Beautiful “rediscovered” Constable

Dedham Vale With The River Stour In Flood From The Grounds Of Old Hall, East Bergholt, John Constable, rediscovered Constable landscape
Dedham Vale With The River Stour In Flood From The Grounds Of Old Hall, East Bergholt, John Constable

We’re fortunate that so much of the world’s great art is currently in museums and public collections. Works in private collections can often go unseen by the public for decades, or even hundreds of years.

From time to time, works that have gone unseen for extended periods become available and enter the art market.

This is the case with a newly “rediscovered” painting by John Constable, and boy is it a beauty!

Of those Constable paintings that I have not seen in person, it is already one of my favorites.

The painting is currently set to be part of the December 2017 Old Masters Evening Sale at Sotheby’s, one of the premiere auction houses through which high valued art reaches the market (see my 2009 post on Sotheby’s). If you have an extra $3 or $4 million lying around, maybe you can pick it up for over your couch.

There is a reasonably large zoomable photo on the Sotheby’s auction listing, but a much higher resolution image accompanying this article on Art Market Monitor (even larger than my detail crops would indicate).

There is also an article on the Sotheby’s site that describes the find: “Important Constable Rediscovered After 50 Years“.


Treasure trove of high-res images from Nationalmuseum Stockholm

high-resolution painting images from Nationalmuseum Stockholm; Anders Zorn, Oscar Torna, Hanna Pauli, Alfred Thorne, Rembrandt van Rijn, John Bauer, Frits Thaulow, Pieter de Hooch, William Blair Bruce, Egron Lundgren, Carl Wilhelmson, Anthony van Dyck, Gustaf Rydberg, Bernardino Mei, Johan Christoffer Boklund, Laurits Andersen Ring, Jean Simeon Chardin

In a gesture to make up for the inaccessibility of much of the museum’s collections during a major renovation to the building, the Nationalmuseum Stockholm has just released 3000 high resolution public domain art images from its collection to Wikimedia Commons.

There is an article on the museum’s website here.

The images are arranged on the Wikimedia commons site in a special (hidden) category: Media contributed by Nationalmuseum Stockholm: 2016-10, that is arranged for browsing alphabetically (note the “previous page”/”next page” links at the bottom of each page of thumbnails).

I don’t see a way to search specifically within the category, but I suppose you can do a general search for an artist’s name plus “Nationalmuseum” in the Wikimedia search box. Should you want more information about any of the works or the artists, you can switch over to the Nationalmuseum’s collection search.

Most of the images are at least 3,000 to 4,000 pixels wide, certainly large enough to see paint texture and individual brushstrokes in many of the paintings.

Browsing tip: If you click on the image thumbnails on Wikimedia Commons, they will open in a kind of viewer; however, if you click on the text title, you’ll open the image detail page with options to view or download the image at various sizes.

If you want the largest image without the largest file size, note that the last images in the list of available image sizes are TIFF files that are large in file size. You will usually see the next-to last image in the list of sizes is a JPEG image that is the same dimensions as the TIFF, but much smaller in file size. Though JPEG is a “lossy” format (throwing away image data to achieve higher compression) the compression levels are low enough that you won’t see much, if any, difference.

Not only are there beautiful works in this lot from the museum’s deep collection of Swedish and Norwegian artists, like Anders Zorn, Carl Larsson, Carl Fredrik Hill, John Bauer and Frits Thaulow; there are works by greats from elsewhere in Europe, like Rembrandt, François Boucher, Francesco Guardi, Gustave Courbet, Jan Lievens, Pieter de Hooch, Auguste Renoir, Jean Siméon Chardin and many others.

What a great resource.

You may have to dig a bit to find the kind of works you’re most interested in, but if you’re inclined to browse and linger through high-res art images the way I am, I’ll issue my customary time-sink warning, so you don’t inadvertantly wake up with half a day gone.

The release of the images coincides with a new exhibition at the museum that promises to be terrific, featuring more than 160 works of Scandinavian 19th century painting from the collection. Turn-of-the-Century Gems will be on view at the Nationalmuseum Stockholm from 23 June to 24 August, 2017.

(Images above: Anders Zorn, Oscar Törnå, Hanna Pauli, Alfred Thörne, Rembrandt van Rijn, John Bauer, Frits Thaulow, Pieter de Hooch, William Blair Bruce, Egron Lundgren, Carl Wilhelmson, Anthony van Dyck, Gustaf Rydberg, Bernardino Mei, Johan Christoffer Boklund, Laurits Andersen Ring, Jean Siméon Chardin)


Arturo Ferrari

Arturo Ferrari, italian painter cityscapes
Arturo Ferrari was an Italian painter active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

He spent much of his career painting the streets and buildings of Milan, focusing on the older parts of the city and rendering his subjects with a wonderfully blocky, painterly quality that recalls the pioneering work of the Macchiaioli painters.

Though there isn’t much of Ferrari’s work available on line, some of the images, particularly those on Wikimedia Commons, and this one on Google Art Project, have large versions or detail crops that let you see his fascinating approach.


James Gurney’s Living Sketchbook app

James Gurney's Living Sketchbook app
One of the most fascinating ways to see into the mind of an artist is to have the opportunity to look through their sketchbooks. This is not often possible; sketchbooks are frequently personal, full of unfinished thoughts and experiments and seldom volunteered for display by the artists themselves.

When the opportunity does arise, it’s a treat, as well as being instructive for fellow artists in a manner similar to watching an accomplished artist work.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting author, illustrator and plein air painter James Gurney on a few occasions, and I’ve had an opportunity to briefly look through a couple of his sketchbooks.

Gurney’s sketchbooks are filled with location sketches from his extensive travels, as well as his day-to-day activities in his home town. He is an inveterate sketcher in watercolor and gouache, and he records what he sees, whether a classically beautiful scene in the mountains, of the view out the window of the waiting room for a tire service center, painted while waiting to have tires changed. He is so accomplished that even his most impromptu location sketches are lively and beautifully rendered.

I found myself wishing that I could spend more time looking through his sketchbooks at leisure, and thought that they would make good subjects for publication of some kind, perhaps offered as PDFs if not printed books.

I was recently pleased to find out that Gurney has apparently been thinking along the same lines, only much in advance of what I was thinking, when I received a review copy of a new app for iOS and Android that Gurney has developed in cooperation with his son, Dan Gurney.

The Living Sketchbook is an app that provides a virtual sketchbook experience. Not only does it allow the viewer to go through the pages of a sketchbook, but also includes audio, and sometimes video, commentary by the artist about the pieces, as well as giving access to additional information about the painting, subject and materials. It’s the next best thing to going through a sketchbook while standing there with the artist as he comments on it for you.

I’ve done some iOS app development myself, as well as creating numerous web interfaces in my role as a website designer, and I will give the app a big thumbs up for the accommodating the most important factor in an interface like this — presenting the material in an easy to use manner and then getting out of the way while you enjoy. It’s hard to overstate how many apps, websites, games, gadgets and desktop applications get that wrong.

At the moment, The Living Sketchbook ships with one sketchbook included, this one is called “Boyhood Home”. Gurney names his sketchbooks, and enjoys creating fun hand painted typography for their covers.

The app allows you to simply thumb through the images as if through a physical sketchbook, and at will pinch to zoom into the image. Unlike some poorly designed interfaces for viewing images (I’m looking at you, Instagram), Gurney’s app allows the zoomed image to stay at full size when you let go, and programming by Dan has even provided some subtle touches of physics in the reaction of the scroll as you nudge the image around in the window.

You can also access a row of thumbnails at any point as well as bring up an overlay of information about the painting.

The Living Sketchbook is $4.99 and is available for iOS and Android. You can find links to the app for both platforms in this article on Gurney’s blog.

There is a trailer and teaser for the app on YouTube, that give a better idea of how the app functions, and Erwin (Cherngzhi) Lian, who knows a few things about sketchbooks, has a more extensive review on his blog.

It may be restricted to relatively current versions of the operating systems, so if the respective app stores don’t allow you to purchase it, that may be the factor. I couldn’t view the app on my older iPad 3 (Retina), because it’s too old to run the required version of the OS, but I could view it fine on my newer iPhone 6.

So bear in mind the the screen captures used for my exmaple images above are from an iPhone, and the app will view quite differently and more effectively on a tablet.

I was actually surprised, though, at how effective it is to view zoomable images of the paintings on the relatively small iPhone screen. I can easily see popping an app like this open for inspiration while taking a break when out location painting.

I’m already looking forward to the release of the next sketchbook.

[Addendum: For those interested in the process, Dan Gurney has posted on his blog an article on Building the Living Sketchbook App.]


Eye Candy for Today: Gaston La Touche’s Joyous Festival

The Joyous Festival, Gaston La Touche, 19th century French painting
The Joyous Festival, Gaston La Touche

Link is to a zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Dixon Gallery and Gardens (no images).

In his subject matter and intention, late 19th century French painter Gaston La Touche was more influenced by the Rococo style of the 18th century than by his Impressionist contemporaries, but here he shows the bright colors and free brushwork he adopted in his later career.

I also have to wonder — in his portrayal of the lanterns and the figures lit by them — if hadn’t seen Sargent’s beautiful and influential Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.


Leonardo da Vinci’s Drawing Materials

Leonardo da Vinci's Drawing Materials
Leonardo da Vinci’s Drawing Materials is a short (5 minute) video in which a conservator from the Royal Collection Trust describes and demonstrates some of the drawing materials available to Leonardo and other Renaissance artists.

It was produced in conjunction with the exhibit “Leonardo da Vinci: Ten Drawings from the Royal Collection” that is on view at the Royal Collection Trust until 24 April 2016, and then travels to several other venues in the UK.