Piazzetta Provenance Project CFA: Raubkunst at the Ringling: A Catalogue in Absentia

Piazzetta Provenance Project CFA: Raubkunst at the Ringling: A Catalogue in Absentia

Circle of Giovanni Battista Piazzetta 1682 -1754), Pastoral Scene, c. 1750. Oil on canvas, (92.1 x 134 cm). The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Object number: SN627.

 

Raubkunst at the Ringling: Franz Marc’s Schöpfungsgeschichte has got a lot of attention. Surprisingly many responses have come from people who think they might be in possession of some Raubkunst themselves. I confer with trusted colleagues on these tips, but we keep this information to ourselves. We’ve been tantalizingly close to some long-missing works we would all love to see returned to the public view.

I have found though that what most inquirers are seeking is not absolution but verification. I have been asked to authenticate two works by Franz Marc just in the past year. I am reluctant to do so in these conscience cases. For one thing, as the recent book by Stefan Koldehoff and Tobias Timm, Falsche Bilder Echtes Geld: Der Fälschercoup des Jahrhunderts – und wer alles daran verdiente makes clear, art forgers have become increasingly wily and technically proficient. The current interest in Provenienzforschung created almost as many opportunities for grift as the thieves and opportunist of the Third Reich themselves did in the 1930s and 1940s. The well-meaning art historians who mistakenly declared the fakes by Wolfgang Beltracchi to be long-lost works by Georges Braque, Max Ernst and others had their careers and reputations destroyed. There is a movement toward creating a professional standard for authenticating lost works, likely by a panel of experts in the work of the artist in conjunction with the formidable forensics of the Doerner Institut.

But for the moment in this respect we keep a low profile and our ears to the whispers in the wind.

While avalanches roar above, business continues below, on the tasks that can be accomplished: reuniting artworks whose authenticity is unimpeachable with the families or museums to whom they once belonged. To that end, a researcher and writer is being sought to investigate the provenance of a quartet of quirkily shaped, sized, and framed 18th Century oil paintings associated with the work of Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1682-1754). The genre pastoral scenes are in the collection of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida, having been purchased by the museum in 1949. The destination for this research is the collaborative book project Raubkunst at the Ringling: A Catalogue in Absentia, scheduled for publication in 2020. A worthy publisher and esteemed contributors are already aboard, though like me, their expertise is in Modernist art, hence our quest.

The Piazzetta-esque works were sold to the Ringling by the German-Jewish art, antique, and textiles dealer Adolph Loewi, who operated galleries in the Veneto as well as New York City and Los Angeles. In 1939 Loewi fled Italy with his family, losing some of his files in the process. Whether the documentation for the Piazzetta-adjacent works was among those documents is not clear; in any case, no record of their provenance exists prior to the Ringling purchase.

Circle of Giovanni Battista Piazzetta 1682 -1754), Pastoral Scene, c. 1750. Oil on canvas, (56.5 x 92.7 cm).The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Object number: SN629. Header image: Circle of Giovanni Battista Piazzetta 1682 -1754), Pastoral Scene, c. 1750. Oil on canvas56.5 x 92.7 cm). The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Object number: SN630.

Circle of Giovanni Battista Piazzetta 1682 -1754), Pastoral Scene, c. 1750. Oil on canvas, (92.1 x 134 cm). John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Object number: SN627

[1]Recent books such as Simon Goodman’s The Orpheus Clock: The Search for My Family’s Art Treasures Stolen by the Nazis (2016) and The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (2015) by Anne-Marie O’Connor detail the eventual triumph of the resourceful Goodman and Altmann families pitted against adversaries in museums and galleries over the course of lengthy and expensive court battles. Some cases turn less flamboyantly but more emotionally. The Austrian art dealer Lea Bondi-Jaray lost her beloved Portrait of Wally, a 1912 painting by her friend Egon Schiele, in the Anschluss in 1939. She went to her grave fighting to have the painting returned from private gallerist Rudolph Leopold who had acquired the painting in collusion with the Austrian government in 1954. Bondi-Jaray’s family continued the battle, eventually taking on no lesser adversaries than Ronald Lauder, the Museum of Modern Art, and Austria’s Leopold Museum. The case turned when the family produced pre-war photographs of Portrait of Wally in Bondi-Jaray’s Vienna apartment, convincing the United States Customs Service to seize the painting  and United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Loretta A. Preska to allow the case to proceed to trial. The Leopold Museum settled with the family in 2010.

As I’ve noted, because the Modern Art that had been declared entartete – degenerate – by the Third Reich was seized by the Germans from German government-sponsored museums it is – technically – not considered Raubkunst, stolen art, though certainly the Nazis profited from its sale. Works that were stolen from private owners and collectors, or procured through forced sales, are truestolen objects, and subject to return to the families of their original owners.

Even in seemingly clear-cut cases, this process can be challenging. In many instances, entire families were murdered in their homes or in concentration camps, and no heirs exist to lay claim upon what should have been prized heirlooms. The few remaining survivors of Nazi art theft or their descendants must file official claims with the German government or bring private litigation against museums and auction houses. Claims to works must be substantiated by proof of ownership – a paradox that ends many legal proceedings before they begin since receipts, ledgers, diaries, and documentary stamps were often destroyed, dispersed, or concealed by those who had stolen the artworks in the first place.[1]

Because of their appealingly peculiar nature and the seeming completeness of the grouping of four, it seems likely that the Piazzetta workshop paintings came from a private collection. But whose? The task of the writer-researcher who takes on this investigation will be to unravel this mystery. The outcome may be as simple as a lost receipt establishing a chain of custody that puts the Ringling in the clear, or as profound as reuniting the quartet with a family who thought them lost decades ago.

 

I began this project in 2016 when I discovered two woodblock prints by the Blaue Reiter artist Franz Marc (1880-1916) in the Ringling collection, identified them as Raubkunst, and eventually traced them back to their original owners in Stuttgart and Mannheim. My findings were accepted as a “closed case” this past February by the Commission for Looted Art in Europe. So the investigation has since expanded in scope, to say the least. I would welcome collaboration with, as well as questions and advice from, members of the “Raubkunst Research” community. Contact me and I’ll get back to you.

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…With Parallel Commentary on the Case of Turm der blauen Pferde

...Supplement to „Raubkunst at the Ringling”   In this sidebar to "Raubkunst at the Ringling," which has appeared in this week's in Lapsus Lima, I compare the fate of Geburt der Pferde and Schöpfungsgeschichte II, whose whereabouts are known, with the case of...

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Raubkunst at the Ringling…

The Story Continues

 Its genesis in 2016 was the glimpse of a fin becoming a feather that ignited a strong intuition at ”Raubkunst als Erinnerungsort,” a research fellowship sponsored by the Zentrum für Historische Forschung der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Berlin that same December. Eventually, and with the help of many people, “Raubkunst at the Ringling” ran in the Modernism journal Lapsus Lima on 9 January 2019 and was picked up in the news all the way to the Antipodes that week with, for example, the story “Otago Link to Identifying Art Looted by Nazis.”

On 13 February 2019 I presented this research about Franz Marc’s woodcuts Schöpfungsgeschicte II (1914) and Geburt der Pferde (1913) amid colleagues at the College Art Association conference in New York City. The very next day I learned “Raubkunst at the Ringling” had been formally recognised as a “solved” case of Nazi looted art with the recognition of my findings by the Commission for Looted Art in Europe in the annals of The Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945.

 My hope all along has been that the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida operated by Florida State University, would acknowledge the illicit acquisition of the prints by the American UPI reporter Robert Beattie from the notorious “Kunsthändler to the Third Reich” Bernhard A. Böhmer in 1940, prior to Beattie’s donation of them to the Ringling in 1956, where they have been hidden since, and allow these works to be shared with the public.

But wait: I have subsequently learned that there is potentially even more Raubkunst at the Ringling: Paintings by Christian Rohlfs and George Grosz and bronzes by Ernst Barlach with provenance gaps from 1933-1945 are also locked away at the museum as well as some oils and terracottas from the 16thand 17thcenturies that, while not entartete, were simply stolen or subject to forced “sales” from museums or private owners under the Reich.

To more fully bring this story to light, I would like to compile a volume – half catalogue, half detective story – about these works. Please do contact me if you are interested in working together on this project.

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…With Parallel Commentary on the Case of Turm der blauen Pferde

...Supplement to „Raubkunst at the Ringling”   In this sidebar to "Raubkunst at the Ringling," which has appeared in this week's in Lapsus Lima, I compare the fate of Geburt der Pferde and Schöpfungsgeschichte II, whose whereabouts are known, with the case of...

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…With Parallel Commentary on the Case of Turm der blauen Pferde

Supplement to „Raubkunst at the Ringling”

 

In this sidebar to “Raubkunst at the Ringling,” which has appeared in this week’s in Lapsus Lima, I compare the fate of Geburt der Pferde and Schöpfungsgeschichte II, whose whereabouts are known, with the case of Marc’s famous 1913 painting Turm der blauen Pferde, which remains missing. Despite the circus that has sprung up around its memory, Turm der blauen Pferde, as a physical object, is absent. While these case studies are of interest in and of themselves, I hope also to raise questions about the ethical conduct on the parts of some museums, which, as public institutions, have an obligation – perhaps now more than ever – to stimulate, educate, and provide access and information to the patrons they ostensibly serve.

Turm der blauen Pferde has also given me, in a roundabout way, inspiration for my next line of inquiry, which takes me at last back to animal studies. I am very grateful for the support of Mónica Belevan of Lapsus Lima publishing imprint and HAUT Architectural Solutions for keeping me focused on this project and to many others who know who they are. This project began in the summer of 2016 and got a push  from the Raubkunst al Erinnerungsort workshop that winter sponsored by the Zentrum für Historische Forschung Berlin der  Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaften; the Zentrum’s own scholars were then immediatley relieved of their positions for not preemptively falling in line with Poland’s implementation of the law forbidding citizens to accuse the Poles of Holocaust-related crimes. And things are worse now.

In the summer of 2017, a jointly-sponsored exhibition titled Vermisst: Der Turm der blauen Pferde von Franz Marc: Zeitgenössische Künstler auf der Suche nach einem verschollenen Meisterwerk (Missing: The Tower of Blue Horses: Contemporary Artists in Search of a Lost Masterpiece) opened at both the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich and the Haus am Waldsee in Berlin. The parallel shows feature works themed around Franz Marc’s 1913 totem of Modernism. Naturally as a Marc researcher nothing delighted me more than seeing artists of our own time so moved to create by Marc’s work.

But it also seems to me that by making a crime committed by the Nazis into a social media event – the Pinakothek exhorted visitors to the exhibit to “keep the mystery of this icon of painting alive”[i]– German museum culture once again obfuscated reality. In fact the only “mystery” is that the whereabouts of the famous stolen painting are unknown, and the museums who profit from celebrating the work of the Blaue Reiter have done very little to abet Turm der blauen Pferde’s recovery. Perhaps because of this intent to diffuse, the thematic homages to monumental painting were ranged from tepid to terrible (the notable exception being Marcel van Eeden’s High Mountains, a Rainbow, the Moon and Stars).

In fact over the years, many opportunities to learn more about the Turm’s fate have gone unmet. In early 2001, Jan A. Ahlers, the Herford textile magnate and well-known collector of Expressionist art, received an intriguing offer. An anonymous “seller,” his or her identity nonetheless verified by an intermediary at a bank in Zurich, wanted Ahlers to quietly purchase and repatriate Marc’s Turm der blauen Pferde. The canvas, according to this account, had been hidden by then for more than 50 years in a bank vault in Switzerland.

Instead of accepting a meeting, Ahlers approached the then recently-opened Franz Marc Museum in Kochel and the Westfalian state authorities. To Ahlers’s surprise, nothing happened, and, frustrated, he ended up telling his story to the Berliner Zeitung and Artmagazine.[ii]Ahlers died in 2013, having never been interviewed by German federal or state investigators. The seller or sellers, and with them the painting, disappeared once more.

Yet the earth continues to give up its Nazi secrets, sometimes literally, as in 2010 when excavators in Berlin surveying property around the new Reichstag found Emy Roeder’s 1919 die Schwangere, missing since 1937, dangling from the prongs of a backhoe. It was both thrilling and horrifying to learn in November 2013 that Marc’s missing 1911 canvas Pferde in Landschaft had also been hiding since the 1940s, this time quietly in the Schwabing apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt. Saddening was the fact that many, many people – amid them museum staffers, Bavarian state police, and German federal agents – had been aware of what became known as the “Gurlitt Hoard” for years, and cooperated with the police in not revealing its somewhat accidental seizure – the elderly son of another art-dealer-to-the-Nazis, Hildebrand Gurlitt, was actually nabbed for behaving suspiciously on a train from Zürich to Munich, and was found to be carrying more thn €100,000 in his pockets.[iii] Naturally the curators of the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München – the repository of the world’s largest collection of the art of the Blaue Reiter – were called upon to authenticate the Marc painting as well as works by Wassily Kandinsky and August Macke. Annegret Hoberg, for more than 25 years the Blaue Reitercurator at the Lenbachhaus and the acknowledged expert on Marc’s professional career, had been in on this omission of silence. Hoberg has devoted her life’s work to the Blaue Reiter. Yet she did not love it enough to shout joyfully from the rooftops of the Gurlitt discovery, or think enough of the citizens of Munich (whom I assure you are as enthusiastic fans of the single native Bavarian Blue Rider as they are the Bayern München football club) whose taxes and donations pay for the city gallery to break the silence.

I believe Turm der blauen Pferde probably exists somewhere in the world – though since I began this quest I have changed my position on what a hopeful outcome to its loss would entail. But questions related to provenance research seem to begin, not end, with the discovery of missing and stolen artwork from the entartete Kunst catalogue. The story about Turm der blauen Pferde, which, while likely true has now grown so distant as to become apocryphal, made me curious about the psychological resistance, particularly in museum and legal cultures both in Germany and the United States, to dealing directly even with confirmed cases of located “missing” artwork, such as in the case outlined in my story Raubkunst at the RinglingMarc’s missing painting is paradoxically one of the most recognizable art objects in the world, reproduced after World War II ad infinitum on postcards, postage stamps, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and keychains. Marc was an emblem for Germany’s reclamation of the historical avant-garde, and, yet, as a daring and heroic cavalry officer awarded the Iron Cross before being killed at Verdun in 1916, he was indisputably a patriot. Reified through replication, the shock of Marc’s crystalline colors and embodied animals was displaced and diminished. Turm der blauen Pferdeis a cipher, an eternally reproduced copy without an original.

Turm der Blauen Pferde is two images, one the 2 by 1.3 metres painting missing since 1949, when it was last seen in Berlin’s Haus am Waldsee, the other 14 by 9 centimetres postcard in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen in Munich.The images are not identical but they do show the same group of four horses, and we can reconstruct their identities from knowing more about what Marc had been reading and looking at before he made these two paintings.

In his biography of Marc, Klaus Lankheit gives an elegant account of the large painting:

The artist’s most famous [work] captures us in its spell. (…) We are drawn to the image even as we are forced to keep at a respectful distance. The group of four horses glows like a vision in front of us. Moved just to the right of the central axis, the outline of the narrow portrait fills the canvas almost entirely revealing to the side just a glimpse of an equally mysterious landscape.

The powerful body of the animal in front measures only slightly under life size. The horse appears to push forward from the depths and to [animate] immediately in front of the viewer by throwing his head to the side. His position in space cannot be calculated, because the bottom of the frame overlaps the two legs.[iv]

This is valuable information, because Lankheit had the opportunity to closely study the painting that has been seen by very few people living today. Lankheit’s passage eschews a lengthier description of the celestial markings adorning the animals, which are one of the chief differences between the postcard and the painting. Lankheit observes also how the “clear-cut crescent of the moon” is in contrast on the chest of the darkest of the four horses, acknowledging the individuation of the animals.[v ]There is a solar aspect to both the painting and the postcard, and we can infer that Marc is making both a reference to and a statement about animals representing the Helios horses for the new age. In Marc’s vision the horses are unrestrained by a charioteer. They are ennobled not by the gods and goddesses but by their union with the Earth and the constellations.

The horses in the painting inhabit a more vibrantly colored landscape (owing possibly to the deterioration of the postcard, or the enhancements to the digital images and photographs we have of the painting we have at hand to consider), have less distinct outlines, and fewer astronomical markings. Nevertheless, the open-topped, heraldic crescent has been retained on the chest of the front horse.

The postcard to Else Lasker-Schüler, Turm der blauen Pferde is inscribed with the title of the work. In the horses’ other lives in the monumental painting, they inherited and kept that name and traveled to Berlin for the 1913 Erster deutscher Herbstsalon. Of the sometimes seemingly playful greetings to Prince Jussuf, the postcard is unusually somber, and Lasker-Schüler seems to recognize the peculiarity of the luminous hierarchy of four when she speaks of them as “whinnying archangels.”[vi]

My point in relating these details is that as a real object with an actual history of its own, and a post-life as Raubkunst, is that Turm der blauen Pferde deserves, on the one hand, as a painting, to be the subject of continued study and interpretation. As art historians we know that this practice is really what keeps a work of art alive in the minds and eyes of spectators. As a victim itself of looting, the painting’s fate deserves to be known. The German museums devoting so many resources to celebrating its disappearance would do well to take a hard look at the circumstances of its vanishing, and uncovering its likely whereabouts.

And yet. And yet. Marc himself had told Annette von Eckardt in 1914 in a response to a telegram she had sent that summer from Sarajevo describing the cataclysm set in motion that he wasn’t worried about the afterlives of his work. My new research project has taken me to Norway, to the Iron Age carvings of horses and runes on stone totems, and farther away and back, to the Aurignacian peoples who decorated the Chauvet Cave with their own towers of horses. Visiting an archaeological site in Rogaland in fall 2018, I stood with Elna Siv Kristoffersen of the Arkeologisk Museum i Stavanger looking at a small depression near the North Sea that had recently yielded a 900-year-old Viking ship. I asked how the Kristoffsersen, who studies the animal totems associated with Fifth Century Norse funerary practices, how she went about deciding where to excavate. “Oh, we don’t,” she exclaimed. “These are sacred places. They reveal themselves when they are ready. We don’t disturb the dead.” Seeing me simultaneously nodding, smiling, and, suddenly, tearful, Kristoffersen added softly. “We’ll never know what really happened in the past – not really. It is hubris to think this is possible. Some things must remain mysteries.”

After a moment she asked, “What about your painting?” I had showed Turm der blauen Pferde and told its story at a conference devoted to horses at the museum. I realized at that moment something that the new project would turn on; that I had felt, deep down, all along, a feeling confirmed by the circus at the Haus am Waldsee and Pinakotheken. “It’s gone,” I said turning to to Kristoffersen. “I hope they never find it.”

 

 

[i]“Missing: Franz Marc’s The Tower of Blue Horses,” last modified 3 March 2017, https://www.pinakothek.de/en/exhibitions/missing-franz-marc-s-tower-of-blue-horses-contemporary-artists-search-of-a-lost

[ii]Joachim Nawrocki, “Ersitzen oder Besitzen?” Die Welt, 25 May 2001.

[iii]For a complete account of the Gurlitt case, see Catherine Hickley. The Munich Art Hoard: Hitler’s Dealer and His Secret Legacy. (London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2016) On the role of the media in reporting on restitution and Nazi looted art: Alexandra Herfroy-Mischler. “When the ast seeps into the present: The role of press agencies in circulating new historical narratives and restructuring collective memory during and after the Holocaust transitional justice.” Journalism.  Vol 17, Issue 7 (13 July 2015), pp. 823-844

[iv]Das berühmteste Bild des Künstlers (…) schlägt uns in ihren Bann. Wir werden mit Macht an das Bild herangetrieben, schon im selben Augenblick aber zu achtungsvoller Distanz gezwungen. Wie eine Vision leuchtet dicht vor uns eine Gruppe von vier Pferden auf. Aus der Mittelachse nach rechts gerückt, füllt ihr Umriß das schmale Hochformat fast ganz aus, nur seitlich den Blick auf eine ebenso geheimnisvolle Landschaft freigebend. Der mächtige Körper des vorderen Tieres mißt nur wenig unter Lebensgröße. Das Pferd scheint aus der Tiefe nach vorn zu drängen und unmittelbar vor dem Beschauer zu verhalten, indem es den Kopf in edlem Schwung zur Seite wirft. Seine Stellung im Raum läßt sich nicht errechnen, denn der untere Bildrand überschneidet die Beine (…).” Klaus Lankheit. Franz Marc: Sein Leben und seine Kunst. (Köln: Dumont), 120. My translation.

[v]In a volume Marc had in his own library – he discusses it as early as 1899 – Plato tells us that the four Helios horses had distinct attributes and personalities. The first (the horse in the front of the painting) is characterized by immense beauty, size, and speed. Though Marc shows the sun and moon glowing within this animal, he also has an individuated, recognizable blaze painted on the team leader’s face. The second horse, named after Hera, steers the chariot; the third “dark horse” upon whom the sun nonetheless shines is called Poseidon (slower than the second); and the fourth, stiffly relegated to the back, takes her name from Hestia: “The horses are peaceful and friendly and one does nothing without the others.” Plato and John Alexander Stewart, The Myths of Plato Translated with Introductory and Other Observations, (London: Macmillan, 1905), 173.

[vi]“Deine glückseligen, blauen Pferde sind lauter wiehernde Erzengel und galoppieren alle ins Paradies hinein.” Franz Marc and Else Lasker-Schüler, Der Blaue Reiter präsentiert Eurer Hoheit sein Blaues Pferd: Karten und Briefe, (Prestel: München, 1988), 144. My translation. See also: Betty Falkenberg, Else Lasker-Schüler: A Life, (McFarland: Jefferson, N.C.: 2003), 86.

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…With Parallel Commentary on the Case of Turm der blauen Pferde

...Supplement to „Raubkunst at the Ringling”   In this sidebar to "Raubkunst at the Ringling," which has appeared in this week's in Lapsus Lima, I compare the fate of Geburt der Pferde and Schöpfungsgeschichte II, whose whereabouts are known, with the case of...

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Art History at the Library: The Second Coming

Art History at the Library:
The Second Coming

I was very happy to have the grant renewed and be invited back to the SouthShore Regional Public Library for another series of “Art History at the Library” discussions.

The library had in mind a series that was a little more intensive than “art appreciation”-cruise ship type talks. I did try out some kind of conceptual themes last time, but I also was able to implement my tech whirligigs and to do something I had wanted to do for a long time, have the audience be able to drive a lot of the content. I experimented with this just by stopping often to ask if people had questions or comments, and to my delight they did.

I try to memorise what I’m going to talk about so it’s possible to both extemporise as desired by the patrons’ concerns and also not get thrown off track.

Anyway the schedule for the fall is below. Thank you again to the Hillsborough Public Library Cooperative for supporting this project.

15 September: Special Guest Appearances: Art in Movies and on Television.” Participants are invited to think of their own favorite examples to discuss and share. This talk will examine the appearance of artworks and references to famous works of art in popular movies and television programs, including Vikings, Bojack Horseman, The Young Pope, Skyfall,  and more. We’ll also discuss films that are about artists and art. I am especially excited to be able to talk about some of the painterly images from The Young Pope, which so centre the body. I know a lot of people hated this show, but I liked how it looked, and found director Paolo Sorrentino and cinematographer Luca Bigazzi neomodernist visual world were stunning but also very ambiguous about the questions of faith and the supernatural raised by the narrative.

20 October: “The Body in the Book: Beauty and Suffering in Illuminated Manuscripts.”The session will be about the process of making illuminated manuscripts and scrolls including well-known examples such as the Book of Kells and the Grimani Breviary as well as less-familiar secular texts.

17 November: “What’s the Difference Between Arts and Crafts? Fashion, Textiles, and Design.” Rather than trying to come up with a definitive answer to this question, we will discuss how aesthetic hierarchies come to be. Which tdo we prize more, purely aesthetic innovation, of the form of utilitarian objects, and why? Participants are invited to share examples of their own works and of course their opinions!

15 December: “A Celebration of Animals in Art.” This discussion will cover artwork that recognizes the power of animal life, from the cave paintings of Chauvet and Alta to Tanja Thorjussen’s endangered Arctic wildlife and everything in between.

Franz Marc’s Blaues Pferd I (1911) in Bojack Horseman, above, and shots from The Young Pope (2016) below.

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...Supplement to „Raubkunst at the Ringling”   In this sidebar to "Raubkunst at the Ringling," which has appeared in this week's in Lapsus Lima, I compare the fate of Geburt der Pferde and Schöpfungsgeschichte II, whose whereabouts are known, with the case of...

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Introducing Michelangelost™:
The Intersectional Criminal Tribunal

Michelangelost is the newest name for the blog I have been writing since 2006, which began as mostly about dogs and animals. It has since had several titles, including Errata and German Modernism, and expanded to include numerous topics. Even though this website is becoming more of an official enterprise, I have kept my experimental and sometimes idiotic posts in the archive. The name Michelangelost™ came to me in Berlin, where Michelangelostraße is one of the stops on the Tiergarten Buslinie 200. Because the name of the stop is so long it was (funnily to me) abbreviated as “Michelangelost” on the scrolling Haltestelle legend. A remarkable photo was taken to document this occasion. I love obscurantist plays on words plus it seems descriptive of where we are in the art world right now. I had intended the Michelangelost™ project to be devoted to art criticism in the broadest sense, extended beyond galleries and museums to organisations, scenes, and academic affiliates, but I like the word and this photo in a more general way. So you will have to stay tuned for that secondary project, which now tentatively has the name “Intersectional Criminal Tribunal.”  Meanwhile I am experimenting with this new design and how to retroactively typeset the older posts. – Until soon.

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...Supplement to „Raubkunst at the Ringling”   In this sidebar to "Raubkunst at the Ringling," which has appeared in this week's in Lapsus Lima, I compare the fate of Geburt der Pferde and Schöpfungsgeschichte II, whose whereabouts are known, with the case of...

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Max Beckmann in New York: Exhibition Visit and Book Review

Max Beckmann in New York: Exhibition Visit and Book Review

While I was in New York City for the College Art Association meeting – more on this next post – I was really busy and also sick the entire time. Fortunately though I did get to go to a few museums, and a significant highlight was the Max Beckmann in New York exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Fifth Avenue. (My review of the catalogue of the show for Museum Bookstore is on their blog, and in part below).

When I last left Beckmann in my research, he had forlornly been rejected by the groundbreaking Köln Sonderbund show of 1912 because his work was deemed too old-fashioned. This was found to be hilarious by Beckmann’s self-appointed foil, Franz Marc, who had withdrawn his own work from the Sonderbund on the grounds that the entire exhibit was too old-fashioned and boring for his animal paintings.

Over the years I’ve come to appreciate Beckmann’s devotion to his own vision and embrace of the sort of contemporary history painting that forms an important aspect of the Neue Sachlichkeit, though beyond its opposition to Expressionism, Beckmann did not think himself a part of that or any school or movement.

Staged at the Met in what turned out to be the last week of employment of director Thomas Campbell, my aesthetic reaction was that the paintings, mostly large portraits and a few of his famous triptychs, would have better served Beckmann by being installed in a single large hall. This is a small complaint though because even on a crowded Saturday it was possible to see the paintings well enough.

People were very interested in “Woman with Mandolin in Yellow and Red,” 1950.

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