Thursday, January 21, 2021

First Lady's Choice --- Day 9/276

Walk: Errands

Distance: 3 miles, Yoga stretch

Robert Seldon Duncanson (1821-1872), Landscape with Rainbow, 1859, 30 x 52.25", oil on canvas

Ciwt didn't catch this pastoral landscape on WSJ Live yesterday, but perhaps CIWT readers watching on television did.  It had been selected by Jill Biden from the Smithsonian Collection to be on prominent display in the U.S. Capital during the inauguration.

The artist, Robert Seldon Duncanson, was one of very few established African-American artists active during the pre-and post-Civil War era.  'Established' meaning he was able to support himself by his art, even to travel to and receive art training in Paris.  These accomplishments are never easy for any artist; Duncanson was extremely gifted but he also worked tirelessly first as a house painter, then as an itinerant portrait painter particularly around Cincinnati and Detroit.  There was little formal art education for most Americans at the time and virutally none for African-American artists, so he taught himself to paint by copying prints and etchings of European artists and sketching from nature as he traveled seeking portrait commissions.  

He also became intrigued by travel prints, exploration journals and how Hudson River School artists whose works he encountered used nature to convey ideas about America and its ideals. With the goal of becoming a landscape artist himself, he came off the road, away from portraits and settled in Cincinnati, which had a large free slave population as well as a strong arts community.  There, in what was then called 'the Athens of the West' and filled with new inspiration, he received an important commission from Charles Avery, an abolitionist Methodist minister.  His work for Avery, combined with Avery's social reach,  cemented Duncanson's career by establishing him within a network of abolitionist patrons who purchased his art, sponsored his trips to study old masters abroad and sustained most of Duncanson's career.

Sadly, that career was shortened by dementia and early death at 51.  It is thought Duncanson's suffering, like perhaps Michaelangelo, Goya, Van Gogh among others, was caused by lead in the paints.  Even by then though he was one of the very few landscape painters of the nineteenth century and achieved levels of success unknown to his contemporaries.  By the 1860's American art critics were proclaiming  Duncanson the "greatest landscape painter in the West" while London newspapers held him in equal regard to other British artists at the time.  He is credited with developing the regional Ohio River Valley art style and to this day the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati maintains an artist-in-residence program for African-American artists in honor of Duncanson.

So, the First Lady chose very well indeed.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Transitions of Power --- Day 9/275

Walk: Day of Rest/Reflection

Distance:  n/a

Ciwt is lucky enough to have witnessed at least 17 Presidential inaugurations, all except two by election and all except one at the U.S. Capital.  They are very meaningful to her; she watches them from beginning to end and can vividly remember many of them.  Today, mercifully, was no exception, but the first on line. Seeing it that way, with no outside commentary felt personal and intimate.  She wishes the best for our new President, Joe Biden, our new Vice President, Kamala Harris, and our United States of America.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Almost 232 Years Ago --- Day 9/274

Walk: Presidio Wall Pickleball

Distance: 2.5 miles, 90 minutes (windy) pickle

Ramon De Elloriaga, Washington Inauguration 1789, 1889

If it isn't in the front of their minds, Ciwt is pretty sure tomorrow's inauguration of Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice President is somewhere in her readers' thoughts today.

While she waits for the event, Ciwt considers that the first inauguration of George Washington as the First President of the United States was held Thursday, April 30, 1789 on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City.  Nearly 232 years ago.  He was sworn in by Robert Livingston, Chancellor of New York. (Washington had actually begun his first four-year term almost two months before that).  

The First Vice President of the United States, John Adams, was sworn in the next day.  The ceremony took place at the U.S. Senate, which was located in New York's Federal Hall.  John Langdon, President pro tempore of the United States Senate, administered the oath. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

January, Third Monday --- Day 9/273

Walk: Presidio Pickleball, T. Joe's

Distance: 5 miles, 90 minutes pickle, Yoga stretch

On the day that honors him Ciwt remembers Martin Luther King, Jr..

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Happy Legend --- Days 9/270 & 271

Walk: 1. Presidio Pickleball  2. Hood stroll

Distance: 1. 2.5 miles, 90 minutes pickle 2. 2.5 miles, yoga

Bob Ross shows us how on The Joy of Painting

Over the years, when people learn that Ciwt writes about art, a common reaction has been "Oh, you must be artistic."  Same was true when she sold art.  

Wrong, in both cases. Artists make paintings among other things, and only a small part of her questions exactly how they do that.  To her artist figures it out, just like someone in Silicon Valley figures out how to make the computer she's now typing on.  It's like there is a Mona Lisa brush that Leonardo da Vinci dipped into his paint can, and when he slid it along the canvas, voila, a masterpiece 


Not really, but most of what she knew was from books until she began spending her covid lockdown hours on PBS with Bob Ross.  What a revelation!  And what a nice and delightful man to explain how painting is really done on The Joy of Painting the show he created and hosted.  It came onto PBS in 1983 and the last episode was actually aired in 1994.  Then the internet gave it new life and today people are flocking to it.

Very few to learn to paint (less than 10 percent of viewers including Ciwt ever painted along with Ross), some like Ciwt to get an education in how paintings are actually made, and virtually all to spend time with Bob Ross.  He is encouraging, soothing, comforting and self described "happy."  One of his great expressions is "Let's add a few happy little trees..." or clouds or happy waves and birds. He's been described as 'liquid tranquilizer."

Ross died in 1995, but, as PBS continues to air The Joy of Painting,  Ross's stardom continues to grow.  There are Bob Ross clubs, tee shirts with his image and sayings, internet memes, Lego figures, Halloween costumes and cartoons. Despite his international following Ross was as private a person as he could arrange and there are very few substantiated biographical facts about him.  But that hasn't slowed his fans from narratives recorded in fanzines, posts on message boards, tribute pages, obituaries, feature stores, (or this CIWT post).  The lack of vetted information has actually raised  every day, low key, salt of the earth Bob Ross to legend level, happy legend level to be sure.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Cinema CIWT --- Day 9/269

Walk: Hood

Distance: 3.5 miles, Yoga (while watching) 

So, on another no pickleball day Ciwt grabbed a bag of popcorn, took a front row seat at her computer and went to England:

Then she worked off a little of that popcorn by doing yoga as she went to Budapest and watched an online selection from her Cinema Club. Discussion with her excellent San Francisco moderator to follow tomorrow afternoon.

So, almost like having an impromptu movie escape.  Oh, and both trips were quite good - as was the popcorn.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

How'd You Do That? --- Day 9/268

Walk:  No, Day of Rest

Distance:  n/a

See that rounded dome behind the frescoed ceiling?

Here it is a little closer: 

It's at the highest point of the Church of Sant'Ignazio in Rome, near the Pantheon. isn't a dome at all. Ie, the ceiling up there is flat.

Backtracking a bit, Ciwt was thinking about those high church ceilings and wondering how artists got up there to decorate them. Many of us, particularly those who read Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstacy or saw the movie, know Michaelangelo worked from scaffolding to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling.  He actually designed a unique system of platforms attached by brackets to the Chapel's walls.  This was ingenius (of course), but he never did figure out a way to overcome the physical strain of the increasingly uncomfortable work. Definitely not by lying on his back to paint.  Contrary to the movie image of Charlton Heston, he and his assistants stood and reached above their heads to paint, for years!  Makes Ciwt's muscles ache just thinking about it.

So far Ciwt hasn't learned how other artists before the advent of modern technology went about painting those gorgeous vaulted and domed ceilings around the world.  But she did learn about the false dome above which was a major accomplishment in its own right and executed by another Renaissance genius, Brother Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709).

Pozzo may have been a Brother in the Jesuit order, but he appears to be the Father of the illusionistic artistic technique called trompe d'oeil.  The widely traveled virtuoso painter-priest was an expert in mathematics who wrote detailed treatises on theories of perspective. And, when he was put in charge of the interior decoration at Sant'Ignazio from 1685-94, he had a supreme opportunity to put his theories into practice.

The Catholic Church at the time was in the business of winning believers back from the new Protestant orders that had sprung up since Martin Luther.  One of their main techniques was filling their churches with dazzling, theatrical art that stirred the hearts and astonished the minds of worshippers.  So, the original plan for the new Sant'Ignazio church called for an impressive, soaring dome through which the light of the Lord would appear to stream.  

But, some time before completion, either the church ran out of money or the locals objected to a massive dome that would block their sun.  Enter Brother Pozzo who managed to make the bascilica's massive (and flat!) ceiling disappear, opening up an entirely convincing vista into the celestial world above.  What he was standing or sitting or lying on, Ciwt doesn't know, but, however he did it,  Pozzo's masterpiece is one of the most impressive pieces of artistic illusion ever painted.

Brother Andrea Pozzo, S.J., Self-Portrait, 17th C.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Free Zone --- Day 9/267

Walk: Hood

Distance: 5 miles

Then you get there and start missing shots...

The thing about sports is they can become addictive or at least a distraction as you replay that shot you missed or try to figure out how you'll get better next time.  So Ciwt is looking forward to a pickleball free zone while she lets a little cut heal and hopefully gets her mind off that game and around some interesting CIWT topics.