Almost a year ago, on February 28, 2022, Russian forces destroyed the local history museum in the city of Ivankiv northwest of Kyiv. It was a house museum and held many works by Ukrainian folk artist, Maria Prymachenko. Neighbors and staff managed to save at least fourteen of her paintings. By September 2022, an Exhibition of Rescued Paintings by Maria Prymachenko was held in Kyiv. You can read more about her in Flowers for Peace: The Spirited Art of Ukrainian Artist Maria Prymachenko That is Now Becoming a Symbol of Hope. For the darker undertow in her work, see Cannibalism and genocide: the horrific visions of Ukraine's best loved artist. If only flowers, birds, and the sun were army enough!
Picturing a World
Guitar in American Art
Exhibition alert: The Ring, by American artist (and opera singer) Suzy Frelinghuysen is featured in Storied Strings: The Guitar in American Art, a show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, open through March 19, 2023. You can read more about this painting and the show here and more about the fascinating artist and her husband here.
Hilma af Klimt
An article, Hilma af Klint: Swedish mystic hailed as the true pioneer of abstract art, in the Guardian calls attention to a new biography of and film about a woman artist who flourished in the early 20th C. She still astonishes today. At first sight, her work reminded me of Agnes Pelton's—and it came forty years earlier. If she is as new to you as she is to me, I recommend Hilma af Klint's Visionary Paintings, a review of the 2018 show at the Guggenheim by the late Peter Schjeldahl. As a quick introduction to her work, it is informative, well illustrated, and as always with Schjeldahl lively and engaging. Image via Open Culture post on the publication of the af Klint catalogue raisonné.
For a fantasy story I am writing, I've been reading up on the gemstone Lapis lazuli and came across a story in ChemistryWorld— Blue teeth reveal medieval nun's artistic talent. Yippee! The archeological discovery of a particle of ultramarine pigment in the nun's dental tartar offered material proof that nuns worked as illuminators by at least the late Middle Ages. The finding is also covered in Harvard Magazine's Manuscripts Illuminated…by Women. It's of no use to me for my story, but, oh, what about in future?!?
Marie-Victoire Jacquetot, the artist who was commissioned by Napoleon to paint a Sèvres tea service for Empress Josephine Bonaparte, came to my attention recently when that very tea service was acquired by the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. Much of what I could find about the artist comes in Marie-Victoire Jaquotot (1772-1855), « premier peintre sur porcelaine du roi » Louis XVIII, a post (in French). Luckily for those who don't read the language, the post has many illustrations, including enlarged details of this self-portrait and a picture of the set acquired by the Clark.
Website alert: Zinaida Serebriakova (1884–1967) was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine; studied art in St. Petersburg; and was active in France. Oh, that we all could be international in our outlook! Wikiart has a gallery of 415 of her works, including one I love for its subject and tonalities, In the Studio Braz.France (1906).
Blog post alert: I plead being as ignorant of Ukrainian artists as the next person, but a post, Women in Ukrainian Art: Blank Spots in Ukrainian Art History at the Wilson Center's Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine, has given me a way to begin learning about them. In this case Marit Selska (1903–1980). She was born in Lyiv; studied in Cracow, Vienna, and Paris; escaped the Holocaust (though most of her family perished); and had a productive career after WWII. I chose this image for its blue and yellow Ukrainian colors and for the thoughtful introspection on the subject's face. Would that the choice of a hat and personal stories were all that Ukrainians—and the world—had to worry about today!
Ethel Pennewill Brown Leach
Couldn't this image prompt a story about being a female student in Paris early in the 20th C? The Japanese print on the wall. The young woman's serious expression. A pen ready to take notes. The coat worn indoors against the cold (when I was a student in Aix-en-Provence, we had heat from a stove for only two hours a day). A jug of flowers—always remember: tuppence a week for beauty. Ethel Pennewill Brown Leach is new to me and maybe not a major find; but both she and her student are reminders that, yes, art and literature and learning matter. For more of her work, click here.
Bring-backs and takeaways
Okay, now I'm even closer to finishing a problematic short story than I was earlier this month when I wrote Out of the Woods. What has given me new energy to get to "The End" is a new question: What does the main character bring back?
Miereke Nelissen’s Oz
Just as appealing as Miereke Nelissen's animals are her illustrations for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—or more precisely for De tovenaar van Oz. Lisabeth Zwerger's version may have influenced Nelissen. Certainly Zwerger made clear that a modern sensibility can work wonders divorced from more traditional variations on W. W. Denslow's first-edition illustrations (see, for example, those of Scott Gustafson and Michael Hague and 25 more).