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Art History

A Neoclassical Girl Towers Over Memphis in a Seven-Story Wheatpaste by Julien de Casabianca

October 10, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

Artist Julien de Casabianca (previously) is known for wheatpasting subjects from famous paintings onto public infrastructure as part of his ongoing Outings Project. Last month the French artist was invited to present a monumental installation at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Tennessee alongside an exhibition and workshop. De Casabianca’s seven-story mural features a melancholic girl pulled from William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s 1886 neoclassical painting “Au pied de la falaise,” which is included in the museum’s collection.

Like his previous interventions, de Casabianca wanted to give the subject a new home, while also liberating her from the structure of the painting’s frame. In her new position she gazes out over the city, surveying the landscape from the building’s fire escape. The work is part of Brooks Outside, a recent curatorial program that presents outdoor installations around the institution’s grounds and city. You can see de Casabianca’s new work at 62 E.H. Crump Blvd through November 2018 as weather permits, and follow his travels on Instagram. (via Brooklyn Street Art)

 

 



Design History Illustration

An Early 20th Century Guide to Wave Designs for Japanese Craftsmen is Now Available Online

September 26, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

In 1903, Japanese artist Mori Yuzan’s wave designs were published in a resource guide for Japanese craftsmen looking to add aquatic motifs to their wares. The three-volume series, titled Hamonshū, includes variations on contained and free-form wave patterns suitable for embellishing swords, religious objects, and ceramics. The collection has recently been digitized and is available for free on Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library of free books, movies, and software. (via My Modern Met)

 

 



Art Craft History

A Peculiar Character From a Hieronymus Bosch Painting Comes to Life on the New York City Subway

September 19, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

Artist Rae Swon recently brought a fantastical creature from The Temptation of St. Anthony to life on the New York City subway. The triptych painting created by Hieronymus Bosch in the early 16th century includes a small, peculiar figure on the left-hand triptych (detail below). The character has bird-like facial features, and is wearing what appear to be ice skates and a funnel as a hat. After creating the modern-day costume using needle felting and other found materials, Swon took her character for a subway ride through Manhattan. Although this particular costume is sold out, you can see more of Swon’s fantastical felted creations like a Starling Coin Purse and an Opposum Purse on Instagram and Etsy. (via Hyperallergic)

Detail of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Temptation of St. Anthony”

Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Temptation of St. Anthony”

 

 



Design History

Recently Digitized Journals Grant Visitors Access to Leonardo da Vinci’s Detailed Engineering Schematics and Musings

September 5, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

Codex Forster II , Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. Forster MS.141. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Codex Forster II , Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. Forster MS.141. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London recently published scans of two of the Leonardo da Vinci notebooks so website visitors can digitally zoom and flip through the drawings and musings of the Italian Renaissance painter, architect, inventor, and sculptor. Jumbled together in the delicate journals are thoughts on both science and art—detailed charts and speculations contained on the same pages as observational sketches of hats or horse hooves.

Da Vinci is believed to have started recording his thoughts in notebooks during the 1480s while he was a military and naval engineer for the Duke of Milan. The writing included in the notebooks was produced in 16th-century Italian “mirror-writing,” which one reads right to left. Scholars have debated the reasoning behind this style, believing it was either a way to code his thoughts, or simply make writing easier as a left-handed artist. “Writing masters at the time would have made demonstrations of mirror-writing, and his letter-shapes are in fact quite ordinary: he used the kind of script that his father, a legal notary, would have used,” an article on the V&A’s website explains. “It is possible to decipher Leonardo’s curious mirror-writing, once the eye has become accustomed to the style.”

The collective title for the five notebooks in the V&A’s collection is the Forster Codices. This digitized set contains his earliest (1487-90, Milan) and latest (1505, Florence) notebooks in the museum’s collection. The name for the journals comes from John Forster who bequeathed the valuable works to the museum in 1876. The V&A plans to digitize the three other notebooks found in the two volumes Codex Forster II and III, for the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death in 2019. You can learn more about the series of notebooks in the collection on the V&A’s website. (via Boing Boing)

Codex Forster II (page 10 verso), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. Forster MS.141. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Codex Forster II (page 10 verso), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. Forster MS.141. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Codex Forster II (page 123 verso), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. MSL/1876/Forster/141/II. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Codex Forster II (page 123 verso), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. MSL/1876/Forster/141/II. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Codex Forster III (page 23 recto), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. MSL/1876/Forster/141/III. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Codex Forster III (page 23 recto), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. MSL/1876/Forster/141/III. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Codex Forster II (page 75 recto), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. Forster MS.141. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Codex Forster II (page 75 recto), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. Forster MS.141. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Codex Forster II (page 91 verso), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. MSL/1876/Forster/141/II. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Codex Forster II (page 91 verso), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. MSL/1876/Forster/141/II. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Codex Forster III (page 9 recto), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. Forster MS.141. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Codex Forster III (page 9 recto), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. Forster MS.141. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Three Volumes of Codex Forster, Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. MSL/1876/Forster/141. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Three Volumes of Codex Forster, Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Museum no. MSL/1876/Forster/141. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 



History Photography

A New Book by Alison Nastasi Looks at the Affectionate Relationships Between Writers and Their Cats

August 20, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

In a follow-up to her best-selling book Artists and their Cats (previously), Alison Nastasi has penned Writers and Their Cats. The new book features photographs of writers past and present with their feline companions. Ranging from Elizabeth Bishop to Haruki Murakami, Nastasi’s book looks into the domestic lives of forty-five renowned novelists, poets, and journalists from around the world. Each short and sweet profile includes reminiscences on the roles writers’ cats have played in fueling creativity, providing comfort, and even getting interview subjects to open up. Writers and Their Cats will be published by Chronicle on August 21, 2018, and is available for presale in The Colossal Shop.

Gillian Flynn, photography credit: Peter Hoffman/Redux

Left: Jirō Osaragi, photography credit: Akira Ishii/Courtesy Osaragi Jirō Memorial Museum. Right: Helen Gurley Brown, photography credit: Bettmann/Getty Images

Ray Bradbury, photography credit: Topfoto

Alice Walker, photography credit: Peter Hoffman/Redux

Left: Jorge Luis Borges, photography credit: Ferdinando Scianna/Magnum Photos. Right: Judy Blume, photography credit: Bettman/Getty Images

Mark Twain, photography credit: Underwood & Underwood/New York Times/Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 

 



Art History

A Friendly Octopus Found Within Ancient River Pebble Mosaics in Greece

August 14, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

Photos: Ephorate of Antiquities of Arta

Pebble mosaics dating from the 4th century BC have been unearthed in Arta, Greece. During excavations at the Small Theatre of Ancient Amvrakia, the floor of a 12-foot wide bathhouse was revealed. Archaeologists discovered carefully laid mosaics of swans, octopuses, and winged cherubic figures  surrounded by a spiral border. Each design was formed using smooth river pebbles in white, off-white, and dark tones, with amber and red pebbles acting as accents. The dig was conducted by the Ephorate of Antiquities, in the town of Arta, which has been occupied on and off since ancient times.

According to Archeology News Network, “the pebble floor is linked with a similar one located in an earlier excavation in the 70s and partly covered by the east part of the Small Theatre’s koilon/auditorium. This pebble floor had been removed from the site during the 1976 excavations. It depicts similar scenes with flying cupids, swans and dolphins and at present is in the storerooms of the Archaeological Museum of Arta.” (via The History Blog)

 

 



History Photography

Hole Punched Voids Transform Rejected Photographs From the Great Depression

July 23, 2018

Anna Marks

Russell Lee, Untitled photo, possibly related to: Mr Tronson, a farmer near Wheelock, North Dakota, August 1937, Photograph: Library of Congress

Russell Lee, Untitled photo, possibly related to: Mr Tronson, a farmer near Wheelock, North Dakota, August 1937, Photograph: Library of Congress

In an untitled photograph from 1937, a black disc surreally floats upon the subject’s face, obscuring the features hidden beneath the circular void. In another, a black circle hovers next to a tilted house, creating an eerie scene pulled straight from science fiction. At first glance, you might think a contemporary artist had altered the images, drawing jet-black voids as an intervention with photographs from rural Depression-era America. In reality, these images are discarded photographs from a bygone project that produced a pictorial record of American life between 1935-1944. The photographs, which are currently exhibited in The Killed Negatives: Unseen Images of 1930s America at Whitechapel Gallery in London, produce a snapshot of the crippling poverty and backbreaking jobs lower class Americans faced during the Great Depression

Paul Carter, Untitled photo, possibly related to: Tobacco fields devastated by the Connecticut River near Northampton, Massachusetts, March 1936, Photograph: Library of Congress

Ben Shahn, Untitled photo, possibly related to: Family of rehabilitation client, Boone County, Arkansas, October 1935, Photograph: Library of Congress

The story of these photographs begins in 1935, when Roy E Stryker, the head of the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), undertook a photographic project that commissioned famous American photographers such as Russell Lee, Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans to photograph farmers and farmland during the Great Depression. The FSA aimed to encourage poverty-stricken Americans to partake in self-sustaining programs where they could gain farm loans to buy seeds, equipment, livestock, and partake in homestead schemes which provided both education and healthcare. The project was to demonstrate the results of financial assistance that the FSA offered, in addition to outsourcing images of America life during this time.

Each photographer was given specific directives, for example, “farmer dumping milk at home,” “worried farmer,” or “federal government shot.” Over 270,000 photographs were produced during the project, yet only a few were picked to be part of the final collection. This included imagery featuring transient families, the unemployed, and drought-stricken fields. One of the most famous images was Lange’s 1936 Migrant Mother, which became a popular portrait long after the project’s conclusion.

Carl Mydans, Untitled photo, possibly related to: Mud bath, Prince George’s County, Maryland, August 1935, Photograph: Library of Congress

Theodor Jung, Untitled photo, possibly related to: Rehabilitation client worrying over his accounts, Jackson County, Ohio, April 1936, Photograph: Library of Congress

Arthur Rothstein, Untitled photo, possibly related to: Sharecropper’s wife and children, Arkansas, August 1935, Photograph: Library of Congress

Stryker deployed a specific editing process where himself and his assistants would choose photographs they believed were true to the brief; the other images were rendered unsuitable and punctuated with a hole puncher. These ruthlessly “killed” photographs were left unpublishable. Today the found works appear to have black discs floating upon them, a visual mark of rejection which accidentally focus the viewer’s attention.

Killed Negatives at the Whitechapel Gallery runs up until August 26, 2018 and exhibits some of the photographs, photographers’ personal records, and FSA administration documents associated with the project. You can learn more about the exhibition, including information about associated events, on the gallery’s website

Russell Lee, Untitled photo, possibly related to: Surrealistic, window display, Bergdorf Goodman, New York City, January 1938, Photograph: Library of Congress

Walker Evans, Untitled photo, possibly related to: Lily Rogers Fields and children. Hale County, Alabama, Summer 1936, Photograph: Library of Congress