stone had translated from Italian by Charles Speroni and published in 1962 as I, Michelangelo, Sculptor. Continue reading

Raphael

NOV / DEC 2015: BY LILA DONOVAN

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Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino) was one of the great old masters of painting during the renaissance along with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. He was born in 1483 in Urbino, Marches in Italy to an influential father that was a court painter. This allowed Raphael a certain privilege that not everyone experienced. His mother died when he was eight and his father eventually remarried but died when he was eleven. Continue reading

Raphael’s Amata

JAN / FEB 2013: BY ELLIS DRAKE

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The Renaissance artist Raphael is called a prince of painters and the painter of grace and beauty. Raphael didn’t just paint love and beauty; he lived it! The real-life story of him and his amata is one of the most mysterious affairs in history.

The legend of la Fornarina (or Raphael’s amata, as she should more accurately be called—his one true love) begins with three small passages in Vasari’s Lives. Vasari was a big fan of Raphael and couldn’t say enough about his overwhelming good qualities: he was kind, modest, affable, honorable, graceful, intelligent, and had “fine manners as would have sufficed to cover up any flaw, no matter how ugly, or any blemish, no matter how large.” This prince among men only had one vice, according to Vasari: he was “a very amorous man… fond of women.” And, the ladies were equally fond of him. Continue reading

Many Faces: Dickens and the Art of Caricature

JAN / FEB 2012: BY KATHARINE TAYLOR

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“He had hardly any eyebrows, and no eyelashes, and eyes of a red brown so unsheltered and unshaded that I remember wondering how he went to sleep.”

Most people find the art of caricature irresistible. The ability to capture a likeness in something so simple with only a few sketchy lines seems magical. Techniques for drawing them can be taught. A basic knowledge of the anatomy of the human face is helpful—the rules of thumb that are often taught in art classes. The eyes sit just above halfway from the chin to the top of the head, for instance. But once you have the introductory knowledge, you approach a caricature much differently than an accurate portrait. Continue reading

Creating the Myth of Holmes

NOV / DEC 2011: BY KATHARINE TAYLOR

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A tall, dark-haired man with a thin, prominent nose sits sunk in an easy chair gazing intently over his steepled fingers. Who is this man? It’s Sherlock Holmes, and if you happen to notice a plaid cape and a deerstalker cap hanging by the door, you should have no doubts at all about his identity. Even people who have never read a Holmes story in their lives recognize the deerstalker cap and curved pipe, as emblems of the greatest detective. Continue reading

Gorey Masterpieces

HALLOWEEN 2011: BY KATHARINE TAYLOR

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Fans of PBS’s Mystery! series may know Edward Gorey as the illustrator who drew the title animations seen at the beginning of the show for many years. The animated sequence was famous enough that when PBS redesigned all the titles for the Masterpiece programs (of which Mystery! is now a part) they kept a few brief glimpses of the original Gorey drawings, the implication being that his work is so recognizable a part of the personality and atmosphere of the series it couldn’t quite be eliminated. Continue reading

Artfully Plotted: Paintings and Drawings in Classic Literature

SEPT / OCT 2011: BY KATHARINE TAYLOR

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At a turning point in plot and character development in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet stares up in “earnest contemplation” at a portrait of Mr. Darcy hanging in his home. It’s a moment that represents true seeing—she has misjudged him and is beginning to realize her mistake fully. The painting is described in the novel as “a striking resemblance” of the handsome Mr. Darcy, notably wearing a smile on his face instead of the usual expression of disapproval that has characterized him throughout the book.

Pride and Prejudice is not the only classic novel to use art at key moments to illuminate the characters’ thoughts or to provide a visual symbol of conflict. Continue reading

Norman Rockwell, Chronicler of an Era

JULY / AUG 2011: BY KATHARINE TAYLOR

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No artist I can think of more perfectly captures the spirit of the American 30’s & 40’s than Norman Rockwell. As an acute observer of detail, he painted things inspired by life around him, from pretty girls wearing the fashions of the time to small town scenes like the doctor’s office or a political meeting. He was a stickler for accuracy and included beautifully rendered details, props in his stories. In every painting he set the scene like a playwright and though the viewer may not notice every detail at first glance, each helps reveal the mood of the art and reward second and third looks with the joy of discovery. Continue reading