Saturday, December 24, 2011

Simon Vouet: La Crucifixion

Public Domain Image: La Crucifixion, oil on canvas painting of the first half of 17th century by the French Baroque style painter Simon Vouet (1590-1649), 85 in x 57.5 in (216 cm x 146 cm), currently at the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon, France.

Yuri Annenkov: Adam and Eve

Public Domain Image: The picture shows a modern version of the Biblical characters Adam and Eve by the Russian artist Yuri Pavlovich Annenkov (1889-1974)

Yuri Annenkov, also known as Georges Annenkov, is mainly noted for his contributions to book illustrations, his design work for theatre and motion pictures and portraits.

Yuri Annenkov was an active member of Mir iskusstva (World of Art), a Russian artistic and literary movement that influenced and inspired Russians to revolutionize European art in the early 20th century.

Though he had worked in the studios of artists Felix Vallotton and Maurice Denis (1911-1912) in Paris, in 1913 he moved to Switzerland for work and a year later returned to St. Petersburg. In Russia, he mostly did magazine and book illustrations and worked for theatres.

Annenkov’s work as a book designer and illustrator brought him fame as he worked for great authors such as Maxim Gorky (Samovar, 1917), Alexander Blok (The Twelve, 1918), Mikhail Kuzmin, and Aleksey Remizov.

Annenkov was also commissioned by the Bolshevik government in Russia for designing and staging shows related to the Russian Revolution. The later part of his life was spent in Paris, where he died, working as an artist and a costume designer for motion pictures.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mystical marriage of St. Catherine with the Child Jesus

Public Domain Photo: Mystical marriage of St. Catherine with the Child Jesus, lime wood sculpture with gold coloring and gilding, Master of Morlin-Epitaphs, Augsburg (1510), Bavarian National Museum, Munich

According to tradition, Saint Catherine of Alexandria (also known as ‘The Great Martyr Saint Catherine’ and ‘Saint Catherine of the Wheel’) became a martyr when she was beheaded on the orders of the Roman Emperor Maxentius.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 282 AD as the daughter of Queen Sabinella and King Costus who governed Alexandria, she was of extraordinary intelligence and a reputed scholar well-versed in sciences, arts, philosophy, etc. Though born a pagan princess, she became a Christian in her teens, and vowed to remain a virgin throughout life. Catherine had a vision of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary who gave her to Jesus in mystical marriage.

On reaching adulthood, Catherine visited the Roman Emperor Maxentius and tried to convince him of his moral errors in persecuting Christians who refused to worship pagan gods. In response, the emperor asked his best pagan orators and philosophers to debate on the issue with Catherine. She defeated them in the debate and converted them to Christianity. But, enraged at this, Maxentius executed all the converted philosophers and orators and tortured Catherine by imprisoning her.

During her imprisonment, over two hundred people, reportedly, visited her, including Empress Valeria Maximilla (wife of Maxentius) and all of them too converted to Christianity. The emperor responded to the conversions by executing all of the converted people.

Convinced that imprisonment and torture did not change Catherine’s views, the emperor tried to win over her by proposing to marry her. But she told him that she had consecrated her virginity to Jesus Christ. Upon this, the emperor sentenced her to death on the breaking wheel (also known as the Catherine wheel), a torture device used for capital punishment. But, miraculously, the wheel was destroyed and Maxentius had to order her beheading in 305 AD.

According to some traditions, angels carried her body to Mount Sinai where, Emperor Justinian (483-565, the Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565) built the Saint Catherine's Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula at the foot of Mount Sinai (now in the city of Saint Catherine in Egypt). In fact, it was dedicated to the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, an event in which Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant atop a mountain.

Over the years, the monastery has become an important pilgrimage center and repository of early Christian architecture and art that is open to visiting scholars and tourists.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus at children's party

Public Domain Photo: Members of the Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) committee aboard USS Bataan enact Santa Claus, Mrs. Santa Claus and their elves at the children's holiday party held at Haygood Skating Center - Virginia Beach, Va. (4 Dec 2007), U.S. Navy photo by Stephen Oleksiak

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rubens: The Adoration of the Magi

Public Domain Image: ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ (1633-1634), oil on canvas painting by Peter Paul Rubens, 328 cm x 247 cm, located at King's College Chapel, Cambridge, England, UK.

The Adoration of the Magi, the oil painting by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), depicts the Biblical episode as is given in the Gospel of Matthew's (2:11) in which ‘Three Wise Men’, or ‘wise men from the East’ visits the newborn Jesus Christ, though the number of men is not mentioned in Matthew's account.

Traditionally, ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ in art, refers to the Nativity of Jesus and the visit of the Three Magi, who followed a star to find Jesus and visited him with gifts of myrrh, frankincense and gold and worshipped him. The Orthodox Church celebrates The Adoration of the Magi on the Feast of the Nativity (on Christmas day, December 25). The significance of the visit of the Biblical Magi is often taken to represent that from birth Jesus Christ was recognized as king of the earth.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Santa Claus Village Amusement Park

Public Doman Photo: Santa Claus Village Amusement Park, Arctic Circle, Finland

The Santa Claus Village is an amusement park located 2 km from the Rovaniemi Airport in the Lapland region of Finland. The significance of the park is that the Arctic Circle passes right through it. It is a very popular photo spot for tourists because the moment you cross a white line marked in the village, denoting the Arctic Circle, you have entered the Arctic area.

There are many interesting tourist attractions in Santa Claus Village, including the Santa Claus's Office where visitors can chat with Santa and take photos with him during ‘office hours’, and several shops and restaurants where you can purchase souvenirs and other items related to Santa Claus.

Gustav Klimt: Litzlberg am Attersee

Public Domain Image: Litzlberg am Attersee (Litzberg on the Attersee) oil painting of 1914-1915 by Gustav Klimt

Yet another Nazi-looted Gustav Klimt painting ‘Litzlberg am Attersee’(Litzberg on the Attersee), the image of which can be seen above fetched $40.4m at an auction at Sotheby's in New York in November 2011, after it was returned to the rightful owner by the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria.

Litzlberg am Attersee, painted in 1914-1915 by the Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), features the scenes on the shores of Lake Attersee in Austria. Litzlberg is an island of the lake.

Since 1900, during the summers, Klimt usually visited a château at Litzlberg in Lake Attersee (also known as the Kammersee), the largest lake of the Salzkammergut area of Austria.

The landscape, inspired by pointillism and painted just before Klimt’s death, shows his perfect mastery of color and visual imagery through dots and brushstrokes, though it is just a routine painting that he used to produce during his visits of Attersee. Klimt is reported to have painted over fifty landscapes, mostly inspired by the area around Lake Attersee, especially in the last years of his life.

During the Second World War, the Nazis looted ‘Litzlberg am Attersee’ from the house of the Austrian Jewish woman Amalie Redlich after deporting her to Poland in October 1941. She was later killed in a Nazi concentration camp. Georges Jorisch, her ten-year-old grandson, escaped from Vienna with his father when the Nazis captured the city. The young Jorisch and his father had to spend two years in a cellar in Brussels, hiding, to escape capture by the Nazis.

After 1941, the Salzburg-based art collector and dealer Friedrich Welz the acquired the painting. Later he exchanged it against another work of art with Salzburg’s modern art museum (Museum der Moderne Salzburg).

Recently, Jorisch, who retired as a camera shop manager in Montreal, Canada, succeeded in convincing Museum der Moderne Salzburg that he is the lawful sole heir to ‘Litzberg on the Attersee’ which once had hung on the wall of the apartment of his grandmother Amalie Redlich.

The museum returned the painting, which had an estimated value of €30m (£26m) then, to Jorish in early 2011, but, after Jorisch promised to donate €1.3m (£1.1m) to the museum to construct an extension which would be named after Amalie Redlich. In November 2011, at an auction at Sotheby's in New York, the landscape painting was bought by the Zurich-based art dealer David Lachenmann on behalf of an anonymous client.

The return of this painting by the museum reminds one of the history of the seven-year long legal battle fought by the late Maria Altmann (18 Feb 1916 – 7 Feb 2011) against the Austrian government, claiming five Gustav Klimt paintings belonging to her family and looted by the Nazis. She finally won the case and retrieved the paintings which were sold in auction for a total of $327m for the five paintings, making it the most expensive single lot return of Nazi-looted art by Austria.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

ISS Expedition 16 crew members pose for Christmas photo in Zvezda

Public Domain Photo: International Space Station’s Expedition 16 crew members (from left) Russian cosmonaut Yuri I. Malenchenko (flight engineer), US astronauts Peggy A. Whitson (commander) and Daniel Tani (flight engineer) pose for Christmas photos in the Zvezda Service Module on 25 December 2007 - Source: NASA

El Greco: The Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio)

Public Domain Image: The Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio), oil on canvas painting (1577-1579) by Spanish artist El Greco, 173 cm (68.1 in) x 285 cm (112.2 in), located at Sacristy of the Cathedral, Toledo, Spain.

The oil painting titled ‘The Disrobing of Christ (El Expolio)’ was created between 1577 and 1579 by the Spanish Renaissance artist El Greco (1541-1614) for the High Altar of the Sacristy of the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, Spain, where it is located now.

The painting features Jesus Christ in a bright red robe gazing at the Heaven amidst a violent crowd of people who are about to crucify him. A man points an accusing finger at Christ, while two others are arguing, and some others are making disturbing gestures and creating chaos all around. While Christ, the dominating central figure is in a serene composure, a person wearing a green dress holds a rope tied to Christ’s right hand, while trying to disrobe him for his crucifixion. Another man in yellow and white dress drills a hole on the cross for driving a nail through one of Christ's hands.

Apart from the usual crucifixion scene figures, El Greco also painted The Three Marys (Mary of Cleopas, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, often considered the same woman as the disciple Salome), who are featured in distress and contemplating on the unfolding unbearable scene of crucifixion of Jesus.

While The Disrobing of Christ is considered one of El Greco’s most famous works, some art writers and critics consider it his masterpiece. The painting was highly acclaimed and over 17 versions of it are known to exist, some in reduced sizes and other versions painted by El Greco himself.

However, the Cathedral authorities did not appreciate the painting very much, mainly because of the depiction of The Three Marys in the painting and for painting the heads of other people above the head of Jesus. Reportedly they refused El Greco payment for his work and the artist had to go to arbitration after which he was awarded part payment of his claim.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Angkor Wat style sculpture of a goddess

Public Domain Photo: Late 9th century Angkor Wat style sandstone sculpture of a Goddess (Apsara) from Bakong (Siem Reap Province) in Cambodia; currently located at the Guimet Museum (Musée Guimet), Paris.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pierre-Auguste Renoir: La loge (The Theater Box)

Public Domain Painting: La loge (The Theater Box), an 1874 oil on canvas painting by the French Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, dimensions 80 cm x 63.5 cm (31 in x 25.0 in), from the collection of Courtauld Institute of Art Galleries, London. The Theater Box is considered one of the masterpieces of Renoir.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bellydancers on a Nile Cruise ship

PD Photo: A version of the original Arab dance, Raqs Sharqi, performed by two female bellydancers on a Nile Cruise ship.

The photo features two dancers performing what the western world initially (and later the rest of the world) called Belly Dance (or Bellydance). It is actually the traditional ‘Middle Eastern’ dance, Raqs Sharqi, which is also known as Arabic dance or known as çiftetelli, the Greco-Turkish name. Unlike the name belly dance suggests, the dancer has to involve all parts of the body for the true performance of this dance, not merely belly, though the most visible movement can be seen around the hips.

Belly dance can have various styles, costumes, etc., depending on the region or country where it is performed or where such varied forms of dance evolved. As with every branch of performing arts, and dance, new styles, improvements and innovations keep on changing this form of dance too.

Raqs sharqi, in Arabic language literally means ‘Dance of the Near East’ and it is the dance form usually identified as belly dance by westerners. And new styles have evolved in the West as its popularity has spread globally. And it is the style that is usually performed on stage, cabarets and in restaurants. Though mostly female performers are seen performing is such places, originally the dance form was meant for both the sexes, and it is performed even now by male dancers. Also, though it is often seen as a solo dance performance, the dance form is meant for also groups of men and women and can be choreographed for more than one dancer.

Te folk dance form, performed by the common people in the Middle East countries and in North Africa, usually at festive, or social occasions such as weddings, is called Raqs baladi, which in Arabic means ‘dance of the country’ or ‘folk dance’.

The dance form is believed to have evolved in Egypt among Arab tribes who initially settled there. However, belly dancers are not well regarded as many Egyptians do not treat it as a respectable profession. So, most belly dancers performing for tourists in Cruise ships (as in the photo), or at restaurants in present times are non-Egyptians. This fact can be evident from the fact that the traditional Egyptian Sharqi costumes are designed to cover most of the body.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Malin Sundström with a Jack-o'-lantern

Public Domain Image: Malin Sundström of Caramell group with a Jack-o'-lantern (carved pumpkin) for the Halloween on 31 October 1998; image creator: F.U.S.I.A., Café Opera, Stockholm, Sweden.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Girls of Gbogolo collecting water from a pond

PD Photo: Young girls from Gbogolo (or Gbogholo or Bogolo Bogholo), a village commune in Séguéla, one of the two Departments in the Worodougou Region of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), collect water from a muddy pond

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Painting of a bison on Altamira Cave ceiling in Spain

Public Domain Photo: Altamira Cave, located near Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, 30 km west of the city of Santander in Spain, is famous for its European Upper Paleolithic (also called Late Stone Age, for the period broadly between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago) cave art comprising paintings, drawings and polychrome rock paintings depicting wild animals and human hands. The cave along with its paintings has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Council of Trent

The Council of Trent, fresco by Italian artist Pasquale Cati (1550-1620), Altemps chapel, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome

The Council of Trent was the Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church convened in Trent in the Holy Roman Empire (now Italy) between 1545 and 1563 in 25 sessions. The council fathers met in Trent (sessions 1-8, 1545-7) and in Bologna (sessions 9-11, 1547) during the pontificate of Pope Paul III, and in Trent (sessions 12-16, 1551-52) under Pope Julius III, and in Trent (sessions 17-25, 1559-63) under Pope Pius IV.

The council issued important reform decrees, defined Church teachings on the scripture and traditions, sacraments, original sin, justification, the veneration of saints and condemnations on heresies, among many other important matters concerning the Catholic Church.

18th Century Savonnerie Carpets

Savonnerie carpets (Savonnerie tapisserie) were the finest of the knotted-pile carpets produced at the Savonnerie manufactory which was established in a former soap factory near Paris in 1615 by Pierre Dupont. In 1627 Louis XIII granted a patent (privilege) of eighteen years to Dupont and his former apprentice Simon Lourdet to produce these carpets. Under the agreement, until 1768 these carpets were exclusively the property of the French Crown.

These carpets were made of a mixture of wool and a small quantity of silk and had about ninety knots to the square inch. Though the initially produced carpets were imitations of Persian carpets, gradually the Savonnerie style evolved incorporating French designs by renowned artists of the time. The designs of the carpets typically had plants, floral designs and medallions woven against attractive backgrounds of black, deep blue or brown colors and often had multiple borders.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Statue of Athena and Marsyas in Botanic Garden, Copenhagen

Public Doman Photo: Statue of Athena and Marsyas, a recreation of a lost bronze by Athenian sculptor Myron of Eleutherae (480-440 BC) in Botanic Garden, Copenhagen, Denmark.

The theme of the statue is based on the Greek mythological story of Marsyas, who was an expert in playing the Aulos, a double-piped reed musical instrument. According to myths, he found Aulos on the ground where Athena, its inventor had thrown it away.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Jean-Balthazar Keller: Adonis, bronze sculpture

Public Domain Photo: Adonis,a bronze sculpture inspired by an antique sculpture from the French royal collections, created by the Swiss sculptor and gunfounder Jean-Balthazar Keller (1638-1702), cast in 1687, dimensions H: 1.62 m (5 ft. 3 ¾ in.), W: 70 cm (27 ½ in.), located at Louvre Museum, Paris.

Tanagra Figurine: Lady in blue (Dame en bleu)

Public Domain Photo: Lady in Blue, painted terracotta figurine of the type Large Herculaneum Woman, Tanagra Figurine dating 330 to 300 BC, height 32.5 cm (12 ¾ in.), Louvre Museum, Paris

The Lady in blue (Dame en Bleu) is a terracotta figurine that used to be produced in Tanagra, a town north of Athens in Greece from the later part of 4th century BC. They were often painted with natural colors, and were about 4 to 8 inches tall.

Tanagra figures were discovered by ploughmen of Vratsi in Boeotia, Greece by the end of the 1860s when they dug up ancient tombs. The largest collection of figurines were found in 1874 from the tombs of the Hellenistic period, which shows that the city was the main source of these figures which were also exported to distant places.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cleopatra on stamps of Germany, 1984

Here is a scan of a 30 Pfennig postahge stamp of Germany depicting the image of Cleopatra VI, issued on 12 January 1984. The offset-printed issue had a circulation of 14.5 million stamps. The image used for the stamp was the photo of the marlbe head of Cleopatra VI, the last Pharao of Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt (30-40 BC), from the Altes Museum Berlin (Berliner Museumsinsel). The photo of the original marble figure is below:

Friday, March 4, 2011

President Kennedy’s family in Hyannis Port

Public Domain Photo: President John F. Kennedy and his family in Hyannis Port in 1963 with their dogs - photo dated 14 August 1963 by Cecil W. Stoughton, White House Photographs.

The photo shows President John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr. (born in 1960, killed in an airplane crash on July 16, 1999), Mrs. Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy, and Caroline Bouvier Kennedy (the only surviving child of the four children of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, born in 1957, a lawyer and the president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation).

Hyannis Port, a village located in Barnstable, Massachusetts, was the location of the Kennedy Compound and Kennedy family residences, and hence it is included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Renoir: Bal du Moulin de la Galette

Public Domain Photo: Bal du Moulin de la Galette (1876), oil on canvas painting of dimensions 131 cm x 175 cm (52 in x 69 in) currently housed at Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Bal du Moulin de la Galette (commonly referred to as ‘Le Moulin de la Galette’ or ‘Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette’) by the acclaimed French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), is considered one of the most celebrated masterpieces of Impressionism.

In this oil painting created in 1876, Renoir depicts a typical impressionist scene of a social gathering on a Sunday afternoon at Moulin de la Galette in Montmartre district of Paris, where working class people, dressed up in their best outfits, loved to celebrate the evenings by eating galettes, drinking, dancing, and meeting other Parisians. Also, Renoir recreated the late 19th century real Parisian life in Bal du Moulin de la Galette, though his style is typically Impressionist, but rich in color, form, and typical fluidity of his brushstrokes.

Bal du Moulin de la Galette came in the collection of Musée du Luxembourg in Paris in 1896, and in 1929 it was transferred to the Musée du Louvre, and in 1986 it was transferred to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, where it is still located.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir also created a SMALLER VERSION (78 cm x 114 cm) of “Bal du Moulin de la Galette” with the same title and it is in private collection. It was earlier in the collection of American millionaire and U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James's, John Hay Whitney. After his death, his widow Betsey Roosevelt Whitney (an American philanthropist and the ex-wife of James Roosevelt) sold the painting for US$78,100,000 at an auction Sotheby's (New York City) to the Japanese business tycoon Ryoei Saito (Saito Ryoei) in May 1990.

In 1991 Saito created an international outcry by declaring that he wished to cremate the painting (which is the fifth most expensive painting ever sold after adjusting for dollar value as per consumer price index), with him when he would be dead, along with Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Portrait of Dr. Gachet’, which also Saito purchased for a record price of US$82.5 million.

Ryoei Saito’s desire to cremate Bal du Moulin de la Galette could not be fulfilled as his bankers, who held the painting as collateral security against his loans, sold the painting through Sotheby's to an unknown buyer, when Saito and his business empire went broke.

Now, though the painting’s ownership and location are uncertain, it is believed to be owned by a Swiss art collector.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kazimir Malevich: Suprematist Composition

Public Domain Image: Suprematist Composition, oil on canvas painting (1916), dimensions 88.5 cm x 71 cm (34.8 in x 28 in), by Russian painter Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935).

Kazimir Malevich’s magnum opus Suprematist Composition (blue rectangle over the red beam), representing a geometrical figures and vibrant colors in space, was sold on November 3, 2008 at an auction at Sotheby's in New York City for just over US$60 million. The purchase by an anonymous buyer set the world record for Suprematist Composition as the most expensive work in Russian art.

Kazimir Malevich, also known by alternatively spelt names such as Kasimir Malewitsch and Kazimierz Malewicz, is considered the pioneer of Geometric Abstract art or Geometric Abstraction, also known as Suprematism.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Japanese Garden at Devonian Botanical Garden in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Public Domain Photo: The central lake and bridge section of the Japanese Garden of the Devonian Botanical Garden located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Please do not misunderstand the name ‘Japanese Garden’ as it may give the impression that it is a Garden in Japan. In fact the name is internationally used to refer to any garden that is built and maintained in the traditional Japanese style in any part of the world. Such gardens can add beauty and the richness of Japanese culture and styling in developing and maintaining gardens, especially when they are developed as an expression of art and mostly linked to ink paintings and calligraphy. So, Japanese Gardens are very popular not only in Japan, but they are very popular in the West since the 19th century. An example is the above photo of the the Devonian Botanic Garden in Canada.

Established in 1959 by the University of Alberta, The Devonian Botanic Garden is near the town of Devon. This garden is spread over an expanse of sand dune shoreline of the pre-glacial Lake Edmonton, and it measures over 30 hectares (or, over 80 acres), to which about 110 acres of natural habitat areas was added in the year 1976. Renowned for its diverse variety of flora and fauna, including the alpine types of hardy plants found in the coldest of terrains, the University of Alberta conducts a variety research activities on plant conservation, microfungi, bryophyte ecology, horticultural plants, etc. with an emphasis on unfolding secrets of biodiversity.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Carl Fredrik Hill: Trädet och flodkröken III (Bois-le-Roi)

Public Domain Images: Trädet och flodkröken III (Bois-le-Roi), oil on canvas painting (1877) by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Hill (1849-1911), currently located at Nationalmuseum Stockholm (National Museum of Fine Arts, the national gallery of Sweden).

Carl Fredrik Hill: Seine-Landschaft mit Pappeln

Public Domain Image: Seine-Landschaft mit Pappeln (1877), oil on canvas painting by Swedish painter Carl Fredrik Hill (1849-1911), 74 cm x 108 cm, located at Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.

Carl Fredrik Hill: Seine-Landschaft bei Bois-Le-Roi

Public Domain Photo: Seine-Landschaft bei Bois-Le-Roi (variously titled in English as ‘Seine Landscape in Bois-Le-Roi’, ‘The Tree and the River Bend’, ‘Motive from Bois-le-Roi on the River Seine’, etc.), oil on canvas painting (1877) , 53 cm x 72 cm, by the Swedish painter Carl Fredrik Hill, currently in Göteborgs konstmuseum (Gothenburg Museum of Art) in Sweden.

Having born and spent the early years of his life in Lund, Sweden, Carl Fredrik Hill (1849-1911) started his career as a landscape painter. After studying at the Stockholm Academy of Fine Arts, Hill moved to France, and went to Barbizon in the south of Paris in 1874. Barbizon was home to several artists and most of the budding artists of his time converged there.

Hill had had little success as an artist, because his works were not accepted at the Paris Salons. Eventually at the age of 28, he was hospitalized with a severe psychotic attack, ending his career as a landscape painter. With the help of his friends, he went home where he was hospitalized. After a short period in the St. Lars mental hospital in Lund, he was mostly restrained to his home in the care of his sister and mother until his death in 1911.

The period of 28 years before his death is considered his ‘second great period’ as art writers would later describe. It was a new phase of his career that saw him creating thousands of drawings applying various techniques and using watercolor, India ink, pencil, ink, crayon, etc. His inspiration for these works was his memories of various scenes that influenced him, his vivid imagination and art illustrations found on books and other publications.

Hill’s life as an artist started with the vehement opposition from his father who was a mathematics professor who did not want him to become an artist. It was followed by various rejections of his works by the Paris Salons, and possibly such depressive treatment he got must have lead to his suffering from the psychotic attack which was later diagnosed as hallucinations and paranoia. After being released from the hospital, he continued to work only to find an outlet for his creative quest, and to defend himself from the staring failure of his life as an artist. And Carl Fredrik Hill was never given the recognition as an artist during his lifetime.

Several of his work were neglected and lost, but some 3500 drawings are estimated to exist. Out of these, over 2000 drawings and 23 of his oil paintings are in the Malmö Art Museum. Most of these works were donated to the museum by Hill's heirs.

After Carl Fredrik Hill’s death his drawings were located mainly by artists, who admired his work and style. In 1949 an exhibition of his works was held in Geneva, Hamburg, London, Basel, Luzern, and in Paris in 1952. These exhibitions triggered of a series of books on Hill’s works. Now Hill is recognized as one of the best of Sweden's landscape painters, and his works inspire artists internationally. A recognition that eluded Hill during his lifetime!

Art critics and historians have opined that Hill anticipated many of the modern art movements and his works even influenced great artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and many others.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Arunima Kumar performs at Khajuraho Dance Festival

Public Domain Photo: Kuchipudi dancer Arunima Kumar performs at the Khajuraho Dance Festival on 5th February 2010.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lake in the Jasper National Park, Canada

PD Photo: scenery from Jasper National Park, Canada, wallpaper image size 1024x768

Jasper, the commercial centre of Jasper National Park which is located in the Canadian Rockies, is in western Alberta, Canada. The park is in the Canadian segment of the North American Rocky Mountain ranges. Located in in the Athabasca River valley, Jasper is 362 kilometers west of Edmonton and 290 kilometers north of Banff, Alberta.

Jasper National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the other national and provincial parks of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks. It is a cogglomeration of typical mountain landscapes consisting of mountain peaks, limestone caves, canyons, waterfalls, glaciers, lakes and other breathtaking toursit attractions.

One of the most visited tourist attractions in the Jasper National Park is Mount Edith Cavell in the Athabasca River and Astoria River valleys. The north face of Mt. Edith Cavell can be seen after a short hike to the Cavell Meadows.

The Tonquin Valley trails are located about one kilometer before the Mt. Edith Cavell road end. the north end of Cavell Lake is located at a short distance down the gravel path, and a small bridge across a stream that flows to the lake. Scenic views of the Cavell Lake in the foreground and the Mt. Edith Cavell massif in the background can be seen from here.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

George Washington, portrait by Gilbert Stuart

Public Domain Photo: Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, an oil on canvas painting of dimention 73.5 cm x 61.1 cm. Full resolution of the photo:‎ 920x1101 pixels and size: 115 KB.

This portrait of the first President of the United States, George Washington (22 February 1732 to 14 December 1799), is based on the incomplete Antheneum portrait by the American portraitist Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) completed by Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860). The image was taken from the copy maintained by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Bouguereau: The First Mourning - 1888

Public Domain Photo: The First Mourning (Premier Deuil), an oil on canvas painting of dimensions 203 cm x 252 cm (appx 80 x 99 inches) by French painter William Bouguereau, National Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires.

The oil painting ‘The First Mourning’ (1888) is acclaimed to be one of the best paintings by the traditionalist French artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905), whose realist genre of creations and a host of other paintings depicting mythological and Biblical characters and scenes became very popular with the aristocracy and the rich art patrons of his times.

His interpretations of classical themes in a photo-realistic style were heavily influenced by the beauty of feminine human body. In later years, Bouguereau seemed to have been given much less appreciation compared to the Impressionists.

The theme of the painting features the moment when Adam and Eve found their son Abel, who was murdered by his elder brother Cain, whom some writers interpret literally as the son of the serpent (evil) in the Garden of Eden.

According to the Bible, it was the first death of a human being, and hence it is considered the first murder and ‘The First Mourning’ (the work is titled ‘Premier Deuil’ in French). Abel is also considered the first innocent victim and the first martyr while Cain is considered the first murderer by many writers.

The First Mourning is currently displayed at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.