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Alexander J. Noelle & Chelsea Emelie Kelly

Alexander and Chelsea\'s Art History Blog


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Guess the Artist

Monday November 5, 2012
Mystery Artist 64, November 5, 2012

Your clues this week are:
  • The artist worked as a manuscript illuminator and panel painter during the Early Italian Renaissance.

  • Giorgio Vasari, fount of suspect information, claimed the artist trained under a person who was beatified by Pope John Paul II centuries later. In reality, there is no documentation supporting Vasari's claim (I know! Try to recover from your shock!), but our artist clearly admired the future Blessed's work.

  • The artist came from a Florentine family that constantly battled with the Medici clan over who had the most wealth and power. At various times, over the course of 100 years or so, both parties sent rivaling family leaders (an ever-evolving cast of characters) into exile. When both leaders were in Florence, they competed to build the most imposing palazzo -- the artist's family won, by the way, which incited yet another de' Medici to confiscate their palazzo and not return ownership for 30 years. Naturally, all concerned kept marrying their daughters off to the other family thanks to the "friends close, enemies closer" philosophy.

  • And

  • This work is one of 17 illuminations the artist created for a Book of Hours commissioned by a third Florentine family. They were not nobility, but kept marrying up and acquiring more money by any means necessary. Wealthy, though not nearly as wealthy as the other two, they were known around town for acting like flashy nouveau riche types. This tribe also had a tendency to pick feuds with just about anybody over anything. The list of people they alienated in the late 13th- and early 14th-centuries includes the Guelphs, the Ghibellines and the Neri, as well as Dante Alighieri, who slammed them in the seventeenth canto of the "Paradise" portion of his Divine Comedy.

    I bring these plots and intrigue to light to illustrate the irony of the work above, in which a Saint serenely kneels in prayer. Money cannot save one's treacherous soul, but apparently it can buy a very nice picture of it.
Please email me your guesses over the coming week. I'll post the winner and correct answer with next week's guessing game. Good luck!

Last Week's Answer:

The set of clues didn't seem that easy, but nearly everyone knew that it was Picasso and his Mama. (Many of you were also winners of my top secret Pithy Picasso Comment award.) I can't single anyone out because Sandy knocked me offline for a while and all of the answers came in at the same time. So congratulations, All, and thanks for participating!

October Treats

Wednesday October 31, 2012
It is Halloween and I am costumed as that famous painting Functionally Literate Middle-Aged Woman with Bad Hairdo. Since you cannot ring my doorbell for your share of the Fun Size Kit Kats (don't worry about waste -- I will make the huge sacrifice of eating them myself), here are some new articles instead:
Treats just for you, and none contain refined sugar or HFCS because I care about your dental health as well as your pancreas. Happy reading!

Malcolm D. MacDougall III: Parallel Worlds (Updated)

Wednesday October 31, 2012
Rhizomes, 2010;© Malcolm D. MacDougall III

As everyone on Earth probably knows by now, the US Eastern Seaboard was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. I feel comfortable speaking for my readers in saying we hold all of those affected in our thoughts. Among many other locations, Lower Manhattan is gallantly trying to cope with the mess that evil witch left in her wake. Many of the galleries in Chelsea saw flooding (although their staffs had wisely moved art out of harm's way beforehand), and power outages remain -- in fact, the New Museum is closed until power is restored. Things are a bit better farther uptown; The Met Museum, for one, will reopen for its regular hours tomorrow.

In the midst of chaos and heartbreak, life does its best to go on. And to that end, please allow me to direct your attention to an upcoming exhibition by one of "our" artists: Malcolm D. MacDougall III. His show, Parallel Worlds, is scheduled to open on November 9 at 287 SPRING, a gallery and performance venue in the Hudson Square district. (I have no idea how 287 SPRING is faring, but it is many blocks *south* of the 14th Street Con Edison power station that exploded Monday night. Here's hoping that all is functional in Lower Manhattan soon.) If you have the chance and the inclination, treat yourself to Malcolm's show. It runs through Saturday, December 8, 2012. Oh, by the way: you know Parallel World's curator. It is our own, beloved Beth S. Gersh-Nešic, wearing her Director of the New York Arts Exchange hat.

Update (Monday, November 5): The opening of Parallel Worlds will happen this coming Friday as scheduled, and the New Museum is now open. Unfortunately, many galleries and artists' studios were not spared. If you can bear to look, Hrag Vartanian has been posting updates and photos of the unholy mess on Hyperallergic.

P.S. If you don't know of Hrag and his writing, you should.

Image Credit:

Malcolm D. MacDougall III
Rhizomes, 2010
© Malcolm D. MacDougall III

Guess the Artist

Monday October 29, 2012
Mystery Artist 63, October 29, 2012

Your clues this week are deliberately short:
  • This is an early work.
  • It was painted in the 19th-century.
  • You know who the artist is.

  • And

  • The sitter is connected to the least complicated relationship the artist ever had with another human being.
Please email me your guesses over the coming week. I'll post the winner and correct answer with next week's guessing game. Good luck!

The Last Answer:

The artist in question when last we met was Jan Matejko (Polish, 1838-1893), and the portrait was of Boleslaw III (a.k.a.: Boleslaw the Wrymouth; 1086-1138), Prince of Poland from 1107 to 1138. Yolanta from Toronto knew this immediately, and assured me that it was an easy challenge if one has a Polish background -- which, I discovered, many, many readers do. Congratulations to Yolanta, and thanks to all who participated!

Have You Met MetPublications Yet?

Monday October 22, 2012
On October 11, 2012, The Metropolitan Museum of Art launched MetPublications, a new online portal dedicated to distributing The Museum's rich publishing history. An amazing 643 exhibition and collection catalogues, Bulletins, and Journals are now online, available for anyone, anywhere to search their tables of content, author information, reviews, awards, and links to other, related bibliographies from The Museum's publishing arm. The inaugural publications date back to 1964, but The Museum has plans to eventually offer every publication from its founding (1870) to the present. Sounds too good to be true, right? But wait! There's more!

Of the 643 publications, you can read, search, and Read More...

Guess the Artist

Monday October 15, 2012
Mystery Artist 62, October 15, 2012

Your clues this week are:
  • The artist was born to a Czech father in a large, Eastern European city during the 31 years that it existed as a city-state, sandwiched between two bouts of belonging to duchies.
  • The beginnings of Modernism occurred during the artist's lifetime, a happening he seems to have ignored completely. In fact, our painter clung to history painting so tightly he singlehandedly brought it back into fashion as an art teacher.
  • Considered a patriot and national treasure in his homeland, the artist's works were among those -- precious, and too few -- hidden from plunder during WWII. Considering that there was very little time to hide anything before this particular country was invaded, we clearly see the esteem in which our artist was held.

  • And

  • The subject of this Romantic painting died in 1138. He is remembered for numerous reasons, but two are outstanding. (1) His last will and testament was an edict that his offspring promptly ignored upon his death. Unfortunately, nothing as trivial as sisters-in-law making a mad dash for the family silver was the result. Instead, an entire country became divided for the next 200 years. And (2), he had his older step-brother blinded. Not with your standard red-hot poker, either. With special pliers that, unless the blindee could control blinking, tore off both eyelids as they yanked out the eyeball. Who was this person?
Please email me your guesses over the coming week. I'll post the winner and correct answer with next week's guessing game. Good luck!

Last Week's Answer:

I tried to paint a picture (ha! ... see what I did there?) with the clues, hoping everyone would immediately say, "Oh, she's writing about Vilhelm Hammershøi, the Danish artist who lived from 1864 to 1916. And, yes, the light does slant that way in Copenhagen." We were looking at his 1901 Interior with Piano and Woman in Black. By the way, "Woman" was his wife, Ida, the sister of his lifelong male friend, business partner and colleague Peter Ilsted. (Why Vilhelm almost always showed Ida's back is a mystery to me.) Jacobiene in The Netherlands knew the correct answer about one minute before Alison in Zimbabwe, so congratulations to both of you Early Birds. No, wait. You're not early. There are such things as time zones ... anyhow, thank you Jacobiene, Alison and all who participated!

Guess the Artist

Monday October 8, 2012
Mystery Artist 61, October 8, 2012

Your clues this week are:
  • The artist was born in Copenhagen (or, if you prefer, København) in the same year that the Russians "cleansed" the Northwest Caucasus of native Circassian tribes.
  • Profoundly private, the artist spoke and wrote little and, despite being semi-famous in Denmark, was interviewed a grand total of two times.
  • In that which is a massive understatement, the artist's palette is usually described as muted. A nice way of saying, "A thousand shades of gray, gray-blue, gray-green, gray-brown, and grayish-yellow, all possibly washed with a thin layer of diluted gray."

  • And

  • Our artist was especially fond of painting spare interiors containing a single figure with its back to the viewer, like the one pictured here. Many observers have commented on the eerie/creepy/odd quality of both the figure and the ambient light, which is also a frequent compositional element. Speaking as someone who lives a fair way "up there" in the North Temperate Zone, I'd guess the light probably just slants at that angle in Copenhagen ... you know, because the angle of sunlight gets lower and longer the farther north it has to travel, and Copenhagen sits at 55.6750° N. Well, it sounds like a viable theory, anyway. I hope.
Please email me your guesses over the coming week. I'll post the winner and correct answer with next week's guessing game. Good luck!

Last Week's Answer:

The clues involved American painter James Carroll Beckwith (1852-1917) and his portrait of William Martin "Buck" Walton (1832-1915), Confederate Army Major and Attorney General of Texas. Rita K. knew both answers, and her email came in before the other correct entries. Rita, I never see your name without humming a certain tune from Sgt. Pepper's -- I'll bet you hear that a lot, don't you? Congratulations, lovely Rita, and many thanks to all who played!

Guess the Artist

Monday October 1, 2012
Mystery Artist 60, October 1, 2012

Your clues this week are:
  • The artist was born where Samuel L. Clemens grew up, but was raised in Chicago.
  • The artist studied in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts during the heyday of the French Impressionists, and admired their style. (Did you notice the smaller paintings on the wall in this painting?) Our artist, though, was too uncomfortable playing fast and loose with technical skills to ever paint ... well ... fast and loose.
  • When the artist married, John Singer Sargent's wedding present was one of his watercolors. As if having John Singer Sargent as a friend wasn't present enough.

  • And

  • The sitter (stander?) in this portrait, who went by the nickname "Buck," was a prominent Texan and good human. A sure bet as nominee for Attorney General in the 1876 election, he withdrew his name on learning that the other candidate was a crippled veteran with a large family to support. Do you know his name?
Please email me your guesses over the coming week. I'll post the winner and correct answer with next week's guessing game. Good luck!

The Last Answer:

Two weeks ago the clues were supposed to lead you to Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901), the Greek painter who was very, very active in Germany. The portrait, done in 1895, was of his wife, Artemis Gyzi. Megan sent the first email with the correct answer. Congratulations, Megan, and thanks to everyone who participated!

New in September

Sunday September 30, 2012
What do you do when inspiration won't show up, and you're forced to hunt it down? My September was filled with a large project, a work that defied all attempts to get the composition right. Sketch, walk away, come back, sketch, view it backwards in a mirror, frown, erase parts, walk away, come back and sketch some more, turn it upside down, muffle a scream of frustration, throw a thought towards gasoline and matches, and on, and on, and on. It was maddening ... and what could I do?

Any sensible person would seek advice, so I turned to some old friends. To be specific: Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, and the always-entertaining Jackson Pollock. Every one of them struggled with a composition now and then, and eventually wrestled it into submission. The feeling of camaraderie (however tangential) with such talented people is lovely; the feeling of better "knowing" those you will never meet is the icing on the cake. I hope their words mean as much to you as they do to me.

The Story Behind The Scream

Sunday September 30, 2012
Edvard Munch - The Scream, 1895

You've probably heard by now that Edvard Munch's The Scream will be on view at The Museum of Modern Art for a period of six months beginning October 24, 2012. This, as they say, is a big deal and fabulous news for those of us in North America who cannot get to Norway -- where three of four versions of The Scream are held -- but may be able to make it to New York. Anticipating more than normal interest in the work prompted me to research its art-historic context and Munch's motivation, which I'd like to share with you in "A Closer Look at The Scream by Edvard Munch." Oh! Would you please let me know (in the comments) how crowded the exhibition is when it opens, and how long one can actually stand and look? Not saying this will be the case, but we can probably all think of a big show where viewers felt somewhat like cattle being forced through a chute.

Image Caption:

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944
The Scream, 1895
Pastel on board
© 2012 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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