Arts and Culture Headlines: June 11, 2010

Jacopo Tintoretto, Apollo (or Hymen) Crowning a Poet and Giving Him a Spouse

William Banks, one of Victorian England’s most famous gentleman explorers, purchased a painting in 1849 that he thought was the work of Jacopo Tintoretto, one of the three great Venetian Renaissance masters. The authenticity of his painting was not officially confirmed until Wednesday, when the painting went on display for the first time in public at Kingston Lacy, after an extensive £36,000 cleaning and restoration project. Although officially pronounced as a major work of Tintoretto, Apollo (or Hymen) Crowning a Poet and Giving Him a Spouse has the art experts at The National Trust still scratching their heads, since several subjects and components of the painting remain a mystery. The National Trust is asking the public’s help in identifying the many supposed gods and goddesses that occupy the scene, the significance of a die depicting five dots, as well as other objects. Tintoretto was often referred to as “Il Furioso” by his peers, due to the artist’s dramatic use of light and frenzied work ethic.

In other news, a shocking photograph of two black slave children was recently unearthed at a moving sale in Charlotte, North Carolina. Art historians suspect the unusual find is likely from the Civil War era. The undated photo depicts a boy named John wearing ragged clothing and sitting on a barrel next to another unnamed boy. New York collector Keya Morgan paid $30,000 for a photo album including the photo of the young boys, and stated that the deceased owner of the home where the photo was discovered is thought to be a descendant of John. Several experts are saying that the image was created by the photography studio of Mathew Brady, a celebrated 19th-century photographer known for his portraits of historical figures such as President Abraham Lincoln. Brady also took many pictures depicting the carnage of the Civil War to gain sympathy for the Union.

In a move made in direct opposition to the advice of the country’s scientists, Spain’s Culture Ministry announced this week that the famed Altamira Caves would be reopened to the public through the end of the year. Dubbed the “Sistine chapel of Paleolithic art,” the 20,000 year old cave paintings of bison and bulls are considered to be the best prehistoric paintings in the world. Discovered in 1879 in northern Spain, the caves have been available to the public on and off since it was discovered that carbon dioxide from human breath was damaging the fragile paintings. The caves were finally closed off completely in 2002 when scientists noticed green mold growing on the walls of the caves. In going against the government’s main research group, Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde, Spain’s minister of culture, announced the reopening on Tuesday and said a committee would be formed to decide what restrictions should be placed to minimize the risk of damage. It was also announced that US President Barack Obama has been among the first to receive an invitation to the cave’s reopening.

Opening this Saturday at the Bedford Gallery in the UK comes an exhibition from a virtually unheard of artist named Stanley Lewis, who died last year at the age of 103. Along with Lewis’ work, pieces from his tutors and friends will be shown. Lewis carried an exemplary work ethic, having painted every single day for the last 84 years of his life. His work—largely based on the artist’s upbringing in Wales and focusing primarily on landscapes—paints a picture of the typical British artists in the early 20th century, who saw drawing as fundamental to their career as an artist. Lewis was often offered contracts with galleries during his lifetime, but he refused them all, preferring not to be constrained to a particular subject matter, and instead made his living by teaching. Shortly before his death, the artist wrote: “when my exhibition is up and running, open a good bottle of champagne and celebrate. No doubt I will be there in spirit to keep an eye on things.”

Founded by Jean Kennedy Smith, the last living sibling of the President John F. Kennedy, the 2010 International VSA Festival will be held all across Washington DC through late August. Formerly called Very Special Arts, the festival celebrates the creative endeavors of disabled artists and students all across the world, including those confined to wheelchairs and several artists with Down Syndrome. The event was planned to overlap with the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The exhibits are designed to be more accessible to disabled viewers than ever before: they include touchable examples of artworks, audio descriptions, and labels written with Braille. Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser remarked, “What I really want people to see is that, indeed, artists with disabilities play a major role in the arts community. It is crucial that we not disenfranchise that segment of our population.”

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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