Crash Course Blog Notes

A number of regular features will be taking an intermittent month off in July because of my cycling schedule. They will return without interruption in August. At the same time, I am for the most part off of social networking for the same reason in July, but hope to post when I can – both in social media and the blog when time permits and when I can’t be quiet about something.

Thanks very much for visiting and for continually reading Crash Course!

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Friday Reader: Christmas Subway Art

 

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Commonly called “Subway Art”, it really is only a combination of fonts and a few graphics that get their inspiration from the subway signs of the 1890s and early 20th century. It’s nothing like the subway art from the early 60s & 70s, which is more impressionist modern art (that’s a nice word for graffiti) than it is vintage signage art.

Regardless, the original subway art style trickles down to seasonal art like winter, spring, summer, fall and holiday art like Easter, 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving and of course Christmas.

Enjoy & Merry Christmas!

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Sunday Reader: Realistically Colorized Historical Photos

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A new artistic trend has broken out around the world which changes our perception of history dramatically. Colorizing historic photographs from the late 1800′s and early 1900′s changes their appearance from something historic and different, into a scene from today.

The colorful image of Albert Einstein sitting beside the water gives us an entire new perspective on the genius. He goes from a brilliant historic relic, into a living brilliance of our era. The colorized photograph of Audrey Hepburn transforms our thoughts of beauty. Her photo goes from an intriguing historic photo to one of a sexy starlet of today. Historic events move forward decades, or even a full century, by the addition of color carefully planned and applied by artists like Jordan Lloyd, Dana Keller, and Sanna Dullaway.

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London, 1945 (Photo credit: valdigtmycketfarg)

Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels scowls at a Jewish photographer, 1933

Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels scowls at a Jewish photographer, 1933

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Hindenburg Disaster, 1937

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Anne Frank, 1942 (Photo credit: Sanna Dullaway)

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Oscar II, King of Sweden and Norway, 1880 (Photo credit: Sanna Dullaway)

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Abraham Lincoln, 1865 (Photo credit: Sanna Dullaway)

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Louisville, Kentucky, 1937 (Photo credit: Sanna Dullaway)

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Washington D. C., 1921 (Photo credit: Sanna Dullaway)

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Baltimore Slums, 1938 (Colorized by Jordan J Lloyd)

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Baltimore Slums, 1938 (Colorized by Jordan J Lloyd)

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View from the Capitol in Nashville, 1864 (Photo credit: Sanna Dullaway)

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Japanese Archers, circa 1860 (Colorized by Jordan J Lloyd)

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British Troops Board Their Train for the Front, 1939

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Unemployed Lumber Worker and His Wife, circa 1939

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

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Theodore Roosevelt (Photo credit: Sanna Dullaway)

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Elizabeth Taylor, 1956

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Charlie Chaplin, 1916

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Nicola Tesla

Operation: Crossroads Atomic Detonation (Thank you Steven Vaught, Western Michigan University) (Photo credit: Sanna Dullaway)

Operation: Crossroads Atomic Detonation (Thank you Steven Vaught, Western Michigan University) (Photo credit: Sanna Dullaway)

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Big Jay McNeely, Olympic Auditorium, 1953

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Mark Twain, circa 1900

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Walt Whitman, 1887 (Photo credit: Dana Keller)

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Kissing the War Goodbye, 1945 (Photo credit: Sanna Dullaway)

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Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation, 1963 (Photo credit: Sanna Dullaway)

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Old Gold Country store, 1939 (Colorized by Jordan J Lloyd)

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Charles Darwin, 1874 (Photo credit: Sanna Dullaway)

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Michelangelo’s Ugliest Drawing May Not Be His

25 years ago, when conservators peeled off the thick paper backing of Michelangelo’s portrait of Cleopatra, art historians were astounded by the ugliness of the secret portrait of Cleopatra that was revealed (below). Now, one art historian thinks the reverse drawing is merely misattributed to the Renaissance master, and may have been sketched by his student instead.

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The reverse side of Michelangelo’s drawing, revealed in 1988.
CREDIT: Courtesy of the Muscarelle Museum of Art

Michelangelo’s portrait of Cleopatra holding an asp to her breast has been celebrated as an ideal Renaissance composition of an idealized woman. With pearls, braided hair and a slender neck, the last pharaoh of ancient Egypt faces her death by snakebite with a detached, elegant gaze.

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Michelangelo’s portrait of Cleopatra
CREDIT: Courtesy of the Muscarelle Museum of Art

 

Curators had suspected there was another Michelangelo sketch on black-chalk drawing’s reverse side; they could vaguely make out a hidden picture when the work was held up to light. But 25 years ago, when conservators finally peeled off its thick paper backing, art historians were astounded by the ugliness of the secret portrait of Cleopatra that was revealed.

The drawing that had been concealed for centuries showed the Ptolemaic ruler in a grotesque state of anguish, with her bulging, blank eyes looking forward and her mouth gracelessly agape, baring big teeth. Perhaps even more puzzling was the poor draftsmanship of the sketch. Michelangelo knew how to how to make stylishly tormented figures, so why was this one so especially ugly? At least one art historian thinks the reverse drawing is merely misattributed to the Renaissance master, and may have been sketched by his student instead.

The lovelier Cleopatra portrait was known to have been made for a handsome young Roman nobleman Tommaso de’ Cavalieri, with whom Michelangelo struck up a friendship in 1532. Writing for ARTnews, William E. Wallace, of Washington University in Saint Louis, says Cavalieri may have tried his hand at drawing a classicized head, perhaps based on an antique sculpture, during a lesson with Michelangelo.

When the student’s drawing foundered, the teacher may have stepped in, according to Wallace’s version of events.

“To demonstrate ‘buon disegno’ (good design), Michelangelo reversed the sheet and performed a miracle of artistic alchemy:  ugliness became beauty, harrowing but unbecoming emotion became serene resignation, an indecorous head was transformed into a doomed Cleopatra,” Wallace writes.

Both sides of the artwork are set to go on display this month at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts as part of an exhibition of the Italian master’s drawings, called “Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane.” The show, which was organized by the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., brings together 11 drawings of figures and 14 architectural designs by Michelangelo, including his unrealized plan for San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, a church in Rome.

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Maria Sibylla Merian: Inspired her love of nature and art in her daughters

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Maria Sibylla Merian: Inspired her love of nature and art in her daughters

Google on Tuesday is noting the 366th anniversary of Maria Sibylla Merian’s birth with the gift of the Google Doodle.

Ms. Merian was a notable illustrator of insects and plants. She took her two daughters along with her into nature and hooked them onto her unique mix of art and science.

So what makes Merian special? Her work was a marriage of art and science in a time of few female scientists and little documentation of pupal insects.

The 17th century artist and naturalist (thus, the search engine’s name spelled out with curled flora, fauna and critters), was captured by butterflies and other pupal insects.

The daughter of an engraver and publisher and stepdaughter of a botanical painter, she started studying silkworms as a child in her native Frankfurt, Germany. “This led me to collect all the caterpillars I could find in order to see how they changed,” she wrote in the foreword to her book “Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium” (“Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam”).

Not content to just study European insects, Merian traveled to South America to document the continent’s bushes and bugs until malaria forced her to return home to the Netherlands.

Her South American studies prompted her aforementioned caterpillar book, for which she is most well known and respected.

Merian suffered a stroke in 1715 that left her partially paralyzed. She died a pauper in Amsterdam in 1717 at the age of 70.

Once denounced as a too-independent woman, Merian as since been recognized as one of the most talented scientific illustrators of her day and beyond.

On the Web: Read more about this fascinating artist at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Sibylla_Merian

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