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Art History

The Exhausted Subject of a Newly Attributed Van Gogh Sketch Embodies All of Us Right Now

September 21, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Study for ‘Worn Out,'” around November 24, 1882, pencil on paper, 48.8 x approximately 30 centimeters. Courtesy of Van Gogh Museum

Hunched over with his face hidden in his palms, the weary subject of a sketch recently attributed to Vincent van Gogh (previously) embraces the collective spirit of 2021. The uncannily prescient drawing, titled “Study for ‘Worn Out,'” dates back to 1882 during an early period of the Dutch artist’s life when he spent time in The Hague. A recurring model, the exhausted, elderly man was a resident at the Dutch Reformed Almshouse for Men and Women, a place van Gogh frequented when looking for subjects. “In drawings like these, the artist not only displayed his sympathy for the socially disadvantaged—no way inferior in his eyes to the well-to-do bourgeoisie,” a statement said. “He actively called attention to them, too.”

As its name suggests, the relatable pencil drawing is a preliminary rendering for van Gogh’s recognizable “Worn Out” and is also reminiscent of the lithograph “At Eternity’s Gate.” The piece is a unique find in the artist’s oeuvre considering his stature, and it follows the discovery of a bookmark in June that was hidden for more than a century.

“Study for ‘Worn Out'” is on view at the Van Gogh Museum through January 2, 2022, when it will be returned to the anonymous private collector who brought it to the Amsterdam institution to confirm its authenticity.

 

 



Art History

Archaeologists Uncover Children's Hand and Foot Prints in What's Thought to Be the Oldest Cave Art To Date

September 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

Image via Science Bulletin

A series of hand and foot impressions uncovered in the Quesang village in the Tibetan Plateau might rewrite the art-historical timeline. According to an article published this month in Science Bulletin, researchers believe the ancient prints were made between 169,000 and 226,000 years ago and appear to be placed intentionally, cementing the notion that they’re the earliest examples of cave art yet to be uncovered. 

Of course, there’s plenty of debate over whether these impressions are art, although archaeologists arguing for the categorization are staking their claims on intent. “​It is the composition, which is deliberate, the fact the traces were not made by normal locomotion, and the care taken so that one trace does not overlap the next,” geologist Matthew Bennett told Gizmodo, rejecting the idea that the prints are a byproduct of common movement like walking or grasping nearby material for stabilization. If the impressions are considered art, they predate the prehistoric figurative findings in both Sulawesi and Lasceaux, which date back about 43,900 and 17,000 years, respectively.

Fossilized on a piece of limestone called travertine, the size and variances of the prints also indicate that they were made by two children. Archaeologists theorize that the indentations, which include five feet and five hands, were placed in mud near the Quesang Hot Spring before it compacted under pressure, or lithified, preserving the duo’s pieces in the hardened material for millennia. Although the research team isn’t sure that the creators were Homo sapiens—the timeline also aligns with the Denisovans, an extinct species from the hominin group that primarily occupied what’s now Asia—if they were, they were likely 7 and 12 years old.

 

 

 



Design History Photography

Architectural Shots Frame the Stately Modern Designs of Churches Across Europe

August 25, 2021

Grace Ebert

Saint-Martin de Donges, France (Jean Dorian, 1957). All images © Thibaud Poirier, shared with permission

French photographer Thibaud Poirier continues his Sacred Spaces series by capturing the modern architecture of dozens of temples across Europe. Similar to earlier images, Poirier uses the same focal point of the front pulpit and pews in all of the photographs, allowing easy comparisons between the colors, motifs, and structural details of each location. “I selected these spaces for the use of original materials, modern for their time in sacred architecture, like steel, concrete, as well as large aluminum and glass panels,” he tells Colossal. Because travel has been limited due to COVID-19, Poirier has mostly visited 20th- and 21st-century churches in France, Germany, and the Netherlands for Sacred Spaces II, although he plans to expand his range in the coming months. Keep an eye out for those shots on Behance and Instagram.

 

Saint-Rémy de Baccarat, Baccarat, France (Nicolas Kazis, 1957)

St. Johann von Capistran, Munich, Germany (Sep Ruf, 1960)

United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, Colorado Springs (Walter Netsch, 1962)

Saint Ignatius, Tokyo, Japan (Sakakura Associates, 1999)

Cathédrale de la Résurrection, Evry, France (Mario Botta, 1999)

Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur, Montrouge, France (Erik Bagge, 1940)

Notre-Dame-du-Travail, Paris, France (Jule-Godefroy Astruc, 1902)

 

 



Food History

An Ancient Snack Bar Lined with Elaborate Frescoes Opens in Pompeii

August 11, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images via Pompeii Sites

The ancient thermopolium (aka hot food stand) that archaeologists unearthed in Pompeii late last year opens to the public this week. Showing the extent of the snack bar’s impeccable preservation—much of its structure, equipment, and vibrant decorations remain intact—new photos from the Regio V site offer a rare glimpse into life in the Italian city that was buried by volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Elaborate, colorful frescoes depicting on-menu fare like chickens and hanging mallards line the L-shaped bar, with an array of large, earthenware vessels scattered around the space. Embedded within the counter are storage wells called dolia that would have held warm dishes and drinks like wine, duck, fava beans, a paella-style dish of pork, goat, bird, fish, and snail, remnants of which were found last year. According to a release from the site, middle- and lower-class residents rarely cooked at home and were the likely patrons of this small spot, which was one of nearly 80 around the city.

Although this thermopolium originally was discovered back in 2019, archaeologists didn’t return to resume excavation until 2020. Starting August 12, visitors are welcome to stop by every day between noon and 7 p.m., and you can watch the video below for a closer look at the relic. (via The History Blog)

 

 

 



Art History

'Fantastic Landscapes' Surveys the Vivid Use of Color in Hokusai and Hiroshige's Woodblock Prints

July 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Yamashiro Province: The Togetsu Bridge in Mount Arashi (Yamashiro, Arashiyama Togetsukyo),” from the series Famous Places in the Sixty-Odd Provinces (Rokujuyoshu meisho zue), 1853

An exhibition opening this weekend at the Art Institute of Chicago plunges into the vast archives of renowned Japanese ukiyo-e artists Katsushika Hokusai (previously) and Utagawa Hiroshige (previously). Fantastic Landscapes brings together the vivid scenes created by the prolific printmakers through the first half of the 19th Century with a particular focus on their innovative uses of color. Peach skies, grassy bluffs in chartreuse, and their extensive applications of Prussian blue—Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” famously layers the chemical pigment—mark a broader shift in the artform. Today, the pair are largely attributed with sparking a worldwide fascination with Japanese prints.

Explore some of the woodblock works on view as part of Fantastic Landscapes below, and see them in person between July 17 and October 11. You also might enjoy this monumental book compiling Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji and Hiroshige’s delightful shadow puppets.

 

Katsushika Hokusai, “The Back of Mount Fuji Seen from Minobu River (Minobugawa Urafuji),” from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), about 1830/33

Katsushika Hokusai, “Amida Falls in the Far Reaches of the Kisokaido (Kisoji no oku Amidagataki),” from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces (Shokoku taki meguri)

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Plum Garden at Kameido (Kameido Umeyashiki),” from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei)

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Awa Province: Naruto Whirlpools (Awa, Naruto no fuha),” from the series Famous Places in the Sixty-odd Provinces (Rokujuyoshu meisho zue), 1855

Katsushika Hokusai, “A Mild Breeze on a Fine Day (Gaifu kaisei),” from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei), c. 1830/33

Katsushika Hokusai, “Kirifuri Falls at Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province (Shimotsuke Kurokamiyama Kirifuri no taki),” from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces (Shokoku taki meguri), c. 1833

 

 



Amazing Design History Photography

Spectacular Drone Views Of Giza Present the Pyramid in an Unusual Perspective

July 13, 2021

Christopher Jobson

All photos © Alexander Ladanivskyy, shared with permission

Ukrainian photographer Alexander Ladanivskyy travels the world in search of spectacular images including idyllic scenes of Icelandic waterfalls, ancient mountain cities in Jordan, and the collision of history and modernity in Nepal. Last April, he teamed up with the Ministry of Tourism in Egypt to shoot one of the most photographed landmarks on Earth: the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Not satisfied with recreating perspectives found on postcards and Instagram feeds, Ladanivskyy instead used a drone to shoot the 4,600-year-old structure squarely from above at different altitudes.

The series offers an uncanny view of Giza and manages to flatten the 450-foot building into an abstract collection that appears more like a cobblestone courtyard than a 92-million-cubic-foot stack of boulders. Each photo zeroes in on the pyramid’s tip, or pyramidion, which was once topped by an immense capstone that some speculate may have been gilded with gold. The area is now covered with centuries of graffiti, names etched in stone before the pyramid was more closely guarded. You can explore more of Ladanivskyy’s wide-ranging travel photography on Instagram. (thnx, Anastasia!)

 

 

 

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