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Category Archives: Art

Most Valuable Paintings in Private Hands

Rembrandt van Rijn
“Portrait of Jan Six”, 1654
oil on canvas, 112 x 102 cm.
Six Foundation, Amsterdam

Not only the most important work by Rembrandt still in private hands, but also one of the best portraits from the Dutch Golden Era. In the 1650s Rembrandt created some of his most accomplished masterpieces, such as “Aristotle with a Bust of Homer” (1653, Metropolitan Museum) or “A Woman Bathing in a Stream” (1654, National Gallery).

“Conversion of Saint Paul”, 1600
oil on cypress wood, 237 x 189 cm.
Odescalchi Balbi Collection, Rome

This work is one of two paintings by Caravaggio of the same subject, commissioned by Cardinal Cerasi. The large painting was created in 1600, the same year in which Caravaggio completed one of his undisputed masterpieces, “The Calling of Saint Matthew”. Impressive in size and quality of painting, this work ranks among the most important religious scenes by Caravaggio.

Hans Holbein the Younger
“The Madonna With the Family of Mayor Meyer (The Darmstadt Madonna)”, c.1525-8
Oil on panel, 146.5 x 102 cm.
Reinhold Würth collection, Germany

This monumental painted is arguably the most important religious scene ever created by Holbein. The work was commissioned by the Bürgermeister of Basel Jakob Meyer zum Hasen, who opposed the Reformation

Diego Velázquez
“Prince Baltasar Carlos on horseback”, 1636
oil on canvas, 144 x 91 cm.
Duke of Westminster collection

Diego Velázquez´s “Prince Baltasar Carlos on horseback” has all the magnificence you can expect in a great baroque painting. It is a very good Velázquez, arguably his only masterpiece still in private hands, and it could be the centerpiece of any major museum able to persuade the Duke of Westminster to sell it

Leonardo da Vinci (attributed to)
“Salvator Mundi”, c-1500-1510
oil on wood, 65.6 x 45.4 cm.
Private collection, New York

Leonardo da Vinci is known to have painted a “Salvator Mundi” for King Louis XII of France. Considered lost by art experts for decades, one of its alleged “copies” was acquired by a group of art dealers in 2005, and reattributed (NOT unanimously) to Leonardo. In late 2011, this work was included in the exhibition “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” at the National Gallery of London.

Saved masterpieces – UK keeps old masters

The most famous painting saved for the UK in recent years is Raphael’s “Madonna of the Pinks”. In 2003, shortly after failing to acquire Rubens’ “Massacre of the innocents”, the Getty Museum offered the Duke of Northumberland an impressive £35 million for the small -29 x 23 cm.- but masterful painting, believed to be one of the finest old master paintings in private hands.

In early 2004, the National Gallery released a public statement declaring that the sale of the Raphael would be a “serious loss” for the nation. And after numerous donations, including an impressive £11.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Duke accepted to sell the masterpiece to the National Gallery for £22 million, 13 million less than the sum offered by the Getty Museum. Saved.

5 years before the Raphael’s acquisition, Sotheby’s announced the auction of the rediscovered Cimabue’s “Madonna and child enthroned (The Benacre Hall Madonna)” (c.1285-90), the only one Cimabue in private hands, and one of the less than a dozen works that can be attributed to this early master. Of course, the tiny panel (described as the most important early panel to be offered for sale in a generation) draws a lot of interest from many museums and private collectors all over the world. The National Gallery tried to acquire this highly important work, and the government finally decided to accept the Cimabue in lieu of estate taxes for The Gooch Estate. A few days before the sale, the panel was withdrawn from the auction and purchased by the London Museum for around $8 million.

Other works saved for the UK and exhibited now in the National Gallery includes Bernardo Daddi’s “The coronation of the Virgin”, acquired in 2004 for more than £1.5 million, or “The Montalto Madonna” by Annibale Carracci, acquired the same year. The last work was auctioned at Sotheby’s London in July 2003, and a temporary export ban was placed on it immediately after the sale

Of course, sometimes the export bans failed: Michelangelo’s “Study of a Mourning Woman” -one of the very few drawings by the artist in private hands- is now in a private American collection after UK museums failed to raise the money to keep it in the nation. The work was sold for £5.9 million in Sotheby’s, July 2002, and made its way to the US in early 2003.

But the National Gallery is not the only receptor of “saved” treasures. Sir Joshua Reynolds’ spectacular “Portrait of Omai ” is now one of the stars of the Tate Gallery thanks to the £12.5 million donated by an anonymous benefactor after the government placed a temporary bar on the work, sold in December 2002 for £10.7 million. Equally important was the saving of Turner’s “The Blue Rigi”, one of the best watercolors by the artist, sold for a record £5.8 million in 2006, and now exhibited at the Tate. More modest, but also important, was the temporary export ban place on an Anglo-Saxon gold coin that allowed the British Museum to acquire it for £350,000 in 2006.

And in 1999, the Art world was shocked when the Kimbell Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, tried to acquire Sandro Botticelli’s “Madonna and child (Madonna of the roses)” previously in the collection of the Earl of Wemyss. The extremely appealing work had an asking price of £15 million, an affordable sum for the wealthy Texan Museum. Few weeks later, and after numerous donations, the Scotland Gallery bought the picture for £10.5 million.

The Duke of Sutherland collection is considered to be the most important private Art collection in Great Britain (not counting the Royal Collection), featuring Raphael’s “Bridgewater Madonna” and a 1657 Rembrandt’s self-portrait that is, in my opinion, the most important old master painting still in private hands. So when the 6 th Duke of Sutherland died in 2000, the Gallery feared that his incredible Art collection could be sold to a foreign collector. Fortunately to the Scots, the most important paintings from the collection have been long-term loaned to the Gallery, and Titian’s “Venus Anadyomene” was purchased by the Gallery for more than £11 million in 2003. Also, it is said that the new Duke desires to keep the collection in Scotland.

So, case closed?

No, it isn’t.

Titian’s ” Portrait of a young man” , an extremely beautiful work by Titian owned by the Earl of Halifax, and exhibited in the National Gallery of London since 1992, it’s still for sale. The asking price of this masterpiece -for sure one of the most important old master paintings still in private hands- is a huge £50 million, much more than any other work ever acquired by a Museum, and also above the highest price ever achieved by an old master painting (the $76.7 million “Massacre of the innocents” by Rubens) Will the directors of the British Galleries find the money necessary to keep this work in the United Kingdom? Or will the Titian be part of the artistic exodus, doing its way to a private collection overseas? Well, one thing is sure: after spending $70 million in another supreme Titian (the “Portrait of Alfonso d’Avalos”), the Getty Museum -a terrible predator for the old masters paintings- will not ask for this great work.

And there is more: in 2007, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam confirmed that the Institution was trying to acquire Rembrandt’s “Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet” from the Penrhyn Castle collection in Wales for an impressive £40 million. The Penrhyn family had already sold a Jan Steen masterpiece to the Rijksmuseum for more than £8 million in 2004, but the Rembrandt will represent a more terrible loss due to its evident historical and artistic significance.

Of course, there are still a considerable number of masterpieces in British private collections at risk of being sold (thought not explicitly for sale) For example, Rembrandt’s “Judas and the Thirty Pieces of Silver” (1629, Marquess of Normanby collection) or the highly important “Portrait of Edward Grimston” by the Flemish master Petrus Christus, property of the Earl of Verulam. Buy all these masterpieces in the UK could cost hundreds of millions pounds, but the Government should find a way to keep them in the country. Tax incentives, export limitations. No measure is excessive when we are talking about securing a National Heritage.

Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations

For an idea that came to undermine the set relationship between art and its audience in 1963, Ed Ruscha’s lightbulb moment was alarmingly simple. “I had this notion to make a book and I had been photographing gasoline stations across America,” he said. Ruscha’s resulting title visually recorded 26 of the stations he had passed on Route 66 on his journeys between his home in Los Angeles and his parents’ home in Oklahoma throughout the early 1960s. The print run initially ran to 400 copies and, by circumventing the usual display of artists’ work and attempting to belittle the value of a mass-produced product, the photographic artist book became a pioneering moment in 20th Century art.

It also presented an obvious challenge to his contemporaries’ photography. Ruscha’s book arrived four years after American road photography was shaken up by Robert Frank’s seminal photo record of his and his family’s trips across the country, titled The Americans. Beat author Jack Kerouac, in the foreword to Frank’s now-iconic set of black and white images, said the Swiss photographer had “sucked a sad poem right out of America”. Another quote by a contemporary art critic said: “The pictures took us by ambush then … [Frank] established a new iconography for contemporary America, comprised of bits of bus depots, lunch counters, strip developments, empty spaces, cars, and unknowable faces.” Ruscha’s images are not concerned with the aesthetics of the petrol stations nor appear to be making a critical comment on them. Like Frank he was training his eye on another part of the American everyday experience but his photographs don’t pack any kind of punch. “I just wanted to explore the subjects dead head straight on without much emotion,” he said.

With the exception of Edward Hopper’s Gas of 1940, petrol stations had not appeared as a focus of artistic contemplation and Ruscha makes no attempt to drape the pumps in a warm early evening light as Hopper does. He did explore the iconography of the stations in a series of paintings that became his signature through the 1960s that certainly took some of their clues from the Hopper painting. Ruscha was concerned with the sites in response to themes of landscape, place and culture. “What used to belong to the Navajo and Apache indians now belongs to the white man and he has gas stations out there. So I started to see [them] as cultural curiosities.”

The key with his artist book is to look beyond the photographs and see the other elements that make up the pages and which Ruscha was meticulous in designing. “I changed the form about 50 times at the printers,” he admitted. Big decisions were made about the front cover typeface – three lines of impact lettering spaced out at top, middle and bottom with a protective frosted sleeve diminishing the impact of the blood orange text. Inside Ruscha maximises more white space, bringing a neutrality to the images that are not numbered and supported only by the sparsest of literal descriptions; “Texaco, Sunset Strip, Los Angeles” or “Self Service, Milan, New Mexico”. The images are generally presented chronologically but crucially not all, undermining any order or rigid documentation of the stations that might give the book a sense of purpose. The reader starts out in “Bob’s Service, Los Angeles, California” but doesn’t end in Oklahoma City. Instead Ruscha signs off with “Fina, Groom, Texas” to give the sense of having begun a return journey. The only aspect of the book that Ruscha came to regret was its numbering of editions as it has granted the original copies an order of value rather than something equal as a mass produced product. The books were originally sold for a few dollars through ArtForum magazine after being rejected by the Library of Congress.

What the books did for Ruscha’s art was to better realise his driving intentions or feel for engaging with the world with a perplexed aloofness.I felt when I got going on the books that it was really the red meat of my work. It was the choice bit. Although I was painting pictures at that time, I felt that the books were more advanced as a concept than the individual paintings I had been doing. I realised that for the first time this book had an inexplicable thing I was looking for, and that was a kind of a “Huh?” That‘s what I’ve always worked around. All it is is a device to disarm somebody with my particular message.”

He followed up Twentysix Gasoline Stations with two sequels: Thirtyfour Parking Lots in 1967 and Nine Swimming Pools in 1968, the latter in colour. An artist aesthetic had definitely come into play by the time he headed into the air with a professional photographer to document the parking lots of Los Angeles and later a handful of the city’s swimming pools that had caught his eye in the aerial trip. Both are perhaps too beautiful or artistically pleasing to make anyone feel confused. Ruscha explored similar work with unnumbered titles at the same time. Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966) and Royal Road Test (1967), in which he threw a typewriter out of a moving vehicle and then photographed the strewn pieces, allowed him to bring his ideas to an audience without them visiting a gallery, even if the ideas remained hidden or empty.

Recycled Art

1. Mandy Russell discovered a great way to repurpose plastic switch plates–she turned them into felted book covers. In the Winter 2015 issue of Pages magazine, she explains that the plates’ firmness makes them perfect for wet felting, and the openings can become little windows. To wet felt a plate, Mandy begins by wrapping 3′ lengths of wool top fibers both horizontally and vertically around the plate, until the entire plate is covered. The wet felting process involves adding dish soap and hot water to the wool and gently rubbing it, rinsing it with hot water, and repeating those steps 5-8 times until the wool is well felted and tight around the plate. See the rest of the article to see how the covers and pages are sewn together, creating a uniquely bound—and very cozy—book.

2. Artist Rae Missigman found creative inspiration in the unlikeliest of places—the laundry room. She discovered that after going through a wash cycle, dye-trapping sheets are perfect for mixed-media recycled art: “Once I realized they could trap large amounts of dye,” she says, “I began to experiment with using them in my art.” Not only did they show off deep, vibrant color when dyed, but they were also very strong. Once laundered, they are sturdy and fabric-like. Rae uses these dye-trapping sheets in Art Lesson Vol. 5: Recycled and Re-inked: Bold, Colorful Embellishments. She first mists a shallow pan and the sheet with water, then adds several drops of acrylic ink (in analogous colors) to the pan. The sheet is placed in the pan and left to sit a few seconds to absorb the ink, then removed and placed on scrap paper to dry. Sheets can be cut into shapes or strips and sewn like fabric, and added to any mixed-media project.

3. For an artist, old or discarded books are a treasure trove of recyclables: pages, covers, and even a worn spine can be used for art. In “Books Unfurled: Altered Book Art” in the Fall 2014 issue of Paper Art magazine, Kathy Baker-Addy shows how an entire book can become a dimensional, sculptural recycled art piece simply by cutting and folding pages. Gather a group of about 50 pages in the front, middle, and back of a book that’s about 1″ thick, and hold them together with binder clips. Slide a cutting mat under about 5 pages and, with a craft knife, cut swirls, stars, leaf shapes, or other continuous designs into the pages; you can incorporate folded pages as well. Make sure to leave the pages attached to the book. When all pages have been cut, allow them to cascade out, arranging the pieces as you want. Kathy suggests practicing first on scrap paper to test your designs. See the rest of the article for how to turn the book into a showpiece.

4. Hardware store finds can be repurposed into reusable printmaking tools. In her book Printmaking Unleashed, Traci Bautista says hardware stores can be gold mines for items like plastic sink and bath mats, and fence materials. To start, spread fiber paste over a plastic page protector and add a few drops of fluid acrylic paint. Place an open-design bathmat, plastic fence material, and pieces of a plastic needlepoint canvas over the paste and press with a brayer. Remove the fence material and canvas, and dab on acrylic paint through the bathmat with a foam brush. Add a touch of white paint. Continue to add paint through the bathmat, and remove it to reveal the final print.

5. Instead of tossing empty aluminum cans into the recycling bin, use them to create mosaic art. That’s what Dawn Hunter did in “A New Kind of Pop Art” in the March/April 2014 issue of Cloth Paper Scissorsmagazine. Start by drawing a simple design on tissue paper, then transfer the design to a piece of rigid foam insulation board by laying the tissue paper on top and poking shallow holes about ¼”-½” apart through the tissue and into the surface of the board with an awl. Paint the image with acrylic paint, approximating the colors of the cans you’re using. Cut the tops and bottoms off the cans, cut the cylinder apart, and trim any ragged edges. Sort the cans by color and cut them into a variety of shapes. Beginning at the top of the design, place the can pieces one at a time, gently poking through the metal and into the board with with an awl. Put glue on the tip of a wire nail and push it into the board until the head is flush with the metal.

7 stages of modern art

While theorist Francis Fukuyama was infamously projecting “Western liberal democracy” as a political supremacy to conquer all others leading into the 21st century, a less determinate declaration of a new dawn was occurring in the art world with the proclaimed end of modernism. This reach for a creative closure was an attempt to mark an end to a sense of eternal artistic progress to accompany the parallel advances within technology. In fact, it had begun a few decades prior to the Millennium and even given a date, place and time within the field of architecture as a resurfacing of old aesthetic habits and classical themes helped to render the dominant language of “the new” a thing of the past.

This heresy on the part of artists sought to unequivocally contradict the rules and beliefs of modernism that had developed over the previous century and explore the areas of inquiry that the avant-garde art establishment had attempted to consign to history. Appropriately, this signalled the return of history painting itself with artists like Anselm Kiefer restoring figuration in giant-scale landscapes that carried a clear narrative connection to his nation’s (Germany’s) actions in the Second World War, albeit through a prism of mythology and Jewish or Christian theology and with a range of unorthodox natural materials that complimented his earth-toned oil palette.

One of the common trends among the art that sought to move away from modernism was a commitment to ambiguities and the layering of meanings. The ‘new’ works – if they would accept such a title – certainly retained modernism’s faith in high theories. One of the British-based American painter RB Kitaj’s guiding aims was to “re-complicate” his work, while Philip Guston horrified the abstract expressionists in the New York School by reintroducing a range of cartoon symbols and other objects of metaphor to debunk the purity of abstraction in recording the hand and intentions of the artist. How to reconcile ideas of authenticity in an era ever-increasingly lived through information technology became a dominant area of inquiry for many artists. Sigmar Polke’s response was to draw on all the methods of collage – cutting, juxtaposition, repetition etc. – that had been explored throughout the century to create what appeared imitation works, but laced them with irony to undermine notions of purity within art.

The blurring of low and high culture which had fascinated so many of the pop artists continued to be explored but accompanied by new theories of reality to describe the world the icons were presented in. Photographs and mass-media images continued to inspire people like Gerhard Richter, who made calculated theoretical shifts from the social realism he had trained in. Others found ground in trying to understand how inherited cultural identities could exist in a new century that was most popularly seen as “globalised” by the spread of communication lines like mobile phones and the internet. More than 150 years after painters had attempted to break away from the tyranny of the establishment to explore the landscape and pre-empt “modern art”, those creating artworks or exploring artistic themes at the “dawn of a new Millennium” were trying to find a role or come to terms with a multi-layered and ever-changing terrain.

The story of modern painting

Chapter 1. Capturing the elements

Chapter 2. Alone in the city

Chapter 3. Age-old rebellions

Chapter 4. New ways of seeing

Chapter 5. Unsettling visions

Chapter 6. Traumatic responses

Chapter 7. Out with the new

Painting the Alps and the Himalayas en Plein Air

Inspiration and the Artistic Journey
From 2007 to 2009, while pursuing a painting series on ballet dancers at Florence Dance Center in Italy, I frequently flew to Florence at different times of the year. On clear-sky days, the aerial view of the Alps was mesmerizing. If the landscape was so beautiful from above it should be, I was certain, equally spectacular at ground level. I first traveled to the Swiss Alps in 2013 and, over the course of the next two years, I painted in different regions across Swiss, French, Italian, Austrian and German Alps at different times of the year.

I was equally fascinated with the world’s youngest mountain range: the Himalayas. The two mountain ranges have different flora, fauna and also diverse cultures. Just as I painted in the Alps, I then trekked across the Himalayas painting in different regions around Himalayan terrain; this journey of mine is still ongoing.

With vast areas devoid of human presence, serenity rules in both the Alps and the Himalaya. In both places, however, the impression of the landscape always seems to be fleeting. My aim was to try to capture the ephemeral moods of the Alps and Himalayas in my paintings. People who live in the mountains, I observed, love their environment and live in complete harmony with nature. That is the very essence of my paintings of the mountains–to admire, preserve and live in harmony with nature.

Pinpointing Places to Paint in the Alps and the Himalayas
I didn’t have any friends nor did I know anyone living in the Alpine regions or the Himalayas. Hence, in the beginning, I searched the Internet for places to visit. Often, on visiting these places I found they didn’t quite interest me; either the places were too commercialized or I simply didn’t find them inspiring to paint.

But the real start to my artistic journey was while traveling. By train, bus and boat, I came across stunning places from one Alpine destination to the next. These places fascinated me. They were often less traveled, at times completely remote. This led to paths where nature was at its best and spectacular. I noted these places on maps and came back to them to paint. Often I made day trips or if there happened to be lodging, I chose to stay near these stunning places. I could thus paint in these landscapes and be absorbed in their environments.

I traveled solo in all these different Alpine regions with the sole purpose to paint themes that challenged and inspired me to paint en plein air. Hence, I call it my artistic journey in the Alps and the Himalayas. My main intention was not to paint famous peaks or famous places frequented by tourists but rather to paint what caught my eye as an artist.

Landscape Painting Challenges of the Alps and Himalayas
The foremost challenge while painting on location was the rapidly changing atmosphere. Often the atmosphere would dramatically change halfway through the painting. My approach had to be very flexible and at times, direct.

When the atmosphere changed in midst of my painting session, I realized the change was equally beautiful to what I’d seen when I started my painting, so I made necessary adjustments to the work. Nature brings surprises that we often never imagine and I think that’s the most beautiful part of painting on location.

Let me cite an example of a painting titled Sun-break. It rained constantly the day I arrived in St. Moritz (Switzerland) and the following two days. Although I had already pinpointed subjects I wanted to paint I couldn’t begin due to the rain and almost zero visibility. The fourth day was highly overcast and since it at least wasn’t raining, I decided to paint outdoors. In the midst of the painting, occasional sun breaks created wonderful glowing light effects in the sky, on land and on water. It was so beautiful that I tried to add those light effects to my painting, attempting to retain the spontaneity and freedom through the application of paint. After this brief play of light, it again turned overcast and remained the same all through the day. As mentioned above, nature brings surprises; in this instance, fleeting movements of dramatic light effects in the sky, land and on water.


The sea and its pictorial representation have been one of the most developed art genres since many centuries ago. From the classical, serene seascapes by Fitz Hugh Lane to the contemporary visions of Richard Diebenkorn, the audacious Japanese Painting or -of course- the incomparable Joseph Turner, theArtWolf has proudly showcased 10 of the most beautiful, intrepid, important seascapes in the world.

This list, of course, is absolutely subjective, but some of the names in it are unquestionable.

“Becalmed off Halfway Rock”, 1869 (Washington, National Gallery)
Oil on canvas, 70.4- 120.5 cm .

Considered one of the greatest all-time marine painters, Lane is arguably more a “naval portraitist” than a traditional seascape painter. In this highly appealing canvas, the artist brilliantly portraits two large ships, accompanied by three support boats, surrounding a little rock that, although small in size, earns a fundamental importance in the composition.

“The ninth wave”, 1850 (St. Petersburg, State Museum)
Oil on canvas, 221- 332 cm .

A seascape devoted painter, Aivazovsky reaches in this painting an absolute technical perfection, representing a group of unlucky castaways trying to survive to the merciless oceanic waves. Nevertheless, the centre of the composition is the powerful -almost mystical- and diffuse representation of the sun, which illuminates the scene with a strange, oneiric range of green and pink shades.

“The Monk by the sea”, 1809/10 (Berlin Nationalgalerie)
Oil on canvas, 110- 172 cm

Contrary to the glorious calm of the work by Lane or the dramatic exuberance of Aivazovsky’s masterwork, here we face a much more difficult work. The notorious horizontality of the picture and the evident contrast in the scale of the monk, almost insignificant when compared to the magnificence of the sea, fill the picture with a quite uncertain romantic message. Is the sea a neutral background behind the monk’s deliberations, or perhaps are we looking at a strange dialogue between the man and the neverending ocean, a mystical mirror of the monk’s thoughts?

“The icebergs”, 1861 (Dallas Museum of Art)
Oil on canvas, 163.2- 285.1 cm .

The icy death. Beautiful and exuberant at first glance, this masterwork by Frederic Edwin Church is nevertheless a sinister and terrible romantic document, showing the remains of a shipwreck, where it really does not matter if the sailors have survived or not: the merciless icebergs will soon kill them if the violence of the accident has not done it before. The brutal beauty of this canvas makes the Titanic story looks like a bad joke.

“Ocean Horizon”, 1959 (Private collection)
Oil on canvas, 177.8- 162.6 cm .

Diebenkorn’s urban seascapes present a unique and contemporary vision of the ocean: domesticated, friendly,desirable. Contrary to his abstract and more complex Ocean Parks, the Ocean Horizon presents a very simple composition with three evident levels for the land, the sea and the sky; all of them framed in a rectangular window. Following the crooked line marked by the electric lines, the ocean looks as accessible as the little cup of coffee we can see in the close-up.

“La terrace de Sainte Adresse”, 1867 (New York, Metropolitan Museum)
Oil on canvas, 98.1- 129.9 cm .

This glorious painting presents an evident parallelism with Diebenkorn’s canvas representing the sea (here the Atlantic Ocean) as friendly, accessible, even as a recreational area to the relaxed society. Again, the composition is divided in three levels -sky, sea and land- and it is vertically organized by the two large flags fluttered by the ocean breeze. The painting is so delightful that we are immediately tempted to sit on one of the empty chairs to enjoy this sunny Sunday afternoon. Apart from this kind seascape, Monet also depicted the sea full of fierceness and fury in paintings such as “La Manneporte”.

“The Gulf Stream”, 1899 (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Oil on canvas, 71.5- 124.8 cm.

All the kindness and charm that the sea presented in the two precedent canvases is crushed in this devastating painting by Homer. Really, the terrible expressivity -bordering on macabre- of the work makes unnecessary almost any commentary, while we assist, helpless, to the tragic end of the unlucky sailor, represented with an effective exaggeration, perhaps an evidence of Winslow Homer’s formation as a press reporter.

“The raft of the Medusa”, 1819 (Paris , Louvre)
Oil on canvas, 491- 716 cm.

This is one of the most famous paintings ever created. Gericault creates a painting that we can define as “politically incorrect”, as it depicts the miseries of a large group of castaways abandoned after the shipwreck of a French naval frigate. We can even say that the picture is not exactly a seascape, but a classic triangular composition in which the human emotions are graduated from the exacerbated hope of those who -situated on the top of the pyramid- have sighted a saviour ship, to the man who -holding the corpse of a young man, perhaps his son- has abandoned any hope and is resigned to wait for death. In Gericault’s work the sea has no charm, no beauty, no kindness: it is the villain, the killer, the predator that, lying in wait for new victims, is patiently waiting for its time to kill.

“The Wave”, c.1830
Woodblock print, 25.4- 38 cm .

Japanese painters and engravers have always offered us a different, almost mystical vision of the natural phenomena. The wave is here much more than a mere oceanic circumstance. It’s a monster, a giant leviathan threatening with its fangs the agile and audacious ships that cross, flexible, the Japanese seas. The terrible ocean’s claw is so powerful that it seems to threaten to devour even the sacred Mount Fuji, presented at the background as another victim of the evil wave

“The fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up”, 1839 (London, National Gallery)
Oil on canvas, 91- 122 cm .

Turner is the greatest seascape painter from any age, and at least other two or three works by the British painter (Ulysses mocking Polyphemo, Peace – exequies on the sea…) could easily figure on this list if we had not take the decision of including only one work per artist. Audacious and technically perfect, Turner’s masterpiece is an unusual representation of a royal ship, normally depicted in its maximum splendour as Fitz Hugh Lane did in his seascapes (see number 10), but here Turner tributed the brave Temeraire depicting its last trip before being scrapped. This supreme work was elected as the best painting in England in a poll organized by the National Gallery of London in 2005.

20 Art Museum in The World

Which are the best museums of the Western World? While such list is entirely subjective, we have tried to be as objective as I can be, taking in consideration its collections and history. So here is a guide to the premier Museums of the Western World and a link to its websites.

1- The Louvre
in Paris is arguably the world’s most famous Museum. Take an online tour through its wonderful collection of antiquities and painting, including -of course- Leonardo’s Gioconda

2- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
in New York is arguably America’s greatest museum. Its spectacular collection is especially strong in American painting and Egyptian Antiquities.

3- The British Museum
is England’s greatest museum -and one of the best in the world- of Ancient Arts and antiquities, with an excellent collection of Art from Ancient Egypt to the Middle Ages.

4- The Vatican Museums
houses the inmense and outstanding Art collection of the Catholic Church, including the Sistine Chapel or Raphael’s The School of Athens

5- The Hermitage Museum
(or Ermitage) is the most important Museum in Russia and also the largest Art collection in the world, with more than 3,000,000 million of artworks

6- The Kunsthistorisches Museum
in Vienna is one of the premier museums in the world. It houses an important collection of antiquities and an outstanding collection of European painting.

7- The National Gallery of London
houses one of the world’s finest collection of paintings. It is arguably the most complete collection of European painting from the 13th to the 19th centuries

8- The Museum of modern Art
(MOMA) houses the world’s best collection of modern and contemporary Art, featuring masterworks as Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon or van Gogh’s Starry night

9- El Museo del Prado
(Prado Museum) is Spain’s most important museum, featuring the best collection of Spanish painting in the world.

10- The Museé d’Orsay
in Paris is without doubt the best museum of impressionist and 19th century French painting in the world. Features masterworks from Monet, van Gogh, Renoir…

11- The Cairo Museum
is by far the most complete collection of Egyptian Art in the world. Its most famous artworks are the objects from the Tomb of Tutankhamun, discovered in 1922

12- The Uffizi
in Florence is the most important collection of Italian Renaissance painting. In this excellent website you can works such as Botticelli’s Venus or Giotto’s Ognisanti Madonna.

13- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
is one of the oldest and most respected Art institutions of North America, with an outstanding collection of Western Art.

14- The Rijksmuseum
in Amsterdam is Netherlands National Museum. It houses the world’s most important collection of Dutch painting, including its star piece, Rembrandt’s The Nightwatch

15- The National Gallery of Washington
features an extremely complete collection of painting from the 13th to the 20th century. Its “star sections” are Italian Renaissance and American painting

16- The Guggenheim Museum in New York
was designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The Guggenheim Fundation has also important galleries in Bilbao, Venice, Berlin and Las Vegas.

17- The Tate Modern
in London is arguably the most important collection of modern and contemporary Art in Europe. It houses pivotal works of artists such as Lichstentein, Pollock or Bacon

18- The Centre Georges Pompidou
in Paris is France’s national museum for modern and contemporary Art, housed in an important contemporary building by Rogers and Renzo Piano

19- The Art Institute of Chicago
houses one of the most outstanding Art collections of the United States, featuring masterpieces such as Seurat’s ‘Island of La Grande Jatte’

20- The Getty Center
in Malibu is arguably the world’s wealthiest Museum, with a great collection of antiquities, paintings, and manuscripts. Works exhibited includes van Gogh’s Irises.

Picasso in A Coruña – 1891-1895

Rightly or wrongly, all the studies on the life and art of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) tend to divide it into stages or periods, perhaps in an attempt to make more understandable and accessible his vast career. So much has been written about his origins in Malaga, on his training as an artist in the same city, his hard beginnings in Montmartre, Paris, and his later success as a famous artist in the French capital. However, there is a stage in the life of Pablo Picasso that remains, at least for the general public, as unknown, a sort of loophole in the popular career of the great genius of the visual arts of the twentieth century: his brief but decisive period in A Coruña, Galicia, Spain (1891-1895), a key time in the artist’s formation

We have defined this period in A Coruña as “almost unknown”, although this is a definition that is certainly risky to be offensive for many experts in the artist’s life and oeuvre, and so we apologize in advance. But it’s true that this stage remains a bit “anonymous”, at least for the general public. Therefore, we are going to approach the readers to this period from a well known point in the painter’s career, from which we are going to go temporarily back to our starting point, aiming in this way that the reader could locate Picasso’s stage in A Coruña in the huge and complex artistic life of the artist

The context: A Coruña in Pablo Picasso’s life and career

We are in 1937. A 55 years old Pablo Picasso is in his full artistic maturity and has just completed his most famous painting -The “Guernica”- that would become the eternal symbol of protest against the barbarity of the war. Just a few years back, we find Picasso immersed in his very personal understanding of Surrealism, embodied in the figure of the “Minotaur” and the sexy and colorful portraits of his mistress Marie-Therese Walter. Immediately prior to this period is an approach to classicism, with such famous works as “La Flute de Pan” (Paris, Musée Picasso) or the “Harlequin with mirror” in the Thyssen Museum in Madrid

Let’s go back to the period immediately preceding the First World War. A Picasso in his early 30s creates, along with Georges Braque, the most decisive of the vanguards of the past century, the Cubism, which began with the painting that can be considered as the most important and revolutionary of the twentieth century, “Les demoiselles d’Avignon”. We are now in 1907. Immediately prior to this period we find Picasso’s fascination with African art, a brief period, but of enormous importance to the artist’s later works

Let’s go back even further. The Rose and Blue periods, with their melancholic figures of harlequins and guitarists, moves us to Montmartre in early twentieth century, where a very young Picasso portrays the nightlife of the cabarets and nightclubs he frequented. It’s the time of the dances and long nights in the “Lapin Agille”, the unfortunate “Family of Acrobats” or his sad, but full of vitality self-portrait. Even today, the blue and pink periods remain the most fascinating of all phases of Picasso’s artistic career

We have retreated to the last half of the nineteenth century, when a teenager Picasso creates in Barcelona some of his early works, quite well known today for the art lovers, starting with “The First Communion” (1895), an incredible realist canvas that make us understand the words of the artist: “It took me 12 years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”. Picasso was then 13 years old and had just arrived in Barcelona with his family, from a city where he had spent the last 4 years of her childhood: A Coruña

In the city of the “Tower of Candy” – Picasso’s works in A Coruña

The young Picasso joined the School of Arts and Crafts of La Coruña, where, accompanied by his father, he began to draw in charcoal and ink the models he found in the streets of Coruña, especially pedestrians who frequent the beach of Riazor, and the fishermen from the port. He was also fascinated by the landscapes of the environs of the “Torre de Caramelo,” the name by which father and son identified the Tower of Hercules, an ancient Roman lighthouse in A Coruña. As the technique of the young genius was becoming more refined, his father encouraged him to make some oil paintings

“The barefoot girl”(1895) is the masterpiece of this period, a lively and fascinating portrait that seems to predict some of the most famous works from the pink and blue periods. As a curiosity, note that this painting appears in a chapter of the animated sitcom “The Simpsons”, where Marge tries to instruct Homer during a visit to the Museum

“The man with the blanket” or “The Old Man of the blanket” (1895, Museo Picasso in Málaga) is a small work that portrays the artist’s father in a depressed, almost pathological, attitude, which can be understood if we consider that the change from the sunny andalusian climate of Malaga to the moist and wet Galician weather caused a large depression in José Ruiz Blasco. A work that is often associated with this one is “Old couple”, in which we can highlight the enigmatic expression of the elder woman

The second key work of the period Coruña (along with the already discussed “The barefoot girl”) is the “Portrait of Dr. Perez Costales” (1895, Museo Picasso in Málaga), physician and former minister, and a personal friend of Picasso’s father. The young artist portrays the doctor in calmed attitude, as a venerable sage. The work is almost a prologue to later portraits such as the “Angel Fernandez de Soto” or even the self-portrait of the artist.

Picasso in A Coruña – present and future

Of all the cities in which Pablo Picasso lived throughout his life, A Coruña is the only one that did not have a museum dedicated to the genius. The City Council decided years ago to end this with the restoration of the Casa-Museo Pablo Picasso, the artist’s former home in the widening Coruña, conserved with few changes from the time of the artist. It also exhibits 27 reproductions of the works that Picasso painted during his stay in the city. However, the absence of original works (which may be understandable due to the absence of bequests from the artist’s heirs) makes it impossible to place this institution to live up to other museums dedicated to the artist in his native Málaga, Barcelona, and Paris.

That the name of Pablo Picasso is a bonanza for the now so fashionable “cultural tourism” is undeniable, and there may be opportunities to incorporate the city of A Coruña in the most important “Picassian” map with no need of huge financial outlays. The completion of “the Route Picasso”, proposed a few years ago, is one of them, or the temporary exhibitions of works by Picasso. Private initiative can be the key to the success of these operations.

Art of Vandalism

It’s almost a cliché to say that art should make us think, but if we stop to consider graffiti as an art form, there’s plenty to think about. Maybe there’s a required shift in our thinking in order to call graffiti art? This street art, made by artists who may not be known to us, is often in fact well known in the artist’s inner circles on the streets. Can we say that we don’t see it as art when it’s on a train or the side of a building, but if that same design is put on canvas it then becomes art? Can we say the murals adorning city walls across the city are art because they were commissioned or sponsored, critiqued and vetted by a committee, but the designs that have been thrown up on a wall at night are not?

Scouting Art

Recently I headed out with my camera along a nearby trail, the Valley View, and I passed a handful of runners, some kids and people out walking their dogs. I continued on, heading to a spot known as a teenagers’ hangout and a popular destination for photographers looking for that model-on-the-railroad-tracks picture. I’m here to photograph the graffiti, though.

Is it art?

The tags (graffiti) at the tracks were not inspiring. They were more a mash-up of initials, off-color words and scribbles. I thought Jamie would shake his head and tell me to move on, so I did. I headed to a water culvert to find the better graffiti writing.

Later that day I saw this on the Cincinnati Art Museum’s website:

Graffiti Palace, New York by David Hockney (British, b.1937), photographer

So is it art now—now that a famous, well-respected and studied photographer has photographed the graffiti?

Do you see where I’m going with this? When is it art? Who says it’s art?

One thing I do know about the work of graffiti writers—it makes me think.

FOOTNOTE: Think graffiti is just for young artists? Check out how graffiti is helping those with dementia- yes, even grannies do graffiti!