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It was the most widespread war in history, involving the participation of more than one hundred million people from around the world. It affected life in myriad ways: economically, politically, industrially, scientifically, ideologically. And its reach was one of the most horrible. And yet, at the same time, it spurred on glimpses of positivity in the midst of this darkness: giving rise to the so-called Greatest Generation, and leading to advances in medicine and aviation, in information technology, and many other sectors.
This was World War Two. But what did the war have to do with art? And how are the effects of the war still being felt today?
What’s the problem of the woman artist? And how can we fix it? Today, we’re talking about women artists-- the historical difficulties in becoming an artist, the challenges present therein, and the limitations and legacies of one very important Renaissance painter.
Conservators are art heroes: they transform damaged or dirty works of art into beautiful, fresh works for public consumption. Then why is it that conservation has been at the center of some of the biggest art historical controversies of the last fifty years? What does a conservator really do, and what happens when conservation goes too far?
Over the centuries, there have been numerous examples of fine artists creating works of art that deliberately work with and within contemporaneous medical thought, portraying people with particular ailments or diseases. But what about if we turn that concept around a little bit? What happens when those in the medical field turn to paintings or sculptures from the past and retroactively investigate the health of the individuals depicted therein? What happens when art history turns into a diagnosis?
Venice-- it's the most serene and beautiful city in Italy, and possibly the whole world. But Venice at night-- all darkened and quiet-- has an air of inscrutability and mystery. Over time, locals and visitors alike have reveled in this sensation as fodder for myth-making and storytelling. Some stories really stick, lasting for centuries and becoming embedded into the city itself, through its buildings, monuments, and specific locations. And there’s one building that has had plenty of legends built around it, having once been a meeting place where Italian Renaissance artists discussed their craft, caroused, and gambled. But it’s also the location where relationships soured, crimes were committed, and death inevitably followed.
Sometimes when I am looking at a particularly fascinating work of art, I find myself overwhelmed with awe-- for the creative act itself and the technical prowess that was needed to bring it to fruition. I’ve often had those moments where I have thought to myself, “Wow. How did this all come about? What is the inspiration behind this piece?” And any conversation about inspiration in the arts inevitably brings up a discussion about muses. This episode looks at the relationship--and occasional romance-- between artists and their muses, with a particular emphasis on one woman whose connection to two brothers illustrates this exchange in a compelling way.
A few months ago, I began looking into occurrences of art vandalism-- the purposeful destruction or harm of works of art that have occurred consistently, especially throughout the 20th century. As I read up, I saw that most of these events were one-offs: single moments where one person made a rash and ridiculous choice to lash out at a particular work of art. But then, I began to notice one name popping up over and over again- a German man who, over his lifetime, damaged over fifty works of art, creating a name for himself and a lasting impression on the art world. This episode, in a continuation of our Bigger Picture series, digs deeper into art attacks and examine the life and legacy of the vandal Hans-Joachim Bohlmann.
How many know that the inventor of the telegraph and co-creator of Morse code--Samuel F. B. Morse-- was a successful artist, too? And crazily enough, one of his paintings in particular, foreshadowed his interest in communication tools, providing the impetus for revolutionizing communication--and, indeed, the world as we know it. Listen in for details on Morse's masterpiece, Gallery of the Louvre.
Glamour. Curiosity. Excitement. A love story for the ages. Such are the types of descriptors that you hear when you ponder the life and love of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Truly, in the pantheon of great artistic relationships, they are one of the top couples out there. And they had the great fortune, or whatever you want to call it, of living their exciting lives in front of the camera, as well as on canvas. Google them, and all kinds of lovey-dovey images come up-- images of Diego nuzzling Frida, images of them kissing, of her embracing him around his wide middle section. But what some people neglect, or possibly even forget, is that their relationship was by no means perfect. There were great ups, of course, but the downs? Incredible. Even Diego Rivera himself was aware of this fact, later writing, quote, “If I ever loved a woman, the more I loved her, the more I wanted to hurt her. Frida was the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait.” Harsh words. But would they always be that way?
There’s something a little strange about the pairing of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Certainly it’s the surprise of a pairing of seeming opposites, at least from a physical standpoint-- she the small, seductive, and somewhat frail painter whose subject matter referred to the most intimate sides of her own life; he, the large and somewhat brutish muralist whose large-scale works touched upon revolution and justice and larger issues of Mexican history. There’s almost a Beauty and the Beast quality there, and for many of us, the relationship between these two artists is just as intriguing as their creative output. And especially when it comes to Frida’s art, it’s very hard to separate their love from their artistic legacy. But how did it begin? And what is it about these two that makes them so fascinating, even 60 years later?
Throughout art history, there have been multiple occasions where people have entered into a museum or gallery with the explicit intention of harming or outright destroying a work of art. And some of the most iconic and greatest works of art in the world have been the targets of these disastrous missions. The big question, though, is why? What motivates people into a full blown art-attack?
Nearly ten years ago, my then-boyfriend, now husband, and I were backpacking through the Balkans region of Europe. After arriving in Bosnia, we opted to take a day trip to a small town called Medjugorje, in Herzegovina. Here's one of the biggest reasons for tourist pilgrimages there- since 2000, that statue has had a so-called weeping knee- miraculously producing a clear fluid each and every day for the last 16 years. We saw this statue with our own eyes. Was this statue for real? I think that belief and faith are beautiful, incredible things. But I also felt skeptical, too. I found myself torn in the middle- religious yet unbelieving, living in a gray area. But like Fox Mulder, I want to believe. In honor of the holiday season, we are going to look into the phenomenon of the miraculous in art, focusing on weeping statues and bleeding icons.
If there is one thing that’s true in this world, it’s that there sure isn't a lack of conspiracy theories out there. T Every day we might hear a new, wacky theory, even in the art world, like how the CIA funneled money into the arts, towards revolutionary painters like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, in order to fight the Cold War. Crazy, right? I mean, what a bizarre way to attempt to covertly bring down the Russians? Except that this last one isn't a crazy conspiracy theory at all. It’s actually a true story of propaganda, secrets, lies, and fine art. The pen is mightier than the sword, the saying goes. Well, it turns out that the same could be said about the paintbrush.
One of the most awe-inspiring sights in and around St. Petersburg, Russia, is the Catherine Palace, a rococo summer residence for the imperial family of yore. Up until World War II, The Catherine Palace housed something so incredible, so coveted, and so gorgeous that for hundreds of years, travelers fro all over the world flocked to admire it, referred to as the "Eighth Wonder of the World." And then, in the early 1940s with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, this priceless creation was stolen. And to this day, it has still never been found. What happened to the Amber Room?
Back in 2002, I was browsing a new releases table at my local bookstore when a particular book caught my eye. It seemed like yet another crime novel, one among hundreds. And so, I moved on, until I saw the subtitle of the book: Jack the Ripper: Case Closed. In it, the author released a bombshell statement: she had purportedly solved the mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity, which had evaded researchers, historians, and police for over one hundred years. Jack the Ripper, she said, was the English painter Walter Sickert.
Much was made of crime in Victorian London. The Victorians were terrified of the lower-classes, particularly down-and-out men living in the crowded outskirts of the city who, they thought, were lurking in the shadows, just waiting for the opportunity to arise for a well-timed theft, brawl, or even worse. Life, for most, was hard. But in 1888, Londoners clamoring for a bit of excitement to spice up the drudgery of their lives got far more than they bargained for. They got weeks of abject terror surrounding a madman who slaughtered women in London's East End... who was never identified or caught. And more than 100 years later, we are still no closer to really identifying one of the most terrible killers of all time. Or are we?
Andy Warhol's take on mortality wasn't about memorializing. He instead focused on the direct causes of death, or the aftermath of a terrible accident. His series, Death and Disaster, is one of the most well-known and polarizing of his career. But Warhol wasn't the first artist to focus on the everyday tragedy of death as a subject to quite this revealing and exploitative extend. That honor might very well belong to someone else: an immigrant photographer working in Manhattan in the 1930s and 1940s.
There are lots of questions that come up in every art history classroom. We hear them over and over again. What is art, really, and how can you define it? Why is the Mona Lisa smiling? What happened to the Winged Victory's arms? And then there's one that you'll hear, or that you'll even think yourself, especially if you are a fan or scholar of Renaissance art. Why, people ask. Why are Michelangelo's women so... un-womanly?
Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, had an image problem: she was seen as frivolous, silly, and out-of-touch. In order to combat her poor press, the royal court commissioned a series of portraits of the queen to make her more relatable and sympathetic. Such images act as excellent propaganda machines, giving Marie Antoinette a much-needed positive spin. But what is even more marvelous is the backstory of the artist who created these portraits-- because the painter who was chosen to portray the highest woman in the land was… another woman.
Talk about a revolution.
Vincent Van Gogh's suicide is a huge part of the mythology surrounding him: as much as the famous tale of the cut-off ear is. This so-called "tortured genius," it is said, was so broken down by life and failure that he had no choice but to end his life. Right?But in 2011, two Pulitzer Prize-winning authors published a book titled Van Gogh: The Life that stunned the art world. Therein, Gregory White Smith and Stephen Naifeh state that the artist didn't actually commit suicide. No, they say: he was actually murdered.
The inaugural episode of the ArtCurious Podcast explores the world's most famous work of art: Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. It is iconic, incredible, and unforgettable-- but is the work on view in Paris's Louvre Museum today the real deal? Host Jennifer Dasal uncovers the story of the Mona Lisa from its creation in the 16th century through its 1911 theft and to its current status as untouchable superstar, breaking down the strange stories and rumors swirling around it.