Antiquarian Book Sculpting

Nouveau Larousse Illustre, Vol 3, Alexander Korzer-Robinson, 2012                                           32cm x 26cm x 6cm cut French Encyclopedia (1903)

If this isn’t the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, I’m not certain what is. Since we’re headed into the Early Modern Era of art – where the roots of collage lay – I thought I would share this for everyone to see.

Alexander’s methods of creating these pieces are quite unique. After finding an antique encyclopedia or heavily-illustrated book, he goes through page by page and creates a landscape of human understanding and forms a world which operates in perfect harmony.  Every little forgotten detail in these historic books suddenly has its own purpose, joining together to create a new (or perhaps old) world to make a nice accent in any book-lover’s collection. The artist also elaborates on his message and reason for creating these works:

By using pre-existing media as a starting point, certain boundaries are set by the material, which I aim to transform through my process. Thus, an encyclopedia can become a window into an alternate world, much like lived reality becomes its alternate in remembered experience. These books, having been stripped of their utilitarian value by the passage of time, regain new purpose. They are no longer tools to learn about the world, but rather a means to gain insight about oneself. – Alexander Korzer-Robinson

I think this is a great artist to keep up with, especially if modern art is your cup of tea. There’s plenty more to see on Alexander’s website, with new pieces coming out nearly monthly.

Alexander’s Site: http://www.alexanderkorzerrobinson.co.uk/

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Impressionism

Allee of Chestnut Trees

Allée of Chestnut Trees, Alfred Sisley (English)          Oil on canvas

Formally founded in 1874, Impressionism was a painting form established by a Paris-based artist group known as The Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers (Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, etc.) [1] and first revealed to the public during an exhibit at Felix Nadar’s studio. The paintings on display were unlike anything anyone had seen before, and to most appeared as nothing more than incomplete sketchings. In fact, one reporter – Louis Leroy of the Le Charivari newspaper – wrote an article of his impression on Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise, and stated:

Impression—I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it … and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape. – Leroy, 25 April 1874 [2]

Not all reviews were bad, though, and it seemed that once people had truly let this new style soak in to their hearts, true appreciation began to develop for Impressionism. In fact, another paper – Le Siècle – published an article merely a few days later, praising the odd and unique style:

“The shared point of view that makes them a group with a collective force of its own… is their decision not to strive for detailed finished, but to go no further than a certain overall aspect. Once the impression has been discerned and set down, they declare their task finished. …If we are to describe them with a single word, we must invent the new term Impressionists. They are Impressionists in the sense that they depict not the landscape but the sensation produced by the landscape.” – Jules Castagnary, 29 April 1874 [3]

Impression Sunrise

Impression Sunrise, Claude Monet 1872                      Oil on canvas

Through the years, Impressionism has maintained a wide range of artists and appreciative spectators alike, with galleries worldwide housing both classic and modern depictions on a variety of subjects. The style (as many before its time) hasn’t died out through the years, and still stands strong today. In fact, if you have some cash to throw around and wish to own a piece of Impressionist artwork for yourself, there are auction companies which regularly sell off pieces, original and new alike.

The Author’s Impressions on Impressionist Work

I have to say, Impressionism was an acquired taste for me. Much like that first cup of coffee you try, the style left an odd and strong taste in my mouth. At first glance, it seemed to be nothing more than splotches of colour thrown on a canvas and – as many before have said – seemed to be nothing more than incomplete works of art. Again, as with many styles I’ve exposed myself to through the years, I found myself wondering if the art world hadn’t gone off its rocker by regarding such paintings as real pieces. And yet, just as one continues exposing oneself to coffee in order to appreciate the taste, I continued researching a variety of painters in order to broaden the scope I had on this area of art. What I found were quite fantastic and powerful pieces which changed my mind immensely.

Though the style is one of rough brushstrokes and sometimes shocking colours, the overall unity of Impressionist pieces is quite – well – impressive. Days of visual arts before this movement hearkened to the physics of realistic caricature  and placed heavy emphasis on refined technique. For example, the Northern Renaissance saw a movement of art influenced somewhat by Italian Mannerism, where lines were crisp and bodies well-defined. The movement had its roots in Biblical origins, where most paintings were created for religion’s sake and often commissioned as pieces to decorate a number of churches across Europe. They told stories and taught the public (most of whom were illiterate) how to understand the main points of the Bible. Perhaps the most famous piece of this time was the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, commissioned by Pope Julius II and painted by Michelangelo. The piece depicts a number of stories from the Bible and is truly a wonder to behold. The size of the piece is in itself quite a spectacle, but the technical detail and number of people that the artist painted are enough to make one gape in complete awe.

Sistine Chapel

Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Michelangelo 1508-1512

But you’d never find loose brushstrokes and unfinished paintings during this time. No, the Renaissance era would reel in horror at such ideals. Yet there’s something about the freedom of being unrealistic or of maintaining an unfinished air which is just as spectacular as the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. These paintings evoke so much more than the awe of how well-painted they are. They show how the world looked for a particular moment through an artist’s eye and leave many emotional impressions upon the viewer. Unlike the artwork of the Renaissance, Impressionist pieces are inspired by realism and depict much more than simple a still life. Their hectic use of bold colour and unbridled strokes of the brush, overuse of paint, and vague texture leaves me enjoying the complex simplicity of Impressionist artwork over most earlier styles of art. Freedom and expression are far more important on leaving a lasting impression upon a person’s heart than attention to detail.

Mgarr Harbor: Malta

Mgarr Harbor: Malta, Marcus Krackowizer, 2011

Sources

1. “Impressionism: Art and Modernity.” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Ed. Teresa Lai. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/imml/hd_imml.htm&gt;.

2. “L’Exposition des Impressionnistes” by Louis Leroy, Le Charivari, 25 April 1874, Paris. Translated by John Rewald in The History of Impressionism, Moma, 1946, p256-61.

3. “Exposition du Boulevard des Capucines: Les Impressionnistes” by Jules Castagnary, Le Siècle, 29 April 1874, Paris.

Mozart’s Lacrimosa

Requiem Mass in D minor; Movement III – Sequentia; Lacrimosa Dies Illa.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
1971, Vienna, Austria.

~*~~*~~~*~~~~*~~~*~~*~

Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem.
Amen

~*~~*~~~*~~~~*~~~*~~*~

Requiem Mass is an unfinished piece by Mozart, one which he worked on up to the day of his death on December 5th, 1971. While only the introductory portion was completed by this date, Mozart had vaguely penned the frame for most all the song, one which is a daunting 55 minutes long when played from beginning to end. It was originally composed for 2 basset horns, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 2 drums, a full orchestra, and of course a mixed SATB choir along with soloists from each vocal section.

There is an enduring air of mystery to this song – no one is completely certain of how much Mozart himself actually penned. While we can confirm beyond a reasonable doubt that Mozart did compose and finish the opening movement – Requiem aetemam – as well as the movements Kyrie and Dies Irae – the first nine bars of Lacrimosa. The remainder of the song was penned by a number of different composers after Mozart’s death.

Disregarding the lyrics themselves, I’ve always found Mozart’s works to be quite remarkable. Lacrimosa doesn’t fail to stand up to the expectation, with somber chords breaking into more hopeful ones intermittently throughout the piece to relieve the mind of the overbearing hopelessness the simplistic piece offers. More so than this is the fact that the only surviving (or existing) bars originally composed by Mozart himself are the first eight. It hasn’t been finished past that point (as far as I’ve been able to find) and leaves an air of mystery about it. How would it continue if it had been completed? Would the minor chord structure have given way to a major one? Or would the somber atmosphere have bridged the gaps between the third movement and the fourth movement, Offertorium? The simplicity and mystery alone are enough to draw me to the piece, though the aesthetic structure and composition is quite remarkable enough to always leave me wanting more.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Requiem_(Mozart)#Structure

http://www.thefreeresource.com/wolfgang-amadeus-mozart%E2%80%99s-requiem-facts-information-resources

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi

By Gian Lorenzo Bernini

The Fountain of the Four Rivers is one of the most impressive works Bernini produced during his lifetime, easily recognized by any fan of the Dan Brown novel (or movie adaptation of) Angels and Demons as one of the key points the protagonist must visit in a chain of clues to find the location of five papal candidates. But that story is for a different blog.

Located in Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy, the Fountain of the Four Rivers is truly a marvel to behold. The fountain was unveiled in June 1651 in a festival sponsored by the Pamphili family and Pope Innocent X as the pride of Rome at the time. Sculpted from a combination of copper and marble, the statue depicts the four great river Gods from the four continents of the world (as cartographers from the era knew them to be).  The Nile in Africa, the Ganges in Asia, the Danube in Europe and the Río de la Plata in America each are represented by an enormous depiction of a man, all with separate characteristics to be recognized by.

Rio de la Plata

In the fountain’s northwestern corner, we have Rio de la Plata of the Americas, a hoard of treasure beneath the man to represent prospective wealth and opportunity within the New World. The figure itself is said to be modeled as a black man, reflecting how little was truly understood and known about the continent at the time of the statue’s erection.

NileTo the left of this, we see the Nile river, shrouded by a veil around his head, symbolizing the unknown source of the river itself within the continent of Africa.

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The Ganges

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Continuing left, we come to the Ganges River of Africa, lounging with an oar between his legs. This is said to display the river’s easy means of travel and navigability in comparison to the others lounging about the statue.

The Danube Finally, we come to the Danube river, sitting to the right of the Rio de la Plata and the left of the Ganges. This statue represents Europe, with the Papal robe being held within his hands as he actively attempts to hold it up.

All four of these statues are seated around a large rock which holds a tall Egyptian obelisk which refers to Emporer Domitian as the Eternal Pharaoh in heiroglyphics; a dove – symbolizing the Pamphili family and Holy Spirit – rests atop the obelisk, capping it off peacefully.

I’ve always personally been fascinated by the fountain – the size alone is impressive enough to be drawing to a viewer. I truly hope one day I’ll be able to travel to Rome and visit these energetic statues for myself, but for now I’m content enough just looking at pictures on the internet.

Sources:

http://honorsaharchive.blogspot.com/2005/09/ppiazza-navona-and-berninis-four-rivers.html

http://www.rome.info/bernini/fountain-four-rivers/