Drawing exhibitions in New York


By Clare Hurley in the USA:

The impact of drawing: Two exhibitions of master drawings in New York

12 January 2013

Mantegna to Matisse: Master Drawings from the Courtauld Gallery at the Frick Collection (October 2, 2012 to January 27, 2013) and Dürer to de Kooning: 100 Master Drawings from Munich at the Morgan Library & Museum (October 12, 2012 to January 6, 2013) in New York City

From quick sketches to elaborately detailed art works in their own right, drawings range in style and purpose from the most intimate to the most public, but they offer a pleasure quite distinct from that represented by the grander mediums of painting and sculpture. This was highlighted in two concurrent exhibitions of master drawings from the Renaissance to the modern period at the Frick Collection and the Morgan Library in New York this past fall, which were also reminders that shows need not be blockbusters to pack considerable power.

Executed in pencil, pen and ink, chalk or, in a few instances, watercolor or gouache, this wide diversity of drawings is united by their support—namely by being on paper. This means that drawings are subject to damage from handling and light, and as a result, they have usually been safeguarded in collections not widely accessible to the public. Nevertheless, drawings have long been valued not just as objects of aesthetic appreciation but also of study by subsequent generations of artists and scholars, and it is in this regard that the collection of the Courtauld Gallery in London is additionally significant.

The fifty-nine works on display at the Frick were selected from approximately seven thousand sheets of European drawings and watercolors in the collection of the Courtauld Institute of Arts. The Courtauld is unusual not only for its collection having been organized in the 20th century—whereas most comparable collections in Europe are much older—but in having a mandate to share its holdings with a wide audience.

The Courtauld’s three wealthy co-founders—Viscount Lee of Fareham (1868-1947), Samuel Courtauld (1876-1947) and Sir Robert Witt (1872-1952)—were brought together by a shared recognition that while Britain possessed fine collections of art in private hands and in public institutions such as the National Gallery (founded in 1824), the country lacked institutes to train experts to maintain this artistic heritage and help interpret it for the general public.

Courtauld and Witt traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1927 to visit the Fogg Art Museum, an “art laboratory” established a short time before with the idea that the training of experts should be based on a study of the finest representative examples of original art work in every epoch.

In 1932, each of the co-founders contributed his personal collection, which reflected individual taste to some extent but were complementary, in order to form the Courtauld Institute as a teaching and resource center. Lee had always collected with an eye to his holdings’ pedagogical value, and though he primarily collected paintings, he bequeathed a small number of drawings to the Courtauld. One of these on view at the Frick is the delightfully detailed scene in pen and brown ink of a village church festival in the Netherlands, Kermis at Hoboken (1559), by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Hoboken is near Antwerp, so it is in Belgium, not the Netherlands, now.

Kermis at Hoboken

The drawing conveys sixteenth-century Dutch everyday life in all its minutiae. Throngs of peasants converge on the village. Some unload their carts, while others enjoy archery and other games, circle dancing, gossiping on benches or strolling with their children. The crowded inn—where a housewife stands out front demanding her husband—is far more central to the scene than the church in the distance.

Rembrandt

Courtauld collected more widely than Lee, and in addition to paintings contributed more than 80 drawings to the collection that bears his name. On view at the Frick, from what is considered one of Europe’s finest collections of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist drawings, was the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec sketch Au Lit ( c. 1896). Conjured with only a few pencil strokes, a woman, most likely a prostitute, is relaxing in bed, her stocking feet propped in the foreground, her face barely peeking out of the mess of blankets.

Another drawing of a similar intimacy is Saskia (?) Sitting up in bed, Holding a Child (c. 1635) by Rembrandt van Rijn, which tenderly portrays the artist’s wife and child amid the bedclothes with an economy of red chalk lines.

Leonardo da Vinci’s sketch for Studies for Saint Mary Magdalene (c. 1480–82), likewise comprised of just a few lines, offers another kind of intimacy, namely a privileged view into the artist’s use of drawing as part of his analytical process. The sketch shows the artist considering various positions for Magdalene’s head and hands, each of which would have carried a different symbolic meaning. The final painting realized from this sketch remains unknown.

Leonardo da Vinci

Edgar Degas’s charcoal study Woman adjusting her hair (c. 1884) is a quite different type of drawing, though it likewise offers a glimpse into the artist’s consciousness. Large in scale, it is possibly a preparatory study for one of Degas’s paintings of elegant Parisian women trying on hats at a milliner’s. The rich smoky black of its shading brings out the bold shape of the woman adjusting her hair viewed from behind, as well as revealing the subtle correction the artist made to the arms and curve of the back to give them more dynamic emphasis.

Other drawings showed an unusual side to a given artist. The British Romantic painter J.W.M. Turner is known for bold seascapes such as The Slave Ship (first entitled Slavers throwing Overboard the Dead and the Dying—Typhoon Coming On and exhibited in 1840 as part of the effort to abolish the slave trade) and The Fighting Temeraire (1839), which symbolized the end of an era in England’s maritime empire. Turner’s pastel drawing Dawn after the Wreck (1841), while characterized by the same maritime setting and sensitivity to color as the artist’s paintings, focuses on a lone dog on a desolate stretch of sand baying at the rising sun. It conveys a far more isolated and poignant mood than the grandeur of the artist’s more familiar work.

Turner

Additional highlights at the Frick included a wickedly comic ink sketch, Singing and Dancing (Cantar y Bailar) (c.1819–20) by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, of a witch kept aloft by virtue of her own natural gas, as indicated by another figure on the ground holding his nose. The exquisitely finished color drawing of Helena Fourment (c. 1630–31) by Peter Paul Rubens strikes a more dignified note.

Goya

Demonstrating the varied uses to which drawings have been put, a small pen and ink work by Bruegel the Elder, A Storm in the River Schelde with a view of Antwerp (c. 1559), was even accepted in lieu of a tax payment. Characterized by vigorous pen strokes to convey the bustle of the activity in the harbor, it likewise resonates across the centuries in the inventive variety of pen marks used by fellow Dutchman, Vincent van Gogh, in A Tile factory (1888).

The changing role and character of drawing comes across in both exhibitions. Drawing flourished in particular during periods of advancement in science and the humanities—during the Renaissance across Italy, the Netherlands and Germany, and then again in the 18th and 19th centuries during the Enlightenment and with the strengthened cultural position of the bourgeoisie as a result of industrialization in Europe.

Not surprisingly, the drawings in the earlier periods include a greater proportion that served essentially as blueprints for further art works. These are often marked by a grid or have their outlines pricked out or darkened in order to be transferred to canvas or onto plates for prints.

In the days before mechanical reproduction and computer design programs, drawings were also used to demonstrate to a patron a prospective work or one in progress, or even to propose two different architectural treatments of a townhouse—one classical and the other rococo—as in Johann Bergmuller’s Design for the Facade Decoration of the Stuttgart Estate Council House (1745).

In the modern period drawing increasingly emerges as a medium of expression in its own right, a trend underscored in the exhibition at the Morgan Library with its selection of 100 master drawings from the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich.

The Munich collection is far larger than the Courtauld’s, with an inventory of 400,000 works on paper, including approximately 45,000 drawings and 350,000 prints. Accumulated through a series of royal acquisitions and bequests from wealthy donors, the core of the original collection belonged to Palatinate Elector Carl Theodor (1724-1799), who was forced to move his works on paper from Mannheim to Munich in 1794-95 in advance of French revolutionary troops. This formed the basis of the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung collection, which first opened its doors to the public in 1823 and became an independent museum in 1874.

Pontormo

Like the Courtauld, the mission of the Munich collection’s founders and stewards was to amass the best representatives of all historical periods and national schools for scholarly and educational purposes. The Munich holdings include treasures from the Italian, French, German and Dutch schools—notably a red chalk study Two Standing Women (after 1530) by Jacopo Pontormo, Albrecht Dürer’s Portrait of Kaspar Nutzel (1517), the exquisitely sensitive Study of a Woman with her Head Raised in Prayer (1470-1480) by Matthias Grünewald and another pen and ink drawing of Saskia in Bed (ca. 1638) by Rembrandt. However, the Munich collection is additionally interesting for its drawings from the 20th century, which made up nearly half the Morgan Libgrary exhibition.

Matthias Grünewald

A quite different quality can be detected in these drawings, both in mood and technique. Drawings seem to occupy a more dominant place in an artist’s work. In some cases, the artist is best known for his or her drawing. Thus, Käthe Kollwitz’s somber charcoal drawing on dark grey paper, Battlefield(1907), in which a peasant mother searches for her son among the corpses, is a motif that recurs in much of the artist’s graphic depiction of revolutionary uprisings and the horrors of war.

Other works by artists of the pre-First World War generation are well represented in the Munich collection. The German Expressionist movement, along with the Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Rider (The Blue Rider) groups, included Ernst Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Emil Nolde and Franz Marc, whose works bear the impact of the social and psychic crisis preceding the war in their turn inward to often highly colored, subjective and/or mystical interpretations of reality.

Particularly striking in the exhibition were Marc’s lushly erotic Leda and the Swan (1907), Kirchner’s almost brutally colored Nude Girl in an Interior (ca. 1910) and Nolde’s magical Evening in Schleswig (1918-20). The drawings by Rudolf Schlichter, one of the artists of the Neue Sachlikeit (New Objectivity) movement that emerged out of the world war, return to more realistic depictions of working people, such as Unemployed Waiter (1925), in which the man’s hand and worn unshaven face are depicted with a gentle detail reminiscent of Grünewald’s woman at prayer.

A.R. Penck

The period after World War II is only summarily represented in the Morgan Library exhibition by a handful of almost miscellaneous drawings by various Abstract Expressionist, Pop, Neo-Expressionist and other contemporary artists—Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers and David Hockney—some of whom have produced interesting drawings, although those on display are not the finest examples.

The falling off in quality in the recent period, somewhat disappointing as a conclusion to such a rich and varied exhibition, reflects the compounded disorientation in successive generations of artists from the immediately post-World War II years until today. A little like A.R. Penck’s lonely red man in I and the Cosmos (1968), the best such figures can do is stare wistfully up at the starry black sky all around.

In their historical and artistic scope, the exhibitions at the Frick and the Morgan Library highlight the unique ability of drawing to make sense of the world, with all the skill and perceptivity that it demands.

(Both exhibitions are accompanied by comprehensive catalogues of high-quality reproductions that can be appreciated almost as fully as the originals.)

No Oscars for Hollywood pro-torture film


This video says about itself:

Dec 16, 2012

Writer Glenn Greenwald argues that Zero Dark Thirty, the film about the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, which is already a front-runner to win the 2013 Best Film Oscar, is politically and morally reprehensible and a glorification of torture. Hollywood and the film‘s director Kathryn Bigelow have climbed into bed with the CIA and produced pernicious propaganda for the view that the USA is always on the side of “good”, whatever our enemies do is always because they are “evil”, and anyone who is a Muslim is a “terrorist suspect”.

By David Walsh in the USA:

Opposition emerges in film industry to Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty

14 January 2013

Voices of protest have been raised in Hollywood against Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, an account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which endorses the actions of the Central Intelligence Agency, the US military and the systematic use of torture.

In a statement published January 9 in Truthout (“And the Academy Award for the Promotion of Torture Goes to …”), actor David Clennon explains, “I’m a member of Hollywood’s Motion Picture Academy. At the risk of being expelled for disclosing my intentions, I will not be voting for Zero Dark Thirty—in any Academy Awards category.”

Clennon goes on, “Everyone who contributes skill and energy to a motion picture—including actors—shares responsibility for the impressions the picture makes and the ideas it expresses. … So Jessica Chastain won’t get my vote for Best Actress. With her beauty and her tough-but-vulnerable posturing, she almost succeeds in making extreme brutality look weirdly heroic.”

The Emmy-award winning actor (best known for his role on television’s thirtysomething) writes, “If, in fact, torture is a crime (a mortal sin, if you will)—a signal of a nation’s descent into depravity—then it doesn’t matter whether it ‘works’ or not. Zero Dark Thirty condones torture. … If the deeply racist Birth of a Nation was released today, would we vote to honor it? Would we give an award to [German filmmaker] Leni Riefenstahl‘s brilliant pro-Nazi documentary, Triumph of the Will?”

It is entirely to his credit that Clennon has made this statement, and spoken out against Bigelow’s film, which has received almost universal, shameful praise from the US media and its so-called “film critics.”

According to CBS’s Los Angeles affiliate station, veteran actors Martin Sheen and Ed Asner have also appealed “to other actors to vote their conscience on whether to reward the movie [Zero Dark Thirty] with a win on Oscar night.” …

Zero Dark Thirty (which borrows its very title from the US military) was developed and made with the fullest cooperation of the military, the CIA and the highest echelons of the American government. Is it likely that the latter would have facilitated a work that offered criticism of their activities?

New revelations about filmmakers’ collaboration with CIA on Zero Dark Thirty: here.

British government insults World War II veterans


This video from Britain is called Arctic Convoys commemoration 22.08.11.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

WWII convoy veterans banned from receiving Russian bravery medal

Monday 14 January 2013

Heartless ministers today banned thousands of WWII veterans from receiving Russian bravery medals for their service on Arctic convoys.

Three thousand British servicemen provided vital supplies to the Soviet Union to aid their fight against nazi Germany on the eastern front.

The Russian government has recognised the men’s bravery on what Winston Churchill called “the worst journey in the world” and offered them Ushakov medals.

But the Foreign Office says the veterans can’t accept them because they are in line to receive a British medal for their service and because it was more than five years ago.

Veteran Fred Henley said the government’s decision was “insulting.”

Russian diplomats say they can’t award the medals because of “British red tape.”

From Associated Press:

Britain says no to UK arctic convoy veterans accepting Russian medal for bravery in WWII

By Gregory Katz, The Associated Press January 14, 2013 11:50 AM

LONDON – Reay Clarke, who risked his life on World War II Arctic convoys, doesn’t understand why the British government wants him and other elderly veterans to turn down a medal for bravery offered by the Russian government.

“I honestly feel sore about it,” said Clarke, 89. “I think it’s disgraceful that we can’t just say yes to the Russians and tell them to go ahead and issue the medal. I think they are kind and thoughtful to remember what we did. We should just say, ‘Thank you very much.'”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said Friday that British sailors cannot accept the Ushakov Medal because they are in line to get a medal from the British government, and also because the events took place more than five years ago.

It is not surprising that the Russian government wants to honour — again — the sailors who participated in the convoys, which helped bring vital equipment to Soviet troops fighting a desperate battle against Hitler’s troops on the eastern front.

The weapons they delivered, including more than 7,500 fighter planes and 5,000 anti-tank guns, helped turn back Hitler’s invading forces, altering the course of the war, said Jacky Brookes, a manager of the Russia Arctic Convoy Museum Project, which plans to build a museum at the spot in northwest Scotland where the convoys were based.

“There were some 3,000 casualties,” she said. “Winston Churchill called it the worst journey in the world. Hitler was keen to sink as many of them as he could. It was an awful experience — they were attacked by U-boats, and ships, and from the air as well. Plus the weather was atrocious. A lot of people just perished from the cold.”

Brookes also feels the government should have allowed the men to receive the Ushakov Medal. She said about 400 are still alive.

“We think they should be allowed to wear it,” she said. “We support any recognition for these brave men, they fought so hard, and many gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

She said the Russian government had periodically honoured the Arctic convoy veterans from Britain and other nations.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced last month a medal will be created and awarded to veterans who were active on the convoys.

But Clarke frets that many veterans will pass away while the details are worked out.

“He’s taken an awful long time,” he said. “There aren’t many of us left.”

Good endangered Snares Island snipe news


This video from New Zealand says about itself:

Snares Island

2008 Sub-Antarctic Islands with Zegrham Expeditions 2008. We were miraculously fortunate to have beautiful weather to view the wonderous scenery and wildlife on this remote island. 100’s of thousands of albatross nesting and 10s of thousands of sooty shearwaters congregating offshore in the evening before flying to the island to roost for the night. This gathering of forces is to confuse the predator birds awaiting their return.

From Wildlife Extra:

Endangered Snares Island snipe doing well in new home

Mainland population wiped out by introduced predators

January 2013. Newly released Snares Island snipe are doing well in their new home on predator-free Codfish Island/Whenua Hou after their recent transfer.

New Zealand Department of Conservation staff on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou report regular sightings of the birds following the second-only transfer by DOC from the subantarctic Snares Islands recently. According to manager of outlying islands, Pete McClelland, this bodes well for establishing a new breeding population.

“The birds are settling in well and should be ready to breed next spring and summer, “he said “We’re excited about the prospect of this new population improving the chances of survival for the species.”

Wiped out on mainland by rats

The snipe, also known as tutukiwi for its long beak and ground living habit, was once widespread around New Zealand but was wiped out on the mainland and many islands by predators, mainly rats.

30 birds relocated

A total of thirty snipe were captured in hand-nets on the Snares Islands and transferred by boat to Codfish Island. The transfer was funded by Tokyo Channel Six who had a film crew making a programme about penguin behaviour around the Snares.

The previously transferred snipe, taken from the Snares to Putauhinu Island off the south-west coast of Stewart Island in 2005, have grown to an estimated population of over 500 birds.

It is hoped that these newly established populations brought from the subantarctic islands will ensure the survival and genetic diversity of the species.

The transferred snipe on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou will continue to be monitored, with DOC staff on the look-out for un-banded fledglings next summer.

Snares Island Snipe

Snipe are about the size of a thrush with a long beak, which presumably lead to its Maori name of tutukiwi.
While individuals from the successful population on Putauhinu Island could have been harvested for the transfer to Codfish/Whenua Hou, best practice is to go back to the original stock to maximise the genetic diversity of the new population.
It is hoped to establish the bird on other titi islands.
They were once widespread around New Zealand but as they are ground-living and usually reluctant flyers were rapidly wiped out from the main islands by introduced predators, mainly rats.
South Island snipe (a separate sub-species) found their last refuge on Taukihepa/ Big South Cape Island. In the 1960’s this sanctuary was also invaded by rats and, despite a last minute attempt to save them by transferring a few to a nearby island, the South Island snipe was gone forever.

Indian dugong discovery


This video says about itself:

The slow and gentle dugong has developed an interesting survival strategy to stay away from tiger sharks.

From Wildlife Extra:

Dugong found off India’s north-west coast

Rare dugong carcass spotted off Gujarat coast; sparks hope of a nearby population

January 2013: In a rare find, a dugong carcass was spotted off the Gujarat coast. The animal, about 5 feet in length, has been taken in for autopsy by authorities.

Professor BC Choudhury, Senior Advisor and Scientist with the Wildlife Institute of India (WTI), said, “It’s unfortunate that the animal is not alive but this is still exciting news. For years there have only been speculations of their presence here, with evidence extremely rare.”

Dugong

Dugongs (Dugong dugon) are large shy marine mammals, popularly known as ‘sea cows’ since their diet primarily consists of sea grass. Existing information suggests that the dugong population in India is restricted to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Gulf of Mannar and Gulf of Kutch.

RD Khamboj, Chief Conservator of Forests and Director – Gulf of Kutch Marine National Park (GoKMNP), said, “This is good evidence that GoKMNP is a habitat for dugongs. It may be the sea grass beds along GoK that attract them here.”

He added that more information could be ascertained once the autopsy is done. “This is apparently a female (possibly a juvenile), and this could mean the possibility of a breeding population nearby.”

Few sightings

Classified as vulnerable by the IUCN red list, there have only been scattered sightings over the past decade, off the Gujarat coast, including one in 2002, and one reportedly photographed in 2012.

Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz hounded to death


This video about the USA is called Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz commits suicide in midst of controversial trial.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Internet activist hounded to death by US government

Sunday 13 January 2013

Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz killed himself late on Friday having been hounded by US prosecutors for sharing copyrighted material on the internet.

The Reddit website co-founder and RSS protocols coder (pictured) faced up to 30 years in prison for “stealing” millions of files from academic journals from electronic archive Jstor by accessing an MIT university computer.

His family, who announced the news at the weekend, said the death was “the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.

“Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”

Mr Swartz was also instrumental in mobilising opposition to Coica in 2010, a precursor to current laws limiting internet freedom.

Tributes poured in to 26-year-old, including from world-wide-web inventor Tim Berners-Lee who said: “Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.”