Saturday, 22 November 2014

Mike Nichols RIP

Recognize her? If you haven't seen Closer (2004) you'll find it difficult to recognize Natalie Portman. She won an Oscar for best supporting actress in the film. It was directed by Mike Nichols, who died this week at the age of 83. BBC News has posted stills from his movies to illustrate his career: CLICK.

Two Women

The most interesting painting I've seen today is George Bellows' Two Women (1924) which fetched $1,265,000 in Bonhams New York auction of American Art. Leading light of the Ashcan School, Bellows was renown for the gritty realism of his paintings of the urban poor in New York City. He painted Two Women a year before he died. The work is less impressionistic than some of his earlier paintings, but the gritty realism is still there in this double portrait of a brothel madam and a beautiful young prostitute (CLICK).

Friday, 21 November 2014

$44m Jimson Weed

Behold the most expensive painting by a female artist ever sold at auction. Jimson Weed/White Flower No 1 by late US artist Georgia O'Keeffe sold for $44.4m (£28.8m) at Sotheby’s New York auction of American Art. The painting was one of three O'Keeffe works put up for auction by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, sold to benefit its Acquisitions Fund (CLICK). Wanna Picasso?

Lost Wilkie Found

A generous legacy from art teacher Miss Marcia Lay has helped The National Gallery in London buy Scottish artist Sir David Wilkie's A Young Woman Kneeling at a Prayer Desk (1813). The painting was lost for more than 140 years. London-based art dealer Ben Elwes recognised the painting as a Wilkie when he saw it in the catalogue for a sale in New York. The sitter is thought to be Lady Augusta Phipps, who died in 1813 aged just 12. The painting needs a good clean. I've tweaked its gamma setting to bring out its colours (CLICK).

Venus Disrobing

This morning I chanced upon Lord Frederick Leighton's Venus Disrobing (not to be confused with his Venus Disrobing For The Bath) and noticed this little girl sitting at the feet of Venus, gazing up at her. The girl's dress looks totally out of keeping with Greek mythology. In fact as Venus's handmaiden she should be in the nude. Her dress appears Victorian. So is this an example of Trompe-l'œil (French for "to deceive the eye"? The Victorian viewer would be drawn into the picture by the illusion of a little girl sitting at Venus's feet. Sadly, the painting is in a private collection and I can't even find its date, let alone a commentary. CLICK to see it.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Major General Wolfe

This uninspiring portrait of Major General James Wolfe by Thomas Gainsborough was almost certainly commissioned by the family of Katherine Lowther to celebrate her engagement to Wolfe in 1758, prior to his military expedition to kick the Frenchies out of Quebec. After a long siege, he captured Quebec City and became a hero, but caught three musket balls during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and died aged only 32, one year after his engagement. So he never married his fiancée. The portrait comes up at Bonhams Old Master Paintings Sale in London on 3 December, estimated at £120,000 to £180,000 (CLICK).

Elgin Marbles

The Greeks want their marbles back. They've been moaning about them for yonks, but now they're virtually bankrupt they want them even more, probably to sell to the J. Paul Getty Museum. They have Amal Alamuddin Clooney (wife of George Clooney) taking up the cudgels on their behalf. UNESCO has agreed to act as mediator in the long-running dispute. And yesterday their latest ploy was unveiled at Athens airport: a picture of the Parthenon and its marble statues on an interactive screen. Travellers are asked "Do you support the return of the Parthenon marbles? Yes" or "No". The Elgin Marbles are named after British diplomat Lord Elgin, who had them shipped to Britain in the early 1800s. Some diplomat! But he did a deal with the Ottoman Empire, which then ruled Greece, and the British government bought the marbles, which have been in The British Museum for 200 years (CLICK).

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Peder Balke

The National Gallery in London is showing the first ever UK exhibition of pioneering 19th-century Scandinavian artist Peder Balke. Thanks to a collaboration with the Northern Norway Art Museum and international loans, over 50 of Balke's paintings are on display in the Sunley Room, admission free. He was the first painter to venture into the North Cape, where he was captivated by the beauty of the landscapes. Shown is his North Cape (1845). Sadly, his art lacked commercial appeal and he became a politician (CLICK).

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

World Toilet Day

There seems to be a World Day for just about everything except bankers and jihadists. Did you know that tomorrow is World Toilet Day? And there's an exhibition in London for it. Photographers from Panos Pictures teamed up with Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) to photo women and their toilets and document the effect loos have on their lives. Shown is high school student Flora, 19, who lives in Chamanculo C in Maputo, Mozambique, with her mother, sister and niece. She shares a toilet with several other families living nearby. "I hate using the toilet. Sometimes men peek over the fence. There is no privacy." According to the United Nations 2.5 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation. The exhibition My Toilet: global stories from women and girls is at the The Royal Opera Arcade Gallery until 22 November (CLICK). Entrance is free. CLICK for more photos.

Yeo's Prints

The inaugural exhibition at Lazarides Editions gallery on London's South Bank is Jonathan Yeo: The Print Retrospective, opening on 20 November and running until 20 December (CLICK). Among the celebrity portraits is his famous portrait of George W. Bush, a montage made up of flesh tones taken from pornographic magazines. He's given bunga bunga champion Silvio Berlusconi the same X-rated treatment. Shown is his Mammary Augmentation. I don't know who these belong to. Signed limited editions of Yeo's prints don't come cheap: £1,000 to £2,000.

Monday, 17 November 2014

UK Bird Flu

Bird flu has turned up in the UK at a Yorkshire duck farm, probably imported by a migrant bird from Germany or the Netherlands. It reminded me of this neat little cartoon from the last bird flu scare back in 2008. The strain found recently isn't the human killer strain (CLICK). So don't panic!