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Here at the R of L, we like painters of old and we like painters of new, so long as, in both cases, they are the real thing.  But don’t ask us to explain that.  Lately we went looking for painters painting now, not sure what or who we’d find.  Well, it turns out there are lots of painters painting now in cities all over the place.  Here’s a few.

Above three paintings Markus Saile.  Go see more here


Whatever is going on here, it is true.  Nice work by Sabine Tress who has more here. 


Above two images are of work by Maria Chevska.  She knows a thing or two.  See more.


This nifty piece of painting is by Diane Delgado, from the USA.  She has a website.  


Thomas Helbig

Thomas Helbig, again.  The Saatchi Gallery knows about him, see here.


Canada has its share of painters doing the real thing, always has.  This one is Andy Dixon in Vancouver.  He has more on his website.


Well, the above three kept us gawking for quite some time.  The painter’s name is Stefan Kubler.  He’s seen in lots of places, including here .


Above is by Elisabeth Neel.

Also Elisabeth Neel, whose grandmother (Alice) was quite a a painter herself.  Good examples from the granddaughter here.  Also here

In the last few weeks, Cy Twombly and Lucian Freud, each pegged by people who should know as The Greatest Living Painter, left their studio for the last time.  It remains to be seen if the term will ever be used again.  What we do know, from the evidence above, is that painters are still with us, and painters are still painting, and some of them produce work that makes your brain buzz and your heart get hot and thumpy just like the greats of old, and not quite like anything else.  Lucky us.

A couple of places you’ll find lots of living painters are Two Coats of Paint and A Thousand Living Painters.

Look long.

Here at the republic, we are BIG swooning fans of the art of our own time.  We love the wildness of it when it’s wild and we love the sweet plainness of it when it’s plain, and we love a lot of what is in between.  But every now and then,  you find yourself in front of a very very old picture made maybe 500 years ago, probably in a drafty stone room with lousy light, and you just turn into a wobbly raspberry.

How could anything so old, so freeeeking old, be so beautiful to us, we 21st century people who can see just about anything they want to see, at the speed of light, whenever they want to?  And we’d have to say that this is beautiful, not only by the standards of its time, but by our own standards, infused with photography, cinematography, celebrity, and attention deficit disorder.

How does something reach across 500 years and still have the capacity to to make your heart feel like it had a baby bird or two inside it?

There is no satisfying answer that we’ve seen anywhere.   Art, the real thing, keeps on doing what it does regardless of time and (sometimes) of place.  Apparently.  Maybe someone has explained all this and we missed it.  All we know is that these pictures make us stop and look and feel things inside our ribs, and afterwards, we can’t forget what we saw, and how we felt.

All of the above are painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio (b. 1449  d. 1494)  His frescos are in Florence, and you have to go there to see them because no one is going to bring them to you.  You have to go there.

Also in Florence, you can find paintings by Bronzino (1503 – 1572)

Looooooooook! This can just stop you in the middle of whatever you were doing, and might just forget your plans for the day.  When your brain kicks in, if it does, it could say:  look, isn’t this a particularly fine example of skill, a virtuoso performance by a fine hand, and excellent illustration. But surely not ART as we have learned to understand it?

To which the answer is simply:  ARE YOU INSANE?  If this is not art then why can’t you take your eyes off her, this 500 year old painted child?

Or this poised woman, perhaps the woman the child became.  Look at her.

And look at this woman, sadder, less confident, less pleased with things, but still holding your eyes.  What is she asking of us? What is she telling? who knows.  It probably wouldn’t help to ask Bronzino.

Farther north, painters of this time, and even earlier, were also producing lasting miracles.  This is by Rogier van der weyden (1399 – 1464)

And this.

And her, who now lives in Berlin and could have brought the wall down all by herself, we think.

OK, one more and we’ll stop:

The artist who painted this is Robert Campin, born 1375.  Just 636 years ago.  But there is nothing antique about this, nothing out of date, nothing old fashioned.  She is, to us at least, as fresh and stirring as anyone you’ll find in Vanity Fair or Vogue or up on the big screen at the VivaMax cineplex.

That it has survived at all is hard to believe.  That is has survived and still has the radiant energy to dazzle 21st century eyes is beyond explanation.

What have you seen lately that might have the same effect 500 years from now?

Genoa is very old and very new.  The layout of the city and the famous harbour are said to be fundamentally unchanged since Christopher Columbus was a boy here in the 1440’s.  But if you stop and look, you will see modern life at its best thriving, proudly, in Genoa today.  Above is the breakfast room at a hotel in Genoa called Palazzo Cicala, which overlooks a very nifty cathedral, San Lorenzo.

If you stepped outside the hotel–and tilted your head a bit–this is what you’d see.  Photo from here.


The architect, Renzo Piano still works from his native Genoa, and he has been busy for more than 20 years adding ideas, structures, and life to the city, especially on the old harbour.  He designed one of the world’s largest aquariums there, along with a biosphere (above), seen here.

This is a structure/sculpture called Bigo,  designed by Mr P to celebrate the hardworking cranes of the Genoan docks that, along with thick-backed shore workers, have loaded and unloaded the world’s heavy goods for a long, long time.  One of the arms of the Bigo now lifts tourists above the harbour for a gull’s eye view.  Photo above here.

This painting of the harbour, done more than 400 years ago by a man called Grassi, shows the busy-ness of the place back in the age of wooden boats and sails.  More here

The above image is of the harbour about a hundred years earlier, around the time that Genoa’s own C. Columbus set out (with Spanish boats and hopes) for America.  It shows the fortifications necessary to keep a harbour secure for its customers.

The lighthouse on the left in the above ancient print still stands at the entrance to the Genoa harbour, and people say it’s the oldest anywhere. Its red cross on a white background is the emblem of Genoa and has come to symbolize “help available” all over the place.

This painting of a ceremony that may never have happened is weird and beautiful, from here. It is among the many many treasures of the swell Maritime Museum in Genoa.



Another example of old Genoa meets new Genoa is the street called via Garibaldi (pic above left found here), whose amazing palaces (along with those of an adjacent street)  were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.  Outside, these buildings tell you a lot about what people fancied in the 1500’s.  Like great heavy doors and great scary doorknockers.

They also cared about eye catching colours combined with the kind of craftsmanship we are unlikely to see again.  Seen at Wapedia here


Inside, past the (heavy, scary) doors of these places, you might see almost anything (these neat chairs in Palazzo Bianco, photo here)


Silence and solitude and arches gently hued.  And this is a public building!  Nice image and more from here.


Or you’ll find a swish contemporary furniture store called  via garibaldi 12, which is its address.  See more


Genoa claims both Pesto sauce and Focaccia as its own, .

And there is seafood in endless variety, some of it spooky, all of it tasty, wherever you turn.

Above, dinner for two, outdoors, in a plain but life filled Genoan piazza, yummy to the end.


Just go, when you get a chance.

and go back often.

Two pics above from here.

Above is part of an exhibit of important 20th century design established at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris in 1993.  These pieces of furniture were all designed by Pierre Chareau, born 1883, died 1950.  In between, he rose to the top of his profession in France, and then, after being forced to leave his country, he found himself in America, in New York, unknown and mostly unsuccessful in finding opportunities to deploy his remarkable talent. Image above found here.

Today, his furniture pieces sell for $50,000 and more, sometimes much more (above from Christies, here), and a house he designed in Paris, La Maison de Verre, is among the most highly regarded examples of residential design in the 20th century.

Designed for a physician and his wife and completed in 1932, La Maison de Verre is a mind spinning display of creative talent–miles ahead of its time, completely unprecedented, and still capable of causing jaws to drop in 2011.  Everything in the house was designed by M Chareau, everything (including the piano, we think).  It was purchased in 2006 and has been very respectfully restored.  Great story and slide show in the New York Times here.  Beautiful photos by Mark Lyon above and below.

Another recent view of La Maison de Verre.

Pierre Chareau began his professional life as a cabinet maker, and he has left us with a wonderful (and much prized) collection of small household objects like tables, chairs, stools, mirrors, and cupboards.

Pierre Chareau Stool in mahogany and patinated wrought iron ca. 1927 from Artnet

Umbrella stand at La Maison de Verre (Wikipedia!).

This wall mirror above sold recently at Christie’s for €91,000 or about $130,00 seen here.

Cupboard–how cute is that–seen here

There are, nowadays, companies reproducing his designs, so people can own something approximating a brand new Pierre Chareau, such as this lamp:

Based on the original below.

Despite the chilly reception he received in America, Pierre Chareau did receive one commission of significance–a studio house for the artist Robert Motherwell in the Hamptons, outside New York.  Once again he produced something joyously original: a low-cost structure employing materials and ideas based on military Quonset huts.

Wonderful photograph of Motherwell in his little Chareau house by the wonderful Hans Namuth in 1944, gratefully found here. The house was demolished in 1985.

Above interior of the Motherwell house from here

The story of Pierre is both inspiring and demoralizing.  His was a talent that seemed to know no boundaries, one of the great design talents of the last 100 years, and yet it was a talent that was allowed to go largely unused and even unnoticed in a place that prides itself, above all, on its ability to know the real thing when it sees it.  The lesson is, apparently, that talent is no guarantee to success, not then, not now.

Many books have been produced about Pierre Chareau and his work.  Here is one:

If you you find that true and deep inspiration is sometimes hard to find these days in the wonderful world of design, give yourself over to a feast of Pierre Chareau.  You won’t go away hungry.

Martin Parr is one of those photographers who takes pictures that any one of us might have taken, but we didn’t.  And if we did, you just know they would not, not in a thousand tries, make you want to keep on looking at them the way these do.  What does Mr Parr do that we can’t do?  Good question.

Above, a famous photo of his taken at the seaside in New Brighton, Merseyside, England

Pink lookout hut on the pier in Cardiff, Wales

A shop and its keepers in Cambridge England

A great selection of Martin Parr pictures, mostly taken in the UK, can be found at the website of the Guardian newspaper here.

When he’s not in England, Mr Parr is often in a sunny place, like Mexico.

Above is from a book of his called ‘A Fair Day: Photographs from the West Coast of Ireland’ found here .

This book ‘Bad Weather’ was his first, and it is just so amazing you think about the pictures in it days and days after you see them.  Make that years.

Mr Parr himself looks like he’d blend in to the crowd almost anywhere.

He’s wishing he was a fish, and she’s wishing he was too.

Now these two have a future, unlike the couple above them,  but they’ve each got their own ideas about things, despite the matching sweaters and hair.  It’s all there isn’t it?  update, 29 July 2011: This image was featured in an interview with Martin Parr.  It is in fact a photo by Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken, an influential, innovative photojournalist admired by Mr Parr (thanks Chantal).

Great photographers of the life that’s going on all around us preserve a momentary glimpse of an ongoing story.  You can’t help feeling that the action and sound will begin any second.  Now.



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