Vincent Van Gogh - real and imagined
I’ve recently come across two photo-ish type projects involving Van Gogh paintings. One is a by artist Slobodan Denic from Barcelona in which he imagines the real room from which Van Gogh painted ”Bedroom at Arles.”
The second one is by Lithuanian architect and photographer Tadao Cern, who imagined a realistic photograph of Van Gogh based on one of Van Gogh’s actual self portraits.
It’s strange to me that the photographs feel like the truer images, but in fact they are imagined and the paintings are more accurate representations of reality. That relationship is not often reversed.
I’m moving studios…and apartments. My new studio will be in my apartment and I’m excited for this to happen but a little anxious too. It’s always nice to have a little separation from your real life and your studio life - but this will give me more studio time.
While my move will be annoying and tedious it will not be nearly as big an endeavor as that pictured above. These photos are by Pierre Jahan capturing the triumphant return of artworks to the Louvre after the end of World War II in 1945.
It was not just any move, it was a mission to keep the museum’s masterpieces safe. It took two days of packing to vacate the museum of its most important works - lessor works were stored in the basement. While the Mona Lisa and others were stored at the Chateau de Chambord, the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory were kept at Chateau de Valencay.
I’m fascinated by Tramp Art - I became familiar with it a few years ago when I saw a Tramp Art Frame hanging in a wood shop. I think you can’t help but feel how much someone cared about their craftsmanship and the finished product when you see how much detail work goes into these things.
It was a popular art form in the late 19th to early 20th century, produced by ‘tramps’ or the wandering homeless.
Like the hobo, the tramp was a wanderer, but unlike the hobo, he was not a worker. Most tramps lived by their wits, some by petty thievery and begging, some by robbery and murder. The hobo feared the tramp and was contemptuous of him as a loafer, while the tramp despised the hobo as a sucker for working…
The typical tramp, as we think of him, was a “fakir.” He was part conman and part repairman or apprentice of a trade, such as a tinsmith, carpenter, blacksmith, etc. Many fakirs were very skilled but preferred to wander from town to town, searching for work when they felt like it. (Folkartisans.com)
Though apparently introduced by German and Scandanavian wanderers, ‘chip carving,’ which is the main decorative element of tramp art, was made popular in the US for things like frames and boxes. Another popular design method was the ‘crown of thorns’ which used interlocking pieces of wood. Since cigars were popular and cigar boxes were plentiful, tramps often took to transforming these discarded boxes with intricate designs.
The resulting items these tramps made - frames, jewelry boxes, etc.- were used to barter and exchange for food, lodging and other necessities.
Design Sponge posted a Faux Tramp Art Frame DIY about a year ago that gives you the general intricate effect of the real thing.
Henri Matisse’s - Daisies, 1939
For a little while I worked at the Art Institute of Chicago where I educated visitors on the museum’s collection. Since the museum has a great collection of Matisse’s work, I feel like I spent a lot of time with him and got to know him rather well. Basically, Henri and I are buddies.
It was great to come upon this picture of him at the Salon d’Automne with his painting, Daisies, behind him because it looks so different from what it looks like now.
Obviously the frame is drastically different. Unlike with Seurat’s Sunday in the Park, curators or owners somewhere along the way decided to make a dramatic leap from a wider, more intricate (probably gilded) frame to a super simple, flat, black floater frame.
The other noticeable thing is that the painting has grayed. Clearly we can’t see exactly how vibrant the painting used to be in that photo, but the white of the table under the flowers tells a lot. You can see how much darker the vignette in the top left corner, the table and most importantly, the daisies have gotten.
Front and Back - Looking at Degas’s - The Collector of Prints, 1866
I love being able to see that back of a framed piece of art. It tells a story. There are so many clues about the piece’s history, it’s past owners and decisions or mistakes the artist may have made and tried to cover up. The Met has a great feature on it’s website that allows you to see in depth detail, as well as the back of some of their collection.
John Singer Sargent’s ‘Madame X’ in his studio and at the Met
It’s interesting to see that the frame hasn’t changed all that much. It’s a bit smaller, but aside from that is seems that the curators have preserved the era and feel of the frame.
Photo of Sargent from the Smithonian collection of Artists in their Studios in Paris
The Mona Lisa then and now - it’s hard to believe anyone was ever able to get that close to her, since she’s now protected by everything but a moat…which is probably appropriate given the painting’s dramatic past of theft and vandalism.
(above photo by Pierre Jahan - 1945)
(below photos by Jaime Iregui)
…I headed with great expectation to the exhibition of Italian Renaissance frames at the Met… An exhibition in which most of the frames are empty might appear to negate the very notion of a museum. Would not the one or two frames that actually have paintings in them put the empty frames to shame?
Not at all. The outer gallery of the Lehman wing has rarely looked more distinguished. Frame after empty frame hangs there, pleading its own case with hauteur and restraint, as if defying us to find a painting worthy of it.
Former New York Times art critic
(Source: The New York Times)
Life is Like a Box of Chocolates…
and so is the work of Joseph Cornell.
Ole’ Joe was King of the Assemblage box - basically a 3D collage in a box incorporating some elements of surrealism and constructivism. The boxes generally have little compartments with little cut-out sculptural narratives or oddities in each one.
Many of his boxes, such as the famous Medici Slot Machine boxes, are interactive and are meant to be handled. Like Kurt Schwitters, Cornell could create poetry from the commonplace. Unlike Schwitters, however, he was fascinated not by refuse, garbage, and the discarded, but by fragments of once beautiful and precious objects he found on his frequent trips to the bookshops and thrift stores of New York. His boxes relied on the Surrealist technique of irrational juxtaposition, and on the evocation of nostalgia, for their appeal.
The Art Institute of Chicago has the most extensive collection of his work, all housed in a low lit little subsection of the modern galleries.
While the content inside is great, the boxes themselves are interesting to look at from a framing perspective. They are complex little entities - the exterior frame is not separate from the interior structure. I think what I enjoy about them the most, is that there is no way the artist could be separate from the framer. The art and the frame, the artist and the framer are inseparable.