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Blog Category: Highlights

June 3, 2015

The other Turner

William Turner of Oxford, Shepherd Boy on a Hillside, ca. 1840. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

William Turner of Oxford, Shepherd Boy on a Hillside, ca. 1840. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

He was only eighteen years old, yet William Turner’s watercolors were already praised in print as follows: “By dint of his superior art he has rolled such clouds over these landscapes as has given to a flat country an equal grandeur with mountain scenery, while they fully account for the striking and natural effects of light and shade which he has introduced.” The critic John Ruskin would also become a big supporter in the artist’s later years.

How could they not admire those rolling landscapes, the colorful skies! No wonder Turner’s considered a precursor to the Impressionists! Oh wait—wrong William Turner.

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May 4, 2015

No longer scandalous: Manet in America

Éduard Manet, The Execution of Maximilian, ca. 1867-8. Photograph: ©The National Gallery, London

Éduard Manet, The Execution of Maximilian, ca. 1867-8. Photograph: © The National Gallery, London

Édouard Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass was the scandal of the year in France when it was exhibited in the 1863 Salon des Refusés, and Olympia was greeted with the same shock and indignation in the Paris Salon of 1865 (a journalist wrote, “If the canvas of the Olympia was not destroyed, it is only because of the precautions that were taken by the administration”). So selling tickets to show a new painting in America that was too controversial for France seemed a surefire way to get attention—and perhaps make a little money.

From 1867 to 1869, Édouard Manet had made some works depicting the execution of Emperor Maximilian in Mexico in 1867. But considering that Maximilian’s empire had collapsed after Napoleon III withdrew his support, it was not prudent to exhibit them in France while Napoleon remained in power.

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May 4, 2015

Shopping paradise: Émile Zola and the world’s first department store

Eugène Atget, Bon Marche, 1926-27. George Eastman House

Eugène Atget, Bon Marche, 1926-27. George Eastman House

I recently came across the BBC adaptation of Émile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise and, as a self-confessed Francophile, couldn’t wait to begin watching it. A few episodes in, though, my enthusiasm dimmed when it became clear that the series didn’t faithfully follow the book. Zola’s novel is, at heart, an acerbic commentary on consumer culture, not a love story. Where Zola makes The Ladies’ Paradise, a department store, into a protagonist, the show instead relies on the budding romance between a shop girl and the store’s owner to drive it along. The Ladies’ Paradise is the backdrop of the story, but unfortunately not its focus.

Zola, often credited as one of the shrewdest observers of 19th-century French society, did not choose the department store arbitrarily as the setting for his novel. By the time he wrote The Ladies’ Paradise in the 1880s, the department store had become one of the most iconic features of modern Parisian life.

Gustave Eiffel; Louis Auguste Boileau, Le Bon Marché, 1876. Image and catalog data provided by Allan T. Kohl, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Gustave Eiffel; Louis Auguste Boileau, Le Bon Marché, 1876. Image and catalog data provided by Allan T. Kohl, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

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May 1, 2015

Game of Thrones and the House of Artstor

Fortress of Carcassonne, Carcassonne, France, 1150. Built by Bernard Anton Trencavel; fortified by Simon de Montfort; restored by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. Image and original data provided by Shmuel Magal, Sites and Photos; sites-and-photos.com

Fortress of Carcassonne, Carcassonne, France, 1150. Built by Bernard Anton Trencavel; fortified by Simon de Montfort; restored by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. Image and original data provided by Shmuel Magal, Sites and Photos; sites-and-photos.com

Yes, of course we’re watching Game of Thrones. The TV series based on a still unfinished (!) series of books by George R. R. Martin brings a new meaning to the word epic.

With more than 40 main cast members and complicated storylines for each, it’s a wonder anyone can keep track of what’s going on. Set in a distant land during the Middle Ages, this show has betrayals, dragons, knights, and a nail-biting struggle for power. It’s so rich with imagery that we were inspired to dive into the Artstor Digital Library to illustrate it.

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April 6, 2015

A vision, a board, and a plan: an interview with Elizabeth Barlow Rogers

 

Artstor has recently released more than 1,100 photographs of Central Park from the Foundation for Landscape Studies in the Digital Library. We celebrated the occasion by speaking with Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, who founded the organization in 2005 and serves as its president.

Ms. Rogers is a pivotal figure in the history of Central Park. She was appointed the Park’s administrator in 1979, charged with overseeing all aspects of daily operations. She was instrumental in founding the Central Park Conservancy in 1980, and she guided the Park’s extraordinary restoration. Rogers led the Conservancy as president until 1996, and she is now a life trustee. Her influence extends far beyond New York City, and she is frequently consulted by groups in other cities and countries desiring to form park conservancies modeled on the one for Central Park.

After stepping down from the presidency of the Central Park Conservancy, Rogers founded the Cityscape Institute. She subsequently created the Garden History and Landscape Studies curriculum at the Bard Graduate Center in 2002. She is the author of several books, including The Forests and Wetlands of New York City (1971), Rebuilding Central Park: A Management and Restoration Plan (1987), Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History (2001), Writing the Garden: A Literary Conversation Across Two Centuries (2011), and Learning Las Vegas: Portrait of a Northern New Mexican Place (2013).

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April 2, 2015

Hopping through cultures: the rabbit in art

Albrecht Dürer, Hare (A Young Hare), 1502, Graphische Sammlung Albertina. Image and original data: Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Albrecht Dürer, Hare (A Young Hare), 1502, Graphische Sammlung Albertina. Image and original data: Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Easter is around the corner, and with it comes the inevitable barrage of images of the Easter bunny. The strange thing is that the only mentions of rabbits in the Bible are prohibitions against eating them in the Old Testament. So what gives?

The underlying idea is that rabbits are connected to the idea of rebirth—not only do they reproduce prodigiously, at one time they were believed to reproduce asexually. The connection of rabbits to rebirth also occurs in non-Christian societies: The Rabbit in the Moon (instead of our Man in the Moon) is a familiar symbol in Asia, and was part of Aztec legend, tying the idea of rabbits to a “rebirth” every night. But other qualities of rabbits and hares also get highlighted in folklore, including their mischievous side, playing the role of cunning tricksters in Native American and Central African mythologies.

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March 10, 2015

Spring has sprung—finally

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1919. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1919. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

After the coldest recorded February in New York City since 1934, spring has finally sprung, and we could not be more relieved.

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February 27, 2015

In the news: #thatdress

Georges Lepape (illustrator); Paul Poiret (costume designer), "Les Jardins de Versailles - Costume de Paul Poiret dans le goût Louis XIV", 1913. Image and catalog data provided by Allan T. Kohl, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Lepape: © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris, Poiret: © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Georges Lepape (illustrator); Paul Poiret (costume designer), “Les Jardins de Versailles – Costume de Paul Poiret dans le goût Louis XIV”, 1913. Image and catalog data provided by Allan T. Kohl, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Lepape: © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris, Poiret: © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

A poorly taken photograph of a dress and the simple question “what color is it?” spread all over social media and was picked up by several news outlets. Some people in our office saw black and blue, others white and gold, but we all agreed—enough is enough with #thatdress! The Artstor Digital Library offers you thousands of more interesting dresses from collections like Museum at FIT, Gazette du Bon Ton (Minneapolis College of Art and Design), The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Brooklyn Museum Costumes.

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February 23, 2015

The secret names of Italian Renaissance artists

Rosso Fiorentino (Giovanni Battista di Jacopo), Angel Playing a Lute, 1521, Galleria degli Uffizi. Image and original data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com; scalarchives.com; (c) 2006, SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Rosso Fiorentino (Giovanni Battista di Jacopo), Angel Playing a Lute; detail, 1521, Galleria degli Uffizi. Image and original data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com; scalarchives.com; (c) 2006, SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Have you ever wondered why you rarely see the names of the greats from the Italian Renaissance reoccur in art history?  Why do we not see more than one artist with names such as Ghirlandaio, Masaccio, or Tintoretto? It’s because a lot of these were not really names, they were nicknames! Some, like Verrocchio (“true eye”), were flattering, while others, like Guercino (“squinter”), not so much.

Here’s a list of some of the most memorable names from the Renaissance and what they really mean:

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January 15, 2015

The Top Ten Posts of 2014

We had another busy year at the Artstor Blog, with 161,000 visits in 2014. What were people clicking on? Here’s the list of the top ten most popular posts from last year:

  1. From Babylon to Berlin: The rebirth of the Ishtar Gate
  2. Finding the phenomenal women in fine art
  3. Dürer and the elusive rhino
  4. The travels and travails of the Mona Lisa
  5. The Museum of Natural History in The Catcher in the Rye
  6. Now available: Masterworks from the Berlin State Museums
  7. IFA Archaeological Project at Abydos: Shared Shelf in action
  8. Michelangelo, Raphael, and the Swiss Guard uniforms
  9. Après la Bastille: the changing fortunes of Marie Antoinette
  10. Reginald Marsh’s Coney Island

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