New Rijksmuseum website

New Rikjsmuseum website: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Aelbert Cuyp, Cornelis Springer
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is one of the world’s great museums, with a collection rich in famous masterpieces from the likes of Rembrandt and Vermeer, as well as hundreds of lesser known treasures.

The museum’s website, like many museum websites, long left something to be desired. Though numerous images were available, many in high resolution, they were not easy to search or browse, and overall presentation was somewhat awkward.

The museum recently launched a completely redesigned website, with a much better interface, easier access for searching, and in particular much better provisions for browsing and discovering images.

Choose Language at upper right if you would like to change to English, and then “Collection” to either Explore or Search the collection. The Explore section offers highlights, a good place to start, and offers categories like Artists, Works, Subjects and Styles which are then subdivided into subcategories.

The selections within a given artist or subject are no longer presented as tiny scrolling thumbnails, but as large scrolling thumbnails (certainly an improvement).

The individual images are then presented fullscreen, adapting dynamically to the size of your browser window, and overlaid with navigation widgets (I don’t know of a way to hide the latter), including controls to zoom the image. You can also move the image within the browser window by clicking and dragging.

The “i” at the bottom of the screen brings up an information panel with information about the image, links to details and a “Download image” link. To download images, however, requires creating a free “Rijksstudio” account (basically just an email address). You must then, for every image you download, choose the level of rights (“Personal use”) and click an “I agree with terms and conditions” checkbox — every time.

I will be quick to say that the new site is a vast and welcome improvement over their old one, and the images are large and well reproduced, but this kind of nonsensical legal paranoia mars the experience and makes the museum look small minded and disrespectful of their visitors.

(Hello! Almost all of these works are hundreds of years old, therefore in the public domain, and are not subject to copyright by international, or even specifically Dutch, copyright law. The standard here in the US is that photographs that just reproduce public domain artworks are also in the public domain. Perhaps this has yet to be tested in Dutch courts; but the checkbox barrier to downloading, or even viewing the work without the navigation widgets, just seems petty.)

That being groused about, the new site is well worth visiting and exploring, and a Rijksstudio account is worth setting up, if only for the unobstructed view of the high resolution images. Their intention is for visitors to form their own Rijksstudio collections, essentially bookmarked images similar to the collections you can make in the Google Art Project. They go on to offer to sell you prints of the images, or crops of them, in various modes (hence, I suppose, some of the reproduction rights BS).

Though not quite at the level of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s fantastic website makeover, this is still a worthy world-class museum website, suited to a world class museum, and a welcome addition to the web’s list of outstanding art resources. (Now if only the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay would follow suit…)

(Images above: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Aelbert Cuyp, Cornelis Springer)

Peter Fiore

Peter Fiore
Peter Fiore is a landscape painter originally from New Jersey and now based in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Fiore’s landscapes are marvels of balanced contrasts of hue and value. Light is an actor here, flitting across the canvas, heightening passages of landscape and foliage, spotlighting the trunks of trees or strands of grass, and leaving other passages untouched.

Often Fiore will play with patches of light in the distance of his scenes, both emphasizing their depth and leading you into them. He also frequently uses light and value contrasts to create a sense of “here” and “there” in his compositions, which gives the viewer an even more visceral sense of presence in the scene.

He frequently uses a motif of two major color groups, for example: blues and golden yellows in his snow covered winter fields and greens and blues in his summer scenes of rivers and fields.

Fiore received his formal training at Pratt Institute and also studied painting at the Art Student’s League. He has since taught at both institutions and currently teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

He also conducts workshops. There are several videos of him working or conducting gallery talks available on YouTube, including a short version (2 minutes) and long version (10 minutes) of one particular plein air session.

Fiore’s work is currently on display in a one man show at the Travis Gallery in New Hope, PA.

This is a terrific gallery just outside of New Hope proper, and Fiore is one of several excellent contemporary realist painters they represent.

The gallery has a selection of work from the show. (Note that the link will be the next current show after this show has ended.) You can also see some photos from the show, which opened in candle light during power outages from the recent storm, on Fiore’s blog.

Fiore also has an alternate blog, Landscape a Day, that is no longer being updated but still has an archive of posts and images. In addition there is a selection of larger images on the Art Renewal Center.

The show at the Travis gallery runs until this Saturday, November 24, 2012. On that Saturday, the 24th, Fiore will be giving a gallery talk and slide presentation at the gallery.

Eye Candy for Today: Titian

Bacchus and Ariadne,  by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio).

Gods, mortals, action, romance, leopards, snakes and severed deer heads! (Not to mention a beautifully dramatic landscape and delicate foreground flowers rendered with botanical accuracy.)

[Addendum: not to mention lots of genuine Ultramarine Blue, made from a semi-precious stone more costly by weight than gold. See the full pigment analysis on ColourLex.]

In the National Gallery, London. Use fullscreen and zoom controls at right of image.

Philadelphia Museum of Art on Google Art Project

Philadelphia Museum of Art on Google Art Project: James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Jan van Eyck, John Singer Sargent, Kano Hogai, Peter Paul Rubens, Eduard Charlemont, Canaletto
The already amazing Google Art Project, which brings us beautiful zoomable full-screen high-resolution images of highlights from many of the world’s great museums, continues to get more amazing as more museums are added to the list.

This is particularly valuable as many of the museums featured do not provide large images of works in their collections on their own websites.

One of the more recently added museums is the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This is the first time I’ve seen the GAP collection highlight choices for a museum for which I am familiar with a not insignificant percentage of the collection, and I have to say the choices left me puzzled and wondering about how these selections are made in general.

While some of the selections from the PMA are indeed representative of the gems in the museum’s world-class collection, others left me scratching my head (above which hovered a though balloon containing a bright neon blinking “WTF?!”).

Again and again I found myself thinking: “They choose this piece when all of these other amazing works are in the collection?”. And I’m not just talking about leaving out some of my personal favorites (they included some and left out many, but that’s to be expected); I’m thinking in terms of works from the same era, medium and genre as some of the works chosen that would have been much better representations of the museum’s collection.

In some ways it’s almost as if some of the best pieces were deliberately held back (and these are in the public domain so it’s not a question of rights), or even as if selections were in some ways made at random.

It makes me wonder now about the selections from other museums throughout the Google Art Project.

At any rate, optimal selections or not, there are enough gems to keep you dazzled and fascinated for a good while, particularly in light of the ability to zoom way in on these images in high resolution.

As usual with the Google Art Project, I’ll give you my Timesink Warning.

(Images above: James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Jan van Eyck, John Singer Sargent, Kano Hogai, Peter Paul Rubens, Eduard Charlemont, Canaletto)

Aron Wiesenfeld

Aron Wiesenfeld
Aron Wiesenfeld’s paintings, though not actually narrative in the usual sense, carry an implied a narrative, a suggestion that you are glimpsing a scene for which relevant events are happening, or have happened, outside the scope of what is seen.

In scenes that carry an atmosphere of isolation, his subjects, often young women, stare contemplatively — and in some way seem detached from their immediate surroundings, reinforcing the feeling that something of importance, but unseen to the viewer, is the focus of their thoughts.

Wiesenfeld’s finesse in walking up to the edge of overt narrative, and then pulling back just enough to leave the mystery intact, perhaps owes to storytelling skills developed in his early work as a comic book artist and cover illustrator.

After leaving that field he studied traditional classical painting and drawing at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and from there began his still evolving approach to his painted subjects.

Wiesenfeld utilizes muted ranges of value and color, punctuated with higher contrast areas of primary interest, to give his compositions a feeling of drama as well as an undercurrent of emotion. This is heightened by his use of texture to slow down the eye, let linger over backgrounds and environments, and add to the sense of stillness and reflection.

There are galleries of both paintings and drawings on Wiesenfeld’s website, as well as a stream on Flickr.

Those in the New York area can see Wiesenfeld’s work on display in a one artist exhibition of new work at the Arcadia Gallery in Soho. The show runs until November 24, 2012.

(Note that after the show ends, the link given above will change to the next current show, but you will still be able to view Wiesenfeld’s work at the Arcadia, which represents his work on an ongoing basis, using this link.) The images galleries on the Arcadia site are more extensive than those on the artist’s own site.