Dutch Aert Schouman’s eighteenth century bird, orangutan paintings


Sunbittern and secretary bird, 24 June 2017

As I wrote in another blog post, on 24 June 2017 we were at the exhibition in the Dordrechts Museum in Dordrecht, the Netherlands of art by Aert Schouman (1710-1792). Founded in 1842, with that exhibition the museum celebrates its 175 years of age. Much of the paintings depict birds; like this African secretary bird on the right, and American sunbittern on the left. I saw beautiful sunbitterns in Costa Rica.

The photos in this blog post are cellphone photos.

Barn swallow and strawberry plant by Schouman

This is another one of Schouman’s many bird pictures at the exhibition: a barn swallow at a strawberry plant.

Orangutan, 24 June 2017

Schouman did not only paint birds. He also depicted this orangutan; featuring a golden pheasant and antelopes.

That ape was the first orangutan who ever went from Borneo to Europe, in 1776. To Prince William V’s private zoo, at the Kleine Loo estate near Voorburg town. Prince William’s servants had no idea how to care for the young female ape. They tried to feed the vegetarian meat. However, as the painting shows, the orangutan preferred apples.

Orangutan detail, 24 June 2017

The fruit turned out to be not enough for the primate to survive a Dutch winter. She died in January 1777, a few months after her arrival.

Southern bald ibis, 24 June 2017

Another animal which Schouman depicted for Prince William V was the southern bald ibis from southern Africa. The photo shows this bird species, copied by Simon Fokke from a big Schouman painting.

With this copy, we have arrived at the subject of the last part of the Schouman exhibition: his influence on other Dutch artists, especially in depicting birds.

Eclectus parrot, 24 June 2017

For instance, this 1767 painting by Gerrit van den Heuvel of a female eclectus parrot shows Schouman’s influence.

Dog and mallard, 24 June 2017

So does this painting of a dog disturbing a flying mallard, a grey heron and mute swans.

Whydahs and parrot, 24 June 2017

And this one, of two African birds: pin-tailed whydah on the left and queen whydah on the right. And below them, a Philippine hanging parrot.

Duck and dog, 24 June 2017

There is much action in Schouman’s bird pictures. That is reflected in this painting by Wouter Uiterlinninge: a dog attacks a domestic duck. In panic while fleeing, the bird tramples her own eggs, damaging them.

Children's art, 24 June 2017

In the last hall of the Schouman exhibition, children can make their own art inspired by birds. In this photo, centre bottom, two flamingos: a pink one, presumably adult. And a white one, presumably young. A child has put a red heart on that bird. A house martin flies toward the flamingos.

Dutch Aert Schouman’s eighteenth century bird painting exhibited


This 2017 Dutch Dordrechts Museum video is about an exhibition of Aert Schouman’s (1710-1792) bird paintings.

On 24 June 2017, I went to that exhibition in Dordrecht of work by Aert Schouman. Schouman was born in, and worked in Dordrecht for much of his life. Seventeenth century Dutch D’Hondecoeter was an inspiration for Schouman’s art on birds.

Among his works are big oil paintings for the walls of Prince William V‘s palace in The Hague. Schouman did that work in 1788, when he was already 78 years old. Four years later, he died. Three more years later, in 1795, Prince William V fled from invading French revolutionary soldiers to England.

Now, these Schouman paintings are usually in Huis ten Bosch royal palace in The Hague. However, that palace is being reconstructed (which costs lots of taxpayers’ money). So, from now till September 2017, there is an opportunity to see them at an exhibition of Schouman’s work in the Dordrechts Museum in Dordrecht.

Biologists have helped with this exhibition as the birds depicted are from many countries and Schouman often did not know exactly which species he painted. He depicted the birds as he saw them in the aviaries of Prince William V and other rich people. Not in their natural environment, as later painters like John James Audubon would do. Schouman often depicted birds from different continents, which would never meet in the wild, together in the same tree in the same painting. Also, eg, Asian golden pheasants meeting European black grouse.

Nevertheless, Schouman’s bird depictions look full of life.

Schouman depicted not just birds. He was an all-round artist, also painting portraits, landscapes, mammals and more. He decorated fans and drinking glasses.

This is a 2015 Dordrechts Museum video about various sides of Schouman’s art.

In 1734, Schouman made his first depiction of birds, in a watercolour. He lived at a time when science about birds and other animals was progressing, with Linnaeus’ classification of the natural world, and Buffon‘s first steps toward an evolution theory. However, Schouman still depicted flying birds of paradise without feet, because of the misunderstanding then caused by exporting them feetless to Europe from distant hardly known New Guinea. In New Guinea, birds of paradise were used in headdresses, for which the feet were useless. For export, the feet were cut off as well. Though a century before Schouman, Jan Brueghel in a painting made jointly with Rubens, had already depicted a bird of paradise with feet; contrary to most seventeenth century artists and scientists. Later, Schouman’s contemporary Linnaeus still called a bird of paradise species Paradisea apoda, “footless paradise bird.” Nevertheless, in 1758 Schouman depicted a sitting bird of that species with feet.

Feetless bird of paradise flying, by Schouman

Schouman was not consistent on birds of paradise. In the top left painting in this picture, a feetless bird of paradise flies over an Asian silver pheasant and a South American cock-of-the-rock.

Only in the 19th century a European would see a, non-feetless, bird of paradise in the wild for the first time.

As we traveled to Dordrecht, we saw white storks from the train in meadows near Voorschoten.

Along the garden path to the museum entrance, cardboard cutouts of birds: a blue tit, a house sparrow, a toucan, a pelican. On the lawn, a living blackbird.

Dordrecht museum restaurant table, 24 June 2017

Bird figurines on the museum restaurant tables. Like all photos in this blog post, this is a cellphone photo.

Hooded crow and hoopoe, 24 June 2017

One of the first paintings near the entrance of the exhibition shows birds native to the Netherlands, at least in the eighteenth century. At the top of this work, a hooded crow (by now rare in the Netherlands; only in winter) flies. Below it, a hoopoe (no longer a breeding bird in the Netherlands).

Still further down, a male teal flying; and a bearded reedling couple sitting. Below, from left to right: an oystercatcher, a white-fronted goose, a smew, a shelduck, a moorhen and a mute swan.

Cassowary and pheasants, 24 May 2017

Next to it hung a painting of exotic birds, including southern cassowary, golden pheasant and silver pheasant. Also, a brown capuchin monkey.

Crowned pigeon, 24 June 2017

A bit further, this crowned pigeon, one of the world’s biggest pigeons, next to a smaller relative.

Southern crowned pigeon, 24 June 2017

Here, another picture of the same southern crowned pigeon species.

Southern crowned pigeon and pheasants, 24 June 2017

And here, that same crowned pigeon with its context of a silver pheasant couple and flying parrots.

Golden orioles, 24 June 2017

Next, an adult male golden oriole with its youngster in the nest.

There will be more on this blog about the Schouman exhibition. So, stay tuned!

Painter Mondriaan, influenced by Islamic art


This 2016 video says about itself:

Showcase: Islamic geometric patterns– The possibility of infinite expansion

In this special edition, we’ll take a look at Islamic geometric patterns. Geometric designs have a special place in Islamic art. A combination of repeated squares and circles can be found on a variety of buildings, garden floors, carpets and even textiles. Far from being mere forms of decoration, these repetitive geometric designs are meant to connect the viewer to a higher state of consciousness.

In 2008, I blogged about the relationship between famous Dutch artist Piet Mondriaan and Islam. Specifically, a probably Muslim girl wore a headscarf with a colourful pattern, based on a Mondriaan painting.

Then, I did not know yet that there had also been influence the other way round: influence on Mondriaan by Islamic artists.

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Mondriaan and Islamic geometric art

Hans Janssen, Eric Broug

Date: 22 June 2017

Time: 15:00 – 17:00 hrs.

Address: Academy Building, Rapenburg 73, 2311 GJ Leiden

Room: 00.01

LUCIS will organize two lectures about Mondriaan and geometric art in Islam on June 22. Before the lecture, a free guided tour will start at Pieterskerkplein at 13:30 hours. Both the lecture and the tour will be in Dutch. Registration via: lucis@hum.leidenuniv.nl. More information at the Dutch page of this event.

Japanese artist Hokusai exhibition in London


This video from Britain says about itself:

Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave

18 May 2017

As a new exhibition dedicated to Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai opens at the British Museum in London, this film explores the legacy and impact of his most iconic image, the Great Wave, and asks why it has such appeal.

By Christine Lindey in England:

Navigator of a floating world

Saturday 10th June 2017

CHRISTINE LINDEY pays tribute to the artistic journey of Japanese printmaker Katsushika Hokusai, a seminal figure in the development of modernism

AT THE age of 75, Katsushika Hokusai wrote that he’d drawn since the age of six and had long been successful but, until the age of 70, “nothing I drew was worthy of notice. At 73 years I was somewhat able to fathom the growth of trees and plants and the structure of birds, animals, insects and fish.”

And he hoped to go on to see further into “the underlying principle of things.”

The thoughtfully curated exhibition Beyond the Great Wave, now on at the British Museum, wisely focuses on his last three decades, in which Hokusai (1760-1849) did indeed produce his best works.

He had inauspicious beginnings. Born into a working-class district of Edo in Japan, he was adopted in childhood by a mirror maker and put to work as a bookshop’s delivery boy when six years old.

But in his mid-teens he was apprenticed to a woodcut printer and he was carving entire wood blocks by the age of 16. Two years later Katsukawa Shunsho, a leading Ukiyo-e (Floating World) artist, took him as his pupil. Hokusai worked as a commercial artist for the rest of his life.

In his mid-thirties, after years of hardship, success came his way with many commissions from prestigious patrons. Over his lengthy life, amazingly prolific, he produced 3,000 colour prints, illustrations to over 200 books, hundreds of surviving drawings and nearly 1,000 paintings.

Although technically highly accomplished, Hokusai’s earlier works, such as Boy’s Festival of 1826, are emotionally and spiritually reticent and lack the spontaneity of his late ones.

Yet their superb draughtsmanship, based on acute observation, and their delicate sensibility foretell the mastery of later works such as The Great Wave of Kanagawa of 1831.

Known as The Great Wave, it is now famous worldwide, yet few may know it as one of his print series, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. Published in 1834 and 1835, confusingly it actually numbers 46.

In Hokusai’s lifetime this sacred mountain was a popular object of spiritual veneration. It was one of his personal talismans and, as a Nichiren Buddhist, he believed that humans commune through such images.

For the Mount Fuji series, Hokusai travelled around many diverse districts overlooked by the mountain. Sometimes barely visible, sometimes dominant, he depicted it as a sage witnessing all manner of human and animal life and natural phenomena below.

Whether overlooking human hardship or joy, or nature’s benign or ferocious moods, the mountain remains impassive, permanent, enduring and serene, be it covered in snow, rising above sudden torrential rain or bathed in balmy sunlight.

Most Mount Fuji prints include empathic scenes of everyday life. We see farm workers, pilgrims, fisherfolk, samurai, ferrymen or travellers. Not forgetting his humble roots, Hokusai often depicted peasants and workers carrying heavy loads or battling with the elements.

In The Great Wave, the stalwart oarsmen in flimsy boats, delivering fish, battle courageously with the ferocious sea.

Thousands of these prints were produced in Hokusai’s day. At about the price of two helpings of noodles, almost everyone could own one. Other series tackled the themes of waterfalls, bridges, flowers, birds, fish and imaginary mythical beings and creatures.

Going beyond sensitive descriptions of his subjects, Hokusai’s mature works convey his belief in the interconnectedness of all things and in the balance of opposite forces — the ephemerality of sea spray and the immutability of the mountain, or a limpid cloudspeckled sky above terrifying flashes of lightning.

Hokusai delighted in the challenge of creating static images of the drama and transience of water, that most changeable of elements, in all its forms — from slow snowflakes to churning whirlpools or from sparkling sea spray to driving rain.

Rather than attempting to mimic these, as in European art, he invented marks which equate them — hence the liveliness and seemingly “abstract” squiggles and splatters evoking the edges of waves and the parallel curves and lines depicting rushing waterfalls.

Seeing their decorative potential, he used these in the stunning painted ceiling panels of a festival cart titled Waves and in his Picture Book, a cheaply available manual to advise the young, both of 1848.

Hokusai retained the traditional Japanese purity of line and asymmetrical compositions — often balancing busy patterned areas with “empty” ones — and respect for the flatness of the pictorial surface. Yet he also incorporated European techniques, including perspective, to suggest spatial recession and shading to suggest solidity.

It now seems incredible that dominant European taste long considered such truly great art to be childishly “primitive.” But from the 1860s onwards the avant-garde, from Claude Monet to Vincent Van Gogh, understood that less is more.

Their admiration for the subtlety and economy of means in Japanese prints, including Hokusai’s, laid down the fundamentals of 20th-century modernist art.

This chance to see his original work is not to be missed.

Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave runs at the British Museum in London until August 13, box office: britishmuseum.org.

Artist Banksy, other British election news


Banksy, UK Election Souvenir Special

By Felicity Collier in Britain:

Banksy offers free election print to anti-Tory voters

Monday 5th June 2017

STREET artist Banksy is offering free art prints to constituents in his home city of Bristol if they vote against the Tories, it was revealed yesterday.

His website currently promises a free “UK Election Souvenir Special” of a limited edition artwork if voters send in a photo of their ballot paper from polling day showing that they voted against the Tory candidate.

The offer applies to voters from the Bristol North West, Bristol West, North Somerset, Thornbury, Kingswood and Filton constituencies.

The print features a variation of his famous “balloon girl” mural that was originally located on the side of a shop in east London, but instead of a plain balloon it is emblazoned with a Union Jack flag. …

Currently, only Bristol West is held by Labour and is represented by Thangam Debbonaire.

North Somerset is considered a safe Tory seat which is held by often-ridiculed toff Jacob Rees-Mogg who has a record of voting against equal marriage and human rights.

UPDATE: 06/06/2017 05:15 am ET. Banksy Pulls Free UK Election Print Offer Amid Police Probe. See also here.

This British Labour party video says about itself:

10 May 2017

Highlights from our campaign launch in Manchester.

By Steve Sweeney in Britain:

Conservatives ‘resort to scare-Labour-voters tactics’

Monday 5th June 2017

TORIES in Norfolk were accused yesterday of using scare tactics to force Labour supporters to remove election posters by falsely claiming that displaying them was in breach of the law.

Labour candidate Jo Rust, who is contesting the North West Norfolk seat, held with a 14,000 majority by Sir Henry Bellingham, said party supporters were receiving threatening letters.

She said the letters were a sign that the Tories are worried. She urged Labour supporters to keep their posters up.

Ms Rust told the Star that she found her own “Vote Labour” board had been defaced and torn down from the fence outside her home yesterday.

A letter seen by the Star was sent to Labour supporter Matthew Sanctuary demanding that he remove a “Vote Labour” board from his property in Nar Valley Park, which is a joint development by King’s Lynn Borough Council and Norfolk County Council.

The anonymous sender suggested that by displaying the poster in his ground floor window, Mr Sanctuary was in breach of “restrictive covenants” they claimed had been signed when the flat was bought, and that it must be removed.

Councillor Gary McGuinness said [he] had not written the letters and said that no such “restrictive covenant” existed.

Ms Rust told the Star: “This is an indication of how worried Conservative supporters are if they will resort to this behaviour.

“But some people who receive it will be genuinely worried and to cause concern like that is unnecessary and typical of the behaviour of the Conservatives.

“Things are getting close. Because of this the Tories are trying to scare Labour supporters,” she alleged. “There’s just one week to go and they know they will not get the massive majority they planned for.”

Unknown Malevich drawing discovery in Amsterdam


The newly discovered Malevich drawing

Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant today:

Unknown Malevich discovered in archive box of Stedelijk Museum

For thirty-five years, Geurt Imanse has worked for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, but he never discovered such a find. In a depot of the museum he found an unknown drawing of Russian artist Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935), one of the founders of abstract art. The Stedelijk manages the largest collection of Malevich works outside of Russia.

By: Michiel Kruijt

What makes the discovery even more beautiful: the small sketch, 14 by 10 centimeters, is a preliminary study for An Englishman in Moscow, a famous Malevich painting from 1914, which is also in the collection of the Stedelijk. No preliminary study was known of that work. …

The sketch and the painting An Englishman in Moscow, according to the Stedelijk Museum, belong to Malevich’s “a-logical” work, in which reason had to be ruled out in painting. It was a first step towards his new style, the abstract suprematism. The text on the preliminary study and the painting reads: ‘Partial eclipse’. According to Malevich, a solar eclipse was required. The old aesthetics had to disappear. The drawing will be visible to the public from the 2nd of June on in the museum.

See also here.

Four British Turner Prize nominees


This video from Britain says about itself:

21 March 2017

Artist Lubaina Himid discusses work from her exhibitions at Modern Art Oxford, Nottingham Contemporary and Spike Island, Bristol.

Born in Zanzibar in 1954 and brought up in Britain, Himid was a pioneer of the Black Arts Movement. Her work examines the experience of people of the diaspora and their contribution to history and culture.

Trained as a theatre designer, Himid went on to curate several important exhibitions focused on the work of Black British artists, alongside her own work as an artist.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Over-50s reap the rewards of relaxed Turner Prize rules

Friday 5th May 2017

TWO black artists aged over 50 have made the shortlist for this year’s Turner Prize.

Lubaina Himid celebrates black creativity and the African diaspora in paintings, prints, drawings and installations.

A key figure of the Black Arts Movement, the 62-year-old was born in Zanzibar and now lives and works in Preston.

Birmingham-born painter Hurvin Anderson, 52, who lives and works in London, is known for his vibrant still-life pictures and landscapes with an overarching theme of community.

They will compete against German artist Andrea Büttner and Palestinian-English artist Rosalind Nashashibi, both of whom are in their forties.

The upper age limit for those eligible for consideration for the prize was set at 50 in 1991, but the rules have been changed this year to reflect “the fact that artists can experience a breakthrough in their work at any age.”

The winner of the £25,000 prize will be announced on December 5.

This video from Britain says about itself:

17 October 2013

In this short film, produced exclusively for Ikon and filmed on location in Handsworth Park, Birmingham-born artist Hurvin Anderson talks about the inspiration behind his work and the personal connections with Handsworth itself.

This video from Britain says about itself:

16 May 2014

The work of Andrea Büttner includes woodcuts, reverse glass painting, sculpture, video and performance. She creates connections between art history and social or ethical issues, with a particular interest in notions of poverty, shame, vulnerability and dignity, and the belief systems that underpin them.

This video from Britain says about itself:

7 January 2014

Artist Rosalind Nashashibi introduces her video work Lovely Young People (Beautiful Supple Bodies), commissioned by Scottish Ballet and Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2012.