Friday, January 28, 2011

"Fine, like moving the castle isn't hard enough!"

Today, we're going in a completely new direction! Remember how I briefly explained anime in my post on Sailor Moon :)? Today's topic is the great Hayao Miyazaki and his animated movies.

Hayao Miyazaki - Japanese manga artist, animator, and film director

If you've never seen a Miyazaki movie, I must profess, my dears, you must be living under a rock. His 2001 film Spirited Away (trailer below) was the first anime ever awarded the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Howl's Moving Castle (based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones) was nominated for the same category in 2005. His 1997 film Princess Mononoke (the first Miyazaki film to make it big in the West - Thanks, Miramax) was the highest-grossing film in Japan, until it was topped by James Cameron's Titanic. Later, Spirited Away would top Titanic.


Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibli, the studio under which these classics were produced, in June of 1985. The logo features the lovable Totoro (pictured above) from Miyazaki's film My Neighbor Totoro. I remember watching that movie in the After School Program in elementary school and I have quite a little collection of Totoro plushies. But that's a mere side note. :)

6 Reasons why we love Miyazaki's films (of 12983083459834058 other reasons)

1. While the style of his characters may look a little simple, Miyazaki is a master animator. The effects, the backgrounds, the action will surprise you.
2. He always gets Joe Hisaishi to do his music. *_* This guy is so good. (And yes, you can purchase the soundtracks :))
3. His movies have a message. They delight and entertain all ages, but you leave having learned something. Whether it's about love, humanity, industry vs. nature, good vs. evil...
4. They have something for everyone, so they're perfect for watching with friends and family.
5. The man created Totoro. And Catbus. He deserves our patronage and support.

RIGHT HERE! <-- Here's a great article in-depth article on Miyazaki's works and themes.

Three of his films you need to see right now (this is no surprise): Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle. GO NOW! I'll go with you.

3 Fun Facts!

1. Miyazaki's father, Katsuji, was the Director of family-owned Miyazaki airplane. This family fascination with aviation is apparent in Miyazaki's works even today...Check Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky and Howl's Moving Castle.
2. Reoccurring themes in Miyazaki's work include human impact on the environment, feminism, anti-military sentiments, magic, and morally ambiguous characters.
3. Miyazaki believes that "hand drawing on paper is the fundamental of animation." The majority of his art is done in watercolor. While some of his films have employed computer animation for polish, his most recent film Ponyo (2008) returned to hand drawing for everything.

“I am an animator. I feel like I'm the manager of a animation cinema factory. I am not an executive. I'm rather like a foreman, like the boss of a team of craftsmen. That is the spirit of how I work.” - Hayao Miyazaki

Monday, January 24, 2011

"O"! More sculpture!

Back in 2008, my family and I took a trip to Las Vegas and Bryce Canyon/Mt. Zion National Parks. In Vegas, we OF COURSE had to tour all of the casinos and in the Bellagio (which also had Dale Chihuly glass sculptures...OMG!), there was an exhibit of sculptures in the "O" (Cirque du Soleil) theater lobby by sculptor Richard MacDonald. These works depicted Cirque artists in movement. And they are absolutely breathtaking.

MacDonald's works are obviously not limited to just Cirque artists, but those are the ones I wanted to share with you today. He works primarily in bronze. And more than anything I could tell you, I thought it might be better for MacDonald to tell you a little bit more about his work. Ah, the advantages of a live artist. :)


Hopefully, even though this is not a typical post of mine, you got a brief sense of the beauty this artist creates, and hopefully you'll be inspired to follow his art from now on!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mosaic Meme Results!

Thank you everyone for having fun with this activity! Here are our wonderful, wonderful results! For those of you who have not yet tried this super addicting activity, you can find it HERE. Go see what you can create!

Alicia.

Anna.

Jacen.

Jennifer.

Kelly.

Liz.

Richard.

Whitney.

"I knew that I had come face to face with someone whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself." - Oscar Wilde

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Today, I give you...FUN!

Of course, everything on this blog is super fun (You know it is! :)), but today, I rediscovered a fun little activity PERFECT for people stuck inside for the night due to snow (*coughmecough*), procrastinating on homework, bored of t.v., or just plain wanting to create a visual representation of their personality! :)

This is the Mosaic Meme!


1. Answer each of the prompts below using Flickr Search.
2. Choose a photo from the first THREE pages.
3. Copy the URL of your favorite photo into this site: http://bighugelabs.com/flickr/mosaic.php
4. Then share with the world!!

So, basically, I'd recommend opening two browsers, one for Flickr and one for Bighugelabs.com. You can adjust how many boxes you want in your mosaic...For this one, 3 (rows) by 4 (columns) is perfect! You can always add on boxes later if you find other prompts you want to add. Keep in mind the search results might not come up with EXACTLY your hometown or favorite color...but pick your favorite from what they give you!

1. First name
2. Favorite food
3. Hometown
4. Favorite color
5. Celebrity crush
6. Favorite Drink
7. Dream Vacation
8. Favorite Dessert
9. What I want to be when I grow up
10. What I love most in the world
11. One word that describes me
12. (Insert one of your usernames here)

My answers, for this one, were...Aleah (ob-v, my name), fruit, Atlanta (Baby panda from ZooAtlanta!), lime green, Robert Pattinson (I took this in 2008...Now I'd say Ryan Reynolds ;) ), red wine (Malbec, specifically), a tropical island, creme brulée (OMG, yum), an author, Love (she's reaching for a little heart), "Dreamer," and Shadowbc (Ironically, the picture that came up is of the Temple of Debod in downtown Madrid! :)).

If you don't like those prompts, other ones I've used are...Name meaning, favorite animal, favorite flower, eye color, Zodiac sign, Favorite place, favorite month, virtue you value, language you speak...

I made a new one today at random with no set prompts...just one to reflect me (though the last one was pretty good :)) and this is what I got!
Stargazer lily (1 of 3 fave flowers...partially responsible for this site name, Artgazer!)
Bubbles (nickname),
white tiger (fave animal!),
Prado Museum, Madrid (fave museum),
Cordoba, Spain (Fave country),
Blue Morpho Butterfly (I like 'em),
RAINBOW UMBRELLA! (just because),
Daffodils (2nd fave flower),
Peacock feather (My favorite pair of shoes has peacock feathers on the toes),
Malbec (Noted),
Rock music (Sweet air, dude),
Books! (and colorful ones),
Princess lady (Art Historian/I want to be a Princess...),
Ronda (Spain again!),
Author (I've got dreams!),
Lotus (3rd fave flower).


What will YOU come up with?? I'd love to see ya'lls results! (Post them in the comments or e-mail me your results at aleah.art@gmail.com and I'll either do a mass post of Mosaics here or on Facebook!)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"I paint because the spirits whisper madly inside my head."

I wasn't quite sure who or what I wanted to write about next...so I asked my fellow Art Historians and got El Greco! Excellent suggestion too for his lovely colors, elongated figures, and his connection to Spain. My favorite area is 17th century Spanish Baroque art and though El Greco came a bit earlier, I got to see some of his works at the Prado museum when I was in Madrid in 2007...and they're gorgeous!

El Greco - The Mannerist Master
First, let me just say...El Greco is NOT Spanish. He is, in fact, Greek, indicated by his nickname "El Greco" ("The Greek"). His real name is Domenikos Theotokopoulos (And now we know why he went by his nickname...) and he was born in Crete in 1541. He was considered a master painter in Crete, but like any other good artist of the era, he went to Italy to further his craft. In Italy (Venice and Rome), he reportedly studied under Titian. In 1577, he moved to Toledo, Spain (painted by El Greco in the painting above) where he remained until his death on April 7, 1614.

El Greco is best known for his Mannerist painting tendencies. Mannerism was an era of the late Italian Renaissance known for its elongated figures, highly stylized poses, and a lack of sensible perspective. El Greco took to this style, rejecting classical proportion and measure and emphasizing color as the most important element of art (likely influenced from his Venetian teachings). He used the emphasis on color, distorted proportion, and irregular light (as if each figure had its own light source) to dramatize religious tension and ecstasy.

El Greco is specifically known for his paintings, but he was also an architect and sculptor. His constructions were usually made for churches or their altars. Unfortunately, some of his works no longer survive because they were made of wood and perished or were destroyed over time. He was responsible for some of the architecture (paintings and interior sculptors as well) of the church and Monastery of Santo Domingo el Antiguo, where he is now buried.

After his death, as unfortunately happens with many artists, El Greco fell into obscurity. But he was rediscovered and found new appreciation in the 20th century with artists like Picasso, Eugene Delacroix, and Éduoard Manet. The color and expressiveness influenced Delacroix and Manet, while Picasso, Cézanne and other cubism frontrunners got attached to El Greco's distorted morphology. El Greco's works are regarded as catalysts for Expressionism and Cubism.

"Art is everywhere you look for it, hail the twinkling stars for they are God's careless splatters." - El Greco

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bubbles on a sea of elegance

My friend Clint just made it to Istanbul earlier this week, so even though I know my last post was about architecture, I had continue the theme. So, to contrast the Christian building of last post, today I want to look at another Islamic monument!

Doesn't hurt that I once again have my Islamic Art class notes to reference. :)

The Süleyman Mosque at the Süleymaniye Complex - Istanbul, Turkey
From afar, the first think you might notice is that...Hey! Wait a second! That looks like the Hagia Sofia, which is ALSO in Istanbul. What's with that?

Well, inquisitive readers, thank you for asking. This mosque, built between 1550 and 1557 under patronage of the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman ("Solomon") and under the design of the masterful architect Sinan, was a to compete, like a mirror, with the Hagia Sofia (Dedicated in 360 A.D. by the Emperor Justinian originally as an Orthodox basilica, converted to a mosque in 1453). The main dome is 53 m x 27.5 m, and at the time of its construction, it was the largest in the Ottoman empire, when measured from sea level to top of the dome. However, it is still smaller than the Hagia Sofia when the dome is measured from base of building to top.

The site for the mosque (and it's socioreligious complex complete with school, baths, a hostel, a hospital, a library, tombs, shops, etc.) are built on the 3rd hill of the Imperial palatine ("made of many hills") city. The location is advantageous because it's encircled by water, it's the place of the old Istanbul palace ( a place of reverence), and the Sultan can see the entirety of the city landscape from that particular hill.

The exterior codifies the Ottoman architecture style - Bubble domes (I love them!), flying buttresses, a monumental courtyard, and four spear-like minarets (Only the Sultan could grant 4 minarets. Princes could only commission 2).

But the interior is really the most fascinating part.

Ahhh, isn't it just gorgeous???

The structure of the interior is based on those four main pillars ("elephants feet"). I'll get back to them later. The only tile work in the room is around the mihrab, or prayer niche along the qibla (Direction of prayer, toward Mecca) wall. In Islamic tradition, worshippers always know where to face when praying due to the presence of the mihrab. It's supposed to act as a "sit in space" for the spirit of Muhammad.

The walls are otherwise unadorned, emphasizing the structural solidity of the building. Stained glass windows let in colored light and there's a ring of hanging lights, known as the "cosmic sphere" of lights, both of which give the inside a really ethereal, other-worldly presence.

Everything in the Süleymaniye mosque has a symbolic meaning as well as a literal function. The main dome is flanked by other smaller domes, meant to represent Gemini and other celestial orbits. The fountain in the courtyard is based on Kawthar, the mythical water basin in paradise. The mosque itself was to be a symbol of paradise. Lights from the stained glass windows were thought to be divine, on the wings of Gabriel. The oil lamps hanging in the "cosmic sphere" were "stars." Those four "elephant foot" monoliths holding up the mosque interior actually are meant to represent the Sunni "Four Pillars" of Islam...the Four Companions of the Prophet Muhammad: Bakr, 'Uman, 'Uthman, and 'Ali. This metaphor is also applied to the four minarets.

Fun Facts!

1. The mosque actually had a religious, social, AND political importance. The religious part is obvious. Socially, it provides the epicenter for the rest of the thriving complex. For the political aspect, readers in the Mosque praise both Islam AND the Sultan, as his power was thought to be God given. Large processionals mark his attendance/importance and after his visits, he would distribute alms to the poor (Emphasizing his power AND charity).

2.Only Sultans that had conquered Christian lands had the right to build a royal mosque in the capital, meant to be built with the spoils of conquest. This complex has marble pillars taken from all over the conquered parts of the empire, including four large columns taken from the Baalbek Temple in Lebanon, which supposedly also held connection to Solomon.

3. The Founding Inscription of the mosque is one of the very few in Islamic tradition that is NOT Qu'ranic (deriving from the Quran/Koran). Instead, it emphasizes Süleyman's divine right as ruler, promulgation of law, and announcing that this mosque was built as a public service, deemed by God.

"The people think of wealth and power as the greatest fate,
But in this world a spell of health is the best state.
What men call sovereignty is a worldly strife and constant war;
Worship of God is the highest throne, the happiest of all estates." - Sultan Süleyman

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quote of Today

From my American art reading...

"The love of art is the constant craving of the individual soul for those expressions of beauty, truth, and goodness so replete in the handiwork of the Creator; a taste for something better than what is merely earth, earthy; a penchant for those glorious talismans which out live time."

- Mrs. J. H. Layton, July 1861

"A camel is a horse designed by a committee."

Last semester, I got the privilege of attending an extracurricular seminar talk given by Robert Ousterhout of University of Pennsylvania on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. I just found the notes on that talk last night, and it's probably one of the most interesting buildings, in terms of history, that the -world- has to offer. So...

Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Jerusalem, Israel

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was erected on the supposed location where Christ was crucified (Calvary) and contained the sepulchre where he was buried.

The site of the church in the 2nd century originally belonged to a temple to the Greek goddess Aphrodite. In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine had the temple demolished and the first phase of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built. His mother, Helena, was put in charge of the new church's construction. During this time, she discovered what was thought to be the true Cross and the sepulchre itself. This first phase included a 5-aisle basilica plan with a colonnaded atrium, and an "Anastasis" ("Resurrection") rotunda thought to be the burial site. There was also a courtyard featuring a Rock of Calvary.

The building was damaged during a fire in 614 and again in 966. The Persians invaded Jerusalem in 614, capturing the Cross. Emperor Heraclitus restored it to the Church in 630. Under Muslim rule from 630 to 1009, the Church was maintained and protected as a holy Christian site. It wasn't until October 1009, that Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the complete and total destruction of the site, continuing an anti-Christian campaign that had already begun in Egypt and Palestine.

The church was rebuilt in the 11th century when the Byzantine rulers reached an accord with with the new Fatimid caliph, al-Hakim's son. In this new plan abandoned the basilica completely, focusing on the rotunda as the central space. The courtyard became flanked by auxiliary chapels (containing relics). Control of Jerusalem, and therefore control of the church, continued to change hands from the Fatimids to the Seljuk Turks to the Crusaders in 1099.

In the 12th century, under the Crusaders, additional alterations were made to the church. A chapel was created to celebrate St. Helena, the courtyard was replaced with transept and a pilgrimage choir. The entrance was monumentalized, the church was re-done in a Romanesque style, and a bell tower was added.

Franciscan friars did another renovation in 1555 and after another fire wrecked the structure in 1808, the exterior decoration was redone in the Ottoman Baroque style (Turquoise bubble domes! :)). Suffice to say, the church has changed drastically since it's original conception.

And here's where things get interesting.

With so many different groups having had contributed to the church, all felt that they had a say in how it should be run and maintained. But how do you maintain a building as a whole when so many differing groups have differing ideas on how to go about it?

The answer? You divide it into sections.

Eastern (Greek) Orthodox, the Franciscans, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Syriac Orthodox groups all claim parts of the church.

And I give you, instead of 3 Fun Facts...1...BIG...SUPERFUN FACT!

In 1767, the law dividing the church amongst the groups was enacted. The arrangement became permanent in 1852, known as the "Status Quo" agreement. Under this law, absolutely no part of what is designated as "common territory" may be moved without the consent of all groups. For example, this means that certain parts of the church can never be cleaned (and have NEVER been cleaned) without the consent of all parties, because cleaning implies ownership.

The most obvious issue with the Status Quo is unfortunately located, blatantly, on the entrance facade. Sometime before Status Quo became official, during renovations, a wooden ladder was placed between the entrance and the window. The doors and windows are designated as "common ground" and therefore, the ladder cannot be removed. It can be renovated, but not removed. Can you see it? It's under the right window.

"There, at present, by the command of the Emperor Constantine, has been built a basilica, that is to say, a church of wondrous beauty." - The Pilgrim of Bordeaux, 333 A.D.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Friends

You gotta have friends!

In fact, I'm blessed to have quite a few that are there for me, so I want to be there for them. These are websites belonging to friends of mine. Please go, check out their work, and show your support! They are phenomenal artists!

Multimedia

Photography

Graphic arts

Jewelry

Pottery

Musicians
The Holliday brothers - http://www.HollidayBrothers.com/

Moon Prism Power!

So, some might have noticed that I changed the title from "365 Days of Art" to "52 Weeks of Art." I was already seeing how difficult posting every day was going to be, but I am committed to a full year of Art for your enjoyment...So, 2-3 times a week might be a more reasonable expectation. So, on to the art!

Today's topic may seem a little unexpected for some of you. But, as it plays off of last post, and actually has a HUGE role in how I came to love Art and be an "Art Person" in the first place, it most certainly deserves it's due as the first post of my academic second semester. :)

美少女戦士セーラームーン - Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon. Probably one of the biggest names in Japanese comics, or mangas. Though most are likely familiar with the anime, or Japanese animation cartoon (clip seen above), Sailor Moon began as a manga that originally ran from 1992 to 1997. It was created by mangaka Naoko Takeuchi and really popularized the theme of the "team of magical girls." This series ran as a TV anime as long as it was published in manga and produced three films. Not only that, but this series has been so influential, it spawned a stage musical in Japan that ran from 1993-2005, a 49-episode live-action TV series from 2003-2004 (I've watched it online. It's epic), and Sailor Moon videogames, mostly released in Japan. There are dolls, t-shirts, toys, art books (Oh, how I pine for one of those...), and the list goes on and on.

The story is based around Usagi Tsukino, known as Bunny or Serena in English. She's a clumsy, immature, whiny 14-year-old student at the beginning of the series. She is discovered as Sailor Moon by Luna, a talking cat with a mysterious crescent moon on her forehead, and is forced to fight evil which initially, she does NOT want to do. However, over the story you see her evolution into a strong, compassionate soldier for love and justice as well as the evolution of the friends she collections along the way. Her immediate 4 best friends Ami (Amy), Rei (Ray), Lita (Makoto), Mina (Minako) are her co-soldiers Sailor Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus. Oh, and then of course, there's Tuxedo Mask, Bunny's love interest. ;)


I'm not going to tell you the rest because you need to go watch/read for yourself! (W

atch the live-action TV version if you really want to be in a good mood for years to come XD)

What does any of this have to do with art? Well, first off, there's the ART part. Comics are art too. Sometimes people don't see that in their need to define art as something housed in a museum, but for me, comics have long been the most influential art in my artistic endeavors. Naoko Takeuchi's art is some of the most beautiful, graceful, flowing work I've ever seen. And it's so much fun!

Sailor Moon was the reason I started drawing and cultivating my own characters back in the 5th-6th grade. And let me tell you...those first drawings? I drew Sailor Moon's hand on backwards. NOT good. But I kept at it. I used to visit my Dad's school and exhaust his printer just printing off new Sailor Moon pictures that I could either color or practice drawing from. I had all of the manga too.

I started off like this...(but worse)


Yeap. I did this. in 2001. And I can tell you right now, the reference poses for these pieces were manga images of Rei, Bunny, Bunny, Ami, and maybe Ami again.








And now, after many years, after lots of practice and schooling, I'm here...


This is my character Dierdre. And she's mine, don't be snatching her!

Anyway.

Point is, Sailor Moon has had an influence on me, at very least, of exceptional importance. It formed the basis of my own artistic style, and got me interested in art so that I took the art classes, became a Studio Art major for two.5 years of college (which, obviously, I eventually switched to Art History, but still :)), and basically fell in love with Art as a whole. Not only that, but it got me interested in the Japanese culture, something I knew nothing about in middle school, and I think it really broadened my cultural appreciations and understandings. From there, I got into Japanese music, and from there, Chinese and Korean music. From there, I started collecting French and Russian music and this is the very watered down way of saying...You can learn something from everyone, everywhere. You just need to be open to it! And yes, all of this started with a comic book.

I leave you, for this entry, with my most recent tribute to Sailor Moon of my four favorite characters, Sailors Pluto, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars...and of course, 3 fun facts. :)
3 Facts!

- Sailor Moon actually developed out of another comic Takeuchi had been working on, Sailor V, which was based on Mina (later, Sailor Venus). It wasn't until Sailor V was proposed to become an anime that Takeuchi developed the concept of a TEAM of girls dressed in sailor fuku (based on the sailor outfit uniforms girls in Japan have to wear to school). The new series, Sailor Moon, combined the magical girl genre with the superhero genre for the first time.

- Elements of the plot are heavily based on mythology and symbolism. For example, Greek mythology is present in the characters Selene, the Moon, and Endymion, her lover.

- According to Wikipedia, there are about 3,335,000 websites dedicated to Sailor Moon while only 491,000 for Mickey Mouse.

PS - Here's my favorite website for Sailor Moon art, straight from the Artbooks! Go take a look. :) http://mangastyle.net/

"Sailor Moon: Don't drop me!
Tuxedo Mask: Hey, have I ever let you down?"

Friday, January 7, 2011

You better Czech what you think you know

OOhh, I can see this is already going to be a challenge...keeping this blog up, I mean. :)

But I shall prevail! I have so much art to share in and a whole gosh darn year to do it in!!

My next candidate for discussion I'm sure we have all seen, in fact, I KNOW we've all seen his work. But what do we really know about him?

Alphonse Mucha - The Art Nouveau Frontman
For starters, I did not know that this master of the Art Nouveau style, famous for his whimsical, goddess-like female figures, was Czech. He was born in Moravia (modern day Czech Republic) in 1860. He moved to Paris in 1887. He got his start during Christmas 1894 when he created a lithographed poster promoting a theatrical production featuring Sarah Bernhardt. The poster became so widely popular and successful, Bernhardt entered into a 6 year contract with Mucha and the new style (later to be changed to "Art Nouveau") was called the "Mucha style."

If someone mentioned "Art Nouveau" to you, what would you think? Before researching for this update, I would have said "Early 1900's French Art." Funny how that is so WRONG. Mucha developed this style out of Czech art and his own internal, spiritual inspiration. The only thing French about it was that they adopted it from his example.

The Art Nouveau style is characterized by bold outlines, strong compositions with flow, natural colors, graceful figures, floral motifs, and curvaceous lines.

Other followers of Art Nouveau include Antonio Gaudí (Barcelona), Gustav Klimt (Vienna), Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (Paris), and Louis Comfort Tiffany (New York...Tiffany and Co., anyone??).

While it's easy to think of Mucha's work as only posters, he also worked on book illustrations, postcards, advertisements, and designs for carpets, jewelry, and theater sets. The masterpiece of his life's work, however, was a 20-page compilation of paintings depicting the Czech/Slavic people in a historical tribute. The completed work was a given to the city of Prague as a gift in 1928.

FACTS!

- "Art Nouveau" is actually an international style that hit it's peak from 1894 to 1905...In Germany, it is known as Jugendstil, "youth style," for a magazine that popularized it; in Italy, it was called Stile Liberty after the department store, Liberty & Co., that popularized it.

- When German troops marched on Czechoslovakia in 1939, Mucha was one of the first to be arrested by the Gestapo for his "reactionary" works and Slavic nationalism. He contracted pneumonia when undergoing questioning and never recovered, even after his release. Why do great artists always seem to suffer such ill fates?? :(

- Because I am a nerd, this last fact will elude to one of my favorite middle school/high school fandoms: Sailor Moon. Mucha's style is popular even today...Manga artist Naoko Takeuchi produced a series of official posters in Mucha's style promoting her most famous series, Sailor Moon. Other manga and comic artists (Masakazu Katsura, Marvel Comic Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada) have done a similar thing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Princely Ambition Personified

Just fyi, if anyone has any comments, you can do so even without a Blogspot account, I believe. :) Like I said on Facebook, comments/suggestions/ideas are super welcome!

So, we've seen an awful lot of painters thus far (and only one sculptor)! I really need to work that out.

So, let's try something completely different - Architecture!

Gur-i Mir ("Tomb of the Amir") - Samarqand, modern day Uzbekistan

This past semester, I took a class on Islamic Art and Architecture. It was the first class I had ever had like it, and I fell in love with it. Islamic architectural works are some of the most breathtaking, incredible structures I have ever seen. I only hope that some day I can see some of these structures in person. I'm sure you lovely readers will get to see some more of my favorite Islamic monuments in the future. (*coughTheAlhambracough*)

But why start with the Gur-i Mir? Simply, I thought it had some of the best "fun facts" with which to draw you all in. :)

The first part of the Gur-i Mir, the madrasa (school) and khanegah (monastery), was built between 1401 and 1403 by the grandson of Emperor Tamerlane, Muhammad Sultan. Tamerlane, known as Timur in Persian history, was the head of the Timurid (Clever) dynasty and claimed lineage to Chengiz Khan. In the footsteps of the great Mongol conqueror, Timur set out to create a "world empire," successfully conquering the Mamluks and Ottomans to the west. His conquest was cut short with his death in 1506, however, on his way to invade empires to the East (namely, China) so he could reunite the Mongol empire. Timur himself was a great patron of the arts, but simultaneously brought a great amount of destruction wherever he went.

The Gur-i Mir complex was begun by Muhammad Sultan, but the heir apparent died suddenly and ended up being buried in the mausoleum Timur built in 1404 as a result. Timur was also later buried there. Along with the Shah-i Zinda ("The Living King") Necropolis, also in Samarqand, the Gur-i Mir acted as a principal resting place for members of the Timurid dynasty.

The Gur-i Mir is the epitome of Timurid architecture. Everything is on a monumental scale - After all, if Timur had to be the best (and he did), his constructions had to reflect his great power. The ribbed, double dome is a brilliant turquoise and sits on an elongated drum, or the space between a dome and its base. The exterior of the building is heavily decorated in blue, white, and yellow tiles in a combination of hazarbaf (decorative brickwork), bana'i, and haft rang ("Seven Colors," applying enamel on tile) techniques. The interior is no exception. The interior is a wealth of pattern in red, blue, and gold with muqarnas ("honeycomb" constructions that build upwards) ceilings (Pictured below).

And those "fun facts" I mentioned :)?

- The epitaph of Timur is made of nephrite (dark green) jade and is the largest, all-in-one-piece deposit of nephrite in the world.

- The lineage that Timur claims to Ghengiz Khan is actually through his favorite wife, Saray Mulk Khanum (The principal of 18 wives and 22 concubines). The "Khan" in her name indicates this connection. So, Timur's only connection to Ghengiz Khan is through marriage! (PS, ladies, woman had a great deal more power during this era...they were learned and patrons of their own great creations, such as the Bibi Khanum Mosque and tombs in Shah-i Zinda!)

- On the underside of Timur's epitaph it is written..."When I rise from the dead, the world will tremble." (Spooky!)

"I am not a man of blood; and God is my witness that in all my wars I have never been the aggressor, and that my enemies have always been the authors of their own calamity. - Emperor Tamerlane (Timur)

Fifth of 365

Shout out to my friend Ben and everyone in my 17th Century "Problems outside of Italy" class from Fall Semester! This guy is for you.

And so, we move on to the 5th and final artist most relevant to my holiday. This will still be followed by another post for today-today, but this gets us on track for one post a day from now on. :) So far, we've seen the eccentric dreamweaver (Dalí), the coloristic master (Titian), the scientific sculptor (Ganson), and the well-rounded painter-diplomat (Rubens). What good boys. Time for a little mischief.

Fifth. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio - The Italian Bad-Boy

This artist, most simply and commonly known as Caravaggio, is likely another artist most have heard of...but know little about. And on that note, little is known about him in general! He did not sketch or keep a journal of his style, methods, or work. He did not utilize models or Antique statuary for reference, which was the tradition of the age. He did not take on students, though many young artists (known as the "Caravaggisti") took on his style. He was he antithesis of what a successful artist in the seventeenth-century should be.

And yet, he was successful, particularly for his naturalistic religious works. He is best known for his use of chiaroscuro, or strong contrasts between light and shadow ("Make your darks darker, and your lights lighter"). He worked to emphasize physical and psychological realities. Despite his focus on the blatant naturalism, and sometimes even grotesque details, of life, there is mystery in his work. Why all of the deep shadows? Who is the reoccurring figure in his pieces (i.e. You can see the same "boy" in Boy with a basket of fruit, 1593-1594, The Musicians, 1595-1596, and arguably, Bacchus, 1595)? Why are the fruit in his works most frequently depicted as rotting?

Sadly, it is Caravaggio's "bad boy" image that seems to be more common knowledge than his oeuvre (work). He carried a sword with him when he went out and is known for picking fights and being aggressive in nature. There are pages upon pages of police reports and trial hearings as a result. He was forced into exile for killing a man in 1606 (perhaps unintentionally). He died in exile of a fever in 1610, all alone.

But what he should be known for is his distinct cultivation of chiaroscuro as it pertains to the development of the Baroque style. Baroque artists may not have adopted the psychological realism also characteristic of Caravaggio's work, but they are absolutely indebted into his development of chiaroscuro. This style even touched the light, vivacious work of Rubens (one of my arguments for my paper!).

3 Facts!

- When Caravaggio died, he was on his way back to Rome to receive pardon from the Pope for his transgressions. It is said that he was even robbed of his boat and worldly possessions right before he took fever and died. Human remains found in a church in Port Ercole in Tuscany in 2010 are thought most definitively to belong to Caravaggio (DNA and carbon dating confirms).

- Caravaggio was more-or-less immediately forgotten after his death, only to be rediscovered in the 20th century as a master of the Baroque era. Only about 80 of his works survive.

- *Best fact ever* - In the Barbie Rapunzel movie (Yes, I'm serious), when the shot is walking down the hall into the main ballroom towards the climatic end, Caravaggio's Boy with a basket of fruit is on the left wall on the very end at the hall. Yes. Barbie's Prince has a Caravaggio in his palace. And Caravaggio is probably flipping in his grave.

"All works, no matter what or by whom painted, are nothing but bagatelles and childish trifles... unless they are made and painted from life, and there can be nothing... better than to follow nature." - Caravaggio

Fourth of 365

Cooler titles to come later, I promise. :)

This next artist has kind of been like my other half for the past three months. We've been almost inseparable. You know, theoretically, because he is unfortunately quite dead.

Fourth. Peter Paul Rubens - The Flemish Painter-Diplomat
Pictured above is probably one of my favorite works by Flemish Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens, The Judgment of Paris (1639), housed in the Prado museum in Madrid, Spain. I got to see this work first-hand when I studied abroad in Spain in 2007. A little post card of the image is even nestled in the corner of my diploma frame. :) I can't pinpoint one reason I love this painting, but I can generally say that I...

1) Love the honesty of his voluptuous women (You can see the cellulite!); 2) Love his vivid, luxurious colors; 3) Love the dynamism of his compositions; 4) Love the way he seems to capture a fleeting moment; 5) Love his focus on mythological scenes.

Peter Paul Rubens was a seventeenth-century diplomat, nobleman, humanist, and collector, as well as painter. His artistic abilities secured him diplomatic missions on behalf of Spain, England, and France, though his heart always lay with Italy, the artistic epicenter of the world at that time. Though his earlier works follow the Roman tradition emphasizing design and drawing, over time his works came to embody the Venetian focus on color.

3 Facts!

- When Rubens passed away in 1640, 8 original paintings and 33 copies after Titian were found in his estate. There was no greater influence in the life of Rubens than Titian, hence his evolution to the Venetian style over time...

- Rubens was married twice. The second marriage was in 1630 to 16-year-old Helene Fourment, his muse for the last 10 years of his life. They had 5 children together, the last of which was born 8 months after Rubens's death. Did I mention that he was 53 when they got married? (Way to go, guy.)

- Rubens was so enamored with Italy and its culture, he would frequently correspond in Italian and sign his letters "Pietro Paolo Rubens." Furthermore, when forced to return to Antwerp upon the death of his beloved mother, he built a massive Roman-style house bedecked in antique statuary with a miniature Pantheon rotunda in the garden.

**BONUS FACT 4!**
- Rubens was knighted twice: Once by England, once by Spain. Tops Titian only being knighted once.

"I am just a simple man standing alone with my old brushes, asking God for inspiration." - Peter Paul Rubens