On All Saints Eve, an important date on the Catholic calendar, exactly four years and four weeks after beginning the project, the entire Sistine Ceiling is unveiled for Pope Julius and 17 cardinals for evening vespers.
Vasari the art historian, writes:
When the work was thrown open, the whole world could be heard running up to see it, and indeed, it was such as to make everyone astonished and dumb”.
Hide/Seek, the first major museum exhibition to explore themes of sexual identity in portraiture, opens at the National Portrait Gallery. More than 100 works of varying media by artists including Georgia O’Keeffe, Jasper Johns, Annie Liebowitz, and Andy Warhol, are on display. The show not only explores the contributions of LGBTQ artists, but traces the role that sexual identity has played in the development of American art: for example, making the connection between the closeting of gay sexual identity and the development of the “hidden” language of abstraction.
The manuscript from the trial of Artemisia Gentileschi’s rapist shows that Artemisia’s studio assistant gives testimony against the victim, his boss…while being tortured.
Nicolo Bedino, who ground and mixed colors for Artemisia, is stripped naked and hung from a rope while testifying that he had delivered letters from her to several men. This evidence is used to imply that she was a loose woman, and that it isn’t a case of rape at all.
The trial of art forger Han van Meegeren begins in Amsterdam. He becomes one of the world’s best art forgers ever, deciding that he has something to prove after art teachers and critics call his work unoriginal and uninspired. One of his forged Vermeers is hailed as one of the finest “Vermeers” ever.
His forgery is discovered after World War II when when a forged piece (believed to be authentic) is discovered in Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring’s private art collection. Dutch authorities charge Han with giving away Dutch cultural property and arrest him as a Nazi conspirator. Han decides to admit to the forgery, a lesser crime, rather than be sentenced to death for treason.
Edouard Manet marries Suzanne Leenhoff, the childhood piano teacher his father hired to provide music lessons to Edouard and his brother. After a relationship of more than ten years, they finally marry after Manet’s father dies. At the time of the wedding, Leenhoff has an 11-year old son named Léon Koëlla, who is not referred to as her son, but as her younger brother. Manet, who sometimes paints the boy, is almost definitely his unacknowledged father.
Egon Schiele completes his final two artworks, drawings of his wife in bed with the Spanish flu. She dies the next morning, as did 20 million others in this worldwide epidemic. Schiele himself dies three days afterwards, also of the flu.
October 27, 1923
Roy Lichtenstein is born.
October 27, 1932
The Vatican’s collection of paintings receives a new building, called the Pinacoteca Vaticana. Until this point, the paintings are housed in the Borgia Apartment. The collection includes paintings by artists including: Giotto, Raphael, Leonardo, and Caravaggio.
Joan Brown is killed while installing an obelisk she designed. This is probably the perfect way for an artist to die. I remember reading about this in our student newspaper at UC Berkeley, where she was a professor at the time.
Picasso is born. Two fun facts about Picasso: his father was a drawing professor, and while most people think he couldn’t draw because of his focus on abstraction and Cubism, Picasso himself was excellent at drawing.
October 25, 1945
Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock marry.
October 25, 1948
André Breton excommunicates Matta from the Surrealist movement, via a letter to the group, condemning him for “moral ignominy and intellectual disqualification.” Underlying this decision is Breton’s conviction that Matta had driven Arshile Gorky to suicide by sleeping with his wife, Mougouch.
Frida writes to her pal and confidante, Dr. Eloesser:
I have suffered so much in three months that it is going to be difficult for me to feel completely well soon but I have done everything I can to forget what happened between Diego and me [referring to his affair with her sister Cristina] and to live again as before”.
October 24, 1971
George Dyer, Francis Bacon’s longtime love, commits suicide, just before the opening of Bacon’s retrospective at Paris’ Grand Palais. His death, by a deliberate overdose of pills in their hotel room, inspires Bacon to paint Triptych, May–June 1973, a portrait of Dyer’s last moments.
Paul Gauguin arrives in Arles to live with Vincent van Gogh in the Yellow House. This is something Vincent has wanted for some time, but his dreams of an art community dissipate as he and Gauguin repeatedly clash. By the end of the fall, Gauguin moves out and Vincent infamously cuts off his ear.
October 23, 1968
The Richard J. Daley Exhibition opens at Feigen Gallery in Chicago, in direct response to the brutality that protesters, regular folks, and even news anchors like Mike Wallace and Dan Rather experience at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago–with the encouragement of Mayor Daley.
A total of 47 artists take part in the show, with 21 of them making new work that directly comments on the summer of violence. Artists include Claes Oldenburg (a Chicago native), James Rosenquist, and Barnett Newman, who cancels an entire solo show in Chicago out of moral qualms about what is happening.
Newman’s piece above not only uses material like barbed wire to comment on the police state that Chicago becomes for the duration of the convention, but it takes a particularly insulting slam at Mayor Daley by drawing the inference of “lace curtain Irish”. Daley, a proud Irish-American in a city full of proud Irish-Americans, would have taken umbrage to the implication that he puts on airs or behaves like the Protestant gentry, like the titular Irish immigrants who hang lace curtains in their shacks.
Paul Cezanne dies. He’s very important to 20th century art, and ushers in ideas about abstraction, especially reducing forms to their essential shapes, which other artists run with. He paints the same mountain over and over, dozens of times, to really investigate it. Watching Mt. Rainier now, with all of its different colors and moods, I can really appreciate that you can never nail it exactly. One of my favorite Cezanne tricks is that he never washes a brush without first daubing some of that color in another spot of his canvas. That’s why you’ll see patches of blue in his grounds and trees, and patches of ochre and brown in his skies. He believes that everything is inter-related, and this provides continuity for the eye.
My bad mood is vanishing thanks to hard work. I’ve embarked on a modern subject — a barricade. And if I haven’t fought for my country at least I’ll paint for her.”
October 21, 1959
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum opens on Fifth Avenue in the stunning spiral building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s one of my favorite buildings because it’s so weird. It’s the first American museum to be built from scratch, rather than converted from a private residence.
Fun fact: Ellsworth Kelly recalls a not-yet-famous Andy Warhol, dressed in a suit for the opening reception. Not only does Andy eavesdrop on a private conversation, but he hears others discuss plans to go to an after-party at a gay leather bar, then stuns everyone by inviting himself along.