Rubens painting rediscovered after centuries


The newly rediscovered portrait of the Duke of Buckingham by Rubens dates from around 1625

From the BBC in Britain today:

Rubens’ Duke of Buckingham ‘found’ after 400 years

A ‘lost’ portrait by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens has been rediscovered after almost 400 years.

The 17th century Flemish artist‘s “head study” of the Duke of Buckingham was identified by Dr Bendor Grosvenor from BBC Four’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces.

It was in Glasgow Museums’ collection and on public display at the city’s Pollok House stately home.

But overpainting and centuries of dirt meant it was thought to be a later copy by another artist.

The restored portrait of George Villiers, the 1st Duke of Buckingham, was authenticated as a Rubens by Ben van Beneden, director of the Rubenshuis in Antwerp.

He said it was a “rare addition to Rubens‘s portrait oeuvre, showing how he approached the genre”.

Dr Grosvenor said: “The chance to discover a portrait of such a pivotal figure in British history by one of the greatest artists who ever lived has been thrillingly exciting.”

The portrait of the duke in a doublet with an elaborate lace collar and a sash dates from around 1625.

He was a controversial figure in the Jacobean era who rose from minor nobility to become one of the favourites of James I, who was James VI in Scotland.

The nature of their relationship has been the source of much debate. Some experts claim they were lovers, while others believe it was a close platonic friendship.

Renovation work carried out by English Heritage at Apethorpe Palace in Northamptonshire, one of the king’s favourite residences, revealed a secret passage linking the two men’s bedchambers.

The Duke was assassinated in 1628 at the age of just 35, three years after James died.

Overpainting of the background and other areas by a later artist, along with hundreds of years of dust and dirt, had obscured Rubens’ work.

But scientific analysis of the wood it was painted on dated it to the 1620s, and found it had been prepared in a way done by Rubens’ studio.

Additional cleaning and x-rays of the hair showed it was not a copy but was by the artist himself.

The painting underwent conservation work by restorer Simon Gillespie to return it to its original appearance.

It will return to display at Pollok House.

The painting will feature in the first programme of the new series of Britain’s Lost Masterpieces at 21:00 BST on BBC Four on 27 September.

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Hieronymus Bosch, still inspiring art


Hieronymus Bosch, 10 August 2017

On 10 August 2017, we went to Den Bosch city, the capital of North Brabant province in the Netherlands. Here we saw this house, De Kleine Winst. In the fifteenth century, its owner was the father of famous painter Hieronymus Bosch, who probably spent his childhood here.

Hieronymus Bosch, window, 10 August 2017

Behind the windows, fantasy animals, inspired by Bosch’s art.

All photos in this blog post are cell phone photos.

This is a Dutch 360 degree video about De Kleine Winst.

In 2016 was the commemoration of Hieronymus Bosch’s death 500 years ago. That included exhibitions in Den Bosch, and elsewhere.

However, now in 2017, Den Bosch has not forgotten its artist. As 21st century art in de Kerkstraat (Church Street) shows.

Den Bosch city walls, 10 August 2017

This picture on a Kerkstraat fence shows a fishy monster, inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s works. The Dutch text is about Den Bosch’s city walls: first built in the 12th century, they were mostly torn down in the 19th century.

Den Bosch statue, 10 August 2017

The next picture shows another Bosch-style fantasy animal. The text is about the statue of Hieronymus Bosch at the central city square, erected in 1930. Sculptor August Falise made it.

Den Bosch fish, 10 August 2017

The next picture shows a very big fish.

Den Bosch lute player, 10 August 2017

The next picture shows a lute player, a common sight in the days of Hieronymus Bosch.

Den Bosch dragon, 10 August 2017

The last picture in this series shows a crowned dragon. The text is about a royal visit to the city in 1936.

Den Bosch kingfisher, 10 August 2017

Finally, also in the Kerkstraat, a shop sign depicting a kingfisher; a bird depicted by Hieronymus Bosch as well.

We continued to a theatre festival in Den Bosch. So, stay tuned!

Vincent van Gogh, new film


This video says about itself:

Loving Vincent, Official Theatrical Trailer

7 August 2017

LOVING VINCENT is the world’s first fully oil painted feature film. Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman, produced by Poland’s BreakThru Films & UK’s Trademark Films.

The film brings the paintings of Vincent van Gogh to life to tell his remarkable story. Every one of the 65,000 frames of the film is an oil-painting hand-painted by 125 professional oil-painters who travelled from all across the world to the Loving Vincent studios in Poland and Greece to be a part of the production. As remarkable as Vincent’s brilliant paintings, is his passionate and ill-fated life, and mysterious death.

In theaters beginning September 22.

Van Gogh paintings and children


This video says about itself:

The Van Gogh Museum Eye-tracking Project

30 September 2016

Read the scientific paper at this link.

Many of us appreciate art, but no-one really knows how or why we do so. Researchers in the field of empirical aesthetics attempt to answer such questions. The way people look at paintings is often studied by letting participants look at images on a computer screen in a laboratory setting, during which their gaze is tracked using a stationary, bulky, eye tracker. Obviously this is not a ‘natural setting’ in which people normally view paintings or appreciate art, so the question remains how well viewing behaviour in such laboratory settings approaches that of real life.

That’s why a group of researchers from the Department of Experimental and Applied psychology of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam decided to use a very different and novel approach. Francesco Walker, assisted by Berno Bucker, Daniel Schreij, Nicola Anderson, and supervised by prof. Jan Theeuwes, used a mobile eye-tracker to track the gaze of children and adults as they viewed actual paintings on display at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, one of the world’s most famous museums.

The main topic of study was how stimulus-driven and goal-driven processes work together in guiding our attention or gaze through a painting, and if there is a difference between children and adults in how this happens. Stimulus-driven processes direct our attention to certain locations in a painting that are very conspicuous, such as spots that are brighter than their surroundings or objects with a color that stands out. On the other hand, goal-driven processes steers our attention toward locations in the painting that are aligned with our goals, intentions or desires.

In the first phase of the study, we asked our participants to view a selected set of five Van Gogh paintings. In the second phase, we gave them a briefing with some specific back story of each painting, after which asked them to view the paintings again. The differences between their eye movements in the two phases showed that bottom-up cues had a greater influence on the children than the adults and that the effects of the briefing were stronger and longer-lasting in the adults.

The Van Gogh Museum Eye-tracking Project demonstrates the feasibility of studies in museum settings, and brings collaborations between museum and universities to a whole new level: the educational staff of the VGM did not only give us the opportunity to perform our study in the museum – they contributed actively in every phase of the study. We believe that in empirical aesthetics, this kind of active collaboration between scientific and cultural institutions is not only possible, but essential, and hope that our pioneering work will lead to future collaborations with the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, and with other high profile institutions.

From Science News:

Here’s how a child sees a Van Gogh painting

by Laura Sanders

8:00am, July 2, 2017

One of the best things about having young children is that they give you a new way to see the world — a total cliché, yes, but true. Rainbows in water fountains are mesmerizing. Roly-poly bugs are worth stopping for. Bright blouses on strangers are remarked on, loudly. It’s occasionally embarrassing but always fun to see how this gorgeous world captivates children.

An inventive new study attempted to get inside the minds of children as they looked at works of art, specifically paintings hanging in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Francesco Walker, a cognitive psychologist who conducted the study while at VU University Amsterdam, and colleagues equipped nine children and 12 adults with eye-tracking headsets as they observed five paintings. The children were ages 11 and 12. Participants saw each painting twice, before and after hearing a description of the art.

When the children first viewed a Van Gogh painting, they focused on bold, bright colors and attention-grabbing objects: A striped house, vivid roses, dark trees painted against a light skyline.

But after they heard a little background information about the paintings, their gazes shifted. For instance, after seeing the serene “Landscape at Twilight” for the first time, the children were told that some of the hay contained green flecks of paint from a different painting. During their second look at the painting, the children spent more time looking at the hay.

The adults, in contrast, weren’t as drawn to the bright colors and attention-grabbing objects on their first (or second) looks. They focused more on other areas of the paintings.

The results, published June 21 in PLOS ONE, show that when children are given context about a painting they shift what they focus on while viewing it.

That switch in gaze represents an interesting switch in thinking, the researchers believe. The first type of viewing relies on “bottom-up” attention, in which the eye is drawn to whatever visually pops out. Walker describes this sort of looking as something involuntary, driven by the physical properties of an object or scene. The second sort of attention, called “top-down,” is more purposeful. “Top-down attentional control is driven voluntarily, by factors that are internal to the observer,” Walker says.

Looking for your friend in a crowd, holding a picture of her in mind, requires intentional searching. That’s a top-down task. But if you’re suddenly captivated by the sight of a monkey playing a tiny accordion, that would be a bottom-up diversion. Studies like this one on children and adults suggest that with age, “top-down processes become more and more important, while bottom-up attention loses strength,” Walker says.

Similar data would be much harder to pull from younger, wigglier children. I showed one of the paintings used in the study — Van Gogh’s “Tree Roots,” an abstract jumble of blue and brown and green — to my 4-year-old.

In the absence of eye-tracking technology, I just asked my daughter what she saw. She started by naming colors: “Blue, green, brown.” After she ran through all of the hues, I asked if she saw anything else. She paused, considering the image carefully. “Is it dinosaurs?” she asked. I told her that it’s a painting of tangled, blue tree roots in the ground. “But that green part looks like a Tyrannosaurus,” she told me. As her little finger gestured toward my computer screen, I saw what she meant: A green T. Rex head, rising majestically from the roots.

Rembrandt exhibition on film


This video from Britain says about itself:

4 November 2014

Watch the new Rembrandt from the National Gallery, London and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam cinema trailer, part of EXHIBITION ON SCREEN – your front row seat to the world’s greatest art.

Every Rembrandt exhibition is eagerly anticipated but this major new show, focused on the final years of his life and hosted by London’s National Gallery and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum is the biggest in many years. Given exclusive & privileged access by both galleries, the film documents this extraordinary show and interweaves Rembrandt’s life story with the behind the scenes preparations at both institutions. For many, this is the greatest artist that ever lived – this film will take a close look at the man behind such acclaim.

On 15 April 2017, I went to see this Rembrandt exhibition film. Another film in the Exhibition on Screen series was about Hieronymus Bosch.

The theme of the exhibition is Rembrandt’s later years, 1651-1669. Usually, art historians take 1651 as a starting point, as Rembrandt then changed technically, using broader brush strokes in his paintings.

During the preparations for the exhibition, people discovered that Rembrandt had made changes compared to the earliest versions of his works of art. In one case, Rembrandt had done quite some work on a painting, but did not finish it, and later made another painting on that canvas.

The film names four influences on Rembrandt: Caravaggio; Rubens; Lucas van Leyden, from the same Leiden city as Rembrandt; and Pieter Lastman, who taught the young Rembrandt. Lastman inspired Rembrandt to make paintings about biblical history, antique history and mythology. Yet, if we (not the film) compare what Rembrandt painted about and what his older contemporary and inspiration Rubens painted about, then we see a striking difference. 75% of Rubens’ work had religious or antique historical and mythological subjects. With Rembrandt, only 25% of his work fitted into these categories. While 70% of Rembrandt’s work were portraits, including self-portraits. Only 15% of Rubens’ work were portraits; 0% self-portraits.

In this, Rembrandt went against the traditional view of which visual art categories were supposedly superior and which were supposedly inferior. Traditionally, painting Christian religious or antique historical or mythological scenes was seen as more ‘noble’ than painting portraits. However, the seventeenth century Dutch republic was different in this, the film remarks. In other European countries, painters worked for the Roman Catholic church (or for princely or other noble courts, the film makers might have added). In the Netherlands, the urban bourgeois, recently victorious in the revolt against the monarchy of Spain and its aristocratic old order, wanted portraits of themselves. And Rembrandt and others painted them. While in Rubens’ southern Low Countries (roughly what later became Belgium) the Spanish armies had managed to suppress the revolt and save the old social and religious order. The film, describing the revolt against the Spanish kings in Dutch national terms, does not use words like ‘bourgeois’ or ‘class’; but studying the context of Rembrandt’s and Rubens’s works suggests them.

There were not only painters inspiring Rembrandt. Rembrandt himself inspired many later painters. Including Francisco Goya. Goya said: ‘I had three teachers: nature, Velazquez, and Rembrandt’.

One can speculate whether Rembrandt was also an inspiration for Goya in depicting monarchs’ relatives unflatteringly. Rembrandt got one commission from the princely court in Holland (princely, as the Stadhouders in the Low Countries were also absolute monarchs in the tiny statelet of Orange in southern France). But when his portrait of Princess Amalia von Solms turned out to be not flattering enough, he never got a commission from that court again. Maybe a bit in the vein of Goya a century and half later, who is said to have mocked the Spanish royal family in his portrait painting of them.

Talking about Rembrandt and princely families: he twice made a painting about Lucretia, a woman from ancient Roman historical tradition. According to that tradition, in 509 BC the son of the king of Rome, Sextus Tarquinius, raped Lucretia. Sextus Tarquinius thought he could commit that crime with impunity, as he was a man, Lucretia a woman; he was a prince, Lucretia a subject. Like in 2015 a scion of the Saudi royal family harassed women sexually in the USA, saying: ‘I am a prince and I do what I want. You are nobody!’ Sextus Tarquinius told Lucretia that if she would not submit to being raped, then he would kill both her and one of her slaves, place their bodies together, and claim he had defended her husband’s honour when he caught her having adulterous sex. In despair, after the rape Lucretia then committed suicide.

The film points out that Rembrandt’s first Lucretia painting shows the subject (in seventeenth century rather than Roman antiquity clothes) on the verge of killing herself with a dagger, still a bit uncertain whether she would do it.

Rembrandt, Lucretia preparing to stab herself

While the second painting shows Lucretia just after she had become sure about her decision, having inflicted a lethal wound in her breast, and ringing an alarm, summoning witnesses to tell them Prince Sextus Tarquinius had raped her, as her last words before dying.

Rembrandt, Lucretia after stabbing herself

Anger in Rome about the rape and suicide of Lucretia led to a revolt in which the royal family was deposed and replaced by the Roman republic.

That Roman republic became an inspiration for later revolutions in which monarchs were overthrown and replaced by republics. Like the eighteenth century American revolution against King George III of Britain, in which the first president of the USA, George Washington, was compared to Roman republican statesman Cincinnatus. During the French revolution against King Louis XVI revolutionary painter David painted scenes from Roman republican history.

Earlier, during Rembrandt’s lifetime, the Roman republic had been an inspiration for English revolutionaries who deposed and beheaded King Charles I and made England a republic.

The film is quite elaborate on how Rembrandt painted Lucretia’s clothes, her blood and her facial expressions telling about her inner feelings. However, the film does not ask why Rembrandt considered Lucretia a worthy subject. According to ancient Roman historiography, Sextus Tarquinius’ royal dynasty were tyrants, killing people and taxing the people heavily. They were also Etruscans. These Etruscan royals did not speak their Roman subjects’ Latin, but a very different language as their mother tongue. Like taxation and bloodshed had been causes of the Etruscan-Roman royals’ downfall, Spanish royal taxes and the Spanish inquisition burning Protestants at the stake had also been factors in the Dutch revolt. May Rembrandt not have seen a parallel between the royal dynasty of Rome and King Philip II and his successors in Spain; and between the successful republican revolt in Rome, and the succesful (at least in the northern Low Countries) Dutch revolt against the monarchy?

I don’t know any writings by Rembrandt confirming that; so, for the moment this is just speculation by me.

In the film, there is another speculation: that the exiled French philosopher Descartes and Rembrandt knew each other and influenced each other. Again, as far as I know, neither in writings by Descartes nor in writings by Rembrandt there is proof of that.

Finally, the film mentioned and illustrated that Rembrandt was an important innovator in art techniques. In painting, and also in etching.

Dutch painter Vermeer, new book


This 2001 video is called Vermeer: Master of Light (COMPLETE Documentary).

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Saturday 18th March 2017

IN HIS relatively short life — he died in 1675 at the age of 43 — Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer was unknown outside his native country and his name faded into obscurity after his death.

That changed in the mid-19th century, when his paintings of domestic interior scenes of middle-class life grew in popularity in Europe and, eventually, internationally.

Vermeer was not a prolific painter — only 34 canvases are directly attributed to him today — because he worked slowly and meticulously.

He was by no means wealthy and the pigments he used were expensive and this is possibly a reason why his works are few in number.

Almost all his paintings appear to be set in two rooms in his house and feature the same furniture and decorations and very often the same people, usually women.

Taschen publishers are noted for the quality of their art books and that is again in evidence in the newly and sumptuously produced Vermeer: The Complete Works (£25).

It draws on the complete catalogue of his output, with the images accompanied by a detailed and informative commentary.

The quality of the reproductions are such that Vermeer’s extraordinary representation of light shines through on every page and close-ups of selected canvases enhance one of the great pleasures of observing Vermeer’s work — constructing one’s own narrative about his subjects.

The book is a fitting tribute to a painter acknowledged as one of the greats of the Dutch “golden age.”

COMPETITION

Win a copy of Vermeer: The Complete Works. The Morning Star has a copy of Vermeer: The Complete Works to give away as a prize. All you have to do is name Vermeer’s birthplace and send your answer on a postcard to Vermeer Competition, 52 Beachy Road, London E3 2NS or by email to dawnpower@peoples-press.com. Please ensure you include your full name and address with your answer.

Closing date: Saturday March 25, 2017

Dutch museum buys Van Doesburg painting


Theo van Doesburg, Contra-Compositie VII

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden has purchased the painting Contra-Composition VII by Theo van Doesburg. The museum paid nearly 1.9 million euros at an auction in London.

Van Doesburg painted Contra-Composition VII in 1924 in Paris, during the heyday of De Stijl. The abstract work according to De Lakenhal is a striking example of the art movement.

“In the painting one can clearly see the influence of Piet Mondrian, with whom Van Doesburg after settling in Paris in October 1923 interacted intensively for a short period. …

Leiden

Meta Knol, director of the Leiden museum, is very happy with the purchase. From 1916 to 1921 Van Doesburg lived in Leiden. He developed his avant-garde art there and founded the magazine De Stijl, for which the art movement is named.

Until now only five abstract paintings by Van Doesburg from the 1920s could be seen in Dutch museums. Many paintings from that time were sold by his widow in the 1940s to museums and collectors in the United States. Contra-Composition VII was one of them.

The Lakenhal is closed until the spring of 2019 because of a major renovation. Contra-Composition VII therefore is temporarily hanging in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The painting is 45.5 by 45.5cm.