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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Abu Simbel, Egypt

The Temple of Ramesses II, Abu Simbel, with Lake Nasser in the background.
Several years ago (2010), like any self-respecting art and history buff, I visited the Pyramids of Giza. To say the least, I was underwhelmed--three really, really big piles of stone guarded by a gigantic lion desperately needing a nose. Had I had the time and money, what I'd really like to have seen lay some 425 miles (1108 Km) south at the tail end of Lake Nasser--the Temples of Abu Simbel. In visiting such manmade world landmarks, I prefer to be overwhelmed. Though technically not as large as even the smallest of the pyramids, the temples are far more interesting "Egyptionally" speaking (my spell-checker did a double-take on that one). I'm no Egyptologist, but as I delve into art and artists from the past, hardly a week goes by that I don't come upon a reference to some "first" involving Egyptian art; so it's a topic impossible to ignore.
From Cairo, Abu Simbel is a day-long, not-very-scenic
bus ride or a two-hour flight.
Abu Simbel is a small town lying south of Aswan in Egypt. It has a number of simple offices and eateries of little interest to tourists. However, the temples of Abu Simbel are breathtaking. They are arguably the most magnificent monuments in the world. During the mid-1960s, there removal and reconstruction was an historic event in itself, which endlessly fascinates tourists. The temples of Abu Simbel were formerly located further down the hillside, facing the Nile, but due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, and the resulting rise in the water level of Lake Nasser, the two temples were threatened to become attractions fit only for scuba divers.
Even sliced into pieces, some of the temple
stones weighed as much as fifteen tons.
The original locations are now underwater. An international fundraising drive allowed the great stone cubes to be moved uphill and reassembled before the water rose. The Great Temple at Abu Simbel took about twenty years to build. It took four years to move. The temple complex was completed during the reign of Ramesses II (the Great) around 1265 BC. It was dedicated to the gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty, and Ptah, as well as to the deified Rameses himself. Four colossal sixty-five feet-tall (20-meters) statues of the pharaoh with the double Atef crown of Upper and Lower Egypt decorate the facade of the temple, which is over 114 feet wide (35 meters). The temple is topped by a frieze with twenty-two baboons (bottom). Worshippers of the sun flank the entrance.

The new location of the temples looks very much like the old. A concrete dome protects the interior as the rocky hillside surrounding the temples was recreated.
Situated in the Nubia region of Egypt, overlooking the emerald waters of Lake Nasser, are the two ancient pharaonic rock temples of Abu Simbel (the Temple of Ramesses, and the Temple of Hathor and Nefertari). The temples are magnificent examples of ancient Egyptian art and draw a large number of tourists, second only to the Pyramids of Giza. Ramesses II commissioned the temples as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, following the alleged triumph at the Battle of Kadesh. It was finally completed during the 24th year of his prosperous reign. Historians suggest the design of the temple expresses the pride and ego of the long-reigning pharaoh while also serving the purpose of impressing Egypt’s neighbors to the south and reinforcing the status of Egyptian religion.

An artist's depiction juxtaposing the ancient religious rituals to present day tourist rituals.
Over the centuries as the Egyptian dynasties turned the pages of history, the temples fell into disuse, eventually becoming covered by sand. By the 6th century BC, the sand already covered the statues of the main temple up to their knees. Thus the temple was forgotten until 1813, when Swiss orientalist Jean-Louis Burckhardt saw only the top frieze of the main temple (the baboons). Burckhardt discussed his discovery with Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, who traveled with him to the site. Even together, they were unable to dig out an entry to the temple. Belzoni returned in 1817, this time with more manpower. He succeeding in entering the complex. A detailed early description of the temples, together with contemporaneous line drawings, can be found in Edward William Lane's Description of Egypt from about that time. Legend has it that 'Abu Simbel' was the name of a young local boy who guided these early explorers to the site of the buried temple which he had seen from time to time in the shifting sands. Eventually, they named the complex after him.

The earliest photos of Abu Simbel are those of the French Egyptologist, John Beasley Greene dating from 1854. A later photo (above-top) indicates the complex had been mostly excavated by 1923. 
The rescue of Abu Simbel from Lake Nasser is as interesting from an engineering point of view as the temples themselves. The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964 by a multinational team of archeologists, engineers, and skilled heavy equipment operators working together under the UNESCO banner. The cost was astronomical for its time, some $40-million (equal to $300-million in 2017 dollars). Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was carefully cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons, but averaging 20 tons), dismantled, lifted and reassembled in a new location 65 meters higher and 200 meters back from the river, in one of the greatest challenges of archaeological engineering in history.

A model of the site suggests the extreme lengths engineers had to go to in moving the temples above Lake Nasser's high waterline.
Inside the temple can be found the same triangular layout of most ancient Egyptian temples with rooms decreasing in size from the entrance to the sanctuary. This temple is complex in structure and quite unusual because of its many side chambers. The hypostyle hall is 18 meters long and 16.7 meters wide lined by eight huge Osirid pillars depicting the deified Ramesses and linking him to the god Osiris, the god of the underworld. The colossal statues along the left-hand wall bear the white crown of Upper Egypt, while those on the opposite side are wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The bas-reliefs on the walls depict battle scenes in the military campaigns the ruler waged. Much of the sculpture depicts the Battle of Kadesh, on the Orontes River in present-day Syria, in which the Egyptians fought against the Hittites. Other scenes also show Egyptian victories in Libya and Nubia.

Everywhere, Ramesses sought to insure that his glorious military victories would never be forgotten. It seems he succeeded.
It is believed that the axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that on October 22 and February 22, the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculptures on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, a god connected with the underworld, who always remained in the dark. People gather at Abu Simbel to witness this remarkable sight, on October 21 and February 21. These dates are thought to be the king's birthday and coronation day, respectively. Though there is no direct evidence to support this. It's logical to assume, that these dates had some relation to a great event, such as the jubilee celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the pharaoh's rule.

Far less is known as to the much smaller Temple of Hathor and Nefertari.
The temple of Hathor and Nefertari, also known as the "Small Temple," was built about one hundred meters northeast of the temple of pharaoh Ramesses II and was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II's chief consort, Nefertari. This was in fact the second time in ancient Egyptian history that a temple was dedicated to a queen. The first time, Akhenaten dedicated a temple to his great royal wife, Nefertiti. The rock-cut facade is decorated with two groups of colossi that are separated by the large gateway. The statues, slightly more than ten meters high, are of the king and his queen. On either side of the portal are two statues of the king, flanked by statues of the queen.

The statue flanking the left side of the entrance to Ramesses' temple (second image above) was damaged during an ancient earthquake. The face was destroyed during the fall.
In visiting a third-world country such as Egypt, it's hard to decide at times where serious studies of archaeology, religion, art, and culture end, and crass, cash-driven tourism begins. Like many such sites, not just in Egypt, but around the world, Abu Simbel departs from all reference to history with a spectacular light and music show. There is a five-star hotel within walking distance of Abu Simbel, while Lake Nasser allows whole boatloads of tourists to come and go hourly. The small town of Abu Simbel even sports a sizable airport for the convenience of visiting tourists. Yet it's not fair to criticize a country like Egypt for capitalizing on one of its few major assets, even to the point of providing armed escorts for its tourist buses or Giza pizza parlors within sight of its pyramids.

Would Ramesses be impressed or aghast?
I'm not sure what the significance
of the guardian baboons might be.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Ancient Art Supplies (Part 2)

My easel is much like the one in the middle.
In yesterday's post on ancient art materials (part 1, just below), and in earlier items, I have already gone into some detail in discussing paintbrushes as well as easels. The former dates back to the Paleolithic Period starting about 2,500,000 years ago, the latter going back at least to Greek artists before the time of Christ (below). I have discovered, however, that I've been remiss in delving into that most common utensil of the artist's creative output down through the ages--the lowly pencil. The word pencil comes from the Latin, penicillum, the name for a small, fine-tipped brush used for writing. That, in turn, has a diminutive form in the Latin word for brush, peniculus, which in turn has as a diminutive form of the Latin word, penis, which means “tail” (not what you were expecting, I'll bet). This word was used for these very fine brushes because they were made from tufts of hair from the tails of animals.

Ancient Greek Easels.
The earliest instruments for making marks other than pen was a metal stylus scratching into a wax-coated tablet. Codex, the Latin word for tree trunk, came to be used for the wax-coated wood tablet that became the precursor to the modern book. During the Middle Ages, styluses of metal were used on surfaces coated with chalklike substances, and slate pencils or chalk on slate tablets. (Slate pencils continued to be sold in America into the late 19th-Century.) The mixtures of metals used for the stylus evolved, and eventually alloys of lead with tin, bismuth and mercury were developed. Styluses of two parts lead, one part tin became known as plummets. Plummets also continued to be used into the 19th century in the U.S., alongside pencils, goose-quills, and pens. The earliest known description of a wood-encased lead pencil dates from a 1565 book on fossils. “The made for writing, from a sort of lead which the English call antimony, shaved to a point and inserted into a wooden handle.” Lead, however, dirtied the hand, made a rather faint mark, and required considerable pressure.

Medieval pencil with bread eraser.
Sometime in the 1560’s a chance event became the turning point in the development of the modern pencil. Local lore tells of a fierce storm in the Cumberland, area of England, which uprooted a large ash (or oak) tree. Shepherds discovered a strange black substance clinging to its roots. The shepherds quickly discovered this to be very useful for marking their sheep. Gradually its application for writing was developed. By the end of the 16th-Century graphite was well known throughout Europe for its superior line-making qualities, its eraseability, and the ability to re-draw on top of it with ink, which is not possible with lead or charcoal. By 1610 black lead was sold regularly in the streets in London wrapped in paper, string or twigs. The technique for encasing the graphite in wood emerged from the woodworking craft of joiners, with the original process involving cutting a lengthwise groove into a strip of wood, gluing strips of pure Borrowdale graphite into the groove one against the next until it was filled, sawing off the protruding pieces to flatness, then gluing a piece of wood on top to cover the contents. The wood assembly could then be used in its initial square shape, or shaved to a round form.

The Brandelhow Mine, Borrowdale, England
As the desire for the pencils grew, the graphite mine in England strictly controlled the amounts mined yearly. Thus, populations outside of England had to search for their own alternatives. Deposits of inferior quality and purity elsewhere in Europe, and the need to conserve the pure Borrowdale graphite, led to the development of mixing the graphite with additives. In 1795 Frenchman Nicolas-Jaques Conté was granted a patent for his new formula of mixing clay with graphite, and varying the proportion of clay to graphite leading to pencil leads of different, but uniform, degrees of blackness and hardness, which remains the basis for pencil-making today. In 1847 an American named Joseph Dixon opened a pencil and crucible factory in Jersey City. At first the crucibles were the main profitable business, but in 1866 Dixon patented a wood planing machine capable of producing wood for 132 pencils per minute.

Despite the claim to be "American made" this Dixon factory was in Canada. The sign touts "Chancellor Lead Pencils."
By 1873 the Dixon graphite mixing process had improved as well. Clever marketing of the pencil as an American product (verses German pencil manufacturers who were trying to move in and dominate the American market) made Dixon “the birthplace of the world’s first mass-produced pencils. These innovations proved timely, as the demand for pencils grew exponentially with the Civil War. By the end of the 19th-Century, over 240,000 pencils were used each day in the US. Presently, each year, Dixon Ticonderoga produces an estimated 1.5 billion pencils, about two-thirds of which are the yellow No. 2 pencils used by artists (and standardized test-takers) around the world.

The battle between the keyboard and the pencil.
A palette, in the original sense of the word, is a rigid, flat surface on which a painter arranges and mixes paints. Palettes are usually made of wood, plastic, ceramic, or other hard, inert, nonporous material, and can vary greatly in size and shape. Personally, I prefer the "palette pad" (a white, waxy pad of paper in various sizes, which allow each sheet to be torn off and discarded after each painting session). The most commonly known traditional painter's palette is made of a thin wood board designed to be held in the artist's free hand and rest on the arm. Watercolor palettes are generally made of plastic or porcelain with rectangular or wheel format with built-in wells and mixing areas for colors.

Several artists have had their palettes (and thus t
heir color preferences) preserved for posterity.
From the original, literal sense above came a figurative sense by extension, referring to the artist's selection of colors in comprising a visual style or tonal suite. The parallel palette, which in most usages is not really parallel, (invented by David Kassan) to the painting, mounted at a sloping angle adjacent to the painting. This insures that the artist to see colors in the same lighting as on the canvas looking directly back and forth between subject, canvas, and palette.

Modern-day stretched canvases come in virtually any size.
The content, style, and purpose of the painting should always dictate the size...never vice-versa.
And finally, the painter must have something upon which to paint, usually paper, a panel of some sort, or stretched canvas. Canvas panels are made of canvas stretched over and glued to a cardboard backing, then with paper sealed on the backside. The eventual framing provides structure in lieu of canvas stretchers. Gessoed Masonite or plywood can also be used for smaller works. The stretched canvas is typically linen primed for a certain type of paint. Canvas is typically made of cotton or linen stretched across a wooden frame called a stretchers and may be coated with gesso before it is to be used; this is to prevent oil paint from coming into direct contact with the canvas fibers, which will eventually cause the canvas to decay. A traditional and flexible chalk gesso is composed of lead carbonate and linseed oil, applied over a rabbit skin glue ground. Inasmuch as lead-based paint is poisonous, care has to be taken in using it. Various alternative and more flexible canvas primers are commercially available, the most popular being a synthetic latex paint composed of titanium dioxide and calcium carbonate, bound with a thermo-plastic emulsion. Many artists, such as Jackson Pollock, have painted acrylic based paints directly onto unprimed canvas.

The Battle of Grunwald, 1878, Jan Matejko. The stretched canvas is 14 feet by 32 feet. No telling how big his easel was.
Early canvas was made of linen, a sturdy brownish fabric of considerable strength. Linen is particularly suitable in using oil paints. In the early 20th-Century, cotton canvas, often referred to as "cotton duck," came into use. Linen is composed of higher quality material, and remains popular with many professional artists, especially those who work with oil paint. Cotton duck, which stretches more fully and has an even, mechanical weave, offers a more economical alternative. The advent of acrylic paint has greatly increased the popularity and use of cotton duck canvas. Linen and cotton derive from two entirely different plants, the flax plant and the cotton plant, respectively. The greatest difference between modern painting techniques and those of the Flemish and Dutch Masters is in the preparation of the canvas. "Modern" techniques take advantage of both the canvas texture as well as those of the paint itself. However, Renaissance masters took extreme measures to ensure that none of the texture of the canvas came through. This required a painstaking, months-long process of layering the raw canvas with (usually) lead-white paint, then polishing the surface, and then repeating. The final product had little resemblance to fabric, but instead had a glossy, enamel-like finish similar to the wooden panels it replaced.
 A work station for airbrushing.
Do artists airbrush anymore?

other painting
used by artists today
can be found here.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Ancient Art Supplies (Part 1)

Manufactured artists' supplies, probably from around 1900.
The next time you order your art supplies online, or drop into your local hobby emporium for a tube of titanium white, you might want to stop and ponder for a moment where artists of the past got what they needed to create their ancient masterpieces? Unless you're thinking of artists from the previous century or two, you can bet the names Grumbacher or Windsor Newton weren't stamped all over them. The former dates back only so far as 1905 while the latter was founded in 1832. Paint in tin tubes were invented by the English portrait artist, John Goffe Rand in 1841. Before that, artists kept their homemade paints in pig bladders or glass syringes. Artists, or their assistants, had to grind each pigment by hand, carefully mixing the binding oil in the proper proportions. Painting apprentices often knew more about chemistry than painting and drawing. Once paint in tubes began to be produced in bulk, the caps could be screwed back on and the paints preserved for future use, providing both flexibility and efficiency. This encouraged artists to begin painting outdoors. The manu-factured paints had a balanced consistency that the artist could thin with oil, turpentine, or other mediums. Paint in tubes also changed the way some artists approached painting. The artist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, said, “Without tubes of paint, there would have been no Impressionism."

Cave painting reconstruction, Font-de-Gaume, (southwestern) France
Throughout recorded history, people have had the desire to decorate their living space. Naturally, paint and painting were crude during prehistory, but both evolved tremendously in the millennia that followed. The oldest reliable painted evidence is the burial of the dead with red ochre applied to the body. Some examples of this are almost 100,000 years ago among the Neanderthal. There are unproved claims of cave drawings in ochre and charcoal being as much as 60,000 years in some places including Australia. As early as 38,000 B.C., people used paint made from soot, earth, and animal fat to adorn the walls of their caves. The ancient Egyptian painters over the course of about three-thousand years, were known to have mixed ground glass or semiprecious stones, lead, earth, or animal blood with oil or fat. Clearly people have been making art for a long time.

West Bank Tomb of Sarenput II, Aswan, Egypt
Art demands wealth, power, monuments, and a corps of state or temple artists to feed a growing demand for industrial scale production of pigments. Malachite, a natural green copper ore was mined along with its blue variant called Azurite. Orpiment a poisonous and impermanent yellow was discovered. It's shortcomings were known, but it was also the only bright yellow known. The beautiful dark blue we know so well from Egyptian tombs was Blue Frit, also called Egyptian Blue. It was basically blue glass ground up as a pigment. Later, a green variety was also made. Gypsum and chalk sufficed for white. The common black was an early form of lamp black (soot) still used today. The only reds were natural earth minerals such as Red Earth and Cinnabar. Madder and Indigo were known at this time as dyes for textiles. It's uncertain whether they were used as artists pigments, but given the limited alternatives it would not be surprising if they were.

The Statue of Liberty is verdigris green. It's made of copper.
By the Roman period verdigris, an artificial copper green, and green earth were developed. Ivory black was made by burning ivory. White Lead (Flake White) came into use along with new yellows massicot and Naples yellow. Tyrian purple was made into a glazing pigment while burnt and raw forms of umber and sienna joined the artist's palette. A yellow red was used in the form of realgar, an arsenic compound that occurs naturally. Bright red was supplied by 'Dragons Blood', claimed by Roman historians to be the blood collected after the fighting of dragons and elephants. Surprisingly this very impermanent pigment was common until the 19th century by which time it had been discovered to really be the gum from a tree in Southeast Asia. The villagers who collected it surely had one of the most successful marketing campaigns in history. It is likely that dyes and plant extracts intended for textiles supplemented artists color ranges in many instances. With the exception of the blacks and earth tones, virtually all of these colors exhibited problems. Most were impermanent (or weak and coarse like blue frit), and those that weren't tended to be highly toxic.

Ye ole vermilion, white, and ultramarine.
With Medieval times came two important colors from Asia. In the 8th-century artificial vermilion was imported from China. Although poisonous, it was the first of today's powerful, bright, and yet permanent colors. The second equally bright and permanent color was a blue. At first no one in Europe knew what it was or where it came from, only that it arrived on Arab ships from "over seas," so it was termed "ultra marine." Pure ground Lapis Lazuli stone had been used for millennia but it was weak and not as useful as Egyptian blue. Many found it difficult to believe that the older Lazuline blue and the new ultramarine were from the same source, but gradually the knowledge of how to refine the blue from lapis spread through Europe. During the 12th-Century, the new rich, deep, and strong blue would revolutionize art. Later it was discovered that it came from Persia and Afghanistan.

Illustrated manuscript of
St. Matthew composing
his gospels, c. 800 AD.
The need to illustrate Bibles and decorate churches was largely res-ponsible for the survival of Roman methods of color production during the Renaissance. Despite this good for-tune, there were still major gaps in the color ranges of artists five-hundred years ago as to the permanence of colors. It is astounding that they could produce such brilliantly colored works with so few choices at hand. So many colors were either too expensive (as with blues), too impermanent (reds and yellows), or quite dangerously poisonous. Strangely, considering the huge artistic flow from this period, there were only two major pigment developments. Naples yellow was produced artificially for the first time and red lake was developed into a large range of beautiful colors. While the name seems to have often been loosely applied to various reds the name originated with just one color. These days we know this color as carmine in the studio and as cochineal (cockroaches) in the kitchen. It is derived from certain such insects in Central America and India. 'Red Lake', or just 'Lake' was the name given to this type of pigment.

In 1686, Richard Waller’s “Table of Physiological Colors Both Mixt and Simple" set the stage for a broad expansion of manufactured paints and pigments. As you can see, many of his pigments were not very permanent. This chart takes good eyesight and some translating from Elizabethan English.
The year 1704 marks the beginning of the revolutionary development of modern-day artists' colors. Prussian blue, a form of ferric cyanide came first. Some of these 18th-century discoveries proved short lived. Bremen blue was thought to be the perfect blue when invented, but it was almost immediately superseded by Cobalt blue. Turner's yellow came and went, to be supplanted by Cadmium Yellow. Prussian blue, though still available today, has largely been replaced by Pthalo Blue. The 19th-Century marked big changes for artists. New colors seemed to come along every four or five years. Cobalt blue arrived in 1802, cerulean in 1805, chromium green oxide along with Indian yellow arrived in 1809. The latter came from India and eventually people would find out that it was made by cruelty to cattle (force feeding on Mango leaves and collecting the urine to concentrate to make the pigment). It was soon banned. Cadmium Yellow, which came along in 1817 was better in any case. An artificial (and cheaper) ultramarine, zinc white, rose madder, viridian, and cobalt violet soon followed.

As lethal as a gunshot.
Nonetheless, there were mis-takes. Emerald green, a favorite of van Gogh, was found to be so poisonous it became a popular insecticide sold only in hardware stores as 'Paris Green' (right). Around 1800, a British merchant named Robert Ackermann may have operated the first art supply store. He also sold prints and books. He made his own water-colors as well as supplying pigments and recipes for those who wanted to make their own. Out of a list of 68 pigments he sold, less than 20 were perman-ent or non-poisonous.

20th-Century pigments Shop, Venice
The 20th-Century started with new high-performance organic pigments (the Hansa colors). They became a replacement for the poisonous vermilion (cadmium red) and the long awaited non-toxic, yet opaque titanium white. The pthalocyanines were discovered in 1935, and soon to follow were the quinacridones, and all the other laboratory products that would finally give the artist a wide range of beautiful permanent colors. Now the problem is no longer not enough choices, but too many, with some artists buying colors, not because they need them, but just because they are beautiful. So, the next time you get the urge to grind your own pigments, keep all this in mind.

It's only pigment, medium
and vehicle...


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Olga Wisinger-Florian

Gloxinias in the glasshouse, Olga Wisinger-Florian
When one line of work fails, it's nice to have something else to fall back on. I was once a modestly successful painter and teacher. I got tired of the marketing rat race so after retiring from teaching I decided to become a writer, a pursuit I'd once seriously considered before going to college. Now I've got a book out (Art THINK), online art appreciation lessons (mostly for parents home-schooling their children), and I write internet content having to do with art. The Austrian artist Olga Wisinger-Florian was a pianist. Her father was a councilor at the Cabinet Office of the Habsburg Monarchy.

Rustic Kitchen Interior, ca. 1890, Olga Wisinger-Florian
Although she began private art lessons at the age of nineteen, Olga became frustrated with her progress and the quality of the instruction she was receiving. So, she followed her parents' wishes and began training as a concert pianist with Julius Epstein. From 1868 to 1873 she had some success as a pianist, until a hand injury forced her retirement from the instrument.
Wisinger-Florian was born in 1844 and lived all her life in Vienna, Austria.
In the mid-1870s, at the age of thirty, Olga Wisinger-Florian returned to painting as a student of the painters Melchior Fritsch, August Schaeffer, and Emil Jakob Schindler. Around 1881 she began regularly showing her work at annual exhibitions mounted at her home and later with those of the Vienna Secession. The work she showed at the Paris and Chicago international exhibitions earned her worldwide acclaim. She was also active in women's movements of the time, earning numerous awards, prizes, and distinctions. Wisinger-Florian worked tirelessly to promote the exhibition of women’s paintings. Along with Marianne Eschenberg she formed the "Eight Women Artist" in 1901, curating a highly successful exhibition at the Salon Pisko. From then on they held annual exhibitions. Olga was also active in the Association of Women Writers and Artists of Vienna, founded in 1885 to promote women's professional interest and eventually to offer a pension plan for women artists in need. This paralleled the self-help efforts offer by men-only artists unions.
The Beach of Etretat (Normandy), Olga Wisinger-Florian.
Here she might have rubbed elbows with Monet.
Wisinger-Florian was an impressionist, and had she lived in Paris, would today probably be con-sidered one of the major artists in the movement. She was an impressionist before such art be-came popular. Her early paintings have been assigned to what has become known as Austrian Mood Impressionism (though I'm not sure exactly what that distinction might be). In her landscape paintings she adopted Jakob Schindler's sublime approach to painting nature. The motifs she em-ployed, such as views of tree-lined avenues, gar-dens and fields, were strongly reminiscent of his work.
Autumn Leaves,
Olga Wisinger-Florian
Im Grunen (Among the Greenery), Olga Wisinger-Florian
After a break with Schindler in 1884, Olga went her own way. Her conception of landscapes became more realistic. Her late work is notable for a lurid palette, with discernible overtones of Expressionism. Her landscapes and flower paintings were already expressionist in palette by the 1890s suggesting she was years ahead of her time. Today, Olga Wisinger-Florian's works hang in galleries throughout Germany and Austria as well as in private collections.

If you're dissatisfied with your first effort, try again.
Throughout her life Olga strived for the best social contacts. For example, Archduchess Clothilde, Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria and the King of Bulgaria visited her studio. The circle of buyers of her works also included high-ranking personalities such as the Emperor Franz Joseph I, who bought one of her paintings. Later in life, having made an international name for herself as an impressionist, Olga began teaching other women to paint. However, in her final years the artist suffered from cancer and a heavy eye disease. Olga Wisinger-Florian died in Grafenegg, Austria, in 1926 at the age of eighty-one.

For some unexplained reason, Olga had a liking for barnyard scenes.
From the upper one, you can almost smell the hogs.

Waterfall (or Mill at Hartenstein),
Olga Wisinger-Florian


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Art Resources

Ain't it the truth!
I don't know how many other writers follow my ruminations at this venue but I presume that there are at least maybe a dozen or so. Others may find the reference cites here informative, amusing, or simply archival, stored away either as a sort of art database index or simply memorable in case the need ever arises to pursue virtually any artist or art related topic for whatever reason. Some of these I rely on a great deal as I ponder what to write. Others are used to fill in the blanks as to facts not adequately covered from primary or secondary sources. These are not major sources such as Google, Bing, Wikipedia, Britannica, or Pinterest (the latter of which I'm starting to detest more and more each day). I've listed the various sites in no particular rank order due to the fact that each is so different as to be incomparable. Having said that, It goes without saying, though, that some of the sources below are better than others. Moreover, each has certain strengths and weaknesses which I shall try to highlight in each case. Some I dearly love...others I use and merely tolerate.
UGALLERY is a place to buy original paintings and photographs by top emerging artists. If you are an artist still have not earned much fame, this would be a good place to start. If you're not an artist, it's handy for looking up the work of young artists in virtually any style or area of content. Beyond that UGALLERY is useful in providing quick and easy access to a broad realm of art related topics. The horizontal menu bar at the top makes navigating the site quite friendly. It's like window shopping in New York's SoHo or Chelsey.

FREAKING NEWS is a website featuring Photoshop news and contest (see the bottom of this page). Its a virtual community of over 17,000 digital artists and members featuring free, daily, Photoshop contests fueled by global news and events. If you're a fan of digital editing, or even if you're not, check this site out at least once. Keep in mind these artist are basically 21st-century cartoonist, and while their methods may be non-traditional, and their humor sometimes irreverent, it is never irrelevant.

ARTDAILY is an Internet-based media company founded in 1996. Its website is presented as an online newspaper, with rich content updated each day of the week. Although it covers art from an international perspective, the emphasis is on American art news and especially that of New York City.

ARTBABBLE is a cloud based video hosting service for art content. It has been called the “YouTube of the arts”. The site is indexed as to Themes, Medium, Periods & Style, Location, People, Video type, and Language. In some ways it's better than YouTube.

DEVIANTART is the largest art website on the Internet. It aims to provide a place for any artist to exhibit and discuss art works. Though most offerings are digital, works cover a comprehensive list of categories including photography, digital art, traditional art, literature, Flash, filmmaking, skins for applications, and others. I really love this site though it can take some getting used to. It's also quite addictive. The navigation is a bit quirky, but then, so is its art. It is heavily oriented toward Millennials. The best advice is to be prepared for anything so you'll be shocked at nothing. Yes, it does have an age-sensitive adult art section as well.
CULTURED is another favorite site, though sometimes its image offering is a bit sparse. You must open a (free) account to get downloads or much else in the way of satisfaction, however. It is indexed as to List of painters, List of Popular painters, List of Famous Artists and Authors, List of Cultures (with thumbnail images), as well as a list of writers. Photos are captioned with titles, artists, and sometimes dates.

HUMANITIESWEB is a rather elderly website dealing with art, history, literature, music, philosophies, and artists' biographies. I don't use this source very often in that several hundred of my old ArtyFact items are still lodged here from some fifteen years ago. I try to avoid quoting myself.

BLUEBOY'S JOURNEY WITH ART is dedicated mostly to visual arts and mostly classical paintings. Most of the material/images used here are taken from free internet research and are in current possession of museums, galleries, auction houses and private collections as; indicated. Inasmuch as Blueboy (until 2007) was a gay men's magazine, there is a predilection toward nude art so some of the material here may be offensive to some viewers and not suitable for preteen children.

MARK HARDEN'S ARCHIVE is a general purpose art image site funded by poster sales. Though the site has a rather "stale" look, its really a virtual art museum loaded with facts and details. There's even a 3D art gallery to guide you through some of the special exhibits. There's nothing fancy here, just a very practical source for art history and images.

ARTODYSSEY is loaded with artistic nudity. Most (but not all) are in relatively good taste. In researching living artists, I often begin looking for them here. The images are all high quality with some artists having a considerable number of their works displayed. The site is horribly frustrating for me, though, inasmuch as it seldom lists titles for the works or dates. Information on each artist is uneven, with some having extensive biographies, even artist's statements, while others have almost nothing. There's a great deal of breadth here, but usually not much in the way of depth.

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ILLUSTRA-TION welcomes those wishing to explore a selection of the over 150 illustrators in their collection. While it is not a comprehensive listing of all their artists represented, nor all of their artworks in the collection, the website strives to give a sense of depth as to their illustrators' quality and importance to our American heritage. The artists and the artworks currently on display at the NMAI change with each exhibition.


DESENHA, PORRA! (Design, Damn It!) or (Stop screwing around and get out your pencil!). As you might have guessed by the site name this is probably the weirdest site of the lot. First of all, it's a Portuguese language blog featuring both contemporary artists and those from the past. (Keep your Google AND Bing translators handy.) It is indexed, but also scrolls through over a hundred pages of art like a blog. It is frustratingly devoid of much in the way of titles and dates and uneven as to biographical data on each artist. It's a fun site to explore but you wouldn't want to live there.

The Persistence of Lithium, Azwoodbox, from
Freaking News.
This is by no means a definitive list, and I'm sure there are several better and more useful sites hanging around out there in the "cloud" like angels. These are, however, the ones I've stumbled over and sometimes peruse when I'm stumped for an artist or topic. Only one or two are what anyone would deem "authoritative." Some are quite amateurish; but that's not to say they're not fun to "poke around" in from time to time.

Adam Giving God an iPhone, Retral,
Freaking News