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Israel – First Impressions

Flowering cactus near the Sea of Galilee

Flowering cactus near the Sea of Galilee

I’ve been back from Israel a month now and have had some time to reflect on the experience.  I’ve been describing my trip as “intense”  – but in a good way!  There are a lot of amazing things packed into this small country and I was nearly overwhelmed by the cultural, historical, and religious wonders I encountered.  I wanted to share with you some of my first impressions.

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ArtSmart Roundtable – Man and Myth: Statues of Lincoln

Mount Rushmore

Nothing says importance like being carved into a mountainside – Mount Rushmore National Memorial, near Keystone, South Dakota (Photo: Wikicommons)

The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme.  This month we are focusing on Sculpture.  We’ve got picks from all over the world and different time periods.  Be sure to check out all the posts below!

Statues always remind me of monuments and I am fascinated by how cultures remember their heroes.  Living in Washington DC, I am surrounded by monuments to great American men.  A lot of artistic thought goes into these sculptures because subtle, and not so subtle, visual choices shape how we view and remember these famous people.  I think no other figure is wrapped in as much symbolic meaning and myth as Abraham Lincoln.  Whether in books, art, or movies, we continue to struggle with who this president was and how we remember him.  Two statues in DC epitomize this debate for me.

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Science & Sfumato – Technical Analysis to Aid Art Historians

This post is part of a larger on-line symposium to honor the late Hasan Niyazi, the self-taught art historian behind Three Pipe Problem.  Hasan championed art history, critical analysis, valuable online discourse, and all things Raphael!  As part of this April 6th celebration (Raphael’s birthday), you can read all of the posts here.  He is missed by all those who knew him personally or through his active engagement with readers online.

mona lisa experiment, SRF

The Mona Lisa’s mysterious sfumato being quantified. (Image from [1])

 

I always appreciated that Hasan advocated for scientific research and technical analysis as a complimentary approach to historical research and stylistic connoisseurship.  Art is fundamentally material science even if the end result can be ascribed beauty or emotional intensity.  Thus it makes sense to use analytical techniques to understand how a piece of art was constructed in order to understand to creative process and the end product.

Given the numerous Three Pipe Problem posts on Leonardo da Vinci and the continuing struggle to attribute two recent works – Salvator Mundi and La Bella Principessa, I thought it would be useful to return to this enigmatic artist.  Da Vinci’s experimentation with material and techniques is anecdotally well-known.  But really what do we know about his luminous sfumato faces?  One recent study confirmed the nearly impossible.

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Akko Drink Cart

Israel drink cart, oranges and pomegranates

I found this adorable drink stand along the harbor in Akko, an old Crusader port city in Northern Israel.  It’s not hard to find fresh-squeezed pomegranate and orange juice vendor in the markets and along pedestrian streets.  I’m not sure why but this one seems to have some unnaturally bright blue, red, and yellow slushies available too.

If you’re looking for a delicious afternoon drink, it seems like a pretty easy choice to me!  I’ll take fresh pomegranate juice any day!

El Greco and the Painting Process

Saint Martin and the Beggar

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) – “Saint Martin and the Beggar”, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (Photo)

This last Saturday, the National Gallery of Art, along with SPAIN art & culture organization, held a small symposium on the Renaissance/Mannerist artist Doménikos Theotokópoulos in honor of the 400th anniversary of this death.  Better known as “El Greco” (the Greek), this Cretan painter stands out in Spanish art history for his unique, almost otherworldly compositions, bold use of color and fluid brushwork.  Analysis of some recently rediscovered paintings was presented at the conference and helps shed some light on how the artist worked.

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