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Francis Bacon, Titian, and Influence on the ‘Screaming Popes’

November 15, 2017 by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up  Weekly Every Wednesday.

Fine Art in the New Media

One of the tremendous benefits of fine art in the new media is the ability to see works of art close up, closer than you can see them in real life, and look at them for as long as you want. Another major benefit is the ability to make side by side comparisons, possibly shedding new light on the works. As an example, we have done so here with the works of Francis Bacon, Velázquez ,and Titian. Our  view is that “Art” and its “meaning” is up to you – what you see, and what you can imagine.

Bacon and Velázquez

It is axiomatic that the inspiration for Francis Bacon‘s “Screaming Pope,” above was Diego Velázquez’s “Pope Innocent X,”.  For instance,  The Truth Behind Francis Bacon’s Screaming Popes , an article by the noted art publisher, Phaidon, states,

“Bacon worked on his pope paintings, variations on Velázquez’s magnificent portrait of Pope Innocent X, for over twenty years. He was already exploring the idea while in the South of France in late 1946. The first surviving version (Head VI) dates from late 1949, and he finally stopped in the mid-1960s …* He acquired endless reproductions of the Velázquez painting from books, but famously did not see the original when he visited Rome in late 1954.”

The Phaidon article also states that,

“The art of Francis Bacon (1909–1992) epitomizes the angst at the heart of the modern human condition. His dramatic images of screaming figures and distorted anatomies are painted with a richly gestural technique, alluding to such Old Masters as Titian, Velázquez and Rembrandt. Displaying repressed and raw emotion, his body of work includes portraits of Lucian Freud and John Deakin.”

The “Meaning” of the ‘Screaming Heads’

The Phaidon article states further that,

“[Bacon’s] insertion [of the screaming head] subverts the encapsulation of power and self-assurance projected by Velázquez. The screaming mouth, isolated from other facial features and divorced from any narrative context, suggests existential agony. The pathos of human vulnerability and loss of faith or conviction are accentuated by the precisely rendered space frames in many Bacon images of popes, which make the figures register as ‘enclosed in the wretched glass capsule of the human individual’, to cite the evocative phrase used by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy (1872), one of Bacon’s favourite books.”

No matter what, Bacon’s screaming figures will go on screaming until the paint, and the pain disappear.

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Bacon and Titian

The painting above titled, “Portrait of Archbishop Filippo Archinto” is by Titian. What is interesting is that the label for the painting above at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it is presently in an exhibition of Old Masters, and which permanently houses the painting, states,

“The unusual portrayal of this man can be explained by facts known about his life. Archinto was appointed archbishop of Milan in 1556, but political troubles prevented his taking possession of the post. The veil obscuring him from view stands for these difficulties. The episcopal ring, which the artist carefully reveals just outside the veil, symbolizes Archinto’s legal right to office.”

Is it possible to imagine that when the curtain is fully drawn across the Archbishop that he, himself, will start to scream?

Now, take a closer look at the Archbishop’s left hand isolated below. Is it possible to imagine the hand as a skull dripping blood? If so, will it make you scream?

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Whether you regard the similarity of Bacon’s ‘Screaming Popes’ the Velázquez portrait of Pope Innocent X, and Titian’s “Portrait of Archbishop Filippo Archinto” as influences on Bacon’s ‘Screaming Popes’, ultimately depends on what you see. No matter what, Bacon’s screaming figures will go on screaming until the paint, and the pain disappear.






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See this 17th Century Portrait Restored to its Original Brilliant Colors on Twitter!

November 8, 2017 by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday

Varnish and Old Paintings

Oil paintings are usually coated with varnish to provide a protective coating, but as the varnish inevitably ages, the it turns yellow and obscures the brilliant colors of the orignal, often making the painting look dark and muddy.

Fine Art in the New Media, via Twitter!

Art dealer Phillip Mould on twitter gave a glimpse into what’s like to remove old varnish after a painting turns yellow and becomes an eyesore. “@philipmould: A remarkable Jacobean re-emergence after 200 years of yellowing varnish.

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Mould told the Telegraph “A mixture of gel and solvent was created, specifically just to remove the varnish and not to damage the underlying paint.” Certainly the portrait’s subject would approve of her appearance’s return to its former splendor, though little information remains as to the identity of the lady herself: “We don’t know the identity yet but certain iconographic clues are starting to emerge,” said Mould. “All we know is she is 36 and it was painted in 1617.”

“Woman in Red”- Before

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“At first glance, the painting might not look that much worse for wear than anything else from the Jacobean era, but even the first few minutes of work reveal the true brilliance of the colors hidden underneath what turn out to be layers of brown and yellow. They’ve actually built up in the name of preservation: over about 200 years, a few (or more than a few) coats of varnish had been applied to the canvas in order to protect it, but that varnish turns color over time.” (OpenCulture.)



The Women of the Blues

November 1, 2017 by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday.

billy Holiday 2

Everybody Gets The Blues

Blues is a music genre and musical form originated by African Americans in the Deep South of the United States around the end of the 19th century. The genre developed from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, spirituals, and African American folk music. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads.” (wikipedia)

Open Culture, one of the best websites for culture, has put together a post  “The Women of the Blues: A Playlist of Great Blues Singers, from Bessie Smith & Etta James, to Billie Holiday & Janis Joplin.”  Below are some excerpts from that post.

“Everybody gets the blues but not everybody gets the blues the same. Women get some serious blues. Black women get some very serious blues. Bessie Smith maybe had the most deep and soulful blues anyone ever had: “Crazy Blues,” “Down Hearted Blues,” “Careless Love Blues,” “Empty Bed Blues,” “Black Water Blues,” “Gulf Coast Blues,” and “St. Louis Blues,” which also happens to be the title of her only known film appearance, as well as one of the earliest talkies in cinema history. (See a transporting acapella performance from the film above.)”

Listen to Etta James (above) “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “Many incredible, women of the blues appear in the Spotify playlist (a sample of which is at the end of this post) in the company of more famous names like Bessie and Mamie Smith, Holiday, Joplin, Memphis Minnie, Ma Rainey, Etta James, and Dinah Washington.”  Janis Joplin’s – “Ball and Chain” in the video below is guaranteed to give you the chills. You can go to Spotify to hear the whole playlist.

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Clyfford Still – Hidden No More: New Discovery Tools Now Online

October 25, 2017, by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday
Clyfford Still 2Clyfford Still, PH-1105, 1950. Oil on canvas, 104 3/8 x 111 1/8 inches (264.5 x 297.5 cm). Clyfford Still Museum, Denver, CO.

Fine Art in the New Media – Hidden No More: New Discovery Tools Now Online

Clyfford Still Museum

The Clyfford Still Museum, has “launched two new online discovery tools today. More than 2,200 works of art—approximately 470 paintings and 1,750 works on paper by Still—are now available in high-resolution reproductions at collection.clyffordstillmuseum.org. More than 1,900 objects from the Clyfford Still Archives are also now public for the first time in the Museum’s new research database at clyffordstillmuseum.org/database.” (All quotes: Clyfford Still Museum.)

Online Collection

“Through full-screen, deep-zoom capabilities, the Online Collection offers close examination of Still’s art at a scale that reveals detailed surfaces and clear evidence of his painterly gestures.”

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Slow-Looking Tool

“It is also the first online art museum collection to include a slow-looking tool  with every object, presenting a more intimate viewing experience than standard digital surrogates for in-person appreciation.”


“You can sort items by more than 30 subject fields as well as criteria including object type, materials, creation date, and creation location. Images can be viewed online and also downloaded for personal use and study.”

New Media Technology

The online collection has been developed in partnership with Cogapp, a UK/NYC digital publishing systems provider.


“Among many other items from the Clyfford Still Archives, the Research Database includes installation photography and ephemera from exhibitions throughout the artist’s career; personal photographs of Still’s homes, studios, and travels; portraits of the artist and his family; and more than 170 historical journal articles, news items, and other publications related to Clyfford Still with searchable full text.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 7.49.09 PM   Title: View of Clyfford Still’s Jaguar at the Stephans’ house in Greenwich, Connecticut

Clyfford Still 3

Clyfford Still, PH-651, 1934. Oil on window shade, 6 3/4 x 9 3/4 inches (17.3 x 24.9 cm). Clyfford Still Museum, Denver, CO.














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Now, You Can Virtually Page Through Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebooks

October 11, 2017 by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday.

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Digital and other New Media tools have made a great amount of books available. Many are free. It is interesting to note who the developers are.  The British Library has scanned  centuries old books including the Codex Arundel, the Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci.

The Story of Leonardo’s Notebooks

From Open Culture,

“For hundreds of years, the huge, secretive collection of manuscripts remained mostly unseen by all but the most rarified of collectors. After Leonardo’s death in France, writes the British Library, his student Francesco Melzi “brought many of his manuscripts and drawings back to Italy. Melzi’s heirs, who had no idea of the importance of the manuscripts, gradually disposed of them.” Nonetheless, over 5,000 pages of notes “still exist in Leonardo’s ‘mirror writing’, from right to left.” *

Leonardo 1

The Notebooks Digitized

“The digitized notebooks debuted in 2007 as a joint project of the British Library and Microsoft called “Turning the Pages 2.0,” an interactive feature that allows viewers to “turn” the pages of the notebooks with animations. Onscreen glosses explain the content of the cryptic notes surrounding the many technical drawings, diagrams, and schematics (see a selection of the notebooks in this animated format here). For an overwhelming amount of Leonardo, you can look through 570 digitized pages of [the] Codex Arundel here.” (OpenCulture).

The Technology Turning the Pages™ 

As this site is devoted to the uses of New Media tools to make fine art and literature accessible to everyone, everywhere, we want to write about the technology behind the Leonardo Notebooks and a great number of  other books and manuscripts. Below is a short description and a video of the technology  called “Turning Pages.”

As explained at Turning the Pages™ , it “was originally conceived in 1996 and Armadillo Systems have been developing the software since 2001, helping libraries, museums and galleries around the world provide access to their collections. The earliest books were at the British Library.”

“[The Goal was] to produce the most compelling solution for providing access and interpretation for rare books, manuscripts and single sheet items (such as maps or charters).”

“In 2006 [Armadillo Systems] worked with Microsoft to develop TTP 2.0 which produced incredibly realistic three-dimensional books, including the ability of gilding to catch the light as the pages turn and to mimic both paper and vellum books.I n 2013 [the company] launched TTP 3.0, a complete re-code for the online version, taking advantage of HTML5 to provide access to books on all browsers and devices.”

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Image Credit: British Library





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Post goes up tomorrow.









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Giacometti and You – In His Studio

October 4, 2017 by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday.

Giacometti’s Studio

“The British Arts Council’s short film above affords an intimate glimpse into Alberto Giacometti’s studio in Montparnasse circa 1965, the year when he was the subject of major retrospectives at both the Tate Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.” (OpenCulture.)

Alberto Giacometti‘s studio was described by biographer, James Lord: “The whole place looking as if it had been thrown together with a few old sticks and a lot of chewing gum … In short, a dump.”

Jeane Genet described the studio a bit more poetically:

“This ground floor studio… is going to cave in at any moment now. It is made of worm-eaten wood and grey powder…. Everything is stained and ready for the bin, everything is precarious and about to collapse, everything is about to dissolve, everything is floating…. And yet it all appears to be captured in an absolute reality. When I leave the studio, when I am outside on the street, then nothing that surrounds me is true.”

Indeed, a photograph of Giacometti outside his studio shows not only the character of the studio, but, in a way, he looks like one of his own sculptures.

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An Artist’s Studio

The environment in which an artist works may or may not be related to the actual work. Nevertheless,  there is a certain closeness to the artist in being able to see what his or her actual studio looked like. And, as in the video above, to be able to actually see the artist at work gives us an intimate look into the artist’s creative process.

Fine Art in the New Media

For fine art, the term “New Media” doesn’t have to mean the use of flashing lights, bells and whistles in an attempt to capture our concentration. Instead, the term should mean the use of media tools, both new and old, which bring us closest to the artist and the work.. Even the use of the “old media” such as photography, film, and video brings us there, but coupled with the near-universal access of the “new media,” brings all of us there.

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Photographs by Ernst Scheidegger © 2017 Stiftung Ernst Scheidegger-Archiv, Zurich.
H/T Ayun Halliday, Open Culture.












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