Click on photos to enlarge.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Leon Bonnat

The Triumph of Art, 1894, Leon Bonnat, Hotel De Ville, Paris
One of the problems our education system faces is the fact that we prepare students to live and work in our present society and environment while everyone knows that the "present" is an ever-changing fact of life. As much as the conservative minded would like to turn back the clock to a simpler, less challenging times, that's neither possible nor would it solved the problems inherent in social, political, and environmental changes. Thus educators are left with the dilemma of trying to see into the future, then striving to adjust their teaching content to such guesswork. Computers come to mind as a prime example. Twenty-five years ago few schools even owned one. As a result, today, about half the population barely know how to turn one on while jobs for those with computer skills go begging. At best we trained students to use a computer when we should have been teaching how to fix program and repair) them.
The Eagle and the Rabbit, 1897, Leon Bonnat
There is, of course, nothing new in all this. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris faced a similar quandary. Most of the instructors had been trained in the long academic traditions of David, Ingres, Delacroix, Bouguereau, and finally, Gerome. They were men who failed to recognize, or refused to accept, the changes taking place next to their precious academic style and techniques while all about them Modern Art was flexing its muscle, making waves, and challenging everything they held dear. Leon Bonnat found himself in the middle of these changes. He'd been trained traditionally, but starting in 1882 he found himself teaching a new generation of artists who worshipped the Realists, or worse, the Impressionists. By 1905, when he became director of the school, he found himself torn between the past and the present as the school not only began accepting women but followers of Monet, Cezanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Courbet, and Corot.
Giotto Keeping the Goats, 1850, Léon Bonnat
Populating his classes were future greats the likes of John Singer Sargent, Stanhope Forbes, Gustave Caillebotte, P. S. Krøyer, Georges Braque, Thomas Eakins, Raoul Dufy, Edvard Munch, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Walter Tyndale. These were men no long satisfied with painting pontificating religious scenes or sanitized, academic nudes. This was the new wave, destined to move and shake much of 20th-century art. To his credit, unlike academicians of the past, Bonnat adapted, both what he taught and how he taught it to the needs and temperament of his students. He thus bore influences from the past, blending them with the art of the present, while also subtly influencing the art of the future.
Self-portraits from age 17, thru old age (photo).
Léon-Joseph-Florentin Bonnat was born in 1833, He grew up in Bayonne, (southwestern) France, where his father owned a bookshop. Bonnat studied under Federico Madrazo in Madrid. Despite repeated attempts, he failed to win the prix de Rome, though he did receive a second prize. However, a scholarship from his native Bayonne allowed him to spend three years studying independently in Rome (1858–60). During his stay in Rome, he became friends with Edgar Degas, Gustave Moreau, Jean-Jacques Henner and the sculptor Henri Chapu. He also studied under Léon Cogniet in Paris. His early paintings are religious in which can be seen evidence of the Spanish Baroque. Later, his better-known portraits of prominent Europeans and Americans drew inspiration from Velázquez and the Spanish realists. He painted about 200 portraits, most of them featuring photographically accurate draftsmanship and subdued coloring.
Roman Girl at the Fountain,
1875, Leon Bonnat
Leon Bonnat won a medal of honor in Paris in 1869, after which he went on to become one of the leading artists of his day. Bonnat later won the Grand Officer of the Légion d’honneur and became a professor at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1882. He was quite popular with American students in Paris. In addition to his native French, he spoke Spanish and Italian and knew English well, to the relief of many monolingual Americans. In 1905 Bonnat succeeded Paul Dubois as director of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Bonnat was a liberal teacher who stressed simplicity in art above high academic finish, as well as overall effect rather than detail. Bonnat’s emphasis on overall effect on the one hand, and rigorous drawing on the other, put him in a middle position with respect to the Impressionists and academic painters like his friend Jean-Léon Gérôme.

There's nothing in the way of Academic "prettiness" in
Bonnat's religious paintings, his early works being more
Spanish than French.

Bonnat’s vivid portraits of contemporary celebrities are his most characteristic work, but his most important works are arguably his powerful religious paintings, such as his Christ on the Cross (above, top), Job (above, bottom), St. Vincent Taking the Place of Two Galley Slaves, and the large Martyrdom of St. Denis for the Pantheon in Paris. However, he received few commissions for religious and historical paintings, and most of his output consists of portraits. He also produced genre paintings of Italian peasants (left), and a small number of near-eastern scenes (below).

First Steps,
Leon Bonnat

An Arab Removing a Thorn from His Foot, Leon Bonnat
In a gesture of gratitude for the help he had been provided in his youth, Bonnat built a museum in his native city of Bayonne, the Musée Bonnat. Most of the works in the museum are from Bonnat's personal art collection, amassed over a lifetime of travelling around Europe. They include an outstanding collection of Old Master drawings from Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo to Ingres and Gericault. Bonnat died in 1922 at Monchy-Saint-Éloi at the age of eighty-nine. He never married, and lived for much of his life with his mother and sister.

Sleeping Girl, 1852,
Leon Bonnat


Monday, October 30, 2017

David Cox

The Haymakers, David Cox. Note the height of that haystack. They must have killed a few haymakers piling it that high, which begs the question as to why they stacked that high.
It doesn't happen very often, but there have been times in the past when I've encountered a major artist, hailed as among the most important of his time and place, but whom I find little to praise. The English landscape painter, David Cox was one such artist. His biographers and art historians laud him as " of the most important members of the Birmingham School of landscape artists and an early precursor of impressionism." From what I've seen of the Birmingham School, that's rather weak praise coupled with such faintly recalled artists as William James Müller, to whom he had been introduced by mutual friend George Arthur Fripp. As for being a precursor of impressionism, that I can see, but the connection is weak, at best, and one more of style than color.
A Figure with a Dog Beside a Ruined Abbey, David Cox
That's not to say I dislike all of Cox's work. Although he was primarily known and praised for his watercolors, which made up the majority of his paintings, over 300 works in oils, rendered towards the end of his career (top), are now considered one of the greatest, but least recognized, achievements of any British painter. However, I must say, I had to search long and hard to find either oils or watercolors by Cox that I found outstanding. His a Figure with a Dog Beside a Ruined Abbey is one of this more interesting works on paper. Yet, even at that, the title is as boring as most of Cox's watercolors. Although he, like the Impressionists who followed him a generation later, painted outdoors, I get the impression he went about looking for the easiest subject he could find to paint.
David Cox, 1830, William Radclyffe. The photo dates from around 1855. 
David Cox was born in 1783 on Heath Mill Lane in Deritend, which, at the time, was an industrial suburb of Birmingham. His father was a blacksmith, also a whitesmith (a dealer and tinker in tin). Young David was expected to follow his father into the metal trade but was found to be too weak for such a profession. Thus it was his mother, whom biographers record was a woman of superior intelligence and had a better education than his father, who encouraged her son to become a painter.
Peter Boat Near Half Way House At Gravesend, David Cox
During the latter part of the 18th-century, Birmingham had developed a network of private academies teaching drawing and painting. The were established to support the needs of the town's manufacturers of luxury metal goods, but also to encourage education in the fine arts. Along with that came the nurturing of the distinctive tradition of landscape art of the Birmingham School. Cox initially enrolled in the academy of Joseph Barber where his fellow students included the artist Charles Barber and the engraver William Radclyffe, both of whom became his lifelong friends.
A Figure on a Lane, David Cox (in case you couldn't tell).
At the age of about fifteen, Cox was apprenticed to the Birmingham painter Albert Fielder, whose workshop produced portrait miniatures and paintings for the tops of snuffboxes. Cox apparently left his apprenticeship after Feidler's suicide (a pretty safe assumption). In 1804 Cox decided to try establishing himself as a professional artist, and apart from a few private commissions for painting scenery his focus over the next few years was to be on painting and exhibiting watercolors. In 1805 he made his first of many trips to Wales, with Charles Barber, his earliest dated watercolors are from this year. Throughout his lifetime he made numerous sketching tours to the Home Counties, North Wales, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Devon. While living in London, Cox married his landlord's daughter. They moved to Dulwich in 1808.

Welsh Funeral, David Cox. What's with all the coffins littering the foreground? A shortage of gravediggers?
Although Cox exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from 1805. His paintings never reached high prices, so he earned his living mainly as a drawing instructor. Cox eventually acquired several aristocratic and titled pupils. He also went on to write several books, including: Ackermanns' New Drawing Book, published in 1809; A Series Of Progressive Lessons dating from 1811; Treatise on Landscape Painting in 1813; and Progressive Lessons on Landscape in 1816. The ninth and final edition of his series Progressive Lessons, was published in 1845.

Study of a Small Girl in a
Pinafore, late 1840s, David Cox
Late in life, Cox traveled all about England and Wales with side trips to France where he painted the quaint villages dotting the Normandy coast. These are my favorites.
After a brief stint as drawing instructor at the Royal Military College in Farnham, Surrey, Cox acquired a position as drawing master for Miss Crouchers' School for Young Ladies in Hereford. In Autumn 1814 moved to the town with his family. Cox taught at the school until 1819, his substantial salary of £100 per year requiring only two day's work per week, allowing time for painting and private pupils. Sometime around 1840, Cox made the decision to switch from watercolors to oils. Hostility between the Society of Painters in Watercolors and the Royal Academy made it difficult for an artist to be recognized for work in both watercolor and oil in London. So, Cox moved back to Birmingham where he lived and painted from 1841 until his death in 1859.

Thank you. I've seen enough.
Welsh Woman, David Cox.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Alessandro Boezio

Boezio's fingers. What do they mean? 9, 12, 10,12, 11.
When was the last time you studied your hands? I don't mean the last time you saw them, but the last time you really observed your paws, especially your marvelous fingers. Where would we be without them? Of all the parts of the hand, the fingers are the most important...except for the thumb which makes it possible to firmly grasp objects. That one anatomical feature, the opposable thumb, has long been the dividing line between the upper level primates and lower level mammals. Fingers are among the most beautiful appendages, both conceptually and physically. They accuse, they grab, the touch, they give pleasure, they take; they are the means in which humans create and communicate.

I'd love to know the title for this, but insofar as I could determine, he seems not to title his work.
The Italian sculptor, Alessandro Boezio has an intense fascination with these touchy digits. He offers a simple and beautiful exploration of these indispensable lengths of bones, nerves, veins, muscle, cartilage and skin. Boezio takes these unique identifiers, these tiny, powerful tools we take for granted, and creates abstract narratives with unlikely single positions in static moments. It's a fascin-ating gift. Add a mastery of skill and technique to create realistic portrayals of human anatomy, and you have a breath of fresh, but somehow alarming air.

Playing footsies?
Familiar, yet threatening--

Alessandro Boezio
Alessandro Boezio was born in 1983 and grew up in Milano, Italy. In 2003, he obtained a Ph.D. in chemistry from Mont-real University, then continued his edu-cation as a NSERC postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Eric N. Jacobsen at Harvard Uni-versity. An artist of versatile creativity, he uses an incredible number of materials, both precious and simple, to create sculp-tures, installations, and original works, each infused by a rich vein of humor. He transforms reality by toying with concepts and objects. Boezio claims everything can be transformed, everything can be re-used, and everything is re-adaptable." His works often show a strong bond with nature, bizarre in its micro and macro config-uration. At the same time, Boezio pays a clear homage to technology with its useless knick-knacks that man seems unable to do without. Boezio's work has been shown in exhibitions, and projects in Germany, Spain, England, Belgium, and the United States.
Boezio does feet and legs with the same verisimilitude as his fingers.
If a deer had fingers...and fingernails
Like a creative science experiment with Dr. Frankenstein and Salvador Dali, Boezio uses our physical commonalities to bring our psycho-logical conundrums to life. Some are seemingly scary and some sim-ply fantastical, Boezio creates scul-ptural poetry that plays a fascinating game with our perceptions. He is intrigued by the human under-standing of real and illusory. Boezio uses clay and fiberglass to create these mythological and unnerving anatomic experiments in artistic ex-pression. He also imbues his pieces with flesh tones or gold leaf to further push the perception of reality and artifice.
Are they fingers or legs?
Boezio's installation-based projects are even more poetic than the sculptures alone; using golden thread and shadows, he creates whole surrealist scenes in spaces. In our subconscious, the human form can be altered to fulfill a variety of desires, horrors and creative psycho-ses. Fingers roll out like a carpet into digit-shaped centipedes; feet emerge from the palm of a human hand and begin walking away into the darkness, finding nothing but a fulfilled nightmare full of comfort and terrifying accuracy. . .it may simply be a dream; then again, it may also just be the sculptural artwork of Alessandro Boezio.
Back of the larger
image above.

Are they faces or fingers?


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Art Authentication

The Bust of Napoleon, ca. 1904, Auguste Rodin
In 2014, the Hartley Dodge Foundation hired 22-year-old Mallory Mortillaro, with her undergraduate degree in art history, as a temporary archivist. Without a doubt, it was the smartest move they ever made. In Madison, New Jersey, (about 30 miles west of New York City) in an unusual space that feels more like a museum than a municipal hall, the Morris County Borough Council meets every other week to handle the usual affairs of a small suburb. Silver-plated chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Oil portraits of American forefathers line the walls, and by a window, is an old wooden desk that once belonged to Abraham Lincoln. It is a rare environment where a bust of Napoleon on a pedestal in the corner, chiseled from marble and weighing some 700 pounds, could easily blend in.
The Hartley Dodge Memorial Building and the
Morris County Borough Hall, Madison, New Jersey

The foundation, which owns and maintains the artwork, hired Mallory Mortillaro, to cre-ate an inventory of the art in the building. It’s a place where you have really nice things hiding among other really nice things. Her job was to examine the paint-ings, photographs, and sculptures, measur-ing and photographing them. It took her a few weeks to get to the bust. When she peeked behind the sculpture she found something that had apparently been over-looked for almost 80 years. The markings on the white marble were faint, but she saw a signature: A. Rodin (below).
Mallory Mortillaro
The artist's signature carved on the back.
The borough hall, named the Hartley Dodge Memorial Building, was built by the heiress Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge as a tribute to her son, Marcellus Hartley Dodge Jr., who was killed in a car accident in 1930. Mrs. Dodge filled the building with art from her own collection. A desk that had belonged to her father, William Rockefeller Jr., is now the mayor’s desk. A large portrait of her hangs in the council chamber, presiding over every meeting. She also left an endowment, funding a foundation that owns and maintains the art as well as well as the building itself (below). Ms. Mortillaro initially had her doubts. She found it difficult to believe that the foundation, which had hired her, did not already know the piece was a Rodin. She was reluctant to ask. At one meeting where she updated the foundation’s board on her work, she waited until the end to bring it up. There had been rumors over the years that the sculpture might be the work of Rodin or a protégé, but there were no records to support it.

The borough meeting hall. The Bust of Napoleon is in the back corner of the room on the far right.

Rodin and his Napoleon,
circa 1910.
As Ms. Mortillaro kept digging, progress proved difficult, meeting dead end after dead end. However, over time, she was able to stitch together the bust’s journey to Madison, working her way back to Rodin’s studio outside Paris. The piece had been commissioned in 1904 by a collector from New York City, but it went unfinished until the American financier, Thomas Fortune Ry-an bought the bust after seeing it in the sculptor’s studio several years later. Mr. Ryan kept it in his home before loaning it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There, Ms. Mortillaro found, the bust had been dis-played for more than a decade. After Mr. Ryan died, Mrs. Dodge bought it at auction. Ms. Mortillaro's break came when she discovered that the Comité Auguste Rodin in Paris, a group that could determine its authenticity. Jerome Le Blay, the head of the committee and a leading Rodin expert, recognized the Napoleon bust. He knew the piece existed, but its whereabouts had been unknown for decades. Mr. Le Blay traveled to Madison in 2015 to examine the bust. A thorough authentication process required more time and research in France, but as soon as he saw it, he knew it was genuine. The foundation announced that the bust, could be worth between $4-million and $12-million, and that it would be loaned to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A sample certificate of authenticity.
Sample bill of sale.
I cite this story with its happy ending to make a point. All of this could have been avoided had those who had custody of Rodin's misplaced sculpture made the effort to preserve what art authenticators refer to as provenance. Rodin was a professional sculptor and Thomas Fortune Ryan was likely an experienced art collector. Thus such "paperwork" was almost certainly created at the time of sale. Moreover, the Metropolitan Museum of Art would not (or could not) have sold the work, nor would Mrs. Dodge (a highly experienced collector herself) have purchased it without a bill of sale or certificate of authenticity signed by Rodin (probably both).

The two certificates of authenticity shown here and above were chosen because they incorporated photos of the work on the face of the document. If you are not in the habit of providing such provenance, these make ideal models in creating your own certificates.
Provenance is a chain of evidence documenting the ownership and whereabouts of art (often in great detail) from the artist to the current owner. It would appear that Mrs. Dodge, or the foundation she set up to maintain her art collection, was negligent in their record keeping. Or, as so often happens, when people die, valuable papers can, and do, get misplaced or destroyed. Even works by amateurs or relatively unknown artists can be worth far more (including prints, as seen above) when backed up with a conscientious chain of ownership. But, as in the case of Rodin's lost Napoleon, the major responsibility for maintaining a history of a work of art rests with future owners and their heirs...and their heirs.

Another outstanding certificate of authenticity model.
Even LEGO sees the value of a certificate
of authenticity for their models. (Notice
the size of their "limited" edition.)


Friday, October 27, 2017

Henrique Alvim Corréa

Most of us have, no doubt, heard of H.G. Wells; but few of us know about the man whom he credited with making his most famous book famous--his illustrator Henrique Alvim Correa.
There are many different factors involved as to whether an artist becomes historically memorable. Quite apart from the element of technical skills, there is the vision needed to take an object, scenario, or theme and give in life on paper or in some sculptural medium. These two skills we often lump together. We call it "talent." In the world of art, talent is a "given." Without it in sufficient quality, the artist will go nowhere. All else involves persistence, daring, drive, good health, intelligence, wise judgement, and sometimes, just plain dumb luck. These latter items, of course, are not limited just to art, but are relevant to many other pursuits. Taken alone though, none of them items will lead and artist to success. The life of the Brazilian artist, Henrique Alvim Corrêa is a near-perfect study as to the difficulties artists face in flirting with art history.
The man of the three-legged war machine.
In 1876, Alvim Corrêa was born into a wealthy Rio de Janeiro family. His father was a prominent lawyer who died when his son was seven years old. The boy's mother remarried a wealthy banker in 1888, who then moved the family to Lisbon in 1892. Alvim Corrêa was 16 years old at the time. A year later they settling permanently in Paris. When Alvim Corrêa turned eighteen, he began his formal instruction in art under the military painter Édouard Detaille. Military themes had been extremely popular in French art since the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871, which France lost). Corrêa followed in his instructor's footsteps, exhibiting well-received military paintings in the Paris Salons of 1896 and 1897.

Henrique Alvim Corrêa, based on H. G. Wells' 1906 
The War of the Worlds 
Then, in 1898, Alvim Corrêa suddenly quit his studies and, against the wishes of his family, married 17-year-old Blanche Fernande Barbant, daughter of the engraver Charles Barbant, who was himself a successful illustrator of books by Jules Verne, among other authors. The newlyweds moved to Brussels where their first child was born later that year. Cut off from his family’s financial support and connections in the art world, Alvim Corrêa had to scrape together whatever commercial work—advertisements (even house painting)—he could find to make do. By 1900 his finances were stable enough that he was able to move his family to Boitsfort (a suburb of Brussels) where he opened a studio.

The title page from the deluxe edition of H.G. Well's novel, War of the Worlds, illustrated by Henrique Alvim Corrêa.

Corrêa's Martian can of worms.
Although still virtually unknown as an artist, Corrêa hustled persistently to exhibit his work. He developed a style of strong contrasts and dynamic movement in both drawing and paint-ing, trying his hand at surreal dream-scapes, caricatures, action figures such as military men or working wo-men. Corrêa's landscapes often fea-tured real and fictional themes of eroticism and violence individually and in combination. Today we would likely categorize him as a fantasy artist. In 1903 he read H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds whereupon he decided to draw his vision of Wells’ Martians, which fit quite well with the recurring themes in his private work. Then, entirely unsolicited, Alvim Corrêa took his handful of drawings to London where he showed them to Mr. Wells. The two were complete strangers, yet the author was so impressed with Corrêa's artwork that he invited him to illustrate the upcoming special edition of The War of Worlds by Belgian publisher L. Vandamme.

Notice the resemblance of Corrêa's three-legged war machine to the AT-AT war machines in STAR WARS: The Empire Strikes Back.
Alvim Corrêa returned to Boitsfort where he spent two full years working on the illustrations. At the same time, he organized a solo exhibition of his own work which opened in 1905 and garnered him significant recognition. Corrêa went back to London that year to show Wells the finished group of 32 drawings. Wells loved them and in 1906, they were published in the large format, illustrated French edition of The War of the Worlds. Each of the 500 copies of the special edition was numbered and signed by Henrique Alvim Corrêa. Wells later said of the illustrations: “Alvim Corrêa did more for my work with his brush than I with my pen.”

Might we call this Wells' World War Zero?
With an accolade such as that from one of the most popular authors of the era, Corrêa might well have been on his way to fame and fortune as a science-fiction illustrator. Wells alone could have kept him busy, having written eight books. Unfortunately Corrêa, spent much of 1905 in Switzerland where he had surgery in an attempt to stop the tuberculosis torturing his lungs and intestines. The good news was that he recovered from the surgery. The bad news was, he still had TB. The powerful drive that made him a successful illustrator could not overcome tuberculosis. He was forced to slow down his work schedule considerably, yet even at that, Alvim Corrêa continued to produce unique art, like Visions Erotiques, a collection of 20 erotic drawings entwining sex and death that he published under the pseudonym Henri Lemort (Henry the dead) in 1908. In 1910 he put together another exhibition of his work, this time alongside that of other artists.

For those who have read the book, can you follow the storyline from Corrêa's illustrations?
Alvim Corrêa worked almost to the day he died in 1910 at the age of thirty-four. Yet, outside of a small circle of rare book collectors and Wells connoisseurs, Corrêa remained virtually unknown, even in his own country. In the early 1970s Brazilian art historians brought him back into the limelight as a native son of great talent and innovation. Over the following decades his work, especially the Wells drawings, went on display at museums all over Brazil and elsewhere. His original drawings for The War of the Worlds remained in his family until 1990 when 31 of the original 32 were sold to a private collector, along with a poster announcing the special edition (top) and a charming note Wells wrote to Alvim Corrêa in November of 1903 in which he told Corrêa he was “very glad indeed you like my Moon Men.”

Michael Condron's sculpture of a Wellsian Tripod,
in Woking, Surrey.
The Brazilian public did not know Corrêa's work until the mid-1960s for several reasons. First, because his career was limited to Europe, and the fact that he died very young. Then, during the German invasion of Brussels in 1914, his studio was looted and his work destroyed. Also, to make matters worse, in 1942, a German ship transporting his original graphic works and the brass printing plates to Brazil was sunk. This explains the late rediscovery of his works. Although still little known, Corrêa's illustrations for Wells' classic have been influential as the book has been republished with illustrations by other artist who have been strongly influenced by him. Even TV and motion picture versions of Wells' The War of the Worlds owe much to Corrêa original vision.

Just for fun, click on the arrow (above) and listen in on the most famous adaption of H.G. Wells sci-fi classic, the 1939 radio broadcast of Orson Welles' (no relation to H.G.) Mercury Theater that, despite warnings, seemed so real as to cause a major panic on the U.S. east coast--THE MARTIANS ARE COMING! THE MARTIANS ARE COMING!


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Israeli Art

Israel Design Museum, Holon, Israel
Fairly often a country, though quite small, will have a surprisingly viable art market supported by a sizable army of outstanding artist and a worldwide group of wealthy buyers supporting them. Yet only rarely does the international art establishment pay them much notice. Sometimes that comes about because the country is, in fact, small or the work of its artist is quite ethnic and conservative as to the scope of what it produces. That's the case in many South American countries, the Baltics, the Balkans, and particular in the case of Israel. Though that country has an extremely long cultural heritage from which to draw its themes and content, it is primarily from a literary context flowing through a language few people in the rest of the world understand. That is to say, it's in the habit of not using the Roman alphabet, and reads from right to left. It's a little like my trying to drive a manual transmission Land Rover on the streets London at rush hour while stuck in reverse.
Dura Europos Synagogue fresco Jews Cross Red Sea,
3rd century AD.
The Jewish people, at least as far back as the Egyptian captivity, were prone to "borrowing" from those foreign cultures with whom they came into contact. However, despite the best efforts of the Egyptians, Greeks, and finally, the Romans, painting, sculpture, and architecture were not their strong suits. The Jews preferred to discuss religion, poetry, music, banking, and philosophy instead. The 3rd-century fresco (above) is by an unknown artist. It has a strong Greek and Egyptian look to it despite having been unearthed from a synagogue. Those of Jewish heritage down through the ages have long been more likely to buy art than create it.
Wine production for domestic consumption and export has always been a Jewish craft (perhaps even an art) as seen in the mosaic dating from before 700 AD and the modern-day representation of the "fruit of the vine" as seen in Scouts with a Bunch of Grapes to be found in the Tefen Industrial Park's open museum.
Painters of Landscapes (or perhaps the tourists they sell them too) can't seem to get enough when it comes to depicting the ancient city of Jerusalem (claimed by the Israeli's to be one of the oldest cities in the world). Although some are as intimate as the colorful narrow streets (more like alleys) of the city, far more attempt to embrace as much of the city as possible (right). In any case, few painters of Jerusalem would veer far from the Kotel (the wailing wall) and the ancient and architecturally lackluster build-ings surrounding the area (below).

Ascent to Jerusalem,
Don Livni
Some visitors buy postcards, others buy art, while still others inspire art as in Ruth Meyer's Jerusalem Unveiling.
Although there may have been a time when Israel was forced to import its architectural and engineering talent from its neighbors (a Phoenician designed and built Solomon's temple), today Israeli architects are known around the world for their daring, sometimes even brash work as builders. No where is this more obvious than in the country's collection of museums. Some are pleasantly sublime while others border on the phrase "over the top, as in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (below).

From a soft, slightly-melted, white-chocolate "Kiss" in Jerusalem, to the stark "cutting" edge of Tel Aviv's jarring art edifice, Israeli architects seem unafraid of failure.
As I see it, the real heart and soul of Israeli art lies not in museums competing to overwhelm their contents, but on the streets. There the resilient spirit of the Hebrew people is exhibited and celebrated by amateurs and professionals alike, painting what sells (of course) but also pouring into their work three or four thousand years of history (good, bad, and ugly), along with a similar dose of forbearance, tolerance, ingenuity, bravery, and levity to be found nowhere else it the art world.
An artist colony sidewalk show
Art and smiles on the street, the best the
Israeli art market has to offer.