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April 21, 2016

What’s so funny, Democritus?

Johannes Moreelse, Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher, c. 163

Johannes Moreelse, Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher, c. 1630. Image and original data provided by the Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Democritus is primarily remembered for theorizing that all matter consists of particles called atoms, and this stunning quote: “Nothing exists except atoms and space, everything else is opinion.”

The Short History of the Atom wiki summarizes Democritus’ theory nicely:

  1. All matter consists of invisible particles called atoms.
  2. Atoms are indestructible.
  3. Atoms are solid but invisible.
  4. Atoms are homogenous.
  5. Atoms differ in size, shape, mass, position, and arrangement.

Prescient, yes, but it didn’t give much material for artists to work with. Luckily, Democritus was also known as “the laughing philosopher.” As classicist Mary Beard explains in Confronting the Classics,

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April 14, 2016

Enhancing visual acuity in medical education through the arts

By Joseph Costello, Medical Librarian, Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine

Head of Laocoon, c. 100. Foto Reali Archive, National Gallery of Art, Department of Image Collections.

Head of Laocoon, c. 100. Foto Reali Archive, National Gallery of Art, Department of Image Collections.

Prompt: Imagine the human expression of anguish. An amalgamation of stories, artwork, and social interactions blend together and you have your general concept of the human expression: anguish. The concept of anguish is correct to you since it is, after all, your portrayal; the anguish concept is a component in the overall conceptual framework you have constructed to assess emotional expressions. How accurate are you? In other words, how accurate are your visual detection skills of anguish or other emotions, how generalizable?

Accurate interpretation of facial expressions—the aggregate of minute facial movements we make, i.e. micro expressions—is believed to be associated with increased emotional intelligence. Researchers have shown that facial expressions can be generalized and successfully be a part of empathy training. Similarly, modern medicine generalizes the human body to find the distribution of values which in turn help generate a normal range.

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April 11, 2016

A tour of the RISD Museum in 20 objects, part two

To celebrate Artstor’s collaboration with the RISD Museum, our friends at the museum graciously created a lightning-tour of their encyclopedic collection in the Digital Library through twenty notable objects. Part one focuses on decorative and utilitarian artifacts, and part two on artworks.

Unknown artist (Greek); Aphrodite; 2nd century. Image © Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Unknown artist (Greek); Aphrodite; 2nd century. Image © Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Aphrodite

This bronze figure of Aphrodite, now green from oxidation, once would have been a warm brown. To heighten a sense of naturalism, the eyes and hair ribbon were inlaid with silver and the lips with copper. In the 4th century BCE, the first nude image of Aphrodite was sculpted, breaking a long tradition of depicting Greek goddesses clothed. It was fitting, however, that the goddess of love and beauty was the first to be portrayed in this new way. The motif became so popular that hundreds of such images of Aphrodite survive from ancient Greece and Rome, where they adorned homes, gardens, and sanctuaries. Exceedingly rare today, bronze examples like this one must have been prized possessions of wealthy patrons.

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April 11, 2016

A tour of the RISD Museum in 20 objects, part one

To celebrate Artstor’s collaboration with the RISD Museum, our friends at the museum graciously created a lightning-tour of their encyclopedic collection in the Digital Library through twenty notable objects. Part one focuses on decorative and utilitarian artifacts, and part two on artworks.

Egyptian; Paint box, 1302-1070 BCE. Image © Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Egyptian; Paint box, 1302-1070 BCE. Image © Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Paint Box

Only a handful of paint boxes survive from ancient Egypt, and this one is particularly unique in being made of ceramic and bearing a sliding lid with a grip whimsically decorated with a genet, an animal related to the mongoose.

The stylized papyrus thickets represent the genet’s habitat of tall grasses and shrubs. Featuring a hollow well for water and brush storage, the box contains seven pigment cakes of yellow ochre, Egyptian blue (a synthetic pigment composed of silica, copper, and calcium), calcium carbonate (white), hematite (dark red), hematite mixed with calcium carbonate (lighter red), and two charcoal blacks. Painters used these same pigments to decorate statuary and the walls of temples and tombs.

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March 29, 2016

Teaching Global Contemporary Art in AP® Art History

Wangechi Mutu, A Little Thought for All Ya'll Who're Thinking of Beating Around the Bush

Wangechi Mutu, A Little Thought for All Ya’ll Who’re Thinking of Beating Around the Bush, 2004. Contact: Alexandra Giniger, Studio Manager, Wangechi Mutu Studio ali@wangechimutu.com

Next week we will offer Teaching Global Contemporary Art in AP® Art History, the second in our series of occasional webinars on works of art and architecture in the AP® Art History curriculum. To help us navigate this topic, we have enlisted art historian Dr. Virginia Spivey as our guest presenter. Dr. Spivey specializes in the art of the late-20th and 21st centuries and the scholarship of teaching and learning in art history (you can read about her many achievements below).

Global Contemporary Art is represented in the curriculum framework by 27 works of art; after polling a group of AP® Art History teachers, Dr. Spivey has settled on the work of five artists: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Mariko Mori, Wangechi Mutu, Xu Bing, and Bill Viola.

Please join us Monday, April 4th at 7PM EST for a lively discussion on these contemporary artists and the art and ideas that influence them. Register here.

— Dana Howard, Senior K-12 Relationship Manager

– – –

For more than 19 years, Dr. Virginia Spivey has taught in museum and academic settings, where she has received two university teaching awards and multiple nominations. Since 2009, she has worked independently, providing expert content and developing curricular resources for clients including Pearson-Prentice Hall and Smarthistory at the Khan Academy while teaching part time at Georgetown, the George Washington University, and the Maryland Institute College of Art. Dr. Spivey recently revised the chapter on “Art since 1950” as a contributing author to Stokstad’s Art History (forthcoming 2016) and is currently working with the National Gallery of Art to redesign their docent training curriculum in art history. Since 2014, she has been a contributing editor at AHTR, a peer-populated open educational resource and online community for art history instructors, where she served as project leader to create Art History Pedagogy and Practice, an academic e-journal slated to launch in fall 2016.

AP® and Advanced Placement® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this website.

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March 23, 2016

Case study: Preserving and sharing a school’s rich history

Editor’s note: this post was updated to include current information about Artstor’s platform for public collections.
Nursing Program Students, 1949. Courtesy of Santa Rosa Junior College Archives.

Nursing Program Students, 1949. Courtesy of Santa Rosa Junior College Archives.

At the end of 1917, the Federated Home & School Association of Santa Rosa sent a recommendation to the local Board of Education to form a junior college. The following fall, Santa Rosa Junior College offered its first classes at the Santa Rosa High School. Its student body numbered only 19, with eight educators. It would take another 13 years before the College could boast a faculty of its own.

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March 21, 2016

Three classical myths to keep you awake

If you’re still trying to adjust to the start of Daylight Saving Time, we’d like to give you a little bit of advice: don’t let the mythological gods of Greece and Rome catch you napping. Seeing mortals sleeping seems to bring out the worst in them.

Here are three of the most notorious examples:

Endymion and Selene

Depending on whom you ask, Zeus either offered the beautiful shepherd Endymion a wish and Endymion chose to sleep and remain youthful forever, or the eternal sleep wasn’t a gift at all, but rather a punishment because Endymion had attempted to seduce Zeus’ wife, Hera.

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February 22, 2016

Artstor & STEM: How art can enhance scientific and mathematical thinking

Joseph Wright of Derby, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, 1768. The National Gallery, London

Joseph Wright of Derby, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, 1768. The National Gallery, London

By Katy Matsuzaki, Manager of Academic Programs, New Britain Museum of American Art

Recently a group of docents at the New Britain Museum of American Art gathered in a gallery filled with landscapes and portrait paintings to discuss how they might approach the art with a middle school math class scheduled for a visit. As they looked closely at works by Georgia O’Keefe and Robert Henri, and listened to the more math-minded among them explore geometry, proportion, and compositional formulas therein, fear of the “math tour” quickly gave way to excitement over a new, mathematical way to approach and appreciate artworks.

As the staff member who greenlighted the math field trip, I was heartened by the docents’ willingness to embrace the unknown. Math students in an art museum might at first seem like a foreign concept, but in reality, the immersive visual environment that a curated collection of art images provides can be an incredibly beneficial learning tool for not only the study of mathematics, but the other STEM fields (science, technology, math, and engineering) as well.

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February 3, 2016

Studying theatre with Artstor’s public collections

Editor’s note: this post was originally published in February 2013 and has been updated to reflect platform changes.

Did you know that Artstor contains publicly available collections that cover everything from flowers and turtles to medicine labels and political memorabilia–and are are also a great resource for theatre studies? Below, we discuss five collections which offer a fascinating view of the history and art of theatre, including books, costume and set design, and even photographs of productions.

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February 3, 2016

Reading the Codex Mendoza

The Codex Mendoza, early 1540s

The ‘Codex Mendoza’, pt. I.; fol. 002r, early 1540s. Image and original data provided by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. Copyright Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

As we built our AP® Art History Teaching Resources over the last three years, we found ourselves fascinated by some of the newly required content. The art of the Colonial Americas is represented in the curriculum framework by six distinct objects. One of these is the “Codex Mendoza,” named for the first viceroy of Mexico (1535-1550), who commissioned it c. 1542 (contributed to the Artstor Digital Library by the Bodleian Library). Intended as a gift to Charles V, the manuscript never reached the monarch.

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