January 2016


Thank You! To each member of that small but loyal band of Aristos readers who responded to our December appeal for support, we extend our heartfelt thanks. All who read these pages for free are in your debt. - The Editors

Essential Vermeer 2.0. Since its founding in 2001 by Jonathan Janson, who remains its sole editor and writer, the Essential Vermeer website has more than lived up to its name. Beautifully designed, authoritative, and comprehensive, it is indispensable for anyone interested in the life and work of this Dutch master and the culture in which he lived--from ordinary art lovers seeking to know more about a favorite painting, to students, scholars, and critics engaged in serious research. (There's even a Kids Corner, featuring two of Vermeer's paintings in a Jigsaw Puzzle Gallery.) For many, the site will pose an irresistible temptation to linger and browse.

One reservation we have regards the Glossary entry on Art. Janson correctly observes that the ancient sense of the term (still applicable) referred to notions of skilled human agency. We would add that it encompassed but did not specify the "fine arts." He further observes that "many modern art philosophers hold that the definition of art [in the sense of "fine art"] has become so expansive as to be vacuous." Indeed they do, but it is the philosophers themselves who have "expanded" the definition to the point that virtually anything can be considered art. Finally, we must take issue with Janson's opening statement that "any simple definition of art would be profoundly pretentious." In that regard, he might want to consider our book What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand (2000), in particular, Chapter 6, "The Definition of Art."

(On Vermeer, see "Worth Reading" on our home page.)

Viewing Images Online
As we never tire of reminding readers, Firefox is the optimal browser for viewing images of art because it centers them on a dark background.

* Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., through March 20, 2016. In the words of one critic, this exhibition offers

what is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study one essential aspect of the Hellenistic Age. In all the world, there are fewer than 200 surviving bronzes from the Hellenistic and Classical ages, and about a quarter of those are on display. Among them are some of the most moving and celebrated artworks from any age. [Philip Kennicott, "National Gallery of Art Offers Rare Chance to See Ancient Greek Bronzes," Washington Post, December 13, 2015.]

* Dance! American Art, 1830--1960, Detroit Institute of Arts, March 20 - June 12, 2016. A multimedia exhibition featuring more than ninety works of art, along with films documenting and celebrating dance as central to American life and culture.

* An American Collection, National Academy Museum, 1083 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street) in Manhattan. On permanent view. The exhibition is mounted chronologically, salon-style --much as it would have been viewed in the early days of the Academy (which was founded in 1825). It features approximately one hundred works from the Academy's collection, ranging in subject from landscapes to portraits and genre scenes, and dating from the 1820s through the 1970s. Among the artists included are two of the Academy's founders--Samuel F. B. Morse and Asher B. Durand--as well as Frederic Church, Winslow Homer (who studied at the National Academy School), Cecilia Beaux, and Thomas Eakins, all of whom we hold in high esteem.

In sharp contrast, the exhibition Contemporary Highlights from the Collection (on view through May 8)--also drawn entirely from the Academy's permanent collection--covers works from the mid-1960s through the mid-2000s by prominent avant-gardists such as Louise Bourgeois, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, and Carrie Mae Weems Not quite what the Academy's founders are likely to have regarded as art.

* The Art of Winter, Vose Galleries, Boston, Mass., through February 27, 2016. Vose notes:

The harsh but beautiful conditions offered by the winter months inspired many artists to bundle up and paint outdoors. Captured in blues, purples, yellows and reds, these snow scenes reveal each artist's unique ability to see beyond the color we usually associate with snow.

The two most recent works are from 2008 and 2010. The rest (of those that are dated) were painted in the twentieth century.

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