The Easel

THE EASEL ESSAYS

Bauhaus: A Failed Utopia? (3)

This is the last of a three-essay exploration of the history of The Bauhaus in light of the 100 year anniversary of its founding. Previous essays can be found here and here. In the late 1950s, Marcel Breuer took on a commission to design a church in Minnesota. He was working with the engineer Pier […]

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A new vision of nature

Today, we live in a world in which the natural environment is largely relegated to the periphery of our daily existence. Our engagement with it is largely virtual and mitigated through still and moving images. Even so, as the pace of life increases, the subtle changes in the natural environment, such as the blossoming flowers […]

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Bauhaus: A Failed Utopia? (2)

This is the second of a three-essay exploration of the history of The Bauhaus in light of the 100 year anniversary of its founding. The first essay (Bauhaus: A Failed Utopia? The Manifesto) can be found here. Walter Gropius was fond of making claims about The Bauhaus like the following: “Our guiding principle was that […]

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Bauhaus: A Failed Utopia?

2019 marks the 100 year anniversary of The Bauhaus. In honor of this anniversary, I will be publishing three essays exploring the history of The Bauhaus. This is the first. We’ll move more or less chronologically starting here with the early history of the school. The second essay will explore the middle period, as Bauhaus […]

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For love or money? The merits of investing in art

In November 2017, in a packed auction room in New York, da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi sold for $US450m. That spectacular transaction says many things about our age. One of them, surely, is that at that moment the idea of art as an asset went mainstream. You don’t pay $US450m for wall decoration. Over the last […]

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The Deceptions of Thomas Demand

Thomas Demand has become, in the last 25 years or so, one of the more important contemporary artists in the world. His work is collected by all the major museums and sold in prestigious galleries and at art fairs. Eminent critic and art historian Michael Fried, among others, has directed serious attention to his work. […]

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Ancient or modern? The perplexing case of indigenous art

There’s an unexpectedly amusing passage in the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment. Kant is deliberating upon lofty issues like how and why we consider something beautiful. In the course of his complicated philosophical maneuverings he pauses to mention, by way of example, a number of pleasing designs to be found in nature. […]

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EASEL ESSAY: Not just for “nerds”: vivid stories from the Old Masters

Why do we still pay attention to Old Masters paintings? There are a handful of famous names – Rembrandt, Vermeer, Velázquez, Michelangelo – toward whom adulation seems obligatory. Yet, walking the galleries of a major museum, you quickly realize there are many others. With their ornate gilded frames and often perplexing subjects, why should their […]

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Now you’re over the sticker shock, what about the art?

In 1500, Leonardo was an artist working for hire. One of his clients was Louis XII of France. The painting he had just completed was a portrait of Jesus Christ, quite possibly a commission from the French monarch. History does not record whether the completed work met with approval but, once painted, Salvator Mundi began […]

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“How to See the World Properly”: An Interview About Jasper Johns

Roberta Bernstein is professor emeritus of art history at the University of Albany, State University of New York. She is also the author and director of the catalogue raisonné for Jasper Johns. Most recently, she co-curated (with Edith Devaney) a retrospective of Johns’s work at the Royal Art Museum in London entitled “Something Resembling Truth” […]

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Jeff Koons: Or, Who’s Liberating Whom?

In 1988, Jeff Koons created the work of art known as Michael Jackson and Bubbles. It’s a life-sized porcelain sculpture–actually the largest handmade porcelain sculpture ever made. It depicts Michael Jackson leaning back on a field of flowers as he cradles his famous chimpanzee. Both the monkey and the man are clad in golden outfits. […]

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Color is Meaning

It is said that the great Luxembourgish-American photographer Edward Steichen once took a thousand pictures of the same white teacup. This was in the days before digital photography, mind you, so the commitment of time and expense was considerable. Steichen photographed the teacup against different variations of white and black backgrounds. He was studying his […]

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Night Swimmers

Nasreen Mohamedi untitled (1975) Kiran Nadar Museum of Art Rachel Spence, March 7, 2017    If you love art, the possibility of revelation is always present. In 2007, while I was living in Italy, I was rocked to my core when I came upon Antonello da Messina’s “L’Annunziata” in the Palazzo Abatellis in Palermo. A […]

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EASEL ESSAY: Andrew Wyeth, his Critics, and Small Town Mud

The paintings are of simple things: drapes fluttering in the breeze, a young boy making his way down a hill and across a meadow, ten or fifteen leaves dying on the spindly branch of a tree in late autumn. These images are painted with care, often in tempera, sometimes in watercolor. The attention to detail […]

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Nicole Eisenman and the Resurrection of Figuration

The contemporary painter Nicole Eisenman tells a rather moving story about winning a MacArthur “genius” grant in the late summer of 2015. She went to a quiet place and wept. Similar experiences have, no doubt, beset many MacArthur recipients. The grant is a crowning glory to an artist’s career, conveying recognition at the highest level […]

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A LIFE OF “E”S

In the early 1950s Cy Twombly worked for the army as a cryptologist. That fact seems hugely significant since Twombly (who died on July 5th at 83 years old) was one of the more elusive artists of his generation. That is what the conventional wisdom says. In this case, the conventional wisdom is probably correct. […]

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Bosch Mania

This year is shaping up to be downright Boschian. We are speaking here of Hieronymus Bosch, the painter. 2016 happens to mark the five-hundred-year anniversary of Bosch’s death. So, Bosch’s home and eponymous town, Den Bosch (or, more correctly but much harder to say, ‘s-Hertogenbosch), has assembled the largest retrospective of Bosch’s work ever to […]

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