Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ivan Sherman - Whimsical Art

Ivan Sherman

Art Created from
Recycled Corrugated

Still Life as Architecture
Acrylics, hand-cut corrugated cardboard
3' 6" X 5' 8" X 4"

Quite unexpectedly I found the whimsical art of Ivan Sherman, while searching for new artists. Ivan Sherman's fresh view of architecture as "art form", in terms of corrugated craft; is nothing less than a stupendous treat. It's worth your time to explore Ivan's treasure trove of Love Notes, stationery, announcements, and art prints. He is sure to please inquisitive, art lovers both near and far.

~ Art Diva of


Corrugated Home Decor was the embryo from which Ivan’s large corrugated constructions evolved. The pieces on this site are original limited editions, laboriously constructed by hand. They are truly unique and very beautiful. The wall sconces were once electrified, but will not be sold that way. The hanging shades should be professionally wired. Pieces should be examined in person and prices worked out off line.Click on thumbnails for larger image.


Ivan started recycling used corrugated boxes into whimsical works of art several years ago, inventing a technique of layering concentric triangles and squares of cut corrugated, much like tramp art. The order and balance imposed by the medium gives his work a sense of peace and tranquility, while unexpected flourishes and delightful use of color makes his work fun to look at. He set his goal at making each piece uniquely different, repeating tricks and techniques only when necessary and always coming up with a new twist on his medium. In this way his body of work encompasses his entire artistic background, from that of a representational painter, and including his early years as an art director on fashion accounts, through his whimsical children\'s book illustration, to his history as an award winning designer, right on through to the joy he takes designing and working with typography.

All images copyright Ivan Sherman 2005 An icompendium Site

Georges de La Tour, "The Fortune Teller"

The Fortune Teller probably 1630s
Georges de La Tour, French,
b. 1593–d. 1652, Oil on canvas;
40 1/8 x 48 5/8 in., Rogers Fund, 1960

I vividly recall at a very young age, viewing "The Fortune Teller" for the first time; at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The unexpected surprise of the painting, won me over forever. The presentation, the aesthetic detail, the execution and pure audacity of subject, captivates. It is the embodiment of a Primal Scream, waiting for someone to yell.... STOP! The influences of both Michelangelo and Caravaggio, probably via his Dutch followers, and the genre scenes of cheats and beggars clearly derive from the Dutch Caravaggisti.

~ Art Diva of

About "The Fortune Teller"

While an old gypsy crone tells his fortune, a naive youth is robbed by her accomplices, a subject popular among Caravaggesque painters throughout Europe in the seventeenth century. La Tour's painting can be interpreted as a genre or theatrical scene, or as an allusion to the parable of the prodigal son. It has been variously dated from about 1620 to as late as 1639. The inscription includes the name of the town where La Tour lived, Lunéville in Lorraine.

Highly successful in his lifetime as a painter in Lorraine whose work was also known and admired at the court of Louis XIII, Georges de La Tour was virtually forgotten after his death. His work first returned to public attention in 1934 in an exhibition in Paris of the "Painters of Reality in France," when a group of paintings reasonably attributed to him seemed the strongest and most personal statement of interests similar to Caravaggio and his followers, yet so distinct as to be compared to such different artists as Nicolas Poussin and Jan Vermeer. Since then further discoveries have been made, more paintings have been added to the number believed to be surely by his hand, and his work continues to exert a wide appeal, but fundamental questions about his life as an artist remain unanswered and perhaps always will.

La Tour was born in Vic-sur-Seille, the small capital of the bishopric of Metz. He was married in 1618 in Lunéville, the summer capital of the duchy of Lorraine, and by 1620 he seems to have had an active studio there. Lunéville remained the center of his life; baptismal records establish the birth of nine children between 1618 and 1636, and other documents record the interest of successive patrons in his work. Two paintings were commissioned early in his career (1623/1624) by the reigning Duke of Lorraine; in 1633 he is mentioned as having the title of Painter to the King (Louis XIII); in the early 1640s the French governor of Lorraine ordered that several of La Tour's paintings be presented to him by the town of Nancy; and after 1644 La Tour is described as the official painter to the town of Lunéville. In 1648 La Tour was listed among the founding members of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. Documents of payment bear witness to his continued activity in Lorraine until his death early in 1652.
Unanswered Questions

While these archival notices suggest the nature and extent of La Tour's work, there are significant gaps in the records, and it is not easy to correlate the chronology of his paintings with the factual evidence of his life. The signatures of some of the signed paintings are doubtful; different versions exist of paintings described only by title in documents; and some paintings may be copies of now-lost works. There are, in brief, many problems of connoisseurship which will continue to be debated.

The main questions about La Tour's life focus on the time before his marriage in 1618 and the years between 1639 and 1643, when there are no records of his presence in Lunéville. Did he travel to Italy as a young artist or journey to the Netherlands and encounter Italianate ideas in Utrecht? Was he in Paris in the late 1630s and early 1640s, and did he perhaps make a second journey from there to the Netherlands? In Lunéville was he close to the leaders of the current religious revival?

His Works

Whatever the answers to these questions, the primary documents will remain his own paintings. The artist's originality is apparent in his earliest signed painting, The Cheat (1625). The subject of a group of card players, long popular in the Netherlands as well as with Caravaggio and his followers in Italy, is presented with a startling dignity and clarity, showing La Tour's ability to select, simplify, and generalize. The four figures are painted thinly but with absolute precision; handsome costumes and the accessories of the game accent the broad, simple forms presented in a strong, natural light.

With very few exceptions, all of La Tour's paintings after this early date are night scenes, largely dependent on the highly expressive use of a source of light within the painting. Sometimes the source - a candle, torch, or lantern - is partially or completely concealed by a hand, a figure, or an object; sometimes the light flares out brilliantly against the surrounding darkness. In every case light is central to the formal construction of the paintings.

Scholars differ radically in the dates they assign to individual works by La Tour, but they generally agree that he developed gradually and consistently from the naturalism of The Cheat through the greater breadth and concentration of paintings focusing on one or two figures seen at night, as in Job and His Wife and St. Joseph, to the absolute distillation of forms in the late paintings grouped about the Denial of St. Peter (1651) and St. Sebastian Mourned by St. Irene.
None of La Tour's paintings involves more than a few figures; they are shown in simple, stable groupings arranged close to the picture plane in a space defined by light. The range of colors is limited to a few tones: warm tans, copper, and brick-red hues contrast with small passages of white or light yellow against dark grounds. Working with a few formal elements, La Tour achieved results that are suggestive through their very economy. His figures are quiet but not rigid; an atmosphere of silence and permanence emanates from his work. All his paintings, whatever the subject, seem profoundly religious ones, interpreted by a probing, serious, and sensitive mind.

Further Reading
S. M. M. Furness, Georges de La Tour of Lorraine, 1593-1652 (1949), is an enthusiastic if somewhat personal study of the artist that includes the most important documentation. La Tour's place in French art of the 17th century can best be studied in Anthony Blunt, Art and Architecture in France, 1500-1700 (1954; 2d ed. 1970).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn

Simon Schama's analysis of Rembrandt's
"The Feast of Belshazzar" Text from Simon Schama,
"Rembrandt's Eyes": Rembrandt van Rijn,
The Feast of Belshazzar c. 1635, Oil on canvas
Jan Harmensz. Krul, the poet and dramatist who sat for his portrait by Rembrandt, published works attacking the lust for the high life and warning of the consequences. So perhaps it was for a like-minded client, who wanted to be reminded in the most spectacular manner of the contingency of worldly power and riches, that Rembrandt painted his sensational Belshazzar's Feast in 1635. The story, from Daniel, chapter 5, had traditionally been invoked as a cautionary tale against the habit of excessively sumptuous feasts... In Rembrandt's painting, there is even more gold than in the Danae, which was painted at about the same time. But this gold comes to its history not as a blessing but as a curse; not as radiance but as a kind of leprous contamination, covering the King's ornate costume, shining ominously from the vessels seized by the Babylonian prince from the Temple in Jerusalem and desecrated as his banqueting plate.

The Bible describes Belshazzar drinking before "a thousand of his lords." To suggest the immensity of a vast hall, Rembrandt might well have reverted to his older style, with crowds of small figures packed into a cavernous space. But by isolating a few exemplary figures, including the King himself, and pushing them suffocatingly close to the edge of the picture space, Rembrandt actually manages to increase the sense of ominous claustrophobia. This is a party with no emergency exit.

It's also a very Utrecht-looking Babylon. Rembrandt has gone to the "Caravaggisti" - van 'Baburen, ter Brugghen, and Honthorst - for his pagan revellers: the King's "princes, wives, and his concubines." The plumed and pearled courtesan seen at the extreme left sits silhouetted against the garish brightness, her stillness (as in the case of the hunched figure seen from the rear in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee) pointing up the agitated stupefaction of the rest of the company. The shadowy woman at left in Rembrandt's preparatory "dead-color" monochrome fingers her recorder and eyes the rest of us and is likewise extracted from the basic repertoire of the half-sexy, half-sermonizing Utrecht artists. But the velvety vermilion gown and naked shoulders of the woman at right leaning away from the vision and letting the wine spill from the mouth of the golden flagon comes directly from the lushest passages of high Italian Renaissance painting, specifically from a Rape of Europa by Veronese in the Ducal Palace in Venice, a copy of which Rembrandt saw in the Amsterdam collection of his patron Joan Huydecoper.

Everything else, though, is the product of Rembrandt's own pictorial operatics, especially the hand-play, which, even more than in the Abraham, is crucial to the story. Belshazzar's gesture of horror, as if pushing away the phantom writer, is the mirror image of both Danae's raised arm of greeting, especially at its originally lower angle, and of Abraham's arm, poised for the kill. The most powerful action (other than the "moving fingers" themselves) occurs along the parallelogram formed by Belshazzar's right hand resting on the golden dish, the elaborately painted finery of his turban, his outstretched left hand, and the scarlet sleeve and hand of the serving girl. The painting (like many of these histories) has been cut down in size, and the surviving version in the London National Gallery needs to be imagined rotated slightly clockwise to register the full effect of collapse, figures and wine falling from their proper place.

The painting is also one of Rembrandt's most flamboyant exercises in representing the affecten, or passions, written in the drop-jawed astonishment of the banqueters and especially in the face of Belshazzar himself, shot through with spectral illumination, his eye (like the disciples at Emmaus) almost popping from its socket. Faithful to the biblical message, Rembrandt has gone all out to suggest the perishability of things: precious metals, the pleasures of appetite, the longevity of empires. To accomplish this, he needs, paradoxically, to turn still-life painter, beginning with an unusually dark brown underpainting against which the surface textures of both solid and liquid objects - the cascade of wine, the bursting figs and grapes (emblems of debauch), the richly brocaded cloth - could be rendered with sparkling sensuousness. Not for the last time, Rembrandt turns artisan, like his friend the silversmith Lutma, whose elaborately punched and scalloped plate he used in many of his histories, manipulating the paint surface like a craftsman, working the dense ochers, lead-tin yellow, and lead white on the King's robe and crown into a brilliantly reflective fabric. The turban glitters with iridescent strands of pearly color. Dazzling gemstones - onyx, rubles, and crystals, and especially the large gem at the head of the turban tassel - are built from thickly constructed dabs of pasty paint. But amidst this rush of dense color Rembrandt is also subtle enough to include delicate details like the crescent-moon earring hanging from the royal lobe and highlighted along the edge facing the apparition. Even the fur trim of the King's robe stands on end in the oracular light, as though bristling with providentially generated static.

This electrical effect of solid matter disturbed, of the liquidation of power into spilled wine, the meltdown of literally brazen effrontery, is all the more earthshaking because the dread letters are not written on the plaster of the wall, as specified in the Scripture. Just as he had altered the commonplace rain of cash in the Danae into a shaft of golden light, so Rembrandt has made the prophetic hand of doom, painted with significantly greater smoothness than the hands of the King, emerge from a cloud and inscribe the letters within a nimbus of fiery light. The Sephardic Jewish scholar and publisher Menasseh ben Israel, who also lived on the St. Anthoniesbreestraat, almost certainly supplied the painter with the additionally esoteric effect of having the Hebrew/Aramaic letters read in vertical columns rather than horizontally from right to left. The hand is depicted just before it completes the final letter, thus scaling the fate of the King, who would perish the same night Daniel interpreted for him the meaning of the vision. The hand vanishes into air, and with it the entirety of Belshazzar's worldly dominion.
Simon Schama Biography
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Simon Schama

Simon Michael Schama, CBE (born 13 February 1945) is a British professor of history and art history at Columbia University. His many works on history and art include Landscape and Memory, Dead Certainties, Rembrandt's Eyes, and his history of the French Revolution, Citizens. He is best known for writing and hosting the 15-part BBC documentary series A History of Britain. He was an art and cultural critic for The New Yorker.
The son of second-generation immigrant Jewish parents with roots in Lithuania and Turkey, Schama was born in London in February 1945. In the late 1940s, the family moved to Southen-on-Sea in Essex before moving back to London. Schama writes of this period in the Introduction to Landscape & Memory (pp.3-4):

I had no hill [the previous paragraph had talked of his enthusiasm for Puck of Pook's Hill], but I did have the Thames. It was not the upstream river that the poets in my Palgrave claimed burbled betwixt mossy banks. ... It was the low, gull-swept estuary, the marriage bed of salt and fresh water, stretching as far as I could see from my northern Essex bank, toward a thin black horizon on the other side. That would be Kent, the sinister enemy who always seemed to beat us in the County Cricket Championship. ...

Schama won a scholarship to Haberdasher' Aske's and went on to Christ's College, Cambridge, reading history under J. H. Plumb and graduating with a Starred First in 1966.
He worked for short periods as a lecturer in history at Cambridge, where he became a Fellow and Director of Studies in History, and at Oxford where he was made a Fellow of Brasenose College in 1976, specialising in the French Revolution. At this time, Schama wrote his first book, Patriots and Liberators, which won the Wolfson History Prize. The book was originally intended as a study of the French Revolution, but as published in 1977, it focused on the effect of the Patriot revolution in The Netherlands, and its aftermath.
His second book, Two Rothschilds and the Land of Israel (1978), is a study of the Zionist aims of Edmond James de Rothschild and James Armand de Rothschild.

In 1980 Schama accepted a chair at Harvard. His next book, The Embarrassment of Riches (1987), again focused on Dutch history. In it, Schama interpreted the ambivalences that informed the Dutch Golden Age of the seventeenth century, held in balance between the conflicting imperatives, to live richly and with power, or to live a godly life. The iconographic evidence that Schama draws upon, in 317 illustrations, of emblems and propaganda that defined Dutch character, prefigured his expansion in the 1990s as a commentator on art and visual culture.

Citizens (1989), written at speed to a publisher's commission, finally saw the publication of his long-awaited study of the French revolution, and won the 1990 NCR Book Award. Citizens was very well-received and sold admirably. Its view that the violence of the Terror was inherent from the start of the Revolution, however, has received serious criticism.
In 1991, he published Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations), a relatively slender work which was nevertheless of great importance. It looked at two widely reported deaths a hundred years apart, that of General James Wolfe -- and the famous painting by Benjamin West -- and that of (by murder) George Parkman, brother of the better known Francis Parkman. Schama mooted some possible (invented) connections between the two cases, exploring the historian's inability "ever to reconstruct a dead world in its completeness however thorough or revealing the documentation," and speculatively bridging "the teasing gap separating a lived event and its subsequent narration." Not all readers absorbed the nuance of the title: it received a greatly mixed critical and academic reception. (Australia's Keith Windschuttle, in his The Killing of History, took particular exception to the book's overt fictionalizing). It, apparently, sold poorly, but it is highly valued by some.

Schama's Landscape and Memory (1995) focused on the relationship between physical environment and folk memory, separating the components of landscape as wood, water and rock, enmeshed in the cultural consciousness of collective "memory" that are embodied in myths, which Schama finds to be expressed outwardly in ceremony and text. While in many ways even more personal and idiosyncratic than Dead Certainties, roaming through widening circles of digressions, this book was also more traditionally structured and better-defined in its approach. While many reviews remained decidedly mixed, the book was a definite commercial success and won numerous prizes.

Schama at Strand Bookstore, New York City
Appropriately, many of the plaudits came from the art world rather than from traditional academia. This was borne out when Schama became art critic for The New Yorker in 1995. He held the position for three years, dovetailing his regular column with professorial duties at Columbia University; a selection of his best essays on art for the magazine, chosen by Schama himself, was published in 2005 under the title Hang Ups. During this time, Schama also produced a lavishly illustrated Rembrandt's Eyes, another critical and commercial success. Despite the focus of the book's title, it contrasts the biographies of Rembrandt van Rijn and Peter Paul Rubens.
"It is both a physical and intellectual impossibility,
not to have paired two prolific giants of the art and
literary world together, on this blog. With much honor
and reverence and dedication: Rembrandt van Rijn and
Simon Schama two greats of the fine arts."
~ Art Diva of

The Care and Conservation of Oil Paintings

Claude Monet
b. 1840 d. 1926 France
The Sunflowers

Throughout the years I have been asked many questions on the care and handling of oil paintings. I have included two comprehensive sources for your reference on the subject. The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (ACI) article "Caring for Your Paintings" and The Henry Ford, Chief Conservatory Paintings, Mary Fahey. Other valuable resources, and references on the subject of oil paintings, are also listed. If you have questions in regard to the care and handling of oil paintings, I am at your service to answer your questions.

~ Art Diva of


Paintings may be objects of great beauty or of historical importance, providing an important cultural link with the past. They may have great monetary value or have sentimental value to their owners. Whatever the case, paintings are fragile creations that require special care to assure their continued preservation.Paintings consist of various layers. The paint is applied to a support, typically canvas or wood, which is first primed with a glue-sizing and/or ground layer. Traditional paintings are finished with a coat of varnish. Contemporary paintings, naive, or folk art may not have a ground layer or varnish coating. Paintings that do not have all of the traditional layers may be more fragile and susceptible to change or damage. The paint layers can be made of pigments in oil, acrylic (or other synthetics), encaustic (wax), tempera (egg), distemper (glue), casein (milk), gouache (plant gum), or a mixture of media. The paint can be applied on a wide variety of supports. Although the most common are canvas and wood, other supports include paper, cardboard, pressed board, artist's board, copper, ivory, glass, plaster, and stone. Paintings on canvas are usually stretched over an auxiliary wood support. An adjustable support is called a stretcher; a support with fixed corners is called a strainer.

Paintings change over time. Some inevitable results of aging, such as increased transparency of oil paint or the appearance of certain types of cracks, do not threaten the stability of a painting and may not always be considered damage. One of the most common signs of age is a darkened or yellowed surface caused by accumulated grime or discolored varnish. When a varnish becomes so discolored that it obscures the artist's intended colors and the balance of lights and darks, it usually can be removed by a conservator, but some evidence of aging is to be expected and should be accepted. However, when structural damages occur in a painting such as tears, flaking paint, cracks with lifting edges, or mold, consult a conservator to decide on a future course of treatment for your painting.


It is important to maintain a proper environment for your paintings. The structural components of a painting expand and contract in different ways as the surrounding temperature and humidity fluctuate. For example, the flexible canvas may become slack or taut in a changing environment, while the more brittle paint may crack, curl, or loosen its attachment to the underlying layers. If a painting could be maintained in an optimum environment, in one location at a constant temperature and humidity level, many of the problems requiring the services of a paintings conservator could be prevented. Paintings generally do well in environmental conditions that are comfortable for people, with relative humidity levels between 40 and 60 percent. Environmental guidelines have been developed for different types of materials. Paintings on canvas may react more quickly to rising and falling humidity levels than paintings on wood panels, but the dimensional changes that can occur in a wood panel can cause more structural damage. Owners of panel paintings should be particularly conscientious about avoiding unusually low or high relative humidity and temperatures to prevent warping, splitting, or breaking of the wood. Museums strive to maintain constant temperature and humidity levels for works of art, but even with expensive environmental control systems this task can be difficult. In most cases, gradual seasonal changes and small fluctuations are less harmful than large environmental fluctuations. Avoiding large fluctuations is very important. For example, a painting stored in what would generally be considered poor conditions (such as a cold, damp castle in England) may remain structurally secure for centuries, but begin to deteriorate rapidly if moved into "stable" museum conditions simply because of the extreme change in its environment.

One of the simplest and most important preservation steps you can take is have protective backing board attached to paintings. A Fome-Cor (or archival cardboard backing) screwed to the reverse of a painting will slow environmental exchange through a canvas, keep out dust and foreign objects, and protect against damage during handling. Be sure that the backing board covers the entire back of the picture; do not leave air vent holes, which can cause localized environmental conditions and lead to cracks in paint. The backing board should be attached to the reverse of the stretcher or strainer, not to the frame. Have a conservator or reputable framer attach it for you.


The display of paintings requires careful consideration. Direct sunlight can cause fading of certain pigments, increased yellowing of varnish, and excessive heat on the painting surface. It is best to exhibit paintings on dividing walls within a building rather than on perimeter walls where temperature fluctuations will be greater and condensation can occur. If paintings are placed on uninsulated exterior walls, it may help to place small rubber spacers on the back of the frame to increase air circulation.

Although a fireplace is often a focal spot for a room, a painting displayed above a mantel will be exposed to soot, heat, and environmental extremes. Hanging paintings above heating and air conditioning vents or in bathrooms with tubs or showers is also inadvisable because the rapid environmental fluctuations will be harmful. Select a safe place away from high traffic and seating areas.

When lighting paintings, use indirect lighting. Lights that attach to the top of the frame and hang over the picture can be dangerous. These lights cast a harsh glare, illuminate and heat the painting unevenly, and can fall into the artwork causing burns or tears. Indirect sunlight, recessed lighting, or ceiling-mounted spotlights are best for home installations. Halogen lamps are increasingly popular, but halogen bulbs emit high levels of ultraviolet light (the part of the spectrum that is damaging to artworks) and should be fitted with an ultraviolet filter when used near light-sensitive materials. These bulbs also have been known to explode and may pose a fire hazard. Tungsten lamps may be preferable for home lighting.


Pictures are usually safest when hanging on a wall, provided that they are well framed, with the picture and hanging hardware adequately secured. If you must store a painting, avoid damp basements or garages, where pictures can mold, and attics, which are very hot in the summer. A good storage method is to place the paintings in a closet with a stiff board protecting the image side of each artwork and a backing board attached to the reverse. Here again, a backing board attached to the reverse can protect your painting.
Do not risk damaging your paintings by moving them any more than is absolutely necessary. If you must remove a painting from the wall or move it to another room, clear the pathway of furniture and obstructions and prepare a location to receive it. The frame must be stable and secure. If it is old or there is glazing (glass), ensure that it can withstand being moved. Determine if you can lift the painting safely by yourself. If the frame is massive or the picture is wider than your shoulders, ask someone to help you. If the painting is of a manageable size, lift the frame with both hands by placing one hand in the center of each side. Always carry it with the image side facing you. Remove jewelry, tie clips, belt buckles, or other clothing that might scrape the surface. Hang paintings from picture hooks (not nails) placed securely in the wall; a heavy picture requires two hooks. Before hanging, examine the back of the painting to ensure that the hanging hardware is strong and secure. If the painting is framed, the hardware should be attached to the back of the frame, not to the stretcher or strainer. If picture wire is used, attach a double strand of braided wire to the sides of the frame (not to the top edge) with "D" rings or mirror plate hangers (see diagram). These types of hangers are secured to the wooden frame with two to four screws. Hanging can be more complicated with contemporary paintings that do not have protective frames. Moving and hanging unframed or large paintings safely may require the services of professional art handlers, who may be reached by calling a local museum, historical society, or reputable art gallery.


If you intend to buy a new frame for a painting or have a painting treated by a conservator, take the opportunity to have it properly framed. Ideally, a painting should be held in the frame with mending plates that are attached to the frame with screws. Brass mending plates can be bent and adjusted so there is light pressure on the back of the stretcher or strainer. Sometimes nails are used to frame paintings, but nails can rust, fall out, or protrude through the canvas. Ask the framer or conservator to pad the rabbet, the part of the frame that touches the face of the painting, with felt or another suitable material to protect the image.


After carefully examining your paintings for loose or flaking paint, dust them every four to six months. Feather dusters can scratch paintings. Instead use soft, white-bristle Japanese brushes, sable (such as a typical makeup brush), or badger-hair brushes (called "blenders" and used for faux finishes). Never try to clean a painting yourself or use any liquid or commercial cleaners on a painted surface. Commercial preparations can cause irreparable damage to the fragile layers of a painting. Avoid using pesticides, foggers, air fresheners, or furniture sprays near artworks. Remove paintings from a room before painting, plastering, or steam cleaning carpets or wallpaper. Return the artworks only when the walls and floors are completely dry.


If a disaster such as a flood or fire occurs in your home, remove paintings from standing water or debris. If the paint is flaking, lay the painting flat with the image side up to limit paint loss. Consult a professional conservator as soon as possible for assistance in limiting damage to your artwork. Wiping smoke, mud, or other contaminants from a painting may result in additional damage. An information packet on disaster recovery is available from the American Institute for Conservation.
Other problems will require the help of a professional conservator. Insect infestation, flaking paint, paint loss, torn canvas, cracks with lifting edges or planar distortions (wrinkles or draws in the canvas), mold growth, grime, or very discolored varnish are problems that only a professional conservator is trained to address.


Schultz, Arthur W., ed. Caring for Your Collections. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1992.
Stout, George L. The Care of Pictures. New York: Dover Publications, 1975.
This brochure is provided courtesy of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), the national membership organization of conservation professionals dedicated to preserving the art and historic artifacts of our cultural heritage for future generations. Among other services of the AIC is the Guide to Conservation Services, which provides a free list of conservators in your geographic region. The AIC brochure Guidelines for Selecting a Conservator, will help you make an informed choice.

The recommendations in this brochure are intended as guidance only, and AIC does not assume responsibility or liability.

Mary Fahey, Head of Preservation/Chief Conservator, The Henry Ford

Oil paintings can be maintained for years of use and enjoyment provided that some basic care and attention is given to their preservation. The conservation staff at The Henry Ford have compiled the information in this fact sheet to help individuals care for their objects and collections. The first step in the care of collections is to understand and minimize or eliminate conditions that can cause damage. The second step is to follow basic guidelines for care, handling and cleaning.

Causes of Damage and Guidelines for Care
Light Levels
Temperature and Humidity Levels
Improper Cleaning
Careless Handling


The primary cause of damage to oil paintings is the storage or display of paintings in inappropriate environments. This includes display or storage in areas where there is excessive exposure to light, high and/or fluctuating temperature and humidity levels, dirt or insects. Damage can also be caused by careless handling and the improper cleaning of paintings.


Excessively high light levels can cause the fading and/or darkening of paintings. Some paintings darken so severely that the painting and its details are no longer visible. In order to avoid damage caused by light, paintings should be displayed in dim areas where no direct sunlight is allowed to fall on them. The suggested light level for paintings is 200 lux. Light levels can be measured using the light meter in a 35mm camera
(see CCI ICC NOTES 2/5 listed in Bibliography).
High light levels also can cause damage due to excessive heat build up. The use of lights that are positioned close to the paintings such as the commercially available lights that are mounted to the frame or directly above it should be avoided. Diffused spotlights should be mounted at least 10 feet from the painting to avoid potentially damaging heat buildup.


Extremes and fluctuations in temperature and humidity can cause damage to paintings due to the expansion and contraction of the wood and fabric components of the painting. Wood and fabric absorb moisture which causes them to swell on humid days and conversely shrink on dry days. Paint, however, is not as resilient and can crack and flake off as a result of expansion and contraction of the underlying wood and fabric structure. These dimensional changes can cause the canvas to become slack and sag during the winter months. Most fabric paintings are secured to a wooden frame that is commonly referred to as a stretcher or strainer. Stretchers are equipped with expandable corner joints that can be adjusted to insure that the painting remains taught. The joints can be expanded by driving small wooden wedges into the interior corners of the stretcher at the back of the painting. This procedure is commonly referred to as "keying out" a painting. Paintings should not be keyed out during the winter months when the humidity is low. The increased tension caused by keying out may cause the painting to tear as the wooden stretcher expands during the humid spring and summer months.The proper display and storage of paintings can be achieved by monitoring the environment in various rooms in order to identify the best area for display or storage of paintings. Acceptable temperature and humidity levels for paintings are as follows, keeping in mind that fluctuations should be kept to a minimum.
Temperature 65-70 degrees FRelative Humidity 40%-45%
Temperature 70-75 degrees FRelative Humidity 45-55%
Inexpensive temperature and humidity sensors can be purchased from conservation suppliers. While precise control of temperature and humidity is desirable, it is not always practical in homes. Therefore, damage should be minimized by avoiding extremes in temperature and humidity. This can be done by insuring that paintings are kept away from heat sources such as furnace vents, fire places, warm lights and direct sunlight.Excessive humidity, as can be found in most basements, should also be avoided since it can cause mold growth that can stain the surface of the painting.


Aside from the unsightly appearance of dirt on a painting, dirt also serves as a host for mold growth and the absorption of pollutants and moisture onto the surface of a painting. All of these can cause damage that obscures the image of the painting.Paintings should not be displayed in smoking areas or in close proximity to candles or fireplaces which can deposit nicotine and soot onto the surface of the painting.


In general, the cleaning of paintings should be left in the hands of a trained conservator. However, there are some simple procedures that can be followed to increase the longevity of a painting. Soft brushes can be used to remove surface dirt from paintings and frames. When dusting an oil painting care should be taken not to flex the canvas or to dislodge paint chips by bumping the painting. Paintings that have loose flaking paint should not be dusted as fragments of paint could be dislodged and swept away. The back of the painting should be kept clean by brushing or vacuuming. In order to clean the back, the painting should be removed from its picture frame and placed face down on a clean surface. Excessive dirt should be vacuumed using a small low suction nozzle with a brush attachment. Proper framing with a dust cover on the back of the painting will prevent dirt from accumulating behind the painting. Holiday decorating in a manner that will cause damage to paintings should also be avoided. Live greens and berries can stain and damage frames and paintings. They also introduce pests into the environment.If surface dirt cannot be removed by dusting, cotton swabs that have been dampened with distilled water can be lightly rolled on the surface to remove dirt. Again, if there is flaking paint no attempt at cleaning should be made.


Insects that can cause damage to oil paintings include carpet beetles and powder post beetles.Carpet beetles generally subsist on protein-based materials that may be included as a sizing material on canvas paintings. Insects are most often are found at the back of the painting between the canvas and stretcher. Holes in the canvas, or the presence of worm-like insects or furry carcasses are an indication of carpet beetle problems.
Powder post beetles characteristically bore small holes (approx. 2mm in diameter) into wooden materials. These holes are generally the first visible evidence of powder post beetle infestation. Frass, a substance that looks like saw dust, is also a good indication of an active infestation. Paintings should be routinely taken down and examined for pests. If evidence of infestation is found, the object should be placed in a plastic bag and isolated until it can be examined by a professional conservator.


The greatest amount of damage to artifacts is caused by careless handling. Prior to moving a painting, be sure to remove all jewelry, belt buckles, etc. so that the painting is not accidentally torn or scratched while being moved. When moving a painting, always be sure to grasp the painting from both vertical sides. Do not hold a painting at the top of the frame or by its hanging wire. Also be careful to insure that the picture wire does not puncture the back of the painting during the move. It is important to avoid bumping canvas paintings as even the slightest bump can cause future cracking of the paint surface.

Further information on the care of paintings can be found in conservation literature listed in the attached bibliography.

A Handbook on the Care of Paintings Caroline Keck. Watson-Guptill Publications 1965Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art and Antiquities Volume I. Herman Kuhn. Butterworths, London 1986Conservation and Exhibitions. Nathan Stolow. Butterworths, London 1987 ICC CII NotesThe Canadian Conservation InstituteNotes 10/8, 10/9, 10/12, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 10/4, 2/5 1030 Innes RoadOttawa , Canada613-998-3721(Good reference s for care and framing; accompanied by good illustrations) The Museum Guide to Pest Control. Zycherman, Schrock. Foundation of the American Institute of Conservation 1988Art Objects their Care and Preservation. Freida Kay Fall. Lawrence McGilvery Co. 1973Dirt and Pictures Separated. United Kingdom Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Papers given at the Tate Gallery. January 1990Conservation of Paintings and Graphic Arts. International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works Preprints of Lisbon Conference. 1972.

Framing Materials, Brushes, Humidity IndicatorsUniversity Products 517 Main Street PO Box 101 Holyoke , MA 800-762-1165

Light Impressions, Inc. PO Box 2376 Brea , CA 92822-2376 (800) 828-6216 (800) 828-5539

For a listing of conservators in your area, please contact:
The American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works1717 K Street NWSuite 301Washington, DC 20006(202) 452-9545

The recommendations on this blog are intended as guidance only and blogger: Art Diva of, and Paintings To Go, Inc. do not assume responsibility or liability.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Willem de Kooning - Abstract Expressionism

Willem de Kooning
American, born Netherlands
1904 - 1997
Painting , 1948.
Enamel/oil on canvas.
Purchase (c) 2008
The Willem de Kooning
Foundation /Artists Rights
Society (ARS), New York

Woman, I. 1950 -52.
Oil on canvas.
Purchase (c) 2008 The
Willem de Kooning
Foundation /Artists
RightsSociety (ARS),
New York

Merrit Parkway. 1959
Oil /canvas. (c) 2005,
The Willem de Kooning
Foundation /Artists Rights
Society (ARS), New York
Bequest of
W. Hawkins Ferry

Willem de Kooning is regarded as the leading
exponent of Abstract Expressionism, and significant
figure in twentieth-century painting. De Kooning's
creative journey, is shown in three courageous
examples of his work. De Kooning's black and white
painting above (painted in black enamel sign paint)
created in the same year of his first exhibition.
I understand De Kooning was lacking funds for canvas
and oil paints. He used house paint and brushes at the
start of his career. De Kooning transferred his early
figurative training to the canvas; as sections of
abstract human form are evident in this black and
white painting. De Kooning believed "even abstract
shapes must have a likeness." De Kooning's vigorous,
and brutal oil paint application, of Woman, I
(middle painting above) oil painting, leaves one to
speculate: is this an image of a powerful woman, and
fearless temptress, or the image of a woman assaulted,
by paint and brush. Personally I would not care to
live with this work of art. Merritt Parkway, 1959,
(third painting down) as shown above represents
De Koonings segue, to abstract landscapes,
prompted by, De Kooning's year round rural
residence on Long Island. De Koonings (1960-1980)
paintings now, have become a symphony of
expansive zones of color, choreographed with
impetuous. and knowing brushstrokes; a pas de deux.
His paintings now an expression, of joy
and fulfillment. ~ Art Diva of

"My interest in desperation lies only in that
sometimes I find myself having become desperate.
Very seldom do I start out that way. I can see of course
that, in the abstract, thinking and all activity is
rather desperate." ~ Willem de Kooning

"The trouble with being poor is that it takes up
all your time." ~ Willem de Kooning

"Whatever an artist's personal feelings are,
as soon as an artist fill a certain area on the canvas
or circumscribes it, he becomes historical. He
acts from or upon other artists." ~ Willem de Kooning

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Cafe Terrace on The Place du Forum"

Vincent van Gogh "Cafe Terrace at Night "
b. March 30, 1853 d. July 29, 1890
Dutch Expressionist painter.

"The only time I feel alive is when I am painting.
The emotions are so strong sometimes that I work
without knowing it. The strokes come to me like speech."

~ Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh's brilliant and dramatic
masterpieces are renowned throughout the world.
The first of the Dutch Expressionists, he used
brilliant color to reflect his visceral feelings at his
deepest level, and his high energy. His frenetic,
brushstrokes reflect the turbulence, of a tortured
soul and life. Van Gogh's expressive style later
influenced many Expressionist artists. Vincent's life
story is as renowned and famous as his art.
He produced landscapes,portraits, interiors, still
life's, and cityscape's. His till life works included everyday
objects; shoes, potatoes, beds, pool tables, books,
and more. Sadly during Van Gogh's lifetime he
never sold one of his paintings. He did in fact give
some of his paintings away.

~ Art Diva of

Vincent van Gogh Letter to Brother Theo van Gogh
The Hague, 5 - 6 January 1882

Dear brother,

Listen, Theo whats the matter with you?
Didn't you receive my last letter, in which I told
you what happened at home, and how in
consequence I left the house and went back to
The Haque and am now settled in my own studio:
address Schenkweg No. 138 (near Rynapoor station).
You know Mauve helped me to get settled,
but I still have a great many expenses, and for
the last few days I really have not had a penny in
my pocket. Of course I had counted positively
on your sending me at least 100 frs. for the month
of January. But up to now I have not received
anything, not even a letter from you. The worst
is that I cannot work with a model until I have
some money in my pocket again, so I can hardly
do anything, as the weather is too bad to sit outside,
though I tried it it several times. I am all right, but
the last few days I have been faint with suspense.
I have been looking for models, and found a few,
but I cannot take them. In desperation I went to
Goupil's for according to what you wrote me I
thought as a last resort I would ask. Tersteeg to lend
me something. But Tersteeg had just gone out of
town for a few days. I must put on a good face on
the matter when I'm with Mauve ; Mauve has really
done enough. Tersteeg has promised to come to see
me, but has hot been here yet. If for some reason
or other you cannot send me the 100 frs. at once send
me at least part of it by return mail. I found a stamp
in my pocket just now, otherwise I should not be
able to send you this letter. It is a time of struggle
for you and for me, but I think we are making progress.
So let us keep courage. Adieu, with a handshake.
Yours sincerely, Vincent

"This particular Vincent letter, to his brother Theo,
has brought tears to my eyes: tears of reverence, tears of
compassion. How infinitely sad, was Van Gogh's life.
His legacy of magnificient art bears witness to his life
of service, and his passion, for art."

~ Art Diva of

"He (Vincent) has painted portraits,
which have turned out well, but he always
does them for no payment. It is a pity
that he does not want to earn something,
for if he did want to he could make
something here, but you can't change
a person."

~ Theo van Gogh

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Frida Kahlo Art and Quotes

Frida Kahlo - Self Portrait 1940
b. July 6, 1907 - d. July 13, 1954
Mexican painter who achieved
International popularity.

"I live on the air, accepting
things as they come, without the
minor effort to change them,
and all day long I feel sleepy,
tired and desperate what
can I do?"

Self Portrait 1940 - is one of many
self portraits by Frida Kahlo. Each of her
iconic and powerful portraits speaks to me
of her emotional, and visceral turmoil,
and subsequent transformations, during her
short but intense life. This particular
portrait, was dedicated to Doctor Leo Elosser,
and the earrings she is wearing were a gift
to her from Pablo Picasso whom she met while
in Paris. The dedication inscribed in the
banderole at the base of the painting reads:
"I painted my portrait in the year of 1940 for
Doctor Leo Elosser, my doctor and my
best friend. With all my love Frida Kahlo.

Frida Kahlo, had the honor of being the first
woman surrealist artist, to sell a painting to the
prestigious Louvre Museum in Paris.

~ The Art Diva of

"I must have been six when I lived intensely
with an imaginary friendship with a girl more or
less my age. In the window of my room of
those days, on the side of Allende Street,
on one of the window panes I would opaque it
with my breath and draw a "door" with my finger...
Through that "door" my imagination would go
out, with great joy and urgence I would
cross all the plain one could see until I reached
a dairy store named the O in
PINZON I entered and suddenly I went down to
the insides of the Earth, where my imaginary
friend was always waiting for me. I do not
remember her image or her color. But I do know
that she was happy she laughed a lot. With no
sound. She was agile and danced as if she
was weightless. I followed her in all her
movements and while she danced I was telling
her my secret problems. Which ones? I do
not remember but she knew by my
own voice all my things. When I came back
to the window, I would come in the same drawn
"door" in the pane. When? For how long had
I been with her? I do not know. It could have
been a second or thousands of years....
I was happy. I would erase the "door" with
my hand and it would "disappear." I would run
with my secret and my joy to the last corner
in my home's patio and, always in the same
place under a cedar tree, "I would scream and
laugh amazed of being alone with my
great happiness." and the vivid memory of
the girl. It has been 34 years since I lived this
magic friend-ship and every time I remember it
is more alive and grows bigger and more
and more inside my world. "

I have neither mother or father
to pity my sorrow.
I am an orphan.

All alone I bear torment and disgrace
in the depths of my soul.

Such was the pain
of not finding a good woman
who would fill this great void.
Which they left behind,
with tender love.

"I painted my own reality"
~ Frida Kahlo