A Calendar of Curiosities – 1

Each December for the last few years the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Oxford has produced a Festive Countdown Calendar. It is just a delight. For anyone who is continually curious it is a treasure trove. It’s based on the ‘advent calendar’ model but has 31 windows and is not related to Christmas in any way. Each day the relevant window can be opened and each day a new resource can be accessed. Of course you can access all of these all through the year but this is a brilliant ploy to showcase the wide and eclectic resources that are available online and free.

I was going to discuss a selection of what I find the most interesting but having made a start I think I’ll do a series of posts focusing on just one resource in each post.  

Art Institute of Chicago

Some snippets from the collection at the Art Institute of Chicago

If you click on Window 5 you will get a link to the website of The Art Institute of Chicago. It has a fabulous collection of art including some iconic pieces such as the original Grant Wood’s American Gothic.  I hadn’t realised that this was an entry into the museum’s annual art exhibition in 1930 and it won third prize. The models for the painting were the artist’s sister and his dentist – who were never in the studio together as they posed quite separately for the painting. More information is in the link above. 

Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper shows three customers and a barman in a late night diner on the corner of two streets in Greenwich Village in New York.  The colours, shapes, and light emphasise each individual isolated in their own world.  Hopper acknowledged that ‘ unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.’  This is one of the most reproduced images and even we have a print.

Away from American art one of my favourite painters is George Seurat.  In 1997 I took my then 16 year old daughter to an exhibition of ‘Bathers at Asniéres‘ at the National Gallery in London.  Here at the Art Institute of Chicago is a similarly monumental picture,  A Sunday on La Grande Jatte from 1884.  This is Seurat as he develops his pointilism style that tricks the eye into seeing one colour by using many small points or dots of different colours.

These are just the first three pictures listed in the collection. It is really worth scrolling through.  A few that I found interesting include:

Cotton Pickers by Thomas Hart Benson,  (1945)
Mother and Child by Picasso, (1921)
The Bay of Marseille, Seen from L’Estaque, Paul Cézanne, (1885)

I’ve done a small collage of snippets from the paintings mentioned here – I hope I’m not going to be in trouble from the Museum! Can you tell from which painting each snippet is taken?

I realise this is a top ‘must see’ but if you can browse online you have the advantage of not only looking at some great paintings, but also getting an insight into the work and the artist themselves.  

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