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Monday, January 27, 2020

The Color Green

The meanings of green.
Now that we've explored all the primary colors--red, blue, and yellow--it's time to move on to the secondary colors--green, orange, and violet. And inasmuch as green is said to be everyone's second favorite color after blue, let's start there. Being a secondary color such as green, there are two different approaches available. The first is like that of the primary colors, the use of the natural pigments of that color. The second is quite different, that being the combining of various blue and yellow pigments to form some type of green. And since there are thousands of combinations and variations possible in doing so, this method is far more complex and far beyond the scope of this discourse. There is a third method, and one quite possibly used more often than not--the "adjusting" of a naturally green pigment with (usually) either blue or yellow pigments. The possibilities are endless, which means that doing so is also far too complex to deal with here. Let it be said, though, that many artists and connoisseurs prefer the latter two means of obtaining green hues. Therefore, in keeping things "simple," let's explore various green pigments.
Copyright, Jim Lane
Buddha, 1970, Jim Lane. One of my own excursions into the world of greens
relying heavily on chrome oxide.
As the "word cloud" at the top suggests, the color green is a relaxing color that is pleasing to the eye and is said to have healing powers. It is often used to represent anything that has to do with health. Many pharmaceutical and nutritional companies use a green color meaning in their logos and their material to advertise safe and natural products. Green is the color of nature and health. It represents growth, nature, money, fertility and safety. Dark green is often associated with the military, monetary, financial and banking businesses. The color green is full of balance and harmony. From a color psychology perspective, it’s the color green, that puts heart and emotions in balance, and equals head and heart. The green color is an emotionally positive color, which gives us the ability to love and care for ourselves and others unconditionally. As a natural peacemaker, green avoids the tendency to be a martyr. The color green loves to observe, is a good listener and counselor, and would make a good social worker. Green loves to contribute to society. It likes to work with charity and is a good parent and a helpful neighbor.
Explore green color meaning
Some of the more popular shades of green.
As a combination of the color yellow and the color blue, the color green get its mental clarity and optimism from the yellow color, with the emotional tranquility and insight from the blue color. It gives more hope than any other colors. The color green has a strong sense of right and wrong, and a good judgment. It sees both sides of the case, weighs them up, and then take the moral and appropriate decision. On the negative side, the green color can be judgmental and overly cautious. The color green promotes love of nature, family, friends, pets and home. It is the color of people who love being in the garden, at home, or being a good host. But green color meaning can also be associated with being new or inexperienced. The color green is becoming a very popular color for new website designs. The words Shades of Green are synonymous with or represent various shades of the color green: apple, aquamarine, beryl, ​ chartreuse, emerald, fir, forest, grass green, jade, kelly green, lawn green, leaf green, lime, mint, moss, olive, olive drab, pea green, pine, sage, sap, sea green, seafoam, spring green, and viridian none of which are well defined. (some samples of which can be seen above).
Natural Green Pigments are an important part of any artist's palette. In such mediums as egg tempera and fresco they are indispensable. Green Earth Pigments are rare and often very weak in tinting strength and coverage. Mineral Green Pigments are often made from semi-precious stones. Below are listed some of the most common green pigments: 

Phthalocyanine green is derived from phtha-locyanine blue by chlorination in the presence of aluminum trichloride. Due to the presence of strongly electronegative chlorine substituents, the absorption spectrum is shifted from that of the parent copper phthalocyanine. Phthalo green is highly stable and resistant to alkali, acids, solvents, heat, and ultraviolet radiation.
Viridian Green Pigment is transparent with good tinting strength, excellent lightfastness and high oil absorption with slow drying rate. It is stable in all media and has been used since 1900's. Toxicity is at a level B.

Chromium oxide (or chromia) is an inorganic compound which occurs naturally as the mineral eskolaite, and is found in chromium-rich tremolite skarns, metaquartzites, and chlorite veins. Eskolaite is also a rare component of chondrite meteorites. The mineral is named after Finnish geologist Pentti Eskola.

Cobalt green has a light fastness of 8 (graded 1-8) is weather resistant and non toxic. It is often used in paints, coatings, and plastic.

Tavush Green Earth is a greenish mineral of hydrated iron potassium silicate containing small amounts of aluminum, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and numerous trace elements. It is a bright green mineral that looks like tiny flakes of the mineral mica, or small lumps of clay. The color of glauconite varies considerably from pale green, bright green, bluish-green, olive-green, and black-green, depending upon its constituent elements. Tavush Green Earth is from the Tavush deposits of Armenia.

Virtually all artist have worked with various green tones. And like every other color, some love the color green and its broad versatility in rendering summer foliage and other plant life. By the same token, there are others who detest all greens for various visual and psychological reasons. Few artists, however have excelled in the mastery of greens as the Impressionists, who insisted upon the purity of their own formula for green (often variations of cobalt blue and cadmium yellow light).

Wheatfields and Cyprus. September 1889, Vincent van Gogh
Second only to his sunflowers and their inherent color of yellow, Vincent van Gogh seems to have loved the green derivative of yellow in every imaginable combination. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil painting, most of which date from the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and self-portrait and are characterized by bold colors and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of Modern Art. He was not commercially successful, and his suicide at age 37 came after years of mental illness and poverty. Some of his best landscapes depict the local wheatfields and Cyprus seen above.

The Green Line (Portrait of Madame
Matisse) 1905. Henri Matisse
In this iconic, indeed famous work, Matisse painted a portrait of his wife (right) with the two halves of her face in different colors, one approximating to flesh tones and other in yellowish greens. A green stripe sep-arates the two halves. Much has been written on this work, rightly seen as the opening salvo in the battle for modern art, and much is clearly untrue, e.g. "The Green Stripe is an embodiment of every-thing that Matisse himself and the Fauve movement stood for: the lyrical use of color to create 'an art of balance, purity, and serenity.'" Similarly, statements like 'His mastery of the expressive language of color and drawing, displayed in a body of work spanning over a half-century, won him recognition as a leading figure in modern art' also need to be seen in context.

Certainly colors are being used for emotional effect, but 'the green for jealousy' is an argument for naivety. Painters had developed a much more effective vocabulary by traditional means of representation. There is some balance in the work but there is no 'purity' or 'serenity'. The drawing is crude, and the colors are brash. The muddle in the center right has not been resolved: some heavy use of black was needed to continue the strong outline, but the muddy green of the background is most charitably called an improvisation, as are the other four panels when examined in detail, the purple, red and green of the background and the red dress. They are not attractive in themselves, and do not interact with any subtlety. 'Fauves', or 'wild beasts' was an apt term for work that intended painting to start on new foundations.
Woman Walking in an Exotic Forest,
1905, Henri Rousseau
When asked where he learned so much about the jungle, Rousseau commented on his army years spent in Mexico; however, art historians agree that this was a fabrication. Garden plants and tropical vegetation combine in monstrous or eerily miniscule forms, sometimes overwhelming the unlikely characters around them. To the right, dressed as a woman of the times, the figure stands amid a stage-like jungle surrounded by overgrown houseplants and dwarfed by trees which grow oranges bigger than her head. Combining the extravagant and the miniscule is a major point of Magical Realist art. For Rousseau and landscape painters like him, greens, in all their manifestations were an integral part of their artist's vocabulary.


Monday, January 20, 2020

Bertoldo di Giovanni

Shield Bearer, 1470-80, Bertoldo di Giovanni
It's always difficult to say whether the outstanding success of an artist is the result of outstanding art instruction or simply hard work, talent, and persistence on the part of the individual. Both are, of course, important and the answer to that question may well be simply an exercise in intellectual rhetoric, in fact of little importance. Bertoldo di Giovanni was a pupil of the famous early Renaissance sculptor, Donatello. He worked in Donatello's workshop for many years, completing Donatello's unfinished works after his death in 1466, for example the bronze pulpit reliefs from the life of Christ in the Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze in Florence. The trademark style of Donatello is easily discernable in Bertoldo's Orpheus, (below left) dating from 1471 (before Donatello's death) and in his Hercules with the Apple of the Hesperides, (below, right) from the period 1470-75, (near the time of his master's death). Bertoldo's Shield Bearer (above) is also from this period.
Statuette of Orpheus,
1471, Bertoldo di Giovanni
Hercules with the Apple
of the Hesperides, 1470-75,
Bertoldo di Giovanni

Although Bertoldo was a better than average pupil, Donatello was in no danger of being eclipsed by his young assistant. That is not the case however with one of Bertoldo's pupil's. Bertoldo became the head of and primary teacher of the informal academy for painters and in particular for sculptors, which Lorenzo de' Medici had founded in his garden. At the same time, Bertoldo was also the custodian of the Roman antiquities there. Though Bertoldo was not a major sculptor, some of the most significant sculptors of their time attended this school, such as Baccio da Montelupo, Giovanni Francesco Rustici, Jacopo Sansovino, and most importantly, a young man named Michelangelo Buonarotti. 

Bertoldo di Giovanni
In 15th-century Florence, Lorenzo de’ Medici financed the Medici Sculpture Garden, an academy for artists that is recognized as one of the most important gathering places in Western art history. The garden was an oasis of Roman marvels enveloped by the cloisters of the Convent at San Marco. In the center of that garden was a sculpture (possibly one of those mentioned above) which attracted Ber-toldo's ambitious, talented, and most prom-ising young student--Michelangelo--inspiring him to study antiquity and produce art for noble patrons.
The Medici family, who ruled Florence for over three centuries, were the period’s most important patrons. Bertoldo occupied a privileged position at the center of the political and aesthetic landscape of Florence. In working for the patron that is the tastemaker of the city, the position gave Bertoldo a bit of artistic freedom, putting him at the center of the dialogue between ancient arts and literature.
Battle with Hercules, 1478, Bertoldo Di Giovanni
With the Medici family behind him and their vibrant art collection at his fingertips, Bertoldo was free to produce art of the highest quality. Bertoldo’s mastery of bronze and skillful reimagining is embodied by a show-stopping battle scene (above, ca. 1478). While the piece mimics the format and subject of classical sarcophagi, it achieves a new level of robust dynamism. The triumphant Roman warriors and their horses rise to the top of the jumbled mass as their barbarian foes suffocate beneath them. Lorenzo entrusted Bertoldo to cultivate the next generation of Renaissance geniuses as the principal educator and curator at the Medici Sculpture Garden. A young Michelangelo was among Bertoldo’s pupils who would become one of the most celebrated artists in history. Little did Bertoldo know that the same pupil that would bring his school great glory would also lead to the destruction of his own legacy.

Bellerophon and Pegasus, 1486, Bertoldo di Giovanni
Michelangelo celebrated and fashioned himself as a self-taught artist who was divinely blessed with his abilities, and therefore obviously Bertoldo would not have played a role in the narrative that he was constructing for himself. Michelangelo is very explicit that no one gave him real training,” Noelle said. The eclipsing of Bertoldo’s legacy was intensified by his death in 1491 and the death of his patron Lorenzo months later. In the 16th century, Giorgio Vasari wrote the foundational text of Italian art history—Lives of the Artists (1550)—and left Bertoldo out of his manuscript almost entirely, having everlasting effects on Bertoldo’s reputation. When you have Michelangelo himself erasing Bertoldo, and when you have a founding art historian (especially an Italian one) negating Bertoldo’s role, coupled with the exile and fall of the Medici, it didn’t create a good environment for Bertoldo’s artwork.

Madonna of the Stairs, 1491,

As one of Giovanni’s most outstanding students Michelangelo, at the age of 15, was invited to stay at the palace and study under Giovanni. While at the school under Giovanni’s instruction Michelangelo’s work included two marble reliefs, Madonna on the Stairs (right) and Battle of the Centaurs. Madonna of the Stairs is a piece that shows much influence from Donatello’s low relief. Battle of the Centaurs (below. left) is a variation of a bronze piece that Giovanni had created, Battle of the Horsemen which Giovanni seemed to have based on an ancient manuscript. While the structure and training process of the school is unknown, it most certainly would have been an educational and inspirational environment in which to learn.
Battle of the Centaurs, 1492, Michelangelo

In the final analysis, we come to the age-old quandary as to whether a young person is more influenced by nurture (Bertoldo's instruction) or by nature (Michelangelo's innate talent). Initially Vasari and es-pecially Michelangelo himself considered his own efforts as solely responsible for his fame--sheer genius--nothing else. It has only been in more recent years that art scholars have chosen to take a closer look at the other side of the coin. That inspiration was at least as important in Mich-elangelo's case as "perspiration." 

Lorenzo de-Medici il Magnifico,
Bertoldo di Giovanni.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Leonardo in Depth

Juxtaposing the two versions of Leonardo's masterpieces
allows us to peer into the artist's mind over a
period of thirteen years (1495-1508)
The next time you find yourself in a group discussing art, try dropping the word "synesthesia." Nine times out of ten, you'll be the only one in the room who has ever heard the word before, and almost certainly the only one who can define and understand its full meaning. Synesthesia is a blending or interchanging of sensory experiences. For instance, synesthetes might be able to "smell" or "hear" colors. Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue would be a good example. Although the word is not commonly used, when it is, all too often it has been co-opted, considered ‘cool,’ and/or used as a kind of vague sensory metaphor for any and all aesthetic experiences much like OCD when used conversationally to describe any mildly neurotic behavior. As applied to art, which is virtually all-visual synesthesia points toward a broad yearning for a more multi-sensory experience. Museums survive on this assumption. They permit a totally immersive experience, impossible to appreciate from a distance or from a book. You’ve got to step through the door, past the frame, and do more than just look. Leonardo's two versions of Virgin of the Rocks (above) is an excellent example of synesthesia.
Virgin of the Rocks, (1495-1508), Leonardo da Vinci,
(now in the Louvre).
In Milan, 1491, a frustrated Leonardo da Vinci began his second attempt at fulfilling a commission he’d received almost a decade earlier. The Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception had contracted him, in 1483, to produce an image of “Our Lady with her son...done in oil to perfection” as the center panel of a new altarpiece. Having arrived in Milan only the year before to offer his services to the Sforza family, Leonardo was eager to flex his talents. He was already famous in his hometown of Florence. But the work he initially offered, now in the Louvre, was rejected by the order. In 15th-Century Italy, contracts between painters and patrons were often very specific about the devotional content of the pictures. Patrons, not painters, decided what the image should be. At the same time, there was also great emphasis on the material elements of the image. Certain pigments, like ultramarine and gold were valued highly, and specified in the contract’s terms. By the later decades of the century, it was the artist’s individual skill which became prized, thus the emphasis on “done to perfection” in Leonardo’s contract with the Confraternity. This shift in the mid-1400s was seismic, and indeed paved the way for much of our value-system in modern art.
Washington's National Gallery encourages viewers to "absorb"
Leonardo, not just "look and leave."
However, during the years when Leonardo labored so intensely on these two works, patrons were still very particular about what they wanted to have depicted. And so the two versions of Madonna of the Rocks constitute a physical record of a genius talent working within the professional confines of his time. It’s not in the chosen content, nor in the picture as a whole, that we find the particulars of Leonardo’s unmistakable and unmatchable mind. It’s in certain details of composition, technique, and painterly code that we can "feel" his singular vision. Leonardo’s Madonnas are ideal in addressing this totally immersive experience.
Virgin of the Rocks, (1495-1508), Leonardo da Vinci,
(now in London's National Gallery).
The Virgin of the Rocks is sometimes referred to as the Madonna of the Rocks) are of the same subject, and of a single composition which is identical except for several significant details. The version generally considered the prime version, the earlier of the two, is unrestored and hangs in The Louvre in Paris. The other (above), which was restored between 2008-2010, hangs in the National Gallery, London.(I've seen them both.) The paintings are nearly 2 meters (over 6 feet) high and are painted in oils. Both were originally painted on wooden panel, but the Louvre version has been transferred to canvas. The two paintings show the Madonna and child Jesus with the infant John the Baptist and an angel, in a rocky setting which gives the paintings their unusual name. The significant compositional differences are in the gaze and right hand of the angel. There are also many minor ways in which the works differ, including the colors, the lighting, the flora, and the way in which sfumato (haze) has been used. Although the date of an associated commission is documented, the complete histories of the two paintings are unknown, and lead to speculation about which of the two is earlier. The two paintings of the Virgin of the Rocks, are the same in subject matter and in overall composition, indicating that one is derivative of the other. The two paintings differ in compositional details, in color, in lighting and in the handling of the paint. Both paintings show a grouping of four figures, the Virgin Mary, the Christ child, the infant John the Baptist and an angel arranged into a triangular composition within the painting and set against a background of rocks, and a distant landscape of mountains and water. In both paintings, Mary makes the apex of the pyramidal figure group, stretching one hand to include John and raising the other above the head of the Christ child in a blessing. John kneels, gazing towards the Christ child with his hands together in an attitude of prayer. The Christ child sits towards the front of the painting, supported by the angel, and raising his right hand in a sign of Benediction towards the kneeling John.
Compositional diagram, Virgin of the Rocks (Louvre version)
Compositionally, all the figures are slightly larger in the London painting than in the Louvre painting. The main compositional difference between the two paintings is that while in the London painting, the angel’s right hand rests on his/her knee, in the Louvre painting the hand is raised, the index finger pointing at John. The eyes of the angel are turned down in a contemplative manner in the London painting, but in the Louvre picture are turned to gaze in the general direction of the viewer. In the London painting, all the forms are more defined, including the bodily forms of the clothed figures. The rocks are painted in meticulous detail, while the forms of the background in the painting in the Louvre are all more hazy. The contrast between light and shade on the figures and faces in the London painting are all much sharper. The faces and forms in the Louvre painting are more delicately painted and subtly blurred by sfumato. The lighting in the Louvre painting is softer and appears warmer, but this may be the result of the tone of the varnish on the surface. In keeping with their conservative handling of Leonardo's works, the Louvre version has not undergone significant restoration or cleaning.
Angel musician side-panels by students of Leonardo (1490-95).
Two further paintings are associated with the commission: side panels each containing an angel playing a musical instrument and completed by associates of Leonardo. These are both in the National Gallery, London. The angel in red, is thought to be the work of Ambrogio de Predis while the angel in green is thought to be the work of a different assistant of Leonardo, perhaps Francesco Napoletano. In both cases the angel is standing in a grey painted niche. A reflectogram of the Angel in green with a Vielle revealed part of a painted landscape. The background of the Angel in red with a Lute could not be determined because the grey paint on that painting is thick and opaque. While it is commonly thought that the two angel panels were originally placed on either side of the central panel, an article published by the National Gallery suggests that they were placed higher up on the altarpiece.
Conjectural arrangement of the altarpiece images.


Monday, January 6, 2020

Sabin Howard

The clay model for Sabin Howard's A Soldier's Journey,
a large scale, high-relief sculptural "mural" to be installed
in Washington D.C. not far from the White House in 2024.

For many Americans today, World War I carries little meaning. It was simply the war which came before World War II. In a sense, that's true in that the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the First World War. sewed the seeds of German discontent leading to WW II. (The last veteran of the First World War died in 2009 at the age of 111.) Some time ago I wrote on the Panthéon de la Guerrea, giant, French, wall mural honoring those who fought in World War I as well as their leaders. Cut down, restored, and heavily "edited" it now adorns the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City. Except for Arlington's original Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (now containing the unknown soldier remains of three American wars), this country seems to have consigned World War I to the dusty archives of military history.
Sabin Howard poses before a clay model, which will eventually be cast in bronze.
The brilliant American sculptor, Sabin Howard, is twenty weeks into his work on the final modelling stage of A Soldier’s Journey (top), which will eventually become the United States’ National World War One Memorial. The 60 foot long figurative bronze was approved for installation in Pershing Park, next door to the White House in Washington, D.C. by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts last May. Until now, Washington has had no official monument to the sacrifice of the American armed forces in the Great War. Howard's wife, novelist Traci Slatton in her book, Truth Be Told, details the planning process as “a real trial by fire.” The project had to be approved by five different government agencies in Washington. At first, the Commission of Fine Arts wanted to block the sculpture, and Howard thought the proposal might be dismissed, but adroit political maneuvering persuaded its members to sway. His proposal moved from concept to approval in record time, taking only two and a half years. In comparison, the radical architect Frank Gehry’s proposal for his memorial to General Eisenhower had taken fifteen years to arrive at the construction stage.

Sabin Howard–A Soldier’s Journey, Initial Drawing, Eighteenth version.

Howard’s sculpture painstakingly tells the dramatic story of a soldier’s journey to war and his return home, arranged cinematically in a sequence of scenes, which seamlessly blend together. Reading the narrative of the sculpture is an extraordinarily emotional experience. First, we see the soldier’s daughter handing him his helmet, and his departure from his wife is a scene of outstretched arms and high drama; he is encouraged to stride forward into the ranks by an officer, then charges headlong into battle, which is cleverly sculpted as a moment of violent intensity where some of his comrades fall, either dead or injured. Shellshock is perfectly captured in the form of the soldier facing directly out toward us, interrupting the flow of action from left to right, and forcing viewers to consider not only the horrible death experienced by many of the soldier’s comrades, but also his own experience of surviving that horror. Staggering from the violence, he is supported by female nurses, asw we witness him among the men marching home with stars and stripes aloft, and, in a moment of true pathos handing his helmet back to his daughter in the final scene. Thus, Howard’s cathartic sculpture honors not only the dead heroes of the war, but also memorializes the commitment of the families who were left behind and the trauma of the soldiers who returned transformed by their awful experiences. It emphasizes unfashionable but honorable traditional values such as duty, self-sacrifice, service to the nation, and the family. Howard says it will be “a visceral experience” for the hundreds of thousands of people who will see it.
A scale drawing of the final segment of the sculpture.
With the approval of the Commission of Fine Arts, the work of creating the full-size sculpture began. The figures were scanned from real-life military re-enactors, whose three-dimensional forms were captured using 3D photogrammetry at the Pangolin Editions foundry in Stroud, England. These scans were used to make full size 3D prints Of course, these prints are crude and lack the detail and vigor of a finished work, so they were shipped in a container from England to Howard’s New Jersey atelier, where he and two skilled assistants now work with their hands in clay on the final modelling stage. Howard says this stage will transform the scans, which resemble figures at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, into real artistry.

There is a personal family connection in Howard's work. His daughter Madeline is the model for the little girl who begins and ends the narrative, and his wife, novelist Traci Slatton, who is also the project manager for the sculpture, appears as a nurse in the parade scene. The narrative of the sculpture is based on Joseph Campbell's Hero’s Journey. Howard’s team has raised $35-million of the $40-million needed to complete A Soldier’s Journey. He is confident that the remaining funds will soon be gathered.
Model,  Evelyne Christina Tonn
posing as the wife and mother.

It has taken over three years of hard work to get to the point of having the full-sized 3D armature prints, Howard hacks at the foam forms with a long knife, tearing off unsatisfactory chunks of the sculpture, tossing them aside, then reworking the figures with clay, carefully examining his models, who pose for him in replicas of WW I uniforms, their arms propped up with two by fours. Once the full-sized sculptural model is complete, it will be shipped in sections to Stroud, England, where the bronze will be poured.
(From left to right) Anger, Man, and Faces, Sabin Howard
Sabin Howard was born in New York in 1963. His work has been featured in exhibitions at the Winfield Gallery and American Legacy Fine Arts as well as in articles for the ARTnews, The Brooklyn Rail and The Epoch Times. In his book, The Art of Life, which he co-wrote with his wife, Traci, Howard explores figurative sculpture from the earliest times to the present. In addition to his own work, Howard showcases the work of ancient and classical sculptors, including that of Michelangelo, Bernini, and Canova. The book also details Howard's clay-to-bronze process, his philosophy, and his drawings.