Winnowing Art Books

Their time has nearly come. They lay stacked atop chairs and book cases, even tucked away in corners on the floor. Soon they will be gone. For my wife is making grumbling noises and even I can see that the book buildup in the small bedroom I use as a library / painting studio is too large even for my taste in messiness.

I know what to do; the important matter is how. Which books stay and which head for Powell's in Portland?

Keepers include references such as general art histories, potted artists' biographies and short takes on art movements. I'll hang on to most monographs about artists, particularly those I really like. Ditto similar books about architecture and industrial design.

Then there are some gray-area books. These are books I can't make up my mind about; more time is needed before I can make a stronger save / sell decision.

Books I'm discarding? Those dealing with periods of less interest are prime candidates; that means before the mid-1800s. There are exceptions, of course: Tiepolo, Velázquez and British portrait painters starting with Reynolds come to mind.

Then there are redundant books about given subjects. For instance, I have more then one book about Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Symbolism, Impressionism, skyscraper architecture, Alphonse Mucha, Tamara de Lempicka, Gustav Klimt, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Joseph Urban, Raymond Loewy, Maxfield Parrish, Tiepolo, Velázquez, Norman Rockwell, John Singer Sargent and several other people and topics. Assuming overlap in illustration subject-matter, my inclination here is to discard older works because the quality of color reproduction usually isn't as good as it has been more recently.

I'm also getting rid of books that I'm not likely to re-read. Examples here include group biographies of Surrealists and Paris Bohemians as well as those about individuals such as N.C. Wyeth and Harvey Dinnerstein.

How-to books about painting that I seldom refer to are due for the axe too.

It's somewhat easier to discard books than it was 20 years and more ago. That was when there was no Internet and getting to a library to find reference material was a hassle. I found it easier to maintain my own library where what I might need would be at hand. Nowadays I find myself downloading images and using Google and Bing to track down information about artists and movements, so even those general reference books might disappear the next time I do housecleaning.

All well and good, I suppose. But the best solution (from my perspective) is to have enough space that I don't need to get rid of so many books so often. Or at all.

Art Buzz (New Delhi) QUEER

Building an art collection

An art collection can be a viable investment option

Building an art collection can be a rewarding experience, both aesthetically and as a viable investment option . It is important to realise that significant collections are not built overnight, but tend to evolve over a period of time. Very often, they are driven by the collector's tastes and preferences, especially in the initial stages. However, later on, they may evolve and get refined further due to a conscious effort.

One may decide to collect works from a certain period, school or region. He may decide to focus on one aspect or may opt to diversify and collect representative works that cover more elements. As a result, most art collections are highly indicative of the buyer's choices. This is especially true in the case of collections built by individuals .

A corporate art collection or one owned by a museum is likely to have a different approach altogether, more so in the case of the latter. Incidentally, there are a few banks, who own some of the finest art collections in the world. For corporates, hotels and institutions it makes a lot of sense to collect art as it can grow into something significant with time and become a source of joy and pride.

When storage becomes a problem most people prefer to build a separate space to display the works. And, it can be seen that when most individual collections evolve to an extent they may requires a s u b s t a n - tial amount of space and effort to house and display them. Very often, these spaces are then opened to public for viewing. In India, a large number of art collections are privatelyowned and many of them have been converted later on into museums that allow public access.
When collecting art, it is important to periodically review the artworks and see if some of them need to be sold off to either make space for new works or in order to build a more coherent compilation.

La Primavera, quien quiera oír que oiga

Un grito en calles mexicas, crónica de Alberto Hijar

Del 1º  al 15 de mayo, se expondrán trabajos especiales para la ocasión y testimonios gráficos de los movimientos populares del siglo XXI acompañados por debates de videos, conversatorios con trabajadores de la cultura libertaria y con la participación del Taller del Sur resultante de la escuela fundada en el Ajusco por Daniel González, el animador histórico del grupo Salario Mínimo, famoso por su presencia en cuanta movilización popular ha habido en los últimos treinta años. Todo esto lleva el nombre de Un grito en la calle en memoria viva de lo hecho desde 1992 en un galerón construido a la par del Sindicato de Costureras “19 de Septiembre”, vecino en el mismo terreno de la Escuela de Cultura Popular “Mártires del 68” y con la participación de Ojos de Lucha, un trío de pintores y artistas gráficos: David Gallegos, Cassandra Smithies, Daniel Camacho que dieron identidad simbólica al Sindicato. Cada año, durante siete ediciones y hasta que el gobierno del Distrito Federal ordenó el desalojo violento del terreno...[...]

Molti Ritratti: Ambroise Vollard

Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) was an art dealer and writer who championed key Modernists during their emergence in the early 20th century.

In return, a number of artists painted his portrait. Below are some examples arranged in rough chronological order.


Photographs of Vollard

By Paul Cézanne

By Jean Puy

By Pierre-Auguste Renoir - 1908

By Pablo Picasso - 1910

By Renoir - 1911

By Renoir - 1917

By Pierre Bonnard - 1924

By Maria Mela Muter

Hellebores in Umbers, Magentas, Viridian

Beginnings in Yellow Canoe

Welcome!  Comment! Question! Contribute!

World Trade Center in Miniature: Still Standing

The 10th anniversary of the destruction of New York City's World Trade Center is coming in a few months. Since this is an art and design blog, I thought it might be worthwhile to mention the WTC's architect, Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986). His Wikipedia entry is here, and contains a long list of the buildings he designed. For a more detailed biography, however, click here -- though be warned it's a bit Seattle-centric.

Yamasaki, like his near-contemporary Edward Durell Stone, could not quite come to terms with International Style architecture and resorted to applying touches of decoration. That decoration usually had an industrial, cookie-cutter repetition to it -- perhaps an early Postmodern wink-and-nudge that the decoration wasn't (or maybe really was) serious; perhaps there's a justification for ambiguity.

The World Trade Center design didn't appear from a void. A structural prototype of sorts was built in Yamasaki's home town, Seattle, a few years earlier and some design themes were tested there too. Let's take a look.


World Trade Center (1970-71) - general view

World Trade Center - street-level
The towers were so huge and surrounded by other buildings that a comprehensive take isn't possible from photography. At the top is an aerial image that corresponds to what many of us have in mind when the WTC is mentioned. But the structures weren't all just narrow windows flanked by vertical strips; at the base some of those strips merged into Gothic-like pointed arches, as can be seen in the photo immediately above.

Pacific Science Center (1962) general view
Century 21, Seattle's 1962 international exposition, included a work by Yamasaki -- a cluster of structures now named the Pacific Science Center. The best-known feature is the Gothic towers shown here.

Pacific Science Center - ground-level view
For our purposes, the base detailing is of most interest. Note the similarity to the Trade Center street-level two photos up. No, the detailing isn't identical, but the spirit is consistent.

IBM Building, Seattle (1963)
Apologies for the poor image, but it was the best I could grab off the Web showing the entire building. My understanding is that structural ideas used in the WTC were first developed for the IBM building. Some of this is apparent in the similar window treatment. The only superficial differences of note are the use of rounded, rather than pointed, arches at the bottom and the lack of elevator lobby breaks. Seattle's IBM Building still stands, though it's now overshadowed by larger structures nearby.

EL ARTE TEXTIL, tramas que cuentan historias. I

Si la cerámica es fuente incalculable de información a la hora de reconstruir la historia de un pueblo, el arte textil no lo es menos. Sin embargo la dificultad de conservación de los tejidos hace que sea muy difícil, tanto el encuentro de restos textiles, como la buena calidad de estos. Encontrar en un yacimiento restos textiles es motivo de celebración por la riqueza de datos que van a aportar a la historia y por la rareza de encontrarlos. Podríamos decir que el textil sería algo así como otro “soporte” para las historias. Las tramas también narran la historia de una cultura.


Y si hablamos de arte textil podemos permanecer en la misma latitud geográfica que visitamos para admirar la cerámica precolombina, porque no hay duda que si fueron reyes en este campo, no lo fueron menos a la hora de tejer y diseñar.


Tomando el testigo de la cerámica vamos a permanecer en esta geografía y comenzar la primera entrada dedicada al arte textil con un poco de historia de América, dejando para una entrada posterior el arte del textil en otros continentes.

Así que nos detendremos al investigar el textil arcaico, en las mismas épocas o periodos en que investigamos la cerámica precolombina para contemplar como se ha mantenido ese arte hasta nuestros días.


Porque si en la América precolombina el arte textil fue fuente de información, pero también tuvo su uso utilitario, ese uso en la actualidad, sigue teniendo un lugar importante en la vida cotidiana, no así en la Europa actual, en dónde el tapiz ha pasado a ser fundamentalmente artístico y decorativo

Pero comencemos haciendo un breve recorrido por unas culturas que si fueron artistas en la orfebrería y narraron su historia de manera perfecta en sus cerámicas, supieron también “escribir” la historia en otros soportes.


Prácticamente todas las culturas trabajaron el textil pero entre las más antiguas destaca por su riqueza la cultura Parakas. Esta cultura (500 a.C) se ubica en la costa Sur de Perú alrededor de una pequeña península del mismo nombre y es anterior a la cultura Nazca (este blog 29 Marzo 2011) que se ubicó posteriormente también en el sur de Perú, pero en el interior.


En la cultura Nazca vimos muchos vestigios de la cultura Parakas, como su cerámica con el asa puente y bella policromía que aparecía ya muy perfeccionada y también los textiles que eran claros herederos de la cultura Parakas, porque si en algo brilló especialmente esta arqueológica cultura, fue en los tejidos.

Entre los años 1923-25 Julio César Tello, arqueólogo peruano, descubre una necrópolis Parakas con gran número de momias en sus envoltorios funerarios.


El culto a los muertos era de vital importancia para esta cultura. Los cuerpos en ocasiones se depositaban vestidos dentro de un cesto que era envuelto en varias telas, una lisa y otra bordada Según los fardos funerarios encontrados, algunos de estos llegaron a alcanzar hasta 20 paños y entre uno y otro se iban depositando las ofrendas: instrumentos, tejidos pequeños etc.


Fue en el arte textil donde mayor destreza lograron los integrantes de esta cultura. Tejidos bordados, colores diversos como azules, café, blanco o negro. Variedad de representaciones como motivos zoomorfos, cabezas humanas o individuos con armas, en una palabra, el textil fue “soporte” para escribir la historia como sucedía con la cerámica.


Se valieron del teñido y del bordado para conseguir representaciones de figuras con perspectiva.


Cuando nos encontramos con la cultura Nazca, vimos su riqueza cerámica y en ella nos detuvimos, pero tenemos que decir que también el textil fue trabajado con maestría y dicen los expertos que fueron auténticos herederos de la cultura Parakas.

Son también los fardos funerarios una importante muestra del textil en la cultura Nazca. Numerosos mantos envolvían el cuerpo pero, aunque bien trabajados, no alcanzaron la riqueza de los Parakas. Más sencillos y en algodón mostraban los mismos motivos que los de su cerámica.



Y si esta ha sido una mirada al textil arqueológico precolombino, tenemos ahora a sus herederos. El textil sigue presente en América con la riqueza adquirida de sus antepasados y la que han añadidos sus actuales ejecutores. No tenemos nada más que admirar los preciosos tejidos peruanos, o los coloridos textiles guatemaltecos.

Guatemala, país rico en artesanía, tiene en los propios trajes indígenas unas obras de arte. Tejidos multicolores, realizados en diferentes tipos de telares, son una expresión de la cultura de este país. Diferentes diseños con tramas que nos hablan de la historia, al igual que la cerámica y que dicen mucho sobre los Mayas que vivieron en esas latitudes.


Las tramas, los diseños, los colores, todo tiene un significado en la vida de los indígenas guatemaltecos. Así que al igual que los antiguos Mayas indicaban su condición social por su manera de ataviarse, también hoy en día los diferentes tejidos nos dicen la comunidad Maya a la que pertenece el que los porta. Sus telas maravillosas se realizan con diferentes técnicas y los telares, en general, son el de pie y de cintura, este último muy presente también en los países andinos.

El telar de cintura es de origen prehispánico y el más tradicional. Lo utilizan las mujeres. El sistema empleado consiste en ir levantando con una aguja o con los dedos algunos hilos de la urdimbre para intercalar los hilos de color que forman la trama.


También en las comunidades del Perú encontramos este tipo de telar, que sin duda es herencia de los ancestros. En la cerámica Mochica (este blog 8 abril 2011) se pueden apreciar dibujos que representan figuras tejiendo y el telar que aparece es el llamado de cintura.

Muchas escuelas, cooperativas y centros se dedican no sólo a preservar este arte, sino a utilizarlo como un medio de vida más, a conseguir que un arte ancestral sea también un útil cotidiano para ganarse la vida.


Os dejo aquí una interesante dirección de la organización Asur. Esta fundación sin ánimo de lucro que se dedica a la investigación antropológica y etnológica, trabaja con comunidades indígenas de Bolivia y, como no podía ser de otra manera, vemos que ha investigado el arte textil.

.El Arte Textil Jalq’a. Familia Tarabuco tejiendo. (Centro sur de Bolivia)

No puedo dejar de mencionar aquí otro arte íntimamente unido al del tejido. El arte del tintado.

Lo que las tribus arcaicas lograban con cáscaras, cortezas, hojas de árboles etc. a la hora de teñir de verde, azul y diferentes colores vivos, no podía ser más hermoso.

Con las plantas de la zona, mezcladas con tintes de origen animal, consiguieron gamas de colores que se conocieron por toda América. Un tinte de origen animal fue la cochinilla. Las propiedades de este producto eran bien conocidas en todo Perú y lo es hoy en día para aquel que tinta artesanalmente.


Actualmente los tintes naturales que se siguen usando provienen de las plantas autóctonas que se encuentran en los diferentes lugares cercanos a los centros de textiles tradicionales.

Os dejo aquí algunas plantas que se utilizan en la actualidad, aunque no todas se consiguen en grandes cantidades.

En Ecuador se cría la Cochinilla en pequeñas cantidades para uso local.


También el Nogal es utilizado para conseguir la gama de marrones, desde el tono de tabaco hasta el marrón oscuro. Es un tinte que ni siquiera necesita un mordiente (elemento que fija el color) para conseguir tonos de calidad

Las ramas y hojas tiernas de Eucalipto será utilizado para conseguir los amarillos, aunque precisa de alumbre como mordiente.

Las hojas y ramas del Arrayán nos darán junto al alumbre como mordiente, un tono café amarillo.


De la misma forma se utilizará el Cedro para conseguir un tono café rojizo-amarillento.

La retama con alumbre de mordiente y utilizando tallos y flores nos dará un bello color amarillo.

El Capulí, con alumbre de mordiente y utilizando frutos, hojas y rama, produce un color café amarillento.


Confío en que este pequeño resumen sea de utilidad para todo aquel que ejerce el bello arte del tejido y del tintado y para todos aquellos que investigamos las diferentes artes que hemos heredado de estos grandes artistas.

Vuelvo a insistir en la calidad de la web del Museo de Arte Precolombino de Santiago de Chile cuya dirección os adjunto y en cuya visita virtual podréis admirar bellos tapices.

NOTA: Para mejor visualizar la fotografía “picar” con el ratón encima de las que interesen.

Para la lectura de entradas anteriores, ir a la ventana de la derecha y “picar” en los años y meses. Se desplegarán los títulos correspondientes a cada fecha.

Fuentes utilizadas:

Manual de Artesanía textil. Rita Barerdse y Antonio Lobera (Edit.Alta Fulla)

Manual de Tintes. Ana Roquero y Carmen Córdoba (Ediciones del Serbal)

Curso-Conferencia impartido en el Museo Romano de Irún bajo el título: Grandes Tesoros de la Arqueología Americana (año 2011).

Web del Museo Precolombino de Santiago de Chile.

Archivo propio resultante de las conversaciones con diversas artesanas indígenas de Ecuador.

Fotografías: las mismas y diversas web-s entre las que se encuentra la mencionada Asur.

Art Buzz (New Delhi) FICA - Emerging Artist Award 2011

The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art invites applicants for Emerging Artist Award 2011.

The Award seeks to promote young artists studying or practicing in India who demonstrate extraordinary skill and promise in the visual arts. Selected by an independent jury of distinguished artists and professionals in the field, the recipient gets the opportunity to travel and work in an international residency and exhibit in a solo show in India.

FICA is pleased to be collaborating with Pro Helvetia-Swiss Art Council, New Delhi, Ms. Shalini Passi, New Delhi and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, for the Emerging Artist Award 2011.

The award includes:
• A twelve-week residency in Switzerland, round trip air travel from Mumbai or Delhi, a per diem during the time of the residency, and access to the residency’s technical equipments.
• A solo exhibition at the Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

All requirements and guidelines are mentioned in the Application Form.
Download Application Form from here.

Deadline: 31 May 2011

Completed applications to be sent to:
Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art
D178, Okhla Phase 1, First Floor, New Delhi 110020

Molti Ritratti: Diego Martelli

He's an obscure figure to non-Italians, but Diego Martelli (1838-1896) was an important art critic who championed the pre-Impressionist Macchiaioli group. Some of them, in turn, favored him by painting his portrait.

Below are examples.


By Giovanni Boldini, c.1865
Boldini gained fame for his flashy society portraits made after leaving Italy for Paris. The painting above is basically a small sketch that can be seen in Florence's Pitti Palace.

By Giovanni Fattori. c.1867
Fattori painted Martelli and his wife (in a separate work) while at Castiglioncello, a seaside town popular with some of the Macchiaioli.

Frederico Zandomeneghi, 1870
This too is in the Pitti collection.

By Edgar Degas, 1879
Degas had family connections in Italy and also found time to portray Martelli.

Photo of Martelli taken late in life

I find it interesting to see how different artists portray the same subject. In the case of Martelli, there could be a little disagreement regarding his nose, and his hair color also varies (it seems brown in the earlier two portraits; might he have dyed it black a few years later?).

Art Buzz (Mumbai) Min.Is.Cule Marvel

Art Buzz (Brussels)

Bhelpuri - a collection of short stories

Only a few copies of Bhelpuri - a collection of short stories remain at Crossword, Residency Road, Bangalore

Make sure you pick the original. Say NO to piracy.

Collecting art

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Most people who have enviable art collections are those who began collecting randomly and often just by chance. Most of them began collecting in the sixties and the seventies when collecting art was not in fashion and it definitely had not become a fad then. Buying art for the sake of financial investment was completely unheard of; nobody could imagine that one day these works of art would appreciate to the extent that they have.

These were then a few scattered individuals who bought art out of a passion for it and that too at very reasonable rates. It was not uncommon in those days to buy art for a few hundred rupees to a couple of thousand. Although, these amounts were considered to be exorbitant for those days, but when we look back, we can only marvel and feel nostalgic. Today it is unlikely that you could buy a work of art for anything less than Rs 10,000.

Collecting art is quite different from investing in art, although both can become synonymous with each other. The advantage with building an art collection is that one passionately buys only those pieces, which engages him or her, and over a period of time the collection can become quite significant and valuable both in terms of its monetary worth and its historical value. On the other hand, people who look at art purely from an investment angle tend to look at things very clinically, still it is quite possible that they too amass a significant body of work over a period of time if they retain it and not tried to sell artworks frequently.

As collectors believe in holding on to their works for longer durations, their collections grow much more as a financial investment even though that may not have been the primary objective. Most collectors are wealthy and have the capacity to tide through recessional times and they remain largely unaffected from the ups and downs of financial markets. This is a major advantage that they have, which normally other investors may lack and which is why it is important to consider art as an asset class only when one is diversifying their investment portfolio. On the whole, for those who can afford to, collecting art can be extremely rewarding in more ways than one.

(Abridged vn published in Financial Times)

Franz Bischoff: Best California Impressionist?

It's too late. The exhibit closed and all that remains is this book which served as a catalog. But for once I lucked out and happened to be in Southern California while Franz Bischoff's paintings and painted vases were on display at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

Pasadena is an opportunity-rich zone when it comes to art museums. The Huntington Library and Norton Simon hog the limelight, so I wasn't even aware of the PMCA until I noticed someplace on the Internet that a Bischoff exhibit was there. Bischoff's paintings seem to be mostly in private collections or art galleries, so it's a rare treat to be able to view a significant number of them. PMCA teamed with the Irvine Museum (probably the center of gravity for California Impressionism) and between the two were able to tease out enough of Bischoff's work to fill three rooms.

Franz Bischoff (1864-1929) was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and emigrated to the United States when he was 21. He worked as a porcelain decorator in the Midwest, eventually becoming famous in that field and gaining a certain amount of wealth through his work and a line of glazing products he developed. Intrigued by California, he eventually moved to Pasadena's Arroyo Seco (fancy Spanish for "dry gulch" -- not far from where the Rose Bowl stadium now stands). Once there, he took up easel painting.

He painted a few scenes with people, more of flowers, but focused on landscapes. In my judgment, he was very good at capturing classical California. Perhaps he was even the very best at it, though there were some others in his league who I'll present in future posts.

As for his technique, he tended to combine a basic color for an area, be it in light or shade, with bits of complementary color and perhaps some other hues. This approach was current in the early 1900s -- the illustration work of N.C. Wyeth followed this practice, for example. The result is a rich, interesting surface.

Also, Bischoff seems to have been careful in his selection of paints and how he used them because the examples I saw at the exhibit were in good condition with no apparent color deterioration.

Here are some Bischoff paintings:


Evening Glory, Santa Barbara Mountains

Afternoon Idyl, Cambria - c.1922

The Yellow Dress

Bathers in a Mountain Stream - 1917

Carmel Coast
This was a highlight of the exhibit. Unfortunately, the original image I downloaded (top) distorts the painting's colors towards red-orange. I couldn't find a better image, so the lower image is my attempt to adjust it to be more like the original.

Carmel scene

Cypress Point
Bischoff didn't paint the Carmel area until the 1920s. The light there is usually more subdued and misty than along the Southern California coast and interior where he began doing landscapes.

Zion scene
Bischoff's Utah paintings were done near the end of his career. They are simpler than his earlier work, perhaps influenced by the artistic zeitgeist of the late 1920s.