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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Most Popular Posts of 2017

This is where each "Art Now and Then" post begins.
One of the features I like best about Google's Blogger has to do with its statistics page. I've not checked, but I suppose other blog service platforms also have much the same feature. In any case Blogger allows me to keep track of the number of readers (often called "hits") that a given post may have over a period of time (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and what they call "all time.") Inasmuch as a write on a fairly broad range of art related subjects, this statistical page allows me to keep track of which content areas readers are most interested in, as well as how many readers follow my posts on a daily basis.

Go for it! While you're still trunk enough to dry.
Inasmuch as this is New Year's Eve I thought it appropriate to post feedback as to which posts have been the most popular this year. For the most part they have been those dealing with relatively unknown artist "now and then." In general, however, posts dealing with art from various decades, art involving wild animals, and in one particular case, paintings of a famous celebrity (more on that later). So, starting with number eight on the list, they are:
 (Click on the artist's name for the full posting.)

Virtually all George Lois Esquire covers had a current events tie-in.
George Lois was the great master of the conceptual magazine cover, especially Esquire in the 1960s. When Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion and stripped of his heavyweight boxing title, Lois depicted him as the martyred St. Sebastian, with arrows sticking out of his body (above). Lois also persuaded celebrities such as Richard Nixon, Andy Warhol, Sonny Liston, Jack Nicholson (nude, no less), Tom Cruise, and Dustin Hoffman. Between 1962 and 1971, Esquire featured one remarkable cover after another, each conceived and designed by Madison Avenue’s 'king of covers'," George Lois. Esquire covers are icons of the age, acidic critiques of contemporary society, politics and manners that subverted the conventions of mainstream magazines. It was a chronicle in its golden age, a critical period of American social and political turmoil, and the legacy of a remarkable graphic designer and communicator.

Nothing could better symbolize the peculiar relationship of these to talented architects better that the Barberini Palace staircase. Borromini designed it, Bernini saw it to completion after his competitor's death.
Though Borromini and Bernini, the two stalwarts of 17th century Italian architecture, were both masters of the Baroque style, they were very different in their approach to work and artistic expressions. Bernini, suave and charming, sought drama and theatrics in his works. His flamboyance oozed out through his creations. Bernini knew how to play with the audience’s emotional and spiritual responses. Borromini, on the other hand, was cold, melancholic, and somewhat lacking in the social graces of Bernini. He depended heavily on his studies of geometry and classical architecture. Borromini’s work was idiosyncratic with a modest approach towards purposeful dramatization, distancing the audience who failed to fully comprehend it even though they were unanimous in accepting its superiority. The great act of providence had both of these artist’s path intertwined for the rest of their career.

6. Derold Page:
Fat Marbled Cat, Derold Page
When we speak of Folk Art, people primarily (and perhaps exclusively) tend to think of landscapes. Moreover we also tend to think only of American Folk Art. Of course, virtually every country in the world has its own folk art. In fact, in some countries, it's practically the only art they know. I've no idea if Folk Art is as popular in European countries as it is in the U.S.; but I do know that it's not got the same "look" to it we've come to know on this side of the Atlantic. I'm not sure the designation "Folk Art" is really the best tag for such work. Some writers and critics have come to refer to it as "naïve" art or "untrained" (that is, the work of self-taught artists). Derold Page is British, completely untrained, and seldom paints the usual nostalgic landscapes from memory we're so used to seeing from his American counterparts.

5. Chris Thunig:

I'm not positive, but I'm guessing this piece was done by
Thunig in preparation for The Da Vinci Code. It appears to
depict Leonardo, secretly working in the dead of night studying human anatomy by performing a cadaver dissection. (Such
activities were illegal at the time.) His assistant is probably
a grave digger. 
An artist working in the motion picture industry is only as good as his or her resume; and is often paid accordingly. That of Chris Thunig includes his current position as 2D Art Director at Bliz-zard Entertainment (producing and coordinating art and artists for video games); Senior Digital Matte Artist/Concept Artist Digital Matte Artist at The Moving Picture Company (London), and Digital Matte Artist at Duran Cinematics (Paris). In his first major motion picture, Immortal, (right) working for Duran, Thunig was just one of eighty other visual effects artists. Today, depending upon the complexity of the project, Thunig often supervises up to one-hundred such concept artist, who not only design visual effects, but are also tasked with figuring out how to create them on film (and on schedule, and on budget).


In Tune, 2007, David Uhl (for Harley Davidson) 

Artists have a tendency to turn famous men (and women) into myths. In no case is this more prevalent than in the literally hundreds, perhaps even thousands of portraits of Elvis Aaron Presley in virtually every art medium known to man. Even forty years after his death, Harley Davidson artist, David Uhl, contributes to this myth. Elvis purchased Graceland, seen in Uhl's painting, In Tune (above), in 1957. He was twenty-two at the time. Uhl depicts him as an adolescent teenager with the mother of all pompadours. Even Ronald Reagan would be envious.


3. Óscar Domínguez:

Dominguez's surreal protest of "progress."
Óscar Domínguez was born on the Canary Island of Tenerife in 1906. (The seven island chain is located just off the northwest coast of Africa.) There the boy spent his youth with his grandmother devoting himself to painting at a young age. He suffered from a serious birth defect which affected his growth and caused a progressive deformation of his scull, frame, and limbs. The family was quite wealthy inasmuch as his father was a large landowner of extensive agricultural properties. Dominguez moved to Paris in 1927, where he learned of the Surrealist movement. Picasso and Yves Tanguy became a great source of influence. He has often been criticized for painting too much like Picasso (a valid criticism).

Cabela's Pony Express Rider outside their Sidney, Nebraska, headquarters store.
Although Cabalas handles a smattering of art-related items, the real art is outside, between the store and the parking lot in the form of independently commissioned monumental bronze sculptures of (you guessed it) wildlife. Although the company has made its fortune facilitating the killing of wildlife, they are to be congratulated for their support of talented sculptors whose work is aimed at the preservation of the spirit of animals in the wild. Each store has a different bronze sculpture, some quite dramatic, some even including the human element from the past such as that outside the company's largest store in Hamburg, Pennsylvania (above), and their Pony Express Rider on the grounds of their headquarters complex in Sidney, Nebraska (above, right).


1. Pieter Claesz:   
Still Life with Musical Instruments, 1623, Pieter Claesz
Pieter Claesz was born in Berchem, Belgium, near Antwerp around 1597. He joined the Guild of St. Luke in 1620, also the year he moved to Haarlem where his son, the landscape painter, Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem, was born. Claesz and Willem Claeszoon Heda, who also worked in Haarlem, were the most important exponents of the "ontbijt" or dinner piece (not to be confused with the somewhat more well-known Dutch breakfast pieces, above). They painted with subdued, fairly monochromatic palettes, employing a subtle handling of light and texture as their prime means of expression. Claesz generally chose more homely objects than did Heda, although his later work became more colorful and decorative. Claesz's still-lifes often suggest allegorical purposes, with skulls, short candles, spilled ink, etc. serving as reminders of human mortality. Between them, the two men founded a distinguished tradition of still life painting in Haarlem. By the way, it's awfully easy to confuse the work of these two artists, not just because of their similarities in color and style, but taking into account their names as well. I just made a correction to an earlier posting where I had them confused.

Kitchen Duty, 2012, Bonnie Annee

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