Previous Posts: August 2014

Mauritshuis re-opens (ctd.)

August 7 2014

Image of Mauritshuis re-opens (ctd.)

Picture: Frame Blog

The Frame Blog has an excellent article by Quentin Buvelot on the frames now seen in the newly re-opened Mauritshuis. Among the illustrations is that seen above, which shows how Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring used to hang, before it was famous. 

Photography to be allowed at the National Gallery?

August 7 2014

Image of Photography to be allowed at the National Gallery?

Picture: BG

I've heard that the National Gallery in London may be about to allow photography in the main galleries. Regular readers will know that I've been hoping for this for some time. And it's been over two years since I sent this email (which remains unacknowledged). So if it's true, hurrah. 

Update - a reader writes:

I do not share you enthusiasm for allowing photo's being taking in museums. Last week I visited the KHM in Vienna three times and I found the many people waving with  cell phones and tablets in front of the master pieces in this fantastic collection quite annoying, while fine postcard reproductions of the highlights can be purchased at the bookshop.

And on Twitter, Jon Sharples Tweets:

I sincerely hope that @arthistorynews' rumour re @NationalGallery being on the cusp of allowing photography is false. A valuable sanctuary.

Should AHN be on Facebook?

August 7 2014

Do any readers have advice on whether this blog should be 'on Facebook', and how to do it? Would it be to AHN's benefit, or just Mr. Zuckerberg's?

Update - thanks for your many comments on this, which I'll put up tomorrow. I should quickly add that I meant to say 'also on Facebook' - the current site would stay as it is.

Update II - some reader views:

I don't mind if the blog is on Facebook as well as the current format, but it were only on Facebook then I would regrettably have to stop reading it as I'm not a member and don't plan to join. Which would be a great shame as it's very interesting and the only blog I read every day. Thanks for publishing it.

I say "YES" to a Facebook page. Your reach will be much broader, especially for the younger generations. The only issue with facebook is that people will use it to debate/comment on material you post, which was an problem for you when you first started your blog (and I'm sure reading them takes too much of your time). There is a way to restrict people from commenting on your posts altogether (see "privacy section"). For the purposes of debates etc you could create a Group aside from a page. To get an idea of what these are, type in "Le Connoisseur" on facebook. It is a very successful Group that often mentions the things you bring to light via your blog. There many debates take place.

I can't find the Connoisseur group (that's what puts me off Facebook, it's impenetrable for those not on it). I don't have any issue with comments, and always enjoy reading those I get. Thanks for sending them in - it makes a great difference knowing that the site is appreciated and generating interest. I don't have a seperate comments section, because I like to incorporate comments in the main post, rather than let them get forgotten on a different area. I try and publish almost all comments (just not the loony ones). By the way, I'm sorry that I don't always get time to reply individually at length.

Perhaps you have a reason for wanting to go on Facebook, and if you should decide to do it please do remain off it as well, as I and many others I know have not joined that site. Many sites have a link to Facebook. I enjoy your postings easily now.

Facebook?  Well, it’s a thought.  Damian Hirst and Jeff Koons are also there so read into that what you will...

Forget Facebook, but do please have automatic tweets of each new post on the blog.

Will see if I can set this up.

From a purely personal point of view (I don't really know about the technical advantages or disadvantages), I wouldn't want AHN to be on Facebook. Although I've been a Facebook member for years, I'm terrible at looking at it, and I can't always access it at work.

Update III - another reader adds:

Facebook has some things to recommend it. If you posted all your stories there, I would see them mingled with the other stuff I subscribe to, which would be convenient. A bit like a much extended Twitter. You might also reach new audiences as, when people commented on your posts, that would show up on their friends' pages too, so there would be a multiplier effect.

The downsides that I can think of are firstly the extra time commitment and secondly the fact that you would inevitably receive comments, which you would not be able to sift through first (though I think you might be able to remove them). I think this would alter the very affable editorial voice you have established on AHN, where you receive private emails and them decide what bits to use, if any. This leaves you in control, and the impression for the reader of the blog is that the central dialogue is with you. Currently, what you do is akin to a radio presenter: you say some things, people respond and you often use those responses to continue the conversation. The whole thing is on your terms. On the other hand, very often on Facebook (as in the comments that are appended to stories on newspaper websites) commenters end up having arguments with each other, often about matters unrelated to the original story. And Facebook publishes most prominently the story that has been most recently commented on, regardless of when that story was first published. The whole website is designed around giving feedback and comments to build a 'community'.

Cars and Whisky to art's rescue

August 7 2014

Image of Cars and Whisky to art's rescue

Picture: Detroit News

Three cheers for Toyota and Chivas Regal; the former has pledged $1m towards saving the Detroit Institute for Arts, while the latter has given £50,000 towards rebuilding the Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow Scool of Art.

Mr Bean in Old Masters

August 5 2014

Image of Mr Bean in Old Masters

Picture: Rodney Pike

These are daft, but they made me smile. Bronzino above and Rembrandt below. More here.

Job Opportunity

August 5 2014

Image of Job Opportunity

Picture: Guardian

A reader alerts me to the fact that the private sector security company CIS is advertising for vacancies at the National Gallery, London. The 3 month post, to begin in October this year, requires:

  • Protection of Art works
  • Cash handling
  • Provide visitors with advice, guidance and information, answering any questions and queries
  • To demonstrate sensitivity to cultural, social and physical differences; treat everyone as an individual and with dignity and respect; use language that does not cause offence
  • Assist in the evacuation during an emergency and ensure the safety of the visitors and others
  • Report faults and defects to management
  • Provide assistance to all visitors with their access needs around the Galleries
  • Assist with the visitor flow, especially when large groups are visiting the Galleries
  • Gain knowledge of the current exhibition

The start date must presumably mean that the post is to guard the forthcoming Rembrandt exhibition, which opens on 15th October. Curiously, the qualifications required do not include any experience in guarding fine art or museums, but you will need 'an SIA Door Supervisor licence'. Those are the things bouncers wear on their arms outside nightclubs. 

As alarming as all this sounds, I suspect that it's a pragmatic attempt by the Gallery to make sure the Rembrandt show passes off without disruption from in-house security staff, some of whom have displayed a 1970s style enthusiasm for going on strike. While I don't doubt that many security staff at the Gallery are dedicated and hard-working (though I've been on the end of an unjustified tongue-lashing more than once), the real culprit here is the PCS union to which many of the staff belong. The PCS sees the Gallery as an easy way to grab headlines, often calling strikes to target high-profile shows like the Leonardo exhibition in 2011/12. We can be sure that the Rembrandt show will be similarly busy, so I can see that the Gallery's outsourcing is sensible planning. There'll be hell to pay if anyone stabs a painting though.

Update - a reader writes:

Well the Gallery certainly doesn't need extra security at the moment. It's more than six weeks since the Veronese closed, the height of the tourist season, and, on the main floor of the main building - closed, closed, closed.

Kids in museums - not (ctd.)

August 5 2014

Image of Kids in museums - not (ctd.)

Picture: Herb Slodounik

Here's a photo for Jake Chapman (see my post yesterday for his views on taking kids to museums). The image, taken in 1968, has been doing the rounds on Twitter and the web lately without a credit, but now Aaron Slodounik has been in touch to say that it was taken by his father, Herb Slodounik, in the San Francisco Museum of Art. More details here

The Grumpy Art Historian has also written on Chapman's thesis, here.

WW1 officer identified on Art Detective

August 4 2014

Image of WW1 officer identified on Art Detective

Picture: PCF/Carmarthenshire Museums Service

Today is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One, so here's a fitting story; a user of the new Art Detective site has identified the above portrait of an 'unknown officer' belonging to the Carmarthenshire Museums Collections. The soldier is Second Lieutenant Paul Chancourt Giradot (1895-1914), who was killed by a shell during the Battle of the Aisne on 16th September 1914. Martin Gillott recognised the unknown sitter from the below newspaper photograph. Well done him, and the wisdom of the art historical crowd. We don't know the artist. The portrait was made up some time after Giradot's death from the photograph. I see lots of these, evidently commissioned by grieving families. More details here.

Restoring Le Brun's 'Jabach and His Family'

August 4 2014

Image of Restoring Le Brun's 'Jabach and His Family'

Picture: Metropolitan Museum

I've just noticed that Keith Christiansen, head of European Paintings at the Met, has a blog, which is worth checking for some interesting photos of his work in the galleries there. This post details the Met's plan to restore Charles Le Brun's Everhard Jabach and His Family, which was so recently (and sadly) lost to the UK.

Moroni - 'unsung genius' of the Renaissance

August 4 2014

Image of Moroni - 'unsung genius' of the Renaissance

Picture: RA

I haven't noted that the Royal Academy is putting on an exhibition on Giovanni Battista Moroni, whom it's billing as the 'unsung genius of Renaissance portraiture'. Here's the blurb:

Giovanni Battista Moroni was one of the greatest portraitists of 16th-century Italy. Famed for his gift for capturing the exact likeness of his sitters, he created portraits that are as penetrating and powerful now as they were more than 400 years ago. You will be transfixed by their psychological depth and immediacy.

This is the first comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work in the U.K. We have selected not only his remarkable portraits but also his lesser known religious works, which will be shown side by side. Among them will be never-before exhibited altarpieces from the churches of Bergamo and paintings made for private devotion that reflect the new religious ideals of his time.

Moroni’s portraits depict the people of the world and time in which he lived, from elegant men and women of high society shown in glittering dress to members of the middle class engaged in their trade. One such work is The Tailor, as highly praised in its time as it is now (“revolutionary” - Jonathan Jones, The Guardian). What all of his works share is a startling naturalism and vitality, rarely matched by other artists of the period and anticipating the realistic style of Caravaggio and, later, Manet.

Encompassing his entire career, this exhibition is a long overdue celebration of an artist ahead of his time and ripe for rediscovery.

I'm very much looking forward to this. Of course, there was a time when Moroni was very much 'sung', as the National Gallery's superfluity of Moroni portraits attests (they have 11, which were all acquired between 1862 and 1916).

Update - a reader writes:

What twaddle from the RA blurb and Jonathan Jones [in a 2007 article in The Guardian, from which the RA has adopted as a flagbearing quote] - there really has never been a time when Moroni was forgotten or undervalued.  I have a catalogue of an exhibition of Moroni's works - mostly portraits - held at the National Gallery in the 1970s and there was a sizable group in the RA's own Genius of Venice show in the 1980s. And as for being a precusor to Caravaggio, Moroni was only one of a number of artists working in a realist manner in Northern Italy and the Veneto. It has to be said though, his religious works have tended to be overshadowed. And the Tuccia in the National Gallery is a truly dreadful thing.

Update II - here's more context on the National's Moroni acquisition streak from Neil Jeffares. 

Mark Getty to leave as Chairman of the National Gallery

August 4 2014

Image of Mark Getty to leave as Chairman of the National Gallery

Picture: wikipedia

The National Gallery's latest trustee meeting minutes report that Mark Getty will step down as Chairman in 2015. The Gallery will be without a Director and a Chairman for a while. 

Plundered frescoes return to Cyprus

August 4 2014

Image of Plundered frescoes return to Cyprus

Picture: NPR

There's an interesting story on National Public Radio radio in the US, about a series of 13th Century Byzantine frescoes looted from northern Cyprus in the 1970s. The frescoes were hacked by chainsaws from a small church abandoned after the Turkish invasion, and offered for sale to the late art collector and philanthropist Dominique de Menil in Munich. De Menil soon figured out that the works were looted, and secretly offered to buy and return them to Cyprus after a spell on public display, and after conserving them. Until now they've been on show at the Menil Collection in Houston, but are now going back to Cyprus. You can hear the NPR story and see more photos here.

New acquisitions at the Met

August 4 2014

Image of New acquisitions at the Met

Picture: Metropolitan Museum

A reader alerts me to three recent acquisitions at the Metropolitan Museum in New York: above is a Portrait of a Woman by Giovanni Battista Gaulli, which sold at Sotheby's in New York in January for $569,000; a c.1650 Saint Francis in Ecstasy by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione was, it seems from the credit line, bought in a part-exchange; while Pedro Orrente's c.1625/30 Crucifixion was acquired with funds from Sotheby's head of Old Masters in New York, George Wachter, so good for him.

Update - a reader writes:


Re your Aug. 4 post on the Met's Portrait of a Woman by Il Baciccio:  the Met's website gives the following information:   Gift of Álvaro Saieh Bendeck, Jean-Luc Baroni, and Fabrizio Moretti, in honor of Keith Christiansen, 2014.

I wonder if giftors ask Keith for guidance before they "shop."  Does he have a registry?


Kids in museums - not

August 4 2014

Video: ArtFund

Jake Chapman, one half of the Chapman brothers (they're contemporary artists who put penises and swastikas on things, deep stuff like that), has said it's "a total waste of time" to take children to art galleries. This has caused a bit of a hoo-ha (see here in The Independent, and followed up here by The Times). There's been a big push in recent years to make UK galleries more child friendly (there's even a charity, Kids in Museums, focused on just that), so doubtless the remarks will be leapt upon. But we're not shown the full context of his remarks, so it may be that they've been misinterpreted.

By coincidence, two people recently told me they've cancelled their Art Fund membership over the Fund's attempt to seek £25,000 from members to help pay for a Chapman exhibition at the Jerwood gallery (billed somewhat tragically in the video above as their 'biggest, baddest exhibition yet'). With just 27 days to go, the Fund has reached 61% of its target, which is part of the new 'art happens' sponsorship raising site. Jake Chapman's remarks on taking children to museums came from an interview with the Independent to promote the Jerwood exhibition.

If you're tempted to donate to the Art Happens site, then perhaps I can direct you (again) to a far more deserving cause; the conservation of a 15th Century renaissance altarpiece at the Bowes Museum. The Bowes is seeking £21,000, and has so far raised 45% of its target.

Update - a reader writes:

[...] something seems to be decidedly off with the Art Fund these days. They promote a small circle of predictable Contemporary "names" - the Chapmans, Grayson Perry, Antony Gormley, "Bob & Roberta Smith" spring to mind-who are certainly wealthy enough to promote their own creations!

Update II - another reader writes:

Given the promise/threat that:

“the Chapmans will scour the antique emporiums and junk shops of Hastings for old artworks that will then be 'fixed' by the brothers in their signature anarchic style”

And their plans:

“Complementing the exhibition will be a public programme of events, including a 'live' fixing clinic where members of the public will be able to witness artworks being doctored by the brothers”

Let's hope they don't find and destroy  any ‘sleepers'.


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