Here are some artworks that have been rocking my world lately for you to feast your eyes on. This week’s list includes works by Joseph Stella, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Dorothea Lange and more.
The history of art teaches us that the status of any given artist is elevated in accordance with the status of said artist’s antagonist. This is true in modern art as it is true of ancient art. It appears that we, as humans, are simply programmed to tell stories that way. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh. Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. The list is endless.
Another renowned rivalry was that between Leonardo and Michelangelo. Leonardo Da Vinci was born in 1454. Michelangelo Buonarroti was born in 1475. Both were active around the same time, between the Renaissance and the High Renaissance. In fact, both embodied the archetype of the “Renaissance Man,” one who is able to express creativity through a wide-variety of artforms.
Yet, both were radically different and their feud was not only generational. It was profoundly ideological. For instance, they did not share the same views on which was the higher of the artforms. Leonardo thought that painting was the most important of artforms because of the versatility and freedom it granted an artist to represent things, even those unseen. We see such potential expressed, for instance, in the Mona Lisa, including via the spectacular vastness of its landscape that could only have existed in the mind of Leonardo himself.
Michelangelo, on the other hand, appears to have been inspired by the more rigorous artform of sculpture. He preferred to focus on the detail of one thing, which generally was the naked male body. In such works as the David, more than the concept, we admire the size and anatomical details. There’s great poetry to be found in the composition itself. The David is not perfectly proportioned and yet, such apparent imperfection makes this giant all the more cerebral and dramatic.
This ideological disagreement is even more evident when we compare the paintings of these two artists. Leonardo’s paintings are rich in multiplicity whereas Michelangelo often pays little to no attention to backdrops. Even his paintings are rather sculptural and in the most famous of cases, his subjects seem to burst out of the canvas.
It is a lesser-known fact that Leonardo was also a musician. Obviously, he lived long before audio recording was possible. Because of that, no primary source documentation of his music exists. What we know through his journals and writings is that he admired the art of music for the same reasons as he did painting – for its lack of restrictions. By the same degree, he did not think much of poetry. Poets, he believed, were restricted by language itself, forced to follow a word with another and another and another…
Again, it should not be surprising that Michelangelo was also a poet and revelled in the challenge of the restrictions posed by semantics. In fact, his approach to poetry appears to be sculptural and for a period of time, he dedicated himself to it almost wholly – despite the many commissions of sculptures and paintings that began piling up before he had reached the age of 30.
Biographical accounts tell us that their ideological divergences were reflected in their opposite character traits and personalities. Leonardo was charming and elegant. Michelangelo was a recluse with little time for vanity or fashion. From this, we may deduce that both also used different approaches in landing prestigious commissions. Leonardo’s charm helped him pitch the works to wealthy patrons. On the other hand, wealthy patrons trusted Michelangelo’s diligence and commitment, which Leonardo sometimes appeared to lack.
It must be said that both men knew each other and may even have respected each other at some time. But their relationship came to an abrupt end in the early 1500s after a public quarrel in Florence, supposedly over the interpretation of a passage from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Shortly thereafter, there was a missed opportunity for a direct confrontation when both men were commissioned to produce a work depicting the same famous battle between the Florentines and the Pisans that ultimately did not come to fruition.
Yet, it is undeniable that both men also influenced each other’s art. For instance, Leonardo returned to his research of anatomy, which Michelangelo was a known practitioner of. Michelangelo, on the other hand, would come to see Leonardo as his rival and use the energy this generated within him to fuel his furnace of ambition.
Here are some artworks that have been rocking my world lately for you to feast your eyes on. This week’s list includes works by Michelangelo, Kurt Schwitters, George Frederic Watts and more.
Riccione – The Green Pearl of the Adiatic
Giovanni Maria Mataloni, 1930
The Torment of Saint Anthony
Michelangelo, c. 1487-88
Kurt Schwitters, 1945
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1874
George Frederic Watts, 1886
Ceramics from the Sepulchre of the Necropolis of Ervidel
Centuries XIII BC – VII BC
Chang Hong Ahn, Ko Chang-seok, 2010
Madonna of the Goldfinch
Bleak times appear to be ahead for all of us, as number of coronavirus cases are on the rise again all over the world. The looking threat of another imminent lockdown, which has been actuated in some parts of the world, hangs over us like a shadow.
It is important, in these times, to remain positive. It’s easy to give into the negativity brought on by such frustration. Why not embrace, instead, the potential of having to spend time on our own? Such potential includes the possibility of learning a new skill and dedicating our time to passionate self-development, in response to social distancing.
Indeed, this has been the secret of many of the great masters of the past. Including Michelangelo, the great Italian Renaissance sculptor, among the most celebrated of his period. Michelangelo lived a remarkably long life during which he held fort as the most important artist in the world, loyally serving several popes in his lifetime.
A true Renaissance man, Michelangelo was a 360 degree artist — a painter, poet, architect and philosopher. But most of all, especially as the years progressed, he considered himself a sculptor. In reading Martin Gayford’s 2013 biography on his life, Michelangelo: His Epic Life, I have been fascinated to find that he had already reached an incredibly high standard of sculpting in his adolescence.
Part of his secret, Michelangelo would have said, was that he was endowned with a divine gift from God himself. He so wanted to promote this idea that in his lifetime, he almost successfully concealed the contribution of the people who trained him in his craft, including Ghirlandaio, and underplayed the importance of his mentors in his formative years.
Yet, to be sure, part of the reason why he was able to reach such a high standard of sculpting from an early age was that he truly did eat, think and breathe art, and dedicated himself wholly to perfecting his skills. In fact, Gayford even concludes from his research on Michelangelo’s formative years that as a young man, he was downright anti-social.
“Michelangelo, however, stood apart from these musical parties. It sounds as though, even as an adolescent, he was already antisocial, reclusive, and driven: constantly drawing and carving. Only such dedication could explain the rapidity of the progress he made. Within two years, he had become as skilful a sculptor in marble as any alive.”Martin Gayford, Michelangelo: His Epic Life
In coming across this particular quote, I found it particularly inspiring and worth of being shared. I am not suggesting that the key to maintining a positive frame of mind is withdrawing from the world entirely, though it may suit some just fine. However, I do believe that in these times where withdrawing from others is more or less imposed on us, remembering that Michelangelo’s self-imposed social distancing greatly contributed to his rise as one of the greatest artists in the world.
I recently interviewed painter Lachlan Goudie for my MATT’S ART CHAT podcast series. Goudie’s new exhibition, Once Upon a Time, will run at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 28-November 25. He also recently published a book called The Story of Scottish Art.
Listen to five clips from the podcast interview via the player below.
How being a dad changed Lachlan Goudie’s perspective on art.
Lachlan Goudie on his new exhibition, Once Upon a Time.
“Art can be a childish exploration.”
How Goudie’s knowledge of art history influences his painting.
“Art has to be a vocation”
MATT’S ART CHAT is a series of podcast conversations about the arts with art creators, curators and lovers from all over the world. Listen to the full podcast with Lachlan Goudie via the player below.
Also available on Podbean and IHeartRadio.
Here are some artworks that have been rocking my world lately for you to feast your eyes on. This week’s list includes works by Egon Schiele, Wassily Kandinsky, Giuseppe Arcimboldo and more.
Seated Woman with Legs Drawn Up (Adele Herms)
Egon Schiele, 1917
Der Blaue Reiter
Wassily Kandinsky, 1912
Saint Thomas Aquinias in Prayer
Stevano di Giovanni, ca. 1423-1425
Brilliant Information Overload Pop Head
Douglas Coupland, 2010
Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1590-1591
In this new episode of Matt’s Art Chat, the first one in a while of my series of podcast conversations about the arts, I speak with painter Lachlan Goudie.
The main topic of the conversation is his new exhibition, Once Upon a Time, which will run at The Scottish Gallery on October 28-November 25, which is inspired by fairytales and finds him expanding on his interest in landscape painting and nature. However, we also talk about the origins of his interest in art and his work as a broadcaster, as well as a major book he has published and that is titled The Story of Scottish Art.
You can listen to the podcast conversation with Lachlan Goudie via one of the players below.
Also available on Podbean and IHeartRadio.
Matt’s Art Chat is a series of podcast conversations about the arts with creators, curators and art lovers from all over the world. The series is hosted by arts presenter Matt Micucci.
A partial transcript of episode 23 of THE ART MOVEMENT, my weekly arts and culture radio show.
The influence of the Mona Lisa, of course, extends far beyond its status as a symbol of populist hostilities between two countries. It is a timeless work of art.
One of the most notable examples of how its legacy came as a result of its fame, when in 1919, noted artist and provocateur Marcel Duchamp drew a pair of moustaches on a picture or a postcard of the Mona Lisa.
This was not the first time the Mona Lisa had been parodied but it is the most famous example. Duchamp’s satirical take on Leonardo’s painting presented a less than reverent way of relating to past artistic tradition and was part of his “found object” works.
Duchamp titled his take on the Mona Lisa LHOOQ, which when read in French roughly translates to “Her ass is on fire,” and is a rude way of saying that she is insatiably horny. Clearly, the provocation was aimed at the art establishment and offered a new way of looking at art, shaking the shackles of academia off it.
Elle a Chaud au Cul has been referred to as a landmark work in the history of postmodernism. Some have claimed that it is, in fact, the beginning of postmodernism.
For certain, we see its influence replicated in the meme culture of today, which I am uncertain as to whether it should be referred to as an art movement or an art form but I am certainly not quick to dismiss, as far as its role in modern art is concerned.
This episode of MATT’S ART CHAT features a conversation with painter Ania Hobson, a rising star of the British and international art scene. Hobson will be launching her debut solo exhibition at London’s Catto Gallery, featuring a new collection of her artworks, which will run from September 5-23.
Hobson’s work is defined by a strong, personal figurative style, blending tradition and modernity. Her works have been praised, among other things, for their fresh representation of and celebration of the “modern woman.” To find out more about her, visit her website, https://www.aniahobson.com/.
MATT’S ART CHAT is a series of podcast conversations about the arts with creators, curators and art lovers from all over the world. The series is hosted by arts presenter Matt Micucci.
A partial transcript of episode 23 of THE ART MOVEMENT, my weekly arts and culture radio show.
If I was to say the word “painting,” which of the most famous paintings would be the first to pop into your head? I bet I can predict that many people would instantly think of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
This half-length portrait, which took Leonardo five years to complete was completed in 1507 and has charmed people all over the world for centuries. It has been defined as the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about and the most parodied work of art in the world.
In Italy, where I was born and where I am currently based, the Mona Lisa has a darker connotation. In fact, it’s been used by populists as a symbol for the traditional hostilities between Italy and France.
The general thought behind it is that the Mona Lisa is an important part of Italian cultural heritage and it was stolen by France (some even claim it was Napoleon who stole it). These people also say that it should be returned to Italy, where it belongs.
Actually, these claims are simply not true and yet another example of how art can be used to nurture unfounded hostilities, and that we should be careful about that.
Yes, Leonardo da Vinci was Italian. Yes, the man who commissioned the Mona Lisa was Italian. His name was Francesco del Giocondo and the sitter was his wife. It took Leonardo five years to complete the painting and he finished it in 1507.
But he never sold it to Francesco del Giocondo, partly because he saw it as a work of conceptual art rather than a mere portrait. It’s hard to disagree and many have written works where they support such a thesis.
Just recently, a research concluded that the much-talked about smile of the Mona Lisa is fascinating because it’s not a fully formed smile but a smile in the process of becoming one.
Because Leonardo realized its worth, he kept it with him and traveled with it in 1511 when he went to France, after being called by the King himself. Leonardo spent his final years in France and when he died there, his assistant Salai, who is also known as being his lover, inherited the painting. It was Salai who rightfully sold it to King Francis the first, the King of France, for 4,000 gold coins and thus, the Mona Lisa has rightfully been kept by the French government since then.
The only exception occurred in 1911, when a worker of the Louvre named Vincenzo Peruggia, stole it and took it back to Italy. This is the only actual known case of the painting being stolen and it was an Italian who stole it from the French. The Mona Lisa was presumed lost for some years until in 1913, Peruggia was discovered and arrested after attempting to sell it to a gallery in Florence for the equivalent of $100,000.
When the arrest was made, the Italian state returned the painting to France, and it has been housed by the Louvre ever since. However, Italy did try and occasionally does try to have its masterpiece returned.
Notable figures joined in the battle cry, in support for this cause, including George Clooney, who resides by Lake Como. Indeed, France may have considered returning the Mona Lisa to Italy, had it not been for the fact that the painting is far too fragile to be moved. Well, at least that’s what they say.
But I don’t see why they should return it. France rightfully bought the painting so it doesn’t need to return anything. In any case, I don’t particularly think that those who call for the Mona Lisa to be returned actually have the interest of the artwork itself in mind.
Actually, there have been cases of artworks from countries taken by other countries, particularly during several of the European wars. But I don’t hear as much said about the vast majority of them.
I mean, Europe was plagued by wars for centuries and the one thing that put a significant stop to that was the establishment of the European Union, which is maligned by the vast majority of the people who ignorantly claim that the Mona Lisa should be returned to Italy but who have no idea of how the Mona Lisa ended up in France in the first place.
In any event, I actually see the presence of artworks of different origins scattered all over Europe or the world, for that matter, as important cultural bridges that should unite people rather than inspire hostilities.