When an Art Restoration Is Like Removing Makeup
Restoring a centuries-old artwork can reveal a story. English noblewoman Diana Cecil was hailed as one of the great beauties of her time. In 1634, Cornelius Johnson painted her portrait. More than 350 years later, the organization English Heritage found out what that painting had been through over the years. Someone, probably in the 19th century, had "touched up" the portrait to give Cecil a more contemporary look. This unknown artist added more hair to her forehead, and plumped up her lips. While it may have been an attempt to make her prettier according to the standards of the day, it may have also been an attempt to repair damage the portrait sustained when the canvas was rolled up. All this was revealed under a dingy layer of varnish. Read about the restoration of Diana Cecil at Smithsonian.(Image credit: English Heritage)
An Arbor Birth
Hugh Hayden is an American artist who works in wood, wicker, and other natural materials to create sculptures that transcend the organic and the artificial.His latest piece, which is titled simply Eve, shows what appears to be a transhumanist journey between human and plant. The cherry bark, resin, and walnut wood sculpture shows the impending birth of the first child of a new race that unites humanity with a tree.But if this is Eve in the Garden of Eden, is she uniting with the Tree of Life or the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Hayden offers only mysteries instead of concrete answers.
Is Vienna's New Fountain Ugly or Just Inconvenient?
Vienna is full of public art of all kinds. The Austrian city has a new installation, a water fountain commissioned by local officials to commemorate the municipal water system's 150th anniversary. The fountain was designed by the Viennese art group Gelitin. The fountain and sculpture titled WirWasser was unveiled on October 24. The fountain spouts with a different color each day, surrounded by a circular group of stylized figures of all shapes and sizes. The public reacted negatively. Some have called it the ugliest fountain they've ever seen. Others objected to the €1.8 million price tag. The most charitable word one could say about it would be "whimsical," except the lack of smiles on any of the figures make that difficult. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. People who would give the art the benefit of a doubt still object to the fact that you can't see the water at all unless you stand way back from the fountain, and you cannot sit near it because of the sculptures. Read more about WirWasser, and see more pictures at Oddity Central.-via Fark (Image credit: Herzi Pinki)
Art History’s Five Most Important Hats (besides Napoleon's)
The new Ridley Scott film Napoleon has thrown a new spotlight on Napoleon Bonaparte and his iconic bicorn hat. No matter who plays the part (Joaquin Phoenix in this movie), you recognize the French emperor when he wears his chosen chapeau, fabulously illustrated in Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David. Napoleon deliberately went against tradition in military gear so that his men would always recognize him in battle. He kept a dozen of his hats ready, and one was recently sold for €1.9 million ($2.1 million). What other hats in classical art can come close to being as recognizable, as iconic as Napoleon's? There are a few that are worth taking another look at, from the symbolic Phrygian cap to a big hat that would make Pharrell Williams jealous -and you can probably guess where you've seen that one already. Check out the five most iconic hats in classical art that aren't Napoleon's at ArtNet.
Jacob Samuel Makes His Final Print
Master printer and publisher Jacob Samuel spent 48 years perfecting his "hardcore extreme etching" technique and working with more than 60 of the world's greatest contemporary artists. At age 72, he is finally ready to retire. As he makes his final print, he looks back on his career, from the printers he learned from to the artists he collaborated with. Samuel talks about his creative philosophy, technical process, and the innovation of a portable print studio that allowed him to get to know those artists and submerse himself in their culture while creating their etchings. In this video from the Museum of Modern Art, you get the idea that Samuel will bring that same philosophy, precision, and creativity to any retirement projects he chooses in his leisure time. -via Kottke
The Mystery of of Norway's Painted Fish
Museum curators will tell you a lot about the difficulty of preserving art so that it can be seen in its original glory for hundreds of years to come. But this story is not about an art museum. Rather, it's a natural history museum that may hold the secret to other kinds of preservation. At the University Museum of Bergen on Norway's western coast, a rehabilitation effort begun in 2009 has unearthed amazing specimens of fish that are just as colorful as when they were alive, despite being stored in alcohol for around a hundred years. The scales of dead fish begin to lose their color immediately. Over time, the fish stored at the museum turned completely white on the side that was away from museum visitors, yet were painted on the visible side with some kind of pigment that held up to time, light, and alcohol. No one knows who did the painting, nor how they did it, and we can only imagine how surprised the artist would be to see how the work looks all this time later. The work goes on to restore and protect the museum's exhibits, which leaves little time or manpower to research how the fish were painted or who did it. The documentation must be somewhere, and would further our knowledge of how to preserve delicate natural specimens, human artifacts, and even artworks for the future. Read about Norway's painted museum fish at Atlas Obscura.(Image credit: The University Museum of Bergen)
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