365 Days of Art: September 16 – Van Gogh Moves into the Yellow House

Vincent van Gogh, The Street, 1888
Vincent van Gogh, The Street, 1888

September 16, 1888

Van Gogh moves into the Yellow House in Arles. In a letter to Theo, he describes it like this:

Also a sketch of a 30 square canvas representing the house and its setting under a sulphur sun under a pure cobalt sky. The theme is a hard one! But that is exactly why I want to conquer it. Because it is fantastic, these yellow houses in the sun and also the incomparable freshness of the blue. All the ground is yellow too. I will soon send you a better drawing of it than this sketch out of my head.

The house on the left is yellow with green shutters. It’s the one that is shaded by a tree. This is the restaurant where I go to dine every day. My friend the factor is at the end of the street on the left, between the two bridges of the railroad. The night café that I painted is not in the picture, it is on the left of the restaurant.

He later lives with Gauguin there in one of the most tortured roommate situations ever. The house is severely damaged by bombs during World War II and is demolished.

365 Days of Art: September 15 – Gorky Marries; David Struck by Hammer

Arshile Gorky, Mechanics of Flying
Arshile Gorky, Mechanics of Flying

September 15, 1941

Driving back home to New York from an exhibition in San Francisco, Arshile Gorky and Mougouch (Agnes Magruder) are married in Nevada.

David by Michelangelo, in the Accademia Gallery
David by Michelangelo, in the Accademia Gallery

September 15, 1991

A 47-year old art vandal attacks Michelangelo’s David with a hammer. While declaring that a 16th-century painter’s model has given him orders to do so, he breaks off one of David’s toes. Visitors at the Galleria dell’Accademia museum subdue the man until police arrive, and the museum director says that all the toe fragments have been collected for restoration.

365 Days of Art: September 14 – Hitler Issues Orders to Commandeer the Vatican’s Artworks; Vandal Slashes a Rembrandt

Vatican Museum
Vatican Museum

September 14, 1943

SS General Karl Wolff, Supreme Leader of All SS Troops and Police in Italy, receives the following instructions from Hitler:

As soon as possible I want you and your troops to occupy the Vatican and Vatican City, as part of the German counter measures against this unspeakable “Badoglio treachery”, secure the Vatican’s archives and art treasures, which have a unique value, and escort the Pope (Pius XII) together with the Curia up North “for their protection”, so that they cannot fall into the hands of the Allies and under their political influence…”

The Night Watch, Rembrandt, 1642
The Night Watch, Rembrandt, 1642

September 14, 1975

An unemployed schoolteacher named Wilhelmus de Rijk walks into Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and purposefully approaches Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. Something about him worries the security guards, so they ask him to leave. He does, but returns and slashes the painting a dozen times with a bread knife he’s stolen from his hotel the night before.

De Rijk commits suicide the following spring. The zig zag cuts in the canvas are repaired after four years of conservation though they can still be seen up close. Ironically, this isn’t the first time this painting has been attacked with a knife: in 1911 a Navy cook slashed at it. Years later, it’s also sprayed with acid. For some reason, this painting is a target for vandals.

365 Days of Art: September 13 – Michelangelo Begins Carving, Childe Hassam Travels to Gloucester, Art Vandal Prepares to Attack, Boston MFA Exhibits Stolen Painting

David by Michelangelo, in the Accademia Gallery
David by Michelangelo, in the Accademia Gallery

September 13, 1501

About a month after signing the contract for his first commission, Michelangelo picks up his tools early in the morning and begins carving the statue of David. He will work on it for over two years.

Childe Hassam, Gloucester Inner Harbor, 1899
Childe Hassam, Gloucester Inner Harbor, 1899

September 13, 1900

American Impressionist Childe Hassam arrives in Gloucester, Massachusetts to paint. The area is popular with artists like Winslow Homer, Mark Rothko, Milton Avery, Barnett Newman, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, John Sloan, Robert Henri, John Twachtman and Stuart Davis.

The Night Watch, Rembrandt, 1642
The Night Watch, Rembrandt, 1642

September 13, 1975

An unemployed schoolteacher named Wilhelmus de Rijk makes preparations to vandalize Rembrandt’s The Night Watch the following day. He walks to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum with the undeniable urge to “watch” the painting, but arrives after closing time. Next, he rents a hotel room, orders room service, and steals a knife from the tray. Stay tuned…

Senigallia Madonna, by Piero della Francesca, c. 1474
Senigallia Madonna, by Piero della Francesca, c. 1474

September 13, 2013

An exhibition consisting of just one work opens at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts: the Renaissance painting Senigallia Madonna, by Piero della Francesca. This is the first time the work has been seen in the US, and is a testament to the work of the Carabinieri Art Squad in Italy, who investigate crimes against art and cultural property, and locate the painting after it is stolen in 1975.

365 Days of Art: September 12 – Dog and Teens Discover Lascaux Cave Paintings; Nan Goldin is Born

Lascaux cave painting, circa 15,000 BC
Lascaux cave painting, circa 15,000 BC

September 12, 1940

A group of French teenagers chase their dog down a hole and accidentally discover the most awesome cave paintings of all time at Lascaux. The prehistoric paintings are at least 15,000 years old, cover the walls and ceiling, and mainly depict animals. The degree of delicacy in these 600+ paintings is stunning. We still don’t know the purpose of the paintings, but art historians believe they play a role in hunting rites over a period of many, many years.

The caves are open to the public for about 15 years but close in 1963 because of damage to the paintings. Lights fade the pigments, and visitors’ breath cause excessive condensation and algae to form on the walls, so a replica is opened nearby for tourists. Despite the installation of a special air system, black mold grows on the walls by the 1990s, and conservation attempts leave visible black patches.

Photograph by Nan Goldin
Photograph by Nan Goldin

September 12, 1953

Nan Goldin is born. Beginning in the 70s, she’s one of the first photographers to use a raw, intimate, documentary style that captures an underbelly of New York that hasn’t necessarily seen the light of day until she turns her camera on it. Goldin photographs herself and her friends in a really straightforward, sympathetic way: drag queens putting on makeup, couples laying in bed, fairly seedy Lower East Side apartments, victims of domestic violence, AIDS patients dying in the hospital. She gives a frank, dignified voice to folks who are more or less on the fringe, and the saturated, gritty colors (red curtains, purple bruises) are almost royal.

365 Days of Art: September 10 – Picasso’s Guernica Returns to Spain After 42-year Exile

Guernica, by Pablo Picasso, 1937
Guernica, by Pablo Picasso, 1937

September 10, 1981

Picasso’s anti-war mural, which he insists must never rest on Spanish soil until democracy is restored there, returns to Spain after 42 years. Although Picasso doesn’t live to see this happen (he dies in 1973), it seems like his posthumous salute to Spain’s democracy after decades of dictatorship.

The painting is inspired by a 1939 air raid on the town of Guernica by Franco’s fascist army during the Spanish Civil War. The fascists, supported by Hitler and Mussolini, win the war and rule until Franco’s death in 1975. The painting has been called a “refugee” for the way that Picasso deliberately keeps it out of Spain, loaning it to MoMA in 1939 with the express wish that it cannot return until democracy does.

Because the painting is so famous, and democracy is so new, it is displayed behind bomb-and bullet-proof glass screens.