Art-e-Facts: 5 Random Art Facts – XXI

1. Considered a pioneer in modernism, Romanian artist Constantin Brâncuşi‘s sculpture “Bird in Space” was the cause of a court battle in 1926-27 when US customs officials refused to believe that bronze piece was art. They imposed the tariff for manufactured metal objects, 40% of the sale price or about $230 dollars.  Marcel Duchamp (who brought the sculptures from Europe), American photographer Edward Steichen (who was to take possession of Bird in Space), and Brâncuşi were furious. Under pressure from the press and artists, U.S. customs agreed to rethink their classification of the items, but until then released the sculptures on bond under “Kitchen Utensils and Hospital Supplies.” (Wikipedia)

2. In the movie Inception, The “Penrose Stairs” (with a woman perpetually picking up papers) is a reference to a lithograph print by the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. First printed in 1960, the drawing is usually called “Ascending and Descending” or “The Infinite Staircase”.  Escher is well-known for his drawings exploring optical illusions and real architectural, mathematical, and philosophical principles rendered in fantastical ways. (IMDB)

3. The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci may contain hidden code. Art historians are investigating a real life “Da Vinci Code” style mystery after discovering tiny numbers and letters painted into the eyes of the Mona Lisa. Members of Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage have revealed that by magnifying high resolution images of the Mona Lisa’s eyes letters and numbers can be seen. Silvano Vinceti, president of the Committee said, “You have to remember the ­picture is almost 500 years old so it is not as sharp and clear as when first painted….From the preliminary investigations we have carried out we are confident they are not a mistake and were put there by the artist.” (Daily Mail UK)

4. The well known saying “15 Minutes of Fame” was coined by Andy Warhol. The expression is a paraphrase of a line in Warhol’s exhibition catalog for an exhibit at the Moderna Museet, in Stockholm from 1968. The catalog read, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” In 1979 Warhol stated his claim, “…my prediction from the sixties finally came true: In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” Becoming bored with constantly being asked about this particular statement, Warhol attempted to confuse interviewers by changing the statement variously to “In the future 15 people will be famous” and “In 15 minutes everybody will be famous.” As it turns out, with the rise of celebrity culture, reality TV, YouTube, and the internet, Warhol’s statement has been quite prophetic. (Wikipedia)

5. Paul Cézanne rarely considered his paintings finished. His friend and dealer Ambroise Vollard observed that “when Cézanne laid a canvas aside, it was almost always with the intention of taking it up again, in the hope of bringing it to perfection.” One consequence of this was that Cézanne rarely signed his or dated his works making it difficult to determine the chronology of his works. (Princeton)

Art-e-Facts: 5 Random Art Facts – XX

1. When the Mona Lisa was stolen in August 1911, French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who had once called for the Louvre to be “burnt down,” came under suspicion; he was arrested and put in jail. Apollinaire tried to implicate his friend Pablo Picasso, who was also brought in for questioning, but both were later exonerated. The real thief – Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia was discovered 2 years later and only served six months in jail for the crime. (Wikipedia)

2. Salvador Dali had a peculiar way of napping.  Daily after his lunch, he would sit down with his arms extending beyond the chair’s arms. In one hand he would grasp a key between thumb and forefinger. After he fell asleep, his fingers would relax, the key would fall to the floor, the clatter would wake him up, and he would harvest the wild associations common to the first few minutes of sleep. (Washington Post)

3. The art market experiences similar bubbles to the stock market. For example, the art market soared in 1985 to 1990, when the compound annual return of the art market was 30%. It subsequently tanked in 1991-1995, losing 65% of its value. Art experienced another bubble in 2003 through 2007, during which the art index had at CAR of 20%. This bubble too burst with the collapse of the stock market 23.5%. For the past 10 and five year periods however, the Moses Mei All Art Index outperformed the stock market, returning a CAR of 5.5% and 3.3% respectively, compared with stock returns of -1.3% and -0.1%. (Pamela J. Black – On Wall Street)

4. Natural Ultramarine which is found in nature as a component of the semi precious stone lapis lazuli, is the most difficult pigment to grind by hand, and for all except the highest quality of mineral sheer grinding and washing produces only a pale grayish blue powder. The oldest use of lapis lazuli as a pigment can be seen in the 6th- and 7th-century AD cave paintings in Afghanistani, Zoroastrian and Buddhist temples, near the source of the mineral. The pigment was most extensively used during the 14th through 15th centuries, as its brilliance complemented the vermilion and gold of illuminated manuscripts and Italian panel paintings. Synthetic versions of ultramarine have been around since 1928 though it is not as vivid or permanent. (Wikipedia)

5. Tachisme, derived from the French word tache–stain,  is a French style of abstract painting popular in the 1940s and 1950s. It is often considered to be the European equivalent to abstract expressionism. It was part of a larger postwar movement known as Art Informel which abandoned geometric abstraction in favour of a more intuitive form of expression, similar to action painting. (Wikipedia)

Art-e-Facts: 5 Random Art Facts XIX

1. Macro Photography is photography that is 1x magnification(1:1) or greater. For example, an insect that is 1/2 an inch when photographed on film at “life size” , it will take up 1/2 an inch on a piece of 35mm film. Macro photography allows us to experience what we would normally fail to notice with the naked eye.  Up close, the eye of a lizard becomes a beautiful textured landscape, a tiny dust mite becomes what could be a creature out of a sci-fi movie, the fly on the wall seems to have an expression on its face.

2. En Plein Air is a French expression which means “in the open air”, and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors. French Impressionist painters such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir advocated en plein air painting, and much of their work was done outdoors, in the diffuse light provided by a large white umbrella.  The popularity of painting en plein air increased in the 1870s with the introduction of paints in tubes which were easy to transport.

3. Frottage is a technique developed by German artist Max Ernst in 1925. Drawings were made by placing sheets of paper over different objects such as floorboards and leaves, and rubbing with a stick of graphite. Through precise selection, combination, control of texture and some discreet additions, he was able to build up delicate, surprising images of fantasy landscapes, plants and creatures. He adapted this fundamentally simple technique to painting in the form of grattage, by which textures and patterns were made through simultaneously rubbing and scraping off layers of paint. Representational forms were then extracted from the whole by means of over-painting.

4. Dadaism is a cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1922. The movement  involved visual arts, literature—poetry, art manifestoes, art theory—theatre, and graphic design. It concentrated its anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works. Its purpose was to ridicule what its participants considered to be the meaninglessness of the modern world. In addition to being anti-war, Dada was also anti-bourgeois and anarchist in nature. Notable artists involved in the movement include: Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Arp, Andre Breton, and Man Ray.

5. Art Competitions formed part of the modern Olympic Games during its early years, from 1912 to 1952. The competitions were part of the original intention of the Olympic Movement’s founder, Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin. Medals were awarded for works of art inspired by sport, divided into five categories: architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture.

The juried art competitions were abandoned in 1954 because artists were considered to be professionals, while Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs. Since 1956, the Olympic cultural programme has taken their place.

Sources: Wikipedia (Art Competitions), Wikipedia (Dadaism), DAF (Frottage), DAF (Macro Photography), Wikipedia (en plein air)

Art-e-Facts: 5 Random Art Facts XVIII

1. Mannerism is a period of European art that emerged from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520. It lasted until about 1580 in Italy, when a more Baroque style began to replace it.  Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century throughout much of Europe. Mannerism encompasses a variety of approaches influenced by, and reacting to, the harmonious ideals and restrained naturalism associated with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and early Michelangelo. The term is also used to refer to some Late Gothic painters working in northern Europe from about 1500 to 1530, especially the Antwerp Mannerists—a group unrelated to the Italian movement. Mannerism also has been applied by analogy to the Silver Age of Latin. (Wikipedia, Artcyclopedia)

2. Sequential Art is the use of a train of images deployed in sequence to graphic storytelling or convey information. The best-known example of sequential art is comics.  The term was coined in 1985 by comics artist Will Eisner in his book Comics and Sequential Art. Scott McCloud, another comics artist, elaborated the explanation further, in his book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.  Sequential art predates comics by millennia. Some of the earliest examples are the cave paintings, Egyptian hieroglyphics and paintings and pre-Columbian American picture manuscripts, which were recurrent mediums of artistic expression. (, Wikipedia)

3. Decalcomania, from the French décalcomanie, is a decorative technique by which engravings and prints may be transferred to pottery or other materials. It was invented in England about 1750 and imported into the United States at least as early as 1865. Its invention has been attributed to Simon François Ravenet, an engraver from France who later moved to England and perfected the process he called “decalquer” (which means to copy by tracing). The first known use of the French term décalcomanie, in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Eleanor’s Victory (1863), was followed by the English decalcomania in an 1865 trade show catalog (The Tenth Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association). It was popularized during the ceramic transfer craze of the mid-1870s. Today the shortened version is “Decal”.  Max Ernst also practiced decalcomania, as did  Remedios Varo.  (Wikipedia)

4. The New Objectivity (in German: ”Neue Sachlichkeit) was an art movement that arose in Germany in the early 1920s as an outgrowth of, and in opposition to, expressionism.   Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub coined the term in 1923 in a letter he sent to colleagues describing an exhibition he was planning saying “what we are displaying here is distinguished by the — in itself purely external — characteristics of the objectivity with which the artists express themselves. He identified two groups: the Verists, who “tear the objective form of the world of contemporary facts and represent current experience in its tempo and fevered temperature;” and the Magical Realists, who “search more for the object of timeless ability to embody the external laws of existence in the artistic sphere.”  The movement essentially ended in 1933 with the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis to power. (Wikipedia, Artcyclopedia)

5. The Bradshaw Rock Paintings are a distinctive style of rock art found in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. They are named after the pastoralist Joseph Bradshaw who was the first European to discover them in 1891. The Bradshaws are also known as Gwion Gwion by the local Aboriginal people. Scientists estimate that there may be more than 100,000 sites spread over 50,000 km of the Kimberley. In 1996 one of the paintings was dated by analysing an ancient wasp nest covering it (using thermoluminescence). The nest was found to be over 17,000 years old, indicating that some paintings are at least this old.  (Bradshaw Foundation, Wikipedia)

Art-e-Facts: 5 Random Art Facts – XVII

1. “Art for art’s sake” is the English version of a French slogan, from the early 19th century, ”l’art pour l’art” , and expresses a philosophy that the intrinsic value of art, and the only “true” art, is divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function. “The term is credited to Théophile Gautier (1811–1872). Such works are sometimes described as “autotelic”, from the Greek autoteles, “complete in itself”, a concept that has been expanded to embrace “inner-directed” or “self-motivated” human beings. A Latin version of this phrase, “Ars gratia artis”, is used as a slogan by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and appears in the circle around the roaring head of Leo the Lion in their motion picture logo. (Wikipedia)

2. Verism is the artistic preference of contemporary everyday subject matter instead of the heroic or legendary in art and literature; a form of realism. The word comes from Latin verus (true). Verism was often used by the Romans in marble sculptures of heads. Often described as “warts and all”, verism shows the imperfections of the subject, such as warts, wrinkles and furrows. (Wikipedia)

3. For decades, the Saturday Evening Post distinguished itself through its cover artwork. The most famous are by Norman Rockwell who created a total of 322 original covers for The Saturday Evening Post over 47 years. J.C. Leyendecker created over 320 covers, the most well known are his “New Year’s Baby” series which ran every year from 1908 to 1943.

4. In 2010, Picasso’s, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust sold for $106.5 million US to an anonymous buyer,  setting a record for the sale of any work at auction. One of a series of highly prized, intimate portraits Picasso painted in 1932 of his lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter. (DAF)

5. Italy has by far the most art crime, with approximately 20,000 art thefts reported each year.  Russia has the second most, with approximately 2000 art thefts reported per year. Italy’s government takes art crime very seriously and its Carabinieri are by far the most successful art squad worldwide, employing over 300 agents full time. (ARCA)