Posts Tagged ‘art’
Back in the 1890s, there was a conscious effort to turn American money into pocket-sized works of art. It resulted in the creation of what is still regarded as the most beautiful set of bank notes ever issued in the United States: the Educational Series of silver certificates…
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP)—the government agency that controls what designs appear on the nation’s paper currency—was open to the idea of a money makeover. With the United States innovating and industrializing, it seemed an apt time for the nation’s progress to be reflected on the art of its bank notes. And the standard dead-president design was getting a bit tired: a New York Times article from March 3, 1896 acknowledged that “there has been for a long time a desire to make a change in the inartistic and stiff paper currency of the years that have gone.”
In an effort to bring more artistic merit to the silver certificate, the BEP approached Edwin Blashfield, Will H. Low, and Walter Shirlaw, three artists known for their elegant allegorical paintings. As muralists, Blashfield and Low were accustomed to working at a much larger scale than the 3.125-by-7.4218-inch dimensions of a silver certificate. But the painters’ flair for eye-pleasing composition and their ability to translate principles of national character into gorgeous tableaus of women in flowing robes was paramount. They were encouraged to submit large paintings, which a team of skilled engravers could then translate to currency-compatible format. According to the aforementioned Times article, 15 to 20 engravers worked on each note, each one assigned to a particular section of the design.
The resulting three artworks formed the basis for the $1, $2, and $5 silver certificates that came to be known as the 1896 Educational Series…
Flip through them at “Object of Intrigue: the Most Beautiful Banknote in U.S. History.”
* Andy Warhol
As we consider the corporate logos on our credit cards, we might recall that it was since this date in 1908 that the motto “In God We Trust” has been stamped onto all gold coins and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar coins struck by the U.S. Mint.
Saubine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche are intrepid photographers of thought-provoking things. Here, they discuss their series on movie theaters in India…
In three journeys between 2010 and 2013 we have photographed movie theatres from the ‘Thirties to the ‘Seventies in South India. The photos of these buildings give eloquent testimony to the rich cinematic culture of those times. We are particularly interested in the culturally influenced reinterpretation of modern building style apparent in the architectural style, which displays an unusual mixture of Modernism, local architectural elements, a strong use of colour and, in the case of some older cinema halls, of Art Deco…
Many movie theatres in South India are left in their original state. Nonetheless, remodelling into multiplex cinemas is already underway, in particular in major cities, and will result in these buildings’ disappearance as witnesses to their times. The photographs document a part of cinema culture that has already largely vanished in Europe and the USA, and is increasingly being supplanted by commercial interests and technical developments in India, as well.
Take the tour at here.
* Theophilus London
As we lounge in the loge, we might recall that it was on this date in 1915 that Vitagraph released Miss Jekyll and Madame Hyde, a retelling of Stevenson’s famous tale in which Helen Gardner played the lead role(s). Ms Gardner, whose career consisted mostly of portrayals of strong women (Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair, Cleopatra, et al.) was herself a formidable player in the film industry, one of the first actors to form an independent production company (The Helen Gardner Players).
“The reason some portraits don’t look true to life is that some people make no effort to resemble their pictures”*…
In Stranger Visions artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg creates portrait sculptures from analyses of genetic material collected in public places. Working with the traces strangers unwittingly leave behind, Dewey-Hagborg calls attention to the impulse toward genetic determinism and the potential for a culture of biological surveillance. Designed as an exploratory project based on emerging science, the forecast of Stranger Visions has proved prescient. For an example of DNA phenotyping at work in forensics check out the companies Parabon NanoLabs and Identitas and read about their collaboration with the Toronto police. Also see Mark Shriver’s research at Penn State on predicting faces from DNA…
As we strike a pose, we might send twisted birthday greetings to Francis Harry Compton Crick; he was born on this date in 1916. A biochemist and biophysicist, Crick shared (with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins– but not, surely unjustly, with Rosalind Franklin) the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the determination of the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the chemical substance ultimately responsible for hereditary control of life functions– a cornerstone of genetics, widely regarded as one of the most important discoveries of 20th-century biology.
Much more conversational coaching at “Women Trying To Politely End Conversations With Men In Western Art History.”
* Hedy Lamarr
As we demur, we might trip the birthday fantastic for Freda Josephine McDonald– better known by her stage name, Josephine Baker– the dancer, singer, actress, and civil rights activist born on this date in 1906 in St. Louis, Mo. By the mid-1920s, the “Black Venus” had become the toast of Paris and a celebrity throughout Europe; in 1934, she became the first black woman to star in a major motion picture (Zouzou) and to become a genuinely world-famous entertainer.
Baker was a vocal opponent of segregation in the U.S.; she worked closely with NAACP and refused to perform for segregated audiences.
Known for assisting the French Resistance during World War II, Baker received the French military honor, the Croix de guerre and was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by General Charles de Gaulle. Her funeral service in Paris in 1975 drew 20,000 people, and she was the first American woman to receive a twenty-one-gun salute from the French government.
[Update from friend Ted Coltman: “Not to quibble, but I thought France, like most nations, reserves a 21-gun salute (i.e., with artillery) for heads of state, including the president of the French Republic. Are you sure it wasn’t a “3-volley salute” by a 7-member rifle party, which would still constitute ‘full military honors’?” Ted may well be right about this– as about so much else. FWIW, my source was this piece from the National Women’s History Museum. Either way– quite a woman.]
”Google Earth is marvelous and changed the way we live more than we imagine,” [artist Federico Winer] writes. “We use it as a tool to travel, to find addresses, to explore our world, so the next level was to convert that tool into an artistic expression.”
That’s what his Ultradistancia project is all about. Winer infuses Google Earth landscapes with vivid color—distorting them and making the shapes, contours, and patterns on the planet’s surface pop. As the project’s name suggests, the idea is to become intimate with these mini-portraits of Earth, from afar…
* “Mel Bernstein” (Haris Yulin), Scarface
As we mind the gap, we might send lofty birthday greetings to Glenn Hammond Curtiss; he was born on this date in 1878. While it’s generally accepted that the Wright Brothers made the first powered flight, Curtiss took the plane from its wood, fabric, and wire beginnings to the earliest versions of the modern transport aircraft we know today. Curtiss made his first flight on his 30th birthday (this date in 1908), in White Wing, a design of the Aerial Experiment Association, a group led by Alexander Graham Bell. White Wing was the first plane in America to be controlled by ailerons (instead of the wing-warping used by the Wrights) and the first plane on wheels in the U.S. Curtiss went on to found the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company (now part of Curtiss-Wright Corporation), and to make dozens of contributions to the technology of flight. Perhaps most notably his experiments with seaplanes during the years leading up to World War I led to major advances in naval aviation; indeed, Curtiss civil and military aircraft were predominant in the inter-war and World War II eras.
From Word Journal, “a journal of interesting and infrequently encountered words.”
* Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
As we luxuriate in language, we might recall that it was on this date in 1984 that noted slinger of mots Prince Charles threw a wrench into plans to build an addition onto England’s National Gallery. The museum had held a competition for designs, and tentatively settled on plans drawn by Ahrends, Burton and Koralek (with elements from the high-tech scheme of Richard Rogers). The Prince, on reviewing the drawings, pronounced them a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.” His pronouncement sparked spirited dialogue, both on the proper role of the Royal Family and on the state of modern architecture. Indeed, “monstrous carbuncle” has become a common descriptor for a modern building that clashes with its surroundings.
The ABK plans were withdrawn, and the Gallery went back to the drawing board. In 1991 they opened The Sainsbury Wing, designed by the architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.
* Oscar Wilde
As we emend Maslow, we might recall that it was on this date in 1432 that Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, (better known as the Ghent Altarpiece) was dedicated in the Church of Saint John, Ghent (now the Cathedral of Saint Bavo). Begun by Hubert van Eyck, and completed (after Hubert’s death in 1426) by his more famous brother Jan, the work is regarded as the defining monument of the “new realism” of Northern Renaissance art.