Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Episode 73: Famous Art Heists

This episode came about because Chloe watches to much White Collar! 

Memling, The Last Judgement, 1467-71

The Triptych depicts The Last Judgement which was a very popular subject during this period. It was painted by Hans Memling who worked in Early Netherlandish painting and was commissioned by Angelo Tani for the Medici family. It was stolen by a privateer (brave guy to steal from the Medici) while it was en-route to Italy. There was a rather lengthy lawsuit that demanded the painting be given back Italy. It was eventually given to the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in  Danzig Poland. It was moved in the 20th century to the National Museum. 

da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503-1517

The Mona Lisa is probably the most famous painting of all time (seriously with 6 million people who see it every year. I wonder how many tourists go to the Louvre just to see the Mona Lisa?) It was stolen from the Louvre in 1911 but the theft wasn't even noticed until the next day. A patron asked the guard where it was and the guard assumed that it had been taken down because it was being photographed. 

Two years later a man offered to sell the Mona Lisa to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. Vincenzo Peruggia had stolen the painting because he thought it belonged in Italy. Vincenzo had been an employee at the Louvre and walked in, noticed that the room where the painting hung was empty and grabbed it, removed the frame of the painting and hid the painting under his painters smock before walking out.

Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum

On the night of March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves stole 13 works of art form the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Massachusettes.  According to the museum’s website, they gained entry into the Museum by posing as Boston police officers and stating that they were responding to a call. 

The guard on duty broke protocol and allowed them entry through the Museum’s security door. Once inside, the thieves asked that the guard come around from behind the desk, claiming that they recognized him and that there was a warrant out for his arrest. The guard walked away from the desk and away from the only alarm button. The guard was told to summon the other guard on duty to the security desk, which he did. The thieves then handcuffed both guards and took them into the basement where they were secured to pipes and their hands, feet, and heads duct taped. The two guards were placed 40 yards away from each other in the basement. 

The next morning, the security guard arriving to relieve the two night guards discovered that the Museum had been robbed and notified the police and museum director. The stolen items included paintings, etchings, drawings, a Chinese vase, and a finial from the top of a pole support for a Napoleonic silk flag.

The museum never gave up the investigation into these stolen works. Thirteen empty frames have hung on the walls of the museum for the past 23 years.

In March of 2013, federal authorities announced they had finally identified the thieves and the criminal organization they were members of. There was an attempted sale of the art 10 years ago, but after that the FBI has limited knowledge of the whereabouts of the artwork.

The Museum continues to issue the call to the holders of the works to conserve them in recommended temperatures and humidity levels.

Nazi Thefts during WWII:

This is a different kind of theft. While normally we think of an art heist as being a singular event the Nazis took acquiring art to a whole new level. It was estimated that the Nazi’s stole 750,000 artworks during the war. The Rape of Europa is a great documentary on this subject.

Murillo, Saint Justa and Saint Rufina, 1665-66

Saint Justa and Saint Rufina was owned by the Rothschilds family and ended up in a museum in Texas after the museum bought it at an auction.

Vermeer, The Astronomer, 1668
The Astronomer, owned by a French man named Edouard de Rothschild was a prized possession of Hitler. After the war it was returned to the Rothschild’s and later donated to the Louvre.

Boucher, The Young Lovers
The Young Lovers was taken from the art dealer Andre Jean Seligmann. The painting was donated to the Utah Museum of Fine Art but was returned in 2004 after the UMFA discovered that the painting had been looted by the Nazi's. 

Munch, The Scream, 1893
The Scream was stolen multiple times. In 1994, the same day as the opening of the olympics, the scream was stolen from the National Gallery, by two men who left a note that said thanks for the poor security. The painting was recovered in May that year.

It was stolen from the Munch Museum in 2004. Gunmen entered the museum and ripped Edvard Munch's "The Scream" and "Madonna" off the walls. Two years later they were recovered although slightly damaged.

Tune in next Wednesday when Julia and Carrie will be talking about John William Waterhouse.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Episode 72: Impressionism vs. Post-Impressionism

Impressionism was a completely avant garde movement in the latter half of the 19th century. Its different and new ideas sparked a flame in many up and coming artists. Impressionists wanted to capture a fleeting moment. They didn't often spend long periods of time on their works so the end result would be a beautiful array of painterly brush strokes with complimenting color schemes.

Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877
Paris was central to the impressionist movement. We see that in Gustave Caillebotte’s piece "Paris; A Rainy Day". Caillebotte paints figures walking along a boulevard in Paris, they all have quite dark clothes on, and many of them hold umbrellas. Caillebotte’s painted this piece to present Paris as a modern city with great architecture and wide streets to support the flow of traffic.

Berthe Morisot, Villa at the Seaside, 1874
Berthe Morisot’s "Villa at the Seaside" depicts a mother and her child sitting on a porch next to the beautiful French seaside. Most of her paintings focused on domestic subjects. At this time female painters were limited in what they could paint if they wanted to remain respectable. This basically limited their scope to the household.

Renoir, Le Moulin de la Galette, 1876

This painting depicts a typical Sunday afternoon in Paris, where the working classes would gather to dance and socialize. As an Impressionist, Renoir was attempting to capture a moment, which is very evident in this painting full of movement. The way he captured the light as it dapples through the trees is simply beautiful.


The term ‘post-impressionism’ is used in two ways, some historians use the term to refer to all art created in France during the last 15 years of the 19th century. This includes the works of Impressionists done at this time as well as Symbolist art. Some even include art from outside of France.

Other historians use the term for only three artists, Seurat, Cezanne and Van Gogh (That’s a pretty exclusive club). They remained faithful to the idea of working from nature, like the Impressionists.  Other artists allowed imagination to enter into their work. 

The ‘term’ post-impressionism was coined by Roger Fry in 1910. Fry argued that it was impossible to define these artists work “by any single term”. He believed that the only thing all post-impressionists had in common was their opinion that Impressionists were too naturalistic.

Van Gogh, The Night Cafe, 1888
Van Gogh had his own meanings for colors. Red and green together equaled misery, which is very telling in "The Night Cafe". If you would like to learn more about Van Gogh we have a whole other episode about him, here.

Seurat, A Sunday at La Grande Jatte, 1884
Seurat was a pointillist, which means he used dots of color to create his work. He concentrated on issues of light, color and form, which is very evident in "A Sunday at La Grande Jatte". He was also very interested in the optical aspects of painting, how the human eye puts color and shape together to finish an image. This was a very popular aspect of Impressionism.

Close up of pointillism
Cezanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1895
Cezanne sought to depict the nature of reality and our perception of it. This is a view from his home in Aix-en Provence, France where he spent many of his later years painting. He is known for his simplified forms, and use of color and light to give the impression that this is what the land looked like, not what Cezanne painted it to look like.

Gauguin, Tahitian Women: On the Beach, 1891
Gauguin, disillusioned with modern life, left France and his family behind to live in Tahiti. Upon his arrival he discovered that the Western world he longed to leave behind in France had changed the face of Tahiti. He did stay on the island however and painted many images of the native women.

Toulouse-Lautrec, In the Salon of the Brothel of the Rue des Moulins, 1894
Toulouse-Lautrec was interested in painting the relationships he saw between the women who worked in the brothels. He liked using intense colors.

Tune in next week for episode 73 on Famous Art Heists with Chloe and Carrie!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Episode 71: The Male Nude

Believe it or not, the female form at first, in the history of figure art, was not the predominant form, but instead it was the male. We are looking at the male form in the Western Hemisphere, particularly starting with the Greeks.

With the Greeks, like the roads for the Romans, it all leads back to Apollo. He is one of the most important gods to these Ancient peoples, and performs as their god of music, rationality, sun, light, and primary male beauty. Let’s take a look at this guy. Be prepared, he starts out a little bit gruesome:

Kouros from Tenea, near Corinth (ca. 575-550)

Apollo, West Pediment Olympia. Munich, copy from original, 460 BC at the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, Greece

This is what we call the HEROIC male nude, or your typical macho male. He is ripping with muscle, and like a good Last Judgement rendition of Christ, isn't taking any of your funny business.

Apollo Citharoedus
This is what we call the Mythological or more effeminate male nude. He expresses the more lyrical and artistic side of the god. As such, he is frequently posed in a passive, calm manner that is exactly opposite to his rather smit-ey counterpart.

These two binaries compose what we consider to be the male nude.

Apollo Belvedere, ca. 120 -140 BC
Laocoon and His Sons, c. 25 BC

Donatello, David, 1430-40
Michelangelo, David, 1501-04
Apollo and Marsyas

Michelangelo's Last Judgement

David, Oath of the Horatii, 1784

Girodet, Sleep of Endymion, 1791

Tune in next week when Julia and Jo will be talking about Impressionism vs. Post-impressionism! If you liked what you heard today please rate and review on iTuneU or leave us a comment!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Episode 70: Turner

Welcome to season 3! Here we are at the start of another year and we're really excited for all the new topics we'll discuss, the places we will visit, and the artists and experts we will be interviewing this season! We hope you stick around and offer up your thoughts on topics in art history. Now onto Turner.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, was a British Romantic landscape painter who was known his studies in atmosphere and color and was often called the "painter of light". He entered the Royal Academy of Art in 1789 at the age of 14 and ten years later he was elected an associate and taught perspective, a common area of study for a landscape painter.

In his lifetime Turner was loved by the British people and upon his death bequeathed a large portion of his work to the people of Britain. You can view many of his paintings at the National Gallery in London.

JMW Turner, Self-portrait, c. 1799

van de Velde the Younger, Ships on a Stormy Sea, c. 1672
Turner, Dutch Boats in a Gale, 1801
Turner, Dido Building Carthage, 1815
Turner, Rain Steam and Speed The Great Western Railway, 1844

Turner, Hannibal and His Army Crossing the Alps, 1812

Next week's podcast will be on the 'Male Nude', make sure and come back to listen! If you enjoy the podcast please rate and review on iTunes U, it makes our whole day.