Paintings You Should Know: Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (c. 1819)

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Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) was a German Romantic artist. ‘Wanderer’ depicts a lone traveller standing on a precipice looking out over a mysterious landscape of rocks and fog. Who is he? Where has he come from? Where is he going? The fact that this painting so strongly evokes these questions has made it a favourite image for illustrating music and works which touch upon these questions, not only in a literal but also in a spiritual, psychological, or philosophical sense. It is likely that Friedrich, a Romantic, intended it to be interpreted in precisely these symbolic terms.

The landscape is inspired by the landscape of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains in Saxony and Bohemia, but rearranged by the artist for greater effect. ‘Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog’ is painted in oil on canvas and measures 98.4cm by 74.8cm. It is held by the Kuntsthalle Hamburg in Germany.

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Treasure Trove: The Photographs of Jamie Livingston

Recently a video popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. It was the story of Jamie Livingston, a New York-based filmmaker who, from March 1979 until his death on October 25th 1997, took a polaroid photograph each day. Taken together, these candid photographs chart the mundane and poignant story of a life lived in New York City just before the digital revolution.

Jamie Livingston

The original website is a bit clunky to navigate, and to be honest I haven’t spent much time there, but the video is like a visit to an exhibition of Livingston’s work. He took the ordinary and showed its beauty, and to me that is one of the most wonderful things an artist can do.

Check out the video and let me know what you think.

Paintings You Should Know: Girl With A Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer (c.1665)

Vermeer Girl With A Pearl Earring 1665
‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’, Vermeer, c.1665

While the historical novel by Tracy Chevalier, and the movie based on it, have told us otherwise, the truth is that we have no idea who this girl is, or why she’s dressed up in Oriental garb, complete with the titular earring (which one Dutch astrophysicist has suggested might actually be made of tin). Perhaps this mystery is part of what makes the picture so intriguing. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Girl With A Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer (c.1665)”

Treasure Trove: The art of Louise Ingram Rayner

Born in Derbyshire, England, Louise Ingram Rayner (1832-1924) was a watercolourist who, throughout the summers of the 1870s and 1880s, travelled throughout England painting exquisite cityscapes. I encountered her work through the Female Artists in History Facebook page, which I’ve blogged about before, and am always happy when one of her beautiful pictures of Victorian England appears in my newsfeed. For me, they capture views that are at once familiar (many Victorian buildings are still standing in England today), and foreign, with a gentle touch which admittedly disguises some of the uglier realities of Victorian life.

Paintings You Should Know: Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ (c.1486)

Botticelli The Birth of Venus 1486
Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, c.1486

Representing a definite break from the Christian themes of the Gothic period, Sandro Botticelli’s (1445-1510) painting depicts the goddess Venus springing fully formed – and stark naked – from the foam of the sea. She was the Roman goddess of sex, love, and fertility, so Freud would have fun with that one. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ (c.1486)”

Local Culture: Whenua Hou: New Maori Ceramics

20170617_124004The space above the local information centre acts as an extension of the public art gallery, currently located across the road while earthquake-strengthening work is carried out on the original building, constructed in 1919 (earthquake strengthening is a national obsession at the moment due to the devastating effects of two severe earthquakes in the last six years. The local museum is also closed, and the local opera house reopened last year after it was strengthened. But I digress).

Currently on display is a selection of ceramic work by Maori artists. Pottery and ceramics were introduced to New Zealand by European settlers in the 1800s, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that they really caught on among Maori artists, but as this exhibition shows the results have been marvellous. Continue reading “Local Culture: Whenua Hou: New Maori Ceramics”

New Zealand Artist: Rita Angus

Rita Angus, Cass, 1936
Rita Angus, Cass, 1936

Rita Angus (1908-1970) is well-known in New Zealand for her clear, sharp-edged portraits and landscapes, including ‘Cass’, which was voted New Zealand’s favourite painting in a 2006 TV show. Rather than talking about her, I’m just going to show you a few of her paintings. Continue reading “New Zealand Artist: Rita Angus”

New Zealand Artist: Colin McCahon

Colin McCahon (1919-1987) is one of New Zealand’s most prominent artists. He was one of a group of artists who introduced Modernism into New Zealand, and is perhaps best-known for his large-scale works, often in muted, earthy tones or shades of black, white, and grey, which layered text over a background image.

McCahon Urewera Mural 1976
Colin McCahon, Urewera Mural, 1976

Continue reading “New Zealand Artist: Colin McCahon”

Local Culture: Artists Open Studios 2017

 

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Troll head sculpture by Raymond de la Haye, viewed in his sculpture garden in upper Aramoho
The last weekend in March and the first weekend in April saw the return of Artists Open Studios, a highlight of the Whanganui artistic calendar during which local artists open their studios to members of the public. This year almost eighty studios and over a hundred artists participated, so I was rather glad when the Significant Other (who hadn’t ‘done’ AOS before) went through the artists catalogue and highlighted a dozen studios which particularly interested him, as it spared me the agony of trying to decide. I did, however, insist on a visit to the studio of my favourite local artist, Tina Drayton. Continue reading “Local Culture: Artists Open Studios 2017”