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November 11, 2015

Botticelli, Michelangelo, and the importance of drawing

Sandro Botticelli, Primavera; Allegory of Spring, c. 1478, Galleria degli Uffizi. Image and original data provided by ©SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.;;

Sandro Botticelli, Primavera; Allegory of Spring, c. 1478, Galleria degli Uffizi. Image and original data provided by ©SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.;;

Kenyon Cox (1856-1919) might now be best remembered for his murals in the Library of Congress, as well as in the state capitol buildings of Des Moines, St. Paul, and Madison, but he was also a respected writer and influential teacher. In 1911, he delivered a series of lectures on painting at the Art Institute of Chicago, later published as The Classic Point of View. His accessible writing style and his infectious enthusiasm for the Old Masters still speak to us today. Following is an excerpt from his lecture on the importance of drawing, focusing on the work of Botticelli and Michelangelo.

Drawing is a great expressional art and deals with beauty and significance, not with mere fact. Its great masters are the greatest artists that ever lived, and high attainment in it has always been rarer than high attainment in color. Its tools are the line and so much of light and shade as is necessary to convey the sense of bulk and modelling, anything more being something added for its own beauty and expressiveness, not a part of the sources of the draftsman. Its aims are, first, to develop in the highest degree the abstract beauty and significance possessed by lines in themselves, more or less independently of representation; second, to express with the utmost clearness and force the material significance of objects and, especially, of the human body. According as one or the other of these aims predominates we have one or the other of the two great schools into which draftsmen may be divided. These schools may be typified by the greatest masters of each, the school of Botticelli, or the school of pure line; the school of Michelangelo, or the school of significant form. Between these lie all the law and the prophets. Of course no artist ever belonged entirely and exclusively to either school. It is always a matter of balance and the predominance of interest. Even a Botticelli tried to put some significant form inside his beautiful lines, and even Michelangelo gave thought to the abstract beauty of his lines apart from the significant form they bounded.

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September 22, 2015

Writing a Book in a Digital Age

Jacksonville Female Academy

The students of the Jacksonville Female Academy seated in front of Academy Hall, ca. 1890. The team at Illinois College plans to incorporate this photo into the Jacksonville Female Academy collection on Artstor.

Jenny Barker Devine, Associate Professor of History at Illinois College and the author of On Behalf of the Family Farm, shares her thoughts on how the Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research will impact her upcoming book. This essay first appeared on her blog American Athena.

With American Athena, I want to write a new kind of book – one that exists in a dynamic and living space, responsive to readers and as instructive in design as it is in content. This new kind of book acknowledges the reader as an active participant in producing new knowledge. A kind of crowdsourcing.

In addition to the blog and the book manuscript, I am creating online collections that will allow you, the reader, to interact with the same documents, photographs, and artifacts that I see (and hopefully offer your own interpretations of them). With any luck and lots of hard work, the first images will be available in spring 2016.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but Illinois College’s digital infrastructure just didn’t support my end goal. Then, Danielle Trierweiler, IC’s Digital Services Librarian, approached me last spring with the idea to apply for the Council of Independent Colleges’ Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research, which, in cooperation with Artstor, provides Consortium members with access to Shared Shelf [now JSTOR Forum], “a cloud-based asset management service.” This allows us to make key records of the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives available to a global audience and forces me, at an early stage, to curate important documents central to my research. As an author, I find this incredibly exciting.

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September 15, 2015

Enthusiasm for the Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research

ArtstorEarlier this summer we announced that with $2.2 million in support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Artstor and the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) will support the digital documentation of collections held by 42 liberal arts colleges and universities. The Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research, as the project is known, subsidizes the use of Shared Shelf, Artstor’s digital asset management service, to catalog the institutions’ collections and make them publicly accessible via the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

Though the project has barely started, the schools’ local newspapers are already expressing enthusiasm:

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August 27, 2015

In the news: destruction in Palmyra, Syria

Palmyra; theatre exterior from south. Date of photograph: 1977. Image and original data provided by Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom.

Palmyra; theatre exterior from south. Date of photograph: 1977. Image and original data provided by Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom.

We’ve gathered six examples that illustrate how the images in Artstor can be used to enhance the teaching and learning of architecture and architectural history, along with two case studies, one by a then-doctoral candidate and another by a fine art faculty member.

Recent photographs released by the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, have confirmed the destruction of the ancient Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, Syria. Until now, the ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, contained remarkably well-preserved structures built by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago, making it one of the most important archaeological sites in the region.

The news of the Temple’s destruction was preceded by the horrifying news that Khaled Asaad, the 83-year-old chief of the city’s antiquities department, was publicly beheaded. While the seemingly endless loss of lives must be our primary concern, the destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin is shocking for its attempt to erase Syria and the region’s rich, multicultural history.

The New York Times quoted Irina Bokova, the director general of UNESCO, saying “The art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, is a symbol of the complexity and wealth of the Syrian identity and history. Extremists seek to destroy this diversity and richness, and I call on the international community to stand united against this persistent cultural cleansing.”

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August 14, 2015

Reflections after Ramadan

Herbert Cole, People gathered for Ramadan Festival

Northern Ghana; Yendi: People gathered for Ramadan Festival, 1977, Photographed by Herbert Cole.

There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less.
If the sound boxes stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean with fasting,
every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
– Molana (Rumi), Ghazal No. 1739 from Divan-e Shams-e Tabriz

This past June Muslims around the world fasted for the month of Ramadan. The sight of the crescent moon is the mark for the beginning of the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Muslims believe the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad during Ramadan. Many friends and colleagues have asked me what Ramadan is about, and I wish to provide them with something deeper than a surface understanding.

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August 12, 2015

The Zen of Agnes Martin

Agnes Bernice Martin, Waters, 1962. Seattle Art Museum; © 2008 Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Agnes Bernice Martin, Waters, 1962, Seattle Art Museum. © 2008 Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

To the pioneers of Minimalism, Agnes Martin’s grid paintings were an early source of inspiration. To the Abstract Expressionists, Martin was a peer, whose use of line to cover canvases from edge to edge was not a gesture of Minimal art, but an expression of the AbEx concept of “allover” painting. In her own words, her pale, meditative geometry harkened back to much older ideas. Her art, she claimed, should be recognized alongside that of the ancient’s— the Egyptians, Greeks, Coptics, and, most importantly, Chinese.

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July 29, 2015

Four new curriculum guides in English Literature

Curriculum Guides1

Good news for English instructors: We have four new Curriculum Guides–collections of images from the Artstor Digital Library based on syllabi for college courses–covering different aspects of English Literature, each created by experts in the field:

British Romantic Poetry by Hugh Roberts, Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine

Gender in Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Literature and Gothic Literature by Jennifer L. Airey, Associate Professor of English at the University of Tulsa

The Coffeehouse: English Literature and the Culture of the Public Sphere, 1660-1740 by Misty G. Anderson, Professor of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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July 22, 2015

A new, easy way to browse through Artstor’s Teaching Resources

Good news: You can now access all of Artstor’s Teaching Resources through the Artstor Digital Library’s Browse menu!


All three of our AP® Teaching Resources–for Advanced Placement courses in Art History, European History, United States History–as well as our Curriculum Guides, Case Studies (from our Travel Award winners), and our popular surveys of selected images for Art, Architecture, and other Humanities and Social Sciences topics are all easy to browse under Teaching Resources on the Artstor Digital Library home page.

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June 30, 2015

Did you know Artstor features more than just images?

Animation of the interior of the Hagia Sofia

In addition to still images, you can find videos, audio files, 3D images, and panorama (QTVR) files within the Artstor Workspace. You can search by media type using the file extensions as keywords:

  • Videos – search for mov. Clicking the movie icon will open your default video player.
  • Audio – search for mp3. Clicking the sound icon will open your default audio player.
  • Panoramas (QTVR) – search for qtvr. Clicking the QTVR icon will open a QuickTime Player window where you can view the environment by panning 360°.
  • 3D images – search for 3D. Clicking the 3D icon will open the 3D image in rotation in the image viewer. To stop or restart the rotation, click the rotation icon .

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June 8, 2015

Introducing the Artstor Digital Library User Advisory Board

Artstor has named the 30 community members of the new Artstor Digital Library User Advisory Board. The members represent a variety of areas of our user community and will gather online three times a year to identify critical issues regarding new tools, features, and functionality of the Digital Library and provide recommendations for improvement.

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