Constantino Brumidi

Constantino Brumidi, 1805-1880
The Apotheosis of Washington, 1865, Fresco, 4,664 square feet, United States Capitol Building’s Rotunda, Washington, DC

Myrtle Cheney Murdock, the wife of John R. Murdock, the elected congressman from Arizona, was a teacher and an enthusiastic tour guide at the United States Capitol. She was amazed and dismayed at how little was known about Constantino Brumidi, the Greek/Italian/American artist of the Apotheosis of Washington on the Capitol’s Rotunda Dome. She frequently asked, “How can countless exquisite frescoes and paintings adorn our Capitol Building and yet the American people have little or no knowledge of their existence?” Researching for her Monograph on Constantino Brumidi, Michelangelo of the United States Capitol, she discovered the artist buried in an unmarked grave in Glenwood Cemetery. Myrtle Cheney Murdock’s research and dedication to Constantino Brumidi led to a posthumous appreciation of the artist’s artistic achievements and a commemorative plaque placed over his tomb in 1952, inscribed with a wish allegedly expressed by Brumidi back in 1855: “I have no longer any desire for fame and fortune. My one ambition and my daily prayer is that I may live long enough to make beautiful the Capitol of the one country on earth in which there is liberty.”     https://www.washingtonpost.com/gdpr-consent/?next_url=https%3a%2f%2fwww.washingtonpost.com%2flocal%2fbrumidi-study-of-capitol-dome-painting-to-go-to-smithsonian%2f2012%2f03%2f05%2fgIQAclhhtR_story.html     and     https://www.senate.gov/reference/reference_item/Michelangelo_of_the_US_Capitol.htm

Constantino Brumidi, 1805-1880
The Apotheosis of Washington, 1865, Fresco, 4,664 square feet, United States Capitol Building’s Rotunda, Washington, DC

Constantino Brumidi’s father was Stavros Brumidis from Filiatra in the Peloponnese, who, after the 1770 Orlov insurrection, a major precursor to the Greek War of Independence in 1821, and fearing Ottoman repercussions,  fled Greece for Italy. Stavros Brumidis settled in Rome, married  Anna Bianchini, opened a coffee shop to support his family and in 1805 became the father of a boy named Constantino. The boy was artistic and talented, studied Art for fourteen years at the Academy of St. Luke in Rome and became quite successful as a fresco painter working for the Vatican. In 1849 he was caught up in the Italian Risorgimento, he was arrested, accused of serious crimes and sentenced to eighteen years in prison. The Pope pardoned him but his only hope for freedom was to leave Italy for the United States.     https://www.aoc.gov/explore-capitol-campus/art/constantino-brumidi

Constantino Brumidi, 1805-1880
The Apotheosis of Washington (detai), 1865, Fresco, 4,664 square feet, United States Capitol Building’s Rotunda, Washington, DC

Brumidi reached the United States in September 1852 and for the next two years he worked, on private or church commissions in New York, Massachusetts and Mexico City. In December 1854 he met with Captain Montgomery C. Meigs, the Army Corps of Engineers officer who was supervising the construction of extensions to the Capitol. Impressed with Brumidi’s credentials, Meigs offered him the opportunity to paint for the United States Capitol through the 1860s and the 1870s. His major contribution  is the 1865 Apotheosis of Washington and the frieze of the new Capitol Dome.

For a PowerPoint on the Apotheosis of Washington, please… check HERE!

Constantino Brumidi, 1805-1880
The Apotheosis of Washington (detail), 1865, Fresco, 4,664 square feet, United States Capitol Building’s Rotunda, Washington, DC

Christmas-Time

Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906
Christmas-Time, The Blodgett Family, 1864, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 63.5cm, the MET, NY
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11258

I heard the bells on Christmas Day  /  Their old, familiar carols play,  /  And wild and sweet  /  The words repeat  /  Of peace on earth, good-will to men!…  Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)… a wonderful way to introduce Christmas-Time by Eastman Johnson and Wish you all Merry Christmas!!! https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.1423.html and https://poets.org/poem/christmas-bells

Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906
Eastman Johnson, 1890s, albumen print (cabinet card) by Edwin S. Bennett (detail), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Department of Image Collections
Self-portrait of Eastman Johnson, circa 890, oil on canvas, 60.9 x 50.7 cm, Brooklyn Museum
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastman_Johnson

In 1846 Eastman Johnson was in Boston, where he was commissioned to create portraits of several of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s friends and family members. At the time, Eastman Johnson was a young man of twenty-two, but his draftsmanship was accomplished and thus he drew the attention of the established poet and Harvard professor Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. All of these portraits hang today in the Vassall/Craigie/Longfellow House in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a site that offers unique opportunities to explore 19th-century literature and arts. https://www.mainememory.net/artifact/15896     and     https://www.nps.gov/long/index.htm

Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906
Portraits of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1846, Crayon and Chalk on Paper, 21 x 19 in. Oval, Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House
Scanned from Eastman Johnson: Painting America     https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eastman_Johnson_portrait_of_Longfellow.jpg

Young Eastman Johnson was pleased to place himself under Henry Wadsworth Longfellow patronage, but like his patron, his dream was to travel and study in Europe… and this is exactly what he did in 1849, “when he travelled to Düsseldorf, Germany, and received rigorous training in drawing at that city’s academy. More congenial, however, was the time he spent in the studio of Emanuel Leutze,” the German/American artist who painted in 1851 Washington Crossing the Delaware “where he concentrated on painting. In 1851 he went to London to see the Universal Exposition and then relocated to The Hague, remaining for over three years. His lengthy stay at The Hague was somewhat unusual for an American artist, but he apparently found much inspiration in the Dutch Old Masters as well as ready patronage through August Belmont, the wealthy American ambassador. His European education ended with several months spent in the Parisian studio of Thomas Couture before the death of his mother brought him home in 1855.”     https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.1423.html

Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906
Negro Life at the South, 1859, oil on canvas, 129.5×154.9 cm, The New-York Historical Society, The Robert L. Stuart Collection

Back in the United States, Eastman Johnson spent his time painting in his rented studio in New York City or travelling extensively, visiting members of his family in Washington, D.C., or Lake Superior, where he sketched members of the Chippewa Tribe.  His reputation was established in 1859 when, at a time when slavery was heatedly debated,  he presented in a New York exhibition a painting of the backyard of his father’s house in Washington, D.C. titled Negro Life in the South. https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibit/negro-life-south-0

Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906
Christmas-Time, The Blodgett Family (detail), 1864, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 63.5cm, the MET, NY https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11258

In 1864, he was commissioned to paint Christmas-Time, The Blodgett Family, a group portrait with interesting narrative elements. “It shows William Tilden Blodgett (1823–1875), a supporter of the Union cause and a founding trustee of the Metropolitan Museum, with his family in the Renaissance Revival parlour of their house at 27 West 25th Street. Depicted during the Civil War, at a time of urban upheaval, the serene interior decorated for Christmas embodies the best sentiment of home, as a critic observed in 1865.”  https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11258

Eastman Johnson, 1824-1906
The Girl I Left Behind Me, 1872, oil on canvas, 106.7 x 88.7 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

One of the foremost painters of American life, Eastman Johnson’s reputation grew further with paintings like the A Ride for Liberty—The Fugitive Slaves, of 1862 or The Wounded Drummer Boy, of 1864-1870 or The Girl I Left Behind Me, of 1872. He was financially comfortable and professionally successful. He lived in a large house in Manhattan and vacationed on the island of Nantucket, the scene of many of his paintings. He was an active member of the National Academy, the Century and Union League Clubs, the Metropolitan Museum, and even the Society of American Artists. He is remembered for his humour and kindness in helping other artists, as a good story-teller, a short, rotund kind of a man. https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/exhibitions/1664

For a Student Activity on It’s Christmas with Eastman Johnson, please… Check HERE!

Grant Wood and the Revolutionary Spirit

Grant Wood, 1891-1942
Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1931, Oil on Masonite, 76.2 × 101.6 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, Photograph: © 1988 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art © Estate of Grant Wood / Licensed by VAGA, New York.

Listen, my children, and you shall hear  /  Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,  /  On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-five;  /  Hardly a man is now alive  /  Who remembers that famous day and year…Wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow back in 1860. Grant Wood and the Revolutionary Spirit is my new POST on a 20th-century painting capturing the most important moment in the story of Paul Revere.    https://poets.org/poem/paul-reveres-ride

Eight years of Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and Art in America came to a halt. Some prominent Colonial artists were in England at the time, studying, and remained there, others, disagreeing with the violence, embraced neutrality. Yet some, although safe in Europe, returned to fight and take part in building a new nation. They all managed to give a view of the period with portraits, historical scenes and more. From architectural buildings to furniture, silverware, glass and porcelain, adorned with symbols of patriotism and national pride, people were proud of their new nation and showed it.

Grant Wood is an American artist who has never lost his “Revolutionary” vision and spirit. He was born in 1981, on a farm in rural Anamosa, Iowa, but unfortunate circumstances, his father’s unexpected early death, forced the family to move to Cedar Rapids where Wood, a High School student by then, was introduced to Art. As a school graduate, he first moved to Minnesota and Chicago later, where he took Art Classes with Ernest A. Batchelder and Charles Cumming until 1916 when he returned to Cedar Rapids to take care, financially, of his mother and sister, working as a home builder and decorator. The end of World War I changed Wood’s career as he began teaching Art at McKinley Middle School. In the 1920’ Wood travelled to Europe, and in 1925, he gave up teaching to focus on his art full-time encouraged by his friend David Turner, “the savvy and energetic mortician,” and the people of Cedar Rapids who “like a revelation… their clothes, their homes, the patterns on their table cloths and curtains, the tools they used” kindled his creativity as he “suddenly saw all this commonplace stuff as material for art. Wonderful material!”

If the 1920’ were Wood’s formative years, the 1930s saw Wood’s artistic maturity and recognition as a leading figure of the American Regionalist movement, a rather conservative and traditionalist style that appealed to popular American sensibilities and the need for an American cultural identity. His famous painting American Gothic won a medal at the Art Institute of Chicago’s annual exhibition in 1930, the Institute bought the painting, and Wood, thirty-nine years old, saw his reputation rise among his colleagues. Back in Cedar Rapids, he joined forces with Ed Rowen and created the quaint Stone City Art Colony, where they taught classes through Coe College. In 1934, his life changed dramatically when he accepted a position as professor of Art at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. His appointment to the University of Iowa was ill-fated as a series of unpleasant events professionally stressed him and personally harassed him…  https://www.theartstory.org/artist/wood-grant/life-and-legacy/

In 1931 Wood painted a charming, captivating and enchanting painting titled The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. In Picturing America Teachers Resource Book we read “Wood was a self-consciously “primitive” painter who emulated the unpretentious, unschooled manner of American folk artists… The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere goes one step further to capture a child’s point of view. A bird’s-eye perspective (like the view from an airplane) allows us to survey a vast sweep of countryside and gives the New England village the ordered clarity of a town made of toys: the country church and surrounding houses are simple geometric shapes, as though constructed of building blocks; the trees are crowned with perfect green spheres, like those a child would try to draw… The rolling landscape beyond is left sleeping in a darkness that is broken only by tiny glimmers from faraway windows. To complete this evocation of a childhood dream, Wood whimsically portrays Paul Revere’s trusty steed—“flying fearless and fleet,” in Longfellow’s words—as a rocking horse.”     https://picturingamerica.neh.gov/downloads/pdfs/Resource_Guide/English/English_PA_TeachersGuide.pdf

Upper Elementary and Middle School students find the historic event of Paul Revere riding on the night of April 18, 1775, to alert the colonial militia to the approach of British forces exciting and fascinating. We discuss historic events, we read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, explore and discuss Wood’s painting Using Picturing America Teachers Resource Book. Finally, for homework, I usually assign them to do an Activity you can access… HERE!

A Tiffany Drawing and the final product!

Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, 1892–1902
Design Drawing, ca. 1898–99, Watercolor and graphite on paper, 28.9 x 40.6  cm, the MET, NY
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/17504
Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1848–1933
Bowl, 1898–1902, Enamel on Copper, 15.6 x 24.1 x 24.1 cm, the MET, NY https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/51.121.29/

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has in its American Wing’s Collection two items I particularly like. The first is a Watercolour Design Drawing by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company illustrating a very special copper bowl belonging to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s private collection. The second item is the actual Enamel on Copper Tiffany Bowl, lushly decorated with plums among leaves in a very organic way, shimmering and glowing…

The MET “Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2005–2006”: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, v. 64, no. 2 (Fall, 2006) page 53, Publication has the acquisition report of the Tiffany Design Drawing with a plethora of information. We learn, for example, that it presents a large enamel bowl in the Repoussé technique. The artist of the drawing used the Watercolour medium to better represent the luminosity of purple and green translucent enamels. We also learn, through notations, the formulas for the enamel colours used by the artists, and that ten days and 50 hours of work were required to make the piece. Two names written on the paper are of particular importance. “Munson” refers to Julia Manson, the lady in charge of the Tiffany enameling workshop and “Leslie Nash,” a later addition, a Tiffany production manager and original owner of the Drawing. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Recent_Acquisitions_A_Selection_2005_2006_The_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art_Bulletin_v_64_no_2_Fall_2006

Iridescent Tiffany Enamels were particularly esteemed and in high demand. The large Enamel on Copper Bowl at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a rare and prized item to admire and study in order to realize high-quality craftsmanship. What I find astonishing is that the Tiffany enameling department was small, production was limited, and exclusively staffed by women artists. The first lady in charge was Patricia Gay, followed by Julia Munson, the artist of our Bowl-in-focus. As described by the sited MET publication, “The shape of the Bowl alludes to the plump, rounded form of the ripe plum. Fruit, leaves, and branches are rendered in repoussé in high relief, and the plums are so three-dimensional that they look almost as if they could be plucked off the bowl…” The MET Publication, pp.77-78, Louis Comfort Tiffany at The Metropolitan Museum of Art [adapted from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, v. 56, no. 1 (Summer, 1998)] is a wonderful source of information for Tiffany and his accomplishments. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Louis_Comfort_Tiffany_at_the_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art

For a Student Activity on Louis Comfort Tiffany, please… check HERE!

Repoussé: method of decorating metals in which parts of the design are raised in relief from the back or the inside of the article by means of hammers and punches; definition and detail can then be added from the front by chasing or engraving. The name repoussé is derived from the French pousser, “to push forward.” This ancient technique, which has been used extensively throughout the history of metalworking, achieved widespread popularity in Europe during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

Reverence for Nature and Tiffany

Tiffany’s Incredible Hair Pin

Reverence for Nature and Tiffany is my latest BLOG Post. It is about an extraordinary Hair Ornament in the MET Collection portraying two Dragonflies and Dandelions. Created in 1904 for Louisine Havemeyer, a great collector of Impressionist Art and one of Tiffany’s most ardent patrons, the Metropolitan Museum Hair Pin is my favourite Art Nouveau piece of Jewelry. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/2046

When I think of Louis Comfort Tiffany, I think of nature’s power, its brittleness, yet joy. I think of radiance, luminosity and brilliance in colour. I think of superb craftsmanship… as exemplified in the MET’s Dragonfly and Dandelion Hair Ornament. According to Alice Cooney Frelinghuyse in the MET, the Hair Ornament “epitomizes his earliest jewelry designs, which were based directly on modest forms in nature, such as field flowers and wild fruit, as well as his affinity for enamelling and semiprecious stones with unusual colors. The dragonflies rest on dandelion seedballs, one of which is shown partially blown away, underscoring the fragility of nature. Highly skilled artisans conveyed the transparency of the insects’ wings through delicate metalwork filigree. The temporal quality is revealed in the subject: dragonflies rest in one place for mere seconds before flitting away; dandelions disperse into thousands of airborne seeds with the gentlest of breezes.” file:///C:/Users/aspil/Downloads/Recent_Acquisitions_A_Selection_2002_2003_The_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art_Bulletin_v_61_no_2_Fall_2003%20(1).pdf

For a short PowerPoint on Louis Comfort Tiffany… click HERE!

A Grade 4 or 5 student Activity on Reverence for Nature and Tiffany is HERE!

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/2002.620/

Jamestown Settlement

Student RWAP Artwork

The New World is an interesting Movie to start our American Art Journey in an entertaining, yet educational, way! “This cinematic masterpiece illustrates the adventures of explorer John Smith as he establishes the Jamestown Settlement in 1607. Smith and Native American princess Pocahontas discover their worlds are different yet their hearts beat the same for each other, while English settlers and Native Americans come to blows.” https://www.owlteacher.com/teach-with-movies-page-6.html

Jamestown Settlement Activity

We followed 3 steps for this Project: 1. We first saw the movie, The New World, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_World_(2005_film). 2. Then, students were asked to do some research, find and write down 10 Facts of Jamestown Settlement. 3. Finally, RWAP time! (RWAP stands for Research-Writing-Art-Project)

This Project covers at least 2 pages of the student RWAP Sketchbook or an A3 size Poster.

RWAP Instructions: A. Research – Coloured or B/W Photocopies of Artworks related to or inspired by Jamestown Settlement. Go to Google – Jamestown Colony – Pictures. Do not forget that correct identification for each picture is needed. B. Research – Writing – 6 Facts about Jamestown Settlement. Students already have 10 Facts from Step 2 of the Project. Review Facts, choose 6 of them, the BEST! and use them in their RWAP Sketchbook. Students are asked to not COPY/PASTE!!! and to write down BIBLIOGRAPHY! C. Art Activity and Project Title – There is so much on the Internet to get students inspired!!! BE CREATIVE! Do not forget a nice, artistic TITLE for the Project!!!

For examples of student RWAP… Click HERE!

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0402399/

Still Life Paintings

This is the case with the Peale family of Philadelphia and the extraordinary Still Life Paintings they created during the early 18th century.

Food for thought: Why is Still Life painting so popular during periods of national growth and prosperity?

James Peale, younger brother of portrait painter Charles Wilson Peale, is one of the best American miniaturists of the Federal Era, and a fine artist of Still Life painting. As a young man, he enlisted (1776) in the Continental Army and fought in the battles of Long Island, White Plains, Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, Princeton, and Monmouth. Three years later, he resigned from his commission, and, in Philadelphia, he started a new career as an artist. James Peale is known for his large, oil portraits, his popularity, over 200, miniature portraits (watercolour on ivory) and his Still Life paintings. He was a popular and well-exhibited artist throughout his life. https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.6676.html

Still Life Painting has been a popular genre since antiquity. To quote: “A still life (also known by its French title, nature morte) painting is a piece that features an arrangement of inanimate objects as its subject.” From ancient Egypt to Greece, Rome, the Renaissance, Impressionism, Cubism to the Present, Still Life painting evolved reflecting social conditions, changed from realism to abstraction, and never ceased to surprise us with its popularity. https://mymodernmet.com/what-is-still-life-painting-definition/

Post-Revolution… Still Life is a RWAP (Research Writing Art Project) for my Grade 8 class on American Art. For student work… click HERE!

American Colonial Portraits

So, we take a Selfie and post it on Instagram, or the school photographer comes along and takes our photo for the Yearbook. Have you thought about why or how it is done? How did people immortalize themselves before photography was invented in the mid-1800s? Can you guess the reasons behind historical portraits or contemporary snapshots? Do you want to explore, research or investigate American Colonial Portraits?

Are funny faces part of your repertoire when someone takes your photograph? For hundreds of years, it was rare to see facial expressions like frowning, laughing, or smiling in portraits. People were expected to look dignified and composed. Any facial expression was thought of as unpleasant or even ugly. Expressive eyes were more important than smiling mouths! Were all the portraits solemn and austere?

Portraits have been a popular subject among artists and patrons throughout the ages. From ancient Egyptian renderings on Tomb walls at Saqqara, in Egypt, to Rembrandt’s Self-Portraits and the abstracted works of Pablo Picasso, artists have depicted all kinds of portraits and in a wide variety of ways.

“American Colonial Portraits” Activities 

Activities in this presentation were created for my Grade 8 American Art class, but can be adapted and used for any Class or Unit on Portraiture. Students, individually or with partners, will explore and then express their own views on Portraiture by creating original work of writing or art.

For my PowerPoint … Click HERE!

Individual Student Activity 1:
This is a Writing Across the Curriculum Activity on Adjectives. Students are asked to INVESTIGATE the meaning of each adjective in the provided Worksheet, by Clicking HERE!

Students’ GOAL is to find, for each Letter, the most descriptive Adjective for the word PORTRAIT and what it represents. They are asked to WRITE the adjectives of their choice, next to the corresponding Letter on the provided Worksheet. In conclusion, students are further asked to WRITE explanatory sentences with the adjectives of their choice.

Student Activity … with a Partner 1:
Students are asked to work with a partner and prepare A POEM FOR TWO VOICES by… Clicking HERE!

Working in pairs, pretending to be Mr. John Freake and Mrs. Elizabeth Freake, students are asked to complete the phrases in the Template. For the “we” statements, students should find a word that describes the feelings/thoughts/wants/wills of both of them. Look at the painting for inspiration. A POEM FOR TWO VOICES is meant to be read aloud. So, rehearse with your partner for an incredible presentation. Each partner will read/recite their “I” parts individually and together, they will read/recite the “WE” parts. This is a wonderful activity for Upper Elementary and Middle School students.

Info on American Colonial Portraits and A Poem for Two Voices

http://americanexperience.si.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/The-Role-of-Portraits-in-Colonial-America.pdf

https://www.poetryinvoice.com/teachers/lesson-plans/poetry-two-voices-reading-writing-and-performing