Sixty world-famous impressionist paintings arrived at the Royal Academy of Arts in London from Copenhagen in March of this year, a whisker before lockdown was imposed. Instead of drawing box-office crowds, they sat in storage for four months. But then the Academy reopened its doors in August with the Covid-secure ‘Gauguin and the Impressionists’. That this exhibition sold out so quickly is testament not only to our hunger for unmediated culture after a period of captivity, but also to the enduring popularity of impressionism.
Over the winter of 1610-11, a magnificent telescope was built in London. It was almost two metres long, cast in silver and covered with gold. This was the first telescope ever produced in such an extraordinary way, worthy of a great king or emperor. Why was it made and who was it going to?
It is one thing to condemn Chuck Close, James Levine, or R. Kelly for their alleged wrongdoing, but another to regard their artworks as though they were somehow polluted by association with their creators.
At the beginning of January 1921, a special service was held in the cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, with Orthodox and Episcopal clergy offering prayers in six languages—Hungarian, Greek, Arabic, Russian, Serbian, and English—for the restoration of Hagia Sophia as a Christian sanctuary. As reported in the New York Times, the […]
The world’s attention has been fully trained for many months on detecting a microbe that, inevitably, most people will never see for themselves: SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. We take for granted the invisibility of this new enemy. But when scientists first ventured the hypothesis that germs were the cause of many virulent diseases, […]
Where did the structural capability for skyscrapers come from? The 1860s saw the refinement of the Bessamer process, or a steel-making process, now largely superseded, in which carbon, silicon, and other impurities are removed from molten pig iron by oxidation in a blast of air in a special tilting retort, pushing skyscraper construction into unstoppable […]
Despite his foundational status in today’s academy, William Shakespeare was not particularly welcome in the early modern English universities. In the 1570s and 1580s, just as the commercial playhouses were gaining steam in London, the authorities of both Oxford and Cambridge Universities enacted statutes banning “common stage players” from performing within university precincts. Chancellors lacked the […]
On 9 August 1997, The Mirror printed an edited photo of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed on its front page. The edited photo shows Diana and Fayed facing each other and about to kiss, although the unedited photo reveals that at that point Fayed was facing an entirely different direction. Did The Mirror lie to its readers?
The United Nations’ International Day of Peace is celebrated on 21 September each year, marking efforts to bring the world closer to a state of harmony and further away from violence. Here are some surprising facts about peace and the quest to achieve it:
German poet and playwright, Friedrich Schiller is considered a profound and influential philosopher. His philosophical-aesthetic writings played an important role in shaping the development of German idealism and Romanticism in one of the most prolific periods of German philosophy and literature. Those writings are primarily concerned with the redemptive value of the arts and beauty […]
A disconcerting exclusion of alternative views and scholarship has marked the very carefully choreographed two-year long build-up toward the most controversial sale of a seicento picture this year—that of the so-called Toulouse Judith Beheading Holofernes, ascribed to Caravaggio.
The wonderful and amazing thing about Nell Blaine—whose polio attack came at age 37, during what appeared to be the peak of her career—is that the work she made afterward is far superior to the earlier paintings.
When Jacob Rees-Mogg wished to criticise the judges of the European Union, he said, “Let me indulge in the floccinaucinihilipilification of EU judges.” The meaning of the jocular term (the action of judging something to be worthless) is not as important as its source—the Eton Latin Grammar. Latin and Latinate English flow readily from the […]
For over 500 years, the masterful works of Leonardo da Vinci have awed artists, connoisseurs, and laypeople alike. Often considered the first High Renaissance artist, Leonardo worked extensively in Florence, Milan, and Rome before ending his career in France, and his techniques and writings influenced artists for centuries after his death. However, to refer to Leonardo da Vinci as just an artist minimizes his role in numerous areas of study; in addition to painting, sculpture, and drawing, the quintessential “Renaissance Man” left an indelible mark on architecture, engineering, science, philosophy, and even music.
At dusk on Monday, April 15th, just in time for the evening news, the world was treated to the horrendous spectacle of uncontrollable flames licking the roof of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. The fire spread from a scaffold that had been installed six months earlier for restorations.
Period rooms were widespread among European museums during the last decades of the nineteenth century, and became popular in North American institutions in the early twentieth. But the debate about whether period rooms are “authentic” or “fake” tends to ignore what they really are: a museum-made object.