Art News Headlines: December 26, 2010

Maud Earl, Peter of Faskally

Artist Maud Earl was admitted to the Royal Female School of Art when most art colleges would not accept women in the early 20th century, and later enjoyed esteemed patrons such as Queen Victoria. Her artistic endeavors paid off, as she completed a portrait of Peter of Faskally, the king of chocolate labradors, which became so famous that it is expected to fetch up to $80,000 at auction in New York in the new year. The dog’s blood is believed to run through every chocolate labrador alive, despite the inarguable fact that Peter’s coat is jet black in the painting. He was famous in his own lifetime: in 1910 he was the only retriever to win two open stake field trials in one season, and in 1911 won the first championship in a class entirely for labradors. Many of his recorded 32 puppies were also champions. The painting will be on display at Bonhams in New Bond Street, London, from January 23-27, and will be auctioned in New York in February.

Ever heard the expression, “eyes in the back of your head”? Well, New York University arts professor Wafaa Bilal is giving new meaning to this axiom—quite literally. Widely recognized for his interactive and performance pieces, Bilal recently had a small digital camera implanted in the back of his head, all in the name of art. The visual artist is commissioned to create the piece entitled “The 3rd I” for one of 23 other works scheduled for the opening of the Arab Museum of Modern Art. Bilal will sport the device for an entire year, going about his daily business normally. In a statement, the artist commented that he chose to have it put in the back of his noggin as an allegorical statement about the things we forget about and leave behind. The camera will capture his everyday activities at one-minute intervals throughout the day and then be transmitted to monitors at the museum, said museum curators.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Three Graces

On Friday, the Louvre announced it can now purchase a 16th-century German painting of three nude women after thousands of people went online to donate the extra million euros the Paris museum appealed for. Five thousand donors in total contributed after the prestigious museum set up a website last month to call for funds to buy the Renaissance painting of The Three Graces by Lucas Cranach the elder—quite the Christmas present. The small work, painted in 1531 and always privately owned, shows three women against a dark background, wearing nothing but necklaces and, for the central figure, a red hat. Critics praise the masterpiece as an ironic reworking of the popular Renaissance theme of the three graces. The painting will be displayed in a dedicated room in the museum from March 2 until April 4 next year and all donors’ names will be listed on panels in the room. The painting is reported to be in pristine condition.

Widely considered to be the most renowned and well-recognized painting in the world, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has long been steeped in mystery—even today the true identity of the woman with that famous smile is still far from certain. Now members of Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage have revealed that by magnifying high-resolution images of the Mona Lisa’s eyes, letters and numbers can be seen—a real-life Dan Brown-esque mystery. “To the naked eye the symbols are not visible but with a magnifying glass they can clearly be seen,” said Silvano Vinceti, president of the Committee. In the right eye appear to be the letters LV which could well stand for his name Leonardo Da Vinci, while in the left eye there are also symbols but they are not as defined. Vinceti is part of the group asking French authorities for permission to exhume Da Vinci’s remains from his tomb at Amboise Castle in the Loire Valley. The group wants to see if the artist’s skull is there so that they can try and recreate his face and establish if the Mona Lisa is a self-portrait of the artist, as many people believe. Vinceti’s name might sound familiar—he discovered the bones of Caravaggio in a long-forgotten crypt some six months ago.

Coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the mural painting created by Mexican artist Diego Rivera, the short film 200 Segundos. Una Vision de la Historia de Mexico (200 Seconds: a vision of Mexican history) was recently projected at the National Museum of Anthropology. Depicted through diverse scenes of the painting, the short film synthesizes the development of Mexico from the Prehispanic age to the 20th century. This audiovisual work accounts for the talent and creativity of several artists, allowing the private sector to participate. Sprouting from different shots of the Diego Rivera mural, the short documentary lasts 3 minutes and 20 seconds long. The mural showcased, Epopeya del pueblo mexicano, was painted between 1929 and 1935 at the staircase of the central yard at Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City Historical Center.

Laura Lawson paints when writer’s block strikes and writes when painter’s block strikes. She has studied fine art at LCAD and is pursuing a degree in journalism. Recently diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, she strives to bring hope to those without vision through her blog. She is currently working on her first book about coping with vision loss.

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