365 Days of Art: October 24 – Frida Writes a Letter About Diego’s Affair, Bacon’s Love Commits Suicide
October 24, 2014
October 24, 1934
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.
365 Days of Art: October 23 – Gauguin Moves in with Vincent; Art Exhibition Takes on Chicago Mayor’s Brutality
October 23, 2014
October 23, 1888
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.
October 22, 2014
October 22, 1906
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.
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365 Days of Art: October 21 – Delacroix Writes to Brother About Patriotism, Guggenheim Museum Opens, Warhol Invites Self to Party at Leather Bar
October 21, 2014
October 21, 1830
Eugene Delacroix, who has been working on Liberty Leading the People, writes to his brother:
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.
October 20, 2014
October 20, 1942
Peggy Guggenheim opens the Art of This Century art gallery at 30 W. 57th Street in New York.
A press release calls gallery a “research laboratory for new ideas” that will “serve the future instead of recording the past”. Guggenheim specializes in the work of European modernists and Surrealists like Picasso, Mondrian, and Klee, as well as emerging American artists like Joseph Cornell. Later, she’ll become known for launching the careers of the Abstract Expressionists, particularly Jackson Pollock.
October 19, 2014
October 19, 1900
Henry Ossawa Tanner, a black painter who moved to France to escape American racial prejudice, wins the silver medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris for his painting Daniel in the Lions Den. He is one of Thomas Eakins’ all-time favorite students from their days at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
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October 18, 2014
October 18, 1697
Giovanni Canal, the Venician landscape painter better known as Canaletto, is born.
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October 17, 2014
October 17, 1961
The Museum of Modern Art hangs Henri Matisse’s Le Bateau upside-down–the mistake isn’t noticed or corrected for six weeks! Insert your modern or abstract art joke here…
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October 16, 2014
October 16, 1888
Vincent writes a descriptive letter to his brother:
My dear Theo,
At last I can send you a little sketch to give you at least an idea of the way the work is shaping up. For today I am all right again. My eyes are still tired but then I had a new idea in my head and here is the sketch of it. Another size 30 canvas. This time it’s just simply my bedroom, only here colour is to do everything, and giving by its simplification a grander style to things, is to be suggestive here of rest or of sleep in general. In a word, looking at the picture ought to rest the brain, or rather the imagination.
The walls are pale violet. The floor is of red tiles.
The wood of the bed and chairs is the yellow of fresh butter, the sheets and pillows very light greenish-citron.
The coverlet scarlet. The window green.
The toilet table orange, the basin blue.
The doors lilac.
And that is all – there is nothing in this room with its closed shutters.
The squareness of the furniture again must express inviolable rest. Portraits on the walls, and a mirror and a towel and some clothes.
The frame – as there is no white in the picture – will be white.
This by way of revenge for the enforced rest I was obliged to take.
I shall work on it again all day, but you see how simple the conception is. The shadows and the cast shadows are suppressed; it is painted in free flat tints like the Japanese prints. It is going to be a contrast to, for instance, the Tarascon diligence and the night café.
I am not writing you a long letter, because tomorrow very early I am going to begin in the cool morning light, so as to finish my canvas.
How are the pains – don’t forget to tell me about them.
I know that you will write one of these days.
I will make you sketches of the other rooms too someday.
With a good handshake.
Ever yours, Vincent
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365 Days of Art: October 15 – Fascist Propaganda Discusses Artworks, Lee Krasner Has First Solo Show
October 15, 2014
October 15, 1943
Radio Rome provides this bit of Fascist propaganda:
The first ships left Sicily for London today with precious works of art, some of which will go to the British Museum and some to private collections”.
The idea is to create suspicion surrounding Americans interested in artworks (i.e., the Museum and Fine Arts Archives Program, AKA the Monuments Men). Given that American bombs have devastated Palermo just months earlier, feelings are already running high. A healthy dose of national pride doesn’t hurt either…what red-blooded Italian/Sicilian wants to see his or her cultural treasures going to private collectors in London, for pete’s sake??
October 15, 1951
Lee Krasner has her first solo show at Betty Parsons Gallery.
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October 14, 2014
October 14, 1943
During World War II, it’s common to lodge Allied soldiers in cultural institutions. While many of them are emptied of their portable treasures, stationery pieces like frescoes, mosaics, even hidden artworks, remain. For example, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, provides bunking quarters, as well as a pharmaceutical ward where flammable alcohol is stacked up next to priceless frescoes. One of the duties of the men and women of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Program (MFAA, but more commonly called Venus Fixers or Monuments Men) is to ensure that soldiers aren’t improperly billeted in cultural institutions.
Amid concerns about whether soldiers would be respectful enough of their surroundings, or treat them like “saloons”, Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall cables General Eisenhower to say:
protection of artistic and historic monuments in Italy is subject of great concern to many institutions and societies”.
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October 13, 2014
October 13, 1984
Alice Neel dies. She is a highly regarded painter, especially revered by feminists in the 1970s and beyond, though her mother once told her that her options were limited due to her gender.
She lives through various personal tragedies, which fuel her portraiture. Despite the death of her infant daughter, her husband’s kidnapping of another and leaving for Cuba, a nervous breakdown, an unstable boyfriend who burned hundreds of paintings, the loss of her job at the Works Progress Administration, and other trials, she perseveres with her painting. She comes into her own in the 1970s with the women’s movement.
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October 12, 2014
October 12, 1654
The city of Delft’s gunpowder reserves, which are being stored in a former convent, explode; the blast kills somewhere between 500-1000, including painter Carel Fabritius (a student of Rembrandt).
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October 11, 2014
October 11, 1987
The AIDS Quilt is displayed for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. I saw a piece of it for the first time on the UC Berkeley campus in the late 80s or early 90s, and it remains one of the most moving sights I’ve ever seen.
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365 Days of Art: October 10 – Leonardo Shows Three Paintings to Possible Patron, Watts Towers Kill Stress Test
October 11, 2014
October 10, 1517
Leonardo shows three of his paintings to the Cardinal of Aragon: Portrait of a Florentine Lady commissioned by Giuliano de’ Medici, Young St. John the Baptist, and St. Anne.
October 10, 1959
Before the planned demolition of Watts Towers, a DIY art project created over 34 years by one man without the use of machines, bolts or rivets, engineers and architects perform a required structural stress test. Steel cable is attached to each tower and a crane is used to exert force. The towers do not shift at all, let alone fall, and the test eventually ends when the crane breaks down. The towers still stand.