Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A Holiday Puzzle

Advertisement (2008)UK newspapers always give us plenty of crosswords and other puzzles to do over the Christmas/New Year holidays, as though we're all going to be bored witless. Maybe this is because their editors have seen the TV schedules! Not to be outdone, here's Coxsoft Art's holiday puzzle: a rather silly advertisement which emulates a famous Renaissance painting. Name the artist and the painting. If you really want to show off, name the year it was painted too. How's this for a prize? I'll feature the winner's website or blog on Coxsoft Art News. Beat that! Answers next year.

Berenson's Renaissance

Phaidon - Dust jacket of Bernard Berenson's The Italian Painters of The Renaissance (1952)Yesterday I asked if anyone knew the name of the artist who painted the portrait on the dust jacket of the 1952 Phaidon edition of Bernard Berenson's The Italian Painters of The Renaissance (scroll down or click the title link). No answer yet, but I did find a photo of the dust jacket at (I tried yesterday.) You can see what I mean about the blue sky. My copy is a first edition worth about £50. Not bad for 20p in a library book sale (original price 30 shillings). In later editions, did Phaidon correct the oversight of not naming the cover painting?

New Year's Eve Sardine

Bill Schaefer holding his Sardine (2008)You never thought I'd find an art story just for New Year's Eve, did you? Here's Bill Schaefer brandishing his fish, a jumbo sardine he sculpted for the 4th Annual Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop in Eastport, Maine, USA. The drop is a new New Year's Eve "tradition" which somebody invented four years ago. It takes place at the Tides Institute and Museum of Art at midnight Atlantic Time and midnight Eastern Time (don't ask). Nice fish, Bill. I'm sure it'll go with a splash.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

British Design Classics

Royal Mail - British Design Classics Stamp Set (2008)Name these British designs. Better still, name their designers. The Royal Mail's British Design Classics Stamp Set, featuring 10 iconic designs of the 20th century, goes on sale on 13 January (title link). Mary Quant's miniskirt ushered in the age of tights. Teenaged girls soon decided that fat white thighs, brown stocking tops and black or white suspender clips didn't look exactly swish.

Art Shows Erosion

William Dyce - Pegwell Bay, Kent - a recollection of October 5th 1858Retired coastal engineer Dr Robin McInnes has assessed the accuracy of geological and topological features in more than 400 paintings depicting the coastlines of the Isle of Wight and Hampshire. Here's the painting that stirred his interest: William Dyce's Pegwell Bay, Kent - a recollection of October 5th 1858, which he observed in Tate Britain. He found pictures such as this 150-year-old painting accurate and useful in his work. Click the title link to read how he ranks them.

Bernard Berenson

Unknown Artist - Renaissance Lady (I.C. enhanced)As the end of the year draws nigh, people start publishing quotations. To find a good quote on art, I had to go back to 1952. In the Preface of the 1952 Phaidon edition of Bernard Berenson's classic The Italian Painters of The Renaissance - first published as four separate essays between 1894 and 1907 - he wrote: "Many see pictures without knowing what to look at. They are asked to admire works of pretended art and they do not know enough to say, like the child in Anderson's tale, 'Look, the Emperor has nothing on'." The Renaissance Lady shown here is on the dust jacket of my copy, but I can't find a credit for it in the book, nor a good graphic online. I had to salvage this one and turn a black background into blue sky. If you know the artist and the subject of this painting, please post a comment.

Monday, 29 December 2008

The Coxsoft Diet

Michelangelo's David, before and after Christmas Pud (2008)

Feeling stuffed? Too much Christmas pud? Slower digestive transit? Bum like a sack of potatoes? Wondering which way to turn now that scientific research has given the Atkins diet the raspberry? (Click the title link if you can't remember this recent news on the "memory-loss diet".) Don't panic! The Coxsoft diet is here. It's simple. All you need do is reduce the amount of saturated fats you eat. Check the labels on your favourite foods and avoid those which contain more than 8% saturated fats: cheese, eggs, butter, margarine, cream, full-cream milk, fatty meats such as streaky bacon, chicken skin, pork crackling, pies, puddings, milk chocolate, coconut and peanuts. Reduce your salt too. Not only will you slim, but also you'll reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Ali Abbas Update

Ali Abbas practising foot painting (8/6/2003) I.C. adaptedBBC News website has updated the story of Ali Abbas, the Iraqi boy who lost both his arms in an American rocket attack in March 2003 at the age of 12 years. In this photo, a few months later, he is practising painting with his foot. He exhibited his paintings at the Riverside Gallery, Richmond Upon Thames, in the spring of 2006 (CLICK). He's now 17. He can type with his toes and is mad keen on football. He plays for the disabled teams of two London clubs, Chelsea and Tottenham, when he is in the UK. Click the title link to read more. You'll find a BBC iPlayer link to today's BBC Radio 4 broadcast, online for one week.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Vote For RA Tripe

Nicky Carvel - Outside It's Raining but Inside It's WetYuk! Yes, isn't it just? If you have nothing better to do, click the title link to view some of the unmitigated garbage being churned out by students of the Royal Academy Schools. You can vote for your favourite. Wow! Democracy in the art world! Problem is, like most elections, there's nobody worth voting for. Hines - an international real estate firm which obviously knows nothing about art and even less about website design (poor contrast, small print and blocks of text in upper case) - is offering a prize of £1000 to the winner. A giant version of the winning tosh will be hung on One Grafton Street, presumably for the peasants to pelt with rotten eggs.

Liber Studiorum

Frontispiece from JMW Turner’s Liber Studiorum (1806-19)This graphic shows the Frontispiece from J.M.W. Turner’s Liber Studiorum (Book of Studies), a collection of up to 70 mezzotints which he published from 1806 to 1819 and which had an enormous influence on artists in the nineteenth century. Turner’s treatise on the art of landscape was inspired by Claude Lorrain's Liber Veritatis (Book of Truth). The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA, recently acquired a nineteenth-century collector's album of 60 prints from Liber Studiorum (title link). For a larger graphic of the Frontispiece CLICK.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Mall Galleries

Arnid Malde - Strong!!!The Mall Galleries, London, will reopen on Saturday 10 January 2009 with Designer Crafts, admission £4. Ouch! This is followed by three free exhibitions: London College of Fashion MA Showcase 2009 (1 & 2) and Digital Camera Photographer of the Year 2008. The photo exhibition features some of the best of 120,000 entries in the Digital Camera magazine international competition. It runs from 17 February until 28 February. I love Arnid Malde's photo Strong!!! which shows a little boy straining to prove he has biceps. Guys, didn't we all do that when we were lads? Click the title link to see forthcoming exhibitions up until May.

Kinetic Sculpture

Theo Jansen - RhinocerosOn the subject of sculpture which moves (next post down) have you come across Theo Jansen's kinetic sculptures wandering along Netherlands' beaches? Here's his wind-powered Rhinoceros crossing a road under its own steam ... er ... sort of. As art goes it leaves a lot to be desired, but as a feat of engineering it's more exciting than your average windmill. And who knows where it might lead? Michelangelo's David striding along the beach? Oo-er! On a nudist beach, maybe.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Top Bun Hits Top Spot

Aardman Animations - Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008)Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008) topped yesterday's TV ratings in the UK with an average of 14.3m viewers, the biggest Christmas Day TV audience for five years. The feature length Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) made 8th place with an average of 7.2m viewers. Helena Bonham Carter's voice as Lady Campanula Tottington was a revelation. Even with an upper-class-twit accent it sounded delightful. What strikes me is that if you asked those 14.3 viewers to watch an art programme, most of them would promptly switch off. Yet this is what Wallace and Gromit are: animated sculptures. Add a sense of humour, a strong plot, amusing voices and Hollywood-style direction which parodies every memorable movie from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) to Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom (1984) and you have universal art. Some of the British gags must get lost in Siberia, but there are enough telling doggy expressions and banana-skin humour to keep even Vladimir Putin giggling.

Coxsoft Unkind to RAs?

Peter Freeth RA - Reflections on a Theme of Canaletto (1999)If you think I'm being unkind to today's Royal Academicians (next post down), look at this print: Reflections on a Theme of Canaletto (1999) by Peter Freeth RA. Who but the artist's mother would bother to visit this dire aquatint? "My son, the artist!" It's one of the exhibits in a small free exhibition Peter Freeth RA: My Affair with Resin in the Tennant Room until 22 February 2009. If you want to know why he wastes his time on this sort of tosh, you may ask him on Saturday 31 January during his "artist's talk" starting at 2pm, also in the Tennent Room and also free.

JW Waterhouse RA

John William Waterhouse - A Mermaid (1900)Yes! That major retrospective of the brilliant art of John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) which is currently being shown at the Groninger Museum in The Netherlands (CLICK) will be on display in the Sackler Wing of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, from 27 June to 13 September 2009. Note the change of title: JW Waterhouse RA. This allows the current crop of pathetic mediocrities calling themselves Royal Academicians to bask in the reflected glory of a truly great artist. Look at this beautiful Waterhouse A Mermaid (1900). Could any of today's RAs even figure out which side of the canvas to work on? Imagine 40 paintings of this quality plus drawings and sketchbooks. This is the must-see exhibition of 2009 (title link). Note for tourists: Arts & Crafts Tours has organized a week of related events, including a private tour of the exhibition with co-curator Peter Trippi (CLICK).

Thursday, 25 December 2008

A Festive Roundup

Fat in London DrainNo, this isn't the latest load of tosh at Tate Modern. It's fat blocking a London drain. Thames Water moans that Londoners will pour 500 tonnes of turkey fat down their drains this Christmas (CLICK). The feminists who run BBC News are worried about what our prostitutes - many of them illegal immigrants charging as little as £15 a time - will do over Christmas. Rude sudoku? Apparently business picks up again on Boxing Day (CLICK). A festive crackdown on burglars in London by the Metropolitan Police has resulted in 593 arrests. Ho, ho, ho, scumbags (CLICK). The usual religious fruitcakes made Christmas speeches. The one that's already caused outrage in the UK is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Channel 4's notion of an alternative Christmas speaker (CLICK). To cap it all a Santa has run amok in Los Angeles, shooting at least three people dead and torching a house (CLICK). Thank Goodness for Wallace and Gromit ... er ... Nick Park, actually. Festive cheer at last (CLICK).

Merry Christmas

I.C. - Merry Christmas (2008)Jean-Léon Gérôme - Drunken Bacchus and Cupid (1850)Now that I've joined the British Humanist Association - logo: "for the one life we have" - I can wish everyone a Merry Christmas without feeling like a hypocrite. Here's Jean-Léon Gérôme's Drunken Bacchus and Cupid (CLICK for a larger graphic) bemoaning the fact that folks have forgotten the true alcoholic meaning of Christmas. Don't drive if you're in this condition. In fact don't do anything except sober up! Click the title link to shed your religious upbringing and to start thinking logically.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Chinese Ice Santa

Harbin Ice Santa (2008) I.C. enhancedThe world-famous Harbin Ice Festival in nippy northern China is back again, and this year they've sculpted the biggest Father Christmas ever: 525 feet long (160 of those Euro meter thingies) and 78 feet high (24 meter thingies). That beard looks like an avalanche! It's dangerous work, with sculptors slipping about all over the place. Elf n safety? What elf n safety? But the night illuminations are fantastic. Click the title link for an online gallery of photos of this spectacular event.


Renderosity® - 10th Birthday Cake (2008)No sooner had I posted my item about Coxsoft Art News' 3rd birthday than Renderosity® sent me a birthday cake. Er ... 10 candles? It's Renderosity's birthday too. What a coincidence! If you haven't joined Renderosity's digital art community, click the title link to have a look. There are artists' galleries, often with plastic-eyed girls - they still can't get the eyes right -, a regular e-newsletter, tips, special offers and lots more.

Birthday Boy

I.C. - Happy 3rd Birthday Coxsoft Art News (2008)Pardon me while I ignore the festive season for a moment and wish Coxsoft Art News a happy 3rd birthday. Yes, for three years I've been blogging to no avail, using a clapped out old PC running Windows 98 SE. I've written 2,775 posts, the majority with I.C. adapted graphics, and gained more than 130,200 hits. Now that Microsoft has reprieved Windows XP yet again - nobody in their right mind wants Vista® (title link) - and recession is hitting the high streets, I may lash out on a new computer for 2009, if I can find a bargain.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Michael Halbert

Clos des Jacobins Wine Label and Michael Halbert's scraperboard illustration (with the artist's kind permission)How many of you actually pay much attention to the label on your Christmas tipple? This combined graphic shows the wine label for Clos des Jacobins Grand Cru Classé and the scraperboard (US scratchboard) illustration of a French chateau by US artist Michael Halbert. His original work is so detailed you can see bunches of grapes hanging on the vines (CLICK for project details and larger graphics). When reduced for the label, this illustration looks like a steel-plate engraving, which signifies chateau status quality wine. The title link takes you to Michael's website for an impressive online gallery of his art.

Robert Mulligan RIP

Mary Badham and Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)It's sad to note the death of Oscar-nominated film director Robert Mulligan, who made one of the greatest movies of all time: To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee. Gregory Peck won an Oscar for his masterly portrayal of Atticus Finch. Here's a still showing him with Mary Badham, who played Atticus's delightfully tomboy daughter Scout. I dare say this influential movie did more for the American Civil Rights Movement than all the speeches by Dr King, and it did it without preaching. Unmissable cinema. Brilliant.

US Indian Stamps

Clair Aubrey Huston - US Postage 14 cents Indian Stamp (1923)If you're wondering what to do with yourself over the festive season while Wallace and Gromit aren't on TV, you could visit a new online art gallery jointly created by the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. The American Indian in Stamps: Profiles in Leadership, Accomplishment and Cultural Celebration displays 40 US postal stamps featuring Native Americans, issued since 1875. The 1923 stamp shown here was designed by Clair Aubrey Huston (CLICK). The gallery runs as an Adobe Flash Player routine which didn't crash my PC.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Waterhouse in Groninger

John William Waterhouse - Saint Cecilia (1895)Oh to be in Groninger now that many of the paintings of John William Waterhouse are there, borrowed from England, the USA, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Australia, Taiwan and Canada for the "largest-ever retrospective" of his work. Er ... where? Groninger ... the Groninger Museum to be precise ... er ... The Netherlands. Oh. J.W. Waterhouse (1849-1917), The Modern Pre-Raphaelite features 92 of Waterhouse's paintings, drawings and sketchbooks, few of which have ever been seen in continental Europe. The exhibition includes this gem Saint Cecilia (1895) and runs until 3 May 2009 (title link). The Royal Academy of Arts helped organise it. So, will it be coming to London next year? Rest assured, if I spot it, I'll let you know.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Hannah Frank's Funeral

Hannah Frank - Illustration (cropped to size)The funeral of Scottish artist Hannah Frank took place today, the shortest day of the year. She died peacefully last Thursday at the age of 100. From her student days she produced a charming monochrome Art Nouveau illustration for every occasion, until the 1950s when she took up sculpture. In the 1920s she signed her drawings Al Aaraaf, a name she took from a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Click the title link to visit the Hannah Frank website, but don't visit its HOME page. Some idiot has put a badly designed Flash Player 9 routine on that page and it crashed Internet Explorer on both occasions I visited it. On my second visit it locked up my PC and I had to press the panic button and reboot. Why do website designers insist on using Flash Player?

Paris Hilton Burgled

Daniel Edwards - Paris Hilton Autopsy (2007)Hotel heiress Paris Hilton had her jewels stolen from her Los Angeles home on Friday, poor luv. Not these ones. They're part of Daniel Edwards' life-sized sculpture Paris Hilton Autopsy (2007) which shows her lying naked on a slab with her legs open (CLICK). Edwards' excuse for this display was Paris's being arrested for driving under the influence: art with a message and not a bad likeness. Her entrails come out too. That's Paris's pet Chihuahua Tinkerbell trying to wake her dead mistress. Aw, shucks! I hope the mutt didn't lose her own tiara in the burglary.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

James Bond Bus

Routemaster Design Winners: left Foster-Aston-Martin, right Capoco Design (2008)And now for something completely different: the proposed James Bond bus for London. Let's hope it can detect mad Muslim bombers and tip them into the gutter before they explode. Sports car manufacturer Aston Martin working with architects Foster and Partners is one of two winners in a design competition for the next generation of Routemaster buses. The other winner is Capoco Design, which designs buses, coaches and trucks. The Foster-Aston-Martin design is on the left, the Capoco design on the right. They will share the £25,000 first prize. Whichever design is selected for production, a new Routemaster is urgently needed to replace those idiotic bendy buses which currently clog London's narrow, twisting and overcrowded streets. The twit or committee of twits who ordered that bendy disaster should be sacked and sued. I find it difficult to believe that such a manifestly unsuitable vehicle could have been considered for purchase without bribery being involved.

Bouguereau's Battle

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - The Battle between the Centaurs and Lapiths (1852)The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, USA, has acquired this early work by William-Adolphe Bouguereau: The Battle between the Centaurs and Lapiths (1852). Such is the Anti-art Establishment's mindless rejection of academic paintings that the curator and director at the VMFA both feel the need to justify buying this masterpiece (title link). Ignorant art pundits have popularized the misguided view that Bouguereau was merely a French Victorian genre painter. Okay, he painted lots of cute little girls with flowers in their hair, because an artist must make a living and that's what his public wanted; but don't tell me he wasn't a brilliant artist. He captured subtle skin tones better than any artist before or since, and this powerful battle scene holds its own in a lineage of dramatic works that stems from Uccello and Leonardo da Vinci, passes through Caravaggio and Rubens to Boris Vallejo in the present day. This is Art. To view a larger graphic CLICK.

'New' Da Vinci's Found

Leonardo da Vinci - The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne plus Study of a Horse's HeadOn the left is Leonardo da Vinci's The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, which is housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris. On the right is a study of a horse's head, one of three sketches discovered on the back of the painting when it was taken down to be cleaned. At first the museum staff thought these sketches were stains in the wood on which the picture had been painted, but photos taken with an infrared camera revealed three sketches. This study reminds me of a horse's head in Leonardo's Battle of Anghiari (1563) which Sir Peter Paul Rubens copied circa 1603 (CLICK). So it is in the master's style, but it has yet to be authenticated. It might be Banksy's latest trick on the art world!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Pirate Grabs Gromit!

Aardman Animations - Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008)Is nothing sacred? Some fiend in human shape lurking in Canada posted pirated clips of Aardman Animations' Christmas treat A Matter of Loaf and Death on YouTube. The poor quality clips have been removed. Watch out for the BBC premiere of Wallace and Gromit's latest adventure on Christmas Day. Update: BBC One 8.30pm plus another Christmas Day treat: the feature-length Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of The Were-Rabbit BBC One 4.30pm. That's my TV viewing sorted out.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Pooh Makes A Million

EH Shepard - He went on tracking, and Piglet...ran after himIt's good to see that E.H. Shepard's drawings for Winnie-the-Pooh books are appreciated by collectors and far exceeded their estimated values at Sotheby's auction in London. This one, He went on tracking, and Piglet...ran after him, fetched £115,250, no great shakes in the crazy art world, but a new record for E.H. Shepard. Bump, bump, bump - going up the stairs went for £97,250. The lots at auction, which included signed copies of A.A. Milne's books as well as Shepard's drawings, made £1.26m.

Kew Gardens Free Day

The Palm House, Kew Gardens, LondonLondon's world-famous Kew Gardens will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2009. To start the celebrations, it will open free of charge on New Year's Day. If you're looking for somewhere to take the kids on the 1st, this is it. If the weather is too nippy for strolling the gardens, warm yourselves in one of the hothouses. This small image of the Palm House by night doesn't do justice to the brilliant original shot, photographer unknown. Click the title link for Kew Gardens' website, which I'm sad to say is now cumbersome and very slow to load. I gave up.

Nude Demo in Paris

Vincent Boisot - Life Models Protesting (15/12/2008) detailLast Monday, life models stripped in Paris in protest over losing their tips. Bit nippy for that sort of thing. It makes the nipples scrunch up, not to mention goosebumps. More than 20 male and female models took part in the demo outside the Paris Cultural Affairs Bureau. City Hall, which runs life-drawing classes in Paris, has banned tips, a long-held custom which the models rely on to supplement their meagre wages. They have no fixed contracts, holiday pay or job security. Sounds a lousy career choice. I'm not sure that giving everyone a free view of their charms is an effective means of gaining a wage rise, but it has certainly won their cause publicity.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

William Blake 2009

William Blake - Jacob's Ladder (1799-1806)Next year Tate Britain will celebrate the 200th anniversary of William Blake's first solo exhibition in 1809 by reuniting 9 of the 16 works which Blake showed at his brother's shop in Golden Square, Soho, London. This painting of Jacob's Ladder (1799-1806) is one of the survivors. The only critic who turned up at the 1809 exhibition gave it the raspberry, not an auspicious start. Blake persevered and developed his own unique style of religious art, which some people regard as visionary. Modern fantasy artists have left him far behind, so I wouldn't expect too much from this show. Click the title link for more pictures.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Message to Gordon

Avoid Getting Snowed Under This Winter + With Debt (2008)A credit card company sent me this neat graphic Avoid Getting Snowed Under This Winter to encourage me to use my credit cards. Thanks a bundle! I've added With Debt as my reply to the firm and as Coxsoft Art's Christmas message to PM Gordon Brown, who as "Labour" chancellor made the rich richer and the poor poorer long before the credit crunch struck. He's still chuffed with himself for persuading the world to try to buy itself out of recession, but have you seen what he's done to sterling against the US dollar and the Euro thingy (next post down)? Devaluation by the back door! And now, thanks to insanely low interest rates, our savings aren't keeping pace with inflation. Thanks, Gordon.

Carla Sues Over Bag

Pardon Bag Showing Carla Bruni (2008)This bag could become a collector's item. I refer of course to the canvas receptacle, not to the highly esteemed and lovely lady it features in the buff: Carla Bruni. The bag went on sale in the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, where the firm Pardon is based. The orange speech bubble translates as: "My boyfriend should have bought me Pardon!". The firm planned to sell these bags in France, but Carla's lawyers have sued Pardon for £104,000 ($160,000) in damages and the firm has agreed to burn all 10,000 bags. Neither Carla nor fashion photographer Michel Comte, who took the picture in 1993, had agreed to the use of this image for commercial gain. Carla had agreed to pose in the buff to promote a campaign against AIDS. To see the original photo, which fetched $91,000 (was £45,000, now £59,000) at Christie's New York auction this year, CLICK.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Jennifer Aniston Nude

Michael Thompson - GQ Magazine Cover Photo of Jennifer Aniston (2008)The latest actress to get her kit off for the camera is TV star Jennifer Aniston. Here she is wearing nothing but the old school tie on the cover of GQ magazine. I can't help wondering how much of this photo is natural Jennifer? how much of it is Michael Thompson's glamour photography? and how much is an anonymous digital artist's enhancement of a photographic image? What little I've seen of Jennifer in TV adverts suggests she isn't a great beauty: her eyes are too close together, she has knobbly knees and she's a lot older than this schoolgirl image suggests. Has the lighting for TV shows been unkind to Jennifer or did the digital artist get carried away and create his own lovely dream girl?

Car Boot Sale Find

Albert Challen - Mary Seacole (1869)The only known painting of Jamaican heroine Mary Seacole, a nurse in the Crimean War, has been bought by the National Portrait Gallery for £130,000 with the help of a £96,200 grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund. The painting was found in a car boot sale five years ago and has been on loan to the NPG since 2004. London artist Albert Challen painted this portrait of Mary wearing her medals in 1869.

Robo Mop

Le Trung's 'Fembot' AikoThis Japanese cutie is the answer to Galatea, the perfect woman sculpted from marble by Pygmalion, King of Cyprus, who prayed to Aphrodite to send him a woman as lovely as his statue, and the statue came to life! That's the myth. Here's the reality. Her name is Aiko (meaning love child) and she's a combination of art, technology and advanced computer programming, created by Japanese Canadian Le Trung. Not only can Aiko do household chores, but also she is touch-sensitive, can recognise faces, can do maths, can read aloud, has a 13,000-sentence vocabulary in English and Japanese and will try to slap your face if you grab her! Cost? A mere £14,000 so far. And no divorce settlement. The perfect Christmas pressie, except she's not yet in production. To see a video of Aiko in action, click the title link.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

FBI Agent Retires

Rembrandt - Self-portraitArt crime is the fourth largest international crime, after drug dealing, gun running and money laundering. It's worth anything from £1bn to £4bn ($1.5bn to $6bn) per year. So, those naive folks who think art can reform criminals and improve society need to wake up. To the bad guys, art is just another form of currency. BBC News Correspondent Simon Worrall has written an informative piece on the retirement of FBI Special Agent Robert "Bob" Wittman, who ran sting operations to recover stolen works of art (title link). This Rembrandt Self-portrait, stolen from The National Museum of Sweden, is one of the paintings Bob recovered. He plans to set himself up as a security expert and spend more time with his family.

Masterpieces of Ukiyo-e

Totoya Hokkei - Oniwakamaru subduing the Giant Carp (ca 1831) detailUkiyo-e Revealed, the demonstration of Japanese print-making on Sunday at the V&A Museum in London (yesterday's post) is a taster for Masterpieces of Ukiyo-e from the V&A, which opened on Friday and continues until 15 March 2009, admission free. The V&A has one of the finest collections of ukiyo-e in the world - over 25,000 items - and this is its first major exhibition of ukiyo-e since 1973. An exhibition of traditional Japanese art looks far more interesting than Magnificence of the Tsars, the V&A's other recently-opened show (CLICK). Why pay to see a tsar's boots when you can view Totoya Hokkei's masterpiece Oniwakamaru subduing the Giant Carp (ca 1831) for free? Click the title link.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Viral Art

Alex Dragulescu - TT.PDF (2008)BBC In Pictures is showing an interesting online gallery of computer viruses as visualized by artist Alex Dragulescu. He has tried to capture the essence of their behaviour in his images. This one is TT.PDF, a Trojan which lurks inside a Word document. Sinister little devil, isn't it? There are 10 images to view, complete with details of how each visualized piece of malware works. So it's worth reading as well as viewing (title link).

Ukiyo-e Revealed

Katsushika Hokusai - Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji: The Great Wave off the Coast of KanagawaThis is short notice, but I only just received the news. Next Sunday 14 December the V&A Museum in London will host a free demonstration of traditional Japanese colour printing by members of Japan's Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints: Ukiyo-e Revealed. This will be in Seminar Room 1 of the new Sackler Centre, from 2pm to 4pm. The most famous master of this technique was and still is Katsushika Hokusai. Here is his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji: The Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa. This event is supported by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and Japan-UK 150.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Gerhard Richter at NPG

Gerhard Richter - President Johnson amd Mrs Kennedy (1963)According to Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, Gerhard Richter is a "master painter of our time" (CLICK if you don't believe me). Oh yeah? Spare us the bull, Sandy. This graphic reveals the truth: a third-rate cartoon. Richter's portraits based on the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 are the only points of interest in next year's show Gerhard Richter Portraits (title link) which opens on 26 February in the NPG's Wolfson Gallery and runs until 31 May 2009. Admission is £8, concessions £7 or £6. They must be joking!

David Shepherd CBE

David Shepherd, Mandy Shepherd and Emily Lamb - Composite PictureIt takes a long time for a member of the royal family to get round to pinning an honour on somebody's chest. Back in June I reported that David Shepherd, the UK's top wildlife artist, had been awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list (CLICK). Yesterday the Prince of Wales finally got round to giving David his CBE at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace. Six months! Better late than never, I suppose. Congratulations, David.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Export Ban on Turner

JMW Turner - Pope's Villa At Twickenham (1808)Culture minister Barbara Follett has placed a temporary export ban on JMW Turner's Pope's Villa At Twickenham (1808), which sold for £5.4m at Sotheby's in London last July. The ban - to be reviewed in February - allows time to see if funds can be raised to buy it for the nation. It isn't one of his best, but it is historically important.

Cheryl Cole: Angel

Lee Jones - Cheryl Cole (2008)How do you fancy Cheryl Cole blowing her nose as Gormley's Angel of the North? Who? Some sort of pop princess. Lee Jones painted the picture. Don't ask me why. Click the title link to find out.

Virgin Killer Whoopsie

RCA - Album Cover For Scorpions' Virgin Killer (1976)Yesterday I reported on the UK Thought Police banning a Wikipedia page featuring the Scorpions' album cover for Virgin Killer (1976) which bears an image of a naked pubescent girl. I'm pleased to report that the Internet Watch Foundation has backed down and admits that its ban was counter-productive (CLICK). So here is the cover. Note that the imitation glass cracks across the image are original and were obviously intended to keep the image decent as well as to provide a symbolic meaning. The Wikipedia page has been unblocked and you can click the title link to see a larger graphic. Don't all rush at once!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Art Liberating Lives

Sue Ryder Care's Art Liberating Lives LogoThe last exhibition of the year at the Mall Galleries, London, opens on Thursday 11 December - Sue Ryder Care's Art Liberating Lives - and continues until Friday 19 December. Work by UK artists will be shown alongside art-therapy creations by residents at the charity's care centres. There is a suggested admission donation of £2. Money raised from the exhibition will go towards Sue Ryder Care's six hospices and eight neurological care centres. A worthy cause.