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Art Design History

A New Book Compiles an Expansive Collection of Gaudí’s Unorthodox Architectural Works

March 16, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Taschen, shared with permission

Known for transforming Barcelona’s architectural landscape, Antoni Gaudí famously combined nature, materiality, religion, and influences of Orientalism into a widely recognized aesthetic that’s captured in a new book from Taschen. Throughout more than 350 pages, Gaudí: The Complete Works encompasses the Catalan architect’s projects from the Casa Batlló to his first house, Casa Vicens, to his most recognized creation, the Sagrada Família. It features new and historical photographs, the architect’s plans and drawings, and an appendix of each of his projects—including buildings, furniture, decor, and even unfinished pieces.

With words by art critic Rainer Zerbst, the book considers the effects of Gaudí’s unconventional designs. “Like a personal tour through Barcelona, we discover how the ‘Dante of architecture’ was a builder in the truest sense of the word, crafting extraordinary constructions out of minute and mesmerizing details, and transforming fantastical visions into realities on the city streets,” a note about the text said. Grab a copy for yourself from Taschen’s site.

 

 



History Illustration

Artists Respond to the Coronavirus Outbreak by Flooding Social Media with a Japanese Yokai Said to Ward Off Epidemics

March 13, 2020

Grace Ebert

A Japanese legend dating back to the 1800s has been resurfacing across social media recently because of its tie to staving off epidemics. A three-legged mermaid or merman with long hair and beak, the Amabie falls within the tradition of the yōkai—which is a supernatural monster or spirit in Japanese culture— and is said to have appeared from the waters near Kumamoto. The mythical tale states that the scale-covered creature emerged from the sea to tell prophecies about the upcoming harvests and potential destruction from disease. In the case of an epidemic, the legend states that people are supposed to draw the Amabie and share it with everyone who is ill. In response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Twitter and Instagram are full of illustrations, pencil drawings, and wool sculptures of the mysterious figure. (via Spoon & Tamago)

by illustrator Satake Shunske

phone backgrounds by tettetextile

by artist, painter, and designer Abe Seiji

by manga artist Keiichi Tanaka

 

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A post shared by Sonoko Takiguchi (@nokonokofelt) on

 

 



History Science

A Hummingbird-Sized Dinosaur Skull Found Preserved in 99-Million-Year-Old Amber

March 12, 2020

Grace Ebert

Protected in a small piece of amber dating back 99 million years, an ancient skull is changing the timeline researchers have for when reptiles transitioned into the descendants of current-day birds. Found in Myanmar, the oculudentavis khaungraae had at least 23 sharp teeth on its upper jaw, which suggests that the dinosaur ate insects, according to an article published in Nature this week. Its eye was canonical with small pupils and resembles those of a modern lizard, while the edge of the socket indicates that it was well-equipped to see in bright light. About the size of a hummingbird’s, the skull totals .6 inches, although this avian species is thought to be 70 million years older. After archaeopteryx, it’s the most ancient bird and the tiniest dinosaur ever discovered. To prevent damage to the bone, researchers used X-rays to construct a 3D model that’s shown below. (via The History Blog)

 

 



Art History

A New 5-Hour Advertisement Records a Single-Shot Walkthrough of Russia’s Hermitage Museum

March 12, 2020

Grace Ebert

As travel slows due to the global coronavirus pandemic, a new advertisement released by Apple provides an expansive view of one of St. Petersburg’s most-visited institutions that’s accessible without having to venture into crowded spaces. Clocking 5 hours, 19 minutes, and 28 seconds, the single-shot video spans the Hermitage Museum in the nation’s cultural center. It includes a look at 45 galleries, 588 works, and even has live performances from Russian composer Kirill Richter and a ballet duet from the Hermitage Theater.

The ad was shot to showcase the iPhone 11’s battery life but also offers an impressive view of artworks by Rembrandt, Raphael Loggias, and Caravaggio. “This video to me is all about connection through time,” filmmaker Axinya Gog told ArtNet. “Art that is timeless meets modern life and state-of-the-art technology.” Using a complex system of handheld stabilizers, cranes to span rooms, and even a custom app to control the camera, Gog and the group behind the ad created the single-shot take during the course of six hours in the museum.

If you can’t commit to the full five-hour video, check out the one-minute trailer. For a similar look at the Hermitage, take a look at the 2002 film Russian Ark by Alexander Sokurov.

 

 



Art Design History

Historic Lithograph Reveals Anamorphic Views of Razed Bank of Philadelphia

February 20, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Horizontorium” (1832), hand-colored lithograph, 22.5 x 16.5 inches

In 1832, artist John Jesse Barker added depth to a drawing by Philadelphia-based William G. Mason to create an optical illusion titled “Horizontorium.” Part of a tradition of anamorphic works, this depiction of the Bank of Philadelphia is one of the two surviving works looking at the historic financial building designed by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. At the time, it was the unofficial bank of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that sat at the southwest corner of Fourth and Chestnut streets. The structure was razed in 1836.

Horizontoriums became popular throughout England and France in the 18th century, although this piece is the only one known to be made in America. Viewers would set the lithograph on a flat surface and perpendicularly position their face at the center of the work (note the semicircle on this lithograph suggesting a spot for a chin) to peer over the image. The sharp angle would produce a distorted perspective that appears to project the building and its passersby upward. Sometimes, viewers even would peek through a small hole carved out of paper or cardboard to block out their peripheral vision and give the work a more distinct look. (via Graphic Arts Collection, The Morning News)

“Horizontorium” (1832), hand-colored lithograph, 22.5 x 16.5 inches

“Horizontorium” (1832), hand-colored lithograph, 22.5 x 16.5 inches

“Horizontorium” (1832), hand-colored lithograph, 22.5 x 16.5 inches

“Horizontorium” (1832), hand-colored lithograph, 22.5 x 16.5 inches

 

 



Design History

Historical Adobe Pigeon Towers Located Near Riyadh Captured in Photographs by Rich Hawkins

February 13, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Rich Hawkins, licensed for use

In modern city life, pigeons are often a nuisance to be stepped around or shooed away. But for ancient civilizations, the birds filled a necessary position, prompting communities to build masses of adobe dovecotes, or pigeon towers. Surrounded by an expansive desert with little vegetation, the historical dovecotes pictured above are located just south of Riyadh. Saudi Arabia-based photographer Rich Hawkins recently captured the fourteen towers, saying they’re the first he’s seen in the Middle Eastern country, most often spotting them in Iran, Egypt, and Qatar, where they have a lengthy history dating back to the 13th century.

Dotted with wooden pegs and hundreds of holes, the towers provided shelter and breeding areas for the birds to nest and raise their young in, which at times could amount to eight babies a year per bird, the Pigeon Control Resource Center says. While the structures throughout Europe often housed the birds as a food source, they were used instead throughout the Middle East to provide a place to harvest pigeon guano, or manure.

A lengthy piece from Aramco World detailing dovecote history throughout the region says the tower walls often were slanted to allow the droppings to amass on the central ground area, making it easier to collect. Pigeon guano is high in phosphorus and nitrogen, which is perfect for fertilizing vegetation. It also could be used to make gunpowder when combined with ash, lime, and soil or for leather tanning when mixed with water to create an ammonia substance.

As Hawkins’ photographs show, spray-painted markings and refuse mar the abandoned towers today, although the pigeons don’t seem to mind. “I was able to stay and watch the sun set as wild doves flew back and forth to their nests within the towers,” Hawkins writes on Instagram. For another look at ancient architecture that’s no longer in use, check out the stepwells of India.

 

 



History Photography

A Digital Conversion Miraculously Clarifies a Historic 1896 Film to Look Like It Was Shot Yesterday

February 6, 2020

Grace Ebert

The left image is from the original film, and the right is from Denis Shiryaev’s remaking

Denis Shiryaev has found a way to clarify the world’s earliest films and their signature grainy textures. He transformed the historic 1896 The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station into a 50-second film that suddenly reveals distinct faces of the passengers scrambling to get on the train, in addition to details on the locomotive that otherwise were undistinguishable in the original version. According to Peta Pixel, Shiryaev first used Topaz Lab’s Gigapixel AI to upgrade the film’s resolution to 4K, followed by Google’s DAIN, which he used to create and add frames to the original file, bringing it to 60 frames per second.

Made in France, the 35 mm film bears a legend stating that the first viewers of the silent production were so frightened by the moving train that they all ran out of the room. It was created with an all-in-one camera that served as a printer and projector. Watch the original black-and-white video shown below, and then Shiryaev’s remaking underneath.