James Hall's The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History (London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd., 2014) is a really interesting assessment of self-portrait painting as a cultural phenomenon. It's well thought-out, researched, and written, and I greatly appreciated it.
Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818) was an 18th-century French artist who specialized in still life painting. She was so good at it that she became official painter to Marie-Antoinette.
I recently enjoyed an art exhibition at my local library. I saw many wonderful works there, but I noticed that the majority of the pieces I was drawn to were still lives. So I started to think about why that is. Back in the days of the European and American artistic academies, still life was considered the least prestigious of the painting genres, but it's one of my personal favorites.
I just finished reading a book that told a wild, but true story about a work of art. Laura Cumming's The Vanishing Velasquez: A 19th-Century Bookseller's Obsession with a Lost Masterpiece tells the story of an English bookseller who believed that he owned a lost masterpiece by Spanish artist Diego Velasquez. It ends with a huge, still-unsolved mystery.
I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone that Thomas Cole's work is on my list of art that inspires me. To talk about why I love Cole's work in general, I would probably have to write a whole book, so I'm going to focus on one particular painting that I recently saw for the first time. It's called A Snow Squall, and it was painted in 1825.
Continuing with my earlier theme of art that inspires me, here is another example from the ancient world. During Egypt's Roman period (c. 30 BCE - 330 CE), many beautiful portraits were made in and around the area of Faiyum. They were mummy portraits, which means that they were attached to mummy wrappings to cover the mummy's head.
Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington D.C. was the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post. She was a great hostess, philanthropist, and art collector. Her home is gorgeous and filled with treasures.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is located in Richmond, Virginia. Its highlights include the McGlothlin collection of American art, the Gans collection of English silver, and works by Faberge.
Unlike his father, George Vanderbilt wasn't a huge art collector. He collected prints, but beyond that, he generally preferred to spend his money on his home and lands rather than paintings and sculptures. However, he still managed to acquire quite a few notable works of art that are now on display at Biltmore. Here are some of my favorites.
If you enjoy the works of J.M.W. Turner (as I do) and want to know more about him, I suggest reading Franny Moyle's Turner: The Extraordinary Life & Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner (New York: Penguin Press, 2016). It's a detailed and comprehensive book about Turner's life, art, personality, and career. This post is about some of the things I learned from the book.