Why some Renaissance paintings turned brown


This 2014 video from the USA says about itself:

Go behind the scenes with Carnegie Museum Of Art chief conservator Ellen Baxter as she discusses the restoration process of a portrait of Isabella de’ Medici.

Artwork:
Alessandro Allori
Portrait of Isabella de’ Medici, c. 1570-1574
oil on canvas (transferred from panel)
Gift of Mrs. Paul B. Ernst

Filmed in conjunction with the exhibition “Faked, Forgotten, Found: Five Renaissance Paintings Investigated.”

From the American Chemical Society in the USA:

Why some greens turn brown in historical paintings

October 2, 2019

Enticed by the brilliant green hues of copper acetate and copper resinate, some painters in the Renaissance period incorporated these pigments into their masterpieces. However, by the 18th century, most artists had abandoned the colors because of their tendency to darken with time. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ journal Inorganic Chemistry have uncovered the chemistry behind the copper pigments’ color change.

Copper acetate (also known as verdigris) and copper resinate were used in European easel paintings between the 15th and 17th centuries. Artists typically mixed these pigments with linseed oil to make paint. Until now, scientists didn’t know why the green paints often turned brown with time, although they had some clues. Light exposure was thought to play a role because areas of paintings protected by frames remained green. Also, oxygen appeared to contribute to the darkening process, with the brown color spreading from cracks in the paint that exposed the underlying copper pigments to air. So Didier Gourier and colleagues wanted to analyze the chemical changes that occur in the paints upon light exposure.

The team determined that the molecular structures of copper acetate and copper resinate were quite similar: Both had two copper atoms bridged by four carboxylate groups, but there was more space between resinate than acetate molecules. The researchers mixed the pigments with linseed oil and spread them in a thin layer. They then exposed the paint films to 16 hours of 320-mW LED light, which corresponded to hundreds of years of museum light. This illumination caused bridging molecules between the pair of copper atoms to be lost, which were then replaced by an oxygen molecule, creating bimetallic copper molecules responsible for the brown color. This process occurred more readily for copper resinate than for copper acetate. Boiling the linseed oil before mixing, which some artists did to improve the drying process, slowed the darkening reaction.

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German painter Emil Nolde and nazism


This 13 April 2019 Associated Press video says about itself:

Emil Nolde, the ‘degenerate artist’ and Nazi supporter

A new exhibition in Berlin depicts the two sides to expressionist painter Emil Nolde: as someone who was considered a “degenerate artist” by the Nazi regime but at the same time supported Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.

The exhibition has already lead to a re-evaluation of Nolde in the German art history, with one of his paintings being removed from the German Federal Chancellery building.

STORYLINE

This painting, called “Lost Paradise” is typical of Emil Nolde.

Emil Nolde, Lost Paradise

Bright colours, thick brushstrokes, lines that are emphasised. It is what makes him one of the great expressionist painters of inter-war Germany.

It was also considered a “degenerate artwork” by the National Socialist party as early as 1928, five years before the party, under Adolph Hitler, rose to power.

Nolde, who died in 1956, was among the prominent artists whose work was condemned as “degenerate art” under Nazi rule.

But he was also a Nazi party member and, as the exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof museum shows, an anti-Semite and believer in Nazi ideology who held out hopes of winning the regime’s recognition even after he was banned in 1941 from exhibiting, selling and publishing.

“The interesting thing about Emil Nolde – one of the most famous German artists of the 20th century – is that he was both a victim of the National Socialist politics of art and at the same time a supporter of the regime and that he defended it all the way until 1945”, says Aya Soika, co-curator of exhibition

“So how do we deal with an artist that is both a victim and an accomplice?”

The exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin deals with the issue by raising it whenever possible.

The exhibition includes documents from throughout Nolde’s career, including anti-Semitic letters from the artist dating back to before World War I.

It explores his conviction that he was a misunderstood artistic genius and his claim that he was boycotted by a supposedly Jewish-dominated art scene.

Along Nolde’s paintings are texts explaining how he supported Hitler and the Nazis and the title of the exhibition “Emil Nolde: A German legend / A National Socialist artist” sets the tone.

“I think it is important that we talk about this issue instead of just looking at the pictures”, says Christian Ring, Director of the Nolde foundation.

“The pictures are of course one thing but you have to consider the other side of Nolde when you look at the picture.”

“And I think that is really important. This exhibition is about letting visitors find their own way of dealing with this. What do we know and what do we see and how do we deal with this´? And how does the new knowledge about Nolde change the way we look at his works?”

There are some signs that Nolde changed his paintings after the Nazi party rose to power, and he found himself in the position of being a Nazi party member but at the same time considered a “degenerate artist“.

He stopped painting religious motifs and started painting Viking warriors, something that might have appealed more to the Nazi party.

However, he did not paint in the … style preferred by the Nazis.

“It really is a paradox. On one side a “degenerate artist”. On the other side a Nazi supporter”, says Ring.

“But I think that we still don’t have a full picture of the Nazi years. We still think about it as black and white. But we have to acknowledge that there are a lot of grey zones.”

His paintings hang in museums, private homes and official buildings across the country.

By Sybille Fuchs and Stefan Steinberg in Germany:

Modern art in Germany and the Nazis, Part 1: Emil Nolde

24 July 2019

Two art exhibitions currently running in Berlin raise important questions about the relationship of certain modern artists to the Hitler regime in Germany.

The Hamburger Bahnhof contemporary art museum is holding an exhibition of paintings by Emil Nolde (1876-1956), Emil Nolde—A German Legend. The Artist during the Nazi Regime, which deals with the artist’s relationship to the Nazis and their ideology.

The Brücke Museum takes up the same theme in Escape into Art? The Brücke Painters in the Nazi Period, concentrating on the artists Erich Heckel (1883-1970), Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976), Max Pechstein (1881-1950) and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938). In 1905, this collective founded the well-known artistic group Die Brücke (The Bridge).

This article deals with the Nolde exhibition, a second will deal with the Brücke painters.

Emil Nolde—A German Legend. The Artist during the Nazi Regime

In 1937, Emil Nolde had more of his paintings confiscated and put on display at the notorious Nazi Degenerate Art exhibition—which included work by Cubists, Surrealists, Dadaists, Expressionists and others that the Hitler regime despised—than any other German artist. Hundreds of his works were destroyed and 1,052 were removed from museums. Despite this, Nolde remained a loyal supporter of Hitler until the downfall of the Nazi regime in 1945.

Emil Nolde

Nolde is regarded in Germany and internationally as one of the main representatives of classical modernism. His works hang in many museums and adorn countless art books. His paintings of flowers and landscapes have been reproduced in countless prints, and reproductions of his works hang in many living rooms.

The great popularity of Nolde’s art is in no small measure bound up with the fact that he was denounced by the Nazis as a “degenerate” artist and, following the end of World War II, was elevated to the status of resistance figure. The excellent exhibition in the Hamburger Bahnhof museum provides a great deal of information concerning the contradictions in Nolde’s biography, how they relate to the public perception of his art and how he should be evaluated historically.

Until recently, Nolde was mainly associated in the public eye with his mistreatment by the Hitler regime, but recent research has revealed the full extent of his anti-Semitism and embrace of Nazi ideology, which he and his followers sought to conceal after 1945.

The current exhibition follows the artistic career of Nolde and displays his paintings, watercolours and graphics together with letters and other documents given in historical context, describing his reaction as an artist and human being to the events and circumstances of the time. A two-volume catalog has been published for the exhibition, documenting his artistic work accompanied by written testimonials. (1)

Nolde’s origins

Nolde was born Hans Emil Hansen in 1867 in the village of Nolde near Tønder (Northern Schleswig, today part of Denmark). His father was a farmer. As a child, Hans Emil was passionate about painting, a passion his parents did not share. In their opinion, he was to get a “proper” job as a craftsman or farmer. After completing a woodcarving apprenticeship in Flensburg, the young man became a teacher of commercial drawing and modelling in the Swiss town of St. Gallen. He also worked for a time as a carver in furniture factories in Karlsruhe, Munich and Berlin.

In 1898, he was rejected by the Munich Art Academy and instead received training in the arts at private painting schools. He traveled to Paris and attended the Académie Julian, where artists Paula Modersohn-Becker and Clara Westhoff also studied. In 1900, he moved into a studio in Copenhagen and, two years later, married a priest’s daughter and actress, Ada Vilstrup. He changed his last name to his birthplace in Nolde, to stress his “Nordic” background.

Pentecost, Emil Nolde, 1909

During this period he painted his first religious images springing from “childhood memories and his own imagination.” (2) One of them, Pentecost, which he submitted in 1910 for an exhibition of the Berlin Secession movement (an artists’ group that had set itself up in 1898 against the dominant academic trend), was rejected by its president, the painter Max Liebermann.

“If the picture is hung, I’ll quit my post,” Liebermann, who was Jewish, is alleged to have said. Nolde retaliated in an offensive manner and was expelled from the Secession movement.

Max Liebermann, 1904

The altercation and Nolde’s increasingly poisonous anti-Semitism were instrumental in the break-up of the Secession movement. From that point on, Nolde raged incessantly against what he regarded as a Jewish-dominated art market and cultural environment that refused to recognise his talent.

Again and again, he saw himself as a victim, as a misunderstood genius and blamed Jewish art critics. Nolde and his wife broke off their friendship with the Jewish critic Rosa Schapire, who sponsored the Brücke artists and also greatly encouraged Nolde: “The fast-growing friendship between her and us soon collapsed again. Only ashes remain. Gone with the wind. In art it was my first conscious encounter with a human different from myself. … Jews have a lot of intelligence and spirituality, but little soul and little creative talent,” he wrote in his autobiography. (3)

The original editions of the first two volumes of his autobiography, My Own Life (1930) and Years of Struggle (1934), which cover the years 1867 to 1914, contain numerous nationalist, racist and anti-Semitic remarks.

Expressionism

Nolde’s work is associated with the artistic tendency known as Expressionism, although he himself rejected this term. Expressionist art and literature emerged in Germany in the first decades of the 20th century as a countermovement to Naturalism and Impressionism. The model to be followed was French Fauvism with its expressive colours. Its followers rejected any immediate imitation of nature in favour of an aggressive deformation of subject matter. Their works were often characterised by stark colours and contrasts, often drawing from so-called “primitive” African and Oceanic art.

The term was coined by the journalist Herwarth Walden, editor of the magazine Der Sturm (The Storm), which published works by many leading Expressionists. The journal Die Aktion (The Action), edited by Franz Pfemfert, was also an important publication featuring literary texts, as well as numerous graphics by Expressionist artists. (Both Walden and Pfemfert later joined the fledgling Communist Party of Germany. Walden died in the Stalinist purges in the Soviet Union in 1941. Pfemfert became personally associated with Leon Trotsky, and his wife, Alexandra Ramm, did extensive translation of Trotsky’s works.)

The Burial of Jezus, Emil Nolde, 1915, oil on canvas, 87 x 117 cm, Stiftung Nolde, Seebüll, Nasjonalmuseet, National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Norway

The Expressionist painters were concerned with shaping the world according to their own subjective feelings and impressions, rather than attempting to depict physical reality. Manifold examples of such work were produced by the artists’ associations Die Brücke and also Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). Many of those involved in these groups, including Nolde, enthusiastically welcomed World War I in 1914 as a gigantic storm that would thoroughly rock the tectonic plates of an encrusted age.

Politically, the Expressionist movement was very diverse. Its political statements were largely diffuse and non-committal. Representatives of the movement regarded themselves as rebels against the bureaucratic, backwards-looking cultural policy and decadence of the Wilhelmine Period in Germany (1890-1918), but they largely rejected socialist ideals in favour of the anti-bourgeois sentiments expressed in the irrational philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer and Henri Bergson.

They rebelled against the decadence and narrow mindedness of the bourgeoisie and the established schools of art—Impressionism, Naturalism and Art Nouveau. The same period saw the emergence of similar tendencies such as the Lebensreform (Life Reform) and Jugend (Youth) movements, as well as Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy. These were tendencies that appealed to and were predominantly propagated by layers of the petty bourgeoisie, who rebelled against the bourgeois world, industrialisation and urbanisation. They rejected what they called the vulgar “materialism” of capitalist society and often sought instead a romantic, back-to-nature alternative. They had little in common with Marxism, socialist ideas or the working class.

“Storms of Colour”—Nolde and Die Brücke

The Die Brücke artistic group (Heckel, Pechstein, Kirchner and Schmidt-Rottluff) was founded in Dresden, and Nolde felt at home in the group. In February 1906, Schmidt-Rottluff wrote a letter to Nolde, who was about fifteen years older, inviting him to become a member of the association: “Dear Mr. Nolde, think what you want, we want to repay you accordingly for your storms of colour.”

Nolde gladly accepted the invitation and remained linked to Die Brücke after he left the group the following year. He was “disturbed” by the group’s alleged effort to create a unified artistic style, noting: “You should not call yourself a bridge, but rather van Goghiana.” Nolde’s own art was influenced by both Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, among others.

In 1912, Nolde exhibited alongside the Blue Rider group, a second group of significant Expressionist artists, founded by Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky. During this period, Nolde acquired recognition in the art world and was able to live comfortably from his painting.

South Sea Islander, Emil Nolde, 1915 lithograph in colors, on wove paper, Brooklyn Museum

A year later, Nolde and his wife took part in a South Seas expedition organised by the German government’s Colonial Office, which landed them in New Guinea. Nolde’s task was to investigate the “racial peculiarities of the population.” He regarded progressive colonisation as a danger to indigenous peoples, who allegedly lived in harmony with nature. He had previously studied the art of “primitive” peoples in the Berlin Ethnological Museum in search of the “strange, primeval and primitive.” (6) The First World War broke out as Nolde was returning from his trip. Nolde welcomed the outbreak of war.

In connection with an early self-portrait of Nolde, reminiscent of Rembrandt’s self-portraits, the curators Bernhard Fulda and Aya Soika explain in the introduction to the Hamburger Bahnhof catalog that Nolde and his wife Ada revered Julius Langbehn (1851-1907) and his book Rembrandt as Teacher. Langbehn’s book claimed that Rembrandt was the most “German of all German painters”, a representative of a “purely German art” and portrayed the great Dutch painter as a figure who could be identified with a “Greater Germany.” Such nostrums were integral to the ideological baggage of Nazism.

For Nolde, Langbehn’s image of the “individual artist as a sacred figure” and “national saviour” was extraordinarily attractive, the curators write, above all, because he always understood himself as a misunderstood genius, a heroic prophet whose time was yet to come.

“The Expressionist dispute” in Nazi cultural circles

A fierce debate about Expressionism developed inside the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP, the Nazi party) in the 1920s and early ‘30s. In particular, the dispute revolved around Nolde. The exhibition curators reveal that surprisingly Nolde had a number of prominent supporters in the Nazi ranks. His religious images, later denounced by Hitler as monstrosities and prominently featured in the “Degenerate Art” exhibition of 1937, were initially praised by some critics as being inspired by the spirit of German Gothic art.

Statements made by Hitler’s chief ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg, are prime examples of the initial vacillating attitude of some National Socialists, as far as avant-garde art was concerned.

Rosenberg praised Expressionism in 1922 as a groundbreaking German style in his work The Myth of the 20th Century (1930), while denouncing contemporary painters, including Ernst Barlach, Käthe Kollwitz and Nolde as “Cultural Bolsheviks” and “bunglers.” His verdict on Nolde was damning, but he left a small door open. In 1933, he ascribed a certain talent to Nolde and Ernst Barlach, only to later denounce Nolde’s “portraiture attempts” as “negroid, irreverent and devoid of any real inner formative power” in the Völkischer Beobachter, the Nazi Party’s newspaper. (6)

For his part, Nolde continued to place high hopes in National Socialism and in the eventual recognition of his art by leading Nazis. To demonstrate his ideological loyalty, he joined the National Socialist Association of Northern Schleswig, a Danish branch of the NSDAP, in 1934. (He had been a Danish citizen since the Treaty of Versailles.)

Nolde publicly welcomed National Socialism and leading Nazis—including Josef Goebbels, Hermann Göring and Albert Speer—owned his artwork and praised it as a powerful expression of German and Nordic culture. However, Nolde soon fell out of grace, along with other Expressionists, after Adolf Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933. He was a victim of the Nazis’ “blood and soil” ideology directed by Hitler, a failed painter himself lacking any artistic skill.

The more the Nazis consolidated their power and set course for war, the more rigorous became their censorship and suppression of art.

Emil Nolde, Sunflowers (1932). Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of Robert H. Tannahill, © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll.jpg

On November 8, 1933, Nolde accepted an invitation from SS leader Heinrich Himmler to attend the tenth anniversary of Hitler’s unsuccessful coup d’état in 1923 in Munich. The artist apparently expected his art would be warmly embraced by the Nazis. He assumed—in vain—that they would declare Expressionism to be Germany’s national art form.

Göring had watercolours by Nolde in his apartment—until Hitler told him to take them down during a visit. Despite his initial support of the Expressionists, culture minister Goebbels and other leading Nazis finally capitulated to the romanticised, cliché-ridden and reactionary artistic taste of the Führer. As early as 1933, Nolde was asked to quit the Prussian Academy of Arts, which he refused to do. His application for membership in Rosenberg’s Militant League for German Culture was also rejected.

In the summer of 1933, Nolde went so far as to draft his own “banish the Jews plan” for Germany, which he tried to submit to Hitler. His plan called for the resettlement of the entire Jewish population. He also denounced his Brücke colleague Max Pechstein as a Jew on the basis of the latter’s name. Pechstein was forced to deny the accusation by providing “proof” that he was indeed “Aryan.” In the same year, Nolde sent two portraits to Goebbels to show to Hitler. Nolde described his art to Goebbels as “German, strong, bitter and heartfelt.”

Although these attempts to find pardon were unsuccessful, Nolde still enjoyed some success in the art world over the next few years. He was able to exhibit and his paintings sold well.

“Degenerate Art”

The tide turned decisively against Nolde in 1937, although the year had begun well for him. His works had been exhibited in Munich, Berlin and Mannheim.

Hitler had proclaimed his own conception of German art at the Reich Party Convention in Nuremberg in September 1935. Art must be, the German Nazi leader declared, “the real herald of the sublime and the beautiful and thus bearer of the natural and healthy.” Hitler vilified all types of modern art as “Jewish-Bolshevist cultural mockery”: “It is not the function of art to wallow in dirt for dirt’s sake, never its task to paint the state of decomposition, to draw cretins as the symbol of motherhood, to picture hunchbacked idiots as representatives of any strength.”

The Degenerate Art exhibition visited by Joseph Goebbels in February 1938, with two paintings by Emil Nolde (hanging left of the door)

The Nazis organised their infamous Degenerate Art exhibition, with 650 works confiscated from German museums that were deemed to “insult German feeling, or destroy or confuse natural form or simply reveal an absence of adequate manual and artistic skill,” in July 1937. The exhibition featured works by Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, George Grosz, Kandinsky, Kirchner and many others.

Nolde was prominently represented in the exhibition with 57 works. He wrote numerous letters of protest in which he pointed out that in his career as an artist he had been “opposed to the alienation of German art, to the filthy art trade, and the excessive Jewish predominance in all artistic matters.” Therefore, the censorship of his own art must be due to “misunderstandings” that required clarification. (7)

He eventually managed to get his pictures removed from the exhibition when it set off for a tour of German cities. However, much of his work was confiscated and all his paintings were removed from museums. Many of his works were sold abroad for foreign currency, but a large number were simply destroyed.

In 1941, Nolde was expelled from the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts. He was prevented from any professional or part-time activity in the field of the visual arts because his work “did not meet requirements demanded since 1933 for all visual artists working in Germany.” The 74-year-old artist could no longer exhibit or sell and could not purchase painting utensils, but this did not amount to an explicit “ban on painting”, as he himself claimed.

Even these drastic measures did not shake Nolde’s faith in Nazism. He and his wife continued until the end of the war to believe in “final victory,” although they suffered the loss of around 3,000 artworks in the 1944 bombing of their Berlin apartment.

Nolde painted many small watercolours in these years, which later served as templates for oil paintings. Nolde himself and art historians later referred to this body of work as his “Unpainted pictures”. Although seemingly spontaneously painted on just a few scraps of paper, they are in fact composed quite carefully and Nolde was even able to complete a few of them at the time as oil paintings. His subject matter during this period consisted mainly of flowers, landscapes or figures from Norse mythology. After 1933, Nolde had switched from “Jewish” Biblical figures to Nordic heroes, castles, sacrificial sites and landscapes, even though he never adapted to the type of painting favoured by Hitler.

Sixty of the “unpainted pictures” were turned into oil paintings after the war and represent a large part of Nolde’s postwar work.

After the war: Nolde’s elevation to the status of resistance hero

Nolde was given a clean bill of health in the denazification trials in 1946, due to the Nazis’ rejection of his art. As the current Berlin exhibition documents, the painter was portrayed in the postwar period as the personification of the persecuted modern artist and even a sort of resistance fighter against the Nazi dictatorship. The Nolde Foundation contributed strongly to this image.

Nolde’s longstanding Nazi membership was concealed and his four-volume autobiography was largely cleansed of anti-Semitic and racist passages. His estate in Seebüll became a kind of pilgrimage site.

He received numerous German and international honours and exhibitions up until his death in 1956 and beyond. In 1950, German president Theodor Heuss (Free Democratic Party), a trained art historian, insisted that Nolde accompany him on a visit to Schleswig-Holstein. In 1952, Nolde received the Pour le Mérite order of merit, the highest German award for science and art. His paintings were displayed on several occasions at the Venice Biennale as well as at the documenta 1 exhibition in Kassel in 1955, which was dedicated to the “degenerate” artists defamed by the Nazis.

Nolde and his art played an important role in West Germany during the Cold War and the downplaying of the crimes committed by the Nazis. In the documenta 1 catalog, art historian Werner Haftmann wrote that the idea of creative freedom was essential to combat the supposed instrumentalisation of art under Bolshevism. Haftmann was also one of the most important propagators of the legends surrounding Nolde’s “Unpainted Pictures.” (8)

Nolde was revered as a figure of “resistance” by representatives of all the main political parties. Nolde was used by both politicians and cultural officials alike to demonstrate that postwar Germany had turned over a new leaf and was undergoing a democratic “new beginning.” Nolde was perfectly suited to help cover the tracks of those who had compromised themselves during the Nazi regime and sought to rid themselves of any guilt or complicity in its crimes. Even after his death, Nolde was made use of as part of Germany’s “coming to grips with the past” via the zealous involvement of the foundation in Seebüll. As late as 2013, Nolde biographer Kirsten Jüngling was denied access to the Nolde archive. She was, however, able to draw upon numerous other publicly available letters and documents. (9)

One of the leading patrons of Nolde’s art was a former leader of the Social Democratic Party, Helmut Schmidt. In his position as Germany’s chancellor, Schmidt wrote to his friend author Siegfried Lenz that Nolde was the greatest German artist of the century. Schmidt went on to assert that Nolde’s inclusion in the Degenerate Art exhibition was the reason for his own rejection of Nazism as a 17-year-old. During his years as chancellor, 1974-1982, Schmidt exhibited paintings by Nolde in the Chancellery in Bonn. Lenz’s well-known novel, The German Lesson, played its own role in elevating Nolde’s stature and was often read as if it were a non-fiction work about the persecuted artist.

Schmidt, shortly before his death in 2015, wrote the introduction to a Nolde exhibition catalog in Hamburg. In it he briefly mentions that there had been a controversy over Nolde’s Nazi connections, but wrote nothing more.

Only after the death of Nolde’s second wife Jolanthe in 2010 and a change in the management of the Ada and Emil Nolde Foundation in Seebüll were the painter’s archives gradually made available for research, enabling Nolde’s real attitude to Nazism to be discussed publicly. A number of such documents were first made available to the public in an exhibition at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt five years ago. The Frankfurt exhibition drew attention to the significant changes in Nolde’s artistic subject matter following Hitler’s seizure of power.

The Hamburger Bahnhof exhibition was able to draw on recent research by its two curators, Aya Soika and Bernhard Fulda, who had complete access to the archives of the Nolde Foundation. The exhibition exposes the extensive efforts of Nolde and his wife Ada to consolidate their relations with the Hitler regime and avoid censorship.

A visitor to the Berlin exhibition could not help being struck by the sight of visitors of all ages poring over the documentation and letters at hand, as well as intensively examining the artwork on display.

What makes an assessment of Nolde and his art complex, given the reality of his abject opportunism and fidelity to Nazism, is the fact that he did not adapt his artistic style to the backward-looking, monumental and parochial inclinations of Hitler and his followers. Nolde did not paint in the manner of Adolf Ziegler, a wretched painter and an organiser of the Degenerate Art exhibition, and many other artists exhibited in the large Great German Art exhibition of 1937 in the newly built Haus der Kunst in Munich.

The fact that it is now possible to correctly classify Nolde and his art historically is in large part due to the current exhibition and its curators.

The latest revelations about Nolde have failed to affect the value of his pictures on the capitalist art market. As Kirsten Jüngling explained in an interview: “Immediately after the publication of my book, I asked around at Art Cologne and quizzed gallery owners if the recent publications on Nolde’s political past had had any effect on the desire to buy (his paintings). It was annoying. You have to know that enormous amounts are paid for Expressionist pictures, not least because they represent stable investments. People get nervous when the Nolde company shows signs of weakness.” (10)

Notes:

(1) Emil Nolde: The Artist during the Nazi Regime, Bernhard Fulda, Christian Ring and Aya Soika, Prestel, 2019

(2) Christian Ring, “Art itself is my language,” in: Emil Nolde—The Great Colour Wizard, Munich 2018, 29

(3) Emil Nolde, Years of Struggle, Rembrandt Verlag, Berlin 1934, 101, 102

(4) Ring, 22f

(5) Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution, Berlin 1994, p. 132, 133

(6) https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunst_im_Nationalsozialismus

(7) Ring, 37

(8) Werner Haftmann, Emil Nolde—Unpainted Pictures, 7th edition, Cologne 1996

(9) Kirsten Jüngling, Emil Nolde. Die Farben sind meine Noten, Berlin 2013

(10) Kirsten Jüngling, Interview in tageszeitung:

http://www.taz.de/Nolde-Biografin-ueber-schwierige-Aufarbeitung/!5432445/

Why oil paintings deteriorate, new study


This video is called Georgia O’Keeffe: By Myself. BBC documentary 2016.

By Jeremy Rehm, 9:00am, February 16, 2019:

Why some Georgia O’Keeffe paintings have ‘art acne’

A new imaging technique could help art curators track destructive bumps over time

WASHINGTON — Like pubescent children, the oil paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe have been breaking out with “acne” as they age, and now scientists know why.

Tiny blisters, which can cause paint to crack and flake off like dry skin, were first spotted forming on the artist’s paintings years ago. O’Keeffe, a key figure in the development of American modern art, herself had noticed these knobs, which at first were dismissed as sand grains kicked up from the artist’s New Mexico desert home and lodged in the oil paint.

Now researchers have identified the true culprit: metal soaps that result from chemical reactions in the paint. The team has also developed a 3-D image capturing computer program, described February 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to help art conservators detect and track these growing “ailments” using only a cell phone or tablet.

O’Keeffe’s works aren’t the first to develop such blisters. Metal soaps, which look a bit like white, microscopic insect eggs, form beneath the surfaces of around 70 percent of all oil paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Francisco de Goya and Vincent van Gogh. “It’s not an unusual phenomenon,” says Marc Walton, a materials scientist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Scientists in the late 1990s determined that these soaps form when oil paint’s negatively charged fats, which hold the paint’s colored pigments together, react with positively charged metal ions, such as zinc and lead, in the paint. This reaction creates liquid crystals that slowly aggregate beneath a painting’s surface, causing paint layers on the surface to gradually bulge, tear and eventually flake off.

How these crystals combine is unclear. “I wish we had an answer about why that’s occurring,” Walton says, “but it’s still an open research question.”

For Walton and his colleagues, though, the questions of greater interest are about what factors may lead to crystal formation in the first place, such as relative humidity, light levels or temperature. “To be able to answer those questions, we have to look at it from a macroscopic point of view, and we’ve chosen imaging as a way to get there,” Walton says.

Walton’s colleague at Northwestern, computer scientist Oliver Cossairt, designed a computer program that shines particular patterns of light from a cell phone or tablet’s screen onto a small section of a painting, and then collects the reflected light in the device’s camera.

The program then removes color information, which can camouflage small distortions in the painting’s surface. Using machine learning, the software then distinguishes the knobby structures from other textures such as brushstrokes, and creates a sort of medical report by determining the location, size and density of the blisters.

It’s a bit like Star Trek’s “tricorder”, which could diagnose a human illness simply from a scan, Cossairt says.

The team is currently using this imaging technology to observe test paintings exposed to one of several environmental factors, watching how light, humidity and temperature may affect blisters’ sizes and rates of development.

“You see paintings with this kind of knobby, bubbly surface, and you don’t know if that has happened in five years, 50 years or more,” says art conservation scientist Kenneth Sutherland of the Art Institute of Chicago, who was not part of the research. The new imaging technique “starts to give you a way of monitoring how quickly [the bubbles] are forming and, more specifically, answer questions about what factors are influencing it and how we can control or minimize it.”

Although the technique doesn’t solve the dilemma of soap formation, it provides information that can help in protecting iconic works of art. If new bubbles are forming, for example, an art conservator could perhaps change the environmental conditions where paintings are stored. “Maybe this [process] is just an intrinsic vice, and the real solution is to find the right environment to store them”, Walton says.

Painter Frans Hals exhibition in the USA


Frans Hals (Dutch, 1582/83–1666), Children of the Van Campen Family with a Goat-Cart (fragment), ca. 1623–25, oil on canvas. 152 x 107.5 cm. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, inv. 4732. ©Roya

This painting is by Frans Hals (Dutch, 1582/83–1666); Children of the Van Campen Family with a Goat-Cart (fragment), ca. 1623–25, oil on canvas. 152 x 107.5 cm. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, inv. 4732.

By David Walsh in the USA:

An exhibition of the great 17th century Dutch painter

Frans Hals Portraits: A Family Reunion at the Toledo Museum of Art

17 January 2019

The Toledo [Ohio] Museum of Art recently presented an exhibition featuring works by one of the leading Dutch painters of the 17th century—Frans Hals Portraits: A Family Reunion.

The Dutch “Golden Age” produced a host of extraordinary artistic figures, including most prominently Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–69), Hals (c. 1582–1666) and Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675). Other brilliant painters, of everyday life, domestic and tavern scenes, of landscapes and seascapes, of still lifes and historical events, included Jan van Goyen (1596–1656), Salomon van Ruysdael (c. 1602–1670), Judith Leyster (c. 1609–1660), Adriaen van Ostade (1610–1685), Gerrit Dou (1613–1675), Gerard ter Borch (1617–1681), Jan Steen (c. 1626–1679), Jacob van Ruisdael (c. 1629–1682), Pieter de Hooch (1629–1684) and Nicolaes Maes (1634–1693).

The Hals exhibition will next run at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels from February 1 to May 19 and later at the Fondation Custodia, an art museum in Paris focusing on works by European old masters.

The exhibition was prompted by the Toledo museum’s acquisition in 2011 of Hals’s The Van Campen Family Portrait in a Landscape (c. 1623–25), along with the recent conservation work done on the Brussels museum’s Three Children of the Van Campen Family.

Remarkably, as the Toledo museum website explains, “These two works [by Hals] originally formed one composition, separated for unknown reasons likely in the late 18th century or early 19th century. The exhibition reunites the sections of the Toledo/Brussels painting along with a third fragment from a private collection.” In other words, this was the first time in some 200 years that three pieces of the original painting were present in the same location.

The curators also offered a proposed reconstruction of Hals’s complete painting as it might have looked when it was painted nearly four centuries ago.

Frans Hals (Dutch, 1582/83–1666), Family Group in a Landscape, ca. 1645–48, oil on canvas. 202 x 285 cm. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, inv. 1934.8. ©Museo Thyssen- Bornemisza, Madrid

Additional works by Hals were featured in Toledo, including Family Group in a Landscape (c. 1645–48) from the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Family Group in a Landscape (c. 1647–50 ) from the National Gallery in London; Marriage Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen (c. 1622) from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; and Portrait of a Dutch Family (mid-1630s) from the Cincinnati Art Museum. Also on display were Portrait of a Seated Man Holding a Hat and Portrait of a Seated Woman Holding a Fan (both c. 1650, from the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio).

A good portion of the catalogue published to accompany the exhibition is devoted to explaining the facts of the Van Campen family painting and proving that the three pieces belong together (along with other still unknown ones). The case seems convincing, but that is a matter for art historians and experts to debate and determine.

The Toledo exhibition was not large, nine paintings by Hals (including the three separate fragments), but the work was all beautiful.

Frans Hals was born in 1582 or 1583 to Adriana and Franchoys Hals in Antwerp, then in the Spanish Netherlands. Starting in the 1560s, the “Seventeen Provinces,” including present-day Netherlands and Belgium, had risen in revolt against the rule of Philip II of Spain, the Habsburg monarch. The struggle lasted for some 80 years. The Dutch uprising was bound up with the transition from feudalism to capitalism.

Antwerp became the capital of the Dutch revolt. However, the Spanish forces counter-attacked and their troops, under the Duke of Parma, laid siege to Antwerp in July 1584. The city surrendered in August 1585 to the Spanish, who gave the Protestant population four years to settle their affairs before leaving.

Hals’s parents apparently fled during the siege, some 110 miles, to Haarlem in the new Dutch Republic to the north, where the artist lived for the rest of his life. Hals apprenticed as a painter starting in 1603. In 1610, he registered with the St. Lucas Guild, which, as the museum catalogue explains, “enabled him to establish his own workshop.”

Hals married twice. He had three children with his first wife, Anneke Harmendr, only one of whom survived early childhood. Anneke died in 1615, and two years later Hals married Lysbeth Reyniersdr, who bore 11 children (four of whom became painters).

The painter’s naturalistic work fell largely from favor in the 18th century, as a tendency even in Holland toward more aristocratic and classicistic academicism took shape, and was only “rediscovered” in the second half of the 19th.

Hals is now widely admired. Critics, historians and museumgoers alike are impressed, in the words of one commentator, by his “vigorous, slashing style.” The painter is always “amazing in fidelity, astounding in surety and vitality of draughtsmanship. Among the Dutch [Hals is] inferior in genius only to Rembrandt, [and] his influence was almost as far-reaching.” (Blake-More Godwin, Catalogue of European Paintings, The Toledo Museum of Art)

Another study argues that in Hals’s portraits, “the quick and decisive look of each stroke suggests spontaneity, the recording of one specific instant in the life of the sitter.” The complete picture “has the immediacy of a sketch. The impression of a race against time is, of course, deceptive. Hals spent hours, not minutes,” on his canvases, “but he maintains the illusion of having done it in the wink of an eye.” (A Basic History of Art, H. W. and Anthony F. Janson)

Frans Hals, Portrait of a Seated Woman Holding a Fan, c. 1650, Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio

Hals came to specialize in portraiture. The Toledo exhibition had several magnificent examples. Seated Man Holding a Hat and Seated Woman Holding a Fan (the subjects’ names are unknown) are assumed to be a newly married couple. Hals scholar Seymour Slive describes the pictures as among “Hals’s most sympathetic portraits of a husband and wife.” She in particular makes an impression, gazing at the viewer confidently.

The painter made a name for himself with his group portraits. Writing of the famed Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard (1616, not in the exhibition), Lawrence W. Nichols, the Toledo museum’s senior curator of European and American painting and sculpture before 1900, notes that, in contrast “to the stiff formality typical of the genre, Hals’s poses, gestures, and animated countenances—many conveying engagement with one another, and others rendered as peering out at the beholder—all induce the sense of being a firsthand witness to the actual gathering.” A contemporary of Hals’s, the historian of Haarlem, wrote in 1648 that his “paintings are imbued with such force and vitality that… they seem to breathe and live.”

Frans Hals (Dutch, 1582/83–1666), The Van Campen Family in a Landscape (fragment), ca. 1623–25, oil on canvas. 151 x 163.6 cm. Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio, inv. 2011.80

In Hals’s first family group portrait, the work at the center of the Toledo-Brussels-Paris exhibitions, The Van Campen Family in a Landscape, the painter continued—Nichols asserts—“to visually communicate a sense of immediacy … Moreover, he confronted the pressing challenge incumbent on a painter of group portraits of any category: how to capture individuality as well as the collective dynamic of the group and each individual’s relationship to it.” Van Campen, a cloth merchant, his wife and seven children are represented in one of three fragments; a second, narrower picture shows four children; and a third includes the head and torso of a boy (apparently another Van Campen son).

Nichols writes: “Hals’s arrangement is nothing less than the visualization of a household jubilantly being together—their familial cohesion is rendered palpable and is the painting’s very subject. … Gijsbert Claesz [van Campen] gazes out at the viewer as if to proudly present his progeny. Only the two babies … also engage us directly; all the others are involved in or reacting to the spectacle the painter has contrived. … Hals’s vivacious and animated portrait, with its expressive poses, gesticulating hands, and exuberant countenances, was ground-breaking.”

One of the prominent features of the Family Group from the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid is the presence of a black child. The catalogue notes that black youths made their appearance as servants in Flemish and Dutch portraits from the 1630s, “not coincidentally after the Dutch West India Company was established in 1621 and took control of Dutch involvement in the Atlantic trade of enslaved Africans.” The individual “in the present work is as much a specific personality as the rest of the family. That Hals represented him with such dignity and humanity, in conjunction with his relatively substantial wardrobe … suggests that he may have been of high birth, perhaps someone from West Africa who came to Holland for his education or part of a trade delegation.”

Frans Hals (Dutch, 1582/83–1666), Marriage Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen, ca. 1622, oil on canvas. 140 x 166.5 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. SK-A-133. ©Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A painting that deserves its own essay is Marriage Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen, described as “an unmitigated standout in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.” Mariët Westermann (A Worldly Art—The Dutch Republic 1585–1718) argues that there “are no direct Dutch precedents” for this double portrait.

Massa and Beatrix lean back against a tree or an embankment. He smiles at the viewer. “Beside him to the right,” as a 1910 catalogue of Hals’s works described it, “sits a woman, bending slightly forward, with her head turned three-quarters left. She smiles rather slyly at the spectator.”

Again, Hals is a pioneer in presenting human relationships in a flexible and informal manner. The famed Rijksmuseum observes that the “happy, smiling pair sits comfortably close to each other. Posing a couple together in this way was highly unusual at the time.”

We know something about Massa, born into a wealthy silk merchant’s family and sent to Moscow at 15 to assist the family trade, including the fact that Hals painted him several times. Massa also served as a witness at the baptism of one of Hals’s daughters. They presumably were friends.

Frans Hals, Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa, 1626, Art Gallery of Ontario

Massa, an intriguing figure, belongs to the epoch when the bourgeoisie, in its ascendancy, played a revolutionary role. The Toledo museum catalogue describes him as a “polymath of sorts.” According to historian G. W. van der Meiden, Massa “played a prominent part in the beginnings of diplomatic contact between Russia and the Netherlands. He was a many-sided intellect … Thanks to his eye-witness report on the Time of Troubles he is well-known in Russian historiography.” (“Isaac Massa and the Beginnings of Dutch-Russian Relations”)

Massa authored a famed “Short Narrative” on the events of the “Time of Troubles” (1598–1613), a period of civil war in Russia, which ended with the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty. He also was an eye-witness to the terrible famine of 1601–03, which is estimated to have killed one third of the Russian population. Massa extensively describes the suffering. At one point in his “Narrative”, he writes that “Heaven inflicted on the whole country of Muscovy scarcity and famine of which history records no similar examples.”

Massa also published five maps of Russia, including an effort to render the Siberian coast. Van der Meiden writes that Massa “learnt Russian” and that, although “he had received very little formal education, his curiosity was insatiable.”

The same, of course, could be said about Hals himself.

In 1626, Hals painted a portrait of Massa leaning over the back of a chair toward the viewer in an astonishingly informal and intimate pose. The critic John Berger (“Hals and Bankruptcy” in About Looking ) asserted that Massa’s “expression is another one that Hals was the first to record. It is the look of a man who does not believe in the life he witnesses, yet can see no alternative. He has considered, quite impersonally, the possibility that life may be absurd. He is by no means desperate. He is interested. But his intelligence isolates him from the current purpose of men and the supposed purpose of God.” This appears generally legitimate considering what we know of Massa’s life and some of the terrible things he had seen. Berger, in the same essay, also claimed that no one “before Hals painted portraits of greater dignity and greater sympathy.”

Writing of the larger trend, art historian Arnold Hauser (in The Social History of Art, Volume II) observed that “Dutch art owes its middle-class character, above all, to the fact that it ceases to be tied to the Church. … Representations of real everyday life are the most popular of all: the picture of manners, the portrait, the landscape, the still life, interiors and architectural views.” Such motifs “acquire an autonomous value of their own; the artist no longer needs an excuse to portray them. … It is as if this reality were being discovered, taken possession of and settled down in for the first time.”

The bourgeois conditions of life did not make things easy for the Dutch painters, who were “free” of noble and Church patronage and thrown on the marketplace. The resulting state of artistic production, wrote Hauser, allowed “the boom on the art market to degenerate into a state of fierce competition, to which the most individual and most original talents fall victim. There were artists living in cramped circumstances in earlier times, but there were none in actual want.” The Dutch artists’ financial troubles “are a concomitant of that economic freedom and anarchy in the realm of art, which now comes on the scene for the first time and still controls the art market today. Here are the beginnings, too, of the social uprooting of the artist and the uncertainty of his existence.”

Hals went bankrupt in 1652. Rembrandt was effectively declared bankrupt in 1656. Vermeer left his wife in debt at the time of his early death in 1675. She wrote in a petition that during the “ruinous” Franco-Dutch War (1672–78), her husband “not only was unable to sell any of his art but also, to his great detriment, was left sitting with the paintings of other masters that he was dealing in.”

Every opportunity should be taken to see the work of Hals and the other Dutch painters.

The author also recommends:

Seventeenth-century Dutch paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
[29 October 2015]

French painter Eugène Delacroix, New York exhibition


Collision of Arab Horsemen, 1833-34, Delacroix painting

By Clare Hurley in the USA:

French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix at the Metropolitan Museum in New York

20 December 2018

Delacroix —an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

September 17, 2018–January 6, 2019

Organized by the Louvre Museum in Paris, where it attracted a record-breaking number of visitors earlier this year, and currently at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, this powerful exhibition of French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) is the first major survey of the artist’s work in half a century. It brings together 150 paintings, drawings, prints and manuscripts that have rarely been shown together, many of them never before displayed in the US at all.

Unfortunately, due to the work’s size, Delacroix’s iconic image of triumphant revolution, Liberty Leading the People (1830), could not be transported to the Met. Its absence is sorely felt, in part because the exhibition, encompassing the scope and variety of Delacroix’s prodigious artwork, underscores the atypical character of Liberty. Never again would the painter address the events of his time so directly.

Liberty Leading the People, 1830

The first half of the nineteenth century in France was characterized by revolutions, counter-revolutions, coups and civil war through which rival factions of the bourgeoisie fought for predominance, even as a rising threat to the entire social order, the working class, arrived on the historical scene. The vast social struggles and economic changes of the first half of the nineteenth century in France found oblique and contradictory expression in the Romantic movement.

The figure of Liberty rallying the Parisian masses behind the tricolor of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” calls to mind the ideals and events of the French Revolution of 1789. A generation later, Delacroix’s painting tackled the subject in a manner that embodied the transition from the Neoclassicism of the Revolutionary period to a Romantic sensibility, reflecting the impact of subsequent developments on artistic moods and consciousness.

Eugène Delacroix by Félix Nadar

Romanticism was a diffuse movement particularly significant in European art between the end of the 18th century and 1840 or so. In part, it was a critical reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the apparent mechanization and urbanization of life. The Romantics often valued nature and emotional expressiveness in art, including extreme emotions. Great emphasis was placed on authenticity and sincerity, and on the “inner vision” of the solitary artistic genius, if necessary at the expense of rationalism and empirically accurate representation.

Originating in English poetry with the work of Lord Byron, William Wordsworth (who suggested that poetry should begin as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”), Samuel Coleridge, John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, Romanticism encompassed the other arts as well: the music of Franz Schubert and Frédéric Chopin, for example. Delacroix was “the great Romantic painter” as his younger contemporary, the poet and critic Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) termed him.

However, Delacroix rejected this title in his lifetime, considering that his work carried on the ideals of the Enlightenment, even as he often created turbulent, expressive images more characteristic of Romanticism. He shared the Romantics’ dedication to art’s higher purpose to evoke the sublime and awe-inspiring and championed the power of the unfettered artistic imagination to create a “pure” art drawn from classical, literary or historical sources. In a 1822 letter, Delacroix insisted, “Painting is life itself. It is nature transmitted to the soul without an intermediary, without a veil, without rules or conventions. Music is vague. Poetry is vague. Sculpture requires a convention. But painting, particularly landscape painting, is the thing itself.”

Delacroix’s life and work contain various strands and impulses. He was connected to leaders of the French Revolution on his father’s side, and to artistic circles on his mother’s, as well as having a powerful patron in the consummate cynical politician Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, rumored to be his biological father. Orphaned at the age of sixteen, he demonstrated exceptional talent and trained in the Neoclassical tradition of Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825), the preeminent painter of the French Revolution. He was also influenced by early Romantic Théodore Géricault (1791–1824) with whom he studied, even posing as one of the doomed castaways in his mentor’s masterwork, The Raft of the Medusa (1818-9). He was in his early twenties when his painting The Barque of Dante was accepted into the Salon of 1822, inaugurating a long career of purchases and commissions by the French state, though one not without controversy and occasional rejections when his work diverged too far from the standard “recipes” of the Academy and middle class public opinion.

Madame Henri François Riesener, 1835

His mastery of academic skills is evidenced in the Met exhibition in the selection of his vivid portraits, such as the ones of his aunt and cousin Madame Henri François Riesener and Léon Riesener (both painted 1835), and his many sketches and oil studies of models. Some of these, Head of an Old Greek Woman (1824) for instance, are striking in their own right, though for Delacroix these always served primarily as means to an end. In this case, the woman’s anguished face appears in his Massacre at Chios (1824), also too large to be moved from the Louvre. However, Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1824) is in the exhibition.

Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi, 1826

Even though Delacroix’s paintings in support of the Greek struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire (1821-29) were purchased by the French government, which—along with Britain and Russia—was asserting economic interests in the Middle East through its intervention, they nevertheless came in for criticism for their emphasis on the conflict’s toll in human suffering instead of the supposedly heroic aspects of the cause.

Delacroix often turned to literary sources for subjects, particularly to works by Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott, as well as Shakespeare. Most striking in the exhibition is the series of 18 lithographs that Delacroix created in 1826-27 to illustrate the German poet and dramatist Goethe’s Faust. The set of prints not only superbly illustrate the wild, supernatural tale of the doctor who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasure; they demonstrate Delacroix’s mastery of a relatively new technique in printmaking. They also include charming sketches of animals and other notations in the margins which would not have appeared in the large folio edition printed in 1828, a copy of which was also on display.

Faust Trying to Seduce Marguerite, 1826-27

Much of Delacroix’s work was on a grand scale commissioned for public buildings and churches, and as such could not be moved. But the exhibition does include The Battle of Nancy and the Death of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, January 5, 1477 (1831) and The Battle of Poitiers (1830), both of which celebrate the Bourbon monarchy. However much the painter sought to distance his art from the immediate political fray by choosing subjects from the distant past, he inevitably had to navigate the shifting political fortunes of his patrons. In the case of the latter painting, it had been commissioned by the Duchesse du Berry, daughter-in-law of the last Bourbon monarch, Charles X. Delacroix had to repossess the work, unpaid for, after Louis Philippe ousted the Bourbons in the 1830 July Revolution and the Duchesse fled.

The Battle of Poitiers, 1830

Whether it was to escape the social and political turmoil of Paris after the July Revolution or the desire for a change of scene, in 1832 Delacroix traveled to North Africa as part of a diplomatic mission to Morocco shortly after the French conquered Algeria. There he was entranced by the beauty of the landscape and the people in traditional dress, a scene so “exotic” that he had no need to resort to imagination.

A selection of his marvelous sketches of people in the streets of Tangiers are displayed at the Met exhibit. Although his observations were colored by his Romantic propensity to view the Arab shopkeepers in their white robes as modern-day incarnations of classical Greek or Roman figures, these sketches capture daily life with an immediacy not found in any of his other work.

Women of Algiers in their Apartment, 1834

Painted upon his return to Paris, Women of Algiers in their Apartment (1834) is certainly a work of imagination since Muslim law would have made it unlikely for him to have observed women in the intimacy of such a setting. Art historian Linda Nochlin in her essay “The Imaginary Orient” (1983) argues that such images of the Arab world served as the pretext for Western European men to indulge their erotic, and in the case of Delacroix’s earlier Death of Sardanapalus (1828), sadistic fantasies of power over their colonial conquests. Be that as it may, the sumptuous color—achieved by Delacroix’s juxtaposition of complementary tones—contributes to the seductive quality of the three women attended by a black servant in the cloistered atmosphere of the room.

Death of Sardanapalus, sketch, 1826-27

Wild Horse Felled by a Tiger, 1828

Delacroix’s studies and paintings of animals, particularly tigers which he observed at the Paris zoo, likewise served to explore the Romantic fascination with the exotic and awe-inspiring. More specifically, these images convey the intrinsic power of these wild beasts, dormant in their tamed or caged existence, but which might erupt into ferocious action at any time.

So too, the pitched battles of mounted horsemen—many of which were drawn from observing Moroccan military exercises like those pictured in Collision of Arab Horsemen (1833-34)—bore an obvious parallel, whether intentional or not, to the volatile class relations in the 1830s and 40s, which culminated in the Revolution of 1848.

The brilliant, dramatic dynamism of these works is further heightened by a fluid handling of form and atmospheric color that shows Delacroix’s affinity to the works of the English painters John Constable (1776–1837) and J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851), both of whom he had visited in 1825. The similarity, particularly to the latter, would become more pronounced in Delacroix’s later work and would be admired by the Impressionists and subsequent modern artists.

Finally, our understanding of Delacroix would not be complete without his journal, a selection from which was also included in the exhibit. As well-known in its own right as his paintings, the journal was written in 20 notebooks over two periods (1822–24 and 1849–63); unfortunately the notebook from 1848 seems to have been left in a cab.

The journal gives a vivid picture of the artist: as a young man he records his high artistic aspirations as well as notes on his friendships, trysts with models and scant financial resources. In his maturity, he emerges as a cultured man with a busy professional and social life in Parisian society and artistic circles that included Chopin and George Sand. In later years, as his strength and health declined, he was tender in his concern for his housekeeper and life-companion Jenny Le Guillou and sought to leave his work to posterity. His letters also make fascinating reading.

At all ages, he was uncompromising in his criticism of pomposity, superficiality and pretensions whether in politics or cultural life, and indefatigable in his dedication to art. For all that he was a Romantic, he maintained a concept of artistic truth, rooted in the Enlightenment, that resembled a philosophically materialist one:

“The fact of the matter is,… art is not what the vulgar believe it to be, a vague inspiration coming from nowhere, moving at random, and portraying merely the picturesque, external side of things. [Art] is pure reason, embellished by genius, but following a set course and bound by higher laws.” (Journal, 7 April 1849)

Facebook censors painter Rubens, not nazism


This 21 July 2018 satiric video from Flanders in Belgium about ancient art says about itself:

Social media [in this case, Facebook] doesn’t want you to see Rubens’ paintings

Flanders – the perfect destination to enjoy the Flemish Masters in all their glory – is denouncing artistic censorship on social media platforms in a playful manner. At the Rubens House, ‘nudity viewers’ with a Facebook account were blocked from viewing nudity by a group of “social media police agents”.

So, 17th century painter Rubens is not welcome  on Facebook. Like later artists, including French 19th century painter Gustave Courbet. Like Facebook bans one of the world’s earliest works of art, the 30,000-year-old ‘Venus of Willendorf‘ sculpture.

What and who, then, is welcome on Facebook? Facebook boss Zuckerberg has said: Holocaust denying nazis. The Dutch neofascist party Nederlandse Volks-Unie (NVU) is welcome to spout their praise for Adolf Hitler, hatred of Jews and hatred of Dutch Moroccans on their Facebook account.

On the other hand, Facebook censors news sources without Big Business or Big Government support; favouring instead corporate media like the Rupert Murdoch empire (where anti-Semitism and other forms of racism happen). Nevertheless, Facebook claims corporate news is not fake news.

No censorship of Holocaust denial. Instead, censorship of an iconic photo of Vietnamese children attacked by United States napalm bombs; censorship even if the conservative prime minister of Norway posts that photo on Facebook. Instead, censorship of information on the bloody invasion of Syria by the Turkish Erdogan regime. The Erdogan regime, which Facebook also helps by censoring a Turkish Dutch politician. Instead, censorship of information on the genocide of Rohingya, thus helping the regime in Myanmar. Instead of censoring shoah denial, Facebook censors Arizona, USA teachers on strike against bad education policies. Like Facebook also censors British striking workers.

Instead of opposing Holocaust denial, they censor feminism. Instead, they censor information on women’s reproductive rights. Instead, Facebook censors a burn injuries survivor.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Flemish museums angry about Facebook‘s nudity ban

Flemish museums are sick of Facebook‘s strict anti-nudity policy. The social media platform also removes painted nudity by, for example, Flemish masters. In an open letter to Facebook boss Zuckerberg, a large number of museum directors demand he should be more liberal.

The cultural institutions use Facebook a lot to advertise their activities. They do this by placing pictures of paintings. But they are thwarted regularly by censorship.

Loincloth

Recently, Facebook removed a picture of the Venus of Willendorf, an iconic fertility statue of nearly 30,000 years old. The Crucifixion by Peter Paul Rubens was also rejected because Jesus has no more than a loincloth on.

Rubens, Christ crucified

“Although we are secretly laughing, your cultural censorship makes our lives quite difficult”, write the museum directors to Zuckerberg. They point out that art brings people together, just like social media.

Video

The trade association Tourism Flanders adds a humorous video to the appeal to Zuckerberg. It shows how people are expelled by security agents from the Rubens House in Antwerp because they look at paintings with exposed body parts. Only people who do not have a Facebook account are allowed to look at them.

Facebook censors accounts against Charlottesville neonazis and against Trump’s anti-immigrant ICE: here.

Facebook’s ‘community standards’ are double-standards. The social media giant seems unable to enforce its own rules when it comes to far-right, white supremacist material, writes LUCY WOOD.

Tech companies promised to stop helping neo-Nazis raise money. They haven’t.