Wednesday, June 10, 2015

All that Glitters: Why Woman in Gold Embodies the Inevitable Moral Victory of Art Restitution

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907, by Gustav Klimt 
Image Source: www.wikiart.org
Woman in Gold addresses an ongoing debate about the importance of art restitution.  In particular, it chastises those who refuse to return valuable artwork bequeathed to them as a direct result of the Nazi party's innumerable, blatant thefts.  Unfortunately, even when a painting's illegal seizure can be proven, its current caretaker is often unwilling to part with his or her ill-gotten artwork.  This was indeed the case for Maria Altmann, whose uncle commissioned Gustav Klimt to paint a portrait of his wife--Maria's aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer-- which later became known as Woman in Gold (left).

After unsuccessfully pursuing several legal avenues to reclaim her aunt's portrait, Maria Altmann finally found a court that agreed to hear her case.  Among the justifications stated against the restitution of Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, a.k.a. Woman in Gold, was fear of the "Pandora's Box" it would open up for other families wronged by the Nazi party.  In Maria Altmann's case, Austria feared losing the famous painting it considered to be Vienna's crowning jewel, and anticipated that its loss would have a devastating effect on the community.  What Austria failed to articulate is why its fear of fair consequences (concerning art restitution) deserved precedence over the opportunity to offset a small measure of the previous injustices committed against its citizens.  Surely, the households torn apart by rampant Nazi looting were paralyzed by fear, as their cherished possessions were stolen without remorse.  Furthermore, there are no words or actions that could speak loudly enough to ease the pain, loss and haunting memories of Halocaust victims and survivors.  Therefore, when so few options exist to aid the emotional healing of the Third Reich's decimated Jewish population, why would anyone argue against one of the only practical methods available:  art restitution?

Monday, February 16, 2015

People, Pets & Portraits Painting Contest

Calling all artists!  Is there a new medium or line of color that you've been wanting to try?  Are you running low on Turpenoid® or Turpendoid® Natural or have you been wanting a new easel for your studio?  Enter our People, Pets & Portraits painting contest for a chance to win $1,000 in products from Martin F. Weber Co. or Martin Universal Design Inc.  $2000 in prizes will be awarded.  All entries must include at least one person and/or pet.  Submit up to 6 entries at no charge to karenjclawson@yahoo.com.  Digital submissions only.  Any medium that you choose, any brand you choose.  Click here for contest details.  Ready, Set, Start Painting!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Monuments Men: Why George Clooney Nailed It

Fig. 1 Ghent Altarpiece, by Jan Van Eyck   Image source: www.ibiblio.org

Monuments Men is a historical drama about a select group of scholars-turned-soldiers, who inject themselves into the throes of World War II with a single purpose:  to find and return Europe’s priceless works of art, many of which were being stolen, hidden and eventually destroyed by the Axis powers (e.g., fig. 1, 2).  I went to the theater hoping for an intelligent, emotionally uplifting experience.  This film exceeded my expectations and left me struggling to answer a profound question.  Without revealing much that can’t be gleaned from the trailers, one of its central debates was unveiled in the opening scene:  “Is a piece of art worth a human life?”

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Street Performers as Modern Bards

Spoon Man, by Karen Clawson
Before Western society had plays for actors, concerts for musicians, museums for historians or slam sessions for poets, we used bards to maintain our oral and written traditions.  They juggled multiple roles simultaneously, transitioning from teacher to entertainer, as circumstances dictated.  Their unique ability to recall a seemingly endless string of stories and songs at will led some to believe they possessed supernatural powers; however, most bards simply relied upon a good memory to accurately store and share their vast repertoire.  Many utilized meter, rhyme and other, similar techniques as tools to ease memorization and improve recollection.  Today, the English language still naturally lends itself to iambic pentameter.

If longevity is any indication of success, Homer is arguably the quintessential bard, despite no direct evidence to support or even estimate his formal birth or death dates.  Ancient Greeks and Romans considered his teachings essential to a well-rounded education.  He was an authority on literature and ethics.  While our literary and ethical scope has since expanded, Homer remains the primary educational source for Greek myth and religion.  Knowledge is lost with the rise and fall of civilizations.  Literacy itself has been taken away and regained by populations.  Entire languages and religions have died, taking with them countless tales, as new government brought new cultures.  So how do stories survive?  How is it possible that Latin as a spoken language succumbed to the fall of the Roman Empire, yet Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey endure to the present day?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam


Fig. 1  Self-portrait, by Vincent Van Gogh
I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Van Gogh Museum to view the exhibition, Van Gogh at Work, which chronicles the artist's growth over a ten year time period.  Van Gogh at Work leads museum visitors chronologically through Van Gogh’s development as an artist, from his first experimental drawings to his famous later paintings.  Most people are familiar with Van Gogh's bold use of color and painterly, emotional style (fig. 1). In this anniversary exhibition, more than 200 works of art, including  paintings, works on paper, letters, sketchbooks, paint tubes and his only surviving palette, provide us with a unique insight into his thoughts and work process. 

The museum, located in Amsterdam, opened in 1973.  It faces the Paulus Potterstraat and has its back to the Museumplein.  The Museumplein, or, Museum Quarter, is the cultural hub of the city and home of Amsterdam's three most significant museums: the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art and the Van Gogh Museum.