Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Happy Birthday, Frida Kahlo

July 6, 1907 - Frida Kahlo, Mexican Realist, Symbolist, and Surrealist painter, was born. "Frida Kahlo de Rivera (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954; born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón) was a Mexican painter, and a communist born in Coyoacán. She painted "pain and passion" using intense, vibrant colors. Her style "close to folk art" was influenced among others by indigenous cultures of Mexico, European Realism, Symbolism, and Surrealism. Many of her works are self-portraits. Kahlo was married to Mexican muralist and communist Diego Rivera."

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Robert Adam & John Singleton Copley


July 3, 1728 – Robert Adam, Scottish neoclassical architect, interior designer and furniture designer, was born in Kircaldy. "Robert Adam was the son of William Adam, Scotland's foremost architect of the time, and trained under him. With his older brother John, Robert took on the family business, which included lucrative work for the Board of Ordnance, after William's death. In 1754 he left for Rome, spending nearly five years on the continent studying architecture under Charles-Louis Clérisseau and Giovanni Battista Piranesi. On his return to Britain he established a practice in London, where he was joined by his younger brother James. Here he developed the "Adam Style", and his theory of "movement" in architecture, based on his studies of antiquity and became one of the most successful and fashionable architects in the country. Adam held the post of Architect of the Kings Works from 1761 to 1769. Robert Adam was leader of the first phase of the classical revival in England and Scotland from around 1760 until his death. He influenced the development of Western architecture, both in Europe and in North America. Adam was not content with providing houses for his clients but very ready to design the fittings and accessories as well."

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July 3, 1738 – Colonial portraitist John Singleton Copley was born. "John Singleton Copley (1738[1] – 1815) was an American painter, born presumably in Boston, Massachusetts and a son of Richard and Mary Singleton Copley, both Irish. He is famous for his portrait paintings of important figures in colonial New England, depicting in particular middle-class subjects. His paintings were innovative in their tendency to depict artifacts relating to these individuals' lives. According to art historian Paul Staiti, Copley was the greatest and most influential painter in colonial America, producing about 350 works of art. With his startling likenesses of persons and things, he came to define a realist art tradition in America. His visual legacy extended throughout the nineteenth century in the American taste for the work of artists as diverse as Fitz Henry Lane and William Harnett. In Britain, while he continued to paint portraits for the élite, his great achievement was the development of contemporary history painting, which was a combination of reportage, idealism, and theatre. He was also one of the pioneers of the private exhibition, orchestrating shows and marketing prints of his own work to mass audiences that might otherwise attend exhibitions only at the Royal Academy, or who previously had not gone to exhibitions at all. Boston's Copley Square, Copley Square Hotel and Copley Plaza bear his name."

Copley's portrait of silversmith Paul Revere

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Wreck of the Medusa

July 2, 1816: The French frigate Medusa grounds and subsequently begins to break up –the ensuing tragedy became the subject of Gericault's famous painting "Raft of the Medusa".

"The Raft of the Medusa is an oil painting of 1818–1819 by the French Romantic painter and lithographer Théodore Géricault (1791–1824). Completed when the artist was just 27, the work has become an icon of French Romanticism. It is an over-life-size painting that depicts a moment from the aftermath of the wreck of the French naval frigate Méduse, which ran aground off the coast of today's Mauritania on July 2, 1816. At least 147 people were set adrift on a hurriedly constructed raft; all but 15 died in the 13 days before their rescue, and those who survived endured starvation, dehydration, cannibalism and madness. The event became an international scandal, in part because its cause was widely attributed to the incompetence of the French captain acting under the authority of the recently restored French monarchy."

"In choosing the tragedy as subject matter for his first major work—an uncommissioned depiction of an event from recent history—Géricault consciously selected a well-known incident that would generate great public interest and help launch his career. The event fascinated the young artist, and before he began work on the final painting, he undertook extensive research and produced many preparatory sketches. He interviewed two of the survivors, and constructed a detailed scale model of the raft. His efforts took him to morgues and hospitals where he could view, first-hand, the colour and texture of the flesh of the dying and dead. As the artist had anticipated, the painting proved highly controversial at its first appearance in the 1819 Paris Salon, attracting passionate praise and condemnation in equal measure. However, it established his international reputation, and today is widely seen as seminal in the early history of the Romantic movement in French painting."

"Although The Raft of the Medusa retains elements of the traditions of history painting, in both its choice of subject matter and its dramatic presentation, it represents a break from the calm and order of the then-prevailing Neoclassical school. Géricault's work attracted wide attention almost immediately from its first showing, and was subsequently exhibited in London. It was acquired by the Louvre soon after the artist's early death at the age of 32. The painting's influence can be seen in the works of Eugène Delacroix, J. M. W. Turner, Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet.

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July 2, 1864: Legislation to create National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol building, is passed. The Hall, one of the earliest examples of Neoclassical architecture in America, contains statues of important Americans, contributed by all 50 states.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Salvador Dali Dives for Surrealism & Almost Doesn't Return-


July 1, 1936: During The International Surrealist Exhibition in London, Salvador Dali attempts to give the lecture 'Fantomes paranoiaques authentiques' while wearing a deep-sea diving suit, but almost suffocates and has to be rescued by the young poet, David Gascoyne, who arrives with a hammer in the nick of time. In his 1942 autobiography Dali recounted the adventure-

“Lord Berners was in charge of renting the diving suit in question, and over the telephone they asked him to specify exactly to what depth Mr Dali wished to descend. Lord Berners replied that I was going to descend to the subconscious, after which I would immediately come up again. With equal seriousness the voice answered that in this case they would replace the helmet with a special one.”

“I got into the diving suit, and the mechanic from the diving-suit establishment bolted my helmet on tight. The diving suit had extremely heavy lead shoes which I could barely lift. I therefore had to walk very slowly, leaning on friends who helped to move me, as though I were completely paralysed, and thus I appeared before the audience holding two luxurious white Russian wolfhounds on a leash.

“My apparition in a diving suit must have had a very anguishing effect, for a great silence fell over the audience. My assistants managed to get me to my seat behind the microphone. It was only at this moment that I realised that it would be impossible for me to deliver my speech through the glass window of my helmet. Moreover, I had been shut up in this thing for 10 minutes and became heated from the exertions I had made in walking across the stage to reach my chair, so that I was dripping with perspiration, and felt faint and on the point of suffocating.

“I made the most energetic gestures I could to have the helmet of my diving suit removed. Gala and Edward James, immediately understanding my painful situation, came running to take off my helmet. But it was solidly bolted on, and there was nothing to be done, for the worker who had put it on me had disappeared. They tried to open a slit between the helmet and the suit with a billiard cue so that I would be able to breathe. Finally they brought a hammer and began to strike the bolts energetically to make them turn. At each blow I thought I would faint.

“The audience for the most part was convinced that all this was part of the show, and was loudly applauding, extremely amused at the pantomime that we were playing so realistically. When I at last got out of the diving suit everyone was impressed by my really deathly pallour, which constituted the accurate gauge of that Dalinian dramatic element which never fails to attend my most trivial acts and undertakings.”

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There is, of course, no video of this, so I had to make do with this Dali-esque moment-