Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Thomas Pollock Anshutz: Art and the Everyman

 Moving from last week's 17th Century to a major leap into the 19th mid-Century on to the early 20th Century - an especially innovative time in art. Whether it was due to the advent of the camera or the change in the patronage system, this is the time when artist were working with loosening of strictures. There was less emphasis on small details and more "suggestions" of subjects.



This was the time of John Singer Sargent and Thomas Eakins. The latter being the teacher of a very gifted student. Thomas Pollock Anshutz (1852-1912) of Kentucky studied with Eakins and later would succeed Eakins as a teacher. 



Anshutz was a very prominent artist known especially for his portraits and genre scenes. He joined Eakins in the interest of the camera. In time, he would often work from photographs. 


There was a part of him that seemed to be interested in the "every man." This was proven when, as a student, he created, "The Ironworkers' Noontime." It was an indictment of industrialization. Then, after the end of the Civil War, he painted the circumstances of the African-Americans in his piece, "The Way They Live." and several portraits of "Aunt Hannah," an African-American domestic worker, 




Anshutz was never one to stand on his many laurels for his skill as an artist and a teacher. Instead, he kept experimenting. In the later stages of his life, he tried abstract painting. He never showed these works and there's no record of what might have happened. Yet, he is emblematic of one of the greatest eras in visual art. 



Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Samuel van Hoogstraten: Mastery of Trompe-l'oeil and Perspective Boxes


Every once in awhile, I come across an artist who is multi-gifted. Given the limitation of a blog, I have the problem of narrowing down examples of their talent. Such an artist is Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627-1678). He was a painter, a poet, and a writer. Of those skills, there's so much about his art and his contributions to art, that I'll save the rest for another blog. 


His early training in art was with his father, Dirk van Hoogstraten, a noted artist,who died when Samuel was 13. After that, he moved to Amsterdam to complete his training with Rembrandt. Following his tutelage when he was about 18 years of age, he traveled to Vienna. 





While in Vienna, he met the emperor, Ferdinand III, and showed him 3 of his paintings. One of the paintings was such a well-done trompe-l'oeil that the emperor commented, "painting for the first time  had ever deceived him."


While other known painters were happily making portraits,van Hoogstraten was too restless and spent his time experimenting with subjects such as perspective. He created what he named, "perspective boxes." He created miniature rooms with viewing holes on the outer walls. (Much like the small knot holes in fences) Through these holes, the viewer could see a 3-D view of the interior of a Dutch home.


His restlessness and thirst to learn led him to Genoa, Rome and eventually to London. There, he was commissioned to paint a perspective work. It was so remarkable that it was mentioned in Samuel Pepys' famous diary.

The fame of van Hoogstraten grew to the point that he was able to share his knowledge as a teacher and author of a famous art treatise, Introduction to the Academy of Painting; or the Visible World. Upon his death at age 51, his holdings were auctioned off and today there's only a small glimpse into this talented man's works.

Scattered throughout this blog are examples of his perspectives boxes, the time and influence of studying with Rembrandt, and his trompe-l'oiel paintings. 


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Debi Shapiro: The Eternal Flower Season


 It's such a beautiful time in the PNW! The riotous colors of blooms and blossoms makes the spirits rise in the body. To capture that feeling and be able to enjoy it beyond Spring are the works of the botanical photographer, Debi Shapiro. 





Shapiro trained as a fashion and beauty photographer. It was the inspiration of 17th Century floral artists and the large, single bloom paintings of Georgia O' Keeffe that led her to own evolution to floral photography.




Another consideration in Shapiro's draw to flora was the knowledge of how fleeting the moments were from budding hope to withering away. It gave meaning to the phrase, "the journey of the transformation of life." This meant that capturing the height of astonishing beauty became an event to be recorded permanently. 



Shapiro's floral portraits are so detailed and are featured against a black background reminiscent of the 17th Century oil paintings that first inspired her. You can see more of her works in her recently published book, "Beauty in Bloom,"with over 200 floral images.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Parth Kothekar: Papercutter of Unlimited Subjects

Born and raised in Gujarat, India, Parth Kothekar found his talent for sketching did not suit the teachings in art school where 3-D was stressed, while his interest was in 2-D art.With time and experimentation, his sketches led to papercutting.




Using only a surgical knife and a single sheet of paper, he found his medium by 2010. Three years later, he would have his first exhibition of 100 pieces! What an impressive amount of production in only 3 years. 

It was at his exhibition at Kanoria Centre for Arts in Ahmedabad that would provide the recognition he needed to encourage his efforts as an artist and to consider when he was doing as more than a hobby.


Kothekar's first attempts at the business of art did bring up some of the pitfalls leading to financial troubles. However, his determination to continue his passion for papercut, meant he worked to make even finer and more intricate works.This dedication to do more and better led to his success.

He also found challenges in working in different sizes. His papercuts range from so small that they fit in a hand to very large. It's not only his size variations, but also his subjects. 



Kothekar finds challenges in the intricacies of an Escher, East Indian motifs, 3-d works, portraits and, yes, even Harry Potter. (In writing this blog, it was difficult among so many choices to highlight examples of the broad scope of his works.) You can also view his processes in a few videos.