The Swing – Tale of a Hidden Love Affair

I love The Rococo period because their witty paintings are fraught with frivolity and fantasy, often depicting scenes where lovers engage in amorous behaviour. The ornate garden scenes and the soft pastel colors are really pretty too.

So much is going on in this painting which makes it very entertaining for me to study.

Let’s Take a Look at The Swing

Fragonard The Swing

The Swing, Fragonard, Wallace Collection

The only man willing to do the job, Jean-Honore Fragonard, was commissioned by the Baron de Saint-Julien, who desired a painting of his mistress swinging while he, the sneaky Baron, observes in the bushes. What makes this painting even more illicit and exciting is the older man on the bottom right who is pushing the girl on the swing.

The Husband

Could this man in the shadows be her oblivious husband who is completely “in the dark” about his wife’s affair?

husband and dog and putti

detail of husband, dog, and putti

While he happily pushes his wife into the arms of another man, notice the yapping dog at his feet. I think this dog knows what’s up and is trying to spoil the fun. Luckily for the lovers, nobody is fluent in dog. This dog is probably also there as a cheeky poke at the husband, in that dogs in paintings often symbolize:

  • loyalty
  • faithfulness
  • fidelity
  • love

 

A Call To Secrecy

fragonard_cupid sshh

A cupid statue on the left with his finger covering his lips in the “ssshhh” position, does his part to keep the affair quiet. He must be trying to make that noisy dog join in on the mischievous behaviour. There goes her dainty shoe, which you can see being kicked off in the last detail . . .

The Swingers

Illuminated in the middle of the painting we have the lovers in question. “The Swingers.” Notice the mistress’s beautiful and frilly pink dress blowing in the wind as she playfully flies through the air. And check out that naughty Baron; he’s got the best seat in the house. I read on artble.com, that the Baron gave the painter the following instructions:

the baron

“Place me in a position where I can observe the legs of that charming girl.”

 

Wow, that rapscallion sure knew how to Woo the ladies, didn’t he?

A Love Triangle

detail of love triangle composition

Fragonard painted the scene in a triangular composition, which helps lead the viewers eyes all over the painting to highlight the important details of the scene: The Love Triangle. Aaaahh, now we can see her shoe being kicked off as she get’s lost in the frivolity.

Darkness in the Age of Enlightenment

Rococo was a satirical response to the more serious advancements being made during the Age of Enlightenment, where people sought out rational thinking over the prevailing acceptance of divine powers. In The Swing, Fragonard successfully uses “light” to bring awareness to the underlying “dark” forces at play.

Whoever said that studying art is boring? If this was the plot of a tv show, people would be glued to their screens.

So, what do you think of this famous Rococo painting?

Fragonard painted some other playful scenes you should definitely check out. Some intriguing titles include, “The Stolen Kiss,” and “Rinaldo in the Enchanted Forest.”

 

Reference used: Adams, Laurie Schneider. Art Across Time. Third Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.

 

 

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National Kolache Day

“Kolaches have always been the underdog in the pastry world, and National Kolache Day will pave the way for this overlooked pastry to gain its much-deserved recognition.” – Vatsana Souvannavog, the owner of Koala Kolache.

The Houston Mayor declares March 1 National Kolache Day because the owner of Koala Kolache wanted the pastry and the Czech people in Texas to be recognized.

Voyage to Texas in 1852

Texas has a large Czech population. I know this because my dad’s side of my family immigrated from there to the United States and settled in Texas. My granny was a first generation Czech-American.

1947

My Granny near San Antonio, Tx 1947

She lived on the coast for a while, where a lot of Czech families lived. All of her brothers joined the military and were very proud to serve their country. Then she became a farmer’s wife and moved to East Texas to pursue a career in cosmetology and to raise her son, who also joined the military.

cow pics run in fam

I guess I’m not the only person in my family who photographs Cows

My Czech Heritage

Being half Czech is pretty cool. I remember going to South Texas and visiting my granny on holidays. The sounds of a thick language I didn’t understand echoing from the kitchen, where there was around the clock cooking. And you never saw the woman sweat! . . . seriously. Her clothes were always perfect, and her hair was always in place. Thanks to Aqua Net.

1949 granny

I really like this picture. Granny 1949 East Texas

Czech Food

The smell of food was always wafting through the house. I was accustomed to a variety of foreign food because I grew up on a military base and met and ate with people from all over the world. And I wasn’t afraid to try stuff.

But the one thing I wasn’t crazy about was sauerkraut. Always cooked in brown sugar and beef drippings. They put that nasty stuff on their Thanksgiving stuffing, and it’s served with so many meals all year.

I love it now, and crave it. Just last night I had a roast beef sandwich on rye bread with mustard, pickles, and sauerkraut.

The Mouth-Watering Czech Kolache

I was already craving my granny’s food but now . . . thanks to Houston declaring March 1 National Kolache Day, I NEED the original Czech Kolache. The East Texan “pig in a blanket” version just won’t do.

2002

My Granny with her sis, sis-in-law, bro, and nephew- the guy in black was the Kolache Baker, 2002

I remember walking into the kitchen when the uncle who made delicious kolaches showed up, his arms loaded with peach filled, raspberry filled, fruits I couldn’t identify filled. It was heaven.

1968 holiday meal kolache on plate

1968 A plate of Kolaches are on the middle of the table to the right of the candle. Looks like peach flavored. My dad is the kid looking at the camera with the ketchup bottle in front of him. 

I don’t know about you, but my heritage is so important to me. I love knowing where I come from and embracing and learning about it. And I was really happy to hear that the delicious Czech pastry get’s it’s own day.

kolache detail-1

The last two Kolache pastries on the plate, to the right of the candle. 

Proud to be an American

So if you haven’t tried them yet, go enjoy a Kolache and help celebrate the true spirit of America. A nation made up of immigrants who all love this country and add to it’s diverse culture.

grannys parents-1

My Great Grandparents – My Granny’s Mom, brother, and Dad

The Olympus Trip 35

So I took a little trip into my attic for something and like most people I’ve got a lot of stuff. My peripheral vision took over, and I got completely distracted by an old forgotten box.

In college, I was blessed with a bunch of film cameras and darkroom equipment that I got from the father of a family friend. I used a couple of the cameras at the time, but I haven’t looked at the stuff since then.

A Cult Classic 1967-1984

Immediately, I grabbed the sturdy looking metal one. I did a google search on the Olympus Trip and found a ba-jillion hits. So, you know what to do if you wanna learn more in – depth info about this wildly popular vintage point and shoot.

trip -4

Posed with Vintage Samsonite Luggage

It’s British, and it’s an easy vacation camera, originally made for people to take with them on their holiday trips. The camera grew in popularity in the 1970’s after the popular British photographer, David Bailey, starred in an advertisement.

trip -5

Elevated with a quality Zuiko Lens, and equipped with automatic and dependable controls, this compact camera is “so simple anyone can use it.” That’s good cuz I’ve been stuck in the digital world and haven’t shot film in about 7 years.

Locked and Loaded

trip -3

I hit up my local super center for film. From their very limited selection I bought the 4 pack of 35mm Fuji Film. I guess I’m not the only person stuck in digital. Who still shoots on film anyway, right?? (Lot’s of people!) I love digital, but film has a unique and rich quality that should never be forgotten.

The camera seems to be in good condition, except for a bit of grime that might’ve had some foam or something, which could possibly cause a light leak. All of the mechanical parts run smoothly and the film was very easy to load. Now all that’s left to do is start shooting. I’ll just shoot one roll for now and get it developed and we’ll see what this baby can do.

If Cameras Could Talk

You might want to search through your attic, or the attics of some old people. (Well, make sure you know these old people first, don’t just scope ‘em out and wait for them to head to senior night at the Bingo Hall.) Check out garage sales, and vintage stores on the Internet.

trip -6

Old cameras often come with an interesting history and can open up creativity. You never know what cool cameras are waiting to be found and what strange Trip they’re waiting to take you on.

And don’t forget to let me know about it . . .

Finding Inspiration in Portrait Painter Kehinde Wiley

Until recently, I never really noticed the official portraits of the president’s of the United States of America before. Did you know that former President Richard Nixon’s portrait was painted by Norman Rockwell? That’s actually pretty comical. You might recognize the name of painter, Chuck Close, who did the scary pixelated portrait of former President Bill Clinton.

FDR

Douglas Chandor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1945). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

And my favorite is the portrait of FDR, painted by Douglas Chandor. I like all the hands, the pencil drawing in the corner, the simple background, the rich depth of color, and how the suit was painted.

Portrait Painter Kehinde Wiley

The most recent presidential portrait of former President Barack Obama was painted by the talented Kehinde Wiley. I read an article on variety.com that said the background is made of foliage representing his Chicagoan, Hawaiian, and Kenyan roots. This colorful 7′ tall portrait made me curious about the artist.

obama

Kehinde Wiley, Barack Obama (2018). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

A Combo of High Renaissance, late French Rococo, and the 19th century

I looked him up and discovered some really impressive artwork. His skill shows that he has a lot of training. He often recreates artwork from historical master painters, and updates them according to the statements he wants to make. I like his version of Jacques-Louis David’s painting, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

acques_Louis_David nap on alps

Jacques-Louis David’s version

He used the same composition as the original but with a few changes. In a detail, you can see his humor represented through little sperm swimming around in the background. I love the clothes his random and anonymous subject is wearing. And the gold frame is so impressive. I would hang that in my house. 

While his statements are interesting, thought provoking, powerful, and contribute to the final look of his art; I’m really attracted to the visual part of his paintings. Just stare at the two paintings and study them for a while. 

framed wiley painting

Kehinde Wiley, Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005, oil paint on canvas, 274.3 x 274.3 cm (108 x 108 in) (Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York) © Kehinde Wiley

His work is intricate, bold, strikingly colorful, powerful, and beautiful. He’s definitely a contemporary artist worth studying. He shows you how to be inspired by other artists and also how to make it your own. He started making strong statements through his artwork while studying at Yale. And he gets to go down in history as a portrait painter for an American President. Check out his confident self portrait of him in his studio at his website.

Controversy

As always in art and anything really, controversy follows Wiley’s portrait of the former President. I think that’s what makes art great though; it stirs up conversation and ideas.

What do you think about Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Mr. Obama? The former President seemed to like it, and was his usual joking self poking fun at his ears and gray hair, while complimenting the integrity of the painter. 

How about that? Pretty sharp. – President Obama, upon viewing his portrait

Mad Magazine and a Flemish Artist Named Bruegel the Elder

What Me Worry

mad mag-2

One of my favorite things to read growing up was Mad Magazine. I loved it because it was sarcastic and every page was jam packed with so many things to look at. I’d do my first read through and then I’d go back and meticulously look at all the details. I managed to get years of enjoyment from those magazines.

In college I was in an art history class focusing on the Renaissance period. I loved classes taught by this particular professor. She loved art and she lived in Italy and various other places where she studied art up close. She gave the class an assignment where we were given a partner and an artist and we had to prepare a lecture to share with the class.

mad mag-1-2

Getting Mooned

A Great Flemish Artist

I was assigned Pieter Bruegel the Elder. My first thought was this guy could have painted for Mad Mag. His paintings are full of crazy behavior, everyday life, tons of details, and a large depth of field. In his painting below, Netherlandish Proverb, you can see all kinds of crazy behavior and someone sticking their butt out the window, just like on the Mad cover.

netherlandish proverb

Getting Mooned from the window at top right portion of painting

It’s 39 degrees outside and overcast and my dog is expressing her primal need to hunt. It’s definitely feeling like winter. So, I thought I’d take a look at a Bruegel painting that’s so cold it will have me reaching for another blanket.

Hunters in the Snow 1565 

A wealthy tax collector named Niclaes Jonghelinch commissioned Bruegel to paint a landscape series of seasons of the year. You can see up close details of this painting and watch a short video about it at this website.

 

1. First, I notice the broken sign. Not a problem at the moment, but that thing could fall and some unlucky person is gonna have a pretty bad headache. Better get that fixed.

2. Next I notice the warmth from the fire and the hunched over positions of the people. They look so cold. The hunters and dogs in the foreground are all hunched over too. It doesn’t even look like they got very much on their hunt.

3. Bruegel did a good job of creating a composition that slowly leads the viewer around the image. My eyes go from the hunters down the slope, past the plant, and down to the little scene at the bottom right corner. I can barely see the tiny birds underneath the bridge where that person is carrying something across it. You can see a few more people doing their daily things.

4. We’ve pretty much just seen peasants working so far which is very common in Bruegel’s artwork. Right here we’ve got funner activities of people skating and playing.

5. The mountain peaks are my favorite part. This scene isn’t an exact replication of any real Flemish landscape. Bruegel was inspired by the Alps. I’m personally reminded of the famous Vasquez Rocks in Southern California.

6. The sky is so overcast that you don’t actually see any shadows being cast. At first I thought that there was light shining on the tree limbs, but I guess that’s actually snow. The snow pops off of the tree limbs really well and makes me notice the birds again.

7 and 8. I spend some time looking at the distant background and noticing all of the details that I can see.

1200px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_Hunters_in_the_Snow_(Winter)_-_Google_Art_Project

A look without the numbers

Well, I’m tired of being cold and frankly, I’m tired of staring at the details in this painting. Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a great painter and we can learn a lot and be entertained from studying his work . I hope you enjoyed his winter themed painting as much as I did.

 

A Leonardo da Vinci Painting with an Illustrious and Deceptive History Re-Surfaces

new salvator mundi

I love how the art world has a history filled with intrigue, mystery, and conspiracy. I heard on the news this morning about an unquestionable and unexpected 21st century discovery of a finished Leonardo da Vinci painting. My ears perked as I was pulled away from my Clash of Clans game. The journalists were very excited about how much money it will be going for at the auction, and how much the painting reminded them of the Mona Lisa.

I can see right away that technically the painting has the luminescent quality of Leonardo’s work, especially in the careful detail of the curls in the hair. Notice the hair in this detail of the angel from Verrocchio’s, The Baptism of Christ, which was painted by Leonardo da Vinci.angel hair da vinci

When I first laid eyes on the Salvator Mundi painting I didn’t think of the Mona Lisa. I saw differences in the background, in the placement and the position of the figure, and in the symbolism of the hands. Also notice the absence of the cleft chin in the Mona Lisa painting.

Instead, I thought of Albrecht Durer’s most famous Self Portrait from 1500 where he expressed his divine creative inspiration by painting himself in the reminiscent style of Christ.

Here we have many similarities with the background, with the straightforward positioning of the figure’s body and with the positioning of the hands. You can also see that both figures seem to have a cleft chin. (The beard on Durer does make it a little bit hard to tell.)

The experts aren’t 100% sure when the painting was done, but they have narrowed it down to around 1490 – 1500. The experts are however confident that this painting is an authentic Leonardo da Vinci. It first resurfaced in 2005 disguised as a copy. Over the span of 500 years it had disappeared, had been damaged, had been painted over . . . and at the same time, had been remarkably preserved in some areas like in the curls and the hands.

I hope you check out this website to learn more about the interesting history, and the unusually unanimous authentication of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi painting. I love art . . . it never fails to amaze me.

While very different from Leonardo’s version, Albrecht Durer also painted a Salvator Mundi portrait. It was unfinished and kinda creepy looking.

AD salvator mundi

Creepy Goya Artwork Perfect for Halloween

Before I turned 1 my dad introduced me to scary video games like Castlevania and DOOM and scary movies like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. Been hooked ever since.

I love scary stuff all year long but I always feel extra creeped out around Halloween. Well, I was driving home today when I saw an 18 wheeler that had the word “Chronos” written on it. I immediately thought about the Francisco de Goya y Lucientes painting, Chronos Devouring One of His Children. I haven’t looked at that painting in years, so I dug out my very heavy art book and took a look.

chronos devouring one of his children

Also named Saturn Devouring One of His Children

Goya painted this in 1820-1822 during the Romanticism period. I remember thinking that period would actually be romantic but it wasn’t. Instead you get a bunch of creepy and scary artwork.

Last night, I was watching Rocky V with my friend (who’s 13) and when Adrienne said she wanted her son to use his mind, not his fists, my friend said he didn’t understand how you’d fight with your mind. Well, he’s got some learning to do because our minds are the most fascinating and mysterious and most powerful parts of our body.

It’s my vivid imagination that usually scares me the most. And the creepy and scary things the human mind can think up is something that a lot of artists were trying to depict during the Romanticism period.   

chronos close up

Close up

I like the bright red blood pouring onto his hands which are clenched so tightly around the miniature body of one of his children that he must have broken the bones. His long hair and that crazy desperate look in his eyes sends chills down my spine. Even the color of his skin and the way Goya positioned the titan god’s body makes me feel sick.

Apparently, Goya originally painted 14 paintings known as the “black paintings” directly onto his walls in his Madrid home. That would be sooo scary to have this “dad” staring at you as you go get a drink of water . . . or gosh . . . a late night snack.

los caprichos

Another scary piece by Goya that’s perfect for Halloween is Los Caprichos, plate 3, from his aquatint etchings series. In this etching, The Boogeyman is Coming, Goya depicts an irrational and common fear which was created by parents and society to scare children into behaving.

I was never afraid of the boogeyman, but I knew people who were. After staring at this etching for a while and contemplating the fear I do start to get a little scared. Goya’s use of dark and light go really well with the terrified looks on their faces. And I can’t even see the Boogeyman’s face. The unknown is always scary.

My imagination has no trouble running away from me. Especially as I sit here in the dark on Halloween night while the rain beats on the roof.

I hope you enjoyed looking at Goya’s creepy artwork. I know I did. Have a Happy and Scary Halloween.