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Month: April 2017

Albrecht Altdorfer, Countryside of Woods with Saint George Fighting the Dragon (detail), 1510.

Albrecht Altdorfer, Forest Scene with Saint George Fighting the Dragon, 1510

Countryside of Woods with Saint George Fighting the Dragon, 1510, by Albrecht Altdorfer (German, 1480-1538). Oil and parchment on linden wood, 8.9 × 11.1 in. Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Forest Scene with Saint George Fighting the Dragon, 1510, by Albrecht Altdorfer (German, 1480–1538). Oil and parchment on linden wood, 8.9 × 11.1 in. Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Albrecht Altdorfer, a contemporary of Copernicus who worked in Regensburg (today a German city of 138,0000 near the Austria and Czechia borders), was a leader of the Danube school of painting. These painters spearheaded a move toward landscape painting in its own right, as opposed to using landscape mainly as a background for setting classical and biblical scenes.

Nowhere is this more evident than in this small oil painting. St. George and the dragon are dwarfed by trees in a woodsy setting. In fact, some of the leaves appear nearly as big as the dragon, whose appearance is more that of a hapless toad of the traditional ferocious fire breather. Many critics, such as Linda Murray in The High Renaissance and Mannerism (London: Thames & Hudson, 1967), call Altdorfer the first modern landscape painter. A number of his painters contain no figures at all — Altdorfer also worked as an architect, and some depict lonely ruins at twilight.

Altdorfer cleverly uses lighting effects to bring out the figures from the background and give the scene a sense of mystery. The effect is a strange stillness that is at odds with the traditional dynamism and violence of depictions of this subject.

Crossword puzzle detail with answer "for heaven's sake."

The cruxiform crucible

completed crosswordThings I have learned from doing the NYT crossword:

  • The most famous of all musicians is Brian ENO.
  • Anything mixed up is an OLEO. Not to be confused with AIOLI, foremost among condiments, or OREO, the most popular snack ever.
  • All Asian holidays are TET.
  • Scandinavian queens like to name their sons OLAV.
  • A poem is probably an ODE.
  • If you’re on the water you must be ASEA, and very likely ALEE.
  • To get someone’s attention, say PSST.
  • Taps nearly always produce ALE. But MEAD is a more popular drink than anyone knew (other than crossword constructors). It is nearly always poured from a EWER.
  • History is the study of ERAS. Perhaps the most important is that of Pope LEOIV.
  • If you only know one muse, make her ERATO.
  • Native Americans are often ERIE, which is also by far the greatest of the Great Lakes.
  • The most significant architectural features are the APSE and the NAVE.
  • Of all of the stories in the bible, the most compelling are those of ENOS and ESAU.
  • Don’t forget your SSN.
  • When climbing, keep an eye out for ARETES.
  • Shakespeare never produced a greater line than “ET TU, Brute.”
  • Pinyin has still not been accepted for romanizing Chinese in Crosswordese. Never write Laozi, always Lao TSE.
  • A great jazz singer is ELLA. Hey, they got one right!

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charging bull - detail

Fearless against the blowback

From Greg Fallis's website.

From Greg Fallis’s website.

Greg Fallis, on the website gregfallis.com, does a service in reminding us of the history of the statues of the Charging Bull and the Fearless Girl. I live on the West Coast, and the last time I saw the Bull in the Bowling Green of the Financial District in Manhattan, New York City, the Fearless Girl had not yet been installed.

But I cannot agree with the conclusion Fallis draws from that history. He reminds us that Arturo Di Modica, a Sicilian immigrant who produced the bull at his own expense, created it to represent “the strength and power of the American people.”

Charging Bull, 1989, by Arturo Di Modica. Bronze. Bowling Green, Manhattan. Photo from bryan…’s photostream.

The Girl, on the other hand, was commissioned by an investment fund called State Street Global Advisors, which has assets in excess of US$2.4 trillion. It was intended as corporate marketing. So that seems to be a mark against the Girl.

Additionally, Fallis notes that the Girl draws her strength from the Bull, so she in effect is parasitic on it. “A global investment firm has used a global advertising firm to create a faux work of guerrilla art,” Fallis says, “to subvert and change the meaning of his actual work of guerrilla art” (Di Modica installed the Bull without permission from the city).

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The Great Piece of Turf (detail), 1503, by Albrecht Dürer.Nuremberg, watercolor on paper. Albertina Museum, Vienna.

Albrecht Dürer, The Great Piece of Turf

The Great Piece of Turf, 1503, by Albrecht Dürer. Nuremberg. watercolor on paper. Albertina Museum, Vienna.

The Great Piece of Turf, 1503, by Albrecht Dürer. Nuremberg. watercolor and white gouache on paper. Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna.

This small (15.75 x 12.25 in.) watercolor is called Das große Rasenstück in German, which is most often translated as The Great Piece of Turf. Some of its greatness lies in that fact that in one sense it is not great at all — it’s just a seemingly ordinary couple of square feet of weeds and grasses. According to Tom Lubbock in The Independent, the plants can be identified as “cock’s-foot, creeping bent, smooth meadow grass, daisy, dandelion, germander speedwell, greater plantain, hound’s-tongue and yarrow.” Not focal plants for most gardeners.

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Warwick downtown.

Warren, Rhode Island

Warwick downtown.

Warren downtown.

Warren, Rhode Island, is a town where the somewhat dumpy downtown seems frozen in the 1950s. In other words, my kind of place.

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Nubble Lighthouse, York, Maine.

To The Lighthouse: Nubble Light House, Cape Neddick Light Station, York, Maine (and a few other lighthouses)

Nubble Lighthouse, York, Maine.

Nubble Light House, York, Maine.

Recently I visited Sohier Park in Cape Neddick, York, Maine (near Ogunquit). About 100 yards offshore on a small rocky island perches one of the prettiest lighthouses I have seen, called Nubble Light House. The lighthouse was built in 1879, and the original lighthouse and perhaps outbuildings are still standing (though no doubt much repaired and updated). The 41-foot-high lighthouse — built of cast iron lined with brick and equipped with a Fresnel lens — remains in use today.

No. 85000844 on the National Register of Historic Places, the lighthouse is a New England icon: its image was included among the Voyager spacecraft materials so that any extraterrestials the ship encounters can gape at it, just as we do. The day before we visited we were hit by an April Fool’s Day storm that dumped ten inches of snow on us. But when we got to the lighthouse the sky was clear and blue.

Nubble Light House, York, Maine.

Nubble Light House, York, Maine.

The visit to Nubble made me recall a few other lighthouses I’ve visited, some of which I was able to dig up from my photo files. My favorites are two Northern California lighthouses, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse near Pescadero (the tallest on the U.S. Pacific coast), and the Point Cabrillo Light Station near Mendocino.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA.

The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse near Mendocino (and the small community of Caspar) is one of the most complete remaining lighthouse complexes.

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Caspar, CA.

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Caspar, CA.

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