How to paint a blue whale, video


This 28 May 2020 video from the Natural History Museum in London, England says about itself:

Join us for this live stream event and learn step-by-step how to paint Hope the blue whale. Discover interesting facts about biodiversity and sustainability as you paint and sip along at home.

Hope’s 25-metre skeleton, suspended in Hintze Hall in a majestic swooping posture, is an astonishing reminder of the fragility of life and the responsibility we have towards our planet. Taking inspiration from this impressive specimen, you will learn fascinating facts while practising your painting techniques on the night.

All you need to follow along at home is some paper/canvas and something to colour, draw or paint with.

The event is hosted in collaboration with Art Sippers: fun paint and sip experiences in London

Edvard Munch´s The Scream painting threatened


This 2017 video says about itself

Edvard Munch – The Scream (1893)

‘The Scream’ is one of the most iconic paintings in the world, but what is it about?

By watching this video you’ll learn the major facts about ‘The Scream’ by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944). The painting will be visually analyzed (composition, ordonnance, color, technique, style, etc.) and the common interpretations are explained.

From the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility:

Key to preserving The Scream

May 15, 2020

Moisture is the main environmental factor that triggers the degradation of the masterpiece The Scream (1910?) by Edvard Munch, according to the finding of an international team of scientists led by the CNR (Italy), using a combination of in situ non-invasive spectroscopic methods and synchrotron X-ray techniques. After exploiting the capability of the European mobile platform MOLAB in situ and non-invasively at the Munch Museum in Oslo, the researchers came to the ESRF, the European Synchrotron (Grenoble, France), the world’s brightest X-ray source, to carry out non-destructive experiments on micro-flakes originating from one of the most well-known versions of The Scream. The findings could help better preserve this masterpiece, which is seldom exhibited due to its degradation. The study is published in Science Advances.

The Scream is among the most famous paintings of the modern era. The now familiar image is interpreted as the ultimate representation of anxiety and mental anguish. There are a number of versions of The Scream, namely two paintings, two pastels, several lithographic prints and a few drawings and sketches. The two most well-known versions are the paintings that Edvard Munch created in 1893 and 1910. Each version of The Scream is unique. Munch clearly experimented to find the exact colours to represent his personal experience, mixing diverse binding media (tempera, oil and pastel) with brilliant and bold synthetic pigments to make ‘screaming colours’. Unfortunately, the extensive use of these new coloured materials poses a challenge for the long-term preservation of Munch’s artworks.

The version of the Scream (1910?) that belongs to the Munch Museum (Oslo, Norway) clearly exhibits signs of degradation in different areas where cadmium-sulfide-based pigments have been used: cadmium yellow brushstrokes have turned to an off-white colour in the sunset cloudy sky and in the neck area of the central figure. In the lake, a thickly applied opaque cadmium yellow paint is flaking. Throughout its existence, several elements have played a role in the deterioration of the masterpiece: the yellow pigments used, the environmental conditions and a theft in 2004, when the painting disappeared for two years.

Since the recovery of the painting after the theft, the masterpiece has rarely been shown to the public. Instead, it is preserved in a protected storage area in the Munch Museum, in Norway, under controlled conditions of lighting, temperature (about 18°C) and relative humidity (about 50%).

An international collaboration, led by the CNR (Italy), with the University of Perugia (Italy), the University of Antwerp (Belgium), the Bard Graduate Center in New York City (USA), the European Synchrotron (ESRF, France), the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY, Hamburg) and the Munch Museum, has studied in detail the nature of the various cadmium-sulfide pigments used by Munch, and how these have degraded over the years.

The findings provide relevant hints about the deterioration mechanism of cadmium-sulfide-based paints, with significant implication for the preventive conservation of The Scream.

“The synchrotron micro-analyses allowed us to pinpoint the main reason that made the painting decline, which is moisture. We also found that the impact of light in the paint is minor. I am very pleased that our study could contribute to preserve this famous masterpiece,” explains Letizia Monico, one of the corresponding authors of the study.

Hitting the right formula for preservation

Monico and her colleagues studied selected cadmium-sulfide-based areas of The Scream (1910?), as well as a corresponding micro-sample, using a series of non-invasive in-situ spectroscopic analyses with portable equipment of the European MOLAB platform in combination with the techniques of micro X-ray diffraction, X-ray micro fluorescence and micro X-ray absorption near edge structure spectroscopy mainly at the ESRF, the European Synchrotron, in France, the world’s most powerful synchrotron. The study of the painting was integrated with investigations of artificially aged mock-ups. The latter were prepared using a historical cadmium yellow pigment powder and a cadmium yellow oil paint tube that belonged to Munch. Both mock-ups had a similar composition to the lake in the painting. “Our goal was to compare the data from all these different pigments, in order to extrapolate the causes that can lead to deterioration,” says Monico.

The study shows that the original cadmium sulfide turns into cadmium sulfate in the presence of chloride-compounds in high-moisture conditions (relative humidity, or RH ?95%). This happens even if there is no light.

“The right formula to preserve and display the main version of The Scream on a permanent basis should include the mitigation of the degradation of the cadmium yellow pigment by minimising the exposure of the painting to excessively high moisture levels (trying to reach 45% RH or lower), while keeping the lighting at standard values foreseen for lightfast painting materials. The results of this study provide new knowledge, which may lead to practical adjustments to the Museum’s conservation strategy,” explains Irina C. A. Sandu, conservation scientist at the Munch Museum.

“Today the Munch Museum stores and exhibits Edvard Munch’s artworks at a relative humidity of about 50% and at a temperature of around 20 °C. These environmental conditions will also apply to the new Munch Museum to be opened in Spring 2020. That said, the Museum will now look into how this study may affect the current regime. Part of such a review will be to consider how other materials in the collection will respond to possible adjustments,” adds Eva Storevik Tveit, paintings conservator at the Munch Museum.

Cadmium-sulfide-based yellows are not only present in Munch’s artwork but also in the work of other artists contemporary to him, such as Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh and James Ensor.

“The integration of non-invasive in-situ investigations at the macro-scale level with synchrotron micro-analyses proved its worth in helping us to understand complex alteration processes. It can be profitably exploited for interrogating masterpieces that could suffer from the same weakness,” reports Costanza Miliani, coordinator of the mobile platform MOLAB (operating in Europe under the IPERION CH project) and second corresponding author of this study.

Monico and colleagues, especially Koen Janssens (University of Antwerp), have a long-standing collaboration with the ESRF, the European Synchrotron, and in particular with the scientist Marine Cotte, to investigate these pigments and the best way to preserve the original masterpieces.

“At the ESRF, ID21 is one of the very few beamlines in the world where we can perform imaging X-ray absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy analysis of the entire sample, at low energy and with sub-micrometer spatial resolution,” explains Janssens.

“EBS, the new Extremely Brilliant Source, the first-of-a-kind high-energy synchrotron, which is under commissioning at the moment at the ESRF, will further improve the capabilities of our instruments for the benefit of world heritage science. We will be able to perform microanalyses with increased sensitivity, and a greater level of detail. Considering the complexity of these artistic materials, such instrumental developments will highly benefit the analysis of our cultural heritage,” adds Cotte, ESRF scientist and CNRS researcher director.

“This kind of work shows that art and science are intrinsically linked and that science can help preserve pieces of art so that the world can continue admiring them for years to come,” concludes Miliani, coordinator of MOLAB.

Knitting a hospital to fight COVID-19


This 13 May 2020 video from England says about itself:

Great-great grandmother hopes to raise thousands for NHS with ‘Knittingale Hospital’ | ITV News

While Nightingale hospitals were being built across the country in response to the coronavirus outbreak, a great-great-grandmother was creating her own “Knittinggale” hospital in wool.

Known as “Norfolk’s knitting queen”, 91-year-old Margaret Seaman was desperate to do something to help raise money for NHS charities while in isolation with her daughter Tricia at their home in Caistor, near Yarmouth – and the “Knittinggale” hospital is her response.

The masterpiece is still a work in progress, but already includes a plaster clinic, adult and children’s wards, an A&E department and a reception.

What Ms Seaman does is very moving and laudable. As is now 100-year-old World War II veteran Captain Tom Moore, who raised tens of millions for the National Health Service by going round his garden.

However, both Ms Seaman and Captain Tom are partially filling holes left in British healthcare by the austerity policies of 55-year-old Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other Conservative Prime Ministers. Prime Ministers who have done their best to bring the conditions for poor people back to the days of Charles Dickens; and the state of health care back to before Florence Nightingale.

Photomontage artist John Heartfield, new online exhibition


This video says about itself:

John Heartfield, Fotomonteur by Helmut Herbst

For more about John Heartfield, including never-before-seen private media from his grandson’s collection, please visit here.

Mr. Herbst was kind enough to allow me to present the first five minutes of his documentary “John Heartfield, Fotomonteur” on YouTube.

By Sybille Fuchs in Germany:

German photomontage artist John Heartfield: A new online exhibition

30 April 2020

Numerous museums forced to close by the COVID-19 pandemic have placed current or past exhibitions online, thereby providing the public access to them.

The Academy of Arts (Akademie der Künste—ADK) in Berlin, which controls the estate of the legendary left-wing photomontage artist John Heartfield (1891-1968), has placed online a virtual, multimedia presentation of photos, documents and audio-visual testimonials dealing with Heartfield’s life and work. The online presentation, Kosmos Heartfield, is available in English.

The ADK exhibition, John Heartfield—Photography plus Dynamite, was due to have opened at the end of March.

The virtual exhibition is well done and, in many respects, highly relevant in the present situation. More than virtually any other visual artist, except perhaps his friend George Grosz (1893-1959), Heartfield is associated with the struggle against reactionary forces in Weimar Germany (1919-1933). His innovative and slashing political montages became directed at the rise of Nazism in particular.

As Christoph Vandreier vividly describes in his book Why Are They Back?, which bears one of Heartfield’s photomontages on its front cover, militarists, nationalists and fascists are once again coming out of the pores of crisis-ridden capitalism as in the 1920s and early 1930s and taking up leading positions in the state apparatus, police, military, judiciary and intelligence agencies. Reactionary ideologies are being revived in the universities and frequently picked up and promoted in the media.

Once again, and for the first time since the end of World War II, a far-right party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), sits in the German parliament as the official party of opposition and occupies leading posts in Bundestag committees. Its xenophobic and anti-refugee policy has been increasingly adopted as official German government policy.

John Heartfield was born on June 19, 1891, in Berlin-Schmargendorf, the son of the writer Franz Held (actually Franz Herzfeld) and his wife Alice. He was the first of four children. He changed his name, Helmut Herzfeld, to an English one to protest Germany’s chauvinist, anti-English propaganda during World War I.

Heartfield was one of a small group of artists and intellectuals who decisively opposed war and militarism in a period when many others went to war enthusiastically, praising the virtues of combat as a “cleansing thunderstorm.” Heartfield’s poor health and nervous conditions meant he was able to avoid murderous trench warfare.

Heartfield’s younger brother, Wieland Herzfelde, also played an important role. The two brothers founded the magazine Neue Jugend (New Youth) and later the Malik Verlag (Malik Publishing House), which specialised in contemporary political art and communist literature during WWI. Heartfield designed the covers for the books published by the Malik Verlag. In typical Dada fashion, he designed a portfolio for Grosz, which appeared in Neue Jugend in 1917.

John Heartfield, War and Corpses, the Last Hope of the Rich

A closer examination, however, of Heartfield’s biography, his problems, the political decisions he made, and the prevailing political circumstances would have helped a contemporary audience to better understand the artist’s rather tragic role and fate. The presentation notes that Heartfield joined the KPD immediately after its foundation in 1919 (as did Grosz). He received his party book from KPD leader Rosa Luxemburg herself, but his decision to side with the working class remains unexplained in the current exhibition.

In fact, Heartfield regarded a workers’ revolution along the lines of the Russian October Revolution of 1917 as the only alternative to capitalist exploitation and warmongering. Further research in the Akademie’s online archive reveals the numerous references, photos and documents that testify to his intense preoccupation with the Russian Revolution. Like many other artists and intellectuals, Heartfield regarded the Communist Party as the only political force that could effectively combat capitalist reaction and its drive towards dictatorship.

It was therefore not surprising that Heartfield produced the powerful photo montages which appeared on the front pages of the KPD newspapers Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag) and the Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (AIZ, Workers Pictorial Newspaper). Many of these montages can be seen in the presentation and a complete documentation is available in the ADK Heartfield online archive.

In the course of the 1920s, the AIZ developed into a publication that found support not only in the working class. The paper published contributions by leading artists and writers such as Käthe Kollwitz, Anna Seghers, Erich Kästner, Maxim Gorky and Kurt Tucholsky (Theobald Tiger). …

John Heartfield, Hitler, Tool in God's Hand? Plaything in Thyssen's Hand!

This John Heartfield photomontage is called Hitler, Tool in God’s Hand? Plaything in Thyssen‘s Hand!

Heartfield remained loyal to the AIZ in Prague where he fled after escaping from a gang of Nazi thugs by jumping from the balcony of his apartment in Berlin in 1933. In exile in Prague along with many other Communists, Social Democrats and left-wing intellectuals who had fled Germany, he created some of his most impressive and politically astute photo montages. He continued to work for his brother’s Malik Verlag, also forced into exile.

Heartfield’s trip to the Soviet Union in 1931 is not mentioned in the presentation. There is also relatively little information about his half-year stay in the USSR in the ADK online archive and in the exhibition catalog. He lived in Moscow with the writer Sergei Tretyakov, a friend of Brecht and a leading member of the Russian avant garde, who, like many other artists and intellectuals, was not prepared to accept the official Stalinist doctrine of “Socialist Realism” in artistic production. Tretyakov was a victim of the Stalinist purges in 1937. In Odessa, Heartfield helped build the exteriors for Erwin Piscator’s film Revolt of the Fishermen (1934) based on the novel by Seghers. …

In 1938, the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia and Heartfield began his second exile, in London. He chose flight to the West rather than fleeing east into Stalin’s sphere of influence. This was no accident—he evidently avoided exposing himself to Stalin’s repression. In England … he was involved in various activities organised by German artists in exile, in particular the Free German Cultural Association (Freier Deutscher Kulturbund).

In the summer of 1940, he was interned as an “enemy alien,” but released after seven weeks for health reasons.

After the war, his first attempt to return to Germany was initially delayed for health reasons and then became problematic following the outbreak of the Cold War. …

Even after Heartfield was able to return, he had problems building on his previous successes in the German Democratic Republic. The narrow-minded GDR cultural bureaucracy disparaged his photomontages as “formalistic.” …

Heartfield was able to make some advances in the theatrical field in the GDR, but in a relatively conventional manner. He was unable, however, to recreate his powerful collaboration with Piscator in the 1920s. His admission to the GDR ruling party, the SED, and then to the East German Academy of Arts only took place following the personal intervention of Brecht in 1957.

Heartfield died on April 26, 1968 in East Berlin.

Should the ADK exhibition with its 400 items eventually open to the public, it is well worth visiting. It is due to travel to Zwolle (Netherlands) and London.

The Photography plus Dynamite catalog by Angela Lammert, Rosa von der Schulenburg and Anna Schultz is available from the Academy of the Arts bookshop at a special price of €29.90 (from July €39.90) plus shipping costs. In the foreword, the ADK draws attention to the growing influence of far-right radicalism today.

Ancient Eyptian general Horemheb, online lecture


This 9 April 2020 video by the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities (in Dutch, also in the subtitles, which, however, you can change to English or many other languages with the Settings button), says about itself, translated:

The special reliefs from the grave of General Horemheb are masterpieces in our Egyptian collection from the National Museum of Antiquities. Horemheb served under the famous Pharaoh Tutankhamun and had his tomb built around 1330 BC. Exactly 45 years ago, his grave was rediscovered in the ancient Egyptian burial field near the village of Saqqara.

Every March / April, an RMO team goes to Egypt to conduct research in this Egyptian city of the dead. This year the archaeological investigation is due to circumstances related to the coronavirus unfortunately did not continue. But also from home, there is plenty to discover and tell about the reliefs from Horemheb’s grave. That’s why curator Daniel Soliman tells everything about this special general in a mini-lecture from his home workplace.

Free children’s Axel Scheffler e-book on coronavirus


Free coronavirus book for children

From the Internet site of British artist Axel Scheffler, illustrator of, eg, the children’s book The Gruffalo:

Coronavirus – a book for children

Written by Elizabeth Jenner, Kate Wilson and Nia Roberts

This is a FREE digital information book for primary school-age children to help explain the coronavirus and the measures taken to control it. It answers lots of questions in a child-friendly way, and aims to both inform and reassure.

Published by Nosy Crow and illustrated by Axel, the text had expert input from Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and also two headteachers and a child psychologist.

You can find out more, download and read the book here.

Axel says:

“I asked myself what I could do as a children’s illustrator to inform, as well as entertain, my readers here and abroad, about the coronavirus. So I was glad when my publisher, Nosy Crow, asked me to illustrate this question-and-answer book. I think it is extremely important for children and families to have access to good and reliable information in this unprecedented crisis, and hope this digital book will reach many children.”