The Madonna with Saint Giovannino by Domenico Ghirlandaio 1449 – 1494, is on display in the Sala d’Ercole in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy.
There is nothing unusual about the painting until you look over the shoulder of the Madonna and in the right hand corner there is this object:
Now many people who have looked closely at this painting see nothing but a cloud. But there are others who claim that this is an object that is intended to represent some sort of flying object. At first glance it does appear to have some of the characteristics of a flying saucer.
The shepherd and the dog are looking up at the object, so it is definitely meant to be there. But why would the artist paint a UFO in a religious setting? Does that even make any sense? Continue reading →
An Artistic Treasure – Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery Mausoleum Doors And Gates
Frederick Kampfe mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
Ambrose Bierce in his Devil’s Dictionary defined a mausoleum as “the final and funniest folly of the rich.”
Of course some of the mausoleums at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn are elaborate and cost as much as a nice house back in the day. But regardless of Bierce’s cynicism, many of the wealthy spent large amounts of money hiring top architects to design and build their final resting places in hopes of producing eternal shrines to themselves. While many names emblazoned on the tombs are now forgotten, their inhabitants ended up with some beautiful and memorable architectural work that because of their location, a cemetery, is not seen by many.
Thorne – Smith mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
Here we are focusing on the doors and gates to these mausoleums which were done by artisans of the highest caliber. Some are ornate, some are ostentatious, and some are simple yet elegant.
While some of the decorations on the doors are purely artistic in form, others display symbols which have deeper meanings. Because these mausoleums were commissioned works, the symbolism displayed on the doors was usually well thought out by their owners.
In the 19th and early 20th century many people who visited cemeteries understood the subtle meanings of the icons. It is now mostly a lost art, with crosses, Stars of David, and other common symbols dominating newer funeral markers.
Let us pause and gaze at a few examples of mausoleum portals featuring old school craftsmanship at fabulous Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. (click any ph0to to enlarge)
Peter Moller mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
Valentine Mott mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
The large angel in relief is flanked on top by two smaller angels blowing trumpets representing the Call to the Resurrection.
1939 Architects Visualize How New York Would Look In 1950
Over the years there have been many people who have tried to predict what New York City would look like in the future.
The architects who came up with this vision of Manhattan were way off. Considering that this drawing was made in 1939 and was showing what the city would look like only eleven years later, it is wildly inaccurate. That may be attributed in part to World War II which disrupted almost all building plans. The artist is V. Hagopian.
Here is the partial text that accompanied the release of this drawing in 1939.
Here’s the New York City of 1950, as prepared by the architects for their great Exposition of Architecture and the Allied Arts which opens April 15th and published today for the first time. And its not a stretch of the imagination at that, for almost every detail of the picture, though not so extensive a scale, can be found in New York today, even including upper terraces on which people may walk.
Starting at the bottom: All freight, trucks and subways will proceed underground. Pneumatic tubes will carry first-class mail at high speed as now, but will be extended to airplane landing stations over the Hudson River piers, and mail after passing through the post office, will be shot at great speed through pneumatic mail tubes leading into office buildings. Street at ground levels will accommodate passenger and other lighter type automobiles.
Elevated sidewalks even with the second story level in the buildings and crossing above the streets at intersections will forever remove the streets from our midst.
Museum of The City Of New York Graffiti Exhibition Doesn’t Show What The Majority Of Graffiti Is – Unintelligible Scrawls By Vandals
I caught the newest exhibit at The Museum of the City of New York entitled “City as Canvas,” which glorifies the practitioners of graffiti and their “work” during the 1970’s and 1980’s in New York City.
For anyone who thinks that graffiti is something to be celebrated in a retrospective by an exhibition at an important cultural institution, here is some evidence to contradict that viewpoint.
Iouri Podladtchikov, Olympic half-pipe king visits the lower east side with typical graffiti defacing a grand old building. photo – Casey Kelbaugh for the New York Times
A typical display of current graffiti “art” as seen in this building covered by spray paint on the lower east side really is a better representation of the so called graffiti artist. It pains me to see old handcrafted stone buildings covered with paint. The beautiful Queensboro Bridge girders and stonework are always being cleaned and re-painted due to these miscreants who attack our public property with their spray cans, markers and etching knives.
Subway graffiti photo taken Feb 8, 1982
The onslaught of graffiti began in earnest in the subway system in the 1970’s where riding a train was a demoralizing prospect. Almost every single car was covered in dripping unintelligible paint and marker scrawls, which obliterated any blank spaces. Continue reading →
Annabelle Whitford Moore Buchan And The Original “Gibson Girl”
The epitome of feminine beauty at the turn of the century was captured in artist Charles Dana Gibson’s skillful drawings of women, that came to be known as “Gibson Girls.”
Annabelle Whitford was 15 years old when she achieved notoriety dancing at the Columbian World Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Annabelle appeared in movies performing her dances under the name Annabelle Moore from 1896 -1902. She went onto a successful stage career hitting the top as a star in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1908 playing one of the “Nell Brinkley Girls.” Brinkley (September 5, 1886 – October 21, 1944) was a female newspaper artist whose creations were very similar to the Gibson Girls. In 1910 Annabelle married Dr. Edward James Buchan and retired from performing.
In her obituary in the New York Times it was said Annabelle “was the symbol of beauty in her day. She was billed as ‘the original Gibson Girl’ because of her striking resemblance to the Charles Dana Gibson portrait.” The illustrations below are from Gibson’s 1902 book The Social Ladder.
Fascinating Museum Of Memories Collection Displayed At Grand Central Terminal’s Transit Museum Annex
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the current Grand Central Terminal. Jane Greengold is one of a dozen contemporary artists taking part in an exhibition, On Time /Grand Central at 100. Her work is an installation of objects that have been lost and then found over the past 100 years by one family of conductors who worked on various train lines at Grand Central.
Greengold describes how the project came together:
“When I started working on a piece for the Centennial of Grand Central Terminal, I walked around the Terminal for days, looking for inspiration. I was lucky to meet a conductor, Joe Wenham, willing to chat. He told me his father, grandmother, and great-grandfather had all been conductors, starting before 1913. I said his family itself could illustrate the history of the Terminal and he told me that his great-grandfather had begun a family tradition of retrieving items he had brought to the Lost and Found and that had not been reclaimed, even buying items valuable enough to be sold. He began on a whim, but then decided to create a personal museum of memories of his passengers. The family has kept this up for 100 years.
They did not usually keep the kinds of objects most often lost — umbrellas, gloves, hats, glasses – but kept things that happened to strike their fancy. Neither Joe nor his father has been as enthusiastic about collecting as the first two generations, but they didn’t stop. So instead of creating a work for the Centennial, I persuaded Joe to share some of the family collection, and together we chose the objects presented here.”
This is the sort of thing that will bring a smile to your face if you go see it in person. I love the fact that the Wenham family contemporarily tagged each item with where and when the object was found, along with their astute and sometimes witty observations. Below is a sample of objects from the collection.
The photograph caption recaps what is on the tag: the date and train the object was found on and a remark from the Wenham who found it. You can click on any picture to enlarge.
May 20, 1920 – Twentieth Century Limited “I saw the man pace up and down again and again, looking at the box worrying it (sic). I could not believe he lost it. Why didn’t he claim it? Was the marriage over?”
June 25, 1924 – Special “These were the happiest bettors I ever saw”
February 13, 1931 – 20th Century Limited “I never saw anyone wearing this. I don’t even know if it was a man or a woman.”
May 5, 1945 – Pacemaker “There are hundreds of these. But I never saw anyone smoke this much”
February 27, 1946 – Pacemaker “I’d be so sad if I lost my babies photos.”
October 3, 1946 – Pacemaker “Girls! were playing with cars! Maybe they’ll be race car drivers! It’s a German car!”
March 3, 1947 – Empire State “The woman was as round as the bottle”
September 17, 1958 – 20th Century Limited “Boring travel diary of a spoiled 13 year old. Went to Europe on Queen Mary, lost diary on a fancy train. Must be a brat.”
November 28, 1963 – Empire State “I talked to the boy who had this. He’d planned to go to the game but then went home for comfort after the assassination. Wasn’t sure he’d go to the game now. I guess he didn’t.”
On Time /Grand Central at 100 is on view at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex & Store at Grand Central until July 7, 2013.
Andy Johns who worked on some of the greatest rock albums of all-time as a producer and engineer died in Los Angeles on April 7, at the age of 62 due to complications of a stomach ulcer.
Johns was a name not known to casual rock fans because he worked behind the scenes, but his contributions to dozens of classic albums is immeasurable. From the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street to Led Zeppelin’s greatest period of production in the early 1970’s, Johns was setting up and overseeing the recording of albums that will be played for as long as people listen to rock n’ roll. Some of the many bands and artists Andy Johns worked with included Free, Eric Clapton, Blind Faith, Cinderella, Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Mott The Hoople.
After Andy Johns died I scanned The New York Times on a daily basis in disbelief that they did not cover his death. Nearly two weeks after his passing, an obituary finally appeared.
Here, Andy Johns talks about his experiences working with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and the recording of Led Zeppelin’s classic Led Zeppelin IV (a.k.a. 4 Symbols or Untitled) and the song Stairway To Heaven.
David Gilmour and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd between Storm Thorgerson photo possibly by Jill Furmanovsky
Storm Thorgerson was a name even less known by the general public than Andy Johns, but literally millions of people have seen his work. Thorgerson, as half of the design firm Hipgnosis with Aubrey Powell, created dozens of the most iconic record album covers, sleeve and insert artwork of all time. After the dissolution of Hipgnosis in 1983, Thorgerson ran his own firm and continued working until he died on April 13 at the age of 69 from cancer.
Thorgerson’s work was surreal and many times bizarre. But it caught your attention like any great artwork that was meant to be contemplated. Millions of people who bought albums would study the large canvas that an LP album offered for insights and clues about the music and the band they were listening to. With the supremacy of CD’s in the 1990’s, cover artwork was given a much smaller space and a less important role in point of purchase sales of music. Despite this, Thorgerson maintained a steady stream of clients who wanted original and outstanding works of art to go with their musical output.
Best known for his long association with Pink Floyd, Thorgerson also created album covers for a wide variety of bands including Led Zeppelin, Yes, Scorpions, UFO, Phish, AC/DC, 10cc, Black Sabbath, The Alan Parsons Project, Anthrax and many others.
In this clip below, Thorgerson talks about the beginnings of Hipgnosis.
The Divinyls lead singer Christina Amphlett was known in the United States as more of a one-hit wonder for the 1991 top ten song I Touch Myself than for anything else. But in her native Australia, Chrissy Amphlett was a rock legend. The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard even spoke of the impact of Amphlett’s death and what she meant to the Australian music scene.
Amphlett died in New York City at the age of 53 on April 20 after battling multiple sclerosis and breast cancer for many years.
The Divinyls were not just a pop band, they could rock as hard as anybody as evidenced here in a 1982 live performance of Boys in Town. With her schoolgirl outfit Amphlett displays some head-banging moves reminiscent of AC/DC’s Angus Young.
The Art of The Book #5 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s
As we complete our look at New York City books from 80+ years ago, some of these dust jackets incorporate photography into their covers which the other dust jackets we have featured do not. (click on any photo to enlarge)
Portrait Of New York by Felix Riesenberg & Alexander Alland, New York: Macmillan, 1939 dj illustrator, Alexander Alland
Felix Riesnberg (1879-1939) was a civil engineer and master mariner. He was a polar explorer and wrote numerous books with nautical themes. Portrait of New York ventures among the populace and is an accurate description of the city and its people.
Alexander Alland (1902-1989) was a master photographer and the book shows a small sample of his immense talents. Continue reading →
The Art of The Book #4 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s
Continuing our look at the those great New York City books from 80 years ago, here are more great dust jacket covers. (click on any photo to enlarge)
Hacking New York by Robert Hazard, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1930 dj illustrator, unknown
The first book of its kind – anecdotes of a New York taxi driver. Even back then the meter could be rigged and Hazard explains how it was done. The dust jacket is gorgeous and unfortunately the artist is unattributed. Continue reading →
The Art of The Book #3 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s
We continue with our look at vintage books about New York City with great dust jackets. (click here to read part 1 and here to read part 2)
Starting with a look at an all-time classic of deco design, New York Nights. (click on any photo to enlarge)
New York Nights by Stephen Graham, New York: George H. Doran, 1927, dj illustrator, Kurt Wiese
A native of Scotland, author Stephen Graham (1884-1975) goes on a tour of jazz age nightclubs, speakeasies and cabarets. Graham provides the grittier side of life in an up to the minute description of prohibition New York neighborhoods, establishments and people.
Kurt Wiese (1887-1974) illustrated over 300 books and later became an award-winning children’s book author. Besides the knockout jacket cover, Wiese drew all the illustrations contained in the book. This was the first American book he worked on. Continue reading →