More Vienna, The Kiss, and Brussels

Tweet So where was I?  I was in Vienna, in the Secession Building in winter, looking at Klimt’s poster for the first Secession exhibit (showing the aggressive Theseus who slew the Minotaur, like the new Jugenstil fighting the traditional values).  I was wearing layer upon layer … Read More

So where was I?  I was in Vienna, in the Secession Building in winter, looking at Klimt's poster for the first Secession exhibit (showing the aggressive Theseus who slew the Minotaur, like the new Jugenstil fighting the traditional values).  I was wearing layer upon layer of wool to compensate for my tropical background.  Once, during a dinner, my friend Rosa counted how many sweaters, cardigans and jackets I took off:  "I can't believe you had eight layers on top of this shirt."  In Brazil we only have one word for coat:  casaco.  When referring to a heavy coat, an outdoor coat, a sweater or a light cardigan, you must add a bunch of words to describe it.  Europeans and Americans have the culture perfected:  one word for a heavy, outdoor coat, one for the coat that goes underneath — and that's basically it.  The German language is even more precise.  You need no more than two well-insulated "coats" to hit the streets during winter. My vocabulary and understanding of cold was expanding.  Now I only needed to see snow.
In 1903 Klimt, though normally no traveler, journeyed twice to Ravenna, where he viewed the mosaics of San Vitale.  Meanwhile, his Secession colleagues were turning to interior design and crafts, mosaics and gold leaf.
In his later phase, Klimt turnet to allegorical or figure painting.  The Kiss carried Klimt's golden style to its apex. The most popular of Klimt's painting, it escalates the intensity of the sensuous effect by expanding the symbolic at the expense of the realistic field. In it, the flesh is covered, yet the sensuous effect is heightened by the gestural, caressing line. In the clothing, as in the flowering base on which the lovers kneel, the ornamental elements serve also as symbols. The drapery of both male and female stands uncompromisingly distinguished by its ornamental designs.  These are not traditional symbols, but inventions drawn from Klimt's unconsicous.  The two defined fields of sexual symbols are brought into a union of opposites by the vibrant cloth of gold that is their common ground. [caption id="attachment_3442" align="alignleft" width="300"] The Kiss, Gustav Klimt[/caption]
I only wish I could walk in Vienna by the beginning of the twentieth century! Freud and the unconscious, the Secessionists, Mahler, Schonenberg and the atonal music, Schiele, Kokoshka -not to  mention temporary visitors, like Jung.
I spent some of my time in Vienna also looking at buildings designed by Otto Maria Wagner (an architect that belonged to the Secession).  I  recall almost being shocked by how contrasting the new architecture was (it was the early 1990s).  For example, in the very heart of the city, in front of the Stephansdom (St. Stephens Cathedral  —  a gothic icon) sat the Haas Haus - a mall designed by Hans Hollein.  I didn't feel like exploring it; it had way too much mirrors for me and I was not in that mood. There was another "avant-garde" group of architects that attracted me much more in their deconstructivism, and they were Coop Himmelblau.  But I saved my visit to their office for the next time I was in Vienna.
Apart from the art nouveau and the narrow streets with lanterns, what took my heart in Vienna was a fantastic architect (and painter /sculptor) named Hundertwasser (you can see some amazing photos of his work here and print at Gallery Direct).  He was certainly ahead of his time with free shapes, green roofs, organic-shaped floors (yes, even his floors were covered with "bumps" —  he claimed that humans were not suited to walk on flat surfaces or live in angled corners), colors, more colors and textures.  His buildings in Vienna (and everywhere) are one of a kind, and I can't forget the Hundertwasserhaus, with the soothing sound of the water that runs inside the structure.  Hundertwasser died recently (2000) and was not part of the Secession. Well, at least not directly!
I also remember visiting Freud's house, where he spent most of his time.  It was converted into a museum, and today displays objects that Freud collected and his furniture as it was set when he lived there. After visiting his house, I was compelled to read Peter Gay's biography of Freud.  Last year I watched A Dangerous Method and thought of that house again. Today I would be much more curious about seeing Jung's house, but that is another trip and another subject.
[caption id="attachment_3427" align="alignleft" width="225"] The house where Freud lived with his family for many years[/caption]
After Vienna, I returned to Brussels, then resumed college in Freiburg, then went back to Brussels (the train trips are an extra chapter; I think I learned more in trains than anywhere.  What weird encounters you can have in a train when you are young with a backpack!  I will leave this to your imagination for now).
In Brussels I discovered Victor Horta, one of the most important names in Art Nouveau. Horta was an architect, designer and everything else (Art Nouveau is considered a 'total' style, as it includes a hierarchy of scales of design — architecture; interior design; decorative arts including jewelry, furniture, textiles, household silver and other utensils and lighting; and the visual arts). While we are on it, check all the Art Nouveau amazing images that Gallery Direct carries. You can have an idea of what a rich artistic period this was.
 My favorite story about Victor Horta is that he was kicked out of music school (where he first went) for disciplinary reasons.  Because of this rejection (I do not know what he did, but would love to), he entered architecture school in the early 1870s.  What a blessing that he did.
Between 1878 and 1880, Horta worked in Paris, where he saw the possibilities of working with iron and glass.  Iron was the perfect material for the twists and curves of Art Nouveau.  In subsequent years he focused on the curvature of his designs, believing that the forms he produced were highly practical and not artistic affectations.  He won a great number of prizes for his work.
Sincerely, I do not believe that Art Nouveau can truly discard or deny the artistic flavor it gave to the world — and what could be wrong with that?  —  but highly practical or not, Victor Horta is another icon of the period.  Check below the house where he lived in Brussels (I apologize for having lost my own photos; I found these on the web). [caption id="attachment_3423" align="alignleft" width="300"] Victor Horta House in Brussels - Stairs, oh, the Stairs![/caption]
[caption id="attachment_3421" align="alignleft" width="300"] Victor Horta House in Brussels - Detail[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_3422" align="alignleft" width="300"] Victor Horta House in Brussels - Detail[/caption]

The Mysteries of Mona Lisa

Tweet “The most famous painting in the world” - The Mona Lisa. La Joconde. La Gioconda. Leonardo’s masterpiece. The portait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, is instantly recognizable to virtually everyone in the Western world. The Mona Lisa … Read More

"The most famous painting in the world" - The Mona LisaLa Joconde. La Gioconda. Leonardo's masterpiece. The portait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, is instantly recognizable to virtually everyone in the Western world. The Mona Lisa practically has a cult following - but why? People crowd around the small portrait at the Musée du Louvre in Paris every day just to get a glimpse of the world's most famous smile, even from a distance. When I was living in Paris, I was taking an art history course that had me walking through the miles upon miles of galleries of the Louvre at least once a week. I spent hours taking it in and soaking up as much as I possibly could. Sometimes, I would go early on a Tuesday morning, and I would feel like the only person around - until I got to the Salle des États where The Mona Lisa is housed. No matter the time of day or week, there was always an admiring crowd surrounding the approximately 21 x 30 in. painting. Clearly there's something special about this painting. It is easily the most parodied work - from famed Dadaist Marcel Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q. to one of Gallery Direct's own artists, Randy Slack.

The painting, created by Leonardo da Vinci between 1503 and 1519, has been the subject of much speculation and mystery for hundreds of years. Theories about its creation abound, and studies are still being done today as to the origins and formal qualities of the painting. In fact, artdaily.org reported this week that Alfonso Rubino has performed a geometrical analysis on La Joconde, revealing that Leonardo "worked the geometry found in his design of the Vitruvian Man into his paintings." According to Dr. Markus Frey of the Mona Lisa Foundation, not only is this a groundbreaking find, but is also confirms that a painting that was thought to be an earlier version of The Mona Lisa is in fact genuine.

The "Earlier Version," according to recent carbon dating, was created sometime between 1410 and 1450. There are so many theories as to the creation of the painting that an earlier version is sure to prove to be fuel for the proverbial fire. Theories about The Mona Lisa range from topics such as pregnancy, Bell's Palsy, high cholesterol, secret societies, biblical references, and many more.

The Mona Lisa has inspired people for centuries, but not always in a good way. In 1911, a worker at the Louvre, Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian patriot, stole the small poplar panel right from the wall of the Louvre, believing that despite the fact that the painting was completed in France and legally sold to the French king after da Vinci's death, the painting belonged to the artist's home country of Italy.

After biding his time for two years, however, Peruggia attempted to sell The Mona Lisa to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Officials at the Uffizi immediately notified the Louvre, at which point it was returned to Paris after an extended tour throughout Italy.

The painting has also been the target of many iconoclastic attempts. It was attacked twice in 1956, first by acid and then by a thrown rock, at which point it was decided that it could no longer be displayed without the protection of a bulletproof-glass case. Even after the case was added, however, it was the subject of vandalism in 1974 and more recently in 2009.

So why does this painting inspire people so much - whether it be to artistic creation, endless research, conspiracy theories, criminal activity, or violence? The enigmatic smile, the beautiful and slightly surreal landscape in the background, the facial geometry, the bodily arrangement of the portrait, the identity of the sitter, and numerous other inquiries have captured the world's attention.

Personally, as a student of art history (who admittedly does not focus on the Renaissance, and is by no means a da Vinci scholar), the formal execution of the painting is at the heart of the matter. Putting aside all of the theories and mysteries surrounding it, The Mona Lisa is, above all, an exemplar of Renaissance fastidiousness and ingenuity. The amount of detail and precision that was exercised by da Vinci is the most captivating element of the painting. The bizarre landscape, the ethereal veil that floats above her delicate curls, every fold on her dress, the considered use of sfumato - all suggest to me that the painting was created by an exceedingly patient, practiced, and loving hand. When I look at La Joconde, I envision the artist, meticulously tending to each line, each shadow on the relatively small panel. I see a life dedicated to artistry and aesthetic integrity.

So what do you think? Does The Mona Lisa inspire you? What do you think she's smiling at?

To the Age its Art, to Art its Freedom

Tweet I had just turned 21 and was on my third year of Architecture school.  Life has never been a straight line for me and my interests were all over the place.  For some reason in the previous years I … Read More

[caption id="attachment_3364" align="alignnone" width="300"] The Secession Building in Vienna featuring the Secession "motto":"To the Age its Art, to Art its Freedom" ("Der Zeit Ihre Kunst. Der Kunst Ihre Freiheit")[/caption] I had just turned 21 and was on my third year of Architecture school.  Life has never been a straight line for me and my interests were all over the place.  For some reason in the previous years I had fallen in love with the German language and had plunged into the German culture and literature while going to Architecture school.  After a few years, I found myself with a plane ticket to Freiburg-im-Breisgau (a small student town in the south of Germany, in the Black Forest) and a scholarship to study German at the Freiburg University.  At that time, one of my favorite Professors from the Architecture School was living in Vienna.  Well, this Professor, Rosa, was kind enough to invite me to spend some time with her in her apartment in the very heart of Vienna, before my classes started. When I look back, what else could a 21-year old want from life? I had no money, but I had friends, adventurous perspectives and my whole life ahead of me. Life was good – very, very good. In fact, every time I hear the Timbuk3 song, I think of that time:

(...) I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses Things are going great, and they're only getting better I'm doing all right, getting good grades The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades (...)

I arrived in Vienna after a long train ride from Belgium, where I was "based" (my mom's sister has been living in Belgium forever, and she has always been kind enough to embrace me as a daughter all the times I was in Europe. By the way, I am Brazilian and was living in Rio at that time). When I arrived in Vienna, Rosa was waiting for me with some friends and a glass of wine at the train station. I remember that night: we hit a few pubs, I ate my first Goulash (Goulash is a Hungarian dish, and Budapest is just around the corner…) and I also lost my recent-Paris-acquired red beret in one of the restaurants we visited. It was December and cold, dark and windy; in spite of that, the streets were crowded and the people were in coffee houses, pubs, restaurants. Rosa knew a lot of people. Life was pulsating and there was no doubt about that. While I walked downtown, I noticed that the old buildings had sometimes a beautiful plate next to the door, saying something like "Here lived Schubert - or Freud - from (year) to (year)". Those plates were everywhere, mostly with great musicians names. At night, in the narrow and curvy streets illuminated by old lanterns, I felt that I had come to a magical place that I did not want to leave. Vienna was definitely a mix of East and West Europe, and having Eastern Europe in my blood (my dad was from Belgrade), that city could not speak more to my heart. Why this long introduction? Well, you can imagine how easy it was for me to fall in love with the art and architecture that I saw in Vienna. Let me explain that what first caught my eyes in Vienna was the Jungendstil (German for "youth style") : the Viennese / German version of the Art Nouveau. It was everywhere, but most obviously at the buildings doors. The Art Nouveau or Jungendstil was a reaction to academic art of the 19th century, and it was inspired by natural forms and structures. Curved lines, twisted iron, experiences with curves. Architects tried to harmonize with the natural environment. It is hard to figure out exactly what brought up that style (how can you really pin-point one single cause?). Real artists can grasp the Zeitgeist and translate it into forms, and that's what happened in Vienna, at the turn of the century (1890-19….). Wikipedia says that "The style was influenced strongly by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, when Mucha produced a lithographed poster, which appeared on 1 January 1895 in the streets of Paris as an advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou, featuring Sarah Bernhardt. " Gallery Direct has Mucha's poster - see it here. [caption id="attachment_3355" align="alignleft" width="103"] Alfons Mucha - Gismonda, 1894[/caption] Of all the artists involved in the Jungendstil movement, Gustav Klimt is certainly still the best known. In the years of 1895 to 1900, Klimt pressed a personal crisis of middle age into a service of radical reorientation of his professional work (just like Freud, also living in Vienna and already a famous doctor). Klimt decisively rejected the realism in which he had been reared. He plunged into the self and embarked into a "voyage interieur". When he exhibited to the public the results of his explorations inside his world of "instincts", he encountered resistance from two ends: from liberal-rationalist academic orthodoxy, and from anti-Semites. In the face of hostility, Klimt withdrew from the public scene to the shelter of a small cottage house - to preserve and further explore the terrain he had just conquered and discovered.   We need to remember that at that time, Vienna was not in Austria, but part of the the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and all over the world Imperialism had its days counted. Klimt represented the cultural situation in which psychoanalysis also arose. He, like Freud, confronted a period of historical transition. With other intellectuals of his class and generation, Klimt shared a crisis of culture characterized by the search of a new self. Gustav Klimt finally rose to fame in the service of wealthy families of Vienna. He decorated the Museum of Art History and the Burgtheather. During the years when these paintings won Klimt his fame, the social layer whose values he expressed was being undermined. The liberal society was crying for reform and a widespread, collective revolt began to spread through the Austrian middle class. "Die Jungen" ("The Youth") became the common name chosen by the rebels in one filed after another. In the mid-nineties, the revolt agains tradition finally spread to art and architecture. Within the principal artists' association – die Jungen – the name was used again – organized themselves to break the prevailing academic constrains in favor of an open, experimental attitude toward painting. They rejected the classical realist tradition of their masters in the search for modern man's true face. [caption id="attachment_3360" align="alignleft" width="528"] Section from Klimt’s ‘Beethoven Frieze’ with the character of ‘Lasciviousness.’
She’s the redhead seated on the back of the beast. Secession, 1902.[/caption] Klimt, though himself a young master of the old school, early assumed leadership in the revolt of die Jungen in the visual arts. In 1897, he led them out of the established artists' association to found the Secession. Like I once heard, un-learning is so often so more difficult than learning! And in order to deconstruct, it is so important to have achieved the knowledge of the "conventional". In 1898 the movement gained its own building, a project by the architect Joseph Maria Olbrich. The exhibition building soon became known simply as "the Secession" (die Sezession). This building became an icon of the movement. You can see more photos of Secession building below, with Klimt's paintings inside. Check the poster for the first exhibit on sale at Gallery Direct here. It is fascinating, how strong this image still is! I could write more, but what about giving you a break and continuing next week in "Vienna - Part ii?" Also, next time you buy a Klimt, think about all that the man went through, and all the freedom that his paitnings represent. No wonder they're strong until today. I found the images in this post in the web. I don't think my own photos survived these years, unfortunately. If you want to read more about Vienna and the "Fin-de-Siecle", I firmly recommend this book, which I consulted to write this post: "Fin-De-Siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture", by Carl E. Schorske.
Klimt's 1902 Beethoven painting in the Secession Building
[caption id="attachment_3290" align="alignnone" width="300"] The Secession Building from another angle[/caption]
Talk about positive energy!!   You can feel Alex's energy exploding from his paintings.  Alex is all about having fun and learning from life's journey.  Many of his abstract painting ideas come from his dreams. He is inspired from observing people and changing their features and colors to reflect their expressions and feelings.  Claiming there is no logic to his paintings, but a constant flow of energy that guides him to into portraying inner feelings, both his and other people's. "People and their expressions have always fascinated me, to see how different yet similar we all are. Bold colors reflect the intensity with which I live and view life. For my black lines, I choose to use liquid acrylic in a bottle and as each squirt of paint falls on the canvas, I capture the irregularity that defines us as humans. It also bestows a particular energy that mirrors my energetic personality.  Welcome to the world according to me." -Alex Benitez View his limited edition Gallery Direct collection HERE.  
Meet Melinda of Look What Mom Found... And Dad Too one of our Gallery Direct Style Ambassadors. Together with her husband Robb she is raising 3 kids whom you can see in this gorgeous framed canvas that she created by uploading a photo.
    Melinda really inspired me when she redid her family room with a series of prints by M. Drake. The way she filled the wall with various sizes of gallery wrapped canvas turned out just perfect. Melinda wanted a bigger impact than just one piece can make for her high ceiling room and I think she nailed it. The touch of whimsy makes it that much better. Be sure to check out all of Melinda's ideas for decorating with Gallery Direct art as well as all the other great information she shares on her blog.  

Imaginary Tales

Tweet It took me a while to warm up to the idea of figurative paintings. In the past, I felt weird about liking them—like, am I a huge creep for being so drawn to a picture when I don’t know … Read More

It took me a while to warm up to the idea of figurative paintings. In the past, I felt weird about liking them—like, am I a huge creep for being so drawn to a picture when I don’t know the person depicted? I recently decided I’m over it and Katherine Fraser is responsible for changing my mind. Whether I’m a creep or not, her paintings are just plain beautiful. And if the purpose of art is to make you think, they certainly do the job: Fraser’s portraits are haunting. Her images are striking in their vivid detail and a little bit disconcerting in their intimacy. I don’t know the women in Fraser's paintings, but I feel like I can imagine feasible stories about them based on their faces and surroundings. It’s become a game…what’s the story behind the image expressed in a single sentence? She’s swathed in black for a clandestine meeting; her feathery stole will help her blend in with the shadows. [Stare by Katherine Fraser]             She’s sleepwalking across an empty landscape, dreaming a dream-within-a-dream. [Constellations by Katherine Fraser]         She’s staring into her bathroom mirror and contemplating the symmetry of her reflected features. [Intuition by Katherine Fraser]             An oversized framed print of “Constellations” is about to find a home on the wall of my new den. I love the look of black and navy together, and I think the inky blue of the night sky in the piece will look fabulous with my soft grey walls and graphic black-and-white throw pillows: See more of Katherine Fraser’s gorgeous portraits here.

Congrats to Gallery Direct Artist, Shirley Williams

Tweet Join us in congratulating Gallery Direct’s Artist Shirley Williams! Shirley has won the inaugural Elizabeth Havelock Grant from the Windsor Endowment for the Arts. The annual award is presented to one mid-career artist who’s made significant contributions to arts and culture … Read More

Join us in congratulating Gallery Direct's Artist Shirley Williams! Shirley has won the inaugural Elizabeth Havelock Grant from the Windsor Endowment for the Arts. The annual award is presented to one mid-career artist who’s made significant contributions to arts and culture in their community.  We could not be happier to have this award go to one of our own Gallery Direct Artists. Shirley accepted the award at a reception hosted last week. The image above shows Shirley (middle) being honored by Federal MP Brian Masse and Councillor Joanne Gignac. " We all enjoyed a lovely evening in an enchanting, recently revived, historical building. They served the most tasty and tempting appetizers. We were also treated to an exquisite piano recital of Chopin and Rachmaninoff," said Shirley Williams. Congrats Shirley!  

New Artist: A. J. Andrews

Tweet Join us in welcoming our newest artist to the Galley Direct family, A. J. Andrews. Although A. J.’s parents were musicians, he ended up an artist & photographer because he has a good eye for composition, balance and color. From a young age A. … Read More

Join us in welcoming our newest artist to the Galley Direct family, A. J. Andrews. Although A. J.'s parents were musicians, he ended up an artist & photographer because he has a good eye for composition, balance and color. From a young age A. J. enjoyed taking photos of interesting people, animals and landscapes. As the years passed his realistic photography went more abstract. A. J. feels he is always learning from his environment, life experiences, lucky mistakes and looking at the work of others for inspiration. Today A. J. lives with his wife in a small town in New Jersey. Here are some of my favorite images by him, and I love the explanations he gives for them. AJ102A Light Display on House in the Midwest "Sometimes people go overboard with decorative holiday lights on and around their homes. For me as a photographer, however, the more the merrier! Here was an opportunity where layers of lights were twinkling and flashing, while my camera was zigging and zagging, resulting in a couple of very engaging images." AJ106A Window at Barney's "People call Barney's in New York an emporium of style and fashion, and their recent Lady Gaga windows were a special visual treat. The calming colors of a “crystal cave” blended together to create this memorable ice image. Cool!" AJ112A Large Mineral on Display at AMNH "Rare iridescent fossil shells of disk-­‐shaped ammonites can be found along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. One such beautiful gemstone specimen offered the colors and shapes that seems only nature and time can create." AJ115A Clivia Miniata in Bloom "During a recent visit to a nearby botanical garden, planters full of these colorful blossoms were just calling out for attention. They were not to be ignored – and my camera obliged." Be sure to check out the rest of A. J. Andrews work on Gallery Direct!

Getting to know our artists

Tweet Did you know that Gallery Direct has a You Tube channel? Cause we do! Check out our latest “Artist Series” video on one our our exclusive artists, Shirley Williams. Like my previous blog posts on our new artists, this … Read More

Did you know that Gallery Direct has a You Tube channel? Cause we do! Check out our latest "Artist Series" video on one our our exclusive artists, Shirley Williams. Like my previous blog posts on our new artists, this is another great way to get to know our exclusive artists, hear them talk about their technique and art. We hope you enjoy it and stay tuned for more videos in our "Artist Series". http://youtu.be/-LOVM1viLMw  

New Artist: Fatmir Gjevukaj

Tweet We recently launched work from one of our new exclusive artists, Fatmir Gjevukaj. Fatmir considers himself a traditional artist. Here is a quote from Fatmir: “My love for movies and comic books since my early childhood and my interest and … Read More

We recently launched work from one of our new exclusive artists, Fatmir Gjevukaj. Fatmir considers himself a traditional artist. Here is a quote from Fatmir: "My love for movies and comic books since my early childhood and my interest and focus which has always been on creatures and characters made me enter the world of cg art five years ago, and that's what I have been doing pretty much ever since." This definitely shows in his artwork. We love all the bright vivid colors and characters he paints! Be sure to check out all of his artwork on Gallery Direct! And here's a sneak peek at the latest work he's dropped off with us. Currently working on the digital files in our Imaging Department...