Thoughts

contemporary paintings
for a
transfigured
state of being
BEAUTY | GOODNESS | TRUTH

It Must Happen to Us

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

From the Center for Action and Contemplation

Image credit: Number 8, (detail), Jackson Pollock, 1949, Neurberger Museum of Art, New York, New York.

Week Thirty-three

Order, Disorder, Reorder:
Part Two

It Must Happen to Us
Monday,  August 17, 2020

Sooner or later, if we are on any classic “spiritual schedule,” some event, person, death, idea, or relationship will enter our lives that we simply cannot deal with using our present skill set, our acquired knowledge, or our strong willpower. It will probably have to do with one of what I call the Big Six: love, death, suffering, sexuality, infinity, and God.  Spiritually speaking, we will be led to the edge of our own private resources. At that point we will stumble over a necessary stumbling stone, as Isaiah calls it (8:14). We will and must “lose” at something. This is the only way that Life–Fate–God–Grace–Mystery can get us to change, let go of our egocentric preoccupations, and go on the further and larger journey.

There is no practical or compelling reason to leave one’s present comfort zone in life. If it’s working for us, why would we? Nor can we force ourselves into the second stage of disorder (though we must certainly be open to it). Any conscious attempt to engineer or plan our own enlightenment is doomed to failure because it will be ego driven. We will try to “succeed” in the midst of our failure and “order” our time in disorder! But unexpected weaknesses, failure, and humiliation force us to go where we never would otherwise. We must stumble and be brought to our knees by reality. “God comes to you disguised as your life,” as my friend Paula D’Arcy wisely says. We must actually be out of the driver’s seat for a while, or we will never learn how to give up control to the Real Guide. It is the necessary pattern.

There must be, and if we are honest, there always will be at least one situation in our lives that we cannot fix, control, explain, change, or even understand. Normally a job, a fortune, or a reputation has to be lost, a house has to be flooded, an illness has to be endured. Some kind of falling, what I call “necessary suffering,” is programmed into the journey. By denying our pain or avoiding our necessary falling, many of us have kept ourselves from our own spiritual depths. We still want some kind of order and reason, instead of suffering life’s inherent disorder and tragedy.

August 17, 2020

Inside Kent Monkman’s Studio

The Essay

An excerpt from the ACI’s forthcoming book “Revision and Resistance: mistikôsiwak at The Metropolitan Museum of Art”

By Jami C. Powell

Too often, accounts of North American history begin with the arrival of European settlers. Indigenous peoples, our claims to the land, and our histories are erased from the narrative. This is true within education systems, popular media, and certainly large-scale institutional museums and galleries. Through mistikôsiwak (Wooden Boat People), Kent Monkman appropriates this conventional narrative and recentres a shared, more nuanced history of North America—understanding and recognizing the contributions, generosity, and ways of knowing of Indigenous peoples. Moreover, Monkman imagines a kind of future history where Indigenous peoples and values provide hope and leadership for all of us as we navigate crises both North American and global in scope.

Revision & Resistance: mistikôsiwak at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, published by the Art Canada Institute, will be available in stores March 31, 2020. Click here to pre-order your copy.

I spent time with Monkman in his Toronto studio as he neared completion on the two paintings that comprise his exhibit: Welcoming the Newcomers and Resurgence of the People. We talked about the creation of the paintings, his studio process, and how mistikôsiwak fits within his larger body of work. Drawing from The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection of European, American, and North American Indigenous works, Monkman’s diptych is a visually stunning narrative that conveys the multiplicity and complexity of colonial interactions and exchanges. His practice exemplifies what I and other post-colonial and Indigenous scholars have referred to as colonial entanglement, a concept that grapples simultaneously with the uneven power relations at play within colonialism, and with the agency of Indigenous peoples and nations within these relations.[1] Monkman has appropriated the colonizers’s tools—most notably Western artistic traditions such as history painting and the atelier model—and translated them into forms that are meaningful and relevant within his own practice and communities. In doing so, he reimagines Western art as a method of empowerment, used to build and strengthen Indigenous futures. Through this reimagining, Monkman’s mistikôsiwak moves beyond a simple retelling of our shared history to create a shared intellectual space that encompasses many perspectives and interpretations.

JP: What does it mean for you to have a work on view at The Met?

KM: This is an opportunity to extend my practice into a museum… [which] has a strong relationship with its own history and with art from around the world.

The Met is a world-culture museum, and I like to make connections with settler artworks, European artworks, and Indigenous artworks, and create a dialogue about cultures and histories that are shared and also quite different.

JP: Thinking about Welcoming the Newcomers and Resurgence of the People, their scale and the layers of meaning embedded within each of the characters, I’m somewhat overwhelmed. Where do you start?
KM: Basically, when I take on a project like this, I do research first within the collection… with an open mind. Then I focus in order to find works that fit certain ideas. I start to think about how to reference these works in the new composition that might trigger dialogue with the originals in the collection. The next stage is to do a small pencil sketch. From that sketch, I bring in my team and we begin to identify who all the characters are. We come up with a list, and then we cast for a photo shoot.

JP: How do you select the models?
KM: We look for models who fit that character, whether it is a body type or a particular ethnicity. Often the hair doesn’t matter to me; I just repaint it anyway. If we’re looking for Indigenous people, we cast Indigenous people. We also try to get the best actors we can, for expression and emotion. Sometimes we don’t get exactly what we want in our models, but photography is only a stage.

Once the models are cast, the costumes are designed. Next, we bring the models in, and I arrange them in the poses that I want. We pay close attention to the lighting. After we get our digital photographs, all of that source imagery is composited in Photoshop. That is translated into a smaller-scale study where I start to pull all of the elements together in the painting, working with lights and darks and shadows, situating every character into three-dimensional or at least the illusion of three-dimensional space. We then commence the larger version.

JP: In terms of the painters you’re working with at the studio, is there a standard process?
KM: It depends on their skill level. I’ve recreated an atelier based on a classical model where I work with apprentices and younger artists. They’re trained in my technique and style. We work with their strengths. Someone might be extremely good at detail, and others are better with broader strokes or painting the figure. But everyone is encouraged to work on everything. We’re scrambling them around so no painter works on one area, or on one painting. All the while, I encourage them to move slowly, to build slowly. My eyes are on this process the whole time, and I’m constantly checking in and guiding them through it.

JP: In my research on Indigenous textile practices, I have talked about how Indigenous peoples, and women in particular, took European-made goods and ideas and literally ripped them apart, cut them up, folded them into patterns that were meaningful within their own experiences and worldviews, and then stitched them back together. In a lot of ways, that’s what you’re doing. Is your process informed by this kind of thinking?

KM: When I think about how I’m absorbing influence from, say, the Old Masters, I look at their paintings to learn about how they would pose the human body. How did they describe the human body collapsing in grief ? How did they portray ecstasy in a human face? I’m not lampooning their work. I’m trying to understand and absorb the DNA of what great painting is.

JP: What else are you drawing on from the Old Masters?
KM: I’m looking at Western art history as an outsider. I’m a Cree person studying a tradition of painting that began hundreds of years ago and reached its zenith in the nineteenth century. I thought, here’s this grand tradition, which was so capable of storytelling, of presenting narratives, of demonstrating authoritative ideas and themes. It has been discarded by Western art in favor of this individual thinking. I wanted to reclaim it, resurrect it, and find a way to embrace the potential of the language of painting. This can be more than just a brush stroke, more than just explorations of color and texture. Those are only aspects of painting, but that’s a reduced vocabulary. I wanted to harness this very sophisticated language, which is capable of all kinds of nuance, to explore subtle themes and storytelling.


JP: In harnessing this language, you are also opening a dialogue about a central figure, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, who helps you make connections within your work. Miss Chief is a time traveller, a disruptor of historical narratives and colonialist mythologies. In Resurgence of the People, the figure of Miss Chief recalls two works in The Met, Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s sculpture Victory, cast between 1914 and 1916. George Washington is a pretty recognizable reference within many folks’s visual vocabulary, but Victory is not. Can you talk about the choices you made to place Miss Chief within these art historical references?
KM: As I sift through the collection, I look for works that can trigger conversations between colonial or settler works—works made by the settlers about Indigenous people—but I also [think about] how different those points of view are, how foreign those worldviews are from Indigenous worldviews.

When I insert Miss Chief into these works, it’s about challenging the subjectivity of settler artists who often had no idea or very little knowledge about the cultures that they were representing. What we’re looking at is actually a projection of the artists themselves, not real Indigeneity. They were just fantasies; they were romantic ideas that came from books. For instance, Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Hiawatha sculpture in The Met was inspired by the epic, and fictional, poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. There are many things that I see when I look at these works. The Indigenous figures look like they’re in neoclassical poses; they look like Greek gods. There are elements of Christianity in some of them. So, I see more about the individuals and their culture than who they’re supposed to be representing. This is true all the way through to Hollywood westerns.

As I choose the artworks that I riff on, I stitch together conversations about where those artworks are misleading the public, and this is an opportunity in a mainstream museum to confront representations [of Indigenous people] that are often flawed.

JP: How does your work make people think about issues that they might not otherwise realize? Do you have an example?
KM: I think this has happened with many of my artworks, because I’m shattering the illusion of the authority of this one-sided version of a story. It’s so ubiquitous; this singular narrative is everywhere in visual culture. When people see one of my landscapes [that riffs on an Albert Bierstadt painting from the nineteenth century], it  might look familiar, yet the narrative inside the painting has been so subverted that it shatters their easy reading of the work. They’re confronted with the possibility that there could be a whole other experience that they’ve never considered. What I’ve been trying to do with the art history of this continent is to break down these myths and fictions that have just impregnated people’s consciousness. The educational systems throughout all the public schools and universities have been blind toward Indigenous experience up until very recently. In Canada, people were never taught about residential schools [government-supported religious schools established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian society] and had no idea of the depth and breadth of the policies that the government has perpetuated against us. That’s why I created this mythological being, Miss Chief. With her, I’m able to tell new stories and new mythologies, but also reference real lived experiences and histories.

JP: I find that when you confront your audience with new possibilities, you’re not trying to dictate the way people think, but rather presenting them with alternative realities and histories. You’re also disrupting the notion of Western linear time through the layering of references and characters, as well as through Miss Chief, who appears to transcend time itself. What I appreciate about this diptych and specifically within the Resurgence of the People is that you’re not only drawing on historical works within The Met’s collection, but also using them to imagine possible futures for Indigenous peoples. How do you view time?
KM: I was fortunate in that I had a relationship with my great-grandmother. She died at 101 years of age when I was eleven. She was born in 1875[2], so I feel very close to a history of my own people, but I also feel very close to that period when colonial policies began to be enforced on Indigenous people in Canada. She was a child when these major shifts occurred, when our family was removed from our ancestral lands. That experience seems so resonant with me, so palpable, because I often wonder how different our lives would have been had our land not been taken. I think about it almost every day, how we’ve been treated as second-class citizens on our own land. When I consider her life and the changes that were happening on this continent during her childhood and later, it reinforces to me that we move forward by staying connected to our cultures, to our languages, and to the places that are sacred to us.

European settlers brought their ideas of modernity, their blank slate, here to North America, and they wanted to start fresh, which was great for them, but it came at the expense of erasing Indigenous people. European modernity is a brief period. Indigenous people, when we talk about where we’re from, our cosmologies, we’re talking about thousands of years. Miss Chief is an ancient being. That’s how I like to think about her existence and her relationship to time. It goes back to when the other legendary beings were created. She’s embedded in the Cree worldview.

JP: Speaking of the Cree worldview, can you tell me about the meaning of the diptych’s title?
KM: So, the diptych is titled mistikôsiwak, which is literally “the wooden boat people.” It was a name given primarily to the French by the Cree, but it was also adapted to signify English settler cultures. The title mistikôsiwak refers to settler cultures immigrating to North America. Within the image on the right side of this diptych [Resurgence of the People] it’s the Indigenous people who are now moving forward in this wooden vessel. I like that the word has a relevance to the future as well.


JP: How does titling the project in Cree help to situate Indigenous ways of knowing?
KM: Well, Indigenous ways of knowing are centered in our languages, and I am in the process of reclaiming my Cree language. Our worldview is embedded in our language.

JP: In the description for Welcoming the Newcomers, you use two Cree words that roughly translate to kinship and love. Can you describe them?
KM: Sure, wâhkôhtowin is kinship—relationship with other beings, with nature—and sakihitowhin is love. Those two values are part of Cree laws. The Cree laws teach us as human beings how to get along with each other, but also how to have a relationship with all the other beings—the four legged and the winged creatures—essentially, how we all fit into our relationship to the universe.

JP: In Resurgence of the People, too, the image of the boat and the rising water seems to reference climate change and a future where water reclaims land. I’ve been thinking recently about the idea of relationality and kinship as a way for the global population to move forward. Is that something that you considered in the creation of this work?

KM: Absolutely. I was thinking a lot about water. It was the sea that brought the European settlers here, so both paintings have turbulent seas in them. In Welcoming the Newcomers, it is this pristine Atlantic Ocean. You see settler people from different periods: pilgrims, a conquistador, people clamouring onto the shore. It was oceans that brought waves of immigrants to the continent. The ocean is allegorical for the flood of settlers that displaced Indigenous people from all over North America, including my great-grandmother. When I think about climate change, those rising waters will continue to displace people. I was thinking about migrating populations all over the world.

JP: In this painting, you centre women and their place within many Indigenous communities. Can you talk about why?
KM: I think women have been in terms of the colonial experience. The colonizer came here, and they refused to talk to women. Women were our leaders; women were our lawmakers. In traditional Cree culture, it was the women who made decisions about the land. Through the colonial experience our Indigenous women have been denigrated, and so I’m trying to restore, through my own paintings, the idea that our women are important.

JP: How does the scale of mistikôsiwak help with the goal of restoration?
KM: The genre that I’m working in, it’s history painting, and the tradition of history painting was very much about large-scale paintings. I wanted to paint Indigenous experience, both historical and contemporary, and authorize them into the canon of art history and this genre of painting.

Washington Crossing the Delaware is massive, and the painting has a certain impact because it’s just so big. It commands authority on the museum wall because it takes up almost the whole room. The idea was to give Indigenous experience that same weight. Our histories were erased from this canon of art history. We were relegated to tiny bit players in the landscape. This was a way to centre and foreground Indigenous experience…. People relate differently to scale. There’s something about a large painting and life-sized figures.

With a lot of my artworks I’m exploring these themes from the nineteenth century that reinforce ideas of Native American people as the dying race. With this project, I intercept that notion and refute it by acknowledging that our people are very much alive. Our cultures are thriving and we’re not frozen in time. I’m seeking to dismantle ideas that have been reinforced and perpetuated by museum culture.

All photographs by Aaron Wynia.

___________

Notes

[1] See Jami C. Powell, “Creating an Osage Future: Art, Resistance, and Self-Representation” (PhD diss., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2018); Jean Dennison, Colonial Entanglement: Constituting a Twenty-First-Century Osage Nation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012); Nicholas Thomas, Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991); Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001).

[2] The Indian Act was introduced in 1876 as a consolidation of previous colonial ordinances and is the principal statute the federal government uses to administer Indian status, and does not pertain to Inuit or Métis. Although the Act has been amended several times—removing particularly discriminatory sections—the statute was aimed at the eradication and assimilation of First Nations peoples into Euro-Canadian society and has enabled human rights violations, trauma, and sociocultural disruption for generations of First Nations peoples. See William B. Henderson, “Indian Act,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, published February 7, 2006, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/indian-act.

<p><em>Revision and Resistance: mistikôsiwak at The Metropolitan Museum of Art</em> releases March 31, 2020. The book celebrates Monkman’s groundbreaking paintings with essays by today’s most prominent voices on Indigenous art and Canadian painting.</p>
Revision and Resistance: mistikôsiwak at The Metropolitan Museum of Art releases March 31, 2020. The book celebrates Monkman’s groundbreaking paintings with essays by today’s most prominent voices on Indigenous art and Canadian painting.

January 22, 2020

Divine Therapy

The only prayer you need to say is, “Help!” It’s right to the point. It describes what we need. And when it comes from a heart that is broken by its own failures, it moves God to the very roots of the divine nature and God responds. It is not a question of forgiveness, because [God] has already forgiven us as soon as we want to change, but to give us the ability to be free of the straitjacket of the emotional programs for happiness based on those instinctual needs [for security, control, and affection]. . . .

The purpose of ordinary psychotherapy, as I understand it, is to help a person lead a normal life when he or she is hampered by psychological problems. The purpose of the divine therapy is the healing of the roots of all our problems and to transform our attitudes and, indeed, the whole of our human nature into the mind and heart of Christ. In other words, to introduce us through grace into the interior life of God. This involves a transformation of our attitudes, faculties, and bodies so that we can receive the maximum amount of the transmission of divine life that is possible given the limits of human nature.

The Fathers of the church who wrote about this subject called this process deification. In other words, the purpose of this journey, even the Twelve Steps of [Alcoholics Anonymous], is not just to become a better person and to maintain recovery, as important as these are. It is to change us into the divine way of being human. This is a much bigger and more comprehensive project and opens us to the full extent of human possibilities and capacities. You cannot do much better than to become God by participation. [2]

Thomas Keating, 1923-2018

December 15, 2019

The Transcendentals

Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking. All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of creatures — their truth, their goodness, their beauty all reflect the infinite perfection of God. Consequently we can name God by taking his creatures” perfections as our starting point, “for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church
“Lost in Thought”

November 23, 2019

The Sense of the Beautiful

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

November 20, 2019

A Very Insistent and Persistent Love

Like never before in history, this generation has at its disposal new and wonderful evidence from science, confirming the presence and power of what many of us would call A Very Insistent and Persistent Love at the heart of all creation…Science is finding that the world is an integrated whole rather than separated parts. We are all holons, which are simultaneously a whole and yet a part of a larger whole.

Richard Rohr
Do Small Things with Great Love

November 9, 2019

All Flourishing is Mutual

The mycorrhizae may form fungal bridges between individual trees, so that all the trees in a forest are connected. . . . The trees all act as one because the fungi have connected them. Through unity, survival. All flourishing is mutual.

Robin Wall Kimmerer
Eden 2019.1

November 9, 2019

Douglas Abrams reflects on a conversation with the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

In generosity, there is a wider perspective in which we see our connection to all others. . . . There is an acceptance of life, in which we do not force life to be other than what it is. . . . There is a gratitude for all that we have been given. Finally, we see others with a deep compassion and a desire to help those who are in need. And from this comes a generosity that is “wise selfish,” a generosity that recognizes helping others as helping ourselves. [2]

October 26, 2019

Ways of Knowing-Senses Unfamiliar: Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation-From the Center for Action and Contemplation

One of the gifts of Native traditions is their openness to wisdom from many avenues beyond rational thought—community, ancestors, dance, drumming, nature, and symbols that speak deeply to the unconscious. I am humbled to learn from our Pueblo, Apache, and Navajo brothers and sisters here in New Mexico, and I invite you to learn about the indigenous peoples who live near you or have been forcefully removed from the land you now call home. [1]

Read the following passage from Kent Nerburn’s book Voices in the Stones: Life Lessons from the Native Way with your heart wide open to unfamiliar and unexplainable ways of knowing. Imagine you are there with him: 

I am standing in a lonely field, far from the nearest road, in the open prairie country of northwestern Minnesota. Just beyond me, the Ojibwe man who brought me here is overseeing the reburial of the bone fragments of two young girls, maybe fourteen or fifteen years of age, that were unearthed by a farmer during an excavation on his land.

We know they are girls and their approximate ages because modern science, with its tools and technologies, has analyzed their anatomical structure and drawn this conclusion. Yet beyond those facts we know nothing about them. They are thought to have lived over a thousand years ago. . . .

How wrong it felt to watch the bones of children being placed in a pit and covered by a front-end loader. These bones had once been young girls who had run and laughed and played on this very land. . . .

Who were they? How did they live? And are their spirits still present, as my friend who oversaw the burial believes?

I do not know. I cannot know. I can only bear witness and hope that my witness somehow does honor to their memory.

We are quick to draw lines where our awareness stops. Our streets, our alleyways, our history on the land—these form boundaries enough for us.

But there are truths that lie beneath our consciousness, just as there are truths that lie beneath our feet. That we do not know them does not mean that they do not exist, only that we do not have the patience and humility to hear.

Many years ago I stood in a dry creek bed in Alaska north of the Arctic Circle, staring out over a river of stones that wound, sinuous, into the purple arctic twilight.

Perhaps it was the strangeness of the setting, perhaps it was the power of the moment, but, as I stood there, those stones began to speak. It was a clacking sound, a clattering sound, like the fluttering of wings, the descent of birds, the pounding of a hundred thousand hooves across the frozen tundra.

I could not name it, but neither could I deny it. It came to me through senses unfamiliar, claiming me with a knowledge I did not know. That it was not within my rational understanding did not make it any less real.

The bones of these girls and the forgotten thousands of people who walked on these lands before us and gave their bodies and spirits to this soil speak with that same voice. We hear it, if we hear it at all, with a sense that lies far below our conscious awareness.

October 18, 2019

A transfigured state of being

Transfigure: to transform into something more beautiful or elevated.
“the world is made luminous and is transfigured”

State: the particular condition that someone or something is in at a specific time.

Being: the quality or state of having existence

October 18, 2019

St. Francis and Dynamic Symbols of the Real

St. Francis was fully at home in this created world. He saw all things in the visible world as endless dynamic and operative symbols of the Real, a theater and training ground for a heaven that is already available to us in small doses in this life. What you choose now, you shall have later seems to be the realization of the saints. Not an idyllic hope for a later heaven but a living experience right now.

October 12, 2019

Happy Client!

“Sunflower” arrived the day before yesterday and it is wonderful! I had already fallen in love with the piece when I received “My Eyes see a Path of Delight” and saw an image of it in the small folder included in the shipment. I was so happy to find out it hadn’t been sold yet and now it is hanging on my wall and I am so happy!’

September 11, 2019

Price Check! Here’s What Sold—And For How Much—at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2018

Price Check! Here’s What Sold—And For How Much—at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2018
Here’s what art dealers say they sold at the fair (though watch out for number-fudging and other kinds of general sneakiness).Caroline Goldstein, December 10, 2018. This year’s Miami Art Week launched during a rocky moment in the stock market and amid ongoing fears of a trade war between the US and China. But art fairs have a tendency to feel as if they are operating in an alternate universe, far removed from real life. Inside the newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center, Jennifer Lopez and Leonardo DiCaprio rubbed shoulders with Blackstone Chairman J. Tomilson Hill and Guggenheim Museum director Richard Armstrong at the week’s flagship fair. At the end of the day, however, the deals that galleries broker this week have a very real impact on their bottom lines—and can often be the difference between a good year and a bad one. Sales appeared to come in fast and furious during the VIP preview on Wednesday (particularly for brand-name galleries offering brand-name works). By the end of the week, a considerable number of the biggest-ticket items—including a $50 million Rothko—appeared to be left unsold, while some smaller dealers outside the fair’s main section experienced less frothy action than their blue-chip peers. What follows is a rundown of the fair’s reported sales this year, ranging from paintings that reached the auction-worthy nosebleed terrain of seven figures all the way down to artworks that left the fair for the price of a luxury handbag. As usual, sales reports are slippery—some purchases may have been finalized long before the fair, while others might only be hypothetical, still awaiting the all-important paperwork (and cash). Prices, however, are far more reliably telling, giving a valuable snapshot of where individual artists stand in the art-market matrix today. Notably, some dealers prefer to report ranges or the “asking price,” to obscure the actual price and, for instance, cover up any favorable treatment that another buyer of a comparable work may not have received. Here is a (partial) roundup of notable sales at the fair—take it all with a pinch of salt—as compiled by artnet News, sorted by medium and price. Any sums reported in GBP or euros were converted to US dollars for consistency and ease of reading.

PAINTINGS, Courtesy of Art Basel

  • $17 million: Pablo Picasso’s Tete de Femme (1917) at Van de Weghe Fine Art
  • $7.5 million: Philip Guston‘s Shoe Head (1976) at Hauser & Wirth; the painting has not been publicly exhibited since it was first presented in 1976
  • $5 million: Mark Bradford‘s Feather (2018) at Hauser & Wirth, now promised to a US-based institution
  • $3.6 million: Marc Chagall‘s Deux ânes verts (1980) at Hammer Galleries
  • $3.6 million: Lee Krasner‘s Bird Image (1963) at Kasmin Gallery
  • $2.75 million: Philip Guston’s painting Untitled (1969) at Hauser & Wirth sold to a European collection
  • $2.5 million: Mark Bradford’s Amendment #6 at Mnuchin Gallery
  • $2.4 million: Marc Chagall’s Peintre au coq rouge (1959–68) at Hammer Galleries
  • $2 million: Larry Bell’s painting My Montauk (1960) at Hauser & Wirth
  • $1.4–1.5 million: Jesús Rafael Soto‘s Mural Cinético, 1983 at Sicardi Ayers Bacino Gallery
  • $1.1 million: George Condo‘s Listening and Talking (2018) at Skarstedt Gallery
  • $1.08 million: Georg Baselitz‘s Ist das der Weg? at Thaddaeus Ropac
  • $850,000: Al Held‘s Phoenicia IV (1969) at White Cube
  • $750,000: Bridget Riley, Light Shade 7 (2018)
  • $750,000: Sean Scully‘s STACK GREYS (2018) at Cheim & Read
  • $750,000: Francis Picabia‘s Transparence (Deux tetes) (1935) at Hammer Galleries
  • $750,000: Al Held’s B/W XIV (1968) at Cheim & Read
  • $700,000–800,000 each: Carlos Cruz-Diez, Physichromie Panam 309 at Sicardi Ayers Bacino, as well as commissions for two works from the same series.
  • $600,000 each: Three paintings on aluminum by Carmen Herrera from Lisson Gallery
  • Approximately $500,000: Franz Kline‘s Untitled (ca. 1957–8) at Richard Gray Gallery
  • Approximately $500,000: Alex Katz‘s painting Red Hat (Nicole) (2013) at Richard Gray Gallery
  • $500,000: Wifredo Lam‘s Personnage (1968/70) at Galerie Gmurzynska
  • $500,000: Robert Motherwell, Mexican Collage at Miles McEnery Gallery, NY
  • $450,000: Jonas Wood‘s Blackwelder Speaker Still Life (2018) at David Kordansky
  • $380,000: Oscar Murillo‘s Manifestation (2018) at David Zwirner
  • $350,000: Mary Corse’s Blue Black White, Beveled (2010) at Kayne Griffin Corcoran
  • $325,000: A painting by Henry Taylor at Blum & Poe
  • $325,000: A painting by Robert Colescott at Blum & Poe
  • $300,000: Lee Ufan’s Dialogue (2018) at Lisson
  • $300,000: Jonathan Lasker’s The Price of Being (1993) at Cheim & Read
  • $300,000: William N. Copley’s Why Are You Staring (1986) at Kasmin Gallery
  • $250,000–300,000: Markus Lüpertz‘s Eurydike (2017) at Almine Rech
  • $250,000: Ed Clark’s Untitled painting at Mnuchin Gallery
  • $250,000: Charles Gaines’s Numbers and Trees: Palm Tree 1, Tree #4 Zori (2018) at Hauser & Wirth
  • $230,000: Virginia Jaramillo’s Epsilon-Endi (1978) at Hales Gallery

Installation view of works by Mary Weatherford at David Kordansky Gallery

  • $225,000 each: Mary Weatherford’s Ice House Canyon, three lights and Ice House Canyon, four lights (both 2018) at David Kordansky
  • $225,000: Wifredo Lam’s Chant dans la forêt (1968) at Hammer Galleries
  • $210,000: Daniel Richter‘s Dean at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
  • $200,000–250,000: Ha Chong-Hyun’s Conjunction 17-20 at Kukje Gallery/Tina Kim Gallery
  • $200,000: Alberto Burri‘s Combustione (1964) at Galerie Gmurzynska
  • $200,000: Jennifer Guidi’s Offerings to the Sun (Painted Sand SF #1F, Pink, Yellow, Orange Gradient, White) (2018) at David Kordansky
  • $180,000: Mary Corse’s Untitled (Electric Light) (1968/2018) at Pace Gallery
  • $180,000: Ron Gorchov’s XUTHUS (2018) at Cheim & Read
  • $180,000: Jennifer Bartlett’s House: Yellow Roof Left (1998) at Marianne Boesky Gallery
  • $165,000: Stanley Whitney’s Dream Walking (2018) at Lisson Gallery
  • $175,000: Amy Sherald’s When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be (Self-imagined atlas) at Hauser & Wirth, sold to an American museum
  • $165,000 each: Three paintings by Sue Williams—Fluorescent and Flooby (2003); Bindweed and Red (2005); and Golfing at Northwoods (all 2008)—at 303 Gallery
  • $165,000: Stanley Whitney’s Dream Walking at Lisson Gallery
  • $165,000: Mary Heilmann’s January Night-Stinson Beach (2002) at 303 Gallery
  • $150,000: A painting by Harold Ancart at David Zwirner Gallery
  • $136,000: An abstract work by Karel Appel at Blum & Poe
  • $130,000–170,000: McArthur Binion’s DNA: Study (2018) at Lehmann Maupin
  • $120,000–170,000: Hernan Bas‘s painting A Boy in Peril (2013) at Lehmann Maupin
  • $110,000–120,000: Hernan Bas’s Flooded forest (2008) at Lehmann Maupin
  • $100,000: Sam Falls’s Untitled (Sea Ranch) (2018) at 303 Gallery
  • $90,000–175,000 each: Three works by Donald Moffat at Marianne Boesky Gallery
  • $80,000 each: Two works from Young-Il Ahn’s “Water” series at Kavi Gupta
  • $75,000: Julio Le Parc‘s Alchimie 410 (2018) at Galeria Nara Roesler
  • $72,000: Nina Chanel Abney’s Q&A (2018) at Jack Shainman Gallery
  • $70,000: A painting by Firelei Báez at Kavi Gupta
  • $60,000–80,000: A painting by Vivian Springford at Almine Rech Gallery
  • $60,000–80,000: Angel Otero’s Gap of Time (2018) at Lehmann Maupin
  • $62,000: Leslie Wayne’s Instructions for Dancing at Jack Shainman
  • $60,000: A large Shinique Smith painting at David Castillo Gallery
  • $60,000: Lesley Vance’s Untitled (2018) at David Kordanksy
  • $58,000: Tala Madani’s Shadow Projection (Animal Hands) 1 (2018) at 303 Gallery
  • $58,000: Ivan Morley’s A True Tale (2018) at David Kordansky
  • $50,000–70,000: OSGEMEOS’s Untitled spray-painted work at Lehmann Maupin
  • $45,000 each: Two works by Jacob Kassay at 303 Gallery
  • $35,000–40,000 each: Six paintings by Haroshi at Nanzuka Gallery
  • $30,000–100,000 each: Five paintings by Feliciano Centurión in the Survey section, at Walden Gallery
  • $30,000–50,000: Claire Tabouret’s Together at Almine Rech
  • $30,000–50,000: Farah Atassi’s Woman in Sailor Top (2018) at Almine Rech Gallery
  • $30,000: A painting by Sanford Biggers at David Castillo Gallery
  • $28,000–72,000 each: Six paintings by Maryan in the solo-booth at Venus Over Manhattan in the Survey section.
  • $28,000 each: Two paintings by Pepe Mar at David Castillo Gallery
  • $20,000–30,000: Michael Hilsman’s Lemon Tree with Timepieces (2018) at Almine Rech
  • $25,000: A work by Vaughn Spann at David Castillo Gallery
  • $25,000: Markus Amm’s smoky magenta painting, Untitled (2018), at David Kordansky Gallery
  • $18,000: Armin Boehm, Susanne (2018) at Meyer Riegger Galerie
  • $14,000 each: Two satirical paintings of world leaders by Vincent Namatjira at This Is No Fantasy Gallery

MIXED MEDIA

  • $2 million: Louise Bourgeois‘s Femme (2004) at Hauser & Wirth
  • $1.35 million: El Anatsui‘s Almost at Mnuchin Gallery
  • $350,000: Beverly Pepper’s Black and White, Venice (1968) at Kayne Griffin Corcoran
  • $250,000: Lynda Benglis’s NAR 1980 at Cheim & Read
  • $245,000: Rashid Johnson’s mixed media Untitled Escape Collage (2018) at Hauser & Wirth
  • $235,000: Rashid Johnson’s Untitled Microphone Sculpture (2018) at David Kordansky Gallery
  • $150,000–200,000: Liza Lou’s beaded cirrus filiformis (2018) at Lehmann Maupin
  • $140,000–160,000: Nari Ward’s Molt’s Liquor Soul (2018) at Lehmann Maupin
  • $110,000: Peter Alexander’s I Remember When it was All Orange Groves (2017) at Pace
  • $108,400: Anselm Reyle’s untitled mixed media and acrylic glass work (2018) at König Galerie
  • $105,000: Yoan Capote’s Isla (Causa y Efecto II) (2018) at Jack Shainman
  • $103,000: A tapestry by Goshka Macuga visible through 3D glasses at Andrew Kreps
  • $100,000–150,000: Nicholas Hlobo’s Ingcambu yemvelo (2018) at Lehmann Maupin
  • $75,000–100,000: Dorothea Rockburne’s OD. #1 Bykert (1970), which includes paper, crude oil, and nails, at Van Doren Waxter
  • $75,000: Cecilia Vicuña’s Pongo la Mano al Fuega para ti (1969/72) at Lehmann Maupin
  • $66,000: Betty Woodman‘s Table and Rug (2016) at David Kordansky
  • $60,000–70,000: Nicholas Hlobo’s Umkhono (2017) at Lehmann Maupin
  • $60,000: Rodney Graham’s lightbox work, Unused Prop: French Telephone (2018) at 303 Gallery
  • $50,000: Devan Shimoyama’s Nightshade Harvest (2018) at Kavi Gupta
  • $30,000–40,000: Mika Tajima’s Negative Entropy (TAE, Electric Arc Pulse Power, Full Width Quad) (2018) at Kayne Griffin Corcoran
  • $25,000–60,000 each: Eight works by Derek Fordjour at Josh Lilley Gallery
  • $20,000–45,000 each: Four hand-embroidered silk collages, all from 2018, by Billie Zangewa at blank projects
  • $12,000 each: Two paintings of women made from paper pulp by Natalie Frank (both 2018) at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, sold to 21c Museum Hotels
  • $1,500–3,000 each: 20 embroidery works by Chiachio & Giannone from Ruth Benzacar Galería de Arte

SCULPTURES AND INSTALLATIONS

  • James Turrell, VARDA (03) (2017). © Richard Tuttle, courtesy Pace Gallery.
  • $1.6 million: Anish Kapoor‘s Untitled mirrored installation at Galleria Continua
  • $1.2 million: Paul McCarthy‘s White Snow Cake (2017–18) at Hauser & Wirth
  • $1 million: Shell Game (2014) by Martin Puryear, who will represent the US at the 2019 Venice Biennale, sold at Matthew Marks Gallery
  • $650,000: Alexander Calder‘s Pierrot vollant (1976) at Hammer Galleries
  • $595,000: Robert Indiana‘s LOVE (1966/96) at Kasmin Gallery
  • $550,000: Larry Bell’s glass sculpture Untitled (1967) at Hauser & Wirth
  • $500,000: John Baldessari‘s Scissors (2015) at Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich
  • $470,000 each: Three editions of Sarah Lucas‘s Jubilee (2017) at Sadie Coles HQ
  • $400,000: Rebecca Warren’s Fascia IV 2011 at Skarstedt Gallery
  • $400,000: Jaume Plensa‘s Maria’s World (2018) at Richard Gray Gallery
  • $250,000: Larry Bell’s Untitled (1970) at Pace Gallery
  • $250,000: David Smith’s Menand III (1963) at Miles McEnery Gallery
  • $239,000: Jeppe Hein’s Parallel Sine Curve (2018) at König Galerie, Berlin
  • $230,000: Ugo Rondinone‘s green pink blue yellow mountain (2018) at Sadie Coles HQ
  • $200,000: Jack Pierson‘s POSITIVE VIBES (2018) at Cheim & Read
  • $185,000: Aaron Curry’s Multidimensional Dude Complex (2018) at David Kordansky Gallery
  • $150,000–200,000: Aaron Curry’s Cosmic Bather (2017) at Almine Rech Gallery
  • $150,000: Huma Bhabha’s GM (2018) at David Kordansky Gallery
  • $150,000: James Turrell‘s Untitled (XXXII G) October 2014 at Pace
  • $125,000: Evan Holloway’s Shoots of an Inverted Tree (2018) at David Kordansky
  • $125,000: Peter Alexander’s Time Flies By (2018) at Pace
  • $120,000–160,000: Kader Attia’s Untitled (2018) incorporating broxen mirrors, ebony powder, and an antique Songhye mask at Lehmann Maupin
  • $120,000–160,000: Tracy Emin’s I can feel your smile (2005) neon sculpture at Lehmann Maupin
  • $110,000: Sheila Hicks‘s Pockets 1982 at Alison Jacques Gallery, sold to a European museum
  • $100,000 each: Two 2018 maquettes by Larry Bell at Hauser & Wirth
  • $86,000: Alicja Kwade’s Formation (2018) at 303 Gallery
  • $65,000: Isabel De Obaldia’s Metate of the Golden Jaguar at Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art
  • $55,000: Shahryar Nashat’s Mother on Wheels (Oro Grigio) (2018) at David Kordansky
  • $58,000: Ricky Swallow’s Hanging Bow with Pegs #2 (2018) at David Kordansky
  • $50,000: Analia Saban’s Woven Grid as Warp and Weft at Sprüth Magers
  • $50,000: Mai-Thu Perret’s ceramic headless figurines, Niki (Group of 4) (2015) at David Kordansky
  • $45,000: Ruby Neri’s Sun Disk ceramic (2018) at David Kordansky
  • $45,000: Gehard Demetz’s sculpture 21 Grams at Jack Shainman
  • $45,000: Radcliffe Bailey’s mixed media installation Black Flight (2018) at Jack Shainman
  • $40,000: Lauren Halsey’s that fuss wuz us (2018) at David Kordansky
  • $32,000: Brad Kahlhamer’s Survival Chandelier 1 (2018) at Jack Shainman
  • $28,000: Valentin Carron’s Low low, Lorraine aimless (2013) at David Kordansky
  • $15,000–60,000 each: Ceramic works by the Haas brothers, who are currently showing at the Bass Museum, sold at Marianne Boesky Gallery

WORKS ON PAPER, FILM, PRINTS, PHOTOGRAPHS

  • $750,000: Robert Longo, Untitled (First Amendment) 2018 at Metro Pictures, NY
  • $600,000: Robert Longo’s charcoal on paper Untitled (Snow Trees) (2018) at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
  • $575,000: Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled (Cream Butterfly) 514 (2004) sold at Hauser & Wirth
  • $500,000: Robert Mapplethorpe‘s Hands (1981) at Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich
  • $350,000: David Hockney‘s Inside It Opens Up As Well (2017) at Richard Gray Gallery
  • $350,000: Louise Bourgeois’s UNTITLED (2004) at Cheim & Read sold to a European museum
  • $240,000–260,000: Teresita Fernandez’s charcoal-based work Untitled (Specter) (2018) at Lehmann Maupin
  • $200,000: Adrian Piper’s Race Traitor (2018) at Levy Gorvy
  • $155,000–225,000: A photograph by Theaster Gates at White Cube
  • $160,000: Man Ray‘s gelatin silver print La Prière (1930) at Edwynn Houk Gallery
  • $150,000: Louise Bourgeois’s SPIRAL at Cheim & Read
  • $150,000: Walid Raad’s Appendix 137 at Sfeir-Semler Gallery
  • $100,000: Louise Bourgeois’s Spider work on paper (2003) at Hauser & Wirth
  • $95,000: Kara Walker‘s graphite and pastel on paper White Space (2010) to a private US institution at Sprüth Magers
  • $85,000: Painting on paper by Richard Pousette-Dart at Miles McEnery Gallery
  • $65,000 each: All 100 editions of KAWS‘s triptych Last Time, Alone Again & Far Far Dawn at Pace Prints; the works were so in demand that the gallery had to offer them via lottery
  • $55,000: Hank Willis Thomas’s screenprint The St. Augustine Movement (En Masse) at Jack Shainman Gallery
  • $50,000: Robert Mapplethorpe’s Cock and Gun (1982) at Alison Jacques Gallery
  • $48,000 each: Two works from Matthew Brannon’s Concerning Vietnam series at David Kordansky Gallery
  • $32,000 each: Watercolor on paper works by Camille Henrot at Metro Pictures, NY
  • $30,000: The first edition of Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña’s 75-minute stop-motion feature film La Casa Lobo (2018) at Upstream Gallery
  • $28,000: Torbjørn Rødland‘s Look What You Did! (2017) at David Kordansky
  • $19,000: Nancy Burson’s diptych of vintage gelatin silver prints, Method and Apparatus for Producing an Image of a Person’s Face at a Different Age (1976) at Paci contemporary, sold to a foundation in Chicago
  • $18,000: Kind of Blue #3 (2018) by Paul Anthony Smith, the newest addition to Jack Shainman’s roster
  • $18,000: Polly Apfelbaum’s The Planet Drawings (2018) at Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder to a US collector
  • $6,800: Gareth Nyandoro’s Huku Pano (2018) at Van Doren Waxter
  • $5,000–13,000 each: 24 prints by Zanele Muholi at Stevenson Gallery’s Kabinett booth.
  • $4,000–10,000 each: Ten works by Willa Nasatir at Chapter NY

December 17, 2018

The 5 most valuable Canadian artworks ever sold at auction

5 most valuable Canadian artworks ever sold at auction
Jessica Wong · CBC News · Posted: Nov 23, 2016 11:19 AM ET | Last Updated: June 19, 2017

‘Mountain Forms’, an iconic 1926 Rocky Mountain canvas by Group of Seven founder Lawren Harris, was sold by Heffel Fine Art Auction House in Toronto in Nov. 2016, not long after being part of The Idea of North, Steve Martin’s show celebrating the art of Harris. (Heffel Fine Art Auction House. The commanding large-scale canvas Mountain Forms by iconic artist and Group of Seven founder Lawren Harris — a mountain scene from his coveted 1920s creative period — sold for a record $9.5 million at the Heffel Fine Art Auction House in Toronto in Nov. 2016.

With a conservative presale estimate of $3 million to $5 million, the painting ultimately sold for much more, making it the most expensive Canadian artwork ever sold at auction, knocking off longtime record-holder Paul Kane’s Scene in the Northwest. Including the buyer’s sales premium, the painting sold for $11.21 million.

Here are the top five most valuable Canadian artworks ever sold at auction.

1. Lawren Harris, ‘Mountain Forms’
Sold in 2016 for $11,210,000 (all prices including sales premium)

2. Jean Paul Riopelle, ‘Vent du nord’
Sold in 2017 for $7,438,750

Paul Riopelle’s abstract work Vent du nord headed into Heffel’s spring 2017 auction with a conservative pre-sale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million. (Heffel Auction/The Canadian Press)

3. Paul Kane, ‘Scene in the Northwest – Portrait of John Henry Lefroy’

Sold in 2002 for $5,062,000

Art lover and media baron Ken Thomson bought Scene in the Northwest at a Sotheby’s Canada sale in 2002, eventually donating it to the Art Gallery of Ontario. (Courtesy: The Thomson Collection/Art Gallery of Ontario)

4. Lawren Harris, ‘Mountain and Glacier’,
Sold in 2015 for $4,602,000

Heffel set a new record for a Harris work with Mountain and Glacier that was sold at an auction in Nov. 2015. (Heffel Fine Art Auction House)

5. Jeff Wall, ‘Dead Troops Talk (A Vision After an Ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, Winter 1986’)
Sold in 2012 for $3,666,400

Jeff Wall’s colossal photograph Dead Troops Talk was a record-setter at Christie’s in New York in 2012: highest price ever paid at auction for a Canadian photograph. (Christie’s)

May 17, 2018

The History of the Color Blue: From Ancient Egypt to the Latest Scientific Discoveries By Emma Taggart

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The color blue is associated with two of Earth’s greatest natural features: the sky and the ocean. But that wasn’t always the case. Some scientists believe that the earliest humans were actually colorblind and could only recognize black, white, red, and only later yellow and green. As a result, early humans with no concept of the color blue simply had no words to describe it. This is even reflected in ancient literature, such as Homer’s Odyssey, that describes the ocean as a “wine-red sea.”

Blue was first produced by the ancient Egyptians who figured out how to create a permanent pigment that they used for decorative arts. The color blue continued to evolve for the next 6,000 years, and certain pigments were even used by the world’s master artists to create some of the most famous works of art. Today it continues to evolve, with the latest shade discovered less than a decade ago. Read on to learn more about the color’s fascinating history.

1. Egyptian Blue

The History of the Color Blue

Egyptian Juglet, ca. 1750–1640 B.C. (Photo: Met Museum, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922.)

There’s a long list of things we can thank the ancient Egyptians for inventing, and one of them is the color blue. Considered to be the first ever synthetically produced color pigment, Egyptian blue (also known as cuprorivaite) was created around 2,200 B.C. It was made from ground limestone mixed with sand and a copper-containing mineral, such as azurite or malachite, which was then heated between 1470 and 1650°F. The result was an opaque blue glass which then had to be crushed and combined with thickening agents such as egg whites to create a long-lasting paint or glaze.

The Egyptians held the hue in very high regard and used it to paint ceramics, statues, and even to decorate the tombs of the pharaohs. The color remained popular throughout the Roman Empire and was used until the end of the Greco-Roman period (332 BC–395 AD), when new methods of color production started to evolve.

The History of the Color Blue

The figure of a Lion. ca. 1981–1640 B.C. (Photo: Met Museum, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922.)

Fun fact: In 2006, scientists discovered that Egyptian blue glows under fluorescent lights, indicating that the pigment emits infrared radiation. This discovery has made it a lot easier for historians to identify the color on ancient artifacts, even when it’s not visible to the naked eye.

2. Ultramarine Blue

The History of the Color Blue

“Virgin and Child with Female Saints” by Gérard David, 1500. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The history of ultramarine began around 6,000 years ago when the vibrant, semi-precious gemstone it was made from—lapis lazuli—began to be imported by the Egyptians from the mountains of Afghanistan. However, the Egyptians tried and failed to turn it into a paint, with each attempt resulting in a dull gray. Instead, they used it to make jewelry and headdresses.

Also known as “true blue,” lapis lazuli first appeared as a pigment in the 6th century and was used in Buddhist paintings in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. It was renamed ultramarine—in Latin: ultramarinus, meaning “beyond the sea”—when the pigment was imported into Europe by Italian traders during the 14th and 15th centuries. Its deep, royal blue quality meant that was highly sought after among artists living in Medieval Europe. However, in order to use it you had to be wealthy, as it was considered to be just as precious as gold.

The History of the Color Blue

“Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer, circa 1665. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Ultramarine was usually reserved for only the most important commissions, such as the blue robes of the Virgin Mary in Gérard David’s Virgin and Child with Female Saints. Supposedly, Baroque master Johannes Vermeer—who painted Girl with a Pearl Earring—loved the color so much that he pushed his family into debt. It remained extremely expensive until a synthetic ultramarine was invented in 1826, by a French chemist, which was then aptly named “French Ultramarine.”

Fun fact: Art historians believe that Michelangelo left his painting The Entombment (1500–01) unfinished because he could not afford to buy more ultramarine blue.

3. Cobalt Blue

The History of the Color Blue

“The Skiff (La Yole)” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1875. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Cobalt blue dates back to the 8th and 9th centuries, and was then used to color ceramics and jewelry. This was especially the case in China, where it was used in distinctive blue and white patterned porcelain. A purer alumina-based version was later discovered by French chemist Louis Jacques Thénard in 1802, and commercial production began in France in 1807. Painters—such as J. M. W. Turner, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Vincent Van Gogh—started using the new pigment as an alternative to expensive ultramarine.

The History of the Color Blue

“Dinky Bird” by Maxfield Parrish, 1904. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Fun fact: Cobalt blue is sometimes called Parrish blue because artist Maxfield Parrish used it to create his distinct, intensely blue skyscapes.

4. Cerulean Blue

The History of the Color Blue

“Summer’s Day” by Berthe Morisot, 1879. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Originally composed of cobalt magnesium stannate, the sky-colored cerulean blue was perfected by Andreas Höpfner in Germany in 1805 by roasting cobalt and tin oxides. However, the color was not available as an artistic pigment until 1860 when it was sold by Rowney and Company under the name of coeruleum. Artist Berthe Morisot used cerulean along with ultramarine and cobalt blue to paint the blue coat of the woman in A Summer’s Day, 1887.

Fun fact: In 1999, Pantone released a press release declaring cerulean as the “Color of the Millennium,” and “the hue of the future.”

5. Indigo Blue

The History of the Color Blue

Indigo, historical dye collection of the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons )

Although blue was expensive to use in paintings, it was much cheaper to use for dying textiles. Unlike the rarity of lapis lazuli, the arrival of a new blue dye called “indigo” came from an excessively grown crop—called Indigofera tinctoria—that was produced across the world. Its import shook up the European textile trade in the 16th century, and catalyzed trade wars between Europe and America.

The History of the Color Blue

Indigo dyed textile (England), 1790s. (Photo: Matt Flynn via Wikimedia Commons)

The use of indigo for dyeing textiles was most popular in England, and was used to dye clothing worn by men and women of all social backgrounds. Natural indigo was replaced in 1880, when synthetic indigo was developed. This pigment is still used today to dye blue jeans. However, over the last decade scientists have discovered that the bacteria Escherichia coli can be bio-engineered to produce the same chemical reaction that makes indigo in plants. This method, called “bio-indigo,” will likely play a big part in manufacturing environmentally friendly denim in the future.

Fun fact: Sir Isaac Newton—the inventor of the “color spectrum”—believed that the rainbow should consist of seven distinct colors to match the seven days of the week, the seven known planets, and the seven notes in the musical scale. Newton championed indigo, along with orange, even though many other contemporary scientists believed the rainbow only had five colors.

6. Navy Blue

The History of the Color Blue

Navy cadets in uniform, 1877. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Formally known as marine blue, the darkest shade of blue—also known as navy blue—was adopted as the official color for British Royal Navy uniforms, and was worn by officers and sailors from 1748. Modern navies have since darkened the color of their uniforms to almost black in an attempt to avoid fading. Indigo dye was the basis for historical navy blue colors dating from the 18th century.

Fun fact: There are many variations of navy blue, including Space cadet, a color that was formulated in 2007. This hue is associated with the uniforms of cadets in the space navy; a fictional military service armed with the task of exploring outer space.

7. Prussian Blue

The History of the Color Blue

“The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Katsushika Hokusai, 1831. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Also known as Berliner Blau, Prussian blue was discovered accidentally by German dye-maker Johann Jacob Diesbach. In fact, Diesbach was working on creating a new red, however, one of his materials—potash—had come into contact with animal blood. Instead of making the pigment even more red like you might expect, the animal blood created a surprising chemical reaction, resulting in a vibrant blue.

The History of the Color Blue

Prussian Blue Pigment. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Pablo Picasso used the Prussian blue pigment exclusively during his Blue Period, and Japanese woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai used it to create his iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa, as well as other prints in his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series. However, the pigment wasn’t only used for creating masterpieces. In 1842, English astronomer Sir John Herschel discovered that Prussian blue had a unique sensitivity to light, and was the perfect hue to create copies of drawings. This discovery proved invaluable to the likes of architects, who could create copies of their plans and designs, that are today known as “blueprints.”

Fun fact: Today, Prussian blue is used in a pill form to cure metal poisoning.

8. International Klein Blue
The History of the Color Blue

“L’accord bleu (RE 10)”, 1960 by Yves Klein. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The History of the Color Blue

In pursuit of the color of the sky, French artist Yves Klein developed a matte version of ultramarine that he considered the best blue of all. He registered International Klein Blue (IKB) as a trademark and the deep hue became his signature between 1947 and 1957. He painted over 200 monochrome canvases, sculptures, and even painted human models in the IKB color so they could “print” their bodies onto canvas.

Fun fact: Klein once said “blue has no dimensions. It is beyond dimensions,” believing that it could take the viewer outside the canvas itself.

9. The Latest Discovery: YInMn

The History of the Color Blue

YInMn Blue. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In 2009, a new shade of blue was accidentally discovered by Professor Mas Subramanian and his then graduate student Andrew E. Smith at Oregon State University. While exploring new materials for making electronics, Smith discovered that one of his samples turned bright blue when heated. Named YInMn blue, after its chemical makeup of yttrium, indium, and manganese, they released the pigment for commercial use in June 2016.

Fun fact: YInMn blue was recently added to the Crayola crayon collection.

February 15, 2018

Why my interest in abstract landscapes?

Many people have asked me about my interest in abstracted landscapes, many of which are based on abstractions of the vibrant colours and geometric shapes derived from their respective photo references. I have discovered that by digitally manipulating these photos, I can generate new and more interestingly surreal reference subjects. For me, the resulting tension between these varied expressions of created order evoke humankind’s tendency to impose his will and control over nature to create a transformed reality. The results can display goodness, truth and beauty or profoundly distort and debase creation in the service of the opposite. I think this is worth painting about!

Saskatchewan River Forks 12″ W x 36″ H

 

 

January 26, 2018

Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands

“I was working on a big totem with heavy woods behind. How badly I want that nameless thing! First there must be an idea, a feeling, or whatever you want to call it, the something that interested or inspired you sufficiently to make you desire to express it…Then you must discover the pervading direction, the pervading rhythm, the dominant, recurring forms, the dominant colour, but always the thing must be top in your thoughts.  Everything must lead up to it, clothe it, feed it, balance it, tenderly fold it, till it reveals itself in all the beauty of its ideas.”

August 9, 2017

St. John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci

St. John the Baptist was painted by Leonardo da Vinci during 1513 to 1516, when the High Renaissance was metamorphosing into Mannerism, it is believed to be his last painting. This is an oil painting on walnut wood. The original size of the work was 69×57 cm. It is now exhibited at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France.

The pointing gesture of St. John toward the heavens suggests the importance of salvation through baptism that John the Baptist represents. The work is often quoted by later painters, especially those in the late Renaissance and Mannerist schools. The inclusion of a gesture similar to John’s would increase the importance of a work with a religious conceit.

Many people are critical of this work, finding it a disturbing representation of a character normally portrayed as gaunt and fiery, living in a desert and surviving on a diet of locusts and honey. In Leonardo’s painting St. John seems almost to be a hermaphrodite. He has a womanish arm bent across his breast, his finger raised towards heaven, and that same enigmatic smile so admired on the face of Mona Lisa, a smile which can be seen in other Leonardo paintings like that of St. Anne. His face is almost faun-like and framed by a glorious cascade of curls. The finger pointed towards heaven was to appear quite often in Leonardo’s work (the Burlington House cartoon is another example) and denotes the coming of Christ.

Leonardo was aware of the inherent dangers of this system. Earlier in his notes he warned that a figure will not be discerned against a dark background and will not appear to be detached from it. From a distance nothing will be visible but the illuminated parts. However, in the shadows of the body of St John the Baptist, Leonardo has retained just enough light for us to be able to comprehend his form fully. As in the moon, even the dark areas of his figure retain a slight glimmer of reflected radiance.

This is the last known major work in Leonardo’s hand. The figure’s haunting beauty comes from the ambiguity of its sexual identity. The luminous face seems to be an emanation of the darkness that completely envelops it. The mysterious gesture of the raised arm with upward-pointing finger is not just of religious but probably also of esoteric significance.

February 27, 2017

Thy Hand is in This Design

That I must know him…
For I am beguiled of this man, this Robin Goodfellow, this Puck,
Who stirs my heart with dreams of youth and beauty,
And in so doing, must transform my sanity and comfort.
Thy hand is in this design…
That I must feel and know the feeling of myself again,
This time unfettered by the fear of a heart laid bare
And made safe beneath the layers of subterfuge and guile.
I was protected and guarded against this temptation.
It was not my intent to admit him in.
And yet my senses are filled with him-
He has taken residence within my heart-
an unwelcome yet delicious boarder
of dark mystery and feeling.
Thy hand is in this design…
For it was not my plan to be entranced.
I am bewitched and must look upon his face
and know the beauty there within.
What has Thou done to me at this middle hour of my life?
To what purpose am I torn apart
and destined to look again at the contents of my heart?
There is folly here and I will not a fool be made.
Yet my heart says trust- that in this design,
I might know Thy will for me.
Lead me forth from this summer’s dream
that I might awaken and know the truth of me.

February 27, 2017

Fyodor Dostoyevsky – The Brothers Karamazov

February 27, 2017

Most Expensive Paintings in the World



PABLO PICASSO

Femme aux Bras Croisés (Woman with Folded Arms), 1902

Sold for $55 million in 2000



VINCENT VAN GOGH

A Wheatfield with Cypresses, 1889

Sold for $57 million in 1993



KAZIMIR MALEVICH

Suprematist Composition, 1916

Sold for $60 million in 2008



PAUL CÉZANNE

Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier, 1894

Sold for $60.5 million in 1999



WILLEM DE KOONING

Police Gazette, 1955

Sold for $63.5 million in 2006



VINCENT VAN GOGH

Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe (Self-portrait without beard), 1889

Sold for $71.5 million in 1998



ANDY WARHOL

Green Car Crash, 1963

Sold for $71.7 million in 2007



MARK ROTHKO

White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose), 1950

Sold for $72.8 million in 2007



PETER PAUL RUBENS

Massacre of the Innocents, 1611

Sold for $76.7 million in 2002



PIERRE-AUGUSTE RENOIR

Bal du moulin de la Galette (Dance at Le moulin de la Galette), 1876

Sold for $78.1 million in 1990



JASPER JOHNS

False Start, 1959

Sold for $80 million in 2006



CLAUDE MONET

Le Bassin aux Nymphéas (Water Lily Pond), 1919

Sold for $80.5 million in 2008



VINCENT VAN GOGH

Portrait of Dr. Gachet, 1890

Sold for $82.5 million in 1990



FRANCIS BACON

Triptych, 1976

Sold for $86.3 million in 2008



GUSTAV KLIMT

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1912

Sold for $87.9 million in 2006



PABLO PICASSO

Dora Maar au Chat (Dora Maar with Cat), 1941

Sold for $95.2 million in 2006



PABLO PICASSO

Garçon à la Pipe (Boy with a Pipe), 1905

Sold for $104.2 million in 2004



PABLO PICASSO

Nude, Green Leaves And Bust

Sold for $106 million in New York in 2012



EDVARD MUNCH

The Scream

Sold for $119.9 million Sotheby’s in New York in 2012



GUSTAV KLIMT

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907

Sold for $135 million in 2006



WILLEM DE KOONING

Woman III, 1953

Sold for $137.5 million in 2006



JACKSON POLLOCK

No. 5, 1948

Sold for $140 million in 2006



PABLO PICASSO

Le Rêve, 1932

Sold for $155 million in 2013



PABLO PICASSO

Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”), 1955

Sold for $179 million in 2015



MARK ROTHKO

No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red), 1951

Sold for $186 million in 2014



PAUL CÉZANNE

The Card Players, 1892

Sold for $272 million in 2011



PAUL GAUGUIN

Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (When Will You Marry?), 1892

Sold for $300 million in 2015

February 27, 2017

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