Tag Archives: national gallery



We’ve really messed up portraiture with the selfie. I’m serious! Jean and Georges pose with things that make them look smart as hell, and all we have now is a bathroom mirror. I mean, in the style of ridiculously successful men in portraiture, they’ve surrounded themselves with books, a case of flutes, and all sorts of scientific tools, including a sundial and a celestial globe. Cool, guys. Real cool. (Please note: I’d rather have Susan Miller’s monthly forecast on my iPhone than SOME ZODIAC BASKETBALL.)

Also, apparently, this misshapen skull isn’t a watermark–instead, it’s some optical illusion that looks totally regular when viewed from the right. So check out the National Gallery in London, and don’t stand in the middle…unless you want? Do you.

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symphony in white

symphony in white 1.jpg

John James Whistler worked on “The White Girl” religiously, and was known for getting up early to finish the work. (First of all, I can barely make Soul Survivor and that crap’s at nearly ten in the morning.)

Whistler, most famous for his mother, was twenty-seven at the time of painting “The White Girl.” Once submitting the work, he went to the Royal Academy of Arts (London’s equivalent of the French Salon) to see where it had been installed…and he found it, laying gently in a stack of rejects.

Misery loves company, apparently, because girlfriend ended up being rejected by the French Salon itself! It ended up being exhibited with other castoffs, including Manet’s  NSFW Déjeuner sur L’Herbe.

Last note: Whistler opted for “Symphony in White” as its new title to draw attention to the “true” subject — the paint. Personally, I would’ve tied in the bearskin rug or her frizzy hair to the whole symphony thing. Just a thought.

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This is a pretty awesome video describing Rachel Whiteread’s process for the work Ghost. Easily her most recognized work, Ghost is a set of plaster casts that provides three-dimensional, positive space to negative space. She cast the space of a parlor in a Victorian townhouse in North London (then abandoned, now demolished). She wanted to “mummify” air.

I love Whiteread’s approach of trying to make the negative positive. I sometimes think about doing that with Gauguin, but I just can’t, Rachel. I just CAN’T.


She took the plaster mold approach to an entire house in Wennington Green, East London, shortly before its demolition. The name? Get ready…Ghost House.

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steeple chase

degas horse

Edgar Degas painted Scene from the Steeplechase for a Salon exhibition in 1866. Mary Cassatt wanted to purchase the painting for her brother, but Degas kept the work in his studio, basically repainting every darn inch.

Well, Cassatt’s momma wasn’t happy about that. In a letter, she wrote:

“I doubt if he ever sells it—…it is one of those works which are sold after a man’s death & artists buy them not caring whether they are finished or not.”

DEAD ON, MOM. The painting was in his studio when he died in 1893. It’s now a part of the National Gallery in DC, thanks to Paul Mellon.

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mercelle lender


Today, we celebrate Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. A man who stood at the lofty four-six, Lautrec spent many a-night at the Moulin Rouge and other Parisian nightclubs. Lautrec’s parents were first cousins (gross), and many of his health problems were attributed to inbreeding (double gross). He drank like a maniac; even his cane came well-equipped with liquor storage. He ended up dying in an insane asylum with syphilis.

My favorite part about this painting of Marcelle Lender is that Lautrec LOVED redheads (smart man, I say). Like, was obsessed. I’m talking, this chick was in an short-running opera (too soon?), and he attended twenty times. Twen-tee. When he wanted her to have the painting, she basically called him a creep. “What a horrible man,” she said, “You can have [the painting].”

Well, the National Gallery helped itself to it, thanks to John Jay Whitney, in the 90s.

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girl arranging her hair


There’s actually nothing better than an exposed collarbone. Nothing. Bonus points on her being a redhead (ignore what I said in my last post).

Degas had once asked, “What do women know about style?” to Cassatt, and this painting was her retaliation. Do you think Degas just said, “As I thought, NOTHING!”

No matter, Degas had this work in his studio. He then sold it to Louisine Haverney, a major suffragette who co-founded the National Women’s Party (she once tried to set an effigy of Woodrow Wilson on fire in front of the White House —  😯 😯 😯

The painting was then a part of the Chester Dale collection — ah yes, our 1960s Kevin McCallister — before joining the NGA collection.

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dancer of fourteen years


Degas’ “Girl of Fourteen Years” was exhibited in the sixth Impressionist show in 1881. Most critics hated it (some called her “heinous”), but the heirs cast many bronze pieces of her anyway. Haters gonna hate.

The wax original of this little lady was acquired by Paul Mellon, in between racing horses and being an absolute millionaire. How charitable it was, then, when he gave DC’s National Gallery sixty-some-odd castings and sculpture, the largest collection of Degas’ 3D works.

Now, hold your horses (sorry Mellon), here comes the best part! One of the castings (at least 28 were made) was sold at auction and purchased ON ACCIDENT by the owner of Auto Trader. You’re telling me that you own a search engine for cars and you buy the wrong artwork, for 19 MILLION dollars, on accident?!

Sheesh, must be nice.

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