with art history
In abandoned sheds, tiny campers, and imposing, hilltop castles, Scottish artist Andrew McIntosh (previously) nestles glowing entryways to mysterious new worlds. The illuminated portals are central to the artist’s ongoing interest in exploration, curiosity, and a never-ending desire to uncover the unknown, and they offer a tiny window into what lies beyond the immediate landscapes. Each of the compositions exudes a ghostly air, with fog or storm clouds hanging above the once-occupied spaces.
Whether the focus of the work or tucked in an enclave, art historical references proliferate many of McIntosh’s oil-based paintings. He positions the renowned works often preserved in institution halls within the context of outdoor settings or dilapidated travel trailers, a subversion that establishes his conceptual framework. In his most recent series, the artist reimagines the “Tower of Babel” as a rugged termite hill and places the catacombs of the Colisseum into a paint-chipped caravan, a vehicle he sees as “the perfect symbol of human hardiness and the intrepid desire to explore, an instinct that exists no matter how small or humble the being.”
Some of the paintings shown here are part of McIntosh’s solo show God Shaped Holes, which is up through October 30 at London’s James Freeman Gallery, and you can explore a larger collection of his works on his site and Instagram.
Share this story
One of the most expansive volumes of its kind, African Artists: From 1882 to Now compiles a broad sampling of works from more than 300 modern and contemporary artists born or living on the continent. Within its 350-plus pages, the massive text spans a range of mediums and aesthetics, from Mary Sibande’s sprawling postcolonial installations and Wangechi Mutu’s fantastical watercolor collages to the cotton-embroidered photographs by Joana Choumali. The forthcoming volume follows the publisher’s 2019 book Great
Women Artists, which gathers works from 400 artists from 54 countries across 500 years, and it’s available for pre-order from Phaidon and Bookshop.
Share this story
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.
Share this story
Archaeologists Uncover Children's Hand and Foot Prints in What's Thought to Be the Oldest Cave Art To Date
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.
Share this story
A years-long restoration undertaken by the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden has entirely altered the understanding of a 17th-century painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. What was once thought to be a somewhat glum depiction of a young girl reading near a window is now an amorous portrayal thanks to the unveiling of a naked Cupid hanging in the background.
Conservators knew the image of the Roman god of love existed after a 1979 X-ray, although it was assumed that Vermeer had altered the piece himself. Only after they performed a series of infrared reflectography imagings, microscopic analyses, and X-ray fluorescence examinations in 2017 did they realize that the Cupid was covered decades after the painter’s death, even though they still aren’t sure who marred the original piece or when. This dramatic of an alteration is rare during restoration, considering standard processes generally involve simple cleaning and repairs.
“When layers of varnish from the 19th century began to be removed from the painting, the conservators discovered that the ‘solubility properties’ of the paint in the central section of the wall were different to those elsewhere in the painting,” a statement says, explaining further:
Following further investigations, including tests in an archaeometry laboratory, it was discovered that layers of binding agent and a layer of dirt existed between the image of Cupid and the overpainting. The conservators concluded that several decades would have passed between the completion of one layer and the addition of the next and therefore concluded that Vermeer could not have painted over the Cupid himself.
The new restoration—dive into the lengthy process in the video below—is just one of the mysteries that’s surrounded “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” since its creation between 1657–59. Originally attributed to Rembrandt and later to Pieter de Hooch, the artwork wasn’t properly credited until 1880. The piece is evocative of another one of Vermeer’s works, “Lady Standing at a Virginal,” though, which similarly features a painting within a painting by showing a solitary figure standing near a window with Cupid on the wall behind her.
“Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” will be on view in its original form for the first time in centuries as part of an expansive exhibition dedicated to the painter running from September 10, 2021, to January 2, 2022, at the Dresden museum. (via Kottke)
Share this story
An XXL-Edition Compiles All of Frida Kahlo's 152 Artworks in an Extensive Celebration of Her Life and Work
An enormous new book from Taschen explores the life and work of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907–1954). Widely recognized as a groundbreaking figure in contemporary understandings of gender and sexuality, Kahlo’s now iconic image—particularly derived from her more than 50 self-portraits showing her bold brow, braided hair, and range of floral adornments—has secured her legacy as one of the most influential and profound artists of the 20th Century.
Spanning 624 pages and weighing nearly 12 pounds, Frida Kahlo. The Complete Paintings compiles all 152 of her works paired with diary pages, letters, drawings, an illustrated biography, and hundreds of photos taken by Edward Weston, Manuel and Lola Álvarez Bravo, Nickolas Muray, and Martin Munkácsi that glimpse moments from Kahlo’s life with her husband and muralist Diego Rivera and of the Casa Azul, her home in Mexico City. Many of the pieces included haven’t been exhibited publicly in more than 80 years.
Edited by Luis-Martín Lozano with contributions from Andrea Kettenmann and Marina Vázquez Ramos, the volume contextualizes Kahlo’s paintings by offering an intimate and wide-reaching exploration of her oeuvre that was so profoundly impacted by her experiences with a lifelong disability and an unending need to question politics and notions of identity. Lozano describes her unparalleled contributions in a conversation with It’s Nice That:
Her uniqueness in art history is not only based in a feminist agenda as it has been stressed out in recent years, but mostly in her capacity to engage in ideological and aesthetic discussions of her time and contemporaries, in subjects such as public art and surrealism, and make them part of her core as an artist.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.