Ivan Aivazovsky

Aivazovsky—Gibraltar

American Shipping off the Rock of Gibraltar. Ivan Aivazovsky [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As mentioned last week, I have recently found myself rather absorbed in looking at old paintings. The work of Russian painters is, it turns out, some of my favourite work, and one of the artists in particular—Ivan Aivazovsky—really impressed me with his skill.

Aivasovsky Ivan Constantinovich storm 1886 IBI

Storm. Ivan Aivazovsky [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Of course, Aivazovsky’s favourite subject matter, the sea, does not hurt—I like to think that my grandfather being a Navy man and lifelong boater is part of the reason for my predilection toward such works, and I did spend much of last fall and winter zipping through C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series (which is very good reading). I do think that artwork featuring the sea always fascinates, though, because it’s always moving, always alive and awake, even beneath a seemingly still surface. Moreover, the power of the sea is undeniable, something mankind has long taken advantage of but will never be able to bridle.

Perhaps we need to be reminded of our own tininess, and that is why we find ourselves drawn to such works?

Айвазовский И.К. Волна

Волна. Ivan Aivazovsky [Public domain or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Regardless, to my eyes, Aivazovsky’s painting of the sea remain very, very much among the best of the genre.

Hovhannes Aivazovsky - The Ninth Wave - Google Art Project.jpg

The Ninth Wave, Aivazovksy’s most famous work.
“Hovhannes Aivazovsky – The Ninth Wave – Google Art Project” by Hovhannes Aivazovsky (1817 – 1900) (Russian) (Painter, Details of artist on Google Art Project) – jgHuL-7yxgrOSw at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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Scott Burdick on Modern Art vs. Beauty

Briton Rivière - Aphrodite 02.jpg

Briton Rivière – Aphrodite 02″ by Briton Rivière – info: [1] – pic: [2]. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The state of contemporary art occasionally pops up as a topic here. To me, two necessary components art are truth and beauty, and the two are often very much intertwined. Would you not agree that Truth is a beautiful thing, though it often stings? Beauty is not always true (witness any actress who has put herself under the knife), of course, but it is terribly important—I would argue that beauty is, in fact, vital to man’s well-being. It it brings us joy and delight, it is ennobling, it can cause us to aspire—it has powerful effect upon our mind for good or ill (but that Beauty is so often an Achilles’ heel for mankind only serves to point to its importance to us).

If most of us very honest and unconcerned with others’ opinions (this rarely bothers me; I’m part O’Hara, so pulling punches is simply not my MO), few of us will call many modern art pieces “beautiful”. (Of course, we must be willing to pass judgment, just as we do when deciding whether or not something is good for us to eat.)

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A Virtual Tour of The Library of Congress’ Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

Where there's smoke there's fire

“Where there’s smoke there’s fire”, Russell Patterson, circa 192?. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-01589

First of all, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I have been having serious battles with my computer all week (we’re at around 18 kernel panic shutdowns thus far), and today has been no exception. Let’s just all say a quick prayer and cross our fingers that this post is not going to have to tide you over for weeks and weeks. 😉 Saving my work has become a serious tic now, though; this seems to me both good and bad.

There have been repeated threats that I was going to talk about an amazing resource for history lovers, art fans, architecture buffs, and really just about any living human being—the Library Of Congress’ Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC)—with you, and today seems like a good day to do so.

How this massive online source of art, photographs, old books, sheet music, and more came to my attention I really can’t recall, but it was a most fortuitous day. The collections offered are fairly astounding in their breadth and depth, and if you ever need something worthwhile with which to devour your time, the PPOC is it.

Belle Isle Park, Grand Canal

Belle Isle Park, Grand Canal (Detroit, Michigan). Circa 1880-1899. Detroit Publishing Co., publisher. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-det-4a05260

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Gertrude Käsebier

Hermine (Käsebier) Turner and her son in a garden in Oceanside, L.I., Gertrude Käsebier, 1905.  Public domain. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

“Hermine (Käsebier) Turner and her son in a garden in Oceanside, L.I.”, Gertrude Käsebier, 1905.
Public domain. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Last week, the Library Of Congress’ blog ran a brief post about American photographer Gertrude Käsebier (cass-eh-beer—oh, boy, dictionary writers are going to kill me now), who was one of the first female photojournalists. No doubt her place in the history of photography had much to do with this, but reading about her, there’s no doubt her personality did much to gain her success, as well. She seems to have been an extremely determined, almost single-minded woman; thus, even in the late 1800s, she gained renown for her work in an age when most women cared for family and home instead of running a business.

American Horse and wife, American Indian, Gertrude Käsebier.  Public domain, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

“American Horse and wife, American Indian”, Gertrude Käsebier, 1900. Isn’t this stunning? Don’t you wonder about American Horse, his life before and after this was taken?
Public domain, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

More than any of this, though, what drew me to her work was not only the era in which she worked—I suppose we could call it the birth of popular, publicly consumed photography in the States—but her subject matter and her reason for capturing it on camera:

After my babies came I determined to learn to use the brush. I wanted to hold their

The Manger, an experimental negative to show values of white against white, featuring a young woman holding a baby and made in Newport, R.I.  Gertrude Käsebier, 1901.  Public domain photo courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

“The Manger, an experimental negative to show values of white against white, featuring a young woman holding a baby and made in Newport, R.I.” Gertrude Käsebier, 1901.
Public domain photo courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

lovely little faces in some way that should be also my expression, so I went to an art school; two or three of them, in fact. But art is long and childhood is fleeting, I soon discovered, and the children were losing their baby faces before I learned to paint portraits, so I chose a quicker medium. – Gertrude Käsebier quoted in “The Camera Has Opened a New Profession for Women–Some of Those Who Have Made Good,” New York Times, April 20, 1913, X12

Her comment about needing a “quicker medium” did make me chuckle, and you may find yourself doing the same! Continue reading

What is “realistic” art?

Arabischer Mosaizist um 735 001

Umayyad mosaics of Hisham’s Palace by Arabischer Mosaizist um 735 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As it is only a cold which has latched onto me, of course “being better soon” was my expectation. Unfortunately, I could not have been more wrong, and was remiss in not suggesting you buy stock in Kleenex last Friday, because I probably account for roughly 8% of their sales right now. Whoops!

Since I have been unable to prepare anything whatsoever (other than many gallons of hot tea), I thought I’d share with you some more interesting thoughts from Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present, something I did (with a complete lack of brevity) a few months ago. There’s a lot of food for thought in the book no matter your bend, be it art, philosophy, theology, mathematics, or science—particularly as these things are so often intertwined with or affecting each other.

You may recall, from my earlier post, Barzun writing that

The Renaissance treatises declare that apart from his moral mission, the artist’s duty (and thereby his intention) is to imitate nature.

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Proper attribution of photos under the Creative Commons license

Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved. Pinning to this page is okay.

Something I—and any consumer of online media—see a lot is people using images without proper attribution of any kind. Not only is this unfair to the original creator and anyone wanting more information about said image, it’s wrong, and that is true even when an image is licensed under Creative Commons. Not only that, but many people don’t properly attribute Creative Commons-licensed images, which is also wrong.

When I wrote my post featuring thought-provoking words from Jacques Barzun a week ago, featuring the artists of which he wrote was important (and seemed sensible to me). Happily, many of these works are in the public domain, but even so, I obtained them from somewhere, and wanted you to find them while also giving credit to the host. Of course, if you find Creative Commons-licensed things online, it may seem difficult to figure out exactly how to properly attribute the works, because one must include the title, the artist, the license, the location—but fear not! A quick search turned up this infographic explaining the whole process in very simple terms! Continue reading

Herb Bonanza!

Chamomile at Oglebay Park, WV, in autumn. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved. Pinning to this page is okay.

“Sputnik”

Fellow ArtFire-ian Azure Dandelion recently included my photography in three of her collections—three herb-themed collections I was quite happy to see simply as harbringers of spring. Due to some health issues, I’m a bit behind on my garden planning and work—normally my winter sowing is out in the yard by now—but last week I finally ordered seeds (they’re popping up at local hardware stores, too—everybody’s ready!) and they should be here any day. Hurrah! Planting season is so exciting to contemplate—particularly considering the winter we’ve had. Continue reading