May 15, 2019

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


In this issue:

Blossoming artist: Damien Hirst on returning to the studio, fluorescent florals and the 'muppets' in government
Five Fail-Safe Tips for Painting Greens
US Museum Asks Far-Right German Party to Stop Using Its Painting for an Election Ad
Cast of Leonardo da Vinci’s only sculpture at Carnegie Science Center
Judge rules museum 'rightfully owns' Nazi-looted painting
Portrait sketch of Leonardo da Vinci discovered in Britain’s Royal Collection
New store offers art supplies in Yreka
Trevor Paglen’s Orbital Reflector sculpture fails to deploy
At the CIA, she’s an operative with a paint brush
Happy little clouds: Bob Ross’s first museum show aims to change his reputation
For '60s icon Peter Max, art is still a labor of 'Love'
Hidden Cupid resurfaces in one of Vermeer’s best-known works after two and a half centuries

 

 

 

 

Blossoming artist: Damien Hirst on returning to the studio, fluorescent florals and the 'muppets' in government
Hirst has spent the past 18 months in his London studio painting cherry blossom and now, in an exclusive interview, he explains why this new body of work is a matter of life and death

LONDON: I visited Damien Hirst’s Thames-side Hammersmith studio on one of those peculiarly English damp, grey days to be greeted by a veritable burst of colour and a beaming Hirst, spattered in paint and clearly in his element. I am advised to don a rather fetching white shell-suit and slippers, just in case I, too, am transfigured by pigment, which dribbles Pollock-like across the floor and splashes sofas and surfaces. I am here to talk to Hirst about his return to the studio, after the intense and lengthy production phase of Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, and to see his new series of cherry blossom paintings in progress. Some are still in their nascent, skeletal state—he describes these with gleeful irony as “bad versions of Hockneys”. Others are overloaded with splotches of blossom to a “celebratory” state of excess.

The Art Newspaper: As we’re sitting here surrounded by your new Cherry Blossom paintings, I’d like to ask about your return to the studio and to working without a cast of studio assistants. Did your Veil paintings presage this?

Damien Hirst: Well, no. Around the time that my friend Angus Fairhurst committed suicide in 2008, I was in the middle of painting. It was quite a dark little pursuit in a really claustrophobic space in my garden. So, I was painting those really dark blue paintings—they’re very derivative, like Bacon’s—and I was feeling like I was in 1953 and wondering what the hell I was doing. It got worse after my friend committed suicide. I got out of there because it got quite negative and I had a little studio in Claridge’s for a while.

Then, I started working on Treasures, really intensely. That became such a complicated thing with so many people and things and objects and fabricators. It just became a really crazy task at the opposite end of the spectrum. That thing where it says artists don’t make their own art, that was the pinnacle of that, really. Which I’ve never had a problem with: I don’t see the difference, whether you make it yourself or you don’t, as long as the end result is exactly what you want. Then I finished my work on Treasures over a year before the exhibition in Venice opened. It was all set in motion, so I was kind of twiddling my thumbs because I’d said what I wanted and I had to look at things, but very erratically. Everything was taking a long time. There were some carvings that took two-and-a-half years to carve, and I’d set them up a year-and-a-half before. So, I got this studio and thought, “I should just do some paintings.”

This studio?

Yeah. I rented this studio, just before Treasures, and then it just exploded when I got in here. I think the size of the painting was decided by the space. I wanted them small enough so that you still get the light above them, coming through the windows. What used to happen is, I’d make a painting and the galleries would come in, like it, and put one in an art fair. But that didn’t feel right. I thought I’ve got to complete the series and feel happy with everything first. And that was a new way of thinking for me. Now I make, fabricate, document, complete a series, and then work out what I want to do with it. So, you keep the creating away from the promotion or whatever. It’s what I did with the Veils and it worked brilliantly.

I’d like to know more about your subject—blossom—and where that comes from; it obviously has a long art-historical background.

Well, I did the Veil paintings, and then I thought they were more abstract, really, like trying to look through them to something beyond that, maybe looking out of a dirty window. They were obscuring but revealing at the same time, and they looked like flowers but they were very abstract.

Then, I just thought: “Oh my God, I wonder if I could just do cherry blossoms.” It seemed really tacky, like a massive celebration, and also the negative, the death side of things. Then I thought: “But what if I actually paint branches and I try and make them look like that?” I was a bit worried about it because it was representational. When you paint the branches first of all, they look like bad versions of Hockneys. So, I was thinking: “Shit, maybe this is a disaster.” But then, as I kept working on them and getting rid of the branches here and there and adding branches here and there, they started to have that feel. They seemed between something representational and something abstract, which I really like. It took quite a while to get to that.

I remember my mum painting cherry blossoms in the garden, when I was five or six. She had an oil painting of a cherry blossom and I remember I tried to paint it; I think I ate some paint.

Your mum was an artist?

I think she wanted to be an artist, but she didn’t like her art teacher at school, so she left school early. But she loved art. She painted—she used to do life drawings and stuff—but she was always ashamed of them and said: “Don’t look at that.” But, yeah, she’s really creative.

Are there any artists that are a particular inspiration? After I saw your Instagram post about your new paintings, I happened to go to the Courtauld Gallery and saw the Monet trees...

Definitely; Van Gogh as well.

And Pierre Bonnard?

Yeah, totally. Bonnard was absolutely an inspiration for the Veils. I went to see a show when I was really young. I used to go inter-railing when I was a student; we were looking at art, going everywhere. There was a brilliant show on at the Pompidou, which was decoding Bonnard.

I was studying art history, but not really having any money to go anywhere so, it was all from books. I remember that New York School Thames and Hudson book. As you’re looking at the dimensions and you’re imagining De Kooning, you’re looking at a really small image and thinking they’re big, and then I was doing big paintings in my garden and trying to create that, but without actually having seen any.

I’d seen a John Hoyland in the Leeds City Gallery. That was the first artist that blew my mind. So, I was looking at Hoyland, trying to imagine De Kooning and Barnett Newman and all that kind of stuff, and then when inter-railing came about, we went all over Europe, I think that’s a lot of what these paintings are about. They’re almost like De Kooning-scale Bonnards.

Have you seen the Bonnard show at the Tate?

Yeah, amazing.

That Almond Tree in Blossom…

Yeah, exactly. I mean he’s brilliant: the colour on the inside, it’s just genius colour. The way everything moves is a physical thing; you’ve got to feel it. I always think, with sunlight on flowers, what else is there? They’re fluorescent; it’s beyond floral, it’s stupid, really.

Bonnard painted The Almond Tree just a week before he died, so there is an added poignancy.

It’s always a complicated thing, that, isn’t it? I remember John Berger’s book, Ways of Seeing, where he talks about Van Gogh’s painting the crows over the wheat field. He says it’s his last painting and then says: “Look how the painting’s changed now you know that.” Information changes things.

But there is something about when an artist gets to a certain age, and when they are painting things like this—blossom is so short-lived, and it can take on a potency.

There’s life and death in everything, isn’t there? I like the fact that Max Beckmann said that when he painted, he always primed his canvases black. He said that he sees the black as the void and then everything he paints is something he’s putting between himself and the void. So it’s a figurative painting with a conceptual background. I like that kind of conceptual thing.

And I suppose with the Veils, I was doing something like that—where you put something between you and something else. And then with the Cherry Blossoms, it’s even more so. I hope you can see the irony as well, because they feel like they’re celebrations of avoiding something.

Avoiding what?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s the darkness when I was in the shed in the garden painting. Colour is a good way to avoid darkness. But the celebration goes crazy, and you haven’t got time for the darkness. The colours remind me of all the diamonds on the diamond skull: thousands of shining diamonds.

Art’s always a celebration isn’t it? That’s the other thing people say: “Your art’s about death.” You just go: “It’s not; it’s about life.” Even though that’s semantics, it’s like not making art is death. You can’t really make art that’s negative because the process is so positive.

You must be aware that at the same time you’re painting cherry blossom David Hockney is painting blossoms—apple, hawthorn—in Normandy.

I didn’t know about that, but I’m not surprised. We’ve got the same initials.

You have. Also, I find it interesting that the two iconic artists, in terms of the British public, David Hockney and Damien Hirst…

Now Tony Hart is gone…

Yes. You’re both doing this, while all this awful stuff—Brexit and the rise of the far right—is going on.

What the fuck can you do about all that stuff? It’s fucked, isn’t it? Brexit’s a joke, everything’s a joke, people in power are a joke. I’ve never really felt political in terms of my art. There’s a great political piece that Sylvia Plath wrote called Context and she said that the issues of our time influence her but only in a “sidelong” fashion: “My poems do not turn out to be about Hiroshima, but about a child forming itself finger by finger in the dark… Not about the testaments of tortured Algerians, but about the night thoughts of a tired surgeon.” And I always thought that’s a great way of looking at it.

But I suppose Picasso did Guernica, didn’t he? So there’s a time where you do want to come in. But when we’ve got muppets in the government falling over each other, there’s no logic whatsoever.

It’s so depressing, isn’t it?

Yeah, I think it’s time to paint cherry blossoms. That’s what they’re doing, so why can’t we?

Do you think they are painting cherry blossoms?

I don’t think they’re doing anything, actually. I think they’re just hanging on to power. I’ve never thought the people in power are idiots to the level they are now.

How formative was your experience of studying art at school and at art college?

I did a foundation course, which was the greatest thing. I think everybody should do one, whether you become an artist or not. I remember there was someone who was 60 on the course; I went straight from school, almost. It was only a year but it just blows your mind. There’s older people, younger people—a big mix—and people who were doing everything: graphic designers, fashion designers, textiles. It was just really brilliant. If you ended up being a bank manager, I think it would be great to have done a foundation course.

I’m just incredibly lucky to be healthy, to have an arena where whether people like it or don’t like it, it’s considered. Leeds University has a library which is just art; I remember being in there looking at all the books thinking that I had to read everything before I can begin. And then I thought I’d never ever get a book with my name on it. But I should try anyway; it would be amazing to have a book with your name on it on the shelves.

When I was around 15 I saw David Hockney. I’d gone to see a show of his in Bradford with a friend of mine when I was thinking I’ve got to be cultural in some way. And Hockney was actually there. I was, like: “Fuck, that’s David Hockney.” I remember thinking maybe I should get him to do me a drawing and I could sell it. I thought he’d do me one worth millions and millions; I just didn’t know.

Maybe he showed you the way.

Yeah, well he was Bradford, and I grew up in Leeds. I suppose there’s something about fame and celebrity which is important—knowing he was part of what I was into. But I got more from the Beatles.

Do you have any relationship with him now?

I’ve met him a few times; he did my portrait once. He had a studio in London at the time. I think it was in the 1990s.

You said that you didn’t want your cherry blossom paintings to look like “bad versions of Hockneys”.

Well no. I kind of do. I mean, they are over the top so I don’t want them to be tasteful. I want them to get hold of you. And it’s like you can get away with anything if they get hold of you. You know, blossoms are ridiculous; I want them to feel ridiculous. I want you to fall into them and be overwhelmed by them. And I think that scale’s important.

Remember when in the 1990s I was doing those Visual Candy paintings? This is what I was probably trying to do then. But it’s funny, I looked at those recently and I realised that at the same time I was doing giant spot paintings, all of those Visual Candies were quite small. I didn’t have the courage of painting them in that way but I came from that background, I wanted to be an abstract painter and I wanted to be big and gestural, but I was doing minimal spot paintings and then I thought: “Fuck it, I’m just going to do this because this is what I wanna do.” And then I reduced the size to chocolate-box-sized things. But they don’t really work at that size. You’ve got to really go for it. I suppose, over the years, I’ve realised that.

I’ve thought of a couple of things that Hockney said to me as well that were really funny. He’s got a brilliant sense of humour. He said to me: “Do people ever say to you how long will your work last?” I said: “Yeah, I get it all the time.” He said: “And what do you say to them?” I said: “Oh, you know, I say this and that.” And then he said: “You know what you should say?” And I said: “What?” He says: “Longer than you!”

Hockney calls the week in May that all the blossoms come out “action week”.

Yeah. I did that show of cherry blossoms called Two Weeks, One Summer in 2012. That’s how I ended the dark paintings. Because it is just two weeks in the summer, when they come out. And again I had the same thing where I had to rush like mad and paint all the paintings. But they’re really dark paintings with dead babies in jars with birds. It’s called Two Weeks, One Summer because the blossom just linked everything.

With this cherry blossom series, you said you are aiming at 90 works.

Yeah, 90 including multi-panels. I’ve got diptychs and triptychs.

Why 90?

I did a plan of all the multi-panel works; I just drew it out of what would be good to do if you imagine a show. I thought, I just want to make enough, really, so you get it out of your system. And then I just drew lots of sizes, lots of things I wanted to make, and realised with some I’m repeating myself and others I’m not.

I started off doing endless series, and then it becomes a bit complicated, so I think keeping it under 100 feels nice. They work differently; there’s lots of different colours, lots of different blossoms, lots of different shapes and sizes. You think you can just go into it, create it, get out the other end of it. Because the main thing is, what’s new for me is not making any more after this. It’s a massive amount of activity.

Do you have any idea of where you want to show them?

No. We have been talking to museums in Paris and Rome; they might do something in there with their collections. That’s the joy, really, of finishing them before you do anything, because you can look at different places. Or not show them; you can just wait. There’s a big switch that can happen if you’re not careful because you start saying: “Right, well, I’m going to complete the series.” And then somebody comes along and says: “I want to do a show.” And you’re halfway through the series and then suddenly you’re rushing for a show instead of finishing the series and working out what you want to do.

There was a time when I didn’t have a studio and I used to love the pressure. It worked for a while and then I started making mistakes and I had to get a studio. It’s a great place where you can try things out. With a lot of these, I’m going in and painting the background again because I’ve overdone it. I wouldn’t have had time for that if I’d have agreed to a show.

You need time to make things, and also time to consider them. I think that’s really important. You don’t want to show things before you believe in them.

So it’s like a limited edition…

I think you can make as many as you want as long as you’re clear and I think what’s happening in my market is that I wasn’t clear. The galleries were not clear, either. You give the galleries one and the collector says: “How many are there?” And they say: “Not many; you better buy it quick.” And then they find out there’s another one and they feel cheated. You can say there’s a thousand, as long as you say it at the point when they’re buying them and as long as you’re clear.

Is it difficult for you to separate what you’re doing and how buyers will approach it?

No. If you make good art people will want it; you just have to believe that. And even if they don’t, you can’t really think too much about buyers because you’re making art for people who haven’t been born yet, in a way. You’ve got to just go with what you believe in because that’s going to be the best chance of making things that are going to work. Usually, if I think about people buying things, it goes wrong.

I would never have made the shark if I was thinking about people buying things. Or spot paintings on the wall. I mean, even the size of these would have to have been a lot smaller; with the Veils, people have not got walls that size. Once you’re thinking like that, that’s about life, not money.

I hope so.

Yeah, well I think it is. I mean, I’ve doubted it at times in the past, especially coming from no money in the beginning. I remember with the Saatchi Gallery, when Saatchi was first buying all that art and stuff, there were people at my art school saying it was affecting art values with buying power. And everyone was up in arms about it. But I think at the end of the day if you make art that you believe in and it’s robust enough, it can withstand that. You have to believe that. And you have to believe that the currency is art and not money. That is why people pay a lot of money for it.

But now it’s all got a bit ridiculous, hasn’t it?

I don’t know. I suppose if someone wanted to pay the same for a single painting of mine as they would for a Picasso I’d be worried.

And a Leonardo for $450m?

It’s an odd one, isn’t it? I think I sort of stop at 150 for a great Picasso; there are enough people in the world to make that make some sort of financial sense. But anything above that I get a bit spooked.

Yes, it’s a spooky painting, too, I think.

I don’t know. I prefer a Richard Dadd.

Which are your favourite Old Masters?

I like the messier painters: Rembrandt, Goya, Titian, Soutine.

And what about sculptors?

Bernini. Michelangelo. I mean, they stand above everyone else, really.

So, in a way, having your cherry blossoms in Rome would be a match made in heaven.

Yeah, I thought maybe some of the Treasures corals might be good to exhibit with them as well: link the blossom tree paintings to sculpture and the way that the coral grows and hang them over the corals. The Art Newspaper

 

Five Fail-Safe Tips for Painting Greens

How many times have we heard it: “Green is hard.” I don’t believe green is the problem but that a lack of observation is, along with a hastiness to paint greens straight from a tube instead of mixing colors to create what is actually seen in nature.

I was driving along the marshes near my home one day and everything was gray: the mossy oaks, the palm trees, the marsh grasses, the water. My brain told me spring was near and trees should be green, but because of the weather and lighting conditions, the world was bathed in shades of gray.

If I painted the landscape before me in Viridian Green or Sap Green, common colors on the painter’s palette, I would be making a mistake. This landscape was not green, but rather shades of gray. Many of you may be painting your landscapes with the wrong color. And, tubes of green often need to be mixed with other paints to create the correct hue. Viridian Green, while an important color because it’s one of the few hues that creates dark values, is a color meant for mixing. Below are some guidelines for painting beautiful greens:

1. Use The Right Paint Color.
There are some greens in watercolor paint that are good choices to use straight from the tube, but Viridian Green is not usually one of them. Among some of the realistic greens that you can use directly from the tube are Serpentine Genuine, Jadeite Genuine, Green Gold, Perylene Green and Skip’s Green. If you like to use greens from the tube, be sure you have many realistic choices above and beyond the normal one or two greens.

2. Maybe It’s Not Green: Observe carefully.
Your brain may be telling you to paint every living thing Sap Green. But, if you stop and observe, you may discover that none of the trees or foliage in your selected landscape are green. Certainly, all trees in one scene cannot be the same green or same color. Every object in a plane will be a slightly different color, depending on what it’s close to – what colors are bouncing against that object – and what colors below and above are reflected. With continued observation, you will see that every species of tree and foliage are different colors of green.

3. When In Doubt, Use the Complement.
If your green is too bright, then lower the intensity of the hue by mixing in some of the complement. The complement of viridian is alizarin. The more of the complement you add, the more neutral, and more natural, the color becomes. Rose, alizarin and some of the violets mix beautifully with green. Use your color wheel to find the exact complement that you need.

4. Mix Your Own Greens.
Mixing your own greens is always a better solution to painting greens because then you have limitless choices. In class, I coach students to make a green chart because it’s a useful tool for exploring and learning color mixing. Try making a chart of your own. Write down every yellow and brown you have along the left side of the paper. Write down the names of your blues along the top of your paper. For the sake of brevity, mix every blue and yellow together in a 50-50 mixture. Think of it, if you use different percentages of yellows and blues, the possibilities are endless.

5. Value Is Everything.
Even one tree will have several different values within the shape. Creating several values within your shapes will make your trees and foliage more believable. Often, the values you paint are more important than the colors.

Green: Creating Colors From One Tube of Paint

Here, I’ve used only permanent green to mix a variety of greens. Experiment with how many colors you can make by mixing other colors on your palette with only one tube of green.

Here I’ve mixed:

Permanent Green with Hansa Yellow
Permanent Green with Perinone Orange
Permanent Green with Burnt Sienna
Permanent Green with Alizarin Crimson
Permanent Green with Perinone Orange and Cerulean Blue
Permanent Green with Cobalt Blue
Permanent Green with Cobalt Blue and Alizarin Crimson
Permanent Green with Neutral Tint

The possibilities are endless. You can make an infinite number of colors from one tube of green by mixing it with 2 or three colors from your collection of paints.

Matching Nature’s Greens

In the photo below, you can see that permanent green and viridian green straight from the tube have no place in the natural landscape. Instead, I chose just one (permanent green) and mixed it with a variety of other colors to create a full range of natural greens that are true to the landscape. American Watercolor

 

US Museum Asks Far-Right German Party to Stop Using Its Painting for an Election Ad
The campaign, funded by the Alternative for Germany party, features the 1866 painting “Slave Market” with the caption, “So that Europe won’t become Eurabia.”

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA: The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, has called on a German right-wing party to withhold from using a Jean-Léon Gérôme painting from the museum’s collection in its campaign for the European elections in May.

The 1866 oil painting “Slave Market” depicts a nude fair-skinned enslaved woman being probed by Middle Eastern or North African men. One of the men, dressed in an Abaya (traditional cloak), is seen inspecting her teeth. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party proliferated posters of the painting across the German capital with the slogan: “So that Europe won’t become Eurabia.”

“We strongly condemn the use of the painting to advance AfD’s political stance and have written to them insisting that they cease and desist,” said Olivier Meslay, the director of the Clark Art Institute, in a statement. “We are strongly opposed to the use of this work to advance any political agenda.”

However, Meslay acknowledged that there’s little the museum can do since the painting is in the public domain. “There are no copyrights or permissions that allow us to exert control over how it is used other than to appeal to civility on the part of the AfD Berlin,” he said.

Ronald Glaeser, a spokesman for the Berlin branch of the AfD rejected the the museum’s request and described it as “a futile attempt to gag the AfD.”

“The German public has the right to find out about the truth about the possible consequences of illegal mass immigration,” said Glaeser.

AfD is Germany’s largest opposition party. It became the parliment’s third largest party after the 2017 election in the country. Known for its anti-immigrant stances, the party cites Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to welcome large numbers of Syrian refugees as the source of Germany’s current social problems. In November last year, the party proposed to repatriate half a million Syrian refugees back to their country, saying the war was “nearly over.” Hyperallergic

 

Cast of Leonardo da Vinci’s only sculpture at Carnegie Science Center

PITTSBURGH, PA: There’s a thumbprint visible if one looks closely.

It’s believed to be that of Leonardo da Vinci — scientist, engineer, inventor and, in this case, sculptor.

The sculpture, titled “Horse and Rider,” was unveiled Wednesday at the Carnegie Science Center on Pittsburgh’s North Side by popular televised art appraiser Brett K. Maly.

“It features a thumbprint believed to be da Vinci’s,” Maly said. “There are also little carvings and markings only visible under a magnifying glass on the statue. It represents the classical statue portrayals he would have been used to seeing. ‘Horse and Rider’ reminds us of the diverse nature of da Vinci’s interests.”

The unveiling kicks off da Vinci 500 Weekend Thursday through Sunday at the science center and marks the 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death.

It is a cast of the only known sculpture created by the original Renaissance man, according to the science center.

Maly, who appears as an art expert for History Channel’s show “Pawn Stars,” agreed to hand deliver it to the museum.

He said it was the most important carry-on item he’s ever taken on an airplane. It made the trip from Las Vegas to Pittsburgh encased in a specially-made container.

“I think security was more worried about my suitcase with my clothes in it than this sculpture,” he said. “It never left my sight, and I am honored to have brought it here.”

The piece is on loan from a private owner in Las Vegas, Maly said.

It is worth $75,000 said and is one of 398 that will ever be produced from the original bronze.

The piece will be the first guests see when they enter “da Vinci The Exhibition” which runs through Sept. 2. The exhibit features 60 life-size reproductions of da Vinci’s inventions, more than 20 detailed art replicas, and displays of his studies in anatomy, nature, flight and science.

“It really represents all that da Vinci was,” said Maly. “It encompasses science, technology, engineering and math long before the STEM that we talk about today. Some people are right brain and others are left brain. He was all brain.”

The bronze sculpture depicts a Renaissance figure, thought to be da Vinci’s patron Charles d’Amboise, in full military dress on horseback, Maly said.

Historians believe the 10 by 10 inch sculpture was created as a model for what would have been a commemorative full-size bronze sculpture as a tribute to d’Amboise, who acted as French governor of Milan, Maly said.

“Da Vinci continues to inspire us today in so many ways,” said Jason Brown, interim director of Carnegie Science Center. “There are only a limited number of these and the science center is honored to have this amazing piece as part of the exhibition.” TRIB LIVE

 

Judge rules museum 'rightfully owns' Nazi-looted painting

MADRID: A Spanish museum is allowed to keep an artwork that the Nazis took from a Jewish woman in 1939, a judge ruled.

Madrid's Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum has fought a 14-year legal battle in the US with the family of Lilly Cassirer.

Ms Cassirer was forced to trade the valuable Camille Pissarro painting for her freedom as she tried to flee Germany, just before the war.

A federal judge in California ruled that legally it belongs to the museum, which acquired it in 1993.

According to Spanish law, if a collector or museum does not know that an artwork was looted when they acquire it, then they are legally entitled to keep it.

But the judge, John Walter, criticised Spain for not keeping to the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art - an international agreement to return Nazi-looted art to the descendants of the people they were taken from.

Some 44 nations, including Spain, signed it in 1998.

In his written decision, Judge Walter said that despite being legally entitled to keep the artwork, Spain's insistence on keeping the painting - Pissarro's Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon. Effects of Rain - was "inconsistent" with the agreement.

Washington Principles, he said, was "based upon the moral principle that art and cultural property confiscated by the Nazis from Holocaust victims should be returned to them or their heirs".

He also said that Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the German industrialist who bought the painting from a US dealer in 1976, should have been aware of the "sufficient circumstances or 'red flags'" that signalled it had been looted - such as missing and damaged provenance labels.

His decision leaves open the possibility of appeal - although the Cassirer family has yet to say whether they plan to do so.

The lawyer acting for the museum, Thaddeus Stauber, told the Associated Press news agency that the verdict "puts an end to" the dispute.

However, the Cassirer family's lawyer Steve Zack told AP: "We respectfully disagree that the court cannot force the kingdom of Spain to comply with its moral commitments."

The journey of the painting

Ms Cassirer's father-in-law bought the painting from Pissarro's art dealer in 1900. Her grandson, Claude Cassirer, told the LA Times in 2010 that he had vivid memories of seeing the Pissarro painting hanging on her wall while growing up in Berlin in the 1920s.

In 1939, months before the start of World War Two, Ms Cassirer tried to escape the country. However, a Nazi official forced her to hand over the painting in exchange for the exit visa.

After the war she, along with other European Jews, sought help from the Allied forces in being reunited with looted art. In 1999 a friend of Claude's discovered that it was on display in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

Claude filed the lawsuit in 2005 but died in 2010. His son David now deals with the case.

Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza's entire art collection was bought in 1993 and turned into a museum bearing his name. BBC

 

Portrait sketch of Leonardo da Vinci discovered in Britain’s Royal Collection
The drawing, believed to be one of only two contemporary images of the artist, will go on show for the first time at the Queen’s Gallery in London

A sketch of a bearded man lost in thought, preserved for 500 years among the papers of Leonardo da Vinci, has now been identified as a rare portrait of the Renaissance master himself. Found on one of hundreds of sheets of Leonardo drawings held in Britain’s Royal Collection since the reign of Charles II, the ink head is believed to be only the second likeness of Leonardo to survive from his lifetime.

The portrait will be displayed for the first time later this month, in an exhibition of 200 drawings from the Royal Collection at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace in London. Organised to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death on 2 May 1519, Leonardo da Vinci: a Life in Drawing (24 May-13 October) will be the biggest show of the artist’s work in more than 65 years. It follows a dozen smaller displays of Leonardo drawings at venues across the UK, which are due to close on 6 May.

Visitors to the Queen’s Gallery will have the opportunity to compare the sketch, which is dated to 1517-18, with the formal red chalk portrait of Leonardo made by his loyal assistant Francesco Melzi around 1515-18. Seen together, “it is hard to avoid the conclusion that [the ink portrait] is also an image of Leonardo, sketched rapidly by a pupil while Leonardo was in France in the last couple of years of his life”, says Martin Clayton, the head of prints and drawings at the Royal Collection Trust.

Clayton, who reappraised the sketch during his research for the exhibition, points out that the two heads share the same straight nose and flowing beard—an unusual style for early 16th-century Italy. The features chime with early biographers’ accounts of Leonardo as a handsome and elegant figure. Like the Melzi portrait, the ink head has the faraway gaze of an ancient philosopher or seer, “an image that Leonardo cultivated”, Clayton says.

Yet the sketch has long been overlooked, appearing on a double-sided sheet of rough paper that also contains Leonardo’s studies of a horse’s leg and a head of a young man, presumably drawn by the same assistant. The sheet has only been reproduced twice in the past 50 years, Clayton says, and scholars have historically paid more attention to the equestrian studies on it. Kenneth Clark, writing in his 1935 catalogue of Leonardo’s drawings at Windsor Castle, briefly allowed the possibility that the bearded man might be a portrait of the artist.

Clayton argues that “an image of Leonardo done from the life in a casual moment is maybe trivial as a work of art but hugely important, even moving, as a record of the man himself”. Despite achieving fame in his day, Leonardo remains a mysterious figure to scholars. His copious scientific writings offer few clues to his state of mind and the documentary record of his life is sparse compared with other Renaissance artists. “Trying to get some insight into his motivations is not easy,” Clayton says. “Any little bit of evidence is another piece of the jigsaw.” The Art Newspaper

 

New store offers art supplies in Yreka

YREKA, CA: A soft opening was held for Studio in Bloom on Tuesday, April 23, with a grand opening held the same Friday. The shop is located inside Shoppe Serendipity in Yreka.

Local artists can now buy art supplies much closer to home, thanks to Kathleen Francis’ new store, Studio in Bloom. Francis, a local artist herself, is excited to offer affordable art supplies for people who before may have had to travel as far as Medford.

A soft opening was held for Studio in Bloom on Tuesday, April 23, with a grand opening held the same Friday. The shop is located inside Shoppe Serendipity in Yreka.

Francis was inspired to open Studio in Bloom in response to the lack of materials available in the immediate area. “I figure if I keep my prices down, people don’t have to waste gas to go to Medford,” she noted.

“I want to save people money and there are so many wonderful artists in the area,” she said, adding that the idea of opening her shop has been in the back of her mind for a long time. When Shoppe Serendipity owner Kris Taylor told Francis that a space was available within her store, Francis decided to go for it.

Studio in Bloom carries art supplies for every skill level, from beginner to professional. Her products include acrylics, oils, graphite pencils, watercolors, pastels and more. She emphasized that if someone doesn’t find what they’re looking for in her shop, she can often order it. “I’ll tell them if I can save them money by ordering it her,” she said.

Francis – who primarily paints with oils – also sells some of her own pieces at Studio in Bloom and inside Shoppe Serendipity.

She also intends to start teaching art classes out of her shop in the fall. She’ll base the class offerings on what people are interesting in taking. Calls regarding art class suggestions can be made to Shoppe Serendipity. Francis will soon be offering private art lessons from her home. Inquiries about private lessons can also be directed to Shoppe Serendipity.

With the opening of her shop, Francis said she is most looking forward to making people happy and giving customers a chance to buy supplies just a short distance away. “Come down and see me and see what I can do for you,” she invites locals. She encouraged everyone to spread the word about Studio in Bloom so that artists know supplies are available right in Yreka.

Studio in Bloom is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The shop is located inside Shoppe Serendipity at 404 S. Main Street in Yreka. Shoppe Serendipity can be reached at (530) 598-0075. The Siskiyou Daily News

 

Trevor Paglen’s Orbital Reflector sculpture fails to deploy
The artist says the US government shutdown effectively “killed” the sculpture

After nearly a decade in research and development and $1.5m dollars in funding, Trevor Paglen’s super-shiny spaceworthy sculpture known as Orbital Reflector is now officially being recognised as an unrealised artwork. The Nevada Museum of Art, which has supported the project, has confirmed that the 100-foot-long diamond-shaped Mylar balloon coated with titanium oxide, meant to be visible to the naked eye at key times while in orbit, never inflated, and the satellite communication systems that could allow this to happen have stopped working.

The unfurled balloon was embedded in a small satellite that did launch into orbit this past December, part of a payload carried by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. But two problems occurred. The rocket released a cluster of satellites at the same time, which made it difficult to issue tracking numbers for each one. And the US government shutdown under the Trump administration delayed the FCC granting clearance for the balloon’s inflation and release. By the time government offices were back up and running and working on the tracking issue, the communications functions on the satellite had failed, in effect destroying the work.

“I blame it completely on the government shutdown,” the artist said. “In order to deploy the balloon, you have to coordinate with the FCC, the military and NASA, but the FCC and the part of the military we need to deal with were both shut down so there was literally nobody we could call to get the approval for deployment.”

The satellite was not built to withstand such a long time in the heat of the sun. And now, the artist said, it is too late. “We can get tracking data from the Air Force, so we know the satellite’s still out there. But we lost the ability to tell the sculpture to deploy,” he said. (There is still, at least theoretically, a chance that an accidental deployment could occur, as the artist wrote in this Medium post.)

After deployment, the balloon was supposed to orbit the earth for a time, a beacon without a militaristic or scientific purpose, before entering the earth’s atmosphere and disintegrating. The project was designed to flag questions of who controls outer space, calling attention to profoundly public territory that is being exploited by national and commercial interests, what the artist calls “the weaponisation of space.”

In that respect, Paglen—who said he has “made his peace” with the outcome of this project and is not tempted to try again—thinks the work just might have fulfilled its function after all. “I think what’s happened is a poignant illustration of who has the right to do what with our planet, which is fundamentally collective,” he said. Ironically, he offered, “Trump’s willingness to shut down the government over a border wall has killed a sculpture that’s supposed to be the antithesis of that.” The Art Newspaper

 

At the CIA, she’s an operative with a paint brush

Deborah Dismuke was never fully satisfied with her painting.

Displayed in one of the most prominent hallways of the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Va., “Message from Moscow” depicts a critical moment during the Cuban missile crisis.

Dismuke thought the faces of the men she had painted needed work. One Saturday, the longtime CIA officer actually took it off the wall, making hurried improvements for about an hour in the nearby women’s restroom.

Yet the painting’s flaws still nagged at her. So last spring, Dismuke decided to create a brand new — and more historically accurate — version of “Message,” which she is racing to complete and install before she retires next month.

“The original looked bad, and given that it’s the agency, you want to get your facts straight,” said Dismuke, 63. “As an artist, it’s one of those things. I’m a perfectionist.”

Her perfectionism has put her in rarefied air. She is the only CIA employee, the first woman and the only African American with a painting in the agency’s vaunted Intelligence Art Collection, a gallery of more than 20 pieces just around the corner from the building’s Memorial Wall.

Aside from her Cold War painting, Dismuke also claims a second one honoring the agency officers from the “Argo” operation — including legendary disguise artist Tony Mendez — who rescued six U.S. diplomats from Iran in 1980.

Although publicly available versions of her paintings in calendars or catalogues feature her autograph partially or fully redacted, the originals at Langley (which can only be seen by employees and authorized visitors) feature her full signature.

This is no small achievement at a place like the CIA.

The names of rank-and-file CIA employees rarely adorn the agency’s interior. Typically, only the names of former agency éminence grises grace the hallways — such as past CIA directors, whose portraits line the building. Then, there are those officers killed on the job and whose names, depending on secrecy concerns, are calligraphed into the Book of Honor in the CIA’s lobby next to its Memorial Wall of engraved stars.

Although Dismuke is not a covert officer, she hardly ever tells people where she works. But in January, after Mendez died, the CIA tweeted out an image of her painting, “Argo: Rescue of the Canadian Six” — and her full name.

“I do have to say, I have really surprised some African Americans within the agency,” she said. “They didn’t know that an African American female did the ‘Argo’ painting and ‘Message from Moscow.’ One of them said to me, ‘Oh my gosh, one of our own?’ ”

Dismuke, who paints at her Manassas Park townhouse listening to soundtracks from “Jurassic Park” or the “Dark Knight” Batman trilogy, said she is humbled to have artwork next to those by such established painters and in such a solemn setting.

“My boss told me the other day, ‘Deborah, there are a lot of talented people here, but when you retire, your legacy will still be here. You get to leave something behind,’ ” Dismuke said, sitting at the CIA’s Starbucks. She smiled, sheepishly. “I just never thought of it that way until then.”

An artistic breakthrough

She submitted her résumé everywhere. Hallmark. Graphics shops. Advertising agencies. She heard nothing.

It was the early 1980s and Dismuke, a recent graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, was several months into a backroom computer job at a D.C. bank. A friend from MICA, whose mother worked at the CIA, got hired by the agency. She urged Dismuke to apply.

“I just knew stuff from TV and thought it was like a James Bond type of thing,” said Dismuke, who grew up in Charlotte.

Dismuke was skeptical over the fact that the spy agency needed a classically trained painter. But, it turns out, the CIA had a need for someone like her, who could do anything from propaganda to illustrations for internal publications. By 1987, she was hired. Even though she was not undercover, she told only her mother and sister where she worked.

She left the agency in 1993 to become a government contractor, but rejoined in 2008, teaching officers how to use education tools such as Blackboard and Moodle.

Over time, word of Dismuke’s artistic talent starting circulating in the agency’s upper echelons. She drew a portrait of George J. Methlie II, a deceased officer, which was hung in a training center named after him. Then, in 2009 or 2010, she made a painting that appeared on a holiday card sent out by Leon Panetta, the CIA’s director at the time, to every employee around the world. When Panetta summoned her to his office, she remembers him telling her, “You’re going to be famous one day.”

Telling a story

Around the same time, Toni Hiley, then the CIA Museum director, wanted to select the first agency artist to make a painting for the growing Intelligence Art Collection. She had seen Dismuke’s portrait of Methlie and was impressed.

“Message from Moscow,” one of two paintings by Deborah Dismuke at the CIA headquarters. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
The collection needed a painting honoring the CIA’s partnership with the British Broadcasting Corporation Monitoring Service, which, starting around 1939, pioneered the recording and analysis of foreign radio stations’ broadcasts. The BBCM, a peacetime arm of the BBC news service, helped teach CIA officers their craft and allowed them to be stationed at their headquarters.

To start, Dismuke was given an old black-and-white photo of BBCM employees at their work station. But the image wasn’t all that clear, plus it felt static — just two guys with headsets in front of radio equipment. Could she make a painting that told a story?

She was directed to tell the tale of the moment, when BBCM employees received word, aired on Radio Moscow in October 1962, that Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev was complying with President John F. Kennedy’s demand for the removal of recently installed missile bases in Cuba.

All sorts of ideas surfaced: She added in a BBC business card at the employees’ desk and a copy of Pravda, the Soviet broadsheet and official organ of the Communist Party, whose front page featured a photo of rising political figure Mikhail Gorbachev. She also threw in a map of Cuba and a picture of Fidel Castro that sat next to one of the men turning a radio dial.

Finally, on Nov. 4, 2011, “Message from Moscow” was unveiled at the CIA, inside its semi-spherical auditorium known as the Bubble.

Dismuke was the painting’s toughest critic. She was worried if experts on the radio equipment passed the piece in the hallway one day, they’d say the switches were not intricate or realistic enough. She also thought the men’s faces needed more color and definition. When she removed it from the wall one lonely Saturday, she sat on a cushy chair in the empty women’s restroom, pulled out a paint palette, and began tweaking the 30 1/2- by-38 oil-on-canvas.

But it wasn’t enough. She wanted a complete redo.

A new 'Message'

One recent day, in the basement of her townhouse, Dismuke was staring at a nearly complete and enhanced replica of “Message from Moscow.” While the old version still hangs at the CIA, Dismuke was busy making her new version far more detailed.

The Pravda needed work. She took out one brush to make the newspaper darker because the original at headquarters is too white. Then she added in shadows so that the newspaper’s placement on the officers’ desk looked less flat. Then she went to work on the men’s faces, giving them more color.

Dismuke stands in front of her painting “Argo: Rescue of the Canadian Six.” (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
By the end of May, she’ll take her new version to the agency so it can be installed. A few weeks after that, she’ll hand in her blue badge and be gone for good.

But she may not be done with making CIA paintings. Her dream, she said, is to be selected to paint a portrait of one of the CIA directors.

“I want to do Gina’s,” she said, smiling, referring to CIA Director Gina Haspel. “She’s the first female director. And, I’m the first female artist and the first staff officer with a painting on the wall. It would be awesome.” The Washington Post

 

Happy little clouds: Bob Ross’s first museum show aims to change his reputation
Group show will help the 1980s TV painter move from kitsch king to conceptual pioneer

Why has it taken art museums so long to show the work of Bob Ross, the late, legendary 1980s TV painter beloved by millions? A new group show in Chicago is aiming to change that and move Ross’s evaluation from the king of kitsch to a conceptual artist. New Age, New Age: Strategies for Survival, at the DePaul Art Museum in Chicago (until 11 August), positions Ross not as a mere novelty but as the forefather of a newer self-help trend in contemporary art. Four oil landscapes created by Ross for his Joy of Painting TV show are exhibited alongside works by Rashid Johnson, Tony Oursler, Mai-Thu Perret, Robert Pruitt and others.

“Put aside your prejudices of Bob Ross and think of him as a true artist,” says the museum’s director and curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm, who likens the painter’s reputation to Frida Kahlo’s. “I’ve been interested in his [cultural] ubiquity yet distance from the art world.” Rodrigues Widholm’s curatorial provocation takes aim at art museums and the market to confront biases of taste, class and the practice of art therapy. “It’s what I might consider expanding the canon,” she says.

Borrowing the paintings couldn’t have been easier for Rodrigues Widholm. She called the Bob Ross Company, which runs a painting school in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and oversees the painter’s legendary licensing brand. Although he died in 1995, you can still get a Bob Ross toaster to burn his trademark permed hairdo onto your bread, for example.

The company keeps around 50 original paintings by Ross in its offices and school. A company spokeswomen, Sarah Strohl, confirmed that the Chicago show is Ross’s first in an art museum, and the second loan request ever. (The first was from the LBJ Presidential Library.) “Of course, Ross’s main goal was to get people to paint their own paintings; he was a great teacher,” Strohl reminds us.

His pedagogic talent, however, means authenticity is a tricky subject for Ross’s paintings, given that he literally taught millions of viewers to paint exactly like him, brushstroke by brushstroke. There are even certified Bob Ross instructors who can replicate his signature techniques.

In his lifetime, Ross sold many works to tourists in Alaska where he lived, gave many as gifts and donated them to public TV charities. He could finish an oil painting in under 30 minutes, often painting the exact scene at least three times for the TV tapings.

Ross’s market is also largely untested. To find a Ross painting for sale today you would have to turn to risky private sales, or to eBay, where a couple of successful auctions made $18,900 and $12,633, according to Jessie Schiewe on the OK Whatever website. But forgeries abound: the Bob Ross Company says it will authenticate any painting, which could become an overwhelming task if every suburban home suddenly finds a Ross in its den.

Instead, Rodrigues Widholm wants to focus on the “cultural, intellectual and aesthetic value” of Ross’s work. As a US Air Force veteran who painted “happy little clouds” and offered inspirational on-air advice while he worked, Ross represents a shift in post-war art away from suffering and trauma, away from irony and academicism, toward optimism, fantasy, community healing and teaching. It turns out Ross is right in line with contemporary art movements. The Art Newspaper

 

For '60s icon Peter Max, art is still a labor of 'Love'

If you think of decades in terms of colors, none jumps out quite like the ’60s, which found artists and designers embracing pop culture like never before with a cosmic explosion of psychedelia.

You can pinpoint it to right around the Summer of Love, 1967 into ’68, a period that produced Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe portrait, Milton Glaser’s Bob Dylan poster, the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” and the “Love” poster of Peter Max, which adorned the walls of many a hippie.

Peter Max Finkelstein was born in Berlin in 1937, a year before his family fled the Nazis and ended up in China, then Israel and, briefly, Paris, where he took sketch classes at the Louvre, before settling in Brooklyn in 1953. Trained at the Art Students League of New York, Max aspired to work in the style of realist painter John Singer Sargent before learning that cameras were quite capable of doing that type of work.

Venturing into abstraction and avant-garde, he opened his first art studio with a friend in 1962, and five years later, with the emergence of new printing techniques, his career soared. He greeted the new era of commercial pop art by licensing his work to 72 corporations, appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show” and hitting the cover of Life magazine with the headline “Peter Max: Portrait of the artist as a very rich man.”

How pervasive was his art? Millions of people got it on their cover of the New York City Yellow Pages in 1970 (and again in ’73 and 2001).

Among his notable works since then are the 8-foot-tall portraits of the Statue of Liberty and six presidents; the Woodstock 99 stage; the 10-cent “Preserve the Environment” stamp; a series of murals along the Canada and Mexico borders; Grammy and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posters; the designs on a Boeing 777 super jet and Norwegian Cruise Line ship.

The lingering gray area in this world of color is his impact on “Yellow Submarine.” As he told us in a 2004 interview, he was approached by John Lennon to direct the film but was too wrapped up in other projects, and, as he’s said in other interviews, the financial offer was too low. In the end, Heinz Edelmann directed it, taking inspiration from Max, Glaser and others.

At 81, Max’s hands are still covered with paint, and this weekend, the Christine Frechard Gallery in Lawrenceville will present a newly curated collection of his work. He will not be in town for the opening, but for the occasion, Max offered to illustrate the cover of Weekend Mag, as he did in 2004. He also took some questions via email.

What are your first memories of creating art?

My mother, Salla, was a fashion designer, and she cultivated my interest in art. My family fled to Shanghai in 1938, when I was 1 year old, and we lived there for 10 years in a pagoda-style house with balconies. My mother would leave various art supplies on the different balconies and tell me to “go ahead and make a big mess, I’ll clean up after you.” Imagine if she had said, “Don’t make a mess.” It would have stifled me instead of giving me freedom to create.

She also hired a young Chinese nanny to look after me who taught me to paint with calligraphy brushes. I would also watch the monks that lived near our home paint Chinese characters on large rolls of rice paper with 5-foot bamboo brushes. That way of painting — moving the entire body, still influences the way I paint today.

Later when we lived in Haifa, Israel, my mother sent me to take art lessons with Viennese fauve painter Professor Hünik. He taught me to really look and see the colors that were in a subject and to paint in exaggerated colors to heighten perceptions.

How did growing up in China, Israel and, briefly, Paris, influence the colorful style you adopted?

When we lived in Shanghai, which was a colorful, magical place, I learned from Chinese calligraphy, which later influenced my brushwork. I was also influenced by the colors and forms of imported American comic books and Japanese art, after the Japanese occupied Shanghai during the end of World War II. I learned perspective and foreshortening from American comic books.

When we moved to Paris for a six-month stay, before emigrating to America, I was fascinated by the impressionists’ use of color — like Matisse and Van Gogh. I was also impressed by Realism and the art of Bouguereau, Rembrandt and Sargent. I later studied Realism at the Art Student’s League in New York City, after high school in Brooklyn.

What prompted you to transition from realism toward the pop art you became known for?

You know my focus on realism was intense, I would work late into the night on painting, studying composition, perspective, light and shadow, rendering the texture and form of fabrics and folds meticulously.

After leaving the League, I was fascinated with abstraction, the avant-garde and complementary color combinations. I discovered new and dynamic Swiss and German graphic art, featured in the Swiss’ graphics magazine Graphis. I loved illustrators John Leyendecker and Maxfield Parrish, “Arabian Nights’ illustrations, and their fantastical themes.

I began to apply my realism skills to create something progressive and innovative, merging traditional painting styles with more avant-garde styles. I went on to study at the progressive School of Visual Arts [in New York] where graphic design was the focus with new media and modes of illustration, using elements from art nouveau, Japanese prints, Bauhaus and German graphic design.

What were your interactions with Warhol (who, as you know, is a Pittsburgh native and has a museum here devoted to his work)?

I met and hung out with Warhol on several collections and we even shopped for collectible pop-art cookie jars together in Soho. He told me that he loved my “split-fountain” color blends.

When you did “Ed Sullivan” and created the clocks and started to become a household name, did you have any reservations about the commercialization of the art?

No, I wanted to bring my art to the people and have it communicate directly with them in many ways — paintings in galleries and museums and in people’s homes, poster art or an art clock on their wall at home or at work. It was a new type of canvas for me. I created the art clock line with General Electric with really dynamic images with clock hands and no numbers.

They were really popular, and I have them hanging in my studio. I love seeing them and thinking about that time. So many creators are putting their art on unconventional “canvases” now. I think it’s great. Later, I went on to create art for the first U.S. environmental postage stamp, a Boeing 777 jet and a Norwegian Cruise Line ship.

How would you compare the feeling of knowing there were Peter Max “Love” posters hanging on teenagers’ walls to having a piece in a museum or gallery?

They were different experiences but also intertwined. My posters and home art products were featured in my first one-man exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, so those worlds mixed. I was fortunate to experience both museum recognition and commercial success.

The focus was on the youth culture of the Woodstock generation then, and young people were experiencing art and music in mixed and different ways. My inspiration came from the new youth movement in America and in return spoke to it. My “Love” poster was my first successful ’60s-era poster. I was proud to have captured the zeitgeist of the ’60s through my poster art and was amazed by the overwhelming reception from my hippie and flower child contemporaries, and from all types of people.

How many album covers did you do? And why weren’t there more?

My first album cover was for Meade Lux Lewis, the boogie-woogie jazz pianist. That cover won a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators. I did many more I can’t remember how many. I created covers for Yes, The Band, Alice Coltrane and an Aretha Franklin and Elton John collaboration cover, a jazz tribute cover to the songs of the Beatles with Diana Krall, George Benson and Chick Corea, who is one of my favorites. Sometimes, I’ll paint on one of the album covers I have in my studio, I did that on a Zeppelin album. I should start doing that more.

When you did the work for presidents, did you engage them personally? If so, what were those experiences like?

I became good friends with presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. To celebrate Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s first July Fourth in the White House, they invited me to paint seven, 8-foot-tall Statue of Liberty paintings in the White House Rose Garden for them, their guests and dignitaries. It was an amazing honor. President and Mrs. Reagan always told me that they loved my colors, and we stayed in touch.

A few years later, I helped spearhead the Statue of Liberty centennial renovation with President Reagan and Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca for the Liberty Weekend 100-year anniversary unveiling and celebration. Millions of dollars were raised from ordinary people all over America for Liberty's renovation. School children sent in their nickels, dimes and allowances for Lady Liberty! It was an amazing national project and celebration honoring one of our most beloved American symbols and landmarks.

I painted 100 portraits of Bill Clinton and produced several posters to honor his inauguration. He told me that he and Hillary had my posters on their dorm room walls when they were in college. He invited me to the White House for the portrait unveiling and we stayed in touch and worked on other projects together. He invited me to mount a one-man exhibition throughout three floors at the Clinton Presidential Center, in Little Rock, Ark., that opened on Presidents Day. I was beyond belief thrilled.

You’re doing art for the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. What do you remember about it when it was happening?

I had a house in Woodstock and had been friends with Woodstock producer Michael Lang since 1966. We were two Brooklyn guys that loved the same music, art and our planet. He always thought that my big ’60s “Smile” poster was inspired by the smiling “Funny Face” of Steeplechase Park at Coney Island. He may be right, as I used a lot of Victorian art and art nouveau influences and imagery in my mid-’60s collages and works.

I walked into Michael’s house one day when he was in the planning stages for the 1969 Woodstock Festival. He was on the phone and cupped his hand over it and said, “I got Janis Joplin on the phone, what should I tell her?” I said, “Tell her that you love her.” Later that day, Jimi Hendrix came over, and I signed one of my posters for him. It was a great honor as I was one of his biggest fans. ...

I remember Michael Lang talking about Roy Rogers possibly closing out Woodstock with “Happy Trails,” as the Woodstock generation had all grown up with him. But Jimi closed Woodstock with his amazing, jaw-dropping performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Michael asked me later who I thought should open the festival and I immediately replied, “My Swami — Swami Satchidananda.” And so, the Swami gave the opening address and inspired three days of “peace and music.” He has since come to be known as the Woodstock Guru.

How did you come to do the portrait of Taylor Swift?

A friend of mine knew someone on her team. They told me that she had been a fan of my work since she was a young girl. After we met, she told me that she first saw my paintings in the windows of an art gallery while she was vacationing with her family at the Jersey Shore.

She was so young when I painted her portraits. I think she was just 21 or 22. It was when she sang more country and had beautiful long, curly hair. She was a force of nature and so sweet. I painted portraits of her first four album covers and we printed them as posters and Taylor sold them to her millions of ‘Swifty’ fans on her website.

She is so talented and has continued to create great songwriting and performances and evolve as an artist. What a beautiful person and amazing artist she is. And her fans just adore her.

What is a typical day like for you now?

I paint and draw every day and I listen to great music at my NYC studio. I take walks and do yoga. I love spending time with my family and friends sitting at a cafe having coffee and something sweet. And I love seeing my fans — after all of these decades I just love seeing my fans and making art.

How have you maintained the passion for your work after all these decades?

I’m still inspired by everything around us — our beautiful planet, my energetic city, all of the people I know and meet. It all keeps me passionate. Making art is what I do, what I’ve always done. I think it was Matisse who said, “When I can no longer hold my brush, tie it to my hand."

What kind of things are you still exploring artistically?

I approach the canvas with a clear mind and spontaneity, as I always have. I start by dipping my brush in paint and applying a stroke to canvas — one stroke leads to another and then another and an image emerges. It’s like playing jazz. I have some exciting projects in the works — this is a real milestone year with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and of Woodstock, two touchstone events in our history from the ’60s. I’ve created art for them in the past and am working on projects for them now. I love staying busy and am grateful that I can. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

Hidden Cupid resurfaces in one of Vermeer’s best-known works after two and a half centuries
Laboratory tests revealed "sensational" discovery that the figure in Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window was overpainted decades after the artist’s death

A hidden Cupid in Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, one of the world’s most famous paintings, is set to resurface on the canvas after two and a half centuries behind a layer of paint. During restoration work, conservators discovered, to their surprise, that the naked figure—which dominates the upper right section of the picture—was overpainted long after the artist’s death.

On the original canvas, the Cupid “picture within a picture” hung on the wall behind the letter-reading girl. It was detected 40 years ago by x-ray, but scholars had always assumed that Vermeer himself painted over it, says Uta Neidhardt, the senior conservator at Dresden’s Gemäldegalerie. The decision to restore Cupid to the work was taken after recent laboratory tests established beyond doubt that the figure was overpainted decades after Vermeer completed it.

“There was even a layer of dirt above the original varnish on the Cupid, showing the painting had been in its original state for decades,” Neidhardt says. The overpainting was also slightly darker than the colour used by Vermeer in the background of his work, because the later artist needed to compensate for the darkening varnish on the original, she says.

“This is the most sensational experience of my career,” she says. “It makes it a different painting.”

Produced in around 1657, Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window has been in Dresden’s city collections since 1742 and is one of just 35 paintings definitively attributed to Vermeer. The same Cupid painting also features in A Lady Standing at a Virginal in the National Gallery in London. Scholars believe it may have been a real picture in Vermeer’s possession: a 1676 inventory of his widow’s belongings includes mention of “a Cupid.”

Vermeer often referenced other works of art in his paintings as a device to convey supplementary information or commentary. The Cupid painting is “the only clue suggesting a love story” in the painting, Neidhardt says. “The elements of disguise and concealment play a less dominant role in this early work by Vermeer than the composition whose background was changed by another hand led us to believe.”

She concedes that some viewers familiar with the painting before its restoration may miss the quiet background and introspective mood.

In 2017, Christoph Schölzel, Dresden’s painting restorer, began working on Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. Though in good condition, its surface was coated in a varnish that had darkened with age, turning the cool, subtle colours of the painting yellowish. The first stage of Schölzel’s work focussed on removing this layer.

After laboratory tests at Dresden Academy of Fine Arts and x-ray fluorescence examinations conducted with the support of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam confirmed that the overpainting was significantly newer than the painting, the decision was taken in early 2018 to remove the later paint and expose the Cupid. An external panel of experts, including Ige Verslype at the Rijksmuseum and Arthur Wheelock at the National Gallery in Washington, is advising on the restoration, which is funded with support from the Hata Foundation in Amsterdam and Tokyo.

Schölzel’s painstaking work requires a microscope and a scalpel, which allows him to scrape off the overpaint without removing the original varnish on Vermeer’s version of the painting. The Cupid is so far about half-exposed—it is estimated that the work will require at least another year. Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window will be displayed in its current, semi-restored state from 8 May to 16 June in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in the Semperbau in Dresden.

Dresden possesses two Vermeer paintings, and they are among the most important and valuable treasures in the city’s rich art collections. The second, The Procuress (1656), was restored between 2002 and 2004. The Art Newspaper