Thursday, December 13, 2018

Bonaventura Berlinghieri, "St. Francis Altarpiece" tempera on wood 60' x 42' (approx. 5" x 3.5) Byzantine Style (maniera greca) painted during the Gothic Period

Bonaventura Berlinghieri,  "St. Francis Altarpiece," tempera on wood 60' x 42' (approx. 5' x 3.5') Byzantine Style (maniera greca) painted during the Gothic Period

The main reasons why this altarpiece is studied are because it is an excellent example of the Byzantine painting style during the late Gothic period, it also represents St. Francis who is a historical religious figure who represents humanistic changes in culture during the late Gothic period into the Renaissance.

This is painted with egg tempera on wood panel. The medium of egg tempera is quick drying but very prominent in terms of color. The style that this was painted in, sometimes referred to as maniera greca, which literally translates as “in the Greek style or manner,” is a very flat not very illusionistic style of painting that is probably closer to what we think of as a cartooning style than a style that is meant to depict light and shadow or shading. If you look very closely at the figure and how things like how the facial features are rendered, you’ll probably notice that there is an attempt at shading however, it is not based in observing how light shades an object.

The way in which the people or figures are painted is also not very realistic and also closer to what we consider a cartoon rather than a realistic depiction of the bodies’ proportions and anatomy. The figures tend to be elongated, the posture is stiff and unrealistic, and the proportions of the face are unrealistic as well. For example, the eyes seem to be placed a little too high up into the four head, the nose is too long, and the mouth is placed further into the chin than his realistic.

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The creation of space, and the relationship of the sizes of the buildings to the people in the pictures is also not realistic. For example, the figures seem to be too large when compared to the buildings. The size and scale of the figures to the buildings to the landscape our overall disproportionate and unrealistic.

The size of the panel, which is about 5 feet tall, makes the central figure of St. Francis almost life-sized. St. Francis is placed in the center of the composition. The composition is overall symmetrical, which means that you can cut it in half and it seems to be equal on either side of a vertical line. The central figure of Francis divides the overall composition into a left and right series of six scenes are vignettes that contain images of Francis and other figures as well as environments. The scenes represent the life and times of Francis and in particular focus on his deeds.  The scenes range from, Francis ministering to the poor, to animals, and helping to save souls in general.

Francis literally takes the words of Jesus into his life by giving away all of his earthly possessions, ministering to the poor, and in general doing unto others as he would have others do unto him. The three knots in Francis’ rope belt represent, poverty, chastity, and obedience to God’s will. The subject matter of the altar focuses on the central figure of Francis and several scenes from his life that led to his canonization as a saint and amplify the concepts of charity, living a life of non-materialism, and thinking about as well as behaving in the way that Jesus prescribes in the New Testament.

In the upper left-hand scene, Francis receives the stigmata from a type of Angel called a Seraphim. This scene, explains and amplifies the wounds that Francis exhibits in the almost life-sized figure on his hands and feet that represent an honor that he receives because these are the same ones that Christ received while on the cross. Probably the next most important scene for Catholics is the scene in the middle of the left-hand column in which St. Francis delivers a sermon to the animals in the wild, because all living creatures are invested with God’s love. By the way, this does not necessarily mean that St. Francis believed that all animals have souls because this is inaccurate according to Catholic theology.

This altarpiece was painted in 1235 less than 10 years after Francis his canonization. Probably the most important reasons why this painting is taught as part of the great Canon of European late Gothic painting is because it represents the ideas that Francis represented. Since St. Francis taught several revolutionary ways of thinking about Catholicism, he’s almost like the “poster boy” for the changes that were happening in the transition from the late Gothic to the early Renaissance periods. For example, Francis represents humanism and critical thinking in the way that Francis chose to physically act out the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Previous to the life of St. Francis, the Catholic Church was the sole source of information about God for the layman (every day nonclergy).  The Church interpreted, interceded and imposed a very clear point of view about God's teachings and was the sole source of biblical interpretation.  In fact, laymen were not even allowed to own a Bible, not that they could afford one since they were hand written and very expensive.  This point of view and religious/political system meant that everyday people could not actually "know" God for themselves and supported and maintained a point of view that one was born to a place on this earth that was unchangeable.

Francis's point of view that "To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps." Breaks with this tradition and demonstrates the beginning of a point of view in which the lay person could not only have a direct experience of God but also alter their behavior in accordance with their knowledge without needing to consult the Church for interpretation.  This is important and interesting because aside from the ideas exhibited in the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, this represents the beginning of a change in the way of thinking and the stirrings of individual critical thought.  The art that follows, after the Byzantine period and in the late Gothic and Early Renaissance exhibits a new and critical point of view of the world.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

I make art for other people, not for myself. (Not a misquote.)

I grew up with so many of my art friends and educators telling me that “a true artist always make art for themselves. Artists do NOT make it art to for other people. Self-expression and artistic integrity are more important than selling your work.

When confronted with these clich├ęs I always wondered why I couldn’t have artistic integrity and make a good living making art. I also wondered what was so wrong with making art directed towards a particular audience or client and still be a respected or good artist.

I totally get how that kind of conventional wisdom sounds right, especially after being fed the romantic ideas about artists that when exposed to a close inspection just don’t make sense. Cases of artists accused of selling out who I’d like to be: Norman Rockwell, Velasquez and John Singer Sargent.

A person who couldn’t sell work but is cited as having a fantastic career and maintaining artistic integrity, we all know many of these artists personally. I don’t regard them as being particularly happy people nor as successes and I don’t think other people will celebrate them after they are dead.

How about a famous “success” story that we have all been taught, “Made art for themselves and maintained artistic integrity at the risk of being a financial disaster.” Examples, Modigliani, Gauguin, and his room mate Vincent Van Gogh.

Vincent Van Gogh was making religious art. He also made art with the intention that he would like someone to buy it and no one did while he lived.

I suspect that if he were given the choice between being,

1) a happy person and a selling artist

2) an unhappy person not selling his art

Vincent probably would have chosen #2. He probably would have chosen to be happy.

I’ve never read anything in all his letters that expressed the idea that all his suffering was vindicated by making art not did he ever really express ideas concerning artistic integrity and uniqueness. Read his letters and documents they are available online. He complained an awful lot about money to Theo.

Remember, crazy people often make poor decisions that are self-destructive. Maybe romantic ideas about artists are harmful rumors rather than helpful advice.

Here’s my story. I’m not a Blockbuster level artist but I make art and make a living at it because I think about my audience or subject matter that I think might be enjoyed by other people.

I think about an imaginary, sometimes real people who are collectors, pop in to my head, and I make something that I think both my audience would like and I would enjoy making art about. Example, I make art about Leather Daddies because I think they look cool and I also know that other people think so too.

I make paintings of older hairy men, “Bears,” because I know that there is a demographic of men and women who find this attractive and want to engage with the subject, I love the subject because that’s how I look and it makes me feel good to paint men who look like me, and I love painting the male figure, mainly because I’m better at painting them than almost anything else.

I first started painting and drawing heroes because I wanted to make pictures that I could share on Facebook that I thought might friends might get some inspiration from. I was hoping that my pictures would counteract the negative stuff going on in the world and express a hopeful alternative. I actually did not start making them to sell, they were meant as disposable art that I would put in storage. When I put them up for sale I was surprised at the popularity.
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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Holiday Open House
Saturday, December 8th
6 pm - 9 pm
Enjoy live music, crafts for kids, Holiday Art Sale, Santa & Mrs. Claus with special guests in their village, 10% discount on Arts Education Class registrations, gift wrapping, complimentary hot cocoa and Buddy’s Candy Corner with goodies for purchase. It might even snow if you are lucky!!!
Grand Theatre Center for the Arts
715 Central Avenue
Tracy, CA  95376
(209) 831-6858

Friday, December 7, 2018

Boricuas, 1969
Dear Friends,
I'm inviting you all to an Open Studio Presentation to see my paintings this Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018 from 1pm to 6pm in my personal studio. On view I will have paintings from the 1960's to the present, including large multifigure major paintings expressing my humanist concerns about society. Many of my smaller and medium sized paintings reflecting the reality of people in the streets of New York will also be on view. In addition I will have many painting studies, some done from life and others as layouts for larger paintings or illustrations. There will be quite a few of my commercial illustration paintings which are so different, especially in concept, than my fine art.
Each decade reveals another level of development in my work. While my concern for humanist values has remained consistent, my technique and skill level has varied. By the end of the 1970's my painting skills really improved thanks to a group of volunteer students at the High School of Art & Design, my colleague Greeny along with myself organized this group and met each morning to paint from life. How valuable this was. It enabled the students and Greeny and me too to really become better, more skilled artists.
From 1980 to 2004 I painted illustrations, primarily romance covers for major publications. Here I did not work from life but resorted to photographs for my reference. And of course these illustrations reflected a world of fantasy and escape and was not the real world that I experienced. Nevertheless it provided a very good income for my family.
After 2000 I began to once again paint the social realism of the streets of New York and like I did in illustration I used photography for reference. After 2007 I began to paint more from life again, including for my multifigure major paintings.
I have been teaching art since 1960, first at the High School of Art & Design until 1982, then at the School of Visual Arts 1984 to 2000, and finally at the Art Students League from 2008 to the present and I have given many workshops nationally and abroad. Many of my studies were painted as demonstrations in my workshops and classes.
I will be present at this Open Studio event and be happy to answer and discuss any questions you might have. Many paintings will be available for purchase but don't feel obligated to buy any paintings. My main interest is to promote realist art with humanist social values.
Max Ginsburg

If you can't make it, you might like to visit my new sale website.

Sunday, December 9
1 - 6pm

44-02 23rd Street, #515
Long Island City, NY
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