The Portinari Altarpiece by Hugo Van Der Goes

Hugo Van Der Goes’ Portinari Altarpiece, was shocking when first revealed to the public. The unprecedented portrayal of the shepherd’s amazed viewers and emphasized Van Der Goes theme of humility. A monumental work that challenged both the art world, and the individual, to reconsider what is truly important. This work stands as a testament to […]

The Nativity at Night

The Nativity at Night by Geertgen tot Sint Jans, painted in 1490, was a devotional tool. Encouraging believers to contemplate the nativity was thought to bring the believer into greater communion with God. Specifically, contemplating Christ birth was meant to facilitate the viewer in bringing forth their own spiritual rebirth. Geertgen was an Early Netherlandish […]

IThemba Tower, Communicating Hope

IThemba Means Hope The iThemba tower, is a permanent public art installation that symbolizes the collective hopes of the residents of Troyeville in Johannesburg, South Africa. The tower is over 65 feet high and is made of over 7,000 plastic bottles on a redundant communications tower. Bringing attention to the informal waste collectors of Johannesburg, […]

JMW Turner’s The Slave Ship

The Judgement of JMW Turner’s The Slave Ship Years ago, when I first saw this painting, I assumed I was just looking at another seascape with an interesting exploration of light. However, as I continued to look, small details came into focus. I began to wonder: What are those surprising dark lines in the water? […]

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Festival of Lights in Amsterdam During the long, cold winter months of December and January a magical Festival of Lights takes place in Amsterdam. Lighting the city with enchanting art installations, the city twinkles and glows, giving light and warmth to both citizens and visitors, during the darkest months of the year.  20 to 30 […]

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Isenheim Altarpiece

Crucifixion Panel of the Isenheim altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald which was created between 1510 and 1516. Sister Wendy had this to say about the Crucifixion Panel in the Isenheim Altarpiece “In this noble veracity, Gothic art reached an electrifying greatness.”   Grunewald and Gothic Art Matthias Grünewald, a German Gothic painter, lived during the time […]

Grünewald’s Resurrection from the Isenheim Altarpiece

Grunewald Resurrection

Matthias Grünewald‘s Resurrection painting is one of many works that make up the Isenheim Altarpiece.  Painted between 1512 and 1516, this Altarpiece is unique and is considered one of Europe’s finest works of art. Possessing a deeply religious imagination, Grünewald has painted one of the most excruciating crucifixion scenes ever. And then he has gone […]

Peter Paul Rubens’ Descent from the Cross Triptych

Peter Paul Rubens’ Descent From the Cross Triptych is a stunning Flemish Baroque work that thematically explores what it means to “bear Christ.” While the center panel shows Christ being removed from the cross, the frontispiece, and side panels both play an integral part in the narrative that Ruben’s is exploring. Descent from the Cross […]

Georges De La Tour’s Magdalene and the Smoking Flame

Georges de La Tour’s, Magdalene with the Smoking Flame, is a French Baroque work that envisions Mary Magdalene in a state of deep contemplation. With clarity of form, and a limited color palette, De La Tour creates a forceful work that captures this quiet moment. In this post we will explore the composite character that […]

Harry Watrous’ The Drop Sinister

Harry Watrous’, The Drop Sinister, What Shall we Do With it?, is a departure for Watrous, an exploration of the moral and social issue that dominated his day. How were whites and blacks to live together in this new, post-slavery world?  Watrous was a child during the Civil War. His life was lived in the […]

Jacques Louis David’s Death of Marat

Jacques Louis David’s, Death of Marat, was a ground breaking painting of the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, the radical revolutionary who condemned thousands to the scaffold during France’s Reign of Terror. Capturing the quiet moment just after Marat’s murder, David transforms the terrorist, Marat, into a noble martyr and rallying symbol for the Revolution. A […]

El Greco’s Cleansing of the Temple

El Greco’s Cleansing of the Temple (1600) is a cautionary work, admonishing the Church to remember that money, power, and politics can be corrupting influences, El Greco paints a dynamic picture of Christ brandishing a whip of cords as he moves through, what should be a house of prayer, but has become a den of […]

Jacques Louis David’s Death of Socrates

Jacques Louis David’s, Death of Socrates, embodies both the neoclassical movement and the ideals of the French Revolution. Socrates, a harsh critic of the Athenian government was sentenced to death, a death Socrates used to model stoic strength to his students. Who is Jacques Louis David Jacques Louis David is a French Neoclassical painter known […]

Caravaggio’s Seven Works of Mercy

Caravaggio’s Seven Works of Mercy is an oil painting that was completed in 1607. The work shows a set of compassionate acts that humans can perform for one another. These works were central to the mission statement of the confraternity the work was commissioned for. Who is Caravaggio Michelangelo da Merisi, has always been referred to […]

Jacques Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii

Jacques Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii defines the Neoclassical painting style. Creating a sensation due to its striking aesthetic, the work soon became a rallying point for the French as it embodied the ideals and vision of the Revolution. Jacques Louis David David was a classically trained French painter who is most noted for […]

Simonet’s Then He Wept

Enrique Simonet’s Then He Wept depicts the Biblical story of Christ standing on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem and grieving for the city. Intimate and moving, the composition invites us to join Jesus followers on the mountain top and listen as he laments.  Christ’s grief is prompted by the disbelief of the Jewish leaders […]

Gauguin’s Vision After the Sermon

Paul Gauguin’s painting, Vision After the Sermon, is a work about the struggle of temptation, the pain of love, and the conflict of the artist. Vision After the Sermon is inspired by the art of Japan, the Celtic roots of Britany, and a woman. More about her later. Who was Gauguin? Generally Gauguin is portrayed […]

Holbein’s The Body of the Dead Christ

Holbein’s, The Body of the Dead Christ, is a gruesome picture meant to shock. Confronting the viewer with such a realistic painting of Christ in the tomb, challenges the believer’s confidence in the resurrection and demands a greater degree of faith. Influenced by Humanism, Holbein shows us Christ most human moment, his death. Doctrine held […]

Sandro Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity

Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity is as beautiful as it is mysterious. With this work we venture into the realm of speculation and conjecture. I hope you find this painting as intriguing as I do. “I, Sandro, painted this picture at the end of the year 1500 in the troubles of Italy.” So begins the inscription at […]

Teaching Botticelli’s Venus and Mars

Teaching Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, a lighthearted painting perfect Valentine’s Day study. It’s a fun way to incorporate art history into your February homeschool plan? This painting has fun details that are sure to delight a curious child, and in this post I’m going to give a quick lesson plan including a hands on exercise. […]

Hidden Meanings in Robert Campin’s Merode Altarpiece

The Hidden Meanings of the Merode Altarpiece by Campin Robert Campin’s Annunciation triptych, the Merode Altarpiece, is full of hidden symbols meant to lead the viewer into deep reflection on the mysteries of the Incarnation, or God taking on a human form in the person of Jesus. Before the work could be attributed to Campin […]

The Backstory of the Merode Altarpiece Robert Campin

The Merode Altarpiece,by Robert Campin, is an annunciation triptych full of symbolic meaning, that was intended to lead the faithful into deep contemplation of the mysteries of Christ, who left heaven to become a man. In this post, we will be exploring the backstory and context of the work. If you wish to read more […]

Italian Renaissance Art, An Overview

Renaissance Renaissance is a French term  meaning ‘rebirth’ and is used to describe a period of extensive cultural achievements that spanned the 15th to 17th centuries in Europe. A renewed interest in Greco-Roman antiquity inspired Italian Renaissance scholars to seek enlightenment by studying the golden ages of Ancient Greece and Rome.  Often the Renaissance is […]

Durer’s Saint Jerome in His Study

Albrecht Durer’s Saint Jerome in His Study is a spiritual reflection on a life well lived. Who is Durer Dürer is often referred to as the DaVinci of the North, a true Renaissance man who led the Northern Renaissance from his home in Nuremberg, Germany. His father was a goldsmith, a trade that provided Dürer […]

Why Study Art History

Why study art, it’s a valid question. In this post we will explore my thoughts on the topic.  The study of art history starts with examining tools. Every discipline has its tools. Writer’s craft with words to stimulate the senses, rouse the emotions, and spark our ideas. Construction workers use tools to make an architect’s […]

Video – The Conversation That Is Art

Check out the video below “Conversations in Art” and the full article here on the Blog: The Conversation That Is Art: An Introduction to the Study of Art History.   Art is an exchange of ideas that expands our understanding of what it means to be human. Across time, geography, and social constructs, artist reveal […]

Raphael The Resurrection of Christ

Raphael’s work, The Resurrection, is Who was Raphael The Resurrection is the only work of Raphael in the Southern Hemisphere, currently held at the Sao Paulo Museum of Art in Brazil. The work is an oil painting on wood that was at one time believed to be part of a larger altarpiece. Raphael was born […]

Ruben’s The Consequences of War

Ruben’s The Consequences of War, (or sometimes The Horrors of War) is an impressive painting. The work was painted in response to the Thirty Years’ War and is heavily allegorical. Using mythological iconography to convey an eloquent warning, Rubens gives us a painting of disturbing beauty. The message of ‘The Consequences of War’ is as […]

Frames and Pedestals, They Matter!

Frames and pedestals add to our first impression of a piece of art. Art is greatly influenced by how the work is displayed and by what surrounds it. Making the effort to consciously take note of these elements can increase our ability to read a work correctly. A closer look at a few sculptures will […]

Botticelli’s Venus and Mars Explained

Botticelli’s Venus and Mars is both beautiful and humorous. Mischievous satyrs, clear bright colors, hidden symbols, and missing legs all deserve a closer look so let’s get started.  Botticelli’s paintings of mythological stories are among his most famous. Botticelli’s Venus and Mars is telling the story of the illicit love affair between Venus and Mars. […]

Dürer’s Rhinoceros Print, Part 2

Albrecht Durer’s Rhinoceros print is a woodcut that is part scientifically accurate and part charming fantasy.  We’ve examined how the description of a Rhinoceros came to Dürer in this post, now we will move on to the actual print of Dürer’s Rhinoceros, how it was made, and what the words on the top of the print […]

Backstory of Durer’s Rhinoceros

In this post we will explore the backstory of Durer’s Rhinoceros print. Albrecht Durer’s Rhinoceros is one of the most famous prints to ever be made. The print is based on the real life rhinoceros, Genda. Here is her story.  Genda, The Gift That Keeps Giving In 1515, an Indian rhinoceros was gifted by Sultan […]

Let a Child Lead You

Color in art is…complicated. While working on writing a clear, somewhat comprehensive article on the subject for my curriculum, I’ve struggled far more than seems reasonable. Connected to my thoughts on color, in a round about way, is another topic I’m interested in: teaching art to children. Color in art can be realistic, symbolic, emotive, […]

Color Crash Course – Part 1

Quick color crash course. A color crash course is necessary because color is one of the foundations of art, and  so we need a basic understanding of color theory. For thousands of years artist and craftsmen have been passing down their knowledge of color and how to use it effectively.  In the 1660’s Isaac Newton […]

Art is a Conversation

Article on the Visual Language of Art

Art is a conversation between the artist and the viewer. To participate in a conversation we must speak, at least some, of the same language. Art as Visual Language Every discipline has it’s tools. Writer’s craft with words to stimulate the senses, rouse the emotions, and spark our ideas. Construction workers use tools to make […]

Bruegel’s Massacre of the Innocents

Bruegel’s Massacre of the Innocents recounts a Biblical narrative that Bruegel links to current events, thus condemning the rule of Philips II and accusing him of similar abuses of power.  This painting is a powerful political work that was deemed to dangerous to remain in it’s original form, and so multiple scenes were painted over […]

Prayer Nuts

Article on the medieval Prayer Nut

A prayer nut is a Gothic, miniature sculpture contained inside of a sphere of boxwood. Prayer nuts were all the rage during the 1500’s, and personally, I’m not sure why they fell out of style. I find them fascinating. At the end of the post, I’ve linked to my video on this subject if you […]

Murillo’s Adoration of the Shepherds

Bartolome Esteban Murillo’s, Adoration of the Shepherds, brings to life the phrase, “the people who walk in darkness will see a great light.” Creating an intimate scene of adoration, Murillo invites us to join the shepherd’s in worshipping the Christ Child. Who was Murillo Bartolome Esteban Murillo, a Spanish Baroque painter spent his entire career […]

Rembrandt’s Dream of Saint Joseph

Rembrandt’s Dream of Saint Joseph emphasizes Joseph’s connection to the Joseph of the Old Testament, and to his role as the Saint of Hidden Things. Additionally, this work makes us reconsider the customary image of the sleeping Joseph. This painting is one of several that Rembrandt made of this story and I find it refreshing […]

Tintoretto’s Nativity

Tintoretto’s, Nativity provides the viewer with a unique portrayal of the familiar nativity story. Skillfully using light, and the distinctive architecture of a two story barn, Tintoretto connects the iconography of the Nativity with that of the Last Supper. Providing multiple examples of food, drink and nourishment, Tintoretto links our physical need for sustenance with […]

Caravaggio’s Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence

Caravaggio’s Nativity with St. Francis  and St. Lawrence is famous, not just because it is a masterpiece but because it is on the FBI’s 10 Top Art Crimes. The artist has given us a controversial depiction of the Virgin Mary that challenged the doctrines of Catholic church.  Rejecting the exaggerations of the Mannerists (see El […]

Pieter Bruegel’s The Census at Bethlehem

Pieter Bruegel’s Census at Bethlehem, shifts the Biblical story into the political and physical world of 16th century Netherlands. One of the first snow landscapes painted in Europe, the Census at Bethlehem is at once a beautifully composed genre painting and a biting social commentary. In many ways it is a painting of a broken […]

El Greco’s Annunciation

El Greco’s Annunciation was painted late in the artists career when his style had fully developed. Combining the exaggerated colors and figures of the Mannerists with the mysticism he practiced while living in Spain, we have a truly unique envisioning of the Biblical story. Here, El Greco has included the unusual iconography of the burning […]

The Annunciation by Titian

  The Annunciation by Titian is one of the artist later works displaying his innovative loose brushstrokes and dramatic lighting. Containing more of the heavenly realm than the earthly, Titian alters the traditional Renaissance envisioning of the story. Who was Titian The Venetian master, Titian was born Tiziano Vecelli. He was an Italian Renaissance painter […]

Grunewald’s Annunciation from the Isenheim Altarpiece

Grunewald’s Annunciation Panel on the Isenheim Altarpiece was painted to give comfort in a hospital that could offer little hope. With his mystic, emotional style, Grunewald’s Annunciation plays on the theme of Mary as the church, bringing Christ to a dark world. For the hospitals patients and family any hope was a welcome respite. Grunewald, […]

Michelangelo’s The Holy Family

Michelangelo’s The Holy Family portrays an intimate moment of the Holy Family done on a round panel and encased in an elaborate frame. The work, often referred to as the Doni Tondo, was completed just before Michelangelo began work on the Sistine ceiling and gives hints of Michelangelo’s movement toward Mannerism. The work shows the […]

Giorgione’s Adoration of the Shepherds

Giorgione’s Adoration of the Shepherds exemplifies the distinctives of this Venetian artist. In this work his penchant for enigmatic themes is fully expressed as he paints Christ as the Eucharist and Mary as the Altar. Surrounded by the evocative landscape we have the shepherd’s arriving to worship the baby Jesus and learn from Mary. As […]

Dürer’s Nativity Woodcuts

Albrecht Dürer’s Nativity Woodcuts Albrecht Dürer’s Nativity Woodcuts communicate complexity with nothing but lines, and it is astounding. Realistically representing space, emotion, perspective, with nothing but lines cut into wood amazes me with the delicacy he achieves. Dürer has always been my favorite artist and I’m looking forward to sharing some of his work with […]

Lippi’s Annunciation with Two Donors

Filippo Lippi’s Annunciation with Two Donors Filippo Lippi’s, Annunciation with Two Donors, is a beautiful Renaissance work that brings together the iconography of the nativity story. Today we’ll explore both the art and the controversial artist. Lippi, Artist and Scoundrel Filippo Lippi…his art and his life are fairly incongruous. He was a bit of a […]

Van Eyck’s Annunciation, The Hidden Meanings.

Jan Van Eyck’s Annunciation, is a work that shimmers with a luminous clarity, infusing spiritual meaning into every small detail. Van Eyck is true to the Flemish tradition of hiding symbols in the everyday, and using complicated iconography. In particular, Van Eyck explores the connections between the Old and New Testament of the Bible, the […]

Rogier Van Der Weyden’s The Visitation

Rogier Van Der Weyden’s, The Visitation Roger Van Der Weyden’s, The Visitation, explores the story of Mary’s visit with her cousin Elizabeth. Today we will be focusing on a small panel painting of the Visitation, and then taking a look at a Nativity by Van Der Weyden’s workshop which has another version of the Visitation. […]

Donatello’s The Annunciation

Donatello’s Annunciation Donatello’s Annunciation is the focus of today’s post. I’m excited that today we get to examine a work by one of the esteemed Ninja Turtles. I have four sons and the Ninja Turtles hold a special place in my heart because my son’s started checking out books from the library about the artists […]

Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation in the Cortona Altarpiece

Fra Angelico’s Annunciation Fra Angelico’s Annunciation in the Cortona Altarpiece is beautiful, and filled with religious symbolism meant to expound on the doctrines surrounding Christ incarnation. You can view this post in a video here.  Who was Fra Angelico Fra Angelico was a Dominican friar, who was also an early Italian Renaissance painter. He was […]

Limbourg Book of Hours

The Limbourg Brother’s Book of Hours Today we journey into the Limbourg Book of Hours, or the wonderful world of illuminated manuscripts. These manuscripts are one of my favorite art forms, tiny perfection. The Limbourg Brothers (there are 3 of them) wrote and illustrated the Belles Hours for Jean de France, the Duc of Berry. […]

Martini’s Annunciation

Simone Martini’s Annunciation Simone Martini’s Annunciation is a wonderful example of Gothic art. Martini captures the moment Gabriel tells Mary that she will bear a son. We’ve explored Duccio’s, ‘Maesta’,  earlier in this series, Martini is one of Duccio’s students and is believed to have worked on portions of the Maesta. In that post we […]

The Duccio Maesta Altarpiece Nativity

The Duccio Maesta Altarpiece Nativity is the subject of our tour of Nativity art. You can view this post in video form on my YouTube channel here. Evolutionary thought can blind us In the last article we examined a work by Giotto, who was a contemporary of today’s artist, Duccio. Giotto represented the city-state of […]

Giotto Arena Chapel Nativity

Arena Chapel Giotto di Bondone

The Giotto Arena Chapel Nativity is the subject for day 3 on our Advent in Art Series. Background of the Giotto Arena Chapel In a Northeast corner of Italy is the city of Padua. Even in 1303, Padua was a cosmopolitan center boasting a prestigious University. One of the residents was a man named Enrico […]

Mosaic in the Chora Church

A mosaic in the Chora Church will be the focus of todays advent art. The mosaics and frescoes of the Chora Church are some of the finest examples of Byzantine art that have survived to our modern times. History of the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora The Church of the Holy Saviour in […]

Nicola Pisano Nativity Panel in the Baptistry in Pisa.

Background on the Pisano Nativity Panel The Piazza dei Miracoli The work we will be considering is the Nativity panel in the Baptistry in Pisa from a pulpit designed and sculpted by Nicola Pisano completed in 1260.  This information is also available in video here. A bit of background is necessary to put this work into […]

Advent in Art

I’m excited to invite you to participate in Advent in Art Reawaken the wonder and beauty of the Christmas story as we explore 25 masterpieces. For the first 25 days in December we will explore 500 years of art dedicated to the nativity. Rich with imagery, the story of the incarnation is made visible. Artists […]