December 30, 1511 Michelangelo’s statue of his frenemy Pope Julius II, who is patron of the Sistine Chapel and other projects, is destroyed by a mob. They tie a rope around its neck and pull the 10,000 pound statue from its pedestal. It smashes into pieces, but not before it leaves a crater in the […]
Art and war
365 Days of Art: December 29 – Eisenhower Orders Soldiers to Take Responsibility for Protecting World’s Art
December 29, 1943 In an extraordinary memo, General Dwight Eisenhower clearly and directly charges each soldier with the responsibility of protecting the world’s cultural treasures: To: All Commanders Today we are fighting in a country which has contributed a great deal to our cultural inheritance, a country rich in monuments which by their creation helped
December 6, 1940 The Gestapo arrest the resistance fighter and poster artist Helen Ernst and bring her to Ravensbruck, the concentration camp for women.
November 28, 1870 Impressionist painter Frédéric Bazille dies on the battlefield during the Franco-Prussian War. He is fighting with the Zouaves, a light infantry regiment, and has been frustrated at the lack of action. Today, in a minor battle, his officer is injured and Bazille takes command. He leads an assault on the Prussians, is
November 21, 1898 Rene Magritte is born. November 21, 1862 Monet is dishcarged 5 1/2 years early from the army, after his aunt pays the replacement fee (i.e., to hire another soldier) so he can get on with his art career.
365 Days of Art: November 17 – Duke of Milan Ships Out Leonardo’s Bronze, Gorky Writes Optimistic Note About Prolific Summer of Drawing
November 17, 1494 Ludovico il Moro, the Duke of Milan, sends all of the bronze that Leonardo has collected for casting a statue of a horse to his father-in-law, who makes it into cannon. November 17, 1946 Arshile Gorky writes to his friend Vartoosh Mooradian: This summer I completed a lot of drawings — 292
365 Days of Art: November 15 – Homer is Published, O’Keeffe is Born, Bernstein Protests NEA, Vandal is Sentenced
November 15, 1862 Winslow Homer’s The Army of the Potomac-A Sharp-Shooter on Picket Duty a wood engraving based on a painting, is published in Harper’s Weekly. November 15, 1887 Georgia O’Keeffe is born. November 15, 1989 The composer Leonard Bernstein declines a National Medal of Arts, awarded to him by the White House, in protest
365 Days of Art: November 10 – Frida and Diego Arrive in SF, NY Times Reports on Nazi Looting, Gorky Exhibits at the Whitney, Hockney Faxes an Artwork
November 10, 1930 Frida and Diego arrive in San Francisco, where he has mural commissions to work on. November 10, 1943 The New York Times reports “Unique Collection of Art Treasures Taken Away by Germans in Italy,” referring to the trucks carrying artwork for Goring’s birthday party. November 10, 1936 Arshile Gorky’s painting Organization is
365 Days of Art: November 3 – Joseph Cornell Writes a Polite Letter, Matisse Dies, 100 Trucks Full of Confiscated Artwork Head to Germany
November 3, 1938 Joseph Cornell writes a letter to an employee named Iris Barry at MoMA’s Film Library. He’s a very polite correspondent: Dear Miss Barry, Between the increasing activity of the Film Library and an injury I sustained on my vacation a few weeks ago, it hasn’t been very convenient for me to speak
365 Days of Art: October 29 – Tortured Witness Testifies Against Artemesia, George Luks Dies After Bar Fight, Art Forger Goes on Trial
October 29, 1612 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.
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, 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
365 Days of Art: October 15 – Fascist Propaganda Discusses Artworks, Lee Krasner Has First Solo Show
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
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, stationary 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
October 7, 1914 Marsden Hartley’s lover, Karl von Freyburg, dies in World War I; his death inspires Hartley to paint Portrait of a German Officer. October 7, 2012 Art vandal Wlodzimierz Umaniec uses indelible, dripping ink to scribble his name and a slogan (“12 a potential piece of yellowism”) on Rothko’s 1958 painting Black On Maroon
October 6, 1499 Louis XII of France invades Milan, and allows his archers to shoot target practice at Leonardo’s 25-foot clay model for an equestrian statue. For shame! The Duke of Milan commissions the statue in 1482 (that’s 17 years ago–see how slow Leonardo is?); he and Leonardo intend it to be the largest statue
October 2, 1498 Leonardo is appointed ingegnere camerale by the Duke of Milan. This is an engineering position, and allows him to put his knowledge of structures and love of machines to work by acting as a consultant on the fortifications during this time of continual war.
October 1, 1943 Nazi radio announces: The US President of the European Monuments and Art Treasures Committee, an organization consisting of thieves and Jews, said in a statement to the Press that a large number of maps are being distributed to US soldiers to enable them to trace artistic treasures easily. A well-known gangster has
365 Days of Art: September 30 – Nazis Set Fire to Villa, Destroying Paintings, Glass Collection, and Documents
September 30, 1943 Nazi soldiers set fire to a villa outside of Naples, which temporarily houses the contents of the Filangieri Museum and State Archives of Naples. In addition to 85,978 historical documents, the fire destroys 44 paintings by Van Eyck, Boticelli, Chardin, and Pontormo, as well as a priceless collection of ceramic, glass, and
365 Days of Art: September 22 – Leonardo Studies Birds, Michelangelo Seeks Payment, Artists Reject Pop Art Newcomer, Search Leads to Nazi Loot
September 22, 1507 Leonardo makes studies of birds in flight. September 22, 1510 Exactly halfway through painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo departs Florence, where he’d taken a break to visit his family, for Bologna to confront Pope Julius II about not being paid according to his contract. The two already have a long history
365 Days of Art: September 14 – Hitler Issues Orders to Commandeer the Vatican’s Artworks; Vandal Slashes a Rembrandt
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
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
365 Days of Art: August 27 – Michelangelo Takes 1st Commission, Krakatoa Colors Sky for The Scream, and Guernica is Displayed for 1st Time in US
Another big day in the history of art! August 27, 1498 At age 25, Michelangelo receives his first big commission: a statue of Mary and Jesus for a cardinal. He selects the Carrera marble himself from the quarry and carves the statue from that single piece of stone. The 450 ducats he’s paid make him
August 9, 1944 Painter Felix Nussbaum is murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz. His most powerful work is done in the last ten or so years of his life. In 1933, after the Nazis gain control of Germany, the Minister of Propaganda arrives in Rome, where Nussbaum is on scholarship as a student at the
July 13, 1941 Peggy Guggenheim arrives in the US from Europe with plans to open an art gallery. This simple-sounding plan leads to the creation of Art of This Century, probably the most influential art gallery ever, with her artists becoming commercially successful, and introducing the fine arts into pop culture. She is known for
June 23, 1888 Vincent Van Gogh writes a letter to Emile Bernard, and references the painting above. What I’ve been doing looks very ugly – a drawing of a seated Zouave [pronounced zoo-AHV, a soldier in the French Army, based in North Africa, with a distinct uniform], a painted sketch of the Zouave against a
365 Days of Art: June 3 – Nazis Legalize Art Theft, Peggy Guggenheim Visits Brancusi During WWII Bombing, and Andy Warhol is Shot
This is a cruel and violent day in the history of art: June 3, 1938 The Nazis pass a law legalizing art robbery of “Entartete Art” [Degenerate Art], which sets the stage for many Jews to be robbed of their art collections. June 3, 1940 Peggy Guggenheim recalls visiting Constantin Brancusi’s studio while the Germans
May 5, 1864 While traveling with the Union army, Winslow Homer observes and sketches the Battle of the Wilderness, which he later turns into a painting. Skirmish in the Wilderness, the painting, depicts the first meeting between the troops of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, in northern Virginia.
April 18, 1938 The exhibition Luis Quintanilla: An Exhibition of Drawings of the War in Spain, for which Ernest Hemingway wrote the catalog, closes at MoMA. Quintanilla was a distinguished leader of the opposition to the Fascists, director of the Republic’s intelligence services in the Basque country, and earned a spot on General Franco’s first
April 9, 1940 In the midst of World War II, on the same day that Nazi Germany invaded Norway, Peggy Guggenheim bought Fernand Léger’s Men in the City; Léger called himself “astonished by her sang froid.” Since 1939, despite the ongoing war Hitler was waging in Europe (where she was living), Peggy had kept to
March 31, 1746 Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes is born. His paintings have haunted me ever since I first saw them in the Prado as a teenager. His prints on The Disasters of War should be required viewing.
February 28, 1974 Tony Shafrazi spray-painted Picasso’s painting Guernica, which hung in the Museum of Modern Art, with the words “KILL LIES ALL.” Luckily, the paint was easily removed due to heavy varnish on the painting’s surface. Shafrazi was protesting the announcement, the day before, of the release on bail of U.S. Lieutenant William Calley,
It started on September 12, 2001. The day after the terrorist attacks, a sign appeared in Johnson, VT: “YOU CAN RUN BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE. VENGEANCE IS MINE SAYETH THE LORD.” As a response, Vermont Studio Center co-founder Louise von Wiese began putting “Art Is Peace” and Pax Cultura signs around campus. They are present at
Or, Classicism, Propaganda . . . and Jury Duty I’ve always thought that history could best be taught through art and music. So cheers to the Guggenheim for putting together a great history lesson with Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy, and Germany, 1918-1936. The show blew my mind, and I haven’t been able