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)
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A Poetic Book Illustrated by Tiffany Bozic Explores the Vast Diversity of Trees with Childlike Curiosity
In her first body of work geared toward children, artist Tiffany Bozic (previously) showcases the naturally occurring whimsy and wonder of the outdoors through saturated color, texture, and unusual perspectives: An upward glance frames towering redwoods with rugged bark, elusive flying squirrels cling to a branch, and dried leaves, fungi, and berries form a thick, colorful layer of groundcover. “I wanted to inspire children to notice how beautiful and important nature is and recognize that we are also animals, a part of nature. We only protect what we love. Trees are a great place to start because everyone has access to them, even in urban areas,” she tells Colossal.
In the last two decades, the Marin, California-based artist has created hundreds of paintings on maple panel, often leaving the wood grain fully exposed or peeking through a thin veil of acrylic. Bozic’s detailed interpretations highlight the singularity of individual plants and animals as she adeptly applies a surreal twist to her otherwise faithful portrayals—her earlier books Drawn by Instinct and Unnatural Selections show the breadth of this style—while Trees relies on a more realistic approach. Paired with a lyrical story written by Tony Johnson, the illustrated book is a reminder to celebrate the earth’s diversity with a sense of childlike admiration and curiosity.
Trees is available for pre-order on Bookshop. You can follow Bozic’s new works, some of which will be informed by her research into the ways fire affects biodiversity in Tahoe earlier this summer, on Instagram. Find limited-edition prints and originals on her site.
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Textured Patchworks of Sequins, Plastic Beads, and Oil Paint Comprise Trevon Latin's Dazzling Portraits
Through a patchwork of glitzy sequins and humble cottons, New York-based artist Trevon Latin renders a fantastical world fit for an equally nuanced ensemble of characters. His mixed-media portraits and stuffed sculptures, which uniquely contrast color, texture, and medium in striking collaged pieces, draw their founding characteristics from queer nightlife, virtual reality, and mythology.
Having completed an MFA in painting and printmaking at Yale in 2020, Latin expands on his classical training by utilizing various found materials, including swatches of patterned fabric, multi-color beads, plastic barrettes, and sequins. His portraits center on spliced, abstracted figures stretched on a round frame or couples mid-embrace, with lush, rolling fields occupying the foreground. These green expanses evoke the landscapes of southeastern Texas, which the Houston-born artist and performer knows well, and offer a contrast to the otherwise ostentatious subjects.
The plush sculptures highlight the more mythical qualities of Latin’s practice, portraying shimmering hybrid characters elevated on pedestals. His 2021 work “I Break Too Easily” is similarly fantastical, featuring an aqua 3D-printed mask with long beaded tendrils hanging from its mouth. Whether depicted on canvas or as a fully-formed figure, each of the works is a flamboyant and elaborate embodiment of Shaturqua Relentless, a non-binary character the artist has performed in recent years. The resulting works reveal an inherent intimacy and idiosyncrasy, marking an entry point into an evolving narrative.
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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.
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To capture the depth of an enchanting river alcove or bucolic landscape, Russian artist Anastasia Trusova works in what she calls “textured graphic impressionism,” a unique style that expresses emotion through detail and volume. She uses a combination of palette knives and brushes to deftly layer acrylic paints into dreamy scenes: heavy impasto forms lush foliage, coiled lines shape thick clouds, and an array of smaller dabs become fields of wildflowers. “I don’t think about the rules. I paint as I feel. I add volume to highlight and emphasize something or to show something that is closer,” she says.
Trusova’s use of color is bold and often bright, and she tends to reach for a kaleidoscopic palette that makes sunsets or a river’s reflection appear fantastical. These aesthetic choices are a direct result of her studies at both the Moscow Artscool and later Moscow State Textile University, where she learned about the physics of color and how certain applications and contexts affect perceptions. “For example, the same red shade will look differently when surrounded by light green or dark blue. There we broadened our horizons, helped us fall in love with the most incredible combinations,” the Belgium-based artist says.
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A group exhibition at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco offers a new perspective on the enduring legacy of the vessel as both standalone object and motif. Spanning ceramic vases, oil-based works on canvas, and sculptures made of paper pulp, the show explores the myriad ways the ubiquitous container has appeared throughout art history and how two dozen artists working today interpret the classic form. Included are the minimal, ritualistic paintings by Laura Berger (previously), Stephanie Shih’s sleek Molotov cocktail inscribed with a strikingly hopeful message, and Katie Kimmel’s zany dogs. We’ve gathered some of our favorite works below, and stop by the gallery before Vessel closes on July 31 to see them in person.
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.