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In 1508, famed High Renaissance painter and architect Raphael was given the commission that would make his career. The young artist was asked by Pope Julius II and his personal architect Donato Bramante to create the massive frescoes that adorn what are known today as the Stanze di Raffaello, or Raphael Rooms, of the Vatican Palace. Raphael's first conquest was the Stanza della Segnatura, which now contains four of his most beautiful and well-known frescoes, The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament,The Parnassus, Cardinal and Theological Virtues, and, his masterpiece, The School of Athens. Each of these four frescoes was meant to represent the four areas of human knowledge: religion, poetry, jurisprudence, and philosophy. Toward the end of 1509, Raphael began his second fresco of the series, The School of Athens, representing philosophy. Since its creation in the Apostolic Palace, it has been endlessly revered and contemplated.

Raphael's intricate fresco, measuring approximately 25 by 16 feet, contains nearly 60 figures in a beautifully arranged and appointed background. For hundreds of years, art historians and scholars of philosophy, classics, and mathematics have attempted to identify the different figures, though it seems that Raphael was intentionally vague in the majority of the depictions, with a few exceptions. What we can be sure about is that the two central figures represent Plato (on the left) and Aristotle (on the right). Raphael depicts Plato pointing to the heavens and Aristotle gesturing toward the earth - a commentary on their respective philosophies. Other figures that can be identified with some degree of certainty include Pythagoras, Socrates, Diogenes, Ptolemy, Heraclitus, and Euclid. Despite the many questions about the identities of the figures, what remains clear is that Raphael is representing thinkers from across myriad schools, time periods, and geographical locations from classical antiquity. Thus, he is not attempting to depict an historical moment, but rather a thematic representation of Greek philosophy at its finest. Identifying the figures becomes even more difficult when one realizes that they often have double identities - one from antiquity, and one from Raphael's own time. Many have speculated, for example, that Plato can also be identified as Leonardo da Vinci, Heraclitus has the visage of Michelangelo, and that Euclid shares features with Bramante. [caption id="attachment_3470" align="aligncenter" width="437"] Detail, Raphael's Plato with Leonardo da Vinci's 1510 self-portrait[/caption] So, why did Raphael choose to imbue his figures with this double identity? During the Renaissance, ancient Greek and Roman writers and thinkers experienced a renewed popularity, and were respected as the premier philosophers throughout history. By blurring the line between figures from classical antiquity and his own peers, Raphael asserts that the thinkers of the Renaissance were on par with their formidable predecessors. The artist also blatantly includes an image of himself, gazing out to the viewer. In addition to his commentary on the relative status of the Renaissance in relation to antiquity, Raphael boldly breaks with tradition regarding his representation of the idea of philosophy. While those who came before him tended to represent philosophy in a purely allegorical way (or at least in a way in which the allegory or ideal of philosophy is given more importance than its human practitioners), Raphael humanizes his topic. He does not forsake the allegorical depiction of philosophy, but rather makes it almost secondary relative to the rest of the subjects. The personification of philosophy, often called Philosophia, appears in the accompanying tondo (an Italian term for a round painting or sculpture). The tondo above the The School of Athens announces the subject of the work, in the same fashion as the other frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura. The beautiful Philosophia sits upon a throne, flanked by two cherubim bearing the words "Causarum Cognitio," a reference to Cicero meaning, "Knowledge of causes." She holds two books, one entitled "Morals," the other, "Nature." This is a classical depiction of Philosophy, and yet within the context of The School of Athens, the figure is relatively diminutive. The tondo is merely six feet in diameter, and because it is over 25 feet off the ground, it is hardly easy to see from eye level. Furthermore, while tradition dictates that the depiction of Philosophy should be the focal point of a work, Raphael isolates her from the rest of his work. While she may loom over the individual practitioners of the art of philosophy, the latter are nonetheless the primary subjects, overwhelming the former in size, number, and relevance. By making the practitioners the focal point of his fresco, Raphael humanizes and indeed secularizes the practice of philosophy. Like so many of his compositions (a personal favorite is the cherubim detail in his Sistine Madonna), Raphael's School of Athens truly rewards careful study and contemplation.

More Vienna, The Kiss, and Brussels

Follow 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

Follow “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, 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

Follow 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]

Reflect Your Style: Art on Mirror

Follow Below is one of my favorite styles of gallery wall arrangements- showing off framed souvenirs paired with framed fine art. I would say that the style around my home is colorful and eclectic, to say the very least. Pair that … Read More

Below is one of my favorite styles of gallery wall arrangements- showing off framed souvenirs paired with framed fine art. I would say that the style around my home is colorful and eclectic, to say the very least. Pair that with an obsession for all forms of Art and imagery; from black and white photographic prints, vintage botanicals scans to more contemporary mixed media pieces and I’m left with dense gallery walls that I always find inspiring. Some may say (my fiancé) that this “everything goes” way of styling is crazy. I say, if you love to surround yourself with an abundance of beautiful art, hang it and apologize to no one! Since my tiny bathroom walls were sorely neglected in comparison to the rest of my house, this got me thinking that I could use mirror as my print material to create a tiny wall of art for my bathroom that would be functional, eclectic and unified. This realization blew my mind for a few reasons; to start the mirror reflections actually made my bathroom feel larger and now it exhibits work from some of my favorite local artists while simultaneously offering five new functional mirrors to choose from when primping, instead of one. Complete satisfaction. I found that the key to getting what you want out of mirror is to understand that there are  two very different styles that can be achieved when printing on mirror, which are completely determined by the white values in your image. If you think about it, when an image is printed on a white paper, the white areas of that image have little to no ink, revealing more of the natural white of the paper. Now apply that same logic to an image printed on mirror and try to imagine which areas will reveal raw mirror and which will be inked. One style is more dreamy and frosted with very little visibility through the image. The other style shows the image clearly defined from the mirror, making it possible to see reflections through the image in certain areas. To check exactly where those reflective areas are and to make double sure that your image will print out exactly how you've envisioned, you can check to see where your true white values are in your image by using the eyedropper tool in Photoshop or using Pixlr (an amazing free online photo editor). A perfect white value will give you a hexadecimal color code of #FFFFFF.   If you would like even more information about Art on Mirror, watch the video below. For information about the other offered materials watch our Our Unique Materials playlist.  
You want to do some macro photography (taking photos of very little things up-close) but you don't have a bunch of money to spend on a macro lens. Not to worry. There are a few different ways to achieve excellent macro photography with your standard kit lens with an inexpensive adapter you can buy online for around $20 or there is a trick where you can do it for free! What is a macro lens? A macro lens just means that your lens can focus on things that are very close to the front of the lens so it will look bigger in your photo. Most lenses have a minimum focus distance of 10 inches or more, and you can't focus on anything that is closer than that...and if you can't get closer to your subject, it won't look bigger in your photo. *the minimum distance on a Canon 18-55mm kit lens is 11 inches. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 it’s 18 inches. How do make my regular kit lens a macro lens? If you can extend the distance between your lens and your camera sensor it will turn any lens into a macro lens.  Yup, you heard me right...all you have to do is put some distance between your lens and your camera.  You can do this with an adapter called a "extension tube". It's basically just a hollow tube with a camera mount on one side and the lens mount on the other side allowing you to extend the distance between your lens and the sensor inside your camera. It only needs to be extended about 1 inch or so.  You can buy them on Amazon for as little as $12.50.  Fotodiox makes a very basic version that works. Once you extend the distance between your lens and your camera, you will notice that you can get things into focus that are only 1-2 inches away from the front of your lens!  This means they will be larger and more clear in your photo. Set your camera to "aperture priority", find something cool to photograph and start clicking away. Remember you won’t have auto focus, so just move your camera back and fourth until your subject comes in focus. Is there a way to do this without an extension tube? There is another way you can take up-close macro photos with your standard kit lens.  All you have to do is take your lens off your camera body, flip it around and hold the front of the lens tight against the body of the camera. You obviously have to use both hands as the lens won't attach to your camera backwards...but if you do this and look through your view finder, you will notice that things will come in focus about 2-4 inches away from your lens, and they will look HUGE.  If you can hold your lens tight enough to the front of your camera, you can take macro photos right now!  Just a FYI, if you put the lens to 18mm you will get a larger image then if you set the lens to 55mm.  They also sell a “Macro Reverse Ring Camera Mount Adapter” for $7.50 that screws into the front threads of your lens, and then mounts your lens backwards onto your camera body.  Remember to buy the right size for your lens.  A Canon 18-55mm kit lens requires a 58mm filter, where as the Canon 50mm has a 52mm front thread. It works!! Do you have any other tips for shooting macro photos? Tips and hints (as a rule of thumb):
  • you will need more light when shooting macro photography.
  • you will have a very shallow depth of field when shooting macro photography.
  • it's easiest to focus on the subject by moving the camera back and fourth until your subject comes in focus. "Live Mode" or viewing the camera image on the screen is great for doing this.
  • when you disconnect your camera and lens, they can no longer “talk” to each other so you'll lose the ability to auto-focus, and control your aperture. Your camera will default to it's most open aperture setting. There is a way to “trick” your lens into keeping a tighter aperture, but more about that later.
You will find several photos like the one above that I have taken using these methods at
Being an art history geek has its quirks. How do I unwind after a long day at work? I scan through my old art history textbooks. I know it's kind of weird, but it gives me a sense of calm to flip through the well-loved pages and read the words of the scholars and thinkers who inspire me, and in turn, the artists who inspire them. Working with Gallery Direct adds a whole new dimension to my little meditation - with a quick click of a button, I can find high resolution images of my favorite paintings and prints. Last night, I was all zenned out while looking through one of my favorite books, Carol Armstrong's Manet Manette. Not only is this a groundbreaking text, but  it is also one of the first books that made want to go into art history. Armstrong spends her final chapter contemplating a single painting, Edouard Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882). This so happens to be one of my favorite paintings of all time, so I was thrilled to discover that it is also on Gallery Direct. Often heralded as Manet's last great painting, it certainly makes an impression. Not only is it beautifully executed - from the considered palette to the purposeful brushstrokes - it is a veritable field day for art lovers. Reading about this painting for the first time blew my mind. It simultaneously subverts traditional notions of perspective and viewership and yet is still utterly readable and relatable for any viewer. At first glance, it is simply a bar scene - the bottles on the counter frame the beautiful bartender as she waits to take an order. But upon further examination, you realize that the customer the bartender is waiting on is you, the viewer. She stares right at you, waiting. Digging even deeper, you realize that the background of the painting is in fact a reflection in a mirror, and to the right of the bartender, a face is reflected. Like I said, this painting can (and has) been discussed every which way for hours on end. One of my favorite things about it, though, is how it brings together so many of Manet's interests as an artist. While the Impressionists, his contemporaries, were interested in painting en plein air, or outdoors, and capturing the light and colors of nature, Manet's paintings are concerned with the emergence of modern Parisian life. Urban scenes and quotidian subjects abound in his oeuvre, along with a meditation on how art relates to consumerism. Fin-de-siècle Paris was a place of spectacle, and consumption of that spectacle was on the minds of its painters and writers. In Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Manet examines the idea of consumption from multiple angles - the subject itself, a bar, is a place for the consumption of alcohol and food. Moving beyond literal consumption, Manet examines how nineteenth-century Parisians consumed culture at the Folies-Bergère, a popular nightclub, how does the male customer depicted in the mirror "consume" the beautiful bartender, and how do we, as the audience, consume this piece of art? Manet is one of the most complex and confounding artists that I've come across, which is why, I think, he is my favorite artist. His paintings are beautiful and striking, and on top of that, they make me think. When it came down to it, my meditation last night turned into retail therapy - on a whim, I ordered a print of the painting, framed and on paper, through Gallery Direct. I am so excited to have a bit of art history right there on my wall for me to contemplate every day.
Love is in the air so why not capture it on film? Couples photography can get really boring and often when people attempt to get creative it goes terribly, terribly wrong. Here are some cute and tasteful ideas to celebrate your special love this Valentine's Day. Once you have captured your love you can make it into a work of art by uploading it to Gallery Direct and having it printed on your choice of material.    

Mood Board: It Starts With a Story

Follow So, I’m a shopaholic. I have accepted this about myself (even if my husband has not). Turns out that it’s not very healthy for my bank account for me to shop ALL THE TIME, so to keep my urges … Read More

So, I'm a shopaholic. I have accepted this about myself (even if my husband has not). Turns out that it's not very healthy for my bank account for me to shop ALL THE TIME, so to keep my urges in check, I've started creating mood boards of dream rooms inspired by art. I've been in love with Caroline Ashton's Story series for a while now - check out Story I and Story II. I love the cool teal color palette, and undulating lines. My mood board, inspired by Story I, has a mix of clean, modern pieces with strong lines and more organic-feeling patterns and textures: "Story I" Mood Board Artwork centerpiece: 1. Gallery Direct - Story I by Caroline Ashton The supporting cast: 2. Zinc Door - Modern Pillow 3. West Elm - Blurry Stripe Pillow Cover 4. Layla Grace - Pine Cone Hill Chambray Linen Ocean Pillow 5. Zinc Door - Arteriors Home Mercedes Mahogany Chair 6. Dwell UK - Chenile Twist Rug 7. Wayfair - Gus Modern Adelaide Sofa 8. Occa Home - Joshua Ellis Cashmere Throw  9. My Two Designers - Rodeo Ottoman 10. West Elm - Recycled Glass Jug Vase 11. Noya Decor - Adesso Maui Transitional Arc Floor Lamp What do you think of my Caroline Ashton-inspired design mood board? Does it inspire you? Want to make your own art-inspired mood board? Head over to Olioboard and try it out--for free. You can find some of my favorite Gallery Direct artwork to add to your boards here. Share your mood board and we might feature it on Gallery Direct! -- Follow Nichele on Google+
Let me come right out and say it – I am a big nerd. I studied art history and history in college, so working with Gallery Direct, I get to geek out on our amazing collection of Old Masters, like Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, our modern masters like Vincent van Gogh and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and of course our incredible collection of vintage posters, advertisements, and other cool memorabilia. But I just hit the jackpot. The team here at Gallery Direct has recently begun an effort to bring you a wide array of historical maps, and I have to tell you, I am just crazy about them. Most of our maps are from the nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century, and are as beautiful as they are intriguing. Studying historical maps is such an interesting experience. Not only are you seeing a glimpse of what once was, but how people thought about the world. I am currently lusting over this incredible 1870 map of New York. Being a native New Yorker living in Austin, Texas, seeing this map every day is a great reminder of home, as well as the city’s intricate history. I just had to have it!   These gorgeous maps are the perfect way to decorate your home. If you’re like me and living away from your hometown, you can commemorate your roots in style. Overtaken by wanderlust? Dreaming of traveling? Pick a handful of your favorite cities to put on display as a reminder of your memories abroad, or your future travel aspirations! Many of our American panoramic maps were designed by Albert Ruger, a Prussian immigrant who served with the Ohio Volunteers during the Civil War. During the war, he started drawing pictures of Union campsites. After the war ended, he settled down in Michigan and began his career in mapmaking by sketching maps of the cities of Michigan. He soon became very successful, and in the 1860s, formed a partnership with another American mapmaker, J.J. Stoner, and together, they published dozens of the panoramic maps that we have available to grace your walls today. The printing company Currier & Ives is also responsible for a good portion of our maps, another nineteenth-century outfit that helped pioneer the American panoramic map. I personally feel so lucky to be able to work so closely with these little slices of history on a daily basis, and even more fortunate to be able to see them printed in such high quality! I suggest checking them out on birchwood, one of the many awesome materials that we print on. Are you as ga-ga for geography as I am? What cities inspire you?