Happy Birthday Georgia O’Keeffe

“I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”

Name:  Georgia O’Keeffe
Occupation:  Painter
Birth Date:  November 15, 1887
Death Date:  March 6, 1986
Education:  Art Institute of Chicago
Place of Birth:  Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Place of Death:  Santa Fe, New Mexico

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Georgia O’Keeffe is a 20th century American painter best known for her flower canvases and southwestern landscapes.

Artist and painter Georgia O’Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887, in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Known for her striking flower paintings and other captivating works, O’Keeffe was one of the greatest American artists of the twentieth century. She took to making art at a young age and went to study at the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1900s. Later, while living in New York, she studied with such artists as William Merritt Chase as a member of the Art Students League.

O’Keeffe found an advocate in famed photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz. He showed her work to the public for the first time in 1916 at his gallery 291. Married in 1924, the two formed a professional and personal partnership that lasted until his death in 1946. Some of her popular works from this early period include Black Iris (1926) and Oriental Poppies (1928). Living in New York, she translated some of her environment onto the canvas with such paintings as Shelton Hotel, N.Y. No. 1 (1926).

After frequently visiting New Mexico since the late 1920s, O’Keeffe moved there for good in 1946 after her husband’s death and explored the area’s rugged landscapes in many works. This environment inspired such paintings as Black Cross, New Mexico (1929) and Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses (1931).

O’Keeffe died on March 6, 1986, in Santa Fe, Mexico. As popular as ever, her works can be seen at museums around the world as well as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Happy Birthday Robert Mapplethorpe

Today is the 68th birthday of the photographer Robert Maplethorp.  The world is a better place for having him in it and still feels the loss from him leaving it.

 

NAME: Robert Mapplethorpe
OCCUPATION: Activist, Painter, Photographer, Sculptor
BIRTH DATE: November 04, 1946
DEATH DATE: March 09, 1989
EDUCATION: Pratt Institute
PLACE OF BIRTH: Floral Park, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Boston, Massachusetts

Best Known For:  Robert Mapplethorpe, recognized as a giant of late 20th century photography, is best known for his large-scale, highly stylized black and white portraits.

Mapplethorpe was born and grew up as a Roman Catholic of English and Irish heritage in Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Floral Park, Queens, New York. His parents were Harry and Joan Mapplethorpe and he grew up with five brothers and sisters. He studied for a B.F.A. from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he majored in graphic arts,[1] though he dropped out in 1969 before finishing his degree. Mapplethorpe lived with his partner Patti Smith from 1967 to 1974, and she supported him by working in bookstores. They created art together, and even after he realized he was homosexual, they maintained a close relationship.

Mapplethorpe took his first photographs soon thereafter using a Polaroid camera. In the mid-1970s, he acquired a Hasselblad medium-format camera and began taking photographs of a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, including artists, composers, and socialites. By the 1980s his subject matter focused on statuesque male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and highly formal portraits of artists and celebrities. Mapplethorpe’s first studio was at 24 Bond Street in Manhattan. In the 1980s, his mentor and lifetime companion art curator Sam Wagstaff gave him $500,000 to buy the top-floor loft at 35 West 23rd Street, where he lived and had his shooting space. He kept the Bond Street loft as his darkroom.

Mapplethorpe died on the morning of March 9, 1989, 42 years old, in a Boston, Massachusetts, hospital from complications arising from AIDS. His body was cremated and the ashes buried in Queens, New York, in his mother’s grave, marked “Maxey”.

Nearly a year before his death, the ailing Mapplethorpe helped found the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc. His vision for the Foundation was that it would be “the appropriate vehicle to protect his work, to advance his creative vision, and to promote the causes he cared about”. Since his death, the Foundation has not only functioned as his official estate and helped promote his work throughout the world, it has also raised and donated millions of dollars to fund medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV infection.

Mapplethorpe worked primarily in the studio, particularly toward the end of his career. Common subjects include flowers, especially orchids and calla lilies, and celebrities, including Andy Warhol, Deborah Harry, Richard Gere, Peter Gabriel, Grace Jones, and Patti Smith. Smith was a longtime roommate of Mapplethorpe and a frequent subject in his photography, including a stark, iconic photograph that appears on the cover of Smith’s first album, Horses. Also, a Patti Smith portrait from 1986 recalls Albrecht Dürer’s 1500 self-portrait.

Other work includes homoerotic and BDSM acts (including coprophagia), and classical nudes. Mapplethorpe’s X Portfolio series sparked national attention in the early 1990s when it was included in The Perfect Moment, a traveling exhibition funded by National Endowment for the Arts. The portfolio includes some of Mapplethorpe’s most explicit imagery, including a self-portrait with a bullwhip inserted in his anus. Though his work had been regularly displayed in publicly funded exhibitions, conservative and religious organizations, such as the American Family Association, seized on this exhibition to vocally oppose government support for what they called “nothing more than the sensational presentation of potentially obscene material.” As a result, Mapplethorpe became something of a cause célèbre for both sides of the American culture war. The installation of The Perfect Moment in Cincinnati resulted in the unsuccessful prosecution of the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati and its director, Dennis Barrie, on charges of “pandering obscenity”.

His sexually charged photographs of black men have been criticized as exploitative. Such criticism was the subject of a work by American conceptual artist Glenn Ligon, Notes on the Margins of the Black Book (1991–1993). Ligon juxtaposes Mapplethorpe’s 91 images of black men in the 1988 publication Black Book with critical texts to complicate the racial undertones of the imagery.

Happy Birthday Vermeer

The artist Jan Vermeer was born 328 years ago today (give a day or two).  Halloween is his official birthdate, but that ‘c.’ leads me to believe it is an educated guess.

NAME: Jan Vermeer
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: c. October 31, 1632
DEATH DATE: c. December 16, 1675
PLACE OF BIRTH: Delft, Netherlands
PLACE OF DEATH: Delft, Netherlands

BEST KNONW FOR: Dutch Golden-Age artist Jan Vermeer is best known for his Delft paintings including “Little Street,” “View of Delft” and his late “pearl pictures” like “The Concert.”

Born in Delft, Netherlands, circa October 31, 1632, Johannes Vermeer is one of the most highly regarded Dutch artists of all time. His works have been a source of inspiration and fascination for centuries, but much of his life remains a mystery. His father, Reynier, came from a family of craftsmen in the town of Delft, and his mother, Digna, had a Flemish background.

After his baptismal record at a local church, Vermeer seems to disappear for nearly 20 years. He likely had a Calvinist upbringing. His father worked as a tavern keeper and an art merchant, and Vermeer inherited both of these business upon his father’s death in 1652. The following year, Vermeer married Catherina Bolnes. Bolnes was Catholic, and Vermeer converted to her faith. The couple moved in with her mother, and would eventually have 11 children together.

In 1653, Jan Vermeer registered with the Delft Guild as a master painter. There’s no record of who he may have apprenticed under, or whether he studied locally or abroad. Vermeer definitely had at least a friendship with leading Delft painter Leonard Bramer, who became one of his early supporters. Some experts also believe that Vermeer may have been influenced by the works of Rembrandt through one of Rembrandt’s students, Carel Fabritius.

The influence of Caravaggio is apparent in Vermeer’s early works, including “The Procuress” (1656). The painter also explored mythology in “Diana and Her Companions” (1655-56) and religion in “Christ in the House of Mary and Martha” (c. 1655). By the end of the decade, Vermeer’s unique style began to emerge.

Many of Vermeer’s masterworks focus on domestic scenes, including “The Milkmaid” (c. 1657-58). This depiction of a woman in the midst of her work showcases two of his trademarks: his realistic renderings of figures and objects, and his fascination with light. Many of his works have a luminous quality, including the portrait “Girl with a Pearl Earring” (1665). This captivating portrait of a young woman inspired the 1999 novel Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, as well as a 2003 film adaptation of this book.

Vermeer enjoyed some success in Delft, selling his works to a small number of local collectors. He also served as head of the local artistic guild for a time. However, Vermeer was not well-known outside of his community during his lifetime.

Jan Vermeer struggled financially in his final years, due in large part to the fact that the Dutch economy had suffered terribly after the country was invaded by France in 1672. Vermeer was deeply indebted by the time of his death; he died in Delft circa December 16, 1675.

Since his passing, Vermeer has become a world-renowned artist, and his works have been hung in many prominent museums around the globe. Despite how much he is admired today, Vermeer left behind a small legacy in terms of actual works—approximately 36 paintings have been officially attributed to the painter.

Happy Birthday Bob Ross

Today is the 72nd birthday of the artist and public television personality Bob Ross.  There is a generation of people that watched The Joy of Painting sincerely (not ironically) and sincerely loved it.  The world is a better place because he was in it and feels the loss that he now isn’t.

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NAME: Bob Ross
OCCUPATION: Painter, Television Personality
BIRTH DATE: October 29, 1942
DEATH DATE: July 04, 1995
PLACE OF BIRTH: Daytona Beach, Florida
PLACE OF DEATH: New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Best Known For:  Known for his fast and easy “wet-on-wet” painting technique, Bob Ross reached millions of art lovers with his popular television program The Joy of Painting.

Bob Ross, television’s famous painting instructor, was born Robert Norman Ross in Daytona, Florida, on October 29, 1942. He was raised in Orlando, Florida. After dropping out of school in the ninth grade, Ross served in the U.S. Air Force. During his service, he took his first painting lesson at an Anchorage, Alaska United Service Organizations club. From that point on, he was “hooked,” a term he would use frequently during his years as a painting instructor.

After returning from the Air Force, Ross attended various art schools until he learned the technique of “wet-on-wet” from William Alexander (later his bitter rival), where oil paints are applied directly on top of one another to produce complete paintings (mostly landscapes) in less than an hour. Ross taught wet-on-wet to several friends and colleagues, and in the early 1980s, he was given his on show on PBS based on the technique.

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Ross’s instructional program, The Joy of Painting, premiered in 1983 on PBS, where it would run for more than a decade and attract millions of viewers. As a TV painting instructor, Ross became known for his light humor and gentle demeanor, as well as his ability to complete a painting in 30 minutes. The Joy of Painting would eventually be carried by more than 275 stations, spawning an empire that would include videos, how-to books, art supplies and certified Bob Ross instructors.

The Joy of Painting was canceled in 1994 so that Ross could focus on his health; the famous TV instructor and host had been diagnosed with lymphoma around that same time.

Ross died from lymphoma at the age of 52, on July 4, 1995, in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The majority of his original oil paintings were donated to charities or to PBS stations. Today, Ross remains one of the best-known and highest-paid American painters. His legacy lives on through a number of facets, including a fan-based Twitter page of more than 15,000 followers.

Happy Birthday Robert Rauschenberg

Today is the 89th birthday of artist Robert Rauschenberg.

NAME: Robert Rauschenberg
OCCUPATION: Painter, Sculptor
BIRTH DATE: October 22, 1925
DEATH DATE: May 12, 2008
EDUCATION: Black Mountain College, Académie Julien, Kansas City Art Institute
PLACE OF BIRTH: Port Arthur, Texas
PLACE OF DEATH: Captiva, Florida

BEST KNOWN FOR: American artist Robert Rauschenberg is best known for paving the way for pop art of the 1960’s with fellow artist Jasper Johns.

American artist. Milton Ernst Rauschenberg was born on October 22, 1925, in Port Arthur, Texas. He studied at the Kansas City Art Institute (1946–7), the Académie Julien, Paris (1947), and with Josef Albers and John Cage at Black Mountain College, North Carolina (1948–50).

Traveling widely, he was based in New York City from 1950, where he and Jasper Johns paved the way for pop art of the 1960s. He worked with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, New York, as costume and stage designer (1955–64).

An imaginative and eclectic artist, he used a mix of sculpture and paint in works he called ‘combines’, as seen in The Bed (1955). From the late 1950s he incorporated sound and motors in his work, such as Broadcast (1959), and silk-screen transfers, as in Flush (1964).

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, he experimented with collage and new ways to transfer photographs. In 1997 the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York City, staged a major exhibition of his works, showcasing the breadth and beauty of his work and its influence over the second half of the century.

Pop artist Robert Rauschenberg died on May 12, 2008 in Lee County, Florida.

Happy Birthday Banksy

Since there is no official birthday for the unknown artist who goes by the name Banksy, I have randomly chosen a day to celebrate it.

NAME: Banksy
OCCUPATION: Artist
BIRTH DATE: c. 1974
PLACE OF BIRTH: Bristol, England, United Kingdom

BEST KNOWN FOR: Banksy is the pseudonym of a “guerrilla” street artist known for his controversial, and often politically themed, stenciled pieces.

Banksy began his career as a graffiti artist in the early 1990s, in Bristol’s graffiti gang DryBreadZ Crew. Although his early work was largely freehand, Banksy used stencils on occasion. In the late ’90s, he began using stencils predominantly. His work became more widely recognized around Bristol and in London, as his signature style developed.

“We can’t do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles. In the meantime we should all go shopping to console ourselves.”

Banksy’s artwork is characterized by striking images, often combined with slogans. His work often engages political themes, satirically critiquing war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed. Common subjects include rats, apes, policemen, members of the royal family, and children. In addition to his two-dimensional work, Banksy is known for his installation artwork. One of the most celebrated of these pieces, which featured a live elephant painted with a Victorian wallpaper pattern, sparked controversy among animal rights activists.

Other pieces have drawn attention for their edgy themes or the boldness of their execution. Banksy’s work on the West Bank barrier, between Israel and Palestine, received significant media attention in 2005. He is also known for his use of copyrighted material and subversion of classic images. An example of this is Banksy’s version of Monet’s famous series of water lilies paintings, adapted by Banksy to include drifting trash and debris.

“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish. But that’s only if it’s done properly.”

Banksy’s worldwide fame has transformed his artwork from acts of vandalism to sought-after high art pieces. Journalist Max Foster has referred to the rising prices of graffiti as street art as “the Banksy effect.” Interest in Banksy escalated with the release of the 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for an Academy Award.

In October 2013, Banksy took to the streets of New York City. There he pledged to create a new piece of art for each day of his residency. As he explained to the Village Voice, “The plan is to live here, react to things, see the sights—and paint on them. Some of it will be pretty elaborate, and some will just be a scrawl on a toilet wall.” During that month, he also sold some of his works on the street for $60 a piece, well below the market value for his art.

“People who should be shot: Fascist thugs, religious fundamentalists, people who write lists telling you who should be shot.”

Banksy’s identity remains unknown, despite intense speculation. The two names most often suggested are Robert Banks and Robin Gunningham. Pictures that surfaced of a man who was supposedly Banksy pointed toward Gunningham, an artist who was born in Bristol in 1973. Gunningham moved to London around 2000, a timeline that correlates with the progression of Banksy’s artwork.

Happy Birthday Jacob Lawrence

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I am lucky enough to be able to view this mural in person whenever I want. It is so comforting to know that it is in the convention center.

NAME: Jacob Lawrence
OCCUPATION: Academic, Painter
BIRTH DATE: September 07, 1917
DEATH DATE: June 09, 2000
PLACE OF BIRTH: Atlantic City, New Jersey
PLACE OF DEATH: Seattle, Washington
Best Known For:  Jacob Lawrence was an American painter, and the most widely acclaimed African-American artist of the 20th century. He is best known for his Migration Series.

lawrence2

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on September 7, 1917, Jacob Lawrence moved with his parents to Easton, Pennsylvania, at the age of 2. When his parents separated in 1924, his mother deposited him and his two younger siblings in foster care in Philadelphia, and went to work in New York City. When he was 13, Lawrence joined his mother in Harlem.

Lawrence was introduced to art shortly after his arrival, when his mother enrolled him in Utopia Children’s Center, which had an after-school art program. He dropped out of school at 16 but took classes at the Harlem Art Workshop with Charles Aston and frequently visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 1937, Lawrence won a scholarship to the American Artists School in New York. When he graduated in 1939, he received funding from the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. He had already developed his own style of modernism, and began creating narrative series, painting 30 or more paintings on one subject. He completed his best-known series, Migration of the Negro or simply The Migration Series, in 1941. The series was exhibited at Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery in 1942, making Lawrence the first African-American to join the gallery.

At the outbreak of World War II, Lawrence was drafted into the United States Coast Guard. After being briefly stationed in Florida and Massachusetts, he was assigned to be the Coast Guard artist aboard a troopship, documenting the experience of war around the world. He produced 48 paintings during this time, all of which have been lost.

When his tour of duty ended, Lawrence received a Guggenheim Fellowship and painted his War Series. He was also invited by Josef Albers to teach the summer session at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Albers reportedly hired a private train car to transport Lawrence and his wife to the college so they wouldn’t be forced to transfer to the “colored” car when the train crossed the Mason-Dixon Line.

Back in New York after his stint in the south, Lawrence continued to paint. He grew depressed, however, and in 1949, he checked himself into Hillside Hospital in Queens, where he stayed for 11 months. He painted as an inpatient, and the work created during this time differs significantly from his other work, with subdued colors and people who appear resigned or in agony.

After leaving Hillside, Lawrence turned his attention to the theater. In 1951, he painted works based on memories of performances at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. He also began teaching again, first at Pratt Institute and later the New School for Social Research and the Art Students League.

In 1971, Lawrence accepted a tenured position as a professor at University of Washington in Seattle, where he taught until he retired in 1986. In addition to teaching, he spent much of the rest of his life painting commissions, producing limited-edition prints to help fund nonprofits like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Children’s Defense Fund and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He also painted murals for the Harold Washington Center in Chicago, the University of Washington and Howard University, as well as a 72-foot mural for New York City’s Times Square subway station.

Lawrence painted until a few weeks before he died, on June 9, 2000.