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Archive for the ‘Paintings’ Category

Egyptian, Fragmentary Head of a Queen, 1352-1356 B.C.E. Image provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Egyptian, Fragmentary Head of a Queen, 1352-1356 B.C.E. Image provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Today’s Open Access initiative by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and their generous partnership with Artstor help ensure that these images will reach scholarly audiences in more than 1,700 institutions worldwide. Nancy Minty, Artstor’s Collections Editor, explores some of the Met’s history, the materials in the release, and its implications for future study.

In 1872, the Metropolitan Museum opened its doors in a brownstone on Fifth Ave., which housed its nascent permanent collection of 175 paintings. The New York Evening Mail heralded the moment as the birth of the “royal infant,” and one of the founders William Cullen Bryant struck a redemptive tone in his opening address: “My friends, it is important that we should encounter the temptations to vice in this great and too rapidly growing capital by attractive entertainment of an innocent and improving nature.”1 Salomon van Ruysdael’s Drawing the Eel, 1650s, still a standout from the inaugural collection, typifies the folksy, wholesome imagery that bolstered Bryant’s mission.

Today, nearly 150 years later, The Met is among leaders worldwide with an encyclopedic collection that numbers more than 2 million objects, spanning 17 diverse curatorial departments and 5000 years, from antiquities to photography, and including masterworks in all fields. Its range may be documented by countless juxtapositions of outstanding works from diverse cultures, as for example, an ivory handle from ancient Egypt, Prancing Horse, ca. 1391-1353 B.C.E., an engraving by the German Renaissance artist Dürer, The Little Horse, 1505. and a monumental painting by Rosa Bonheur, The Horse Fair, 1853-55, each depicting horses, albeit of very different stripes.

The museum building itself has accrued around 20 successive structures or wings to the nucleus designed by Calvert Vaux in 1880, and it currently occupies more than two million square feet, equal to about 35 football fields (not including Breuer and Cloisters locations). Moreover, in 2016 it welcomed 6.7 million visitors.

Now in an unprecedented step among major American museums, The Met has made a major new foray into the global virtual space by sharing open content for 375,000 images of public domain works in the collection. ITHAKA and Artstor are proud to cooperate in this initiative along with Creative Commons and the Wikimedia Foundation. The implications of this move are significant. As Loic Tallon, the museum’s Chief Digital Officer has framed it “In our digital age, the Museum’s audience is not only the 6.7 million people who visited The Met’s three locations in New York City this past year but also the 3.2 billion internet-connected individuals around the world.”

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Frederic Edwin Church, The Icebergs, 1861. Image and original data provided by the Dallas Museum of Art

Frederic Edwin Church, The Icebergs, 1861. Image and original data provided by the Dallas Museum of Art

The search for the Northwest passage, an arctic maritime route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, drove European exploration of the North for hundreds of years. The search was exceedingly treacherous–pack ice, the floating ice covering the sea, made arctic waters impassable throughout most of the year and explorers perished in harsh conditions–but the danger and beauty of the unknown North enchanted an adventure-hungry public. Artists were similarly enamored, creating resplendent paintings that represented a sublime view of an Arctic that has gradually crumbled (or more accurately, melted) over the past century as global warming wreaks havoc on the icy seas.

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Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas. 1656

Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas, or the Family of Philip IV, 1656. Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y. http://www.artres.com

According to a 1985 Illustrated London News poll of artists and critics, Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas was voted the world’s greatest painting.

Let’s take a close look at the painting, its history, and the emotions it elicits to pinpoint why.

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Brice Marden; The Seasons; 1974-1975. Image and original data provided by The Menil Collection, Houston; © 2014 Brice Marden / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Brice Marden; The Seasons; 1974-1975. Image and original data provided by The Menil Collection, Houston; © 2014 Brice Marden / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Artstor and the Menil Foundation have just released nearly 200 images of highlights from the Menil Collection in the Digital Library.

The Menil Collection opened to the public in June 1987 to house, exhibit, and preserve the art collection of John and Dominique de Menil. Assembled over the course of many decades by the Houston philanthropists, the collection is recognized not only for its quality and depth but also for its distinctive presentation and eclecticism. An actively collecting institution, the Menil Collection contains diverse holdings representing many world cultures and thousands of years of human creativity, from prehistoric times to the present. Today, the collection comprises over 16,000 objects. (more…)

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We invited Barbara Anello to tell us about her photographs of graffiti in Lower Manhattan, newly released in the Artstor Digital Library.

Title: Mural, 353 East 4th St between Aves C& D; Image ID: A

Robin Michaels and Kristen Reed; Mural, 353 East 4th St between Aves C & D; 1991; Graffiti Lower East Side Manhattan. Photograph © Barbara J. Anello

I photographed graffiti, stencil art, wall paintings, and murals on New York City streets during the 1980s and early ’90s in Lower Manhattan from about 14th Street south to Battery Park, and from the Hudson to the East Rivers, but generally in Soho, Noho, the Lower East Side, and “Alphabet City.”

At the time, Soho, where I lived, was still the neighborhood of artists and galleries, but rapidly gentrifying, forcing younger artists east and out. While much of the public art and graffiti was anonymous, the neighborhoods where I photographed embodied the “art world” of the time; these were the streets where artists worked and played, dealers bought and sold. So my photographs included works and writing by artists who became “art world” figures, such as Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring, by artists who built reputations in their neighborhoods as “writers” and social activists, as well as by dedicated, working artists who made statements independently on the walls of abandoned buildings or squats, intended for the people, for the neighborhood, outside the confines of commercial galleries.

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Sydney Parkinson, Family: Carcharhinidae Genus/Species: Prionace glauca, 1769

Sydney Parkinson, Family: Carcharhinidae Genus/Species: Prionace glauca, 1769. Image and original data provided by Natural History Museum, London.

On his famous three voyages to the South Seas, British explorer Captain James Cook charted the largely unexplored Pacific Ocean, achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and completed the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. But Cook’s nautical feats are only part of the story; of equal importance are the contributions made by the artists who went along on his journeys, risking their lives–and sometimes losing them–to illustrate the animals and plants they encountered for science and posterity. Here are their stories.

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Johannes Moreelse, Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher, c. 163

Johannes Moreelse, Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher, c. 1630. Image and original data provided by the Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Democritus is primarily remembered for theorizing that all matter consists of particles called atoms, and this stunning quote: “Nothing exists except atoms and space, everything else is opinion.”

The Short History of the Atom wiki summarizes Democritus’ theory nicely:

  1. All matter consists of invisible particles called atoms.
  2. Atoms are indestructible.
  3. Atoms are solid but invisible.
  4. Atoms are homogenous.
  5. Atoms differ in size, shape, mass, position, and arrangement.

Prescient, yes, but it didn’t give much material for artists to work with. Luckily, Democritus was also known as “the laughing philosopher.” As classicist Mary Beard explains in Confronting the Classics, (more…)

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