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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Art reflecting life reflecting art

This week I saw the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for the first time. Among its recent acquisitions is a painting with photographic realism of the exhibit room in which it hangs. It's called Museum Epiphany III, and there's a very good write up of it at Art and Design Report,  and at Artfixdaily, my source for the picture, which is larger than on at the former site.

The woman and girl dressed in white sleeveless dresses echo the statues in drapery and pose with bent elbows and stand out from the rest of the people who are all dressed in dark  clothes more suitable for fall or winter.  At/ you can see a picture of the artist painting this work.

By the way, the people working at this museum  are the friendliest of all art museum staff I've encountered so far, and pictures without flash are allowed unless otherwise noted. Some museums, like the Frick Collection, do not allow any photography, even for sculptures around the fountain. The intent is to protect copyright rather than the artwork. You may be surprised how many art works are copyright protected.

It was explained in a New York Times article about Cameron's switch of paintings from the first to the second release of Titanic.
Artists’ copyright is frequently misunderstood. Even if a painting (or drawing or photograph) has been sold to a collector or a museum, in general, the artist or his heirs retain control of the original image for 70 years after the artist’s death.
Think of a novel. You may own a book, but you don’t own the writer’s words; they remain the intellectual property of the author for a time.
So while MoMA owns the actual canvas of “Les Demoiselles,” the family of Picasso, who died in 1973, still owns the image. And under existing law, the estate will continue to own the copyright until 2043.
If someone wants to reproduce the painting — on a Web site, a calendar, a T-shirt, or in a film — it is the estate that must give its permission, not the museum. That is why, despite the expansion, Google Art Project still does not contain a single Picasso.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

You say blue, and they said ...

I just started reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb's latest book, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder Among other things, he mentions the fact that Homer never mentions the color blue in his works and refers to Gladstones's theory that the Greeks had no name for that color. Observations of this are in a Radiolab under the title "Why Isn't the Sky Blue?"   It begins as follows:
What is the color of honey, and "faces pale with fear"? If you're Homer--one of the most influential poets in human history--that color is green. And the sea is "wine-dark," just like oxen...though sheep are violet. Which all sounds...well, really off. Producer Tim Howardintroduces us to linguist Guy Deutscher, and the story of William Gladstone (a British Prime Minister back in the 1800s, and a huge Homer-ophile). Gladstone conducted an exhaustive study of every color reference in The Odyssey and The Iliad. And he found something startling: No blue! 
I confess I did not sit through the 21 minute audio file, but do feel free to do so yourself. Instead, I wondered about whether or not the color blue is mentioned in TaNaCh -- the Bible. To be certain, I looked up the word in a Concordance, and found an absence of the word kachol. (There is a related word in Ezekiel 23:40,  which includes the phrase "kichalta eynecha" [you shadowed your eyes].) But there is no mention of blue as the color itself. Some translations do include the color, but that is because they are using it for the translation of   techeileth, a blue dye derived from a sea creature that gave a distinctive shade to cloth and thread used in the Tabernacle.

Other colors do appear in the Bible, though, most notably, "red," which is mentioned fairly early on, particularly when Esau describes the dish of lentils for which he sells his using the word adom twice.

Curious about whether or not this has been discussed, I did what modern scholars do and turned to Google. Then I found  Joel M Hoffman's response to  What color is the “blue” of the Bible? He also distinguishes between techeileth and the general color blue.
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