January 8, 2020


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



In this issue:

Artist preserving family's legacy by making art on used ledger pages
This artist gives paintings to people who donate at least $25 to any charity
Reality check: is VR set to revolutionise museums?
For $111, You Can Enter a Charity Raffle to Win a $1M Picasso
Ghent Altarpiece: latest phase of restoration unmasks the humanised face of the Lamb of God
Rembrandt and van Gogh Masterpieces Inspire Names for a Planet and Star
Indonesian Cave Painting Could Be Oldest Ever Discovered
Making mosaics ‘goes a lot deeper than breaking glass and putting it together’
A Lowry painting no one knew existed has been revealed after more than 70 years...and it could fetch £1 million
The Story of Charles Ethan Porter, an African American Still-Life Painter
Picasso painting of Dora Maar vandalised at Tate Modern
'Indiana Jones of the art world': Meet the man who recovers stolen art

 

 

 

 

Artist preserving family's legacy by making art on used ledger pages

Throughout history, generations have learned about those who came before through song, stories and art. Nowhere are those traditions more imperative than in the Native culture.

Plains Indians who populated what is today known as northwest Nebraska passed their traditions from one generation to the next.

Today, artist Joe Pulliam continues the custom of his ancestors as he creates ledger art.

Ledger art takes its name from the source of paper Native Americans began to use as European settlement moved westward. As tribes came into possession of ledgers, ink and pens, their artists expanded their craft, which had primarily consisted of using bone fragments and earth pigments to paint on shields and robes.

“This really represented the next step in art,” Pulliam said. “They were adapting to new materials.”

A native of Pine Ridge, Pulliam worked as a graphic designer for 10 years before learning about the connection of his people to ledger art after being introduced to the medium by Nebraska artist Daniel Long Soldier.

“The historical aspect of ledger art drew me to it,” Pulliam said during a recent stint as the artist-in-residence at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center in Chadron.

When Pulliam discovered his great-great uncle, Amos Bad Heart Bull, had been a prolific ledger artist, it cemented his decision to carry on the tradition.

Bad Heart Bull’s father served as the historian for the Oglala Lakota and after becoming a scout for the U.S. Army, which included time at Fort Robinson, Bad Heart Bull followed in his father’s footsteps detailing the history of his people.

According to Northern Plains Reservation Aid, Bad Heart Bull created 415 drawings on used ledger pages over the course of 20 years. The drawings depict Oglala Lakota life before 1856, followed by the conflicts with the Crow from 1856-75 and the Battle of Little Bighorn, in which his father fought.

Bad Heart Bull’s original pieces were buried with his sister, Dolly Pretty Cloud, but were documented by photographer Helen Blish, said Laure Sinn of the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center.

Staff at the center discovered Blish’s book in the center’s archives -- a gift to Mari Sandoz at some point -- and Bad Heart Bull’s connection with northwest Nebraska and created the recent gallery showing “Native American Legacies.”

The show included reprints of many of Bad Heart Bull’s ledger art pieces, as well as original creations by Pulliam.

Blish herself has connections to the region, as her father, William, was assigned to work with the Oglala Sioux on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation while employed with the Department of Interior’s Indian Bureau, according to History Nebraska.

After graduating from college in 1922, Blish taught English in Gordon for a time before returning to her native Michigan.

When it came time for her to write her master’s thesis, she began looking for examples of plains art, an endeavor that led to her 1934 manuscript, “A Photographic History of the Oglala Sioux,” featuring Bad Heart Bull’s work.

Pulliam said research is a key part of his ledger art as he finds ways to preserve the culture and history.

“I’m exploring new ways to portray history in a modern light,” he said.

A piece he calls “Indigitized” represents Natives' struggle with identity as they always have “one foot in history and one foot in the present,” Pulliam said.

“Warrior Society” depicts fierce defenders in Oglala Lakota history who were also among the most generous people of the tribe, proving they were equally valuable in times of peace as they were in war.

Pulliam hopes his art inspires the return of those values to society while additionally calling injustices to light, as he does in another piece inked on an 1892 Sheridan County land deed, to represent government-ignored treaties.

While his great-great uncle used the present-day ledgers of the era for his creations, Pulliam scours the internet, antique shops, thrift stores and yard sales in search of ledgers to use in his work.

“The search is always on,” he said. Lincoln Journal Star

 

This artist gives paintings to people who donate at least $25 to any charity

Lynn Colwell’s art teacher peered down at the then-8-year-old’s drawing and made a blunt assessment: Art was not for her. Colwell believed her teacher and spent the next several decades not painting, accepting that she wasn’t artistic.

A little over five years ago, a friend suggested that Colwell register for an online painting class. After her first class, she was hooked. She painted all the time. Soon she generated works faster than she could give them away. Her friends thanked her for her generosity but admitted they were running out of space.

That’s when she wondered whether she could give them away to people on her Facebook page and, in exchange, they could make a donation to a cause they cared about.

Colwell, now in her 70s, started posting her work on Facebook.

“When I was working various jobs, I always had this part of me that thought, ‘I’m not changing the world,’ ” she said.

She awards each day’s artwork to the first person who, in the comments, tells her they want the posted painting. There is one condition: They have to agree to contribute $25 or more to an individual in need or a nonprofit.

During the past five years, Colwell said she’s helped raise more than $57,000 and given away more than 1,000 paintings.

A coffee shop’s owner went into hospice. His competitor worked there for free to help.

Buyers are given 24 hours to donate to the charity of their choice. Although some buyers insist on showing her they’ve made a donation, she doesn’t ask for proof. Donations run the gamut — animal causes, homeless shelters, food pantries. This year, recipients included individuals and immigrants. One woman took the process one step further: She made donations for multiple paintings, then donated the artwork to charity auctions to raise additional funds.

Last year, the biggest donation resulting from a single painting of Colwell’s was $1,000, along with a few for $500 and matching funds from various buyers’ companies.

Before she began her art for a cause, Colwell worked in corporate communications. After she retired, she started a movement in 2007 called “Green Halloween” with her daughter in which they encouraged schools, banks and other institutions that give kids candy to instead consider offering toys or healthier options.

She retired for a second time and started taking online art classes in 2014. She said she initially lacked confidence.

“I didn’t know art was a skill,” Colwell said. “I thought you were born an artist or you weren’t.”

A man just gave away $12,000 in Christmas toys, starting at the low-income complex where he once lived

But something made her try it. The go-at-your-own-pace aspect of online classes appealed to her. She also enjoyed learning various mediums: watercolors, watercolor pencils and crayons.

When she and her husband of 50 years downsized in 2015, she moved shelves full of art supplies into her dining room, which doubles as an art studio. Each day, she spends between two and six hours in her Redmond, Wash., studio and takes a 10-minute break every hour to stretch and exercise. She never plans a painting in advance.

“I’m a spontaneous painter,” Colwell said. “Many artists will start out with what is going to be a scene, but I like to start as if I don’t know anything. I may use eight colors or two.”

She creates her paintings on mixed media paper — she prefers painting on hard surfaces — and avoids canvas because it has too much give. She also prints with ink on deli wrap. Her work features diverse women.

“I focus on women’s faces because women are underrepresented in so many aspects of the world,” Colwell said.

Another component of her work is customized sayings. She was a freelance writer for many years, and words are meaningful to her, so she incorporates them in her work. After she finishes a painting, she pulls slips of paper from one of two boxes. One is filled with common words — she, her, with, the — while the other box contains mostly verbs and adjectives — smooth, feathery, angry, upset.

“Sometimes I’ll take three or four words out of the box, and that will spark an idea,” she said. Then she attaches an inspiring quote to the painting, gluing each word individually.

Colwell initially wasn’t sure how people would respond to her postings.

“I was flabbergasted at what happened,” she said.

Almost every day she posts a picture, they have been claimed and donations have been made. She creates an average of one painting per day.

She packages her paintings every few days — she covers all shipping costs — and sends them to their new owners.

Barb Sickles owns two of Colwell’s paintings and each time has donated to Home Fur Good, an animal rescue in Phoenix, where she lives. She said she wanted the paintings because they “spoke to me.”

One day Colwell noticed a particular buyer consistently requesting her paintings. Finally, she asked the buyer through Facebook messenger, “What are you doing with these things? “Are you giving them away?” The buyer, Carole Carlson, explained that because of limited display space, instead of hanging them, she was compiling the paintings into a book.

“I find the words and the paintings are inspiring,” said Carlson, who lives in Derwood, Md., and has donated to various charities, including So Others Might Eat, an organization dedicated to fighting poverty and homelessness.

Colwell asked another frequent buyer about her multiple purchase — she has bought 21 of them.

“My legacy is that each family member will have their own piece of me to remember,” said Gay Barnes, who lives in Broken Arrow, Okla. “On the back side of each, I will attach a card and explain what the painting means to me and why I chose it for them.”

Barnes has donated to charities such as RAICES, an organization that provides legal services for immigrants and refugees, and Mission Together (Children Helping Children).

Colwell said her project of giving away paintings and encouraging donations has been endlessly satisfying, and she feels gratitude to the people who “buy” her paintings. She says she still pinches herself that so much good emanates from paintings that she creates.

“All these years admiring people and their art, I never thought I would be here,” she said. The Washington Post

 

Reality check: is VR set to revolutionise museums?
With the Louvre revealing its virtual reality Mona Lisa, museums ponder the power of tech experiences

Virtual reality (VR) in museums and galleries has reached a fork in the road. On the one hand, it is increasingly being adopted by museums for education and entertainment; on the other, smaller non-profits are pushing artists to test the potential of the technology while it is still nascent. Underlying both strands are questions around the practical limitations of the hardware and a reliance on tech companies’ money and resources.

The Musée du Louvre’s first foray into VR, Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass, wants visitors to look afresh at the world’s most famous painting. Produced in collaboration with HTC Vive Arts to accompany the blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci exhibition that opened in October (until 24 February), the seven-minute digital experience plays on the hype that has prevented the real Mona Lisa from leaving its permanent gallery at the Paris museum to join the more restricted temporary spaces downstairs.

The opening scene is all too familiar: Leonardo’s painting appears as a distant postage stamp obscured by a glass vitrine and crowds of visitors (22,500 people file through the Salle des Etats every day to see it). “It’s hard to feel close to her with all these people around,” the voiceover observes. The ghostly bodies in the room dissolve as the narrator promises to show us “the woman inside the painting” and explain “exactly what makes the Mona Lisa a masterpiece”.

HTC first approached the Louvre about a potential VR experience “about three years ago”, before the Taiwan-based electronics company formally launched its “multi-million-dollar” Vive Arts programme for cultural partnerships in November 2017, says Victoria Chang, the initiative’s director. The process took “a long time, for a tech company”, she says. “But for a museum, three years is nothing.”

“VR is not a gadget—something that you can do in one week,” says the head of the Louvre’s interpretation and cultural programming department, Dominique de Font-Réaulx. The curatorial contribution was “enormous”, she explains, with the two curators of the Leonardo show consulted on every visual detail, from the hairstyle of Lisa del Giocondo to the panoramic Italian loggia in which she sits. (The Mona Lisa was in fact the Louvre’s second choice for the VR treatment; it had initially wanted to use Leonardo’s The Last Supper mural until it became clear how much technical and historical information was needed to render the work in three dimensions.)

The museum is presenting the experience on 11 HTC Vive Cosmos VR headsets on loan from the company (which sell for $699 each) and installed in a side gallery to the Leonardo exhibition, while an extended version will be available for those with their own VR headsets to download for free at home even after the show closes.

In a bid to engage audiences that might never come to Paris, the Louvre hopes to tour the installation to “museums, but not only museums” elsewhere in France and abroad, De Font-Réaulx says, adding that officials are open to developing more VR experiences in future. “It’s a wonderful tool because it links accurate information on the works of art with imagination.”

Virtual reality and augmented reality (AR)—which overlays digital elements on the real world rather than creating a fully immersive alternative—are “unbelievably promising” for the future of communication, says Daniel Birnbaum, who left his post as the director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm to lead the London-based VR and AR production startup Acute Art early this year. But he points out that major museums such as the Louvre have concentrated on the educational uses of the technology, neglecting its own potential as an artistic medium.

Such reluctance is in part a practical response to the often clunky and pricey hardware, which also requires staff to supervise its use in a museum environment. “It’s simply not so easy to show [VR] to huge audiences,” Birnbaum says. “A successful show has 250,000 people—how would you actually do that?”

Yet the failure of such products to reach critical mass in the global marketplace also offers cultural institutions an “opportunity to experiment” through the partnership model, argues Ben Vickers, the chief technology officer at the Serpentine Galleries in London. In projects harnessing VR, artificial intelligence and, increasingly, AR, the Serpentine has sought to “work with artists so that they can shape the narrative and the potential of these advanced technologies before mainstream adoption”, he says.

After six years of “new experiments ​in art and technology”, the gallery is now preparing to share its discoveries with the wider art world, compiling a report on the intersection of the two fields that is due to launch in spring 2020. The looming question is the role of big tech, Vickers says. “If we globally are having a power shift and companies are starting to manifest their own cultural projects, what does that look like in 20 or 30 years’ time?” The Art Newspaper

 

For $111, You Can Enter a Charity Raffle to Win a $1M Picasso
A French charity is raffling a Picasso still life this coming January. The proceeds from the draw will go to providing clean water to communities in Cameroon, Madagascar, and Morocco.

For the average person, owning an original Picasso is a dream beyond reach. But for one lucky person, this dream will come true this January with the help of a Paris-based nonprofit raffling a Picasso painting worth €1 million (~$1.1 million) for just a €100 (~$111) a ticket.

The raffle is hosted by the French charity organization Aider les Autres (which translates to “Helping Others”), in partnership with the Picasso Estate. The international raffle, dubbed “1 Picasso for 100 Euros,” offers anyone who buys a ticket the chance of winning a 1921 oil still-life painting by the legendary artist. Titled “Nature Morte,” the painting depicts a newspaper next to a glass of absinthe. It is currently on view at the Picasso Museum in Paris.

Your chances of winning the painting are 1 in 200,000. The odds are slim but not entirely improbable. Every entrant can purchase up to 30 tickets.

The proceeds from the draw will go to the project CARE, which will use the funds to help provide clean drinking water for communities in Cameroon, Madagascar, and Morocco. The nonprofit says it will work to build and rehabilitate wells, washing facilities, and toilets in villages and schools in these countries.

This is the second edition of the raffle. In the first edition in 2013, Picasso’s “L’Homme au Gibus” (“Man with Opera Hat”) (1914) — which was also worth about $1 million — was similarily raffled for a €100 ticket. The lucky winner was Jeffrey Gonano, a 25-year-old fire-safety official from Pennsylvania. The proceeds from that raffle went to rebuilding the historic city of Tyre, Lebanon, which has suffered significant damages during Lebanon’s civil war between 1975 and 1990.

The 2020 raffle will be held on January 9 in Paris under the supervision of a court officer. Purchase your tickets here.

Don’t despair if you don’t win this time: The organizers announced plans to hold the raffle on an annual basis for a different cause every year. Hyperallergic







Ghent Altarpiece: latest phase of restoration unmasks the humanised face of the Lamb of God
Second stage of open-access restoration of Van Eyck brothers’ masterpiece strips away 16th-century overpainting to reveal an abundance of fine details

Restoring the Ghent Altarpiece may well exceed the years it took for Flemish brothers Jan and Hubert Van Eyck to create their wondrously detailed 12-panel masterpiece, from the mid-1420s to 1432. Since October 2012, Belgium’s Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) has led a transformative €2.2m altarpiece conservation project in full view of the public, within a specially constructed laboratory at Ghent’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Marking the end of the project’s second phase, the five lower interior panels—including the central Adoration of the Mystic Lamb—will return to their home in St Bavo’s Cathedral on 24 January after a three-year treatment. The eight outer panels, restored during a first phase from 2012 to 2016, will come back to the museum in February, as exceptional loans for an exhibition in honour of Ghent’s “Year of Van Eyck”.

The altarpiece has been an iconographical puzzle for generations of art historians, its mystery compounded by the lack of archival information on the Van Eyck brothers. Despite the wealth of prior research conducted on the altarpiece, it was only during the KIK-IRPA restoration that scientists made an astonishing discovery: beneath the layers of yellowed and cloudy varnish, around 70% of the outer panels was obscured by 16th-century overpainting.

“This overpainting had been done so early on, and following the shapes of the original, with very similar pigments that had also aged in a similar way, that it was not actually visible on the technical documentation when the altarpiece first came in for treatment,” recalls Hélène Dubois, the head of the restoration project. “And nothing like this had ever been observed on early Netherlandish painting.” The discovery came as “a shock for everybody—for us, for the church, for all the scholars, for the international committee following this project”, she says.

Analysis confirmed the overpainting could be removed without damaging the original because an earlier layer of varnish “was acting as a buffer between the two”, Dubois says. X-ray fluorescence scans showed the underlying work was still “in very good condition”. Church wardens and the committee of experts gave their approval for the overpainting to be stripped away, a painstaking process using solvents and surgical scalpels.

Behold the lamb

These 16th-century additions had covered around half of the panel featuring the sacrificial lamb, the symbol of Christ. Removing a blue hill on the horizon, for instance, revealed a trio of miniature buildings in the style of Medieval Ghent. The conservators consulted architectural historians on how best to reconstruct partially damaged areas. They also reinstated the crystalline look of the draped robes worn by the pilgrims worshipping the lamb, which had been softened in the overpainting.

Most surprising of all was the lamb’s humanised face, which emerged beneath its more animal 16th-century appearance. The original lamb has a more “intense interaction with the onlookers”, Dubois says, adding that art historians and theologians will continue to research why the Van Eycks chose this “cartoonish” depiction—a striking departure from the painting’s precise naturalistic style. “Botanists can actually identify every plant in there,” Dubois points out. “The ones that couldn’t be identified—those were overpaintings.”

The 16th-century layer is believed to date from September 1550, when a Ghent chronicle records that two prominent painters “washed” and “kissed” the altarpiece, a phrase in local dialect that can mean “cleaning, improving, correcting”, Dubois says. Her doctoral research on the altarpiece argues that the pair’s adaptations were connected to the Habsburg court’s promotion of the Catholic church at a time of rising Calvinism. The overpainting was complete by 1557, when Michiel Coxcie made a copy of the altarpiece for Philip II.

By the mid-1500s there was also a straightforward need to “refresh a painting that had become dulled with use in the cathedral”, Dubois says. Under the overpainting, the conservation team found dirty varnish and clumsy touch-ups applied directly to the wood panel. “Tiny blisters” in the painted surface had probably been caused by church candles.

Armed with magnifying glasses, size-zero brushes and reversible watercolour and resin-based glazing paints, the conservators infilled losses and fine abrasions exposed after the removal of the overpainting, building up luminous colours and volume through minute brushstrokes. The restoration has brought out many subtle details, such as the wrinkled neck of the grey horse in the painting of the knights of Christ and the different textures of mud, rocky ground and wet sand on which the figures walk in the lower panels. The challenge was to reveal the quality of the Van Eycks’ original work “without erasing every single mark of time”, Dubois says.

By contrast, Jef van der Veken’s 20th-century copy of the lower-left panel depicting the Just Judges—which was stolen from the cathedral in 1934—has received only minimal attention. Badly flaking paint had already been consolidated in 2010, but conservators decided not to alter the panel’s yellowed appearance. “Of course, the contrast is much stronger now the others have become so brilliant, but it’s part of the history of the painting,” Dubois says.

Whose hand where?

Pending further funding, KIK-IRPA aims to publish new research in 2020 that addresses the long debate over the altarpiece’s authorship. According to a Latin inscription on the frame, the painting was started by Hubert and completed by Jan after his brother’s death in 1426.

The restorers observed many compositional changes that pre-date 1550 and are consistent with Jan’s “technique and vision”, as well as “weaker” elements that could be the work of studio assistants, Dubois says. “We were much better able to characterise different phases of execution so we can see that large zones were finished and then completely redone in the manner of [Jan] Van Eyck.” She warns, though, that the absence of works attributed to Hubert makes it impossible to identify his hand.

The restoration will continue into a third phase that tackles the upper sequence of interior panels, possibly beginning in 2021. This might prove “even more complex”, Dubois thinks, because the gold backgrounds behind the figures of God, the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist are “very damaged” and God has been “completely overpainted”. But there is no guarantee that KIK-IRPA will continue working on the project, as the church wardens must launch a new European tender and secure additional funds from the government of Flanders.

For Dubois, the most groundbreaking aspect of the project so far has been its “complete openness” to the public, demystifying the conservation process through talks at the museum and a dedicated website. With 80% of the funding coming from the government, “it’s only fair that we inform people about what’s happening”, she says.

In Belgium, where the Ghent Altarpiece is regarded as “the ultimate masterpiece”, expectations for the restoration are high. But Dubois is confident that the “incredible quality” of the painting will meet them. “You think you know Van Eyck because it’s such a part of the culture,” she says. “But now you can really see [his work] and that will be a revelation for people.” The Art Newspaper

 

Rembrandt and van Gogh Masterpieces Inspire Names for a Planet and Star
Two celestial bodies in the Andromeda constellation have been named “Night Watch” and “Starry Night.”

While you might find the art of Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh together in a museum, some of their masterpieces have now inspired the names for a planet and star. On Tuesday, December 17, NL Times announced the Dutch winners of a contest to rename the star currently known as HAT-P-6 and its neighboring exoplanet, HAT-P-6-b, to “Night Watch” and “Starry Night,” respectively. The winners were chosen by a public vote and confirmed by the International Astronomy Union, the organization in charge of naming the planets and standardizing them for stargazers and astronomers around the world. Discovered in 2007, the star and its planet are around 910 light-years away in the Andromeda constellation. However, the planet should be visible to anyone with a small telescope.

According to DutchNews.nl, the Netherlands was one of over 100 countries permitted to name a planet to celebrate the IAU’s centennial. The organization doesn’t usually open up its naming rights to so many at once — this is only the second time they’ve held such a public naming contest after a much smaller scale event in 2015. The purpose of their centennial campaign was to “create awareness of our place in the universe.” A full list of new planetary names can be found on the IAU’s website.

So while the art world can rejoice in a galactic victory, it turns out Rembrandt and van Gogh’s works were only the second most popular choices chosen by the public. The contest originally drew the names of Nijntje and Moederpluis, two of the names in Dick Bruna’s series of cartoon rabbits. However, because of copyright laws, the bunnies’ name could not be given to the heavenly bodies, so Rembrandt and van Gogh’s works will go up in their stead. Hyperallergic

 

Indonesian Cave Painting Could Be Oldest Ever Discovered
After a recent expedition and more thorough study, scientists have announced that the 16-foot cave painting on the island of Sulawesi could be 44,000 years old.

For years, it has been generally been believed that the oldest cave paintings could be found in Europe. But on Wednesday, December 11, a new study published in Nature announced that there were older cave paintings in Indonesia, where locals had assumed the paintings could not have been as old as the ones in France, which date back some 37,000 years. After a recent expedition and more thorough study, scientists have announced that the 16-foot cave painting on the island of Sulawesi could be 44,000 years old.

Archaeologists Adam Brumm, Maxime Aubert and Adhi Agus Oktaviana made the discovery back in 2017 when they were looking for more art in the cave. Only when did they uranium test the expansive work did they discover it was over 40,000 years old. The stick figures in the painting would be familiar to us who have seen photos of cave paintings in textbooks or history classes. The scene depicts a hunting scene: stick figures representing early man attacking boar and buffaloes. One remarkable finding was that the researchers noticed some mythological animal-like additions to some of the humanoid stick figures, possibly a nod to an early religion or an artistic flourish that signals the beginning of imaginative storytelling different than documenting scenes of daily life.

Some researchers believe that the practice of visually documenting early man’s experiences can be traced back to our shared origins in Africa. One optimistic expert told NPR, she thinks there are older paintings out there to be discovered. “We think of the ability for humans to make a story, a narrative scene, as one of the last steps of human cognition,” Aubert told Science. “This is the oldest rock art in the world and all of the key aspects of modern cognition are there.” Hyperallergic

 

Making mosaics ‘goes a lot deeper than breaking glass and putting it together’
One of the few places teaching this art form in the U.S., the Chicago Mosaic School in Edgewater attracts artists from around the world, teaching techniques that date to the Romans.

It’s tough to make a mosaic that will last. But the Chicago Mosaic School, founded and run by Karen Ami, is working on that.

Ami worked with ceramics for years. She says she learned the proper way to make a mosaic — art in which the images are created with bits of glass, marble or other materials. She spent time in Italy to perfect her technique after seeing what she says was too much shoddy mosaic work in the United States.

“The work that I saw being done was falling apart,” Ami says, “while mosaics from Pompeii and Rome were upheld.”

Her school, at 1127 W. Granville Ave., has classes and workshops, artist studios and a gallery that occasionally features student work.

By teaching techniques inspired by the Roman and Byzantine empires, students learn to make work that can last for generations, Ami says.

They learn to replicate Roman techniques by splitting tiles between a hammer and “hardie” — a metal object sharpened to break glass.

At a workshop earlier this month, students came from as far as Alaska, Maine and New Mexico to learn classic mosaic techniques.

The process of making a mosaic can vary, depending on the artist and where the mosaic will end up. The difference between a mosaic that will last and one that won’t relies in large measure on choosing materials, bases and adhesives that will work best with the conditions, according to Ami.

Artists at the Edgewater school generally start by drawing their design. Often, they use a number code to indicate which color material will be placed in each space.

They choose colors and materials, ranging from marble and glass to bottle caps, scraps of metal, buttons, wads of paper and even “garbage on our floor,” according to Ami.

Then, they cut the materials and prepare the base before placing the material carefully onto the base. The artists at the school typically use thinset mortar as an adhesive, similar to what was used in Roman times.

The mosaics made here have been installed in public spaces including Lincoln Park High School and Audubon Elementary School. Some get displayed in the school’s gallery. The artists keep some for themselves. And smaller ones, four inches by four inches, are sold as part of a school fundraiser.

A mosaic featuring characters from TV’s “South Park” is displayed in a classroom. Another, of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, is displayed in one artist’s studio.

The not-for-profit school has done projects with the Chicago Public Schools and the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce.

Among only a few places in the United States that teaches mosaic-making technique, the Chicago Mosaic School attracts artists from around the world, Ami says, and has had instructors from as far as Australia, Japan, Scotland, France and Italy. The school opened in 2005. It sees about 1,800 students a year, Ami says.

Some works include smalti, a traditional material that the school was given seven tons of.

It takes work before the pieces of glass, smalti or marble can come together to create a mosaic. Paula Getman, a North Park resident who’s been taking classes for about two years, is about six weeks into a three-dimensional lion’s head mosaic she says “was just sitting around waiting to be decorated.”

Getman says working with mosaics helps keep her focused and combines two of her interests — glass and collages.

Etty Hasak, an instructor who specializes in using clay, likes working surrounded by other artists. “I have a studio at home, and I still choose to work here,” she says.

Learning to create mosaic art “gave me a language, just like in music,” Hasak says. “When you understand it, you can say anything.

“It goes a lot deeper than breaking glass and putting it together.” Chicago Sun Times

 

A Lowry painting no one knew existed has been revealed after more than 70 years...and it could fetch £1 million
Titled 'The Mill, Pendlebury', it was kept by a medical researcher who hung it in his room as a student at university

A painting by LS Lowry which hasn't been seen in public before is expected to sell for £1m or more at auction.

Titled 'The Mill, Pendlebury', the work is from the estate of Manchester-born medical researcher Dr Leonard D. Hamilton, who played a key role in the discovery of the structure of DNA.He hung the painting in his room when he was studying at Oxford University.

Until now, no one knew it existed -apart from Dr Hamilton, his friends who saw the work, and his family.

The painting, which depicts mill workers in Salford enjoying a day off and children playing cricket, is being offered at auction by Christie's in the New Year.

The work has a guide price of between £700,000 to £1 million.

It could, however, fetch far more.

The most valuable Lowrys are 'The Football Match' and 'Piccadilly Circus', which both went for £5.6m at auction.

Lowry was born in 1887 at Barrett Street, Stretford. In his early years he lived in Victoria Park, Rusholme.

Stretched finances however forced his family to move to Pendlebury in 1909 when he was 22.

The factories and chimneys on his doorstep were the inspiration for his paintings - as shown in the 'The Mill, Pendlebury'.

It's been described by the auction house as a 'powerful example of the industrial landscapes that dominated the artist's oeuvre throughout his career'.

The large square building at the end of the row of terraces is believed to be the Acme Spinning Company Mill in Pendlebury, which in 1916, inspired Lowry to paint his first industrial scene.

The first mill in the country to be powered completely by electricity, the building was demolished in 1984.

The painting will go under the hammer at the Modern British Art Evening Auction at Christie's on January 21.

Art experts said there were no records of its existance.

Dr Hamilton grew up in Manchester and received his medical degrees from Balliol College, Oxford and a PHD in biochemistry from Trinity College, Cambridge.

He received the Lowry as a gift from his parents when he was studying at Oxford, where it hung in his student accommodation.

A keen art collector, Dr Hamilton emigrated to the USA in 1949 and remained there for the rest of his life.

His parents acquired the painting directly from Lowry shortly after he painted it in 1943.

As a result, it hasn't been included in any of the literature on Lowry to date, and hasn't ever been seen in public, Christie's said.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Hamilton developed techniques for extracting and purifying mammal DNA, which he supplied to Maurice Wilkins and his associates to enable them to generate X-ray crystallography images from which the double helical structure of DNA was inferred.

The discovery led to Wilkins, James Watson and Francis Crick sharing a Nobel Prize.

Dr Hamilton, who lived on Long Island, near New York, is known to have married a fellow Oxford student in 1945 and they emigrated to Salt Lake City a year later, with the Lowry in tow.

He died in June this year aged 98. Manchester Evening News

 

The Story of Charles Ethan Porter, an African American Still-Life Painter
Porter’s struggle, and the ensuing invisibility of his work, are as much a part of his story as his masterful paintings that dignify humble everyday objects.

At the end of his life, Charles Ethan Porter’s walls were covered with a career’s worth of paintings portraying apples, cherries, and corn, but he tragically couldn’t afford to put any actual food on his table. The African American still-life painter had supported himself with his art in the second half of the 19th century, but by the early 20th century his work was out of vogue. Left with a stockpile of completed canvases and little choice, Porter made some uneven trades to make ends meet.

He went door to door trying to sell still lifes for a pittance, or barter them for necessities. At least once, Porter gave away paintings to thank someone kind enough to provide him with room and board when he was financially strapped. It’s taken nearly a century for his later artworks, the ones often distributed under duress, to start resurfacing in public collections or on the market. Porter’s struggle, and the ensuing invisibility of his work, are as much a part of his story as his masterful paintings that dignify humble everyday objects.

Two of his canvases popped up at Seattle Pacific University in 2016, one depicting onions and the other a vase of lavender-hued petunias, gifted by a couple from Porter’s native Connecticut. “[William Sacherek and Lilo Lamerdin] are not art collectors and weren’t really sure what to do with this legacy they’d been left,” explains SPU art history professor Katie Kresser of the Porter paintings, which she has since researched and incorporated into her undergraduate curriculum.

Sacherek inherited the paintings in the 1960s from a family friend, Louis Hawley, who knew Porter and took him in for a while when the artist was destitute. Like most of Porter’s artworks, these paintings remained in private hands for decades and were completely unknown to scholars before the couple gifted them to SPU. “They are among the most prominently displayed works on campus,” notes Sacherek of the still lifes, which are on permanent display in the university library.

One database estimates that only nine of Porter’s 54 documented works (likely a fraction of his artistic output) are in museums. Even though he’s entered some prominent public collections over the past 20 years — including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Birmingham Museum of Art, San Antonio Museum of Art, and Wadsworth Athenaeum — most of his paintings are still privately held, unidentified, or lost.

Porter’s life ended in obscurity, but his career began with promise despite the challenging time in which he lived. “[He is] the only historical Black artist to specialize in the still life genre,” explains Sylvia Yount, an American wing curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who acquired Porter’s “Untitled (Cracked Watermelon)” (ca. 1890) for the museum’s collection five years ago.

The painter was born to a free African American family in Connecticut in the 1840s. Growing up, he saved money from odd jobs in order to study art. Just a few years after the Civil War ended in 1869, he became the first African American to attend the prestigious National Academy of Design in New York.

After his studies, in 1878, Porter set up a studio in artsy Hartford, Connecticut. Local resident Mark Twain bought his work and hung it prominently in his dining room, and landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church visited his studio, also acquiring a painting, and complimented his use of color. Porter did well enough in Hartford to fund a trip Paris. In 1881 he held an auction in his Connecticut studio, selling 100 paintings for a total of $1,000 — enough to support himself for two years in the French art capital. While in Paris, he attended the impressive French National Academy for Decorative Arts and Académie Julian.

“I am aware that there are a goodly number of my Hartford friends and others who are anxious to see how the colored artist will make out,” Porter wrote to Twain from Paris in 1883. “But this is not the motive which impresses me. There is something of more importance, the colored people — my people — as a race I am interested in, and my success will only add to others who have already shown wherein they are capable the same as other men.”

Porter returned to Connecticut soon after, but tastes had shifted by then. Hartford artists increasingly ignored his still lifes (still life was never a highly respected genre to begin with), and Porter’s precise, academic style looked more old-fashioned as Impressionism became the prevailing trend.

Art dealers and historians didn’t significantly embrace Porter until the 1980s. “If you turn the clock back 30 years, or 20 years,” explains Michael Rosenfeld of the New York-based Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, which has sold Porter’s work for roughly 30 years, “there weren’t so many people interested in African American art, and certainly not historic works.”

Just as the still life genre has held an ambiguous place in art history, Porter has taken a while to claim his place as a skilled and accomplished painter in an American art world that didn’t yet know what to make of him.

Now, though, it looks like Porter’s position is slowly becoming more secure. He received his first-ever museum show just over a decade ago, Charles Ethan Porter: African-American Master of Still Life, a 2008 traveling retrospective organized by New Britain Museum of American Art, beginning at the Studio Museum in Harlem and continuing to the North Carolina Central University Art Museum. For the past five years, Porter’s “Untitled (Cracked Watermelon)” has been on view at the Metropolitan Museum and it is now located in the Civil War and Reconstruction Legacies gallery, a transitioning space that Yount notes was “previously our gallery with the largest number of representations of Black subjects if not works by Black artists.” Two more Porter works were recently given to the Metropolitan Museum as fractional gifts; one of these will be included in a summer 2020 exhibition, New York Art Worlds, 1870-90.

And at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, the town where Porter’s career reached its peak, a still life acquired by the museum in 2001 hangs in the same dining room spot where Twain and his wife once hung another Porter painting (its current whereabouts are unknown). From Connecticut to Seattle, Porter’s artworks are becoming more visible and facilitating a broader understanding of Black art from a particular 19th-century moment when African American people were gaining greater freedoms.

In time, maybe more Porter paintings will transition from dining rooms to museums and help form a fuller picture of their creator. His is a life story still being pieced together, one still life at a time. When William Sacherek gifted his inherited Porter paintings to Seattle Pacific University three years ago, he made his hopes clear at the unveiling ceremony. “My prayer with these paintings,” he said, “is that no matter how obscure you think you are, you are going to change the world.” Hyperallergic

 

Picasso painting of Dora Maar vandalised at Tate Modern
Conservation team assesses the defaced work; man is charged with criminal damage

A painting by Picasso in the Tate collection is undergoing conservation after a visitor to Tate Modern defaced the work. Shakeel Ryan Massey, who is based in north London, appeared at a magistrates court in London earlier this week charged with damaging Bust of a Woman (1944), according to the Guardian which reports that Massey indicated he would deny the charge. The work depicts Picasso’s lover and muse, Dora Maar.

Tate said in a statement: “The person was swiftly apprehended and has been charged. Police are investigating. The work of art is with our conservation team for expert assessment.” The Tate did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police said: “Detectives investigating an incident of criminal damage at the Tate Modern, Bankside, on Saturday, 28 December have charged a man.”

According to Tate: “In Bust of a Woman, Maar is shown wearing a hat and green clothing, and sits on a black metal chair. The angular and planar structure of her face are achieved with a linear simplicity, allowing for the contrasting orientation of nose and mouth. This configuration occurs repeatedly in the sequence of 1944 portraits of which this is one.” The Art Newspaper

 

'Indiana Jones of the art world': Meet the man who recovers stolen art
An art historian by trade, Mr Brand has spent years tracking down missing priceless artworks to recovering them.

He's been called the Indiana Jones of the art world, though investigator Arthur Brand insisted he is more like Inspector Clouseau.

But surely, I pointed out, the comical anti-hero of the Pink Panther movies is a bumbling idiot?

"No," Mr Brand replies. "Clouseau is always successful in the end, like I am. But the way to his success is stumbling, following false leads, so I am more like Clouseau.

"I solve it, but you don't want to see how I do it. It's clumsy... everything happens. But if people want to think I'm Indiana Jones, that's fine with me."

We are sitting in the Dutchman's modest Amsterdam apartment that hardly reflects the vast value of some of the stolen paintings he has tracked down.

An art historian by profession, Mr Brand says he is paid a flat fee rather than a percentage of an artwork's worth.

He said: "If you are in this game for the money you will fail. Everybody's in it for the money. The dealers, the thieves, the forgers, the insurance companies.

"Of course I earn good money, but it doesn't make me a millionaire. I'm always the last one to get paid."

But he does enjoy an occasional and extraordinary perk, which he experienced after recovering a stolen Picasso painting Buste De Femme earlier this year: before he handed it to insurers, he hung on his own wall.

"Who can say he has had on this exact wall a Picasso worth £70m for one night? I had it here and I was looking at it all night and money cannot buy that feeling."

The painting had been stolen from a sheikh's yacht in the south of France in 1999 and was thought lost or destroyed until two men "with contacts in the underworld" turned up on Mr Brand's doorstep with a large, rectangular package.

"I have to meet these people," he said. "If stolen art ended up with the Salvation Army I would end up sitting with the Salvation Army, but I'm not that lucky. It ends up in the hands of criminals.

"Some of them are well known, others not. You have to deal with criminals and when you know one you get to know another and another.

"There are not many art thieves, but there is a lot of stolen art and the FBI says it's the fourth largest criminal enterprise in the world."

Mr Brand explained more about the murky world in which he works, saying: "There are two kinds of art thieves. Normal criminals who walk past a museum and think why don't we steal a Rembrandt, it's £20m and we are rich, and the next morning they see it on TV and they see me or some other expert telling them they can't sell it, so they destroy it or they start to use it in the underworld for payment, or drugs or arms. These are the less intelligent.

"But there is another class of criminal who do this art napping thing. People like the Mafia, the IRA, the high-end criminals.

"What they do is, they steal it themselves or buy the stolen painting from the thieves and they keep it stored and then one day, when they get caught for something else, they can use it as a bargaining chip and say, 'Look I have two Van Goghs or Rembrandts, if you lower my sentence you might get them back.'

"So it's blackmail."

Three years ago Mr Brand recovered two multi-million pound paintings - Salvador Dali's Adolescence and the Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka's La Musicienne - stolen from a Dutch museum.

The artworks had been missing for two years before he got involved.

"Normally, when a museum is raided I don't get involved straight away, it's a police job," he said.

"But then, after two years they have nothing and the prosecutor says, 'I didn't like these paintings, let's stop searching because we've spent enough money.'

"Then I come in and look at the thieves' method... how did they did it, what was their way of breaking in? Maybe that gives me a lead and I start asking around the criminal underworld, I start chasing people."

A few weeks ago the detective recovered a Victorian gold friendship ring once given to a fellow Oxford student by the playwright Oscar Wilde. It had been stolen from Magdalen college and was thought to have been melted down many years ago.

Mr Brand believes the ring, valued at £35,000, was stolen again during the infamous Hatton Garden safe deposit raid four years ago.

He said: "An intermediary gave it to two guys who helped me with this and it was handed over in front of Hatton Garden, exactly the same spot, which is typical English humour.

"It was in one of those safe deposit boxes."

Mr Brand spends most of his time advising clients on the provenance and value of art they are planning to buy and helping them avoid fakes. He also works with Jewish families trying to recover art stolen by the Nazis.

But the criminal world fascinates him.

The notorious, late Colombian drug Pablo Escobar is long rumoured to have used his vast wealth to buy art.

Is it true?

"Yes, he did invest in art. I saw pictures of his paintings. It's the biggest museum in the world. It has everything. A lot of fakes, too, because some people, art dealers, thought it would be a good idea to trick Pablo Escobar, but I've seen some of them and some are worth tens of millions.

"They are in the Gulf states, that's all I can say."

Did Escobar, who was shot dead by police in 1993, genuinely know his art - or was he simply laundering his drug profits?

"Laundering his money," said Mr Brand. "But one of his biggest friends who later became his biggest enemy was an art dealer.

"We always think of criminals as people with no interest in art, there are those too, but there are some criminals who know exactly what they are talking about in the art world." sky news