Friday, May 31, 2013

Is dying Detroit trying to murder its museum?

As the economic crisis keeps hitting hard left and right world-wide, the almost bankrupt city of Boston has come up with a unique but controversial plan to deal with the situation: flog the impressive art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts for an estimated worth of 15 billion dollars (a selection in the picture). In the linked interesting article, Bob Duggan is examining the pro's and especially con's of such an unprecedented move.

web site

Thursday, May 30, 2013

At a Bahraini funeral

Photojournalism is at its best if the shot meets three criteria: [1] it is a current event of some importance, [2] it makes you think, and [3] it is an excellent photograph by itself. This is such an example, taken at the funeral of Sayed Omran Sayed Hameed, a victim of the lash down on demonstrators in Bahrain. As always, all rights retained by the photographer (Mohamed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images).

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Elite Styles July 1924

Elite Styles is a magazine I had not heard of before, but the last few days some of my favourite blogs have started posting selected covers - and they are great. The magazine is at least 100 years old and still is published today.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Villa-Lobos, South America's finest

Without a doubt (for me), Brazil's Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) is the best composer to have come from the continent of South America. His style is post-impressionist, combining local influences with stylistic elements from the European tradition, going back to Bach as a main source of inspiration. Probably his most famous composition is Bachianas Brasileiras (Brazilian Bachian-pieces), but as these come as a 3CD package, I have decided to go for a different recommendation. His guitar music is fabulous, and fits nicely on one CD. On the Naxos disc shown above, it is played magnificently by Norbert Kraft. A real treat, and a good introduction to this essential composer.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Golden Years

Last Saturday night, the wife and I watched the brilliant BBC documentary David Bowie - Five Years, full of fascinating footage and interviews with musicians who worked with him. For the occasion, a suitably titled Bowie classic from the seventies. Art Rock score: 8/10 (great song, I would put it on my MP3 player).


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Repost: Paper petals

A re-post from the artchives (original posting date 6 May 2009) - with the blog in its current form over four years old, I intend to dig up some of the older posts once in a while.

More photoshop brilliance taken from the advanced photoshop contest section of Worth1000. Here is an original shot created by their member mayfae for the Best of Worth B contest. Simply beautiful. As always, all rights retained by the creator.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Stevedores in Arles

It is not often that you encounter a painting by a world famous artist that you have never seen before. It happened to me a few weeks ago with one of my favourites, Vincent van Gogh. He created this masterpiece in 1888, two years before his death - foreshadowing expressionism even more than most of his work. More about van Gogh in the Wikipedia article linked to below.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Due to the new Flickr "improvements", which is driving hordes of Flickrites away from the site (possibly including myself), this may well be one of the last shots featured in my blog under this heading. It is fitting then that it is a gorgeous abstract by one of my favourite Flickr friends, jenny downing. Hard to believe that this abstract masterpiece is actually a dusty platter on a table. Pure art. As usual, all rights retained by the creator.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The world's belly-button

This is one of the few examples where the original German title (Der Nabel der Welt) sounds far better than its English translation. The Art Deco style illustration was made by Paul Rieth in 1925, for the Jugend magazine (Youth magazine).


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Flying Dutchman

Today marks the 200 years anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner - I have selected this poster for the occasion. The Royal Dutch Airlines, KLM, share their nickname The flying Dutchman with one of Wagner's famous operas, and indeed the ship that plays the main role in it features here as well. I would expect this poster to date back to the thirties.

Vintage Posters

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Potpourri: Crushed pigment portraits

From time to time I will be highlighting some of my own favourite posts in my parallel blog, Art's Potpourri. These can be recent or from some time ago. This one was originally posted 22 December 2012.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Unusual concertos [49]: Maracas

Before the purge of end 2008, one of the most popular topics of this blog was "Unusual concertos", classical concertos for all kinds of instruments and orchestra. I have decided to revive this, aiming for less familiar composers in general. In its original incarnation, I came to 40 different concertante instruments - aiming for 50+ this time.

The forty-ninth concerto deals with the maracas (image source), typically used in a pair. Originating from Latin America, these percussion instruments have not penetrated classical music to any extent, although there may be some scores where they are included in the percussion group. I know of only one concerto for it, by American composer Ricardo Lorenz. It is played by Ed Harrison and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra under Freeman, available on an Albany CD.

Go here

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Night train to Lisbon

Yesterday evening marked our first cinema visit in over 2 years. We went to see Bille August's Night train to Lisbon, issued earlier this year, in the local art cinema. We liked it - a great way to depict in flashbacks part of Europe's history that is not known well enough (the events leading to the carnation revolution of the 70s). The poster is excellent as well.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Buddha's birthday

Yesterday millions of Asians celebrated Buddha's birthday. This beautiful colourful photograph shows a South Korean worker attaching tags with the names of beneficiaries to lanterns at the Jogye temple in Seoul. As always, all rights retained by the photographer (Undisclosed/AP).

Friday, May 17, 2013

Visual renderings of animal sounds

Just failing to make my personal criterion of fine art, these images are still too beautiful not to share them in my main blog. Computer engineer Mark Fischer takes the sound waves from animals and transforms them into a brilliant array of colors and patterns via a specialized computer program. The results are mesmerizing. I selected the one based on the sounds of a minke whale, but the linked article gives many more, all well worth looking at.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Giant duck deflated

The giant inflated yellow rubber duck, a creation by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, has travelled to thirteen different cities in nine countries ranging from Brazil to Australia, and is now in Hong Kong, where it attracts more attention than ever. The picture shows it there in a deflated shape, which came as a surprise for many visitors, but which was actually for a scheduled maintenance. As always, all rights retained by the photographer (Tyrone Siu/Reuters).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Natural History Museum

This series of advertisements for London's Natural History Museum is really stunning - there are more examples given in the link. The premise is simple: each poster contains three layers of pictures of exhibits from the museum, but they are selected and combined to create a coherent new surreal picture. Excellent work by Krow Communications.

Creative Ads

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Vogue May 1931

A minimal beauty of a vintage cover, fit for the spring season. Artist Carl Eric Erickson uses just a few strokes to portray a woman enjoying her violet bouquet.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Musical impression

This is a bit of an experiment. When we had a parade of marching bands through the street where we live recently, I took a lot of shots leaning out of the second floor window. Here are five of them, combined into one in Picasa, resulting in an impressionist view of the event. And for such an experimental shot, it got good reactions on Flickr.

Camera: Canon IXUS 115 HS, 12 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.16 sec (1/6)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 5.0 mm
ISO Speed: 1600
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Capital Gate Abu Dhabi

Capital Gate is a skyscraper in Abu Dhabi, next to the National Exhibition Centre. It was designed with a striking lean, which is currently by far the largest in the world. At 160 m and 35 stories, it is also one of the tallest buildings in the city. Capital Gate was designed by architectural firm RMJM and was completed in 2011 (image credit). More on this building can be found in the wikipedia link below.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Modigliani's model

A unique and beautiful piece of photo-art by 19-year-old artist Flora Borsi. She explores a world where modern art portraits are actually realistic depictions of people with distorted features. Depicted is her take on Modigliani, but her works include Picasso, Hausner and Malevich as well. Highly recommended! All rights retained by the artist, as usual.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Beautiful Friction

The latest album of the Fixx, one of the better synthesizer pop groups who started in the eighties, was released in 2012. The album cover is excellent, based on the art work of George Underwood, with whom they have worked before. A modern classic.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

121 Classical composers

Triggered by discussions at the Talk Classical forum about ranking classical composers. Here is my personal take, based on my own preference. I have opted for five tiers with each one containing three times as many as the one before - for a grand total of 121, with each name linked to their Wikipedia entry (image credit).

Hors concours (1):
Johann Sebastian Bach

The immortals (3):
Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, Franz Schubert

The geniuses (9):
Claude Debussy, Antonin Dvorak, Felix Mendelssohn, Ernest John Moeran, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Maurice Ravel, Dmitri Shostakovitch, Jean Sibelius, Richard Wagner

The grandmasters (27):
William Alwyn, Samuel BarberArnold BaxLudwig van Beethoven, Hector Berlioz, Benjamin Britten, Anton Bruckner, Frederic Chopin, Gabriel Faure, Edvard Grieg, Sofia Gubaidulina, Joseph Haydn, Modest Mussorgsky, Carl NielsenSergei ProkofievGiacomo Puccini, Joachim Raff, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Ottorino Respighi, Camille Saint-Saens, Aulis Sallinen, Richard Strauss, Josef Suk, Toru Takemitsu, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Peteris Vasks, Ralph Vaughan Williams

The masters (81):
John Adams, Kalevi Aho, Hugo Alfven, Anton Arensky, Malcolm Arnold, Kurt Atterberg, Grazina Bacewicz, Carl P.E. Bach, Granville Bantock, Amy Beach, Alban Berg, Luciano Berio, Max Bruch, Gavin Bryars, John Cage, Aaron Copland, Frederick Delius, Alphons Diepenbrock, Edward Elgar, George Enescu, John Field, Gerald Finzi, Cesar Franck, Luis de Freitas Branco, Robert Fuchs, George Gershwin, Philip Glass, Alexander Glazunov, Reinhold Gliere, Henryk Gorecki, Alexander Gretchaninov, Howard Hanson, Hamilton Harty, Paul Hindemith, Vagn Holmboe, Gustav Holst, Alan Hovhaness, Hans Huber, Johann Hummel, John Ireland, Giya Kancheli, Mieczyslaw Karlowicz, Charles KoechlinErich Korngold, Leopold Kozeluch, Jon Leifs, Douglas Lilburn, Franz Liszt, Sergei Lyupanov, James MacMillan, Bohuslav Martinu, Peter Maxwell Davies, Olivier Messiaen, Nikolai Myaskovsky, Goesta Nystroem, Arvo Part, Hans Pfitzner, Astor Piazzolla, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Max Reger, Steve Reich, Ferdinand Ries, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Christopher Rouse, Franz Schmidt, Alfred Schnittke, Robert Schumann, Peter Sculthorpe, Valentin Silvestrov, Bedrich Smetana, Louis Spohr, Charles Villiers Stanford, Igor Stravinsky, Karol Szymanowski, Eduard Tubin, Tomas Luis de Victoria, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Antonio Vivaldi, Carl Maria von Weber, Charles-Marie Widor, Alexander von Zemlinsky

For the last tier, there were dozens of close calls, where other composers might have gotten in as well.

This list of 121 composers leaves several big names unmentioned - on purpose. A few examples:

The renaissance and baroque periods are not represented well (Victoria, Vivaldi, JS Bach), because in general I am less attracted to this music. Several big names of this period did not come even close to making the 121 cut, including Monteverdi, Palestrina, Purcell, Corelli, Telemann, and perhaps most surprisingly Handel, whose works simply do not appeal to me.

The classical and romantic period are very well represented and there are very few big names missing. The romantic opera composers are the most noted exception, in particular Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and even Verdi. Since I am currently finding a renewed interest in opera, that may change in the coming years. Outside opera, Wolf is perhaps the most surprising omission, since in general I love the Lieder genre that he is noted for.

The 20th (and 21st) century composers are reasonably well represented, including more than a handful who are still alive. Left out on purpose are big names like Bartok, Schoenberg, Webern, Xenakis and Stockhausen.

Of course, this list is not to be taken too seriously, since it is just my preference (be it one based on 25+ years of listening to classical music with a CD collection of several thousands). Still, if you like many of the composers listed here, you might want to sample the ones you do not know so well - chances are you will find something to like there!


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The silence of the lambs

One of my all-time favourite movies, and it is hard to imagine that it is already over 20 years ago that it was released. The poster has become iconic as well, but until recently I had not realized that the skull of the butterfly's head is actually a famous painting by Dali (NSFW link Women forming a skull).

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Victorian Portrait

Another one of those gorgeous model shoots that my Flickr friend andy_57 excels in. Victoria is one of the prettiest of all his models (and that is up against tough competition), and this capture of her is breath taking. Especially the eye contact, not always a good idea, is outstanding. As usual, all rights retained by the creator.