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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Melchior Lorck

Süleymaniye mosque, (now the Hagia Sophia), 1569, Melchior Lorck.
Bust of Christ, 1570, Melchior Lorck.
Only Christ has a more complete biography.
One of the things the mystifies me, fascinates me, and ultimately disturbs me is in thinking how unlikely it is that most artists from this century, myself included, will be remembered into the next century. In fact, it's highly unlikely anyone I know today will even survive into the next century, much less be old enough now to recall having known me either as an individual or as an artist. It's kind of humbling to realize that unless our descendants are into genealogy, they probably won't even know our names. Tell me, can you name your great grandparents? How about your great great grandparents? Of course, unlike our own parents and grandparents, etc., we have one factor prevailing in our favor in this regard--the Internet. With a little research (and some access fees) I can now trace my ancestors back to, as my dad used to say, "...back to Job." One of his ancestors was a 17th-century citizen of Rickmansworth England (a northwest suburb of London) named Job Lane. I anticipate my ancestors will find it even less difficult to peer back in time, especially given the number of my writings, images, and paintings that turn up when I type "Jim Lane" into Google.
View over Rooftops, 1555-59, Melchior Lorck
Melchior Lorck Self-portrait, 1575.
Notwithstanding all that, the fact remains, for most of us, once we die we become irrelevant. As artists, it's not so much that people in the future will be unable to see our works or know our names, but that they simply will not care. Do you care that a Danish-German artist named Melchior Lorck lived from 1526 to 1583, traveled broadly, and left behind a huge number of etchings mostly dealing with life in Turkey under the rule of the Ottoman Turks? I didn't; and except in writing about him now, I don't much care; and won't much care come tomorrow as we usher in the new year of 2015. Yet, despite the nearly five centuries since this man's birth, death, and career as an artist, we artists today have something in common with him. He is one of the few artists going that far back for which we have anything resembling a complete biography.
Georgio Vasari: Melchior who?
Giorgio Vasari (above) did his best, and art historians will forever be indebted to his biographical scholarship in writing Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, first published during Lorck's lifetime in 1550 (Lorck was not mentioned). However, Vasari labored to compiled two or three tomes covering the lives of about 250 "excellent" artists of his day (and the century before), in some cases so briefly as to further emphasize their virtual irrelevance even back then. As for Melchior Lorck, being Danish, it's unlikely the Italian, artist, architect, and biographer, Vasari, had ever heard of him. All of which brings to light the fact that we, as artists, are consciously or unconsciously striving for historical immortality. Most of us are doing a pretty lousy job of it and are unlikely to find much success along that line. Which gives us another thing in common with Melchior Lorck. He didn't find much such success along that line either.
Camel Rider, 1575, Melchior Lorck--the sultan's limousine.
Sultan Suleiman (the Magnificent),
1559, Melchior Lorck
By way of helping the poor man out during this century, Lorck was a painter, draughtsman, and engraver, born in Flensburg, a small town on Denmark's northern coast. And had he known of him, Vasari would have undoubtedly included him in his book. It would appear that, even as a young man in his early twenties, Lorck was quite adept. He likely wasn't much of a painter from all I can tell. I didn't find a single painting by the man in my research; but insofar as drawing and etching were concerned, he could, and did, literally draw anything and everything, including harpies (bottom, right), camels (above), sultans (left), mosques (top), and basilischuses (if that one flew by you, check out the creature at the bottom). Lorck was so good that, at the age of twenty-three, he received a four-year stipend (scholarship) from the King of Denmark to travel about Europe studying and practicing his art, which took him to Nuremburg, Augsburg, Rome, and eventually Constantinople where he made friends with no less than the Sultan Suleiman (the Magnificent,) and drew his picture (left). He also made a great number of tourist type drawings and prints of Turkish landmarks and Turkish people from all levels of society.
The Prospect of Constantinople (detail), ca. 1560, Melchior Lorck
Frederick II, 1582, Melchior Lorck
In all, Melchior Lorck spent not four, but ten years on the road, much of that time on the tab of Frederick II (left), one of the Hapsburg rulers of Germany, Austria, Hungary and other smaller realms making up the Holy Roman Empire at the time. Lorck ended up in Vienna where Lorck created his Prospect of Constantinople (above), a panoramic drawing of the city more than thirty-seven feet long (1145 cm) and eighteen inches tall (it took twenty-one sheets of paper). The drawing was rendered in brown and black ink with a dab or two of watercolor here and there.
Melchior Lorck leaves us a rather gruesome record of poleaxe combat from around 1570.
Harpy, 1582, Melchior Lorck
Lorck was likely the busiest artist in Germany during the latter half of the 16th-century, bouncing around, servicing first one competing monarchy than another, picking up medals, honors, and sizable paychecks from all around. Mostly he wrote books, drew maps, and did portraits while also making woodcut illustrations for the publishers of other writers' books. At one point, the King of Denmark, even hired him as a counterfeiter. Melchior Lorck died in Copenhagen around 1583 (give or take a year or so). Thanks to the careful records and letters he and others kept, we can document some eighty or ninety percent of the man's life. I wonder, five-hundred years from now (or even a hundred years from now), how many of us will be able (posthumously, of course) to claim that distinction.
The Basilischus, The Serpent King, 1548, Melchior Lorck.
What do you get when you cross a rooster with an eight-legged snake?
 (Lots of drumsticks that taste like chicken.)


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cándido López

Argentine Camp on the Shore, Candido Lopez
Candido Lopez Self-portrait, 1858
If I were teaching an art history class right now, I might start by asking the question, "Hold up your hands, how many of you have ever heard of Candido Lopez?" Candido Lopez was an Argentinian painter born in 1840. He was famous for painting scenes from the Paraguayan War, a nasty little dustup about the same time as the American Civil War. How many can find Paraguay on a map? How about Argentina? Brazil? Hint, they're all in South America. Don't feel too bad, though I've long been able to find Paraguay on a map, I'd never heard of that country's war (1864-70, which it lost abysmally) or Senor Candido. Candido Lopez was on the Argentinian side, born in Buenos Aires; and as Argentinian artist go, he was apparently one of the best, something of a child prodigy and already a successful artist by the age of seventeen. Having said that, if you were to compare his paintings to those of artist in general from other major countries in the world at the time, you would not be impressed. In terms of American artists, his work bears some resemblance to that of Edward Hicks, the painter of umpteen dozen version of his Peaceable Kingdom. (He was a bit more proficient than Hicks but not much.)
General Bartolome Mitre, 1862,
Candido Lopez
Lopez is often categorized as a "naïve" painter in that he had little formal training, picking up instruction here and there from older painters only slightly better than himself. Nowhere is this lack of formal, academic instruction more acutely visible than in his portraits, the self-portrait (above, right) and that of General Bartolome Mitre (left). They are stiff, lifeless, anatomically inept, and paper-doll flat. Consequently, he seldom painted people. He tried his hand at still-lifes a few times with only slightly more success. They're so ordinary I haven't even bother to post one here. Candido Lopez's only saving grace seems to be his battle paintings, though some of his seascapes and sunsets resulting from this endeavor are quite stunning (top). If you were a military tactician studying 19th-century battle plans you'd love his work. Do we have any such history buffs here? Hmm, so much for that train of thought. In looking at Lopez's battle scenes, one might guess he fought the war looking down from some lofty peak or hovering in some manifestation of a 19th-century helicopter. It some cases his battle scenes appear to be little more than maps with all kinds of little-people soldiers crawling all over them. In fact, you'd be wrong in both judgments. Not only did Lopez actually fight the war, he did it from the "trenches" losing his right arm in the process. After the war, he taught himself to paint left handed. And as for painting maps infested with tiny, little war guys, it's here Lopez really shines. His map-like battle paintings are so rife with details, soldiers seen actually fighting and dying, that very often they're presented not as a whole, but seen as details (a trait common to naïve artist, but really quite well done in Lopez's work).
Battle of Curupayti, Argentine troops launching attack on Sept 22, 1866,
Candido Lopez, painted in the 1880s

After the Battle of Curupayti (detail),
Candido Lopez
We see this attention to detail again and again in virtually all of Lopez's battle scenes. Of course, none of his battle scenes were painted on the battlefield or anywhere near them, either in time or place. It was a stupid little war which all but devastated Paraguay's population and solved virtually nothing except for losing that country sizable chunks of real estate. Mercifully, it ended in 1870. Lopez was on the winning side but left the conflict wounded and financially ruined, nearly as bad off as the nation of Paraguay. He did have a few well-placed friends on the winning side who aided him in getting a small government pension, in return for portraits and paintings of the war. Thus, using his hundreds of drawings made on the battlefield (perhaps why he got shot), Lopez was able to pull together a group of history paintings as much historical documents as art, depicting both the larger tactical picture as well as that of the "boots on the ground."

The Squadron in the Channel, April 23, 1866
Candido Lopez, painted some twenty years later.
The Squadron in the Channel (detail, above),
1880s, Candido Lopez
Along with his battle scenes involving the "ground war," Candido Lopez also left behind several paintings of naval vessels, not engaged in battle so much but in supporting roles, moving troops and supplies (above). Here too, Lopez's exquisitely detailed paintings illustrate, not just a thorough knowledge of naval architecture (left), but a learned handling of color acquired during his waning years. Candido Lopez continued to live and paint wartime battle scenes in Buenos Aires until his death in 1902 at the age of sixty-two. Today, his work is little known outside of Argentina, but can be found prominently displayed in the National Fine Arts Museum in Buenos Aires, where it has become a treasured part of his nation's military heritage.

The Battle of Tuyuti (detail), Candido Lopez.


Monday, December 29, 2014

A Classic Sense of Humor

La sconfitta, William Hunt
 L'attacco, William Hunt 
Most people have a sense of humor. Extrapolating from that I think it would be safe to say most artists do too. Going a step further, I'll venture that the old masters knew how to tell a good joke...just not in their paintings Very rarely do we see any sense of humor creep into their work. Let me say first of all, in delving into this subject, I'm not talking about famous classic paintings which some idiot with a photo-editing program and way too much time on his or her hand (usually it's a guy) has taken and attempted to make funny by modifying, often desecrating, the image in some way. To my way of thinking that's not even remotely funny. No, I'm talking about paintings by artists from the past who have dared express their sense of humor in amongst their otherwise "serious" works. I stumbled upon a couple such pieces the other day in researching work in a different context, which set me looking to see how many more such examples I could find. Surprisingly, the answer seems to be, not many
The Jolly Postman, early 1950s, Norman Rockwell
The first two are apparently by an English artist, William Hunt (probably the Pre-Raphaelite, William Holman Hunt), titled L'attacco and La sconfitta (top, French for "the attack" and "the defeat") probably painted in the late 1800s. I thought them both hilarious and highly appropriate in these days following the feasting holidays. If they're by William Holman Hunt, they are typical of his dry sense of humor. He often garbed himself in Renaissance era attire and was a shrewd observer of the humorous foibles of British society during the Victorian Era. In a similar vein, slightly more than a half-century later, a similar observer of the American cultural milieu was Norman Rockwell. Few artists of his stature were ever so prone to exhibiting an innate, but always gentle sense of humor. As seen in his early 1950s painting The Jolly Postman (above), we also have a holiday theme that is seemingly more modern. In fact, however, the painting dates from more than a half-century ago when delivering Christmas was far less challenging than it is today.

A Grotesque Old Woman, 1513, Quentin Matsys
It's difficult to say if Quentin Matsys's A Grotesque Old Woman (above), dating from 1513, was intended by the artist to be intentionally funny or if it just turned out that way. The title would suggest a purposeful lampooning of the tendency portrait artists have always had in flattering their subjects. However the painting, down through the centuries, has also been known as Portrait of an Old Woman, and The Ugly Duchess, so A Grotesque Old Woman may not have been it's original title. If not, then that fact, in a sense, makes the painting all the more hilarious, perhaps the most unflattering portrait ever rendered. Even if the face were that of a man, it would still be pretty hideous. The strange hairpiece and the exceedingly tight corset also add an element of humor suggesting that the artist was intentionally trying to be funny.

Constantin Baumgartner-Stoiloff, 19th-century.
If not quite what we'd call Christmassy, the amusing plight of the Russian sleigh-master, painted by Constantin Baumgartner-Stoiloff (above), at least has a wintery theme. The artist was just one of several Russian painters who depicted seemingly wild horses giving their passengers a "thrilling" snowy ride. Judging by the number of similar images I found, sleigh racing must have been a major winter pastime with chasing dogs being one of the more common hazards. It's not your "one-horse open sleigh" and there's no sign of Jingle Bells. In fact, three horses pulling such a small sleigh would suggest that either the sleigh, or the artists' rendering of it, was grossly overpowered (given the road conditions).

Dessert Still-life, early 17th-century, Georg Flegel.
Even still-lifes can be funny.
Although they're relatively rare, sometimes even an occasional musty, dusty, rusty, old still-life can be given an amusing twist as seen in Georg Flegel's Dessert Still-life (above) from sometime in the early 1600s. Apparently, even a mouse can be a good model if well-fed. I wonder if it was caught in the act or just added by the artist for the sake of levity. And finally, inasmuch as I can't find anything by other artists I like better, I'll finish with one of my own paintings, dating from 1990 (that's twenty-four years ago...not ancient, but old). It's a genre scene on a humorous theme with which we can all identify--taxes. I call it April Fifteenth...Again. 

Copyright, Jim Lane
April Fifteenth...Again, 1990, Jim Lane--Misery loves company.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Charles-André van Loo

La Musique, ca. 1753, Charles-Andre van Loo                         
Charles-Andre van Loo, by Louis
Michel van Loo (his nephew).
One of the factors that art historians, critics, and writers rely upon to make their work easier is the fact that art can be pretty easily and pretty accurately categorized. And while that may also make understanding such art easier and more logical, it also involves what's come to be a nasty word in most social contexts--stereotyping. No one likes being stereotyped (especially artists), and the entire concept leaves a nasty taste even when it's justified, harmless, or necessary. Of course dead artists seldom complain so I'm not so reluctant in this regard. Yet even in dealing with artists from long ago, stereotyping tends to lead to the old saying, "if you've seen one (add category here) you've seen them all." I would like to claim that to be manifestly untrue, but after several years writing about the various art history periods, classifications, categories, and yes, stereotypes, used to simplify the subject, I must confess, I entertain such feelings at times. I guess it comes down to the depth of one's interest in art. Superficiality leads to stereotyping. I-depth study leads to peculiarities. Ever since the third grade, when I first encountered the study of world history, it has always been the peculiarities and trivialities that have fascinated me. Thus when I look for an artist to showcase here, if I find his or her work to be mostly ordinary for their period, even though they may have been excellent artists, I tend to move on in search of an artist who is in some way...for lack of a better word...peculiar.
Sultana (Madame de Pompadour), Charles-Andre van Loo.
 Orientalism was quite popular in France during the mid-17th-century.
Louis XV, 1728, Charles van Loo
Charles-Andre van Loo was kind of a mix of these two elements. His portraits of 18th-century French aristocracy and royalty or quite accomplished, on about the same level as Francois Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, and Jean-Honoré Fragonard, though he was, then and now, far less well known. Each of these artists painted Louis XV (right) and his mistress, Madame de Pompadour at least once. The version by van Loo features the lady in Turkish attire (above, now termed Orientalism). I could go in-depth here and start comparing van Loo to other portrait painters of his time, but my point is, his work was comparable. Having said that, van Loo was also peculiar. In seeing his portrait, and in looking at some of his other paintings, you get the feeling he also had a sense of humor as well as a delightful love of children. His 1753 painting La Musique (top) is peculiar but quite endearing. On top of that, van Loo seems to have had an acute sense of how to succeed at the business of art in his day.
La Pinter, 1753, Charles-Andre van Loo
Quite apart from lucrative fees for his standard, "bread and butter" portraits, van Loo discovered that, what we'd today term "cute" paintings of children acting like adults, were quite irresistible. He did four of them having to do with the arts--The Painter (above), The Architect (below), The Sculptor, and The Musician (top). Thus he employed one of the cardinal business axioms then and now--when you find a good thing, you milk it for all it's worth. Having found a popular vein, he then set about mass producing and marketing it through hand-colored etchings (it's unclear whether he produced them himself or farmed them out to an etcher). Copyright laws being what they were in the 18th-century, they may simply have been pirated.

L' Architect, 1753, Charles-Andre van Loo. In some cases, the etchings seem better than the original paintings upon which they were based.
Charles-Andre van Loo was born in Nice in 1705, the son of an unexceptional painter named Louis-Abraham van Loo. His grandfather was a Dutch Golden Age painter named Jacob van Loo, while his brother, Jean-Baptiste van Loo, was also a portrait painter, though, like the rest of the family nothing out of the ordinary. Except for his successful depiction of "professional" children, and the fact he seems to have had a fairly acute business acumen, Charles-Andre van Loo would be considered simply one cog in the family portrait machine. Both van Loo brothers were first trained by their father, then sent to Rome, later Turin, before moving up to Paris (probably the Academie des Beaux-Arts) to complete their training. And inasmuch as the art world in France, if not all of Europe, rotated around Paris, the two remained there for the rest of their careers, ending with their deaths in 1745 (Jean-Baptiste) and 1765 (Charles-Andre, at the age of sixty).

The Sculptor, 1753, Charles-Andre van Loo. The lad seems to know what he's doing.
Despite his mostly top-notch portraits and his "peculiar" paintings of children, art critics and historians now consider Charles van Loo as having been overrated. Whereas many artist gain in stature after their deaths, that does not seem to be the case with van Loo. Unlike Boucher and Fragonard who, were also very much Academic painters, the two Rococo artists seem to have gained a grudging respect if not admiration for their life's work. Charles van Loo is seen as simply "run-of-the-mill." I don't see him that way. Then again, maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm the peculiar one.

Music, Charles-Andre van Loo--hot tots jammin'


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Barbara Longhi

Probably Giulia Farnese,
1490-95, Luca Longhi
Lady with the Unicorn, 1605,
Barbara Longhi
In general, teaching others to paint is a very rewarding endeavor. It's quite gratifying to watch a would-be artist progress from novice to talented student to proficient practitioner. Their progress is often quite rapid, at least at first, usually tapering to gradual improvements as the lessons to be learned become more difficult and technical limitations must be overcome. One of the risks every painting instructor faces, whether consciously or not, is that one of his or her students may someday turn out to be a better artist than their teacher. So far, I don't think that's happened to me, at least not to my knowledge. (I've lost track of most of my former students in the passing years.) However, in the centuries before art academies sprung up in centers of learning all over Europe, when the apprenticeship system ruled the day, when fathers very often taught their sons (in most cases) to carry on the family name as artists, the student surpassing the teacher was not all that uncommon.

Madonna with Child, Barbara Longhi. The other two figures are Joseph and St. Anne.
Presumed Self Portrait as
St. Catherine of Alexandria,
Barbara Longhi

That was the case with an Italian artist named Luca Longhi. Longhi was born in 1507. His son, Francesco was born in 1544, his daughter, Barbara in 1552. The family lived in the northeastern coastal city of Ravenna, once the capital of the Western Roman Empire. Luca was a locally respected Mannerist painter who taught both his children the art of portrait painting. His daughter (right) was quite attractive so she got instruction from both sides of the easel, often posing for her father when needed. From all appearances (as seen in comparing the paintings above and below), she was also the more talented of the two siblings. In fact, it would seem she may have been the best artist in the whole family, at least matching, and perhaps surpassing even her father. Unfortunately, none of the Longhi family was rich, famous, or talented enough to be well-known against the backdrop of the vast panoply of exceptional Italian artist plying their trade at the time (during the Mannerist period). Thus, their surviving work which we have left to observe and evaluate today is quite limited.

Francesco Longhi's Madonna and Child and St. Anne, would seem to indicate that the eldest son fell far short of his sister in talent. The baby Jesus appears to be getting his diaper changed. I guess when you're the Son of God, you can't expect much privacy.
Virgin and Child with Saint Anne.
Barbara Longhi
Two paintings make comparisons on the father's and the daughter's work quite easy. Sometime during the latter half of the 16th-century, (well after her death) Luca Longhi was commissioned to paint a portrait of an attractive young lady (top, left) seen posed with a unicorn. She appears to be in her late teens, perhaps twenty at most. The figure is said to be Giulia Farnese, daughter of a wealthy Italian family living just outside Rome. Her family tree included a pope, (Boniface VIII) some one-hundred years earlier. From the portrait it's obvious she was quite attractive, said by some to be the most beautiful woman in Rome. Born in 1474, she married young (age 15) and a short time later became the mistress of her husband's third cousin, Rodrigo Borgia. He, in turn, became Pope Alexander VI in 1492. He had her installed in a newly-built palace (next door to the Vatican) along with his daughter, Lucretia. The two became close friends.

The Holy Family with St. Anne and John the Baptist, Luca Longhi
Madonna and Child, Barbara Longhi
As interesting and scandalous as the Borgia storyline may be, it's not the fact that Luca Longhi's painted the pope's mistress which interests us at the moment, but that his talented daughter (then about fifty-three) painted a copy of the portrait. She titled it Lady with the Unicorn (top, right). The size and composition are closely similar (slightly different backgrounds), while the drapery and the face in Barbara's painting is, for all intents and purposes, identical to that painted by her father some ten years before. Only Barbara Longhi's reticence to employ color marks any significant failing as compared to her father's work; and this was a shortcoming she shows evidence of overcoming in later paintings (left). An additional comparison of all three artists can be seen in their handling of the ever-popular Holy Family paintings (above). Sometimes, it's difficult to judge one artist against another, especially if their style is similar and when dates are mostly lacking, even when the content of their work is the same. In the case of Barbara and Luca Longhi, it might be better to say they were simply "different," rather than that one being better than the other.

Madonna Adoring the Christ, Barbara Longhi


Friday, December 26, 2014

Pennsylvania Art

Appropriately for the day after Christmas, Edward Willis Redfield seems to have painted little else besides Christmassy winter scenes of the Pennsylvania landscape as seen in his Center Bridge Village Winter (1890s)
The Artist in His Museum,1822,
Charles Willson Peale
Next door, to the east of my home state of Ohio, lies the "Keystone" state of Pennsylvania. Insofar as art, painting in particular, is concerned, the state so far outshines Ohio we should install a giant curtain from Lake Erie to the Ohio River just to cut down on the glare. Inevitably, when we talk about Pennsylvania, not just in terms of art, but historically, economically, culturally, and probably a dozen other levels, the state is really more like two states, that is, eastern Pennsylvania and western Pennsylvania. Virtually the only factor joining them are the Pennsylvania Dutch in the middle. Eastern Pennsylvania is steeped in the cultural "runoff" of Europe, it's history, art, literature, and politics, derived from three centuries of English religion, customs, and law. The term "Philadelphia Lawyer," didn't come by accident. In the West, Pennsylvania art and culture derives from two related commodities--coal and steel. Add to this Erie on the lake and Pittsburgh on the Ohio River, and you have a manufacturing axis of wealth and culture some would insist to be the equal of the Philadelphia-Scranton phenomena in the east.

The Peale Family, 1771-73, Charles Willson Peale.
Jones & Laughlin Steel Works,
Pittsburgh (detail), 1956, Howard Fogg
While that may be true on many fronts, it's not the case with art. Art tends to thrive on old times and old money. An artistic culture takes time to develop and a pretty steady stream of cash as well. In the west, the invading white culture is barely two hundred years old. Moreover, excess wealth needed to support an art culture, is little more than a century old. In the west, not withstanding the Carnegies and the Mellons, most of the area's rich people drilled for oil, mined coal, and built steel mills (left) with their hard-earned dollars rather than squandering them on pretty stuff to hang on their walls. While the Carnegies and Mellons in the west collected art, in the east, art revolved primarily around two big name-families hard at work creating it--the Peales (above) and the Wyeth's (below).

Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth,
Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth
Wyeth family art.

Portrait of Charles Dikran Kelekian
Age 12, Mary Cassatt, not typical of her
usual mother and child paintings.
That's not to say that Pennsylvania art totally revolves around these two families. Add to the embarrassment of riches, Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt (left), Andy Warhol (yes, Pittsburgh in the west produced a big-name artist or two), along with Edward Willis Redfield (top), Christopher Jenkins (below), Howard Fogg, Don Troiani (New York born but Philadelphia trained), Jasper Francis Cropsey, and present-day artist Sandi Wright, to name barely a few lesser-known but quite outstanding talents. As might be expected, there is also a definite dichotomy between east and west where content is concerned. The Philadelphia crowd like their portraits, which tend to codify their long, glorious family histories (some not as long or glorious as their portraits might suggest). In the West, it was all about industrial might, while in the middle, the emphasis was on placid rural life and three-hundred years of not-so-placid battles which have forged and shaped the state and the nation.

Pennsylvania Railroad on the Rockville Bridge, Christopher Jenkins
Few states owe so much to the advent of the railroad as does Pennsylvania; and as in other, similar states, this also plays into the state's art, as seen in Christopher Jenkins' Pennsylvania Railroad on the Rockville Bridge (above). Jasper Francis Cropsey emphasizes the broad, northeastern Pennsylvania landscape in his railroad painting of Starrucca Viaduct, (below, near Lanesboro, Pennsylvania) from 1865.
Starrucca Viaduct, Pennsylvania, 1865, Jasper Francis Cropsey
In 1988, my wife, son, and I joined my parents in attending the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in south-central Pennsylvania. There, over the July Fourth weekend, several hundred, perhaps several thousand (I didn't count), reenactors gathered to once more fight the "war between the states." The South lost again, even though they tended to be represented by greater numbers than the North. Video camera whirred (my own included), bugles sounded, cannon fired, horses clopped by and, unlike the original battle, no one seemed in much of a hurry in the dreadful heat of the July sun. It was like the battle was taking place in slow motion. Don Troiani captures much of the mad mayhem of battle I found so missing in the reenactment. His painting, Irish 69th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Philadelphia Brigade, Cemetery Ridge, July 3rd, 1863 (below) is one of many by Pennsylvania artists (he trained in Philadelphia but is actually from New York, now living in Connecticut), which captures, better than most, the dreadful carnage and confusion of battle during a time when firepower was beginning to eclipse manpower in the race to inflict death and destruction on the enemy as quickly and efficiently as inhumanly possible.

Irish 69th Pennsylvania Volunteers,  Philadelphia Brigade, Cemetery Ridge,
July 3rd 1863, Don Troiani  
Pennsylvania Dutch Market Day,
2012, Sandi Wright
A great deal of all this Pennsylvania art has to do with two architectural landmarks in Philadelphia. One is among the most graceful, classically beautiful in this country, the other undoubtedly the ugliest. The most beautiful is the Philadelphia Museum of Art (below, if you've ever seen the original Rocky movie, you've seen it). The latter is the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, (below, left) a multi-hued brick monstrosity, a relic from the "what were they thinking?" era of heavy-handed, mid-19th-century, American architecture (a term used very reluctantly in this case). Despite its desperately discordant appearance, the Pennsylvania Academy of Art should be considered on a par with New York's Art Students' League and the Art Institute of Chicago in having trained a tremendous number of the greatest artists the United States has ever produced. Nearly synonymous with this institution is the name, Thomas Eakins (bottom), one of the truly great academicians in this country's history. If only someone would design for the school a new façade.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art sprawls impressively on the hill behind Frederick Graff's attempt to encase the city's waterworks in a similar, Neo-classical style.
The Pennsylvania Academy of Art.
No state can claim to have an art culture if it is totally mired in the past. In the case of Pennsylvania, the art of the "here and now" is best seen in the art of the African-American community, which dominates Philadelphia's back streets and urban neighborhoods. The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is the largest mural program in the nation. Since 1984, this effort has created more than 3,500 works of public art, earning Philadelphia international recognition as the “City of Murals” (below). Philadelphia's inner city art program works with more than a hundred urban neighborhoods each year in their transformation through the mural-making process, while award-winning, free art education programs serve hundreds of youth and at-risk teens at sites throughout the city. Mural Arts also employs adult offenders from local prisons and rehabilitation centers, allowing the restorative power of art to break the cycle of crime and violence in the local communities. Each year, more than 20,000 residents and visitors tour Mural Arts’ outdoor art gallery, now part of Philadelphia’s civic landscape and a source of pride and inspiration for the city.

Philly Mural Arts Program.
The Biglin Brothers Racing, 1877-78, Thomas Eakins.