September 8, 2021


The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription



In this issue:

Caught: the drug baron who claims to have bought €20m stolen Van Gogh paintings for 'their artistic value'
The Art Technique That Changed Medical And Scientific Illustration
5 Different Kinds of Materials Used in Metal Art and Craft Pieces
The Origins of Indigo, That Bluest Blue
Tate’s Tahitian Gauguin is suspected fake
After 16 years, couple learns cherished Maud Lewis painting is likely a fraud
An artist was homeless for years. Now he sells his work to celebrities like Oprah.
Progressive scientists, or high-flying elitists? The Met unlocks a secret behind a famous Jacques-Louis David portrait
Arts & Crafts Movement gets a dedicated museum in St Petersburg, Florida
Crafts Are Gaining Recognition In The World Of Fine Arts







Caught: the drug baron who claims to have bought €20m stolen Van Gogh paintings for 'their artistic value'
Arrested in Dubai, the story of Mafia suspect Raffaele Imperiale confirms long-suspected links between the drugs trade and art theft

Raffaele Imperiale is expected to be extradited from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to face serious drugs charges in Italy. He hit the headlines five years ago when Italian police found two Van Gogh landscapes stolen from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum hidden in a family house just outside of Naples. The story of Imperiale confirms long-suspected links between the drugs trade and art theft.

The Italian authorities believe that Imperiale is a leading member of the Amato-Pagano gang of the Camorra, a Mafia-style organisation operating in the Naples region. They describe the gang as “one of the most dangerous and active criminal groups”.

In January, Imperiale was listed as among the six most-wanted criminals in Italy, posing the “maximum danger”. The authorities believe he is behind the trafficking of Latin American cocaine to Europe. And on one occasion, Imperiale dabbled in art.

Two Van Gogh paintings from the artist’s Dutch period, View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in the early hours of 7 December 2002.

The independent Dutch thieves, Octave Durham and Henk Bieslijn, propped a ladder against the museum, climbed up to a roof and broke through a window. They entered, prised the two paintings off the wall and escaped on a rope. The whole operation took just a few minutes.

Both men were arrested in 2004 and later sentenced to several years imprisonment. But they no longer held the paintings, which had been passed on. By 2010, however, detectives were convinced that the Van Gogh landscapes had reached the hands of the Camorra in Italy.

In September 2016, following a tip-off, Italian police raided a house in Castellammare di Stabia, a seaside resort 25km south of Naples. This was the home of Raffaele’s parents. Hidden in a wall cavity next to the kitchen, they discovered the two unframed Van Goghs.

Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen was fortunately in reasonably good condition, but there was a loss in the lower-left corner of View of the Sea at Scheveningen.

While conservators in Amsterdam were restoring the damage they made two interesting discoveries about View of the Sea at Scheveningen. A few grains of sand were found in the paint, evidence that Van Gogh had worked on the beach, just outside The Hague. Vincent had written to his brother Theo that there was an approaching storm: “The wind was so strong that I could barely stay on my feet and barely see through the clouds of sand.” Traces of a fake signature on the authentic painting were also found, probably added in 1903, when it was with a Rotterdam dealer.

But although the paintings were recovered, Imperiale had already left Europe and was believed to be living in Dubai. Last January he brazenly gave an interview to the Naples newspaper, Il Mattino. Although admitting to once having had the pictures, he denied any involvement in the theft.

Imperiale explained: “I loved those Van Goghs, I bought them [...] because I was aware of their artistic value”. He added that he owed his “artistic sensitivity to my father who took me around historic cities and museums”.

At this point Imperiale seemed beyond the law, outside Europe. However, an extradition treaty between Italy and the UAE had recently come into force. Imperiale was eventually tracked down, leading to his arrest in Dubai on 4 August.

After the 2016 seizure at Castellammare di Stabia, the Italian authorities valued their haul at €20m. But why did Imperiale want to acquire paintings that would be totally unsellable on the open market?

Art is sometimes used as collateral in the underworld for the purchase of drugs. For instance, if a gang wants to buy cocaine from Latin America, they might not be able to pay for it until the drugs have been sold on the streets of Europe. So lending an artwork in return for drugs can bridge the gap and it would returned when the street proceeds are handed over. In these circumstances an artwork would be “valued” at just a small fraction of its open-market worth.

There is also another possible motive behind major art crime. Crooks may hope that holding a museum object “hostage” might prove to be a useful bargaining tool when trying to seek concessions from the legal authorities.

Imperiale’s impending Italian trial could well throw fresh light on how stolen paintings circulate in the underworld. The Art Newspaper


The Art Technique That Changed Medical And Scientific Illustration

Black-and-white illustrations in old medical textbooks have a very distinct style. The smooth shading effects show as much of the texture of a tissue as you need to see to be able to understand the shape and detail of an organ. Many of these images were created using a technique developed in the early twentieth century by medical illustrator Max Brödel.

Brödel studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Leipzig, Germany, in the 1880s. His first job as a medical illustrator was for physiologist Carl Ludwig, who hired Brödel to draw anatomical images. In 1894, Brödel moved to the United States where he had accepted a job at Johns Hopkins University. He created hundreds of illustrations for the medical faculty here, including art for Howard Kelly’s textbook Operative Gynecology.

One of the challenges of medical and scientific illustrating is knowing how much detail to show. Often, part of the image that shows a feature of interest will be in a lot of detail, while the rest of the image only shows a rough indication of the shape and shading of an organ. Brödel was really good at knowing when to focus on the detail and when to show the bigger picture. He would study a sample at different levels of magnification under a microscope to really understand what it looked like, but in drawing would focus on the features that were important.

That’s the kind of style that you’ll still often find in medical and scientific textbooks. It’s as realistic as a photo would be, but unlike a photo the illustrations will be selective in which parts of the image are shown in more or less detail to help people understand the features of the anatomy. Photography can’t do that. That’s why, even in the age of affordable high tech digital imaging, there is still a demand for medical illustrators, many of whom use the techniques and styles that Brödel first explored over a hundred years ago.

Next month is the 75th anniversary of the Annual Meeting of the Association of Medical Illustrators, which inspired four neurosurgeons to publish a letter in the journal, highlighting Brödel's influence on the field. In their letter, they write, “through the scrupulous study of his objects and his methodical choice of technique, Brödel was able to skillfully blend tissue realism with cross-sectional anatomy, all whilst maintaining topographical accuracy.”

The technique they referred to was Brödel’s “carbon dust” technique. He was the first to use this as a method to create realistic depictions of human tissues, and it is still used today for medical and scientific illustration. It’s one of the techniques students learn in scientific illustration programs. In fact, it was Brödel who founded the first dedicated medical illustration department at Johns Hopkins in 1911.

The principle behind the carbon dust technique is simple and only uses common art supplies. Carbon dust is scraped from a pencil, and then applied to paper with a brush. By essentially painting with pencil dust, scientific illustrators are able to apply detailed shading and add highlights with an eraser. The video below, by nature illustrator John Megahan, shows how it’s done.

Scientists and physicians have relied on artists to help them convey what they discovered or what they wanted to teach their students. But because the images are usually seen as informative diagrams rather than as art, it’s easy to overlook the artists. Like the background in their own carbon dust illustrations, the artists are not in focus, but they’re absolutely necessary to get the full picture. Forbes

 

5 Different Kinds of Materials Used in Metal Art and Craft Pieces

Metal art has been respected for its complexity and exquisite artistry which explains the huge demand of most companies for such craftsmanship. Furthermore, what makes such expertise appreciated by many is that it applies to other industries as well. Metal art is commonly seen on fences, gates, and railings, however, its purpose isn’t solely fixated on the decorative aspect. It is also utilized for functional purposes wherein it is incorporated into devices used daily such as clocks, watches, furniture, pens, cutlery, and game pieces.

There are just many items developed with metal art integrated into them and its numerous characteristics are what urge most clients to have metal pieces custom made on their objects. But what makes metal art good among other decorative crafts is that it can last for years or even decades. As you can observe, most antique items that are being sold off on auctions with extremely high prices are usually the ones made with metal craftsmanship.

Look back into history, the common ancient artifacts that got naturally preserved were mostly metals. Items ranging from metal tombstones, spears, headdresses, metal scrolls, and others. Regardless of civilizations that were established during ancient times or on the rise of industrialization, those that survived are still complete even without the latest fabrication technology we have today. Even those monuments or statues that were manually built by slaves stood erect despite the years or centuries of being directly exposed to various weather conditions. Today, these figures have become famous tourist destinations that people from all over the world could visit. Only minimal changes were made to these metal works like cleaning and polishing to maintain their form.

Due to the recent technological advancements in the metal fabrication industry, there are massive changes in the said craftsmanship. Now, cutting metal has become both precise and accurate. There are various types of metal-cutting devices such as plasma, die-cut, and laser cutters that can cater to all types of cuts depending on the material. Metal craftsmanship has become more refined and detailed, so are the preservation methods to prevent the deterioration of quality. Traditional metal crafts and techniques did not vanish but were only improved through the help of technology.

Iron ore metal

There are different variations of metals but iron is the most abundant in the environment. During ancient times, it was almost as valuable as gold was first found in places located in Egypt, Rome, and China. Iron was not entirely regarded as a pure metal due to some substances present in it such as carbon, sulfur, phosphorus, and silicon.

Iron is mostly utilized for commercial purposes due to the carbon compound present in it. Such a substance will also distinguish its characteristics in terms of durability, longevity, and malleability. These characteristics will then form the different variations of iron which are steel, wrought iron, and cast iron. Among the three, cast iron has the most number of carbon while wrought iron has the least.

More details about the three types of iron are outlined below:

Cast iron – contains the average number of carbon, resulting in a higher level of brittleness. When it comes into contact with hard objects, it breaks easily. This type of iron is not stretchable and bendable which is not typically recommended for decorative purposes due to its rough texture but is utilized more on the creation of fireplace tools and stoves.

Steel – is known as the alloy and a little amount of carbon that is commonly utilized for construction and engineering purposes. The hardness quality of the steel sits in between the wrought iron and cast iron. Moreover, it is lighter compared to the two and more malleable when subjected to higher temperatures but becomes harder when exposed to cold temperatures.

Wrought iron – is mainly used for decorative ornaments because of its versatile qualities. It’s much easier to shape or hammer the iron in different sizes or forms because of its malleability. It can be used to form different types of metal products which require transforming the figure of the said metal. That’s why it’s used for jewelry, fences, and other commercial purposes.

Tin metal

When you hear tin, what probably comes into my mind would be tin cans. Although most tin cans are made of aluminum, it does not mean tin is irrelevant. Tin is not that easy to find compared to iron but is largely used for corrosion prevention and glass production. It’s a metal that is extracted from Cassiterite ore and is essential to the production of bronze.

Copper metal

Like tin, copper is also used to produce bronze since the latter is an alloy of copper and tin. Copper is both a mineral and an element that has high malleability and ductility. But one of its major advantages is its ability to conduct electricity. It is also resistant to corrosion and even possesses antimicrobial properties.

Bronze

As previously mentioned, bronze is an alloy of tin and copper, which also was considered the most durable material during ancient times. Known for its deep brown color, it is more corrosion resistant and harder compared to pure iron which allowed Egyptians during ancient times to use it for the creation of weapons and sculptures. This is also because of its ability to expand when subjected to heat, making it easier when sculpting.

Brass

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc that often has a bright gold hue. Its acoustic properties make it capable of being utilized in the creation of musical instruments. Other characteristics include high malleability, low friction, high heat conductivity and not being as durable as steel.

Wrapping up

Those listed above are not the only metals used for the production of metal art. There are several variations of metals that exist today and researchers continue to search for any new metal types that are still being studied. However, there are metals readily available that enable us to create art with any metal design to come up with the best decorative products that can be used at homes, workplaces, and other establishments. Florida News Times

 

The Origins of Indigo, That Bluest Blue
While indigo’s etymology identifies it as a “product of India,” it has a long history.

When I Get That Mood Indigo at M+B, Los Angeles is a tribute to the complex substance that is indigo, in which artist Bhasha Chakrabarti experiments with quilting, painting, and papermaking. The exhibition takes its title from Duke Ellington’s jazz standard “Mood Indigo” — “You ain’t never been blue, till you’ve had that mood indigo” — and traces the transnational history and layered affect of this blue pigment and dye.

While indigo’s etymology identifies it as a “product of India,” it has a long history of being grown and used around the world for over four millennia and was further globalized as major 18th-century indigo plantations were founded by colonial powers in both India and the American South. For this show, Chakrabarti sourced indigo from various parts of the world — from India to Nigeria to Guatemala — after interacting with farmers, dyers, and traders in cities with ancient traditions of indigo dyeing. She maps these overlapping cartographies of trade, imperialism, and resistance in her work and traces the presence of indigo in conceptions of divinity, agricultural and textile histories, and musical traditions. For example, she layers the lyrics of Blues songs with Bengali protest songs about the “tyranny of blue,” sung by indigo plantation laborers.

Many of the works recycle used clothing and scraps that have been quilted in the style of kantha — a form of quilting originating in West Bengal, where the artist’s family is from — as well as in a style that is reminiscent of the African American quilting tradition from Gee’s Bend, Alabama, where Chakrabarti has spent time learning from and quilting with artists, like China Pettway and Mary Ann Pettway. The practice not only showcases the possibility of repair and mending, but is also a nod to the transnational feminist potential of women’s textile art and the assemblage techniques required for quiltmaking that parallel the networked origins of indigo dye and quilting itself.

“I’ve been seduced by indigo, teased and taunted by it, and left undeniably stained. Indigo has bled into every aspect of my life, or perhaps it was already there and I’m just seeing it,” said Chakrabarti over email.

In the largest series of work in the show, the artist depicts Black American friends as Hindu gods, goddesses, and mythological figures, who are described in poetry and texts as shyama (blue Black) or krsna (Black) but are traditionally rendered in manuscripts, miniatures, and murals using indigo. Chakrabarti’s portraits challenge the South Asian worldview in which deified figures are conceptualized as Black in writing but appear as indigo blue — a reflection of racism and prejudiced views around caste in India. By celebrating and giving a face to Blackness in Hinduism, Chakrabarti’s quilts propose an invigorating spiritual lens for Black and South Asian connectivity. In the artist’s words, “These works each embody a small discovery of the many ways that the bluest blue has connected black and brown people around the world through both histories of oppression and resistance.” Hyperallergic

 

Tate’s Tahitian Gauguin is suspected fake
Catalogue raisonné rejects unusual part-painting, part-sketch, as expert says the “colonial” nature of the composition is not the artist’s style

The Tate’s “Gauguin” painting Tahitians has been downgraded as a fake. It is excluded from the authoritative catalogue raisonné of Gauguin’s work, which has just been published by the New York-based Wildenstein Plattner Institute. Although the Tate still accepts the painting as authentic, a spokesman says that it will now “keep the work under review”.

Tahitians was acquired in 1917 from Roger Fry, the distinguished art historian who invented the term Post-Impressionism. Its absence from the new catalogue raisonné was spotted by Fabrice Fourmanoir, a former Polynesian resident, Gauguin enthusiast and now a researcher on authenticity of his works.

Tahitians is an unusual picture, since it is partly painted with oil on paper, which has been mounted on canvas. On the left side of the composition, a Tahitian boy and a section of landscape with palm trees and mountains are roughly painted in oils. Three women are inside a hut or veranda, their outlines sketched in charcoal. The woman in the centre of the composition is more firmly drawn in blue crayon.

The fact that the painting is unfinished gives it a special importance. If authentic, it would reveal a considerable amount about Gauguin’s technique—starting with a rough charcoal sketch, firming in the outlines and then painting in oils. But if it is a fake, it is misleading.

Reasons not revealed
The decision to exclude the unsigned Tahitians from the catalogue raisonné was made by its two leading committee members: Richard Brettell (who died in July 2020) and Sylvie Crussard, who had worked together for 20 years. The institute is withholding the reasons for the rejection, to “maintain the confidentiality” of deliberations.

The first recorded owner of the Tate painting was the Druet gallery in Paris, which offered it on loan to Fry’s Post-Impressionism exhibition in December 1910. Fry bought it a few months later, probably for about £30. Fry believed it was a genuine Gauguin, although this was at a time when much less was known about the artist’s oeuvre.

Maker of myth
Fry was the committee secretary of the Contemporary Art Society, which he helped establish in 1910. He apparently sold the painting to the society, presumably for the sum he had paid.

In 1917 the society presented the picture to the Tate (then known as the National Gallery Millbank and administered by the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square). That year the Millbank gallery began to collect Modern foreign art—hence the Gauguin acquisition.

Since 1917 Tate has always regarded Tahitians as authentic. In 2010 it was included in Tate Modern’s exhibition Gauguin: Maker of Myth, although it was not shown when the exhibition travelled to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Belinda Thomson, the Tate’s external curator, says she is “surprised” that the picture is now excluded from the catalogue raisonné.

The subject matter of Tahitians bears some similarities to two other Gauguins: The Siesta (1892-94, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), showing four Tahitian women reclining in a hut or veranda, and On the Banks of the River at Martinique (1887, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), portraying a boy and seated woman looking at each other. These two examples could be used to adduce authenticity (on the grounds that the figures represent a Gauguin theme) or the reverse (with a faker imitating authentic works).

Fourmanoir is convinced that the Tate work is a fake. “It is a stereotypical colonial Tahiti scene, whereas Gauguin was looking for more primitive compositions. The poses, dresses and even the European accordion held by the woman show Tahitians ‘corrupted’ by European customs,” he says.

Polynesian pastiche
According to Fourmanoir, the Tate picture must have been painted by Charles Alfred Le Moine, who lived in Polynesia from 1902 (the year before Gauguin’s death) until 1918, the year of his own death.

Fourmanoir once owned 15 works by Le Moine, so knows his work well. “The poses, the dress and the man carrying bananas are very typical,” he says. Fourmanoir believes that someone coming from France to search for paintings soon after Gauguin’s death commissioned Le Moine to make a pastiche, which was then sold to Druet.

The Tate dates the painting to around 1891, very soon after Gauguin’s arrival in Tahiti. Its curators suggest it is an early study, “in order to come to terms with his new subject matter”. Importantly, the painting was accepted in the 1964 Wildenstein catalogue raisonné (a predecessor to the institute’s web publication), although at that point it was dated to 1894, during Gauguin’s two-year return to France.

A Tate spokesman says: “The work was included by the Wildenstein Institute in their Gauguin catalogue raisonné in 1964 and Tate was not contacted prior to the publication of the latest edition. We recognise there has been ongoing research into Gauguin’s work in recent years, so we will keep the work under review and retain an open mind about any research that might help cast familiar works in a new light.”

The Tate has two fully authenticated Gauguins: a Brittany landscape, Harvest: Le Pouldu (1890), and an important Tahitian painting, Faa Iheihe (1898). The Art Newspaper

 

After 16 years, couple learns cherished Maud Lewis painting is likely a fraud
At appraisal, painting bought for $5K at auction shows telltale signs it's a fake

A Halifax couple is warning art lovers to be cautious after learning their treasured Maud Lewis painting is likely a fraud.

John and Sue Corbett bought Untitled: Seagulls and Lighthouses in an online auction held by Calgary's Levis Auctions in 2005. Levis said the piece came from a private collection on Vancouver Island.

It was listed as a Maud Lewis original.

The backstory was that the artist had been featured in a 1965 CBC documentary, prompting the Vancouver collector to write to her and buy two paintings. The second painting was sold at the same auction, to an unknown buyer.

The Corbetts paid more than $5,000 for their painting. Both grew up in Nova Scotia and had long admired Lewis's work.

"I like the style, I like the imagery she presents. It's typically Nova Scotian in the animals she presents, the water, ideas she presents," Sue Corbett told CBC News.

"At that time we were living in Ontario and we liked to show off Nova Scotia," her husband, John, said.

'Absolutely devastated'
As the retired couple began legacy planning, they decided to get the work appraised this summer. Others like it have sold for up to $20,000, and some newly found Lewis works in Britain recently fetched $60,000 at auction.

But when they brought their Lewis to Halifax appraiser Ian Muncaster of Zwicker's Art Gallery, he told them it was likely a fake.

"Absolutely devastated," Sue Corbett said of her reaction. "Shocked."

The two aren't art collectors and never doubted the work was authentic, until Muncaster cast an expert eye on it.

"He named a couple of things," John Corbett said. "He talked about the way the horizon was done was atypical from his exposure to it. He said the seagulls, typically their legs are black — these aren't. The houses, the roofs tended to be a solid colour and here they tend to be blended. Maybe something done in a hurry so they didn't quite paint it fully."

The rocks and waves were off, too, and so was the signature.

"We get Maud Lewis paintings brought in weekly, maybe sometimes two or three a week," Muncaster told CBC. "And I looked at it and I said, 'I think there's something not right.'"

He's been appraising artwork for 50 years. An appraisal document is not a certificate of authenticity, but he declines to appraise works that show signs of fraud — like the one purchased by the Corbetts.

That meant their painting went from a valuation in the thousands to worthless.

Muncaster ran the painting by Lance Woolaver, the author of several books about Lewis, and Alan Deacon, a collector of her works. Both saw cause for concern.

The Corbett painting is similar to a known Lewis painting, Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fisherman, which sold for $45,000 in 2017.

"She had a good sense of colour, of composition, and they really are quite charming," Muncaster said of the authentic paintings. "Most of the forgeries, you can just tell they're different."

Lewis didn't buy art supplies, but worked with donated paint, so her art mixes interior paints with exterior paints, giving them an uneven sheen. She typically painted on old beaverboard, a type of drywall used in buildings. The Corbetts' painting is on beaverboard, but it also has an even sheen.

He contrasted that with an authentic Lewis painting, in for framing.

"This painting has all the right things. It's got a good signature, the colour is right, you can see where Maud sketches in pencil underneath, and the finish is sort of variegated. It's enamel and shiny in some places and quite flat in others."

In her pre-fame years, Lewis often sold paintings to neighbours who wanted to brighten up a nursery, or who just wanted to put some money in her pockets. She signed her paintings in different ways and sometimes used a marker that can fade.

"Maud told one of her friends years ago that she thinks she paints one a day," Muncaster said. "Now, she painted throughout the 40s, 50s, and 60s, so it'd be over 300 a year, over 3,000 a decade. So it would be approximately 10,000, at least."

Fraudsters have been busy since her death in 1970. He thinks there are more than 1,000 fake Lewis paintings in circulation. It's legal to copy a painting, but a crime to try to sell the copy as an original.

Auction house shredded records
Levis Auctions destroys its paperwork after a decade, so the Lewis documents are gone.

Doug Levis founded Levis Auctions and sold the painting to the Corbetts. He said a woman from Vancouver Island contacted him in 2005 about selling two Maud Lewises she had bought from the artist in the 1960s.

"I had no reason to disbelieve her story," he said.

Levis, who is now retired, said as the prices for Lewis's art have risen, so have the number of "questionable" paintings surfacing. Recently, someone brought in four paintings attributed to Lewis. The business sent those for expert appraisal, which cast doubt on their authenticity, so Levis didn't auction them.

He said that's how Levis handles all Lewis paintings now.

They told the Corbetts they do offer refunds, but within 14 days of purchase.

"I think our obligations for the sale have long since passed. I am sorry that after all these years you have found it to be something other than what you thought you had purchased," the auction company wrote to the Corbetts.

"I hope that you were able to enjoy it in the 16 years you had it and continue to still find some joy in it."

The Corbetts don't find much joy in it these days. John calls it a "curio," kept as a warning to others. Sue said their young grandson painted her a copy of a Maud Lewis a few years ago and that holds more value for them than the fake.

They don't blame Levis, and don't think the auctioneer was in on the potential fraud. They urged other amateur collectors to be skeptical, especially of paintings claiming to be by Maud Lewis.

"I would suggest they get it authenticated. There is a certification of authenticity. It's not unlike baseball cards — they all come with a certificate of authenticity," John said.

Muncaster echoed that sentiment. He suspects one fraudster in Nova Scotia has personally created more than 1,000 fake Lewises, which are often passed off as originals. CBC

 

An artist was homeless for years. Now he sells his work to celebrities like Oprah.

Richard Hutchins sat in his cell in Los Angeles County jail, creating colored dye out of Skittles, M&Ms, coffee and Kool-Aid.

With no art supplies available to him, “I had to get creative with whatever I could find,” Hutchins, now 62, recalled.

Hutchins — a lifelong artist whose passion for painting began when he was 6 — crafted about 15 portraits per day in jail, sketching each one onto a standard white envelope. He then mailed the finished pieces to friends, family and total strangers — whose addresses he found in newspapers. He sent multiple letters to former president Barack Obama.

“Everywhere I had an address, I would send them,” Hutchins said, adding that he rarely received a reply. “I did it to pass the time away. We spent almost 23 hours a day in the cell, and that was part of my escape.”

Hutchins spent two years in jail awaiting trial, then was found not guilty of the charges against him and was released in 2015.

Once he got out of jail, he got right back to work at Infinity Studio, an art studio in Santa Monica, Calif., where he was an artist in residence for five years before being in jail.

Just as his life was finally getting on track again, the studio — along with Hutchins’s valuable artwork — was demolished in a fire in December 2015.

“It destroyed my life,” Hutchins said. “I lost about 800 pieces of work; my sketches, my finished paintings.”

He hopped from hotel to hotel until he drained his savings, and before long, Hutchins found himself sleeping on the streets of Skid Row. He was homeless for six years — until a chance encounter at a grocery store parking lot in April changed everything.

Charlie “Rocket” Jabaley — an entrepreneur and former music manager — pulled up in his blue Jeep on Easter Sunday. Hutchins struck up a casual conversation with him.

“I like your car,” he hollered to Jabaley, 33, who was with a friend at the time.

They bantered about the car, and quickly bonded over the fact that they were both born in Atlanta.

“His energy was just so bright. It made me want to talk to him,” Jabaley said of Hutchins.

The friendly exchange flowed naturally. Hutchins told Jabaley about his humble upbringing and how his family lived in public housing. He worked in the cotton fields after school with his older sister. There was little time for fun, he said, but he spent every spare moment making art.

“During a lunch break or dinner break, I would sit down and take brown lunch bags and use twigs from the fire and draw charcoal figures,” Hutchins said. “My passion for art started very early in life.”

His uncle was an artist, and “I used to look over his shoulder and see what he was doing. I would try to imitate him,” he added.

Hutchins got involved with the wrong crowd and ended up spending stints in jail.

He moved from Atlanta to Los Angeles in 1992 and began his career as a professional artist. He said he created custom pieces for celebrity clients under the alias Drew Hill — which was the name of a former NFL football player. He thought using that name would get attention.

He was right, but after he found himself in jail and his career was shattered, Hutchins decided he would use his real name once he finally got out.

Jabaley was touched by the stranger’s story. What moved him most, he said, was Hutchins’s relentless drive to carry on with his craft despite all the hardships he faced.

As the conversation continued, Jabaley, who runs a nonprofit called the Dream Machine that works to help people in need pursue their goals, asked Hutchins: “What’s your dream?”

Hutchins shared his long-held wish to one day see his work in an art gallery or museum.

At the end of their unexpected interaction, Jabaley asked Hutchins for his phone number, and the following day, he took him to an art store and bought him $2,000 worth of supplies.

“I told him to get what he needed and not to worry about it,” Jabaley recalled.

For Hutchins, the offer was overwhelming.

“I didn’t know this man for 24 hours, and he put my life on a new path,” Hutchins said.

Jabaley didn’t stop at supplies; he had several more surprises in store. He started by creating an official website for Hutchins, which he called Richard Hutchins Studio.

Just four hours after the site — which Jabaley and his team promoted heavily on social media — was launched, Hutchins had sold $50,000 worth of art, he said.

Then, on June 24, Jabaley organized an elaborate, red carpet event at a Beverly Hills hotel to showcase Hutchins’s artwork, which included portraits he made while he was homeless and stored with a friend. That night, Hutchins sold several paintings. One piece went for $23,000, he said.

Since meeting Jabaley, Hutchins has sold more than $200,000 worth of art — including to Oprah Winfrey, Steve Harvey and 2 Chainz — who Jabaley used to manage.

“I haven’t gotten over that yet,” said Hutchins, who now has more than 145,000 followers on Instagram. “I can’t believe I’m a famous artist now.”

Hutchins is using his newfound fame and fortune to benefit others. While he is now financially stable and has his own home in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood — where he created an art studio for himself — he vowed to prioritize giving back to the homeless community in Los Angeles, and he has also given away free artwork.

“Most of the money that I earn is going toward bringing people off the streets,” he said.

Hutchins is in the process of setting up a nonprofit foundation, named after his late mother, Jessie Hutchins, with the goal of supporting people who find themselves stuck in the same cycle of poverty that he found himself in for many years.

“Most people don’t know what it feels like to be stepped over on the sidewalk,” Hutchins said. “Until I can see something different out there, I’m going to continue fighting for this.”

Meeting Jabaley — who he now considers a dear friend — affirmed that “there are so many generous people in this world,” he said, adding that the kindness and commitment a stranger showed him has motivated him to help others, too.

“I don’t care what it takes. I’m going to make a change,” Hutchins said. The Washington Post

 

Progressive scientists, or high-flying elitists? The Met unlocks a secret behind a famous Jacques-Louis David portrait
Scientific testing reveals that the artist radically changed his depiction of a Paris couple in a landmark 1788 painting

In an audio clip at its website, the Metropolitan Museum of Art describes it as “the best Neo-Classical portrait in the world”: a 1788 oil by Jacques-Louis David depicting the so-called father of modern chemistry and his wife with scientific instruments in their Paris office.

Today the Met announced that its own scientific research had yielded surprising insights into the nine-foot-tall double portrait, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743–1794) and Marie Anne Lavoisier (1758–1836). Rather than portraying the Lavoisiers as a scientifically minded couple embodying Enlightenment ideals, as they appear in the final version, the museum says, David originally depicted them as fashionable members of the French elite.

An analysis of the mammoth canvas with noninvasive infrared reflectography and with macro X-ray fluorescence mapping, a technology that did not exist when the Met acquired the painting in 1977, revealed a fully painted underlayer detailing David’s initial conception. It features an ornate desk with an ormolu frieze, three scrolls of paper unfurled over the edge of the desk that reflect Antoine Laurent Lavoisier’s privileged position as a tax collector, and ostentatious attire for Mme Lavoisier, who sports a giant plumed hat adorned with ribbons and artificial flowers. Missing in that composition is the chemistry equipment, including a glass balloon and beakers.

This original vision of the couple, with an emphasis on their affluence, underlines the fate that awaited Antoine Laurent Lavoisier. His role as a tax collector not only bankrolled his discovery of oxygen and the chemical composition of water, but ultimately helped lead to his execution by guillotine in 1794 during the revolutionary Reign of Terror. Marie Anne Lavoisier, who helped publicise her spouse’s scientific achievements with drawings and engravings and is thought to have possibly been an art student of David’s, survived.

“I think the very tempting theory is to line it up with the politics and say, 'Oh, they wanted to move themselves away from looking like the tax collector class,'” says David Pullins, associate curator of European paintings at the Met, who carried out an art historical analysis of David's changes in the painting. “They were very intelligent, thoughtful people.”

Still, any impulse to view the compositional changes through the lens of the Revolution could be a stretch, Pullins said in an interview. “I think it’s difficult to push it that far,” he says. David “was a remarkable chameleon,” he notes, continually evolving, and the painting is “an exemplar” of that.

He suggests that the artist’s first rendering was influenced by the increasingly informal portraits of “blue-blood” aristocrats in the 1770s and 80s by leading women painters such as Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun and Adelaïde Labille-Guiard. David and the Lavoisiers may have later reconsidered the initial portrayal, given the couple's own limited social standing, the curator adds.

“It was a format that would have been very easy to paint Marie Antoinette in, and of course, Vigée Le Brun does that,” Pullins says. “But for a couple like this, that doesn't even have a title?”

David’s final choice to highlight the Lavoisiers’ scientific bonafides, and eliminate the showier attire, may also have been inspired by an instinct to depart from familiar models of portraiture and “create a new kind of image”, Pullins says–which is “why the painting as it exists now looks like a shock, why it looks as much of a landmark, as it is. This was by no means a conventional or obvious kind of image for people of their station, to foreground science in this way.”

The Met’s announcement was timed to the release of scholarly articles about the discovery in The Burlington Magazine and Heritage Science authored by Pullins, Silvia Centeno, a research scientist at the museum, and Dorothy Mahon, a Met conservator. The Met research scientist Federico Carò also contributed to the Heritage Science article.

The scientific testing began in 2019 after Mahon spent ten months removing a synthetic varnish that had been thickly applied to the canvas in 1974 and had given it a milky grey appearance. After painstakingly stripping the varnish, she observed irregularities in areas of the painting that suggested that other features might exist just below the surface, which led to the extensive tests. “The first thing we did was the infrared, and we knew there was more there,” Mahon says.

Centeno later proceeded with the macro X-ray mapping, which allows scientists to determine the mineral composition of different layers of a painting–a technology that she says the Met purchased only five years ago. Tiny pigment samples were also taken from the canvas to shed more light on the mapping, she says. The chips confirmed the red and black hues of Marie Anne Lavoisier's striking plumed hat. They also showed that in his first iteration, David painted Antoine Laurent Lavoisier in a brown costume with a longer coat adorned by seven bronze-coloured buttons, unlike the black coat with just three buttons and black breeches that are visible today.

As Mahon puts it, David ultimately chose to make the scientist's ensemble “more like a business suit”.

The early version had even topped Lavoisier’s ensemble with a flowing red mantle, “a shocker” that was “really baroque, almost archaic”, Pullins says. That also fell by the wayside. Among the other elements eliminated were a bookcase in the background that Mahon says would have warred with the addition of the “clear and beautifully painted” scientific instruments, and a wastebasket. The placement of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier’s leg was also adjusted. And the addition of a red velvet tablecloth in the final iteration was “a great solution for canceling over all that stuff” that the artist discarded, she adds.

“Until recently, revealing compositions hidden below a painting’s surface with such a level of detail would have been impossible,” notes Centeno.

Centeno, Mahon and Pullins describe their research effort and newly published scholarly articles as a model of collaboration among professionals with markedly different expertise. The initiative echoes joint projects in recent years by art historians, conservators and research scientists at the National Gallery in London and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Going forward, the Met hopes to expand collaborative investigations that keep essential works alive for the scholarly community and for visitors. “It’s lived here since the 1970s and, yet, it’s had this life that kind of kept on giving,” Pullins said of the Lavoisiers’ portrait. “It's the opposite of a story of a painting going into a museum to be kind of locked away and put in a tomb.”

The portrait is currently on view in the museum’s second-floor Neo-Classical galleries.

For Mahon, the work's enduring relevance is rooted in its emotional appeal. “He looks up to her with such devotion, and she looks out at us,” the conservator says of Lavoisier. "I think he [David] knew what he was doing, and whether they are of this time or not, the couple had that same sensibility that we really relate to today.” The Art Newspaper

 

Arts & Crafts Movement gets a dedicated museum in St Petersburg, Florida
The new institution has been founded by the private collector and businessman and Rudy Ciccarello

The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement (MAACM)—the first ever institution dedicated exclusively to the international art and design trend that arose at the end of the 19th century as a reaction against the Industrial Revolution’s ethos of mass production—opens its doors in St Petersburg, Florida on 7 September. The museum, founded by the Florida-based pharmaceutical businessman Rudy Ciccarello, will house his private collection and the holdings of the Two Red Roses Foundation, a non-profit educational organisation Ciccarello founded in 2004.

“This museum will be the epicenter for the study of the American Arts and Crafts movement,” Ciccarello says in a statement. “Our mission is to preserve and share these beautiful works of art with the public and to teach future generations to appreciate hand craftsmanship and honest design.”

With more than 40,000sq. ft of gallery space, the new museum will be housed in a five-storey, 137,000sq. ft structure designed by the Tampa-based architect Alberto Alfonso. The institution will also have an outdoor garden, an education studio, graphic studio, research library, theater, event space, café, and restaurant. Ciccarello first bought the 3.2-acre parcel of land for the museum in 2014, but construction on the building was delayed due to a last minute expansion, and then production hold ups caused by the pandemic.

The building “is inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement in its detailing and customisation of material and joinery,” Alfonso says. “[It] will serve the collection in its presentation of precious objects in a modern, functional, and didactic way. The spaces will embrace natural light and respond to the different scales of the objects they hold.”

The collection includes more than 2,000 objects related to the American Arts and Crafts movement, ranging from furniture, pottery, ceramic tiles and architectural faience, metalwork, woodblocks, fine art, lighting, textiles, and leaded glass. Among the artists, craftsmen, and companies represented are Gustav Stickley, Charles Rohlfs, the Byrdcliffe Colony, Tiffany Studios, Rookwood Pottery, Newcomb Pottery, and Arthur Wesley Dow. Roughly 800 works will be on display at a time, and the museum will also host temporary exhibitions.

The first shows, opening in early September, will be Love, Labor, and Art: The Roycroft Enterprise, a look at more than 75 objects built by a school of craftsmen founded in upstate New York in the 1890s by Elbert Hubbard, and Lenses Embracing the Beautiful: Pictorial Photographs from the Two Red Roses Foundation, an overview of photographers including Alfred Stieglitz and Edward S. Curtis. The Art Newspaper

 

Crafts Are Gaining Recognition In The World Of Fine Arts

I visited Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas and loved the special exhibition titled, "Crafting America: Artists and Objects,1940 to Today." It was an awe inspiring and refreshing new view of crafts in America.

I tried to whittle the subject of crafts into a readable piece and share it with my audience. I started by trying to find what the latest sources said. Wikipedia and other dictionaries said that when craft is used as a noun, it refers mostly to the activity of having the skill of making objects by hand such as weaving, ceramic making, wood carving, glass blowing, metal working, etc.

In defining craft, Glenn Adamson in the exhibition catalogue says, "Craft is as simple or complex as you want to make it. In essence, it is an easy thing to understand: making things, skillfully. In the presence of a really well-crafted object, there is little room for doubt. Artisanal know-how serves as its own argument." What is craft's relationship to tradition, technology and fine art? To gender and ethnicity?

Jen Padgett, one of the developers of the exhibition, says, "Craft is an impressively diverse field, as it has long been an accessible form of creative production for those historically excluded from the realm of fine art, including women, people of color, immigrants and indigenous peoples. Contemporary artists continue to draw upon this history of empowerment through craft, using materials and techniques with rich layers of significance in their work.”

Then there is the question of what the division is between fine art and craft. This is quite a controversial subject and much has been written on the subject. In an article by Arylea on Deviant Art, it says that whether or not there is a difference between these two major art genres is something that is highly disputed in much of the art world. There is no definitive answer. Both fine art and craft have a history behind them that often influences our understanding of them even in their contemporary forms.

The Saint Louis Art Museum used to display contemporary crafts in a small gallery as did most other comprehensive museums around the country. Now high quality craft works can be in the main exhibition space and even be featured in their own special exhibitions such as the one at Crystal Bridges.

Technology has also changed the whole definition of craft from hand made in a traditional way to works that are digitally designed and constructed. British artist Gareth Neal specializes in wood furniture making and embraces digital technology in his process. Neal's work is sold through international galleries and has been showcased in international exhibitions.

Jen Padgett says that modern craft in the groundbreaking exhibition "Objects: USA," which toured across the country beginning in 1969, helped to define the field of American craft and even included new material such as enamels and plastics. Contemporary artists use an ever-expanding diversity of materials to challenge and widen our perspectives on craft, including found objects, manufactured materials like sixteen-millimeter film and technologically novel processes like 3-D printing.

Stephanie Kirkland, Deputy Director of Craft Alliance in St. Louis says, "The "Crafting America" Exhibition at Crystal Bridges has been an amazing example of where craft is heading today. Focusing on the American voice, there are the big hits from the 1940s through the studio craft movement of the 1960s.The curators then transition us into craft today, where we are challenged to redefine traditional techniques, explore alternative materials and be confronted with social political issues that affect us every day. It is wonderful to see work from a wide range of diverse artists from Roberto Lugo's "Frederick Douglass/Arthur Ashe Urn" to Consuelo Jimenez Underwood's, "Home of the Brave," a flag made from wire, silk and safety pins that reimages the American experience. Craft is constantly evolving and this is a beautiful grouping of voices that remind us that artists have so much more to say and craft is still a strong and powerful means of expression."

Many of the artists featured in this exhibition have been featured in exhibitions in St. Louis. Ebony Patterson recently had a show at CAM (Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis), Nick Cave with his beaded "Soundsuits" was featured at the Saint Louis Art Museum, Ruth Asawa was featured at the Pulitzer and Boris Bally stole the show with his recent exhibition at Craft Alliance which featured witty and innovative works celebrating a raw street aesthetic of recycled street signs and the like.

It's tough to put a label on the world of crafts and where they begin and end and meld into the fine art world.

Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for more than thirty years on numerous arts related boards. St. Louis Public Radio

 

 




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