December 16, 2004
Agnes Martin, abstract painter and tough old bird, dies at age 92.
December 16, 2004
Agnes Martin, abstract painter and tough old bird, dies at age 92.
December 15, 2001
The leaning tower of Pisa is reopened to the public, and declared stable for at least 300 more years.
December 14, 1866
Roger Fry, British artist and art critic, is born.
He holds many roles in his lifetime, including writer, painter, member of London’s Bloomsbury group, expert on Italian Old Master paintings, inventor of the term “post-Impressionists”, and Curator of Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
December 13, 1873
Harper’s Weekly publishes Old Mill (The Morning Bell) by Winslow Homer.
December 12, 1970
Artists with police whistles protest at the opening of the Whitney Annual because of the few women the Whitney historically exhibits. Faith Ringgold recalls:
In the fall of 1970 Poppy Johnson, Lucy Lippard and I, formed an ad hock [sic] women’s group to protest the small percentage of women in all past Whitney Annuals…Our goal for the 1970 annual was 50% women…The Whitney Museum became the focus of our attention. We went there often to deposit eggs. Unsuspecting male curatorial staff would pick up the eggs and experience the shock of having raw egg slide down the pants of their fine tailor–made suits. Sanitary napkins followed… Generally, everywhere the staff went they found loud and clear messages that women artists were on the Whitney’s “case.” The Whitney Annual that year was to be a sculpture show… Because of the Whitney’s well-known preference for abstract art, …Betye Saar and Barbara Chase-Riboud…were the ones I unconditionally demanded to be in the show. Saar and Chase-Riboud became the first black women ever to be exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The total percentage of women in the Whitney annual in 1970 was twenty-three percent as opposed to the previous year’s average of five to ten percent. This was better than ten percent, but it still wasn’t fifty. We decided to demonstrate during the opening to make that point… At a pre-determined time, Lucy Lippard and I began to blow our whistles… We continued to blow. The people gathered around us and we formed a big circle on the floor. Then we got up and walked around chanting, “Fifty percent women, fifty percent women.” Throughout the show we demonstrated every weekend, blowing our police whistles and singing off key…”.
December 12, 1971
Joseph Cornell, known for being so shy that he disappears for an hour in the bathroom to avoid social interactions, hosts a party at his house, with art critic Dore Ashton, writer Octavio Paz and his wife, and editor Barbara Burn.
Knowing his love for desserts, Barbara had baked a pie, and thus, I’m inclined to think, set the tone for the long afternoon. Joseph, who knew of my friendship with Paz, had asked me and when he caught sight of Octovio’s vivacious French wife, he smiled broadly — something few of his acquaintances had ever witnssed. Usually Joseph’s smile was small, hesitant. During the afternoon, Joseph spoke with unaccustomed ease, bringing forth his knowledge of French poetry and engaging in an animated discussion of Mallarmé’s sonnets with both Octavio and Marie-José [Paz’s wife]. He took us to the cellar, showed us all his works in progress as well as some completed boxes and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Before we left, he drew me aside, and whispered with a certain ingenuousness: “Was he really an ambassador?”
December 11, 1913
By appointment, antiques dealer Signor Geri and director of the Uffizi Gallery Signor Poggi arrive at Leonardo Vincenzo’s Florence hotel room to inspect what Leonardo claims is the stolen Mona Lisa. Leonardo removes underwear, shoes, a shirt, and a false bottom from a trunk, to reveal the Mona Lisa.
Geri and Poggi are convinced the painting is the original because of the Louvre seal on the back. Poggi bluffs that he needs to authenticate the painting by comparing it with other da Vincis in the Uffizi’s collection. Incredibly, Vincenzo allows the men to walk out with the painting.
Geri and Poggi send the police in to arrest Vincenzo, whose real name is Vincenzo Peruggia.
Now to solve the mystery: it’s far easier than anyone has imagined. Peruggia’s only goal has been to return the painting to Italy. He becomes obsessed with this Robin Hoodesque idea while working at the Louvre five years before. Because many of the guards know and recognize him still, he’s able to walk into the Louvre easily. He takes the painting when he see the Salon Carré is empty. He brings it into a secluded staircase, removes it from its frame, hides it under his painter’s smock, and walks out of the museum.
Art lovers everywhere are overjoyed to hear the Mona Lisa is found. She goes on a celebratory tour of Italy before being returned to France at the end of the month.
December 11, 1942
Séraphine Louis, known as “Séraphine de Senlis”, a self-taught painter of flowers, patterns, and religious imagery, dies in a mental hospital. The movie inspired by her life and work (Séraphine) is incredible.
December 10, 1913
A man enters Geri’s antique shop in Florence, and after waiting for the other customers to leave, announces that he is in possession of the stolen Mona Lisa. The man gives his name as Leonardo Vincenzo, and says he has the painting in his hotel room. He explains that he has stolen the painting in order to wrest it back from France and return it to Italy, and asks for a half million lire. His two stipulations are that it be hung in the Uffizi Gallery, and never returned to France. He is put out by what he views as Napoleon’s theft of one of Italy’s rightful pieces of heritage.
Like a smooth operator, Signor Geri, the shop owner, agrees to the price but stalls for time, saying that the director of the Uffizi must see the painting. Leonardo suggests they all meet in his hotel room the next day to take a look.
After Leonardo leaves, Geri contacts the police and the Uffizi.
December 9, 1960
Willem de Kooning, drunk at the Cedar Tavern, punches an Air France engineer in the teeth and is subsequently sued for $100,000.
December 8, 1940
After being divorced for a little more than a year, Frida and Diego marry for the second time, at the courthouse in San Francisco. He goes to work later that day, on the murals on Treasure Island. When he takes off his shirt, his assistants and the public spectators who are there see that his undershirt is covered in Frida’s magenta lipstick.
December 7, 1418
Judges consider the model that Brunelleschi submits for the competition to build a Duomo for Florence’s cathedral.
His proposal includes not only building techniques to make such a large structure possible (a self-supporting shell with a rib structure, and using brick laid in rotating herringone patterns) but also the use of machines he invents to lift the materials into position. It is an engineering first.
December 6, 1940
The Gestapo arrest the resistance fighter and poster artist Helen Ernst and bring her to Ravensbruck, the concentration camp for women.
December 5, 1960
Dieter Roth is awarded the William and Noma Copley Foundation Award for his artist books.
He’s credited as the inventor of this genre, where the book isn’t meant to be read in the way we might read a paperback novel, but to be appreciated as a work of art. For Roth, books don’t need to have text. They don’t need to have bindings or pages either.
Humor and wordplay are a staple of his work. He gleefully titles one book Schiesse (Shit). What author does this? A favorite pun is the proximity of his last name to the term “rot”, and he frequently works with food to emphasize this connection. Another book contains no pages per se, but labeled envelopes, inside of which are bits of vanilla pudding and mutton.
In the work above, Roth grinds up real pages of a book called Halbzeit by Martin Walser, then adds gelatin, lard and spices and puts the meaty mess in a casing. Voila! A book sausage, or a Literaturwurst.
Needless to say, his works are either a dream or a nightmare for art conservators. I went to a show at MoMA several years ago and the sweet smell of chocolate was surprisingly prevalent in the gallery, even 50 years after the creation of the works. There were stained and rotted sausages and cheeses, but thankfully I couldn’t smell those. Other exhibitions aren’t so sweet: there are stories of museum guards having to stand outside the gallery because of the putrid smell of rotting food.
I love this guy!
December 4, 1884
After receiving a commission from Century Magazine to illustrate an article about Nassau, Winslow Homer travels there with his father to execute it.
I love Homer, and his work from this period is especially vibrant.
December 3, 1961
The Museum of Modern Art finally realizes their mistake in hanging Henri Matisse’s Le Bateau upside-down, and straightens the picture after six weeks. It takes a stockbroker/art lover that long to convince MoMA; they finally act on one of her letters.
December 2, 1938
Miss Iris Barry of MoMA replies to Joseph Cornell’s letter of November 3:
Dear Mr. Cornell:
I am sorry to have kept you so long for an answer about the three films you so kindly let us examine. We should like to acquire THE PAPER DOLL (Paper White) and the untitled Eclair film about red Indians. Though they are all in rather bad condition, Mr. Kerns thinks that perhaps we can make something of them by duping…”
His letter was so polite and kind, is it silly that I wish hers to him were nicer? She didn’t even ask if the injury he mentioned had healed…