September 5, 2018

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription


In this issue:

Goudstikker heir files petition for rare rehearing of Cranach claim
FBI seeks help to find stolen art depicting Old West
The sidelining of arts education in England is seriously out of step with our times
A Renaissance for Bob Ross: Fans Want the ‘Joy of Painting’ Host to Have a Spot in Art History
War veteran finds therapy in art, community
HOW AN ART SCHOOL IS LIGHTING UP AFRICA’S BIGGEST SLUM
Starry Night is held by Russian government
Middle school teacher uses art to connect with history, math and more
What do neighbors want? Ask them. Artist helps, as Goodyear plans arts workshops
Treasures from the Color Archive

 

 

 

Goudstikker heir files petition for rare rehearing of Cranach claim
Marei von Saher asks an appeals court in California to reconsider her case against the Norton Simon Museum

A petition has been filed by Marei von Saher with the Ninth Circuit US Court in San Francisco to reconsider its decision last month rejecting her claim to two paintings by Lucas Cranach held at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. Von Saher is the daughter-in-law of the late Jewish Dutch art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, whose art collection was seized by the Nazi leader Hermann Göring in 1940, and she has been seeking to recover his works since the 1990s. “I am hopeful that justice—long overdue—will finally be achieved in this case,” von Saher says in a statement.

On 30 July, a three-judge panel upheld an earlier ruling in the museum’s favour, arguing that the issue had already been decided by the Dutch authorities. The petition filed by von Saher’s lawyers on Monday (13 August) is for a rare rehearing en banc, meaning that 11 randomly selected judges from the appellate court would reconsider the case. According to the filing, the new hearing is needed because the most recent ruling conflicts with earlier decisions supporting von Saher’s claim, and because the case “involves the question of whether Nazi-looted artworks should be returned to their original owners, which is an issue of exceptional importance to the United States”.

A representative for the Norton Simon Art Foundation, which owns the two paintings, says in a statement: “The unanimous decision of this panel of the Ninth Circuit was made after a full consideration of the unique facts of this case and the applicable law. We do not believe there is any basis for plaintiff's request for a rehearing.” The Art Newspaper

 

FBI seeks help to find stolen art depicting Old West

NEW YORK: The FBI is seeking the public's help in rounding up more than a half-million dollars' worth of artworks that were stolen in 1983 from the New York City home of an artist known for his scenes of the American West.

The missing art may be linked to a former police detective whose 1985 killing was never solved.

The 91-year-old artist, Gregory Perillo, said Friday that the break-in at his Staten Island home was "heartbreaking" and that he'd be happy to see the works recovered.

The 35 stolen paintings and sculptures depicted Old West themes like stagecoaches and Native Americans in traditional dress.

Although he was born in New York City to Italian immigrant parents, Perillo was interested in Native American history and culture from childhood and used to draw pictures of natives on brown paper bags, he said. He has also painted sports figures and a portrait of Ronald and Nancy Reagan with their horse.

Perillo's paintings sell for up to $40,000 or $50,000, his son Stephen, who manages his father's website, said.

Perillo said he and his wife, Mary, came home from a weekend away in the summer of 1983 to find the house ransacked and dozens of artworks gone.

Two pieces turned up at a Manhattan gallery in 1985, the FBI said.

Agent Christopher McKeogh of the bureau's art crime team said Friday that another of the stolen pieces, a bronze sculpture of a native on a horse, was recovered in 2011 from a garbage bin at a construction site about a mile from Perillo's home.

The FBI is seeking the public's help in recovering the other pieces because whoever owns the artworks may not realize the works were stolen, McKeogh said.

"They could be hiding in plain sight," McKeogh said. "They could be hanging on someone's wall in their living room."

About a week before the theft, McKeogh said, Perillo got an unsolicited visit from a man who said he was an NYPD detective interested in buying some of Perillo's art.

Then in 1985, the body of a retired NYPD detective was found in a car. The man, whose killing was never solved, was in possession of images of some of the stolen works, McKeogh said.

An NYPD spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for information about the former detective.

Perillo, who moved to Clearwater, Florida, last year and still paints every day, said that if the stolen artworks are recovered he'll donate them to a good cause.

"My papa always told me, 'Gregory, when you have a career and you're doing well, always give back,'" he said. Atlanta Journal Constitution

 

The sidelining of arts education in England is seriously out of step with our times
While this year's A-level results show a rapid decline in arts subjects in the UK, countries outside of the West are stepping up teaching of creative subjects

As students in the UK received their A-level results last week, the accelerating decline in the take-up of arts subjects in our schools has again been starkly highlighted. The drop in entries for art A- levels has doubled in England since last year, according to the Association of School and College Leaders.

Last year, I attended the Varkey Foundation’s Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) in Dubai—the so-called “Davos of education”—to hear about the latest thinking in global education from world leaders, education ministers and major thinkers. The 2017 conference was dominated by an emphasis on the teaching of Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) and culminated in the award of the prestigious million-dollar Global Teacher Prize, won by a sports teacher in a small Inuit community.

This spring, I chaired a session at the 2018 GESF on the importance of arts education, intended largely as a corrective. While the West is focusing on Stem skills, notably measurable literacy and numeracy and a career-orientated approach, China has introduced significant education reforms that have resulted in a growth in the teaching of the liberal arts as well as the sciences—providing a comprehensive curriculum that also includes the arts, humanities and social sciences. This reform was precipitated partly by the fact that multinational companies were finding Chinese applicants lacking in creative spark, passion and adaptability, all of which are seen as crucial to fuelling an innovation economy, as well as creating wise and caring citizens.

My panel included the formidable Andria Zafirakou, a British art, design and textiles teacher from Alperton community school in London, who—to our great delight—won the coveted prize the next day. (She was selected from more than 30,000 nominated teachers from 173 countries around the world.) There was also a fascinating change in tone from the forum of the previous year. Yes, there were tech entrepreneurs and an increasing focus on the opportunities as well as the disruptive power of artificial intelligence, but as the conference’s world-leading experts looked forward to 2030, there was also a refreshing new emphasis on the critical importance of the arts and humanities, both to the quality of our lives and to our working futures. Rather than simply supplying quantitative-skills fodder to the workplace, a rounded education should inspire creativity and innovation, and give everyone a sense of self-value, as well as passion and purpose.

Back home, England seems increasingly like an educational backwater in terms of this shifting global perspective. Creative subjects are now excluded from the Department for Education’s league tables, and as a result, the number of pupils taking GCSE arts subjects fell by a further 51,000 this year (according to the government’s own figures). But Zafirakou is undeterred. Against this depressing backdrop—with a BBC survey showing that nine out of ten schools have cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative subject—she has launched a campaign with some of the prize money. She aims to bring artists and arts organisations into every school in London during the initial phase of her ambitious Artists in Residence pilot, before implementing the scheme nationally.

Zafirakou’s secondary school in Brent is in one of London’s most deprived and diverse boroughs, where many talented children are poorly served by the over-emphasis on Stem subjects and relentless formal tests. Her art class, she says, is one of the only places where there is no right or wrong, and where students do not feel pressured to reach a certain standard. They have more time to explore, to develop, to experiment. “It is very mindful for them,” she says; the “complete immersion is refreshing and nourishing”.

With no arts subject included in the English Baccalaureate, she asks the government, which has fallen over itself to embrace her success: “What is that saying to the students and the local community about the value of the arts? What about the whole package of making a child more rounded? Is this the right way of assessing our children—testing them, under pressure, on their powers of recall?” A student at Zafirakou’s school will sit 33 exams in the space of four weeks. She says that many of them—especially those with special needs and speech and language difficulties—would be excluded, angry and lost, without any sense of self-worth, without classes such as her own. Now, she says, “they are the first ones to say: ‘I am proud of what I am’”.

We are in grave danger in England of valuing skills tailored to a disappearing job market while crushing the innate talent and creativity of our children. In the present climate, it is unfashionable to talk about talent in an educational context because of the overwhelming emphasis on the teaching of “academic” skills that can be learned through hard graft, continual testing and consistent application. But as the artist Michael Craig-Martin, Zafirakou’s fellow panellist, concluded at the GESF: “If you do not have an academic talent, as a creative talent you invent your own.”

Creativity and the arts have never been more relevant to a world that will set great store by human ingenuity, resilience and adaptability. As we row backwards, China is shifting from imitation of the West to influence. It is worth bearing this in mind as children recover from an exhausting summer of exams and the government fails to look beyond the immediate results. The Art Newspaper

 

A Renaissance for Bob Ross: Fans Want the ‘Joy of Painting’ Host to Have a Spot in Art History
The late painter and television host lives on in certified instructors and efforts to get his work taken more seriously

Bob Ross achieved pop-culture fame as the bushy-haired public-television host of “The Joy of Painting” in the 1980s. Now artists and fans are attempting to secure a spot in art history for him as well.

Over the past few years, younger artists who aren’t as concerned with distinctions between highbrow and lowbrow have started making pieces inspired by Mr. Ross, who died in 1995. Others, who have only now rediscovered him through online reruns, are starting to organize shows of their own to persuade the art establishment to give him a closer look. They have been joined by more than 3,000 “Certified Ross Instructors”—people who have studied his oil-painting methods so they can teach them to the masses.

Even Bob Ross Inc., the artist’s warehouse headquarters in Herndon, Va., that lines up the certification workshops, has pivoted from merely selling his paint supplies and approving licenses for T-shirts, wigs and waffle-makers—the batter cooks into the shape of Mr. Ross’s head—to making appeals to museums like the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum to put his originals on display.

“See these? Aren’t they fantastic?” Joan Kowalski, Bob Ross Inc.’s president, said at the warehouse, as she rifled through a stack of the artist’s landscapes in an otherwise spartan office. The company moved to an industrial complex called Renaissance Park near Dulles International Airport, a year ago, Ms. Kowalski said, and her workers haven’t yet had time to hang them.

These efforts could prompt the art world to reassess the legacy of someone whose work was dismissed as kitsch during his lifetime. At a time when the art world was swept up by early attempts at video and graffiti art, Mr. Ross preferred rendering mountain scenes brimming with wispy clouds, shimmering pools and scrubby trees. His style evoked 19th-century landscapes, only breezier. He almost never painted people into his utopias. His work hasn’t been shown by major art museums or sold in auctions outside of eBay , where the going rate for an original is about $8,000 to $15,000.

Christie’s specialist Vivian Brodie said the artist’s democratic approach—the whole point of his show was teaching the public to mimic his style—may have hurt his chances in a marketplace that prizes unique objects. He seemed content with the TV show and didn’t insinuate himself into the roiling, 1980s New York art scene where peers could have introduced him to curators.

“Look at the artists history tends to admire—they’re addicts or they struggle or they died young,” Ms. Brodie said. “The market doesn’t like artists happy.”

In 2009, a Queens auction house called RoGallery sought to sell a 1980s Ross work, “Untitled (Northern Lights),” with an $8,000 low estimate. It went unsold.

David Arquette, who completed a three-week teacher-certification course at the company’s Bob Ross Art Workshop in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., last year, said he would “love to see the art world give Bob Ross a little more credit.” Having gotten into collecting through the world of graffiti art, Mr. Arquette said that Mr. Ross’s TV career shouldn’t stigmatize his reputation. The “Scream” actor is pitching a talk show where he and guests chat while painting alongside each other. (His dream guest: President George W. Bush, also an amateur painter.)

Mr. Arquette said he often watched “The Joy of Painting” when episodes originally aired on PBS between 1983 and 1994, but he recently rediscovered Mr. Ross while browsing Netflix —and got hooked anew. When the streaming-video service Twitch posted an eight-day marathon of Mr. Ross’s show three years ago, more than 5.6 million people tuned in, including younger viewers who had never seen the show before.

All of it has refocused attention on Mr. Ross, who was born in Daytona, Fla., in 1942, and spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force mainly posted in Alaska, where he learned to paint at a United Service Organizations outpost. Initially, he sold his landscapes to tourists, including scenes he painted on gold-prospecting pans. Later, he traveled the U.S. demonstrating his painting techniques in shopping malls before he caught the eye of a TV station manager in Virginia who offered him a no-frills show on PBS.

With his perm, soothing voice and chambray shirts unbuttoned nearly to the navel, Mr. Ross was an instantly recognizable hit. During each 26-minute episode, he stood before his easel against a black backdrop and completed a painting, all the while murmuring can-do maxims like “Think like a cloud” and “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

Ms. Kowalski, whose parents Walt and Annette Kowalski helped Mr. Ross create the show, said Mr. Ross didn’t harbor any ambitions of art-world acclaim. For him, TV was the “biggest show around,” she said.

He tended to glean most of his ideas for his show’s roughly 400 compositions from his memories of Alaska as well as whatever he saw hanging in hotel lobbies or antique shops during his travels. After he died of lymphatic cancer, Ms. Kowalski said her parents “dreamed of getting him a real exhibit.”

Momentum sputtered until a few years ago when emerging and established artists started taking Mr. Ross’s work more seriously.

In London, Neil Raitt’s signature style is Bob Ross with a twist. Mr. Raitt said he grew up watching “The Joy of Painting” and started collecting Mr. Ross’s accompanying instructional books while he was in art school. Today, he calls these step-by-step manuals “my Bible,” and Mr. Raitt has gained an international reputation covering his own canvases with overlapping patterns of Ross-style trees, snow-capped mountains and cabins.

British advertising executive Charles Saatchi and Chicago’s DePaul Art Museum have collected his work. On Sept. 13, Mr. Raitt will be included in a show, “Mythologies of a Sublime,” at the Pedro Cera Gallery in Lisbon, Portugal, alongside rising stars Claire Tabouret and Alex Hubbard.

“After art school, it was a privilege to return to Bob,” whose layering techniques Mr. Raitt treats as rules to be followed, or subverted, he said. “Plus, they’re beautiful.”

Los Angeles artist Brendan Lynch mounted a New York gallery show three years ago inspired by Mr. Ross. After covering the back room of Untitled Gallery with beige carpet and playing an audio recording of Mr. Ross’s voice, he lined the walls with landscapes. They included everything from $5 flea-market pastorals and cheery scenes painted by Ross-certified instructors to an 1860s Hudson River painting by William Mason Brown and an original Ross painting from 1991, “Wayside Pond,” that he borrowed from the artist’s company.

When New York art critic Jerry Saltz stopped by, he posted an image of “Wayside Pond,” adding the hashtags #YouCan’tTouchThis and #GreatArt.

Later, Mr. Lynch followed it up with another show of his own wall-size paintings of Ross-style landscapes, 11 of which have since sold to collectors for roughly $17,000 each, he said. Mr. Lynch said the “gnarly woodsman” ethos embodied by Mr. Ross has inspired him to study landscapes in depth.

“You can approach a Bob Ross with the same intent and wonder as any landscape you see at the Met,” Mr. Lynch said. “Those things have a lot of soul.”

Stephanie Stebich, director of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, said she could envision a history-museum exhibit where Mr. Ross’s PBS tenure is juxtaposed with others who taught televised painting classes in the decades preceding him, like Jon Gnagy and William Alexander. But she’s not ready to commit him to her museum’s collection.

“I love that artists are excavating TV and mining his moment to say their own thing,” Ms. Stebich said. “He may cast a longer shadow as a muse.”

For now, Ms. Kowalski plans to ramp up Bob Ross Inc.’s certification program in Florida—it currently runs 21 weeks of classes—as well as explore ways to start classes in parts of the world where the artist has outsize Facebook followings, like Turkey. She is also organizing mass painting classes at events like Twitch Con, South by Southwest and Comic Con.

A recent uptick in fake Bob Ross paintings has also prompted the company to issue certificates of authenticity for the ones he made and gave away in classes over the years. “There’s a way we can tell a real Bob,” she said.

Doug Hallgren, a former flight attendant who has been overseeing the teacher-certification classes in Florida, said the training is rigorous, with candidates ultimately painting two canvases a day. The final exam is to paint a Bob Ross scene in the same amount of time he had on each episode: 26 minutes.

“We really put their feet to the fire,” Mr. Hallgren said.

Students pay $395 for the three-week course. They run the gamut from Bram Bevins, a Tennessee bankruptcy lawyer whose wife convinced him to take a “Happy Little Trees” class at a local craft store after their dog, Petunia, died, to Florida’s David Brancato, an animator and former Disney sketch artist who didn’t think he could paint until he signed up for a Bob Ross class and fell hard for oils.

It was Mr. Brancato who taught Mr. Arquette to paint and later sold the actor his first portrait—an image of a grinning Mr. Ross.

“It’s in my entry way,” Mr. Arquette said. “I have to see it every day.” The Wall Street Journal

 

War veteran finds therapy in art, community

MILFORD: After serving as a medic in the United States Army, Juan Cantu came home slightly different than when he left. PTSD became an everyday struggle and he thought he tried everything to cope, until a year ago when he came across an article on art therapy for veterans.

“I thought I would give it a try,” he said. His art therapy journey would take a self-fulfilled turn, however, when resources available to him at the time didn’t offer such therapeutic options.

Now, he has his own art studio in downtown Milford that he hopes to turn into a resource for fellow veterans and an art supply thrift store for others to visit and enjoy working with art.

“I asked my doctor at the time if they have that program [art therapy], and they said no. And I thought I was just going to try it. It felt to me like a wow. I expressed myself without it being negative. I knew immediately this is what I should be doing,” he said.

“So, I started and went to look for art supplies, and I realized how stuff was so expensive. I realized I was always artistic, but my parents didn’t have much money, and that’s really not fair to the kids today. The ultimate goal is to have an arts thrift store. But, for now, I’m completely happy doing stuff on my own and having people use it. I’m not in a hurry to do anything. I’m lucky to be here. Being here is already icing on the cake. I just don’t have any pressure on me. Everything is working itself out.”

Growing up Hispanic

The local artist grew up in Texas. His father was a migrant worker and teacher from Mexico, despite dropping out of school at an early age to help care for his family. When he got married and had a family of his own, he returned to migrant work and eventually worked in Milford.

Mr. Cantu’s father, Ricardo Cantu, became the first Hispanic in Delaware to receive his GED and worked hard to finally move the whole family to Milford.

Despite the Milford School District integrating African-American students into the schools in the 1960s, life was tough for Mr. Cantu as a Hispanic student in the late 1980s.

“When I went to school, it was basically segregated. I always felt like it was the 1960s or something. It didn’t feel right. I was one of the only Hispanic people in the school, and I played football. I never saw other Hispanic people playing football,” he said.

Although he enjoyed playing football, coaches pressured Mr. Cantu to play soccer like his brothers, or baseball.

“But, I didn’t want to be stereotypical. I wanted to be different,” he added.

He ended up taking an eleventh-grade and college preparatory courses while in ninth grade in Texas. He returned to Milford the next year where his schooling troubles would continue in tenth grade after he was approached by a counselor with a surprising question.

“The counselor took me out and he had asked me whether English was my first language or Spanish. I said, ‘English, but we are Mexican-Americans.’ So, the counselor said, ‘No, but did they speak to you in Spanish first?’ ‘Well, probably,’” Mr. Cantu said.

He was then placed in an English as a Second Language, or ESL, class.

“It was embarrassing,” he admitted. “I had to go to the outdoor trailers. I went from being in a normal environment to being out there. I don’t even know why. The counselor told me the school received extra funding for special needs kids and all. That didn’t help.”

He would learn to help lead about ten other kids in his new classroom, most of whom were in the process of learning English as their second language.

“A few were Haitian, like they had just gotten there. I ended up teaching the kids. Everyday was a struggle. I really thought I was beyond this. Eventually, I started thinking, ‘I’m sure I can get myself kicked out.’ And that’s what I did. I went from a normal kid who paid attention to one who would be defiant. I would go to the pencil sharpener as long as I could just to annoy everyone and get kicked out. And I did,” he explained.

“I really felt Milford set me up to fail. For whatever reason, they did not want to deal with Hispanic kids. That was an issue. I felt like a guinea pig wherever I went. I was the oldest, the first kid in my family to go to high school, college, the military… I hope today that it’s a little more integrated. It certainly seems to be better now.”

He graduated from Milford High School in 1990 and moved back to Texas hoping things would get better.

“It still felt like home somehow, but it really wasn’t. I didn’t like it anymore I guess,” he said.

Another move in the mid-1990s would land him back in Milford where he would reside while attending Delaware Tech and the University of Delaware.

“I was after a criminal justice degree, then I was a sociology and English major. I wanted to write like my dad liked to write; he wrote poetry,” he said. “As an English major with a concentration in creative writing, I saw art in the writing and I thought, ‘I actually don’t need a degree in this.’ Then, 9/11 happened. And, actually, if that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have joined the military.”

Serving as a medic

Mr. Cantu was moved by the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001 that took the lives of nearly 3,000 victims. Nineteen terrorists took control of four airplanes. Two of which crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Centers in New York City, another into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and the last in a field in Pennsylvania.

“That was the first time I felt like I was an American,” he recalled. “I joined the military after 9/11, ten days after the Iraqi invasion. I kind of knew what I was getting into, but there’s just no way to prepare for anything like that.”

Mr. Cantu joined the Army hoping to become an interpreter as he was fluent in English, Spanish and then Arabic. He was unable to work as an interpreter because his father was a legal resident of the United States, rather than a citizen.

“My background check came back as not able to get a security clearance because was dad was a national of another country,” he explained. “I never lived in Mexico. I never wanted to live in Mexico. I’m an American. I was born in Texas. But, that was something that keeps you from advancing. It’s not racist. It’s something else.”

Unable to follow the path he found, Mr. Cantu became a medic and was sent on a 15-month tour to Iraq spending time in both Baghdad and Mosul.

“I worked in emergency rooms and hospitals that were already set up there. I had thought that we were just going to deal with American issues and causalities. But, it ended up being everybody that was involved: prisoners, citizens, soldiers, it was everybody. And that’s I think what was overwhelming. Babies, people, and for us, you really got to see that war has lots of weapons that are being used and its effects on the human body. There’s no way to prepare to see that.”

Mr. Cantu returned home from deployment to a divorce and a new perspective on life.

“They had warned us about PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder], so I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. Eventually, addiction took over. For five years, it was a complete mess. Some of the stuff I can think of, to me, in that state, it seemed to me it would have been easier if I hadn’t made it home. It was harder than I thought,” he explained. “But, eventually, I got a lot of help.”

Art, community as therapy

Mr. Cantu continued to struggle through PTSD as he hoped to find something, anything that would ease the memories of working in a war zone. Medications, programs and even an inpatient stay wouldn’t help him much, he contends.

“Even today, in the morning, everything comes back when I wake up and go to the bathroom. But, I’m getting there,” he said. “I’m not in a hurry to do anything now. I’m just lucky to be here and thankful I have found a bit of relief through art. Being here is already icing on the cake. I just don’t have any pressure on me. Everything is working itself out: my kids, my ex-wife and I co-parent well, my son is realizing that everything is working out and I have a beautiful wife. I’m getting there.”

When the opportunity to work with art and even open his own studio came his way, Mr. Cantu says he jumped to reach the possibility. He even finds many of his own supplies free or low cost at local auctions or thrift stores, allowing him to upcycle as well as create anew.

With no distractions or pressures to meet the expectations of others, he is free to collect discarded items and create art as he sees fit.

“When I was addicted to anything, I would say I don’t want to feel high. I was just taking the edge off somehow. It was just completely that I don’t want to think about it or feel it. But, it didn’t work. So, to come in here and be able to do stuff, I always have projects that are half put together to sidetrack me. It relieves my stress. To me, this seems easy. I’m just glad to be here and that I found something that works, and we have a community that celebrates people,” he said.

A thriving and accepting community may have been what Mr. Cantu was searching for all along.

“From 2004 all the way up until the time Lifecycle opened, I thought I did not want to be here. I needed a place I could connect and create. I started seeing a change when the art and different things took off. All of a sudden, there was pride. I saw this inclusive group of people who didn’t see me as an outsider. I started paying attention to them. To me, it’s not the same Milford it was while I was growing up,” he said.

“I remember the bus stop; we’d get off over by the Carlisle Fire Department and walk from there. The buildings all looked old. There was nothing there. I really thought it was a place caught in time. I experienced racist things and caught it from both sides. White kids would call us something; black kids would call us something. Then this Hispanic food started to be offered in the grocery stores. There was an evolution.”

For Mr. Cantu, the evolution meant inclusion, diversity — and art.

“I realized this town could be known for art. Delaware is a small state. We can only fit so many people. There should be some kind of draw, and I think art should be it,” he said. “I’ve never taken a class. I’ve YouTube’d some stuff, but it comes naturally. Apparently, some people have noticed it, and it’s encouraged me to continue. I’m not going to stop healing and doing art. I’m going to keep creating stuff. I’m not going to hold myself back.” Milford Chronicle

 

HOW AN ART SCHOOL IS LIGHTING UP AFRICA’S BIGGEST SLUM
A self-sustaining art space in Kenya is encouraging youths to see themselves as artists, and to not be defined by circumstances.

Alongside an open sewer, a small child is sprinting to catch an afternoon art class, which happens to be taking place at a converted shipping container topped with jagged iron plates. One of the smiling teachers welcomes me inside the two-room structure lined with mostly oil color and mixed media portraits. This is a vibrant art space in Kenya’s Kibera, Africa’s biggest urban slum, and its existence is a minor miracle.

The Uweza Art Gallery is both an exhibition space and an art school, and it’s financially self-sustaining. Here’s what makes that significant. Kibera’s kids — in a community of 250,000 that is under constant threat of disease and offers few opportunities — are freely encouraged to attend a space that nurtures their artistic talents without affecting their studies in regular school. It’s a win for the art gallery and a win for youth self-esteem — but not all of the community’s parents see it that way.

Why build an art school in the middle of one of the world’s largest slums, a bustling scene of ramshackle tin houses and a dysfunctional railroad lined with garbage? It made perfect sense to resident Jennifer Sapitro, an American entrepreneur and public health and international development graduate who set up the Uweza Foundation, an organization dedicated to developing the abilities and talents of Kibera’s youth, in 2008. One day, while wandering through the slum, Sapitro decided to build and sponsor an art school here. The location was chosen for its proximity to the road, where everyone can see it, explains Frank Okoth, one of school’s four art teachers.

In 2011, Uweza started with simple art classes for kids, Sapitro explains. Two years after, the gallery officially opened. These days, around 25 students, ranging in age from 7-37 — all from the Kibera slum — attend daily classes. Art supplies are free for kids “so they work from scratch,” Okoth explains. He’s been with Uweza since 2013. His father wants him to leave art and become a mechanic, he says, but he refuses.

Around the gallery, there’s everything from pieces inspired by the Masai tribes to vibrant paintings of animals. I spot a canvas depicting a woman dancing while kneeling. It was painted by a 17-year-old girl who’s not attending today’s class, Okoth explains, because she has to stay home and do housework, like many other girls her age. Living in very poor conditions, most families in the community view art as unnecessary and a waste of time — as opposed to other jobs and crafts that yield quick cash. But some parents are starting to warm to the idea of art as a cash-earner, seeing the value in Uweza Gallery.

Sixty percent of the profits from artwork sold in the gallery goes to the artist (or school fees if the artist is a student). The rest is reinvested in art supplies and pays for rent and gallery upkeep. Customers vary from locals to global art collectors who shop in person or online. Pieces range in price from $35-$110.

Apart from Kevin Otieno, who’s studying art at college, the teachers do not have formal training. Otieno says Okoth is the best artist he’s met. Okoth responds: “People here have dreams. So, while Kevin might want to be like me, I want to be like someone else.” (He later tells me he’d like to be like Pablo Picasso.)

While roaming the buzzing classroom, one of the girls, Winnyteresa, 10, tells me that one day she hopes to become an art teacher. “I’d like to help other children draw too,” she adds. Elvis, also 10, on the other hand, would like to be a doctor. “I learn a lot about bodies for when I become a doctor,” he says, yet he’s rarely seen without a paintbrush in hand.

A short distance from Uweza, there is a mural painted by one of the initiative’s promising young talents. Wandering along the tracks overlooking Kibera’s rickety infrastructure, an overwhelming sense of hope rises to eclipse any dejection I’ve had for this tumbledown place. Ozy

 

Starry Night is held by Russian government
Van Gogh drawing had been folded in half in 1945 to fit inside a suitcase

As the first outsider to see Van Gogh’s looted drawing of Starry Night I was initially horrified to find a crease down the middle. When I discovered the reason I was relieved: the large drawing had been neatly folded in half to fit inside a suitcase—almost certainly saving it from destruction.

Vincent had made the drawing in 1889 in the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole to send to Theo in Paris, to give his brother an idea of his painting of Starry Night, which he had just completed. The painting of the swirling night sky is now among the greatest treasures of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

The drawing done for Theo had been donated to the Kunsthalle Bremen in 1918, but it was lost during the chaos of the Second World War. It was seized at a German castle by Victor Baldin, a Red Army officer who took it back to the Soviet Union on a tractor. For decades it remained hidden away and was recorded in the Van Gogh catalogue raisonné as “lost”. I can report that it is now almost certainly in a secret Russian government storage facility in Moscow.

Last month the director of the Kunsthalle, Christoph Grunenberg, told me that he still hopes that Starry Night and the rest of the gallery’s missing drawings “will eventually return to Bremen—or at least be available for display”.

Tracking down the loot
I saw the Starry Night drawing in St Petersburg in 1992, when I was first developing an interest in Van Gogh. Then a reporter for The Observer, I was on the trail of artworks looted during the war, an issue which was just beginning to gain international attention. Among the largest losses were 1,700 drawings and several thousand prints belonging the Kunsthalle Bremen which had been evacuated to a remote castle—and then disappeared.

By 1992 there were unconfirmed rumours that some of the most important Bremen works were secreted away in the vaults of the State Hermitage Museum. I travelled to St Petersburg to meet Mikhail Piotrovsky, who had just taken over as the director. I wanted to discover whether they had been saved and thought the best tactic would be to ask to see just one—so I chose Starry Night.

From his tapestry-lined office Piotrovsky escorted me to the Hall of Twelve Columns, then closed to visitors. We ascended to its mezzanine, where after much clanging of keys a portfolio was brought out. Van Gogh’s Starry Night was then extracted and placed on a stand.

I shall never forget that moment—coming up close to a “lost” Van Gogh (and one that had never been reproduced in colour). Many of Van Gogh’s ink drawings are now badly faded, but this one had survived relatively well, since it had not been exposed to light for decades. But what disturbed me was the vertical fold down the centre of the drawing, which had left a 2-centimetre tear at the bottom.

Meeting the rescuer
On the same trip I travelled to Moscow to meet Baldin, then aged 72 (he died in 1997). In his modest apartment, he recounted his story. Although Baldin might first appear to have been a looter, it became apparent that his motive in taking and caring for the Bremen drawings ended up being altruistic.

On 5 July 1945 Baldin had been stationed at Schloss Karnzow (80 kilometres outside Berlin) when his fellow Red Army troops moved a wardrobe and discovered behind it a bricked-up doorway. After this was opened up, stairs led below to a cellar. Baldin joined the throng who rushed downstairs, where he found his comrades tearing open boxes of drawings, their contents spilling onto the stone floor. These were the thousands of Bremen drawings which had been evacuated to save them from Allied bombing. He hastily grabbed what he could, in a desperate effort to rescue them. Most of the rest of the collection seems to have disappeared, although a few works later turned up and had been returned to Bremen.

Baldin packed 364 drawings—including Starry Night—into his modest suitcase. A few days later he was put in charge of organising a forced march of Red Army “traitors” who had been captured by the Nazis and coerced into fighting for Germany. These unfortunate men were made to walk more than a thousand kilometres back to the Soviet Union. The emaciated and exhausted men plodded on foot, carrying their meagre possessions and unaware their ultimate fate. Baldin followed behind on a tractor, his precious suitcase hugged close to him as he slept.

When Baldin eventually reached his home in Zagorsk he unlocked the suitcase for the first time. “I just couldn’t believe what I had,” he told me. Along with the Van Gogh were works by Dürer, Veronese, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Tiepolo, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Baldin kept the drawings at home for three years and then handed them over to the Museum of Russian Architecture, where he worked as a young curator. He felt that the fragile artworks should be looked after by a museum. By 1963, when Baldin was promoted to be the museum’s director, he thought the drawings ought be returned to Bremen—but this would have been impossible during the Cold War.

Languishing in store
Communism began to falter and in the uncertain days of 1991 the KGB security agency ordered that the drawings should be secretly moved from the architectural museum to the Hermitage. When I met Piotrovsky in 1992 he told me of plans to exhibit the Baldin drawings and there was a display later that year and then in Moscow. Piotrovsky had been furious to learn when he took over as director that artworks from Germany were being held in the museum’s secret store, feeling that art should be shared with the world. The short displays were his response.

During my 1992 visit to Moscow, I asked Tatyana Nikitina, the culture minister, what should happen to the Bremen drawings. She responded: “We have to give them back.” The Bremen Kunsthalle tried to secure the return of the drawings and there were lengthy negotiations, but any move was eventually blocked by the Russian government. In 2005 a new culture minister opposed restitution. Piotrovsky was then ordered to hand over the drawings to the Ministry of Culture.

To this day the Russian government still holds the collection at a secret location, believed to be a storage facility somewhere in Moscow. Van Gogh’s drawing of Starry Night continues to languish unseen—yet one more victim of the Second World War. The Art Newspaper

 

Middle school teacher uses art to connect with history, math and more

BULLHEAD CITY, AZ: Terry Dolan can’t stop making connections.

Therefore, the Bullhead City Middle School art teacher intertwines projects in her classes with lessons in history, math, science and other more obscure subjects.

“The more connections you can make, the more memorable it becomes,” she said. “The more it sticks with them.”

Dolan’s own experience is a mashup of sorts: she majored in history at Western Connecticut State University and minored in art.

“I wanted to major in art,” she said. “But my father wouldn’t let me.”

Her father, Frank Dolan, a rocket scientist, thought she should pursue a more “academic” field, she said.

“He realized later on that art could be very academic, when he saw the kind of lessons I taught,” Dolan said.

She is now in her 41st year as a teacher, having taught history and gifted education before moving to art 30 years ago.

Dolan said that her father spurred her desire for knowledge and her love for art.

“My dad took my brother and I to every museum on the eastern seaboard,” she recalled.

Her youth also was filled with discussions with her father about history and culture.

“I was a little egghead with him,” Dolan said. “He didn’t think it was wrong for a girl to be smart — he wanted to raise a smart daughter.”

Projects her students will work on this year include a sarcophagus, kirigami, origami and a hamsa.

The latter is a biography of a student, drawn in watercolor inside a tracing of his or her hand.

Dolan’s own hamsa contains references to her New York State upbringing, Saint Theresa (who shares her given name), her life in Arizona and her “inner wild woman.”

Each will choose a role model and use petroglyphs to tell that person’s story.

Part of what Dolan wants to give the students is a respect for materials. To that end, she said, the students are learning to re-use items such as dot matrix printer paper or overhead transparencies.

The latter will be used for a stained-glass window project.

Another project was generated by Dolan’s own curiosity. While preparing for a simulation of the Krakatoa volcanic eruption, she found herself wondering about the toys children in the area played with.

She discovered that one popular toy in the Indonesian province was a leather stick puppet. Dolan’s classes soon will be making similar items from card stock.

At the end of the nine-week class, each student will take home a book containing all of the projects.

The portfolios are made from old textbooks covered in fabric and Dolan said they will be as different as the students themselves.

“It’s like I’m a conductor on a train guiding them to their destinations,” she said. “I want them to do their art, not my art.”

One project not going into the portfolio is a set of decorated buckets that will be presented to children in a local shelter.

“People think junior-high kids are selfish,” Dolan said, “I want to show that they are selfless.”

Dolan wants to make art class a combination of fun and creative thinking.

“Everything else in their realm is test-oriented,” she said. “We can bring out the best in them through the arts. I want to tap their imagination, let them go wild, let them be free thinkers.”

Dolan always has enjoyed working with children and served as a camp counselor with the Girl Scouts. Later, she was the director of arts and crafts at a camp and “I knew then that I wanted to be a teacher.”

A common assumption is that arts and sciences are two different disciplines, but they actually are related, Dolan said.

According to Dolan, artists use science when working out proportions and science is necessary for many art materials.

While she understands the importance of using technology, she also wants students to be comfortable working with their hands.

BCMS Principal Joyce Pietri said that Dolan’s approach is a benefit to the entire school, and keeps the students motivated.

“I really like the way she incorporates content into her artwork,” Pietri said. “It really supports our whole program at the school.”

Pietri said that Dolan inspires other teachers to add creative elements to their lessons.

“She builds relationships with the kids, as well,” Pietri said. “I’m just really glad she’s there. I think we’re really lucky to have her.” Mohave Valley Daily News

 

What do neighbors want? Ask them. Artist helps, as Goodyear plans arts workshops

Goodyear Arts, at Camp North End, plans to offer 10 free arts workshops – taught by former artists-in-residence at GYA – with support from an Arts & Science Council Cultural Vision grant. Rather than drawing up a list on their own (which “would be at best presumptuous and prescriptive and at worst of no interest,” according to GYA’s Amy Bagwell), artist de’Angelo Dia and Ash Williams began reaching out to neighbors of Camp North End, and the place held an open house in early August. There, seven artists did demonstrations, a list of some 40 possible workshops were passed around, and people got to choose up to 10 they’d most like to attend. (The final lineup: beginning printmaking, intro to pyrography (woodburning), working with color, the art in your handwriting, capoeira, wire sculpture, clay animation, crochet: beyond yarn, drum circle and figure drawing.) Artist Andrea Vail will schedule the workshops, and participants will keep the art materials they work with (and artists get paid for leading workshops).

Describe your role in this particular project. As an artist, a part of my personal practice is to nurture community. I live in that area, on the west side of Charlotte. I was (already) involved – I’m also a theologian (a chaplain at Trinity Episcopal School, and one of the associate ministers at St. Paul Baptist Church), and I wanted to connect the local congregations to Goodyear Arts, so they could benefit from the services and workshops, and from being exposed to a different lens on what’s happening. I also wanted to connect the fraternities and sororities at Johnson C. Smith with what’s happening at Camp North End. We’re in such close proximity, and there’s a historical thread that coexists between those different organizations. At Smith, in that corridor, there are amazing artists, particularly artists of color, and there is amazing art – but I don’t know how much that corridor has intersected with Goodyear because of its previous locations (both were uptown). And I’d say the same of Goodyear: Simply walking through the neighborhoods (around Camp North End) is inspiring to the work itself, though I’m not sure how many of my peers have taken the time to walk through the community. It’s inspiring that we have a common thread, the diversity of what art can do for all of us.

What’s been the most surprising moment so far? The diversity of the attendance at exhibition openings and the opportunities this has provided for artists and the extended community.

What about this project has changed your art or the way you approach your practice? For me personally, Goodyear Arts has been a chance to lean into discomfort in my practice, and explore content and mediums that I haven’t in the past. I’m a performing artist and a writer by trade and through my education. But I’ve been working on a series of charcoal creatures that I created in my childhood. I’ve never shared them in a gallery space, never showed them publicly, even, until Goodyear... In the sense of processing the divisiveness in the world, I’ve started doing them again, as a way to vent my concern with the world. I can’t struggle with finding the right way to process what’s going on. (At Goodyear) I get to return back to a pureness of art, and what it meant for me...

(On this specific project) from my personal experience in Charlotte as a whole, often artists come in and contribute to the cultural fabric, and then once that’s been established, the powers that be come in and push that out. It often feels like negro removal; it doesn’t benefit the people who’ve been nurturing those communities.

The uniqueness of this situation for me is that Goodyear didn’t come in as the white savior saying, “Here’s what we’ll do for you.” This felt uniquely different: Goodyear was saying “We have this space. What would you like to see happen?” It felt like community nurturing, and establishing partnerships. That’s the intriguing thing; that’s why I’ve remained with Goodyear. Community members may not have visited because of a justified bias to seeing (Goodyear) established; many of those have seen how these communities have been morphed and changed. Here, we have the opportunity to see it mutually benefiting, in a healthy way. I feel like (this) could be a model, a template for other areas in Charlotte: “What would you like to see happen?” If it fails – if we can’t sustain participation, or if we can’t keep the momentum going, or if artists can’t sustain the momentum of their own working craft – there’s still victory. I feel good about it succeeding, because of the many people and organizations I spoke with who were already doing this work – art-based programs, wonderful art things – but doing it in isolation. So part of the success has already happened: just a communication across the spectrum, sharing what’s taking place so we can promote each others’ events. (But even) if it fails, I will be glad Goodyear took the risk. The Charlotte Observer

 

Treasures from the Color Archive
The historic pigments in the Forbes Collection include the esoteric, the expensive, and the toxic.

How blue can it get? How deep can it be? Some years ago, at the Guggenheim Bilbao, I thought I’d hit on the ultimate blue, displayed on the gallery floor. Yves Klein, who died at thirty-four, was obsessed with purging color of any external associations. Gestural abstraction, he felt, was clotted with sentimental extraneousness. But, in search of chromatic purity, Klein realized that even the purest pigments’ intensity dulled when combined with a binder such as oil, egg, or acrylic. In 1960, he commissioned a synthetic binder that would resist the absorption of light waves, delivering maximum reflectiveness. Until that day in Bilbao, I’d thought Klein a bit of a monomaniacal bore, but Klein International Blue, as he named the pigment—rolled out flat or pimpled, with saturated sponges embedded in the paint surface—turned my eyeballs inside out, rods and cones jiving with joy. This is it, I thought. It can’t get any bluer.

Until YInMn came along: the fortuitous product of an experiment in the materials chemistry lab at Oregon State University in 2009. Intending to discover something useful for the electronics industry, Mas Subramanian and his team heated together oxides of manganese, yttrium, and indium at two thousand degrees Fahrenheit. What emerged was a new inorganic pigment, one that absorbed red and green light waves, leaving as reflected light the bluest blue to date. Subramanian sent a sample to the Forbes Collection in the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, at Harvard University, where it sits with twenty-five hundred other specimens that document the history of our craving for color.

Among the other blues on the Forbes’s shelves is Egyptian Blue, a modern approximation of the first synthetic pigment, engineered five millennia ago, probably from the rare mineral cuprorivaite, a soft mid-blue used for the decoration of royal tomb sculpture and the wall paintings of temples. Later, blues strong enough to render sea and sky were made from weathered copper-carbonate azurite—crystalline bright but sometimes darkening in an oil binder. In 1271, Marco Polo saw lapis lazuli quarried from a mountain at Badakhshan, in what is now Afghanistan. Laboriously prepared by removing impure specks of glinting iron pyrite, it became ultramarine—as expensive, ounce for ounce, as gold, and so precious that it was initially reserved for depictions of the costume of the Virgin. In addition to these, the Forbes Collection has a poor man’s blue—smalt made from crushed cobalt containing potassium glass, which weakens, eventually, to a thin greeny-brown gray.

The Forbes Collection owes its existence to a belief in the interdependence of art and science, but it is also an exhaustive archive of cultural passion. A display features Vantablack, which absorbs 99.96 per cent of light, and has to be grown on surfaces as a crop of microscopic nanorods. In 2016, the sculptor Anish Kapoor saw the pigment’s potential for collapsing light, turning any surface into what appears to be a fathomless black hole, and he acquired the exclusive rights to it. An outcry from artists, who objected to the copyright, prompted the Massachusetts manufacturer NanoLab to release Singularity Black, created as part of the company’s ongoing research with nasa, to the public, and the artist Stuart Semple to make the World’s Pinkest Pink available to any online buyer willing to declare himself “not Anish Kapoor.” But Kapoor obtained a sample of the pink pigment, and used it to coat his middle digit, which he photographed and posted online for Semple.

Narayan Khandekar, the head of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, takes pleasure in such skirmishes, secure in the knowledge that he presides over something weightier: a priceless resource for understanding how works of art are made, and how they should be preserved. The Department of Conservation and Technical Research was founded, in 1928, by Edward Waldo Forbes, the director of Harvard’s Fogg Museum from 1909 to 1944. Today, the Forbes’s vast library of color and its technical laboratories are housed in the museum’s steel-and-filtered-glass rebuild, designed by Renzo Piano. Rows of pigments in tubes, jars, and bowls are visible through the doors of floor-to-ceiling cabinets. Khandekar had the winning idea of displaying them as if unspooled from a color wheel: reds at one end, blues at the other. There are the products of nineteenth-century chemical innovation—viridian green, cadmium orange, and the chrome yellow with which van Gogh was infatuated but which, over time, has begun to darken his sunflowers. But at the heart of the Forbes Collection are the natural pigments that were the staples of painters’ inventories before chemically synthesized paints replaced the impossibly esoteric, the dangerously toxic, the prohibitively expensive, and the perilously fugitive.

Among those relics is Dragon’s Blood, reputed in antiquity and in the Middle Ages to have got its vividness from the wounds of dragons and elephants locked in mortal combat. The pigment actually owed its intense redness to the resin secreted from trees growing on the islands of Socotra and Sumatra, especially the rattan palm and the Dracaena draco. The Forbes’s sample is now a dusty rose—not so unlike the nineteenth-century pigment called la cuisse de nymphe emue (“the blushing thigh of an aroused nymph”)—having faded, most likely, from exposure to high light levels. Even in the early fifteenth century, the Italian painter Cennino Cennini warned in his practical manual, “Il Libro dell’Arte,” that artists beguiled by the pigment’s reputation should “leave it alone, and do not have too much respect for it; for it is not of a constitution to do you much credit.” Better to stick to madder root, red ochre, or the red-lead minium that had been in use since classical antiquity.

Other Forbes specimens have better preserved the poetic mystique of their origins. There is a murex shell from the Eastern Mediterranean, a quarter million of which were needed to make a single ounce of Tyrian Purple, the color used in the Roman Republic to edge the togas of the powerful. There is a loaf of toxic tawny-red cinnabar. (Buy it in solid cakes, Cennini advises, lest some scoundrel has adulterated the stuff with brick dust.) There is the copper-arsenite Scheele’s Green, synthesized at the beginning of the nineteenth century and more dazzling than traditional verdigris, the green-blue patina given off by corroded copper. A later variant of Scheele’s, Paris Green, equally toxic and even brighter, was so cheap to produce that it coated Victorian wallpapers, children’s toys, and—despite early evidence of its toxicity—even confectionery. Following Napoleon’s death, in 1821, some Bonapartists put it about that the British had poisoned their hero by having him sleep in a green room, the paper releasing arsenic vapors in the damp sea air.

Also on display are two tubes of Mummy Brown, made from the rendered gunk of the Egyptian dead, thought to be rich in the bituminous asphalt used in embalming and as protection against fungal decay. By the sixteenth century, Mummy was believed to cure illnesses as various as gastric pain and epileptic fits, and the flourishing trade in Mummy led to countless tombs being sacked and broken-up mummies sold to suppliers. Druggists and colormen—as preparers and venders of artists’ materials were known—often shared the same inventory and the same occult reputation for possessing exotic secrets. Bitumen, a cover-all term, was prized for its tawny glow, but the popularity of the pigment had much to do with the nineteenth-century taste for the Oriental macabre. History paintings of the kind fashionable in the eighteen-thirties and forties were gravy-brown, as if conferring period authenticity. There was cuttlefish sepia and burnt umber, but if Turner needed a loamy richness he reached for Mummy.

The pigment’s vogue was short-lived, however. At the middle of the nineteenth century, Laughton Osborn advised, in his “Handbook of Young Artists and Amateurs in Oil Painting,” “There is nothing to be gained by smearing our canvas with a part perhaps of the wife of Potiphar.” When the painter of historical scenes Lawrence Alma Tadema told the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones that he was going to see pieces of mummy before they were turned into pigment, Burne-Jones, according to his wife, Georgina, snorted that the name of the pigment was just a childish fancy. On being assured that the mummy was real enough, Burne-Jones insisted on giving his own tubes of paint a burial in the garden. In fact, as Alison Cariens, the conservation coördinator for the Straus Center, explained, scientists have found no DNA in the Forbes’s samples of Mummy to suggest that it contained human bones, but the biological material may have degraded beyond reliable analysis over the millennia. In any case, she added, humans were often accompanied by mummified animals on their journey to the afterworld, so that a tube of Mummy Brown might well contain the remains of crocodiles or cats.

The shelves of the Forbes Collection also hold a plethora of pigment sources, including cuttings of red-madder root and minute silvery bugs heaped in a glass bowl like a crunchy bar snack: Mexican cochineal, scale insects that swarmed on prickly-pear cacti, and whose crushed bodies produced the lustrous carmine crimson that so excited Caravaggio, El Greco, and Rubens. I stuck my head inside a cabinet to get a close look at the rocks of the arsenic sulfides realgar and orpiment, blazes of flame orange locked within the crystals. “Don’t breathe, don’t touch,” Cariens warned. (Cennini, who wrote that orpiment was “very good for painting on shields and lances,” also cautioned against “soiling your mouth with it, lest you suffer personal injury.”) Farther along the row was a grayish-greenish wrinkled baseball, sliced open to reveal a yolk-bright Indian Yellow. In Christian iconography, it was gold that signified the aura of sanctity, but, as Baroque masters experimented with the effects of extreme light and dark, the hunt for a deep, light-fast yellow became urgent. The cheapest, most widely available yellow glaze was made from unripe buckthorn berries and wasn’t sufficiently long-lasting for the likes of Rembrandt, who turned to the pale Lead-Tin Yellow, or massicot, for the luxurious costume of Lieutenant van Ruytenburch, in “The Night Watch.” In the early eighteenth century, antimony, combined with lead, known as Naples Yellow, became the most popular version of the hue.

Around the same time, Europeans in India noticed the rich, glowing yellow used for wall paintings and Mughal book illustrations. Botanical pigments like saffron and turmeric had been used in Persian and Turkish art for centuries, but this was more vibrant. The first samples of Indian Yellow, available in Bengal, Bihar, and centers of Rajput painting like Jaipur, were known by many Indian names: piuri, purrée, or gogili—a corruption of the Persian term gaugil, meaning “cow-earth.” The amateur artist Roger Dewhurst recorded using it in 1786, and, by the early nineteenth century, Indian Yellow had become a crucial component of the Romantic palette. Turner used watercolor washes of it to convey the limpid radiance of Venetian dawns and sunsets. His infatuation occasionally led him astray. In his portrait of Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, which was bought by the Earl of Egremont, she stands in front of a wall so screamingly yellow that one facetious critic described the subject as “a lady getting out of a large mustard pot.”

The ingredients of Indian Yellow, which arrived in little parcels at the London docks, apparently from Calcutta, were a mystery. The smell, either interestingly pungent or rank depending on the sensitivity of your nostrils, seemed to offer a few clues. To some, it had a distinct whiff of castoreum, the secretion from a gland close to the anus of beavers, which is still sometimes used in commercial ice cream as a substitute for vanilla and raspberry. Others were sure that the origin of Indian Yellow was to be found in the urine of camels, or water buffalo. After a chemical analysis in the eighteen-forties found no nitrous traces in the pigment, some argued that the dye probably originated in a plant such as the Mycelium tinctorium, which is notorious for its pissy odor.

To get to the truth of the matter, Joseph Hooker, the director of Kew Gardens, sent T. N. Mukharji, an expert in the materials of Indian arts, to the village of Mirzapur, in the Bihar region. There, as Mukharji wrote in an account published in 1883, he discovered a sect of gwalas, or milkmen, who fed their cattle mango leaves; the cattle’s urine, when evaporated in earthenware pots set over a fire and then baked in the sun, produced the precious yellow powder. Cows are sacred in Hindu culture, and the ones Mukharji had seen were, he wrote, “very unhealthy.” Mukharji’s account apparently led the British-Indian government in Bengal to ban production of the pigment at the turn of the century. Doubts about Mukharji’s story remain. Victoria Finlay, the author of “Color: A Natural History of the Palette,” found no record of the pigment’s ban in the archives, nor did she find, when she travelled to Mirzapur around 2002, any local memory of cows being fed on mango leaves. Was this yet another fable in the great treasury of color lore? In her book, Finlay writes, “When I think of Indian Yellow, I will always wonder whether the explanation that I have heard is reality or merely a reflection of reality, and whether this story is simply an example of somebody gently, and literally, taking the piss.”

For Edward Waldo Forbes, pigment hunting and gathering was not just a matter of creating an archive of lost or languishing color. It was about the union of art and science. His pedigree embodied the paradox: one of his grandfathers was the railway magnate John Murray Forbes; the other, the transcendentalist philosopher-poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. With a Massachusetts schooling, culminating, inevitably, at Harvard, Forbes was a typical product of the generation who believed that Gilded Age materialism could be redeemed by the “Western civilization” that the social critic and art professor Charles Eliot Norton eulogized in the art-history lectures that Forbes attended as an undergraduate. The moral purpose of that civilization was the conversion of raw wealth into beauty and humanism. Guided by this principle, Forbes read English at Oxford for two years, and travelled through Europe, spending time in Italy. Still, he resented the condescending European assumption that the New World would never really rise above breathless cultural tourism. Serious art history was supposed to change that, and in 1900 Wellesley College became the first in America to offer a degree in the subject. But teachers at Wellesley and Harvard had to make do, for the most part, with plaster-cast reproductions and lantern slides. The New Yorker