Thursday, February 25, 2010

Celebrating Chinese Folk Art

To celebrate the Chinese New Year, the National Art Museum of China is currently hosting a large-scale exhibition of paintings containing the New Year theme. The exhibition, which displays 300 Chinese New Year Paintings and has already drawn in thousands of visitors, has brought about a surge of interest in Chinese folk art among art lovers. On display are paintings ranging in creation dates from the beginning of the Qing Dynasty (during the mid 17th – century) to those created over the past few decades. The extensive display offers a panoramic view of the development of Chinese folk art, an obscure form of art that is slowly regaining its popularity.

In general, folk art is meant to decorate but also portray themes and subjects of a specific peoples’ culture or history. The Chinese folk art paintings at the National Art Museum of China express fortune and joy (themes associated with the Chinese New Year), with concise lines, bright colors and happy atmospheres. The exhibition includes almost all of the nation’s most famous New Year paintings (such as Yangliuqing of Tianjin, Taohuawu of Suzhou in Jiangsu, Yangjiabu of Weifang in Shandong and Wuqian).

Han Pu, a researcher at the Beijing Research Institute of Culture and History recently discussed the significance of the exhibition,

"It is a very rare chance to see so many pieces of precious New Year paintings together," commented Han Pu, a researcher at the Beijing Research Institute of Culture and History. Such an exhibition does not only add atmosphere for the New Year, but also helps people know more about the declining folk art … Such an exhibition would undoubtedly boost the audiences' understanding about this traditional art genre and is an effective way to help revive the folk art.”

New Year paintings are considered a special art form in Chinese folk culture, and the accompanying custom of hanging or pasting the paintings onto walls and doors during the Spring Festival for decoration and to greet the New Year, dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 CE). While this custom is no longer popular in China, the exhibition seeks to ignite a desire to learn more about Chinese folk art and grow closer to Chinese history and tradition.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sir Painter, Anthony Hopkins

Yes, that Anthony Hopkins...

The famed actor, director, screenwriter and composer can now add "painter" to his list of artistic talents. I always get a little skeptical when someone in the movie biz decides to take on another artistic endeavor. It seems fame (and of course money) allow them to experience their curiosity with ease (while other more talented, yet struggling artists, are still at the bottom of the totem pole).

However, it appears that Hopkins does have a keen eye and artistic aptitude for painting. A recent article in the Guardian discusses Hopkins varied landscapes which portray themes of strength and family, and range from traditionally calm vistas to darker, more garish visions. Many aspects and experiences from his life - such as Hopkins' terrifying portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in "Silence of the Lambs" - have influenced his artwork.

Next month (from February 16th - 20th), Gallery 27 in London will display Hopkins' work in his first British show. After that, the exhibition will travel to the Dome in Edinburgh.

Click here to read more about what the Renaissance Man has to say about his life, marriage(s), acting, art, and career... he is pretty amazing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Spotlight on Croatian Art and Culture

A new volume of 12 essays on Croatia's art, architecture, history and culture is the first English language book and scholarly study of the nation's heritage. It's about time, too because the country - long part of the former Yugoslavia, has a rich history that many westerners know little about.

Croatia declared its independence in 1991 - following a long past of domination by the Romans, Byzantines, French, Hungarians, Angevins, Hapsburgs and Serbs. The country's Dalmation Coast is synonymous with natural beauty (picturesque islands and rocky inlets are encompassed by the clear blue Adriatic Sea).

The book includes scholarly information on Croatia's current "renaissance" and leading British writers and art scholars (including John Julius Norwich, Sheila McNally, Christopher de Hamel, David Ekserdjian and Timothy Clifford) have contributed essays detailing illuminated manuscripts, Renaissance-era buildings, the centuries-long influence and legacy of Italian art on the territory and other informative topics. Marcus Binney discusses neglected castles and manor houses in Croatia's Slavonia region and Brian Sewell informs readers on the museums of Zagreb, the nation's capital.
As a recent article from the Art Newspaper states, the biggest strength of the volume is its detailing of 19th and 20th century Croatian art and architecture.

For information on current art exhibitions and art venues in Croatia, click here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bronzino Finally Gets His Moment at the Met

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is presenting "The Drawings of Bronzino," on display from January 20th to April 18th. The noteworth exhibition will be the first major exhibit devoted to the artist. In the past, it has been difficult to obtain Bronzino's paintings (because most were created on panels or frescoes, which are immobile).

However, the Met has acquired Bronzino's drawings, which have never been properly studied until now. While only about 60 of his drawings still exist, the exhibit is sure to excite those who enjoy Bronzino, Italian Mannerism and 16th Century European art - especially because most of the fragile drawings have never before been exhibited.

As George R. Goldner, chairman of the museum's department of prints and drawings says,

“His drawings have never been properly studied until now, so there are still a number of questions ... One of the purposes of the show is to figure out what is a Bronzino drawing and what isn’t.”
Employing chalk and pen and ink, Bronzino created everything from sketches scribbled in haste, as a way of remembering an idea, to more elaborate, finished compositions that patrons could use as studies for frescoes and other large commissions. “Each drawing tells you something important about the artist and how he worked...”

The drawings, on loan from Florence's Uffizi Gallery, the Louvre, the British Museum and several private collections, have already given insight about Bronzino's methods.

To read more about the exhibition, click here.

To read the NY Times article associated with the exhibition (which discusses specific drawings and the clues they've given us), click here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Roy Lichtenstein's "I Love Liberty"

Famed pop-artist Roy Lichtenstein's "I Love Liberty" sold for $49,000 at Freeman's Auctioneers in Philadelphia, where Lehman Brothers auctioned off $1.35 million worth of artwork that once adorned its corporate offices.

Some would say it's a bit ironic that "I Love Liberty" was the highest-selling piece of art at the auction (as big banks, like Lehman Brothers, have been chastised for their unjust ways and non-liberty invoking practices). However, the haters should seek some comfort in hearing that Lehman Brothers still owes nearly $250 billion to creditors (and that they are now devoid of their seemingly-priceless art collection).

To read more about the auction, click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

M.C. Escher

Born in 1892, the Dutch artist M.C. Escher is often associated with dorm-room posters or coffee book tables of his graphic art. Although he has become very "mainstream", I am still often struck by the oddness of hisi work. I remember as a child sitting for hours looking at my Escher book, amazed, and a little disturbed by the twists and turns and optic tricks he was able to create (without the aid of a computer). I realize that I've fast-forwarded a few centuries from my typical posts, but I recently was reminded of his work by a friend and thought I'd take a look at it again:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gericault's Man Woman

A reader recommended that I check out this Theodore Gericault painting, entitled The Mad Woman with a Mania of Envy. Completed in 1823, the work is one of ten portraits (only five remain today) in which Gericault portrays a subject with a mental disorder. These haunting images make me really wonder what it must have been like to suffer from a mental illness in a time when they just "sent you off to a nut house". So sad, but such beautiful paintings.