JOURNAL — Artwork RSS



Coming-Out

Today is National Coming-Out Day.  Every 11 October—since 1988—the day has been celebrated to encourage members of the LGBT community to come-out to friends, family and colleagues.  Since homophobia and bigotry fester in conditions of deception, lies and silence, coming-out is a powerful way to educate the broader community that gay people are contributing and valued members of the society at large.  How can bigots remain bigoted when they know and love openly gay friends, colleagues, children, siblings, parents or other family members? The bronze sculpture, shown above, was created by artist Luke Gwilliam in the 1950's.  It portrays a lithe man, removing his tight garments—perhaps symbolic of a gay person freeing him/herself from the binding restraints of a restrictive society....

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The City by the Bay

Let's end our fanciful summer holiday by pulling into the Bay of Naples (again).  Here we see an impressionistic rendering of "Naples at Twilight" by my partner Robert Perdziola.  This piece is actually the working design elevation for the (much larger) actual painted backdrop—which appeared in Act II of Hector Berlioz's Nineteenth Century opera "Béatrice et Bénédict" at Opera Boston in October of 2011.  The 1862 opera is based on Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing"—and, more specifically, the bickering lead characters, Beatrice and Benedick.    This production was mounted in the magnificent Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston—a Turn-of-the-Century jewel box of a music hall.  Sadly, it was the last production mounted by the company; Opera Boston closed early the following year.

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Moon-lit Crossing

This picture caught my eye right away.  Its moody, moon-lit waters—rippling gently but incessantly—bearing the belching steamer as it heads for port.  I can almost hear the rumbling chug-chug-chug of its motor as it struggles slowly to shore. I purchased the picture in London, at Portobello Road in Notting Hill.  It is clearly signed—J. Callow—and I have found such an artist in my research (John Callow, English, 1822-1878).  He principally painted nautical and maritime pictures.  Vexingly, I have not found another painting of his which compares in style to this one.  As for his signature, John Callow has signed his works in so many different ways that I am not surprised that this one is not a perfect match either. Such...

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Summer Wave

On our first trip together to Paris, my partner and I began to recognize a recurring art gallery poster, usually stapled to one of Paris's many Colonnes Morris—those handsome free-standing "huts" (about the size of a large phone booth) that provide an organized and contained space for advertisements.  It showed a young lad, resting astride a ten speed bicycle, waving to his friends in the distance who are playing along the waterfront.  Upon investigation, we determined that the poster was promoting the works of a Breton artist, Alain Gaudin, then on-view at the Galerie Amyot. We wended our way down the narrow Rue Saint-Louis en Île on the enchanting Île Saint-Louis, the smaller of Paris's two islands which float in the River Seine....

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Misty Mountain

On one of my first trips to Glasgow, I purchased this oil painting—a clouded hill punctuating an otherwise flattened Scottish landscape.  I liked its simplicity, its comforting color palette, and its beautifully dour mood. I also loved the simplicity of brushstroke—the hand of an artist who captured his subject with economy and spontaneity.  Clouds, mud, bramble, mountain; the artist executed his work quickly and deliberately. The painter is Robert Buchan Nisbet.  He was born in Edinburgh and lived on George Street (coincidentally, the street where this picture was framed).  His father was a housepainter.  He was a founding member of the Scottish Society of Artists and its second president.  His older brother, Pollock Sinclair Nisbet, was also a painter. I long for a...

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Secret Harbor

Britain is a treasure trove of coastal cities, harbors, and ports—each one a little gem of beauty, commerce and recreation.  Generally, ports represent the earliest features of a town or village's layout; they were "the doorway" through which people traveled and trade flowed.  Ports were the economic engines of early communities—and port cities were often a reflection of both great profits and dirty commerce. Of course, ports come in many shapes and sizes.  They can be charmingly quaint or brutally industrial.  But, regardless of their features, they are always a place where human activity meets nature's great expanse and power—places where the dramatic and the ordinary moments of human life are on display (and worth watching). This woodblock print was made in the...

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Cold Comfort

If I had to pick my three favorite colors, they would be blue, green and grey (and all variations of that shade, from "dove" to "slate").  This picture, by Belgian painter Louis Mehaignoul (born 1904), gives me dour comfort: soft light, comforting shades, and my three favorite colors.  I found this picture in London during one of my buying trips.  It now hangs in my dining room in Pittsburgh.

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Black Wood of Rannoch

The Black Wood of Rannoch is a surviving remnant of the massive Caledonian Forest, the ancient rainforest which once blanketed most of the Scottish Highlands.  This parcel lays along the southern shore of Loch Rannoch in the Highlands (which can be seen in the etching).  The forest was once lush with Scots Pines, the indigenous species that took-hold after the last Ice Age (around 7000 BC).  The Caledonian Forest appears in multiple works of literature, including as the site of the Twelve Battles of King Arthur.  Over the millennia, through woodcutting, grazing and climate change, the large forest has been reduced to spotty vestiges.  Foresters have been actively propagating and planting Scots Pines in an attempt to preserve the species against aggressive invasive species....

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Over the Garden Wall

The Salesian “Church and Convent of the Visitation” in Vienna was built between 1717 and 1719 and is adjacent to the lower garden wall of Schloss Belvedere (the castle which now houses the world's greatest collection of Austrian art). From the elevated steps of the museum, at the top of the garden, one can see the church's green dome.  Construction costs for the church were paid by Empress Wilhemine Amalia, the widow of the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph I.  She wanted a place to spend her final years and, in fact, is buried there.  It was also to be a school for aristocratic girls, run by the Salesian Order of Nuns. Slovakian artist Luigi Kasimir grew up in a family...

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Grey Gardens

Grosvenor Gardens is formed by two triangular parks—each pointing towards the other—intersected by two roads, each also called Grosvenor Gardens.   It is located in the Belgravia section of London, built in the early 1800's as upscale housing for the wealthy and upper middle classes.  Belgravia is still a posh neighborhood, dotted with smart shops and restaurants. This picture was painted by British artist Robert T. Blayney (1929-2016) around 1950.  Despite its modern spontaneity, the subject matter and dour colors give it a timeless propriety.  But there is also a little fun to be gleaned in the viewing; I see a touch of Charles Addams in the composition and almost-eerie brushwork.  We do not have that many Mid-Century paintings; this...

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Stormy Seas

Near the Easternmost point of England lies the little coastal town of Walberswick.  Today, about half the properties serve as weekend homes for the wealthy (including a fair number owned by British celebrities).  But, from the 13th Century until the early 20th Century, Walberswick was a major shipping and trading port.  And, in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, a number of English Impressionists frequented this seaside port, in search of handsome land- and seascapes. Henry Moore RA RWS ("Royal Academy" and "Royal Watercolor Society") was considered the foremost marine painter of his day.  He was born in York in 1831 and studied at the Royal Academy (in London), where he exhibited work in his first year (1853).  His...

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Another View of Napoli

Here's another Neapolitan "Grand Tour Souvenir," this one painted a bit earlier (circa 1750 - 1850).  But, instead of the classic Northward "collector view" of the expansive Bay of Naples (with Vesuvius smoldering in the background) this rendering looks Southward to the smaller Bay of Pozzuoli, adjacent to and to the west of the larger Neapolitan Bay.  In ancient times, Pozzuoli was a prosperous trading port—first under the Greeks, then the Romans. In Roman times, it was a popular (and very chic) resort area called Baiae, known for its hedonism.  Roman Emperors Pompey, Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar and Hadrian all had villas here (where Hadrian died in his vacation home).  The castle shown in the painting is the Castello Aragonese, built in...

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Etched in Stone

For several years, before I had cultivated a group of dear friends in Brighton, I would head to Scotland after every London buying trip.  Being from New York—where an "old" building might top 125 years—I was transfixed by Edinburgh's brutal, rusticated stonework on buildings a thousand years old.  Dark, heavy stone was everywhere—some of it natural, some of it transformed by human hands to build, pave or decorate.  I came to love buying Scottish antiques. I stayed in a modest hotel, very close to Waverley Station.  On my last night in Edinburgh, I would always make a reservation for dinner at The Witchery—a spooky (but wonderful) restaurant at the top of The Royal Mile, just before the castle gates.  (If you go,...

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Moravian Quilt

While meandering through the back streets of Prague, far away from the hustle and bustle of the Charles Bridge, I happened upon a dusty little antique shop where I found this picture.  The shopkeeper spoke no English; I spoke very little Czech.  Nevertheless (miracle of miracles!) we were able to agree upon the price of this little oil painting which now hangs in my Pittsburgh dining room. I believe it's a valley landscape from Moravia, part of the Southeastern Czech countryside.  I love the soft blues and greens.  I'm a sucker for gentle fields surrounded by fortified mountains.

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La Serenissima

There is no other place on Earth like Venice.  Remote, impractical, precarious—every human achievement in The Floating City is subject to the rising tides and capricious destruction of Mother Nature.  And, yet, people have lived in the Venetian Lagoon for thousands of years.  The traditional founding of Venice is marked by the consecration of its first church, San Giacomo, on 25 March 421 AD (The Feast of the Annunciation).  Today the city is a conglomeration of 118 islands—cobbled together, laced with canals, and connected by 400 bridges.  In the 13th Century, Venice was the most powerful city-state in the world—and dominated trade and warfare throughout the Mediterranean.

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Frank Brangwyn

One of my favorite artists, Frank Brangwyn, was born to Anglo-Welsh parents in Bruges, Belgium, where his father had been hired to design and build a local church.  While he had some formal art training, he was largely self-taught.  In his twenties, Brangwyn travelled through Spain, Morocco, Egypt and Turkey where he painted landscapes and the local street life—for "Orientalism" was very popular in Europe at the time.  One of Brangwyn's favorite subjects was construction (or archaeological) sites and he seemed to really like scaffolding.  This watercolor above shows a worksite he encountered while on his travels.  Having travelled in Morocco and Egypt, I can attest that Brangwyn's scene is very much still typical of both of these countries—constant building, repair and physical...

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Back to Milano!

I haven't spent a lot of time in Milano.  Alas, I wish I knew the city much better than I do.  But I do have two great memories of my one visit to the Fashion Capital of the World. My first memory is of going to Mass in the Duomo, Milano's Cathedral (which looms in the background of the etching, shown above).  It was 6:00 pm on a Sunday afternoon, the congregation was packed, and the Mass was being celebrated by Carlo Cardinal Martini, Archbishop of Milano.  My limited Italian language skills prevented me from understanding his homily (though I knew he spoke flawless English).  Nevertheless, I was very aware of the rapt attention the congregation paid to him.  As he processed in before...

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Dreaming of Shinnecock

Call me a curmudgeon.  I have usually taken a dim view of most New York City "street fairs."  It has always seemed to me that most of these events were not "indigenous" to the neighborhoods they inhabited.  Rather, the same pack of itinerant stallholders would roam from fair to fair—setting-up, breaking-down—selling the same tube socks, bonsai and fried food at every "local celebration."  I've proposed (to no authority in particular) that street fair stall holders be limited to participants who rent or own spaces on that street.  This way, every street fair will have a unique and specific character—one which reflects the unique and specific population of that neighborhood.  My opinion remains a minority of one.

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The Old Bridge

Amongst Florence's many (many, many) highlights, is this rather workmanlike bridge, called the Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge").  The oldest known reference to it dates to 996 AD, and scholars suspect it was first built in Roman times.  It spans the narrowest part of the River Arno and has been swept away at least a couple of times in its history.  Today's version was built in 1345—although modifications, additions and the Flood of 1966 have changed its appearance since then.  The deck of the bridge is lined with tightly-cobbled rows of shops. The bridge once housed farmers, butchers and tanners shops.  Today the bridge is lined with jewelers, art galleries and souvenir sellers—eager to capture tourist dollars in this unique and time-worn venue. This etching...

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The "English Riviera"

Cornwall is found on the southwest peninsular tip of the Isle of Great Britain.  Due to its remote location, Celtic history and coastal lifestyle, it has developed a rich and independent Cornish culture.  Add the area's rugged beauty and one understands why artists and craftsmen have been flocking to Cornwall for decades.  Artists of great renown live alongside their much-less-famous peers. This watercolor captures the beauty of Anstey's Cove, a snug little inlet on the Eastern coast of Cornwall.  It was part of the so-called "English Riviera" and very popular as a Victorian seaside getaway. The painting is clearly dated 1951 which was an interesting time in the Cornish Artists' community.  The cipher, however, remains a mystery to me.  It seems...

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A Grand Tour

In the Nineteenth Century, very wealthy Americans (and Brits and Northern Europeans) would embark upon a "Grand Tour" of Europe, visiting the key cities and countries of "Western Classical Importance."  Those were the places where significant history, classical art and Western culture were birthed.  Such a journey was considered an important part of any highly-cultured person's (especially a man's) education.  The itinerary usually included London, Paris, Vienna, Athens and (especially) numerous cities in Italy—Turin, Venice, Florence, Rome and Pompeii. Pompeii was "rediscovered" in 1599, though excavations did not begin in earnest until 1748.  An unearthed treasure trove of ancient Roman (and Greek) art and artifacts made Pompeii a "must-stop" destination for the Classical culture-buff. Naples is the large city right next to Pompeii,...

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A Stroll Through Old Town Square

Prague is a wonderful blend of the old and the Nouveau.  In this etched view of the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) Jan Hus presides from his 20th Century memorial while the Baroque Saint Nicholas Church (1732-1737) looms behind him. Behind the viewer, one would see the regal 14th Century Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn (burial place of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe).    Jan Hus was a Protestant reformer who was burned at the stake for his perceived heresy.  The resulting "Hussite Wars" lasted 15 years, burnishing Hus's heroic status amongst his supporters. The memorial was unveiled on 6 July 1915—the 500th anniversary of the Czech martyr's death. Though this print is signed, I have not yet deciphered...

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Bedruthan Steps

The Bedruthan Steps, found on the Western coast of Cornwall,  is the name of the steep stairwell which climbs between the clifftop and the rocky beach below.  It has also come to refer to the beautiful, rugged coastline along this stretch of Cornwall.  At low tide, a beautiful beach emerges—as do numerous caves to explore.  But beware the tide!  Like clockwork, the ocean reclaims her territory and one had better scramble up the steps to safety. This woodblock print was carved and printed by Cornish artist Walter Llewellyn Lister.  After art school, he served as a Second Lieutenant in World War I, after which he continued his love of painting and printmaking.

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Wren's Masterpiece

Since opening LEO Design in 1995, I have probably visited London more often than any other city, town or village on the map.  Over the years, I have developed quite a network of London antique collectors and professional traders whom I visit frequently.  And, from London, I can set-off further afield: West for Oxfordshire, North for Scotland, and South for Sussex and the coastal towns which form the southern periphery of Great Britain. One of the architectural wonders of London is Saint Paul's Cathedral, perched atop the tallest point in London (Ludgate Hill).  After the Great Fire of London destroyed the old church (also called Saint Paul's) in 1666, Christopher Wren was commissioned to build a new cathedral.  Work began...

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Not Lost, Simply Delayed

My father will be 85 this year—which gives me more reason than ever to want to visit him frequently.  He lives in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, where in-bound travelers are required to observe a 14 day quarantine upon arrival.  This makes a Hawaii vacation quite complicated, indeed.  Being denied a Hawaiian holiday is far less costly than the price some have paid due to the virus.  But I'd like to see my family, just the same. This watercolor, painted in the 1970's or 1980's, was created by my former 4H leader, Mrs. Jean Gregg.  She supervised our horsemanship program and I bought the picture from her once I had graduated from college and had begun to work.  It...

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A Most Enchanting Place - part II

Eleven years ago, we spent eight days in Assisi.  Yesterday I described the Medieval walled city as one of the most enchanting places I've ever visited.  One cannot ignore a major source of this enchantment: the spiritual and physical presence of the great saint, Francis of Assisi.  Walking through the narrow alleys and climbing the steep stairways, one cannot help but imagine Francis himself once clambering along the same passageways, 800 years earlier.  One may still gaze-out over the distant plains—just as the saint did, too.  And then there's his tomb, grounded in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Francis (built 1228 to 1251).  For believers, approaching his holy relics is a moving, perhaps overwhelming, experience.  There he is! Because of the relics...

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A Most Enchanting Place - part I

Eleven years ago, kind friends offered us the use of their charming apartment in Assisi, Italy.  So that year, instead of hopscotching from one Italian city to another (as we usually would do), we took the plunge, spending eight days in one spot.  It was a very different kind of holiday for us—and one I remember very, very fondly. I'm fortunate to have travelled a lot.  Assisi may be the most enchanting place I've ever visited.  Assisi is built of beautiful pink and cream-colored stone—nestled snugly into the sides of a steep hilltop—which reflects the light in a soft, flattering glow.  The steep hillside meant that our "next door" neighbors were actually twenty feet above (and below) us, allowing a wonderful measure of...

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A Calm Before the Storm

This early Twentieth Century oil painting shows a country field in Breslau—at the time, a part of Germany.  After World War II, the larger region (called Silesia) was sub-divided, much of it being re-allocated to Poland.  The Poles re-named Breslau "Wroclaw" and drove-out its German inhabitants—a massive redistribution of the population.  None of the violence or heartbreak of the war or its aftermath is suggested by this otherwise placid country landscape. The painting, by Gerhard Loch, has been signed (on back) as a wedding present for his friend, Franz Nitsche, a fellow artist (whom Loch calls "my color-friend," a painter).  I bought it at a Sunday antique fair in Frankfurt; I was in Germany for my bi-annual trip to Messe Frankfurt (a...

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Sunset Over Hradčany

Prague is a favorite, with it's mix of heavy Medieval Gothic and whimsical Bohemian Art Nouveau.  The city was one of the crown jewels of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—once the seat of Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors—and it remains wonderfully atmospheric today (especially "off-season").  Because of its dramatic architectural legacy, Prague is often used as a movie setting for many other (more expensive and difficult) cities. This aquatint shows Hradčany, the ancient Ninth Century castle complex on Prague's highest hilltop.  In this print by Czech artist Tavik František Šimon, the castle is joined by Saint Vitus's Cathedral (whose construction began in 1344, over a much older church).  The Cathedral even includes a stained glass window by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha (1931,...

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Buongiorno, Roma!

Rome is one of my favorite places!  I could happily visit The Eternal City every year.  And no Roman sojourn is complete without a visit to Saint Peter's Basilica—the crown jewel in the tiara of the Catholic Church.  In this place, so many of my favorite things come together! First: my faith.  As a Catholic, I am overwhelmed by the importance of the Basilica to so many fellow Catholics from around the world.  Standing at "the crossroads" of a billion pilgrimages, one cannot help but feel that s/he is only a small part of something much, much bigger.  I appreciate being reminded of this important lesson; No, I am not the center of the world.  Saint Peter, charged as first...

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Summer Afternoons

Sadly, this year's travel plans have been supplanted with overdue home projects, including the hanging and cataloging of all my paintings and other artwork.  So this summer, in lieu of an overseas getaway, I gazed wistfully at framed pictures as I hung them—many of them reminding me of my favorite travel destinations.  Let me share a few of them with you.  Alas, this shall be the extent of my romantic journeys for Summer 2020.  While I have little to complain of, I hope you fare better than I have. Over the years, I've spent many summer weeks in Oxford, England—the romantically bustling college town that is, at once, old and new.  Multiple independent colleges form the conglomerate university, each with its own buildings,...

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, one and all! Thank you to the many customers who have patronized LEO Design this Holiday Season—including those who have just discovered us and those who have been supporting us for years. Shown here, a painting of "The Virgin and The Child" painted by the Medieval Venetian master, Paolo Veneziano (who lived approximately 1324-1358). During his life, he was the premier painter of the Venetian Republic and, with his sons, painted the "Weekday Altarpiece" in Venice's Basilica of San Marco. He is considered the founder of the Venetian School of Painting and, though he is influenced by the earlier Byzantine style, he points the way toward the Gothic style, yet to be fully developed. This painting hangs in...

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Another Christmas Eve

In 1494, nineteen year old Florentine sculptor Michelangelo Buonarotti contributed the male angel (and candlebearer) to the tomb of Saint Dominic in Bologna, Italy. The female partner had been carved by the late Niccolo dell'Arca, who had intended to complete the pair. Michelangelo was hired to finish the male half of the couple. By now, the tomb—inside the Basilica of San Domenico—was already in its 230th year of construction. Many artists contributed to the work which took 500 years to complete. The angels above are a late Twentieth Century recreation based on the Michelangelo (and Niccolo dell'Arca) originals. In 1995, during my first Holiday season at LEO Design, I purchased this pair of Italian painted terra-cotta angels. I received them the week before...

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Always Popular: "Hope"

Edward Burne-Jones intended to become a churchman, studying theology at Oxford College where he met William Morris. The two men—and a few others—created a "brotherhood" of ideas and aesthetics, eventually publishing a periodical called the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine. They were influenced by Aestheticism—the philosophy that art should be appreciated for its beauty alone, no moral lesson or message required—and developed an affinity for Ruskin, Tennyson and the Middle Ages. They were also influenced by the artistic philosophy of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (founded 1848), especially painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Soon, Burne-Jones abandoned his religious calling and joined William Morris in founding a decorative arts studio, manufacturer and design firm which later would be called Morris and Company. Burne-Jones pursued his painting...

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Edward Steichen

The Pond—Moonlight (detail) by Edward Steichen (1904) On this day in 1879, Éduard Jean Stiechen was born in Luxembourg.  Éduard would eventually become an American, changing his name to Edward and would make tremendous contributions to the field of art photography.  His photo, “The Pond—Moonlight” (detail shown above), shot on a friend’s property in Mamaroneck, NY, would […]

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More About Morris

Though William Morris designed and produced many different types of home furnishings, the public best remembers him for his wall paper.  Morris & Co. made nearly 100 patterns, half of them designed by William Morris himself.  Additionally, patterns were sometimes offered in several color ways.  Funnily enough, Morris didn’t really like wall paper!  He considered […]

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Happy Birthday, William Morris

William Morris, probably England’s most-influential Nineteenth Century designer, was born on this day in 1834.  With two other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood—artist Edward Burne-Jones and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti—William Morris started the design firm that would one day become “Morris & Co.”. Morris & Co. designed homes and churches, plus they designed and produced […]

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Feast of Saint Teresa

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1647-52) Saint Teresa of Avila was born in Gottarrendura, Spain in 1515.  After a rather normal girlhood, Teresa lost her mother, plunging the 14 year old girl into profound sadness.  She developed a strengthened devotion to Mary but also took solace in “frivolous” books about knights, […]

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A Day for Painters

“Narcissus” by Caravaggio, c. 1597-1599 (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome) 29 September seems to be a day for painters.  Venetian Baroque artist Jacopo Comin (aka: Tintoretto, 1518)), Milanese bad boy Michelangelo Merisi (aka: Caravaggio, 1571), and Parisian Rococo painter François Boucher (1703) were all born on this day. Sadly, artists have left us on this […]

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Long Live the Queen!

On this day in 1896, Queen Victoria became the longest-reigning monarch in British history—surpassing her grandfather, George III.  And she still had four and a half years to go! Victoria still maintains this distinction, though Elizabeth II is closing-in; within two years from now, Elizabeth II will inherit that crown. The portrait of a mature […]

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A Prince Visits America

On this day in 1860, England’s then Prince of Wales—who would one day become King Edward VII—arrived on a visit to the U.S., making him the first British heir to the throne to visit North America.  For four months he toured Canada and the States, inaugurating bridges, viewing monuments, and drawing enormous crowds wherever he […]

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Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Self-portrait of the artist at the age of 24 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) On this day in 1780, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was born to Jean-Marie-Joseph Ingres, himself a bit of an artistic dabbler and would-be Renaissance Man.  With his father’s encouragement, the son would develop his skill and eventually become one of France’s most […]

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Son of a Tailor

On this day in 1486, Florentine artist Andrea d’Agnolo di Francesco di Luca di Paolo del Migliore was born to a tailor and his wife. At eight years of age, the boy was apprenticed to a goldsmith, and, later, to a woodcarver and painter.   Before long, Andrea opened his own studio (with a partner) […]

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Russia’s Great Léon Bakst

Lev Samoilovitch Rosenberg—later known as Léon Bakst—was born on this day in Grodno, Russia (which is in modern day Belarus).  He grew-up in Saint Petersberg where his grandfather was a skilled tailor whose service to the Tsar was rewarded with a large house and generous wage.  Though his middle-class parents didn’t encourage it, Léon was […]

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J. C. Leyendecker

If one artist is responsible for “inventing” the image of the American male in the early Twentieth Century, surely it was Joseph Christian Leyendecker, born on this day in 1874. Leyendecker was born in Montabaur, Germany and his family immigrated to Chicago when the boy was eight.  In time, he got work in an engraving […]

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“Il Divino”

Only one person can be “The Best Ever” and, in the world of art, that person is Michelangelo Buonarroti. Born on this day in 1475, Michelangelo was in the right place at the right time. Or, perhaps thanks to Michelangelo, his time became the right place and the right time. A sculptor, painter, architect, engineer and poet, […]

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Sir Henry Raeburn

“The Skating Minister” by Henry Raeburn (1790’s) Nat’l Gallery of Scotland On this day in 1756, Henry Raeburn was born in a small Scottish village, now a part of greater Edinburgh.  Orphaned very young, Henry was supported by his older brother for a while until being placed in Heriot’s Hospital, an orphanage founded by goldsmith George […]

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art Opens

Madame X (detail) by John Singer Sargent (1884) In 1870, a group of American businessmen, artists, and society types joined forces to establish a grand, new American art museum—its goal to bring art and culture to the American people.  Perhaps they also wished to show Europe that “the new country” had the taste, money, and wherewithal […]

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Let the Games Begin!

Tonight begin the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. And what an interesting region to spotlight!  Happily, it seems that South Korea was able to defuse the "Peninsular Tension" by inviting a few North Korean athletes to participate alongside the Southerners. While generally not a sports fan, every two years I find myself strangely-fixated on the details (and competition) of some niche Olympic sporting event.  Perhaps I like the fact that lesser-broadcast sports (at least in America) are given a beautiful platform on which to perform.  I like the international aspect of the competition.  And I enjoy the camaraderie between competitors who love their chosen sports as much as they love winning. Competitors—and their families—have made great sacrifices to get...

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A King is Felled

While we’re talking about Tragic Monarchs, let’s turn to England’s Charles I.  On this day in 1649, King Charles I was beheaded after being convicted of High Treason. Born the second son of James I (who was already King of the Scots), Charles moved to England when his father acquired the English crown.  When he […]

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And In This Corner!

I've been told that this print depicts Turn-of-the-Century American boxer Jack Johnson—who toured the world as a prizefighter.  Of this, I'm not certain.  What I do know is that the print was made by Sir William Nicholson, RA in 1898.  Nicholson was an accomplished fine artist, a painter, who paid the rent with his recognizable prints of sporting events, fictional characters or people of arts, letters and politics.  He would create the original artwork by carving into a woodblock from which he would make his first prints.  Once a good woodblock print had been produced, Nicholson would use the newly-invented lithography to create quality reprints, usually in portfolios of a dozen (or so).  Two other things which Nicholson produced were...

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Norman Rockwell:  “Freedom from Want” (1941-1943)   Based on President FDR’s speech. While this image does not look like most American families—it doesn’t look like mine—I believe all Americans can aspire to (and hope for) a Freedom from Want. Wishing our LEO Design customers and staff a Happy and Relaxing Thanksgiving.  We look forward to […]

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Christmas Eve

The Holiday Season draws to an end—there are just eight days ’till the New Year.  Tonight we celebrate a LEO Design Holiday tradition as we have for nineteen Christmas Eves past: the procession and installation of our Italian terracotta angels into the shop window. I bought the angels in 1995, fully-intending to sell them.  I […]

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M. C. Escher

On this day in 1898, Maurits Cornelius Escher was born in Leeuwarden, capital of Friesland, Northern Netherlands.  Poor Maurits suffered poor health which affected his academics—he was always a poor student except when it came to art and drawing.  He was accepted into The Haarlem School of Architecture and Decorative Arts, where he studied architecture […]

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti

On this day in 1828, Anglo-Italian painter and poet Gabriel Dante Rossetti was born in London to a Sicilian father and half-Italian mother.  As a young man, enchanted with the literature, art and culture of Medieval Italy, he rearranged the order of his name to Dante Gabriel Rossetti—an homage to the towering 13th Century poet. […]

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Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux

Sculptor extraordinaire, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, was born on this day in 1827, in the little French village of Valenciennes, near the Belgian border.  His father was a stone mason and the boy inherited his father’s talent for working with stone. Carpeaux is among the greatest sculptors of the Nineteenth Century, much-commissioned for Emperor Napoleon III and […]

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Cricket Crosses the Pond

On this day in 1751, the first reported cricket match was played in America. Both the New York Gazette and the Weekly Post Boy report the match between the London and New York “sides.”  (New York won.) Three years later, Ben Franklin picked-up a copy of the rules book in London, helping to regularize the […]

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America’s Great Woodsman-Artist

On this day in 1785, Jean Rabin Audubon was born on the French colony of Saint-Domingue—now called Haiti.  His father was a French naval officer who owned a sugar plantation there;  his mother was the man’s mistress.  The senior Audubon was an “active man”; the young Audubon grew-up amongst a number of half siblings of […]

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Boston Patriots

The date 19 April 1775 marks the Battles of Lexington and Concord—the first two armed conflicts which began the American Revolutionary War.  And, since 1894, Massachusetts has commemorated the day as Patriots’ Day.  Costumed re-enactments are staged at Lexington Green and Concord’s Old North Bridge. And, naturally, a mounted horseman re-traces the route of Paul […]

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The Canterbury Tales

It was just before sunrise on this day in 1387.  A group of religious pilgrims gathered at the Tabard Inn in Southwark (part of modern-day Central London), about to begin their four day journey.  60 miles to the west stood their destination: The Canterbury Cathedral, specifically the shrine of Saint Thomas Beckett.  Beckett, who had […]

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The Master Playwright

Henrik Ibsen is considered by some the greatest playwright since Shakespeare.  He is called “The Father of (Theatrical) Modernism” by others.  His great plays include “Hedda Gabbler,” “Peer Gynt,” “A Doll’s House,” and “An Enemy of the People.”  He was born and died in his home country of Norway (1828-1906), and was captured in the […]

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Beware the Ides of March

In the ancient Roman calendar, the “Ides” were the mid-point in a month—either the 13th or 15th, depending on the length of that particular month.  Each month’s Ides were celebrated in honor of Rome’s top deity, Jupiter, and a “scapegoat” was paraded and sacrificed to that god. The Ides of March—15 March—was extra-special since March […]

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An Artist is Born

Daumier’s The Third Class Carriage (detail) 1862-64 (MMA) On this day in 1808, French artist Honoré Daumier was born in Marseille.  Daumier’s father, a working class tradesman with dreams of becoming a poet, moved his young son and family to Paris in pursuit of his goal.  Young Honoré soon became interested in art and eventually […]

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A Funeral in White

As England’s longest-reigning monarch (to date), Queen Victoria’s passing was a significant moment in that country’s history and, naturally, required a funeral befitting her legacy. As was her custom, the Queen had spent Christmas 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, just off the southern coast of England.  The residence, created in the […]

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Best Christmas Wishes

A Merry Christmas to you and a grateful Thank-you, as well. LEO Design will be closed today.  Please visit us tomorrow; we will be open from Noon until 6:00 pm everyday through (and including) New Year’s Day. And—if you cannot help yourself—our on-line shop is always open. Thanks again.

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All Saints’ Day

San Francisco de Asis by Francisco de Zurbarán, c. 1660 The Triduum of Hallowmas is a three day observance in the Catholic (and the greater Christian) church:  All Hallows’ Eve (31 October), All Hallows’ Day (1 November), and All Souls’ Day (2 November). All Hallows’ Day (also known as All Saints’ Day) is when the church […]

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Henry Hudson

On this day in 1609, Captain Henry Hudson began exploring the river that would one day bear his name.  At the time, the area was yet-to-be settled by Europeans.  The Native Americans, however, had experience interacting and trading with whites in the past.  It was Italian Giovanni da Verrazzano who had discovered the mouth of […]

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Art and The Ballets Russes – part two

Leon Bakst:  Costume rendering of Nijinsky in “Afternoon of a Faun” (1912) After relocating the company from Russia to Paris, The Ballets Russes continued to grow in fame and ambition.  Its captain, Sergei Diaghilev’s genius was in identifying and recruiting exquisite talent (dancers, composers, choreographers, and designers) and pulling from them new, wonderful, and (sometimes) shocking […]

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Art and The Ballets Russes – part one

Georges Barbier: Vaslav Nijinsky in “Afternoon of a Faun” (1913) Yesterday, in Washington D.C., I had the great fortune to see a wonderful exhibit at the National Gallery:  “Diaghilev & The Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced with Music.” Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev (1872-1929) sampled many fields—law, music, art, publishing, art curation—before he discovered his great […]

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The LEO in Art – part four

To wrap-up this little series on “Leos in Art,” let’s return to Venice—the city of St. Mark and his lion. Last month, my partner and I  ended our summer holiday with a few days in Venice. Having been there a couple of times previously, we steered-clear of the well-worn “highlights,” choked with summer tourists (including […]

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The LEO in Art – part two

In the “modern” world, the lion has maintained pride of place in art and architecture. St. Mark, the evangelist, is usually depicted as a winged lion.  He is the patron saint of Venice (at least since the Venetians smuggled his remains out of Alexandria, Egypt in 828 AD), therefore lions—winged or otherwise—are plentiful in that […]

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My Favorite American Artist

Scuola di San Rocco (c.1902-04) by John Singer Sargent   In my opinion (for what it matters), “Art” is the accomplished manipulation of a medium. Some artists manipulate paint, others marble; some artists will manipulate words, while others manipulate vocal notes.  Great artists—by definition—are great at doing it.  On Sunday I witnessed a Master’s Class […]

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