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Vincent van Gogh is dominating the art history news

In 1997 the Art Newspaper announced 45 or more Vincent  van Goghs may well be fakes; eminent van Gogh schol­ar Jan Hulsker had questioned the authenticity of some of the art works. Since then, experts in the Netherlands have been sorting out van Gogh's oeuvre - here are two examples of paintings held in American galleries.

The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford Connecticut has had a Vincent van Gogh still-life oil painting, called Vase With Poppies 1886, in their coll­ection since 1957. The painting’s authenticity was called into question in 1990 by the art historian and Van Gogh expert Walter Feilchen­feldt, who raised concerns about many supposed van Goghs around the world. Plus there was some suspicion that, because the paint­ing had been donat­ed by a person who was not known as a coll­ector, its proven­an­ce might have been dodgy. So the painting was taken out of museum display and locked away.

So the Hartford Museum to set out to authenticate Vase With Pop­pies. Thomas Loughman, director of the Wadsworth Atheneum, said five years ago they started using their own digital X-ray tech­nol­ogy. Amazingly this revealed a man, underneath the flower painting: a ghostly self-portrait in profile of Van Gogh. Since poverty relentlessly dogged van Gogh all his short adulthood, they understood that the artist reused the canvas to save money.

So they sent the painting to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam where experts were able to verify that the linen support matched other linens that Vincent was using in these years. The paint samples indicated that he was using the same kind of paints. And stylistically, this picture fitted into this transit­ional per­iod i.e with the other floral paintings the artist made shortly after arriving in Paris. Since the paint, materials and style were all correct, the Amsterdam analysis proved that Vase with Poppies was indeed a Van Gogh.

Wadsworth director Thomas Loughman believes the work has revealed just how much art historians still need to learn about Vincent and his growth as a painter. It was a transitional period because the Dutch artist had been new to Paris and was exploring new avenues for his paintings. The early summer of 1886, a few months after the artist’s arrival in Paris, was a perfect time for poppies to flower.

van Gogh 
Vase With Poppies 1886,
27 x 35.6 cm

Vincent Van Gogh's Vase with Poppies will return to the Wadsworth Atheneum in late April 2019, joining the Atheneum’s other van Gogh - a self-portrait painted in 1887. Then Poppies will go out on loan to Museum Barberini in Potsdam Germany in October 2019.

In the early autumn of 1886 Van Gogh wrote to his British artist friend Horace Livens, confirming that he lacked money for paying models. He had therefore spent the summer making a series of colour studies in painting simply flowers, red poppies, blue corn flowers and forget-me-nots, trying to render intense colour.

The was a second painting, perhaps by van Gogh, that needed to be carefully examined. In 1960 Bruno and Sadie Adriani donated Still Life With Fruit and Chestnuts (1886) to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, suggesting it was done by Van Gogh in Nuenen in 1884. The painting depicted two pears and an apple nesting in a cluster of autumn chestnuts. Inscribed on the reverse of the canvas was the phrase “Nature mort, peint par Vincent van Gogh”.

But because the colouring appeared unusual for that period, the painting was not displayed in the Fine Arts Museum. Furthermore the picture was not included in the two standard Van Gogh catalogues [by Jacob-Bart de la Faille 1970 and Jan Hulsker 1996] and more recently it was rejected by Walter Feilchenfeldt 2013.

Vincent van Gogh 
Still-life with fruit and chestnuts, 1886
27 x 36 cm

The still-life painting was sent to the Van Gogh Museum in Amst­er­dam. Special­ists there determined that the canvas and the paints matched Van Gogh’s work. Stylistically it was regarded as fitting in with the still lifes which the artist made in Paris between Oct-Dec 1886. The Amsterdam museum’s infrared reflectography revealed that the artist reused the canvas. Originally Van Gogh had painted a port­rait, but as he was always short of money in Paris as we noted before, he sometimes painted over earlier works. The original portrait appear­ed to be a female wearing a scarf, probably done some months earlier when he was in Antwerp.

The painting’s provenance can now be traced. There was reference to “pears and chestnuts” in an 1890 inventory, compiled shortly after Van Gogh’s death, with the word “Bernard” added - his friend Emile Bernard? Emile Bernard’s mother sold a work with that title (and the dimensions of the San Francisco picture) to the Parisian dealer Ambroise Vollard in 1899.
van Gogh, 
Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies, 1890

Still Life with Fruit and Chestnuts will be loaned to Frankfurt's Städel Museum, for the exhibition Making Van Gogh: A German Love Story (Oct 2019-Feb 2020). See Van Gogh’s works acquired by early collectors in Germany.

It was worth getting it right. A Vincent van Gogh still-life, painted just months before his death in 1890, was Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies. It was sold at the New York Sotheby's auction in 2014 for $61.8 million.


British galleries have feared that uncertainty around Brexit was making European institutions nervous about lending their works. But anxieties were particularly acute about the blockbuster Van Gogh and Great Britain Exhibition at the Tate Britain, which opened 27th March, just two days before Britain was to leave the EU. The Netherlands and UK embassies were asked to intervene with the two countries’ culture ministries. Discussions with member states led to the European commission drawing up new customs guidelines - paintings loaned before Brexit but returning after it can be treated as Returned Goods, the guidelines indicate, and will therefore be free from import taxes.


The Beatles - communism, sex and mental disease, by David Noebel

David Noebel (b1936) is an evangelical Christian leader and the founder of Summit Ministries in Colorado in 1961. He saw the rise of Beatlemania coming from Communist indoct­rin­at­ion via hypnosis, a thesis he developed in his book, Rhythm, Riots, and Revolution: An Analysis of the Com­m­unist Use of Music & the Communist Master Music Plan (1964). The book transitioned from folk art­is­ts and their earlier influences, to my beloved Beatles. Con­sidering the polit­ic­al leanings of the folk move­ment, with its explicit anti-racist, pro-labour lyrics, he argued the music was turning kids into gay, Communist, inter-breeders.

In the mid 1960s Noebel wrote several pamphlets that condemned rock and roll music and pop culture - as a Soviet plot to brain­wash American teenagers. His pamphlet Communism, Hypnot­ism and The Beatles (1965) included some of these claims:

David A Noebel
Communism, Hypnot­ism and The Beatles,

“The Communists, through their scientists, educators and ent­er­tainers, have contrived an elaborate and scient­ific technique directed at rendering a generation of American youth useless, via mental deter­ior­ation. The plan involves condit­ioned re­flexes, hypnotism and certain kinds of music. The results, destined to destroy our nation, are precise and exacting. Little wonder the Kremlin maintains it will not raise the Red flag over America — the Americans will raise it themselves. If the foll­ow­ing scientific program destined to make our children mentally sick is not exposed, mentally degenerated Americans will indeed raise the Communist flag over their own nation. 

Younger children are not the only ones being tampered with by Communists. Our teenagers are also being exploited: 1. To create in them mental illness through artificial neur­os­is; and 2. To prepare them for riot and ultimate revolution, to destroy our American form of government and the basic Christ­ian principles governing our way of life. 

Four young men, noted for their tonsils and tonsure, are help­ing to bring about this exploitation. When the Beatles conducted their “concert” in Vancouver, 100 persons were stomped, gouged, elbowed and otherwise assaulted during a 29-minute performance. 1,000 were injured in Melbourne. In Beirut, fire hoses were needed to disperse hysterical fans. In the grip of Beatle fever, the teenagers weep, wail and experience ecstasy-ridden hysteria that has to be seen to be believed. The Beatles’ ability to make teenagers take off their clothes and riot is laboratory tested and approved. It is scientifically labelled mass hypnosis and artificial neurosis… 

The music isn’t an art form, but a very destructive process. Teenage mental breakdown is at an all-time high and juvenile de­lin­quency is nearly destroying our society. Both are caused in part by emotional instability which in turn is caused in part by destruct­ive music like rock and roll and certain kinds of jazz. But no mat­t­er what one might think about the Beatles, the results are the same: a generation of young people with sick minds, loose morals and little ability to defend themselves from those who would bury them 

Throw your Beatles records in the city dump. We have been unashamed of being labelled a Christian nation; let’s make sure four mop-headed anti-Christ beatniks don’t destroy our children’s emotional and mental stability and ul­timately destroy our nation. 

Indoctrination began for American babies via Communist educational records with titles like Muffin in the Country, via the Children's Record Guild which was subsidised by Moscow. The history of rock and roll went still deeper, to the heart of Africa, where it was used to incite warriors to such a frenzy that neighbours were cooked to carnage in pots! The music was a designed reversion to savagery!

Thousands of rioting teenagers overran law enforcement. Beatles mania was a Communist conditioned response, mass-hypnotising thous­ands of American youth. The Beatles' anti-religion statement (“we are more popular than Jesus Christ”) showed how they incited juv­en­ile delinquency, venereal diseases, teenage suicides and paganism.

Hot Jazz put people in mental hospitals; it very closely res­embled the music of primitive savages, harsh, ear-splitting percussion music, which inflamed, intoxicated and brutalised. In a pitch for Christianity, he wanted to remove the offending "mentally contam­inating products."

His pamphlet The Beatles: a Study in Drugs, Sex and Revolution (1969) fol­l­owed.  Here Noebel developed a theory that the backbeat in rock and roll has an effect on the cere­bro-spinal fluid, causing a cessation of forebrain activity; thus the primal, animal parts of the brain could take over. Music like this would speed the downfall of America, by hyp­notising the kids into having sex and eventually embrac­ing Communism.

Leaving David Noebel aside, The Beatles would have broken up in 1969 anyhow. But Noebel made their group life in the USA so miserable, their final live foreign concert was in Aug 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

David A Noebel
Rhythm, Riots and Revolution,

Did this extreme, religious subculture have any impact in the USA? Did anyone believe that the hysteria taking place among youth was playing right into the hands of America’s enemies? Yes! Noeb­el’s influence in conservative Christian circles was considerable: he had undesirable records banned from radio stations in the Deep South, had con­certs disrupted and he was partially responsible for the later culture wars (against feminists and gay activists etc) after the Cold War faded. David Noebel and others defined the World­view Con­struct. He has authored books and scholarly papers on the subject of Western Civilisation’s moral and spiritual decline, and integ­rated Biblical and scientific creationism in university text books.


Tiny House Festival Australia .. this weekend!!! Thanks, USA

The Tiny House Festival Australia is being held this weekend (March 23-24th 2019) at Bendigo Racecourse in Central Victoria. The event is showcasing vendors and suppliers, work­shops, guest speakers and screenings, plus tiny houses and vans on display. Investigate the lives of those who want a simpler and smaller life.

Five years ago, there was little information about tiny homes in Australia. Now we know that with a third of greenhouse emissions coming from build­ings, living in an eco-friendly tiny home drastically reduces one’s carbon imprint.

 Mobile Tiny Home, Ringwood

History of the American Movement In 1970 artist-architect Allan Wexler pursued the idea of living in a compact space, helping him promote his art. In 1973 authors Loyd Kahn and Bob Easton released the book called Shelter which advanced the idea of living in a compact space more widely. Other authors like Henry David Thoreau and Lester Walker became advocates for the tiny house movement. In 1990s, artist Andrea Zittel used the concept of the tiny home in her work which became another inspirat­ion for the movement. In 1997 author Sarah Susank published the book The Not So Big House which promoted environmental protection.

In 2002 the Small House Society of America was created. And a dec­ade later, Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. was founded by Jay Shafer. Shafer then created a second company called Four Lights Tiny House Co. His first design was only 96 sq feet, and he was soon creating tiny homes on wheels. His colleagues Nigel Valdez and Shay Salomon published their guides of the small house movement in 2006 while Greg Johnson published his memoir in 2008.

In 2013, Austin Texas wanted to help the homeless so they created a Tiny House Solution. From there in 2015, Tiny House Collaborative was promoted and founded to help educate oth­ers on the fine design of tiny homes. In 2016, legislation was passed in Kalamazoo Mich­ig­an that allowed the tiny homes to be altered, to help those who wanted to live a smaller functioning lifestyle.

The average house size for an American family used to be 1,780 sq ft/ 165 sq ms in 1978. This had almost doubled by 2007 when the average family house­hold grew to 2,662 sq feet/247 sq ms for a normal house. But a tiny home averages c400 sq feet/37 sq ms. Compare to Australia. After WW2, 969 sq feet/90 sq ms was an average family house in Austral­ia. Only in recent generations did the floor space creep up until the average new house built in 2016 was 2508 sq feet/233 sq ms.

Open, light filled kitchen living area 
Study/bedroom upstairs

In Australia,  to  make the formal living room less squashy,
family time in summer can be enjoyed on a veranda

So what are the financial, lifestyle, maintenance, environmental and recreational advantages of tiny houses?
A. They can be owned faster than normal mortgages
B. Some tiny homes can be made on wheels for easier travel.
C. They are less expensive to build and easier to maintain.
D. Tiny homes can be more creative with storage.
E. They can be built from eco-friendly, recycled material.
F. They use solar & wind power better than standard homes.
G. Designing a tiny home is simple, and it is easily upgraded.
H. Having a tiny home on a property can create more outdoor space for family and animal fun.

The Cost of a tiny home in the USA can range anywhere up to US $100,000; fac­t­ors that affect the pricing are size, design, mobility, interior design and the materials used to build the tiny home. Overall, building a tiny home is definitely less expensive compared to getting a house mortgage for a fixed rate and a 30-year loan. It is a way to save on overhead and long term expenses. Adding solar and wind power to utilises natural resources, and a manageable septic system is built so the expenses are relatively small.

Who wants Tiny Houses in Australia?
Since the first tiny house groups appeared on Facebook in 2013, such groups and pages have proliferated. The original Facebook pages, such as Tiny Houses Australia, have 58,000 followers, and new groups have emerged since. In cities with expensive housing costs, tiny houses could be part of a solution to the perennial housing problem, as well as improving urban density and environmental sustainability.

Since 2015, most of these tiny houses were mobile and only 20% were intended to be permanently in­stalled in the land. Most of those preferring rural locations wished to build a perm­anent house, while those wanting urban locations preferred mobile houses. As a result of urban land costs?

Demographically, interest in tiny houses was focused on single women over 50; in fact they were the fastest-growing demographic for homelessness in Australia. This was due to widowhood or divorce, employer bias against older women and lack of superannuation savings. And older single women could locate an independent tiny house on property belonging to an adult child.

When buyers wanted to reduce overall debt or to downsize, normal housing was often too expensive. Environmental sustainability and the backlash against the McMansions of previous decades was strong. But what did this mean for urban planning? There were significant bar­riers, particularly a] inflexible planning schemes and b] the cost of land. This might indicate local governments needed to become more open to the idea of tiny houses as an alternative to blocks of flats for increasing density.

Architects, consultants, planning professionals and acad­emics collaborated on the Tiny House Planning Resource for Aust­ralia 2017. It aimed to assist planners, policymakers and the community understand the tiny house movement and its potential to contribute to greater choice in housing supply and diversity. Yes, tiny houses were just one end-of-the-housing-form continuum that didn't suit all demographics. But the increasing interest showed local govern­ments needed to broaden their thinking.

Mezzanine floor bedroom
small, but well fitted

A tiny, but well fitted bathroom and laundry

"The tiny house on its own freehold lot has to be a way to enable ease of financing. "If a local government is serious about affordability, planning regulations need to change to enable freehold titling and increased density without having to go through costly and time-consuming development approval processes."

Researcher Catherine Foster has travelled across Australia to document how 21 architects made functional tiny houses in c90 square metres. Her book, Small House Living Australia 2017 outlined the floor plans that worked.


Which nation owns falafel as its national dish?

The first part of his post comes from Alexander Lee. The second part reflects my own experiences.

Falafel is an archetypical Middle Eastern dish. Made from ground fava beans, chickpeas or both, these deep-fried balls are a staple of Levantine cuisine. Whether eaten alone as a quick snack, or served in a pitta with salad and tachina-based sauces, they are a common sight across the Levant.

Falafel is as contested as the region itself. While Israelis have fêted it as their national dish, Palestin­ians see it as the theft of their distinctly Arab special­ity. Clearly own­er­ship of this most dist­inctively Levantine dish was bound up with issues of national identity between the two nations.

Falafel platter 
with hot sauce, sliced tomato, lettuce, pickled turnip & parsley.
Credit: Abla’s

Meanwhile the Lebanese want falafel recognised as their own; and the Yemenis say it is they who invented it. This is not just a matter of cul­in­ary pride. Mostly arguments about the origins of falafel are refracted through the lens of political rival­ries.

Despite all the claims, falafel was almost certainly developed in early modern Egypt. There are no references to any­thing resembling falafel in pharaonic texts; in any case, the vege­table oil in which falafel was fried was then very expensive. Nor was falafel invented by Coptic Christians as meat-free food for Lent.

Falafel is modern, appearing in Egyp­t­ian lit­er­ature only after British rule (1882). Pro­bably this was bec­ause British officers from India may have asked their Egyptian cooks to prepare the Indian cuisine using local ingredients.

Falafel probably emerged in Alexandria, the country’s prin­c­ipal port and home to the largest concentration of British and European troops. At first, its principal ing­red­ient was fava beans, which were grown in large quantities nearby and which became an Egyptian staple under the Muhammad Ali dynasty. From Alexandria, falafel spread across the country, then migrated.

Shortly after WW1, it had reached what is now Lebanon and, in 1933, falafel shops opened in Beirut. Soon falafel travelled down the Red Sea coast towards Yemen, north along the Mediter­ranean to Turkey and west towards Libya. Each nation general­ly left the basic recipe unchanged, slightly altering the ing­red­ients to suit their own tastes or to reflect the balance of local agriculture.

Falafel also reached the Jewish communities in Palestine and the Jewish pioneers adopted it readily. Having long grown used to cultural exch­an­ge with Muslim neighbours, they gave no thought to whether it was an Arab food or not. They simply integrated it into their own cuisine. It was tasty and filling, and the ingredients could be bought cheaply. Falafel balls were convenient to eat, served either hot or cold.

The Jews who came to Palestine from Eastern Europe, especially during the 1920s and 30s immigration-waves, were more hostile. Susp­icious of anything they regarded as Arabic, these Ashken­azi Jews stuck dogged­ly to their own cuisine, finding falafel alien food.

Independence for Israel came in 1948. Though recipes extol­ling its nutritious qualities appeared in news­papers, falafel’s popularity was patchy. Two developments changed that:

1] the introduction of rationing. Struggling to cope with the influx of new immigrants, and lacking both food and money, Israel introduced a strict programme of food rationing in 1949. Not only was falafel a good substitute source of protein, but cheap enough for even the poorest families.

2] The second was the arrival of MANY Sephardi Jews from Ye­men, Turkey and North Africa. In 1949, 100,690 Sephardim arr­ived in Israel from these regions, 41% of all immig­rants in that year! Having already loved falafel in their nat­ive count­ries, they happily brought it with them to their new home and cooked it regularly.

In the wake of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-9, there was a concerted effort by the Israeli government to foster a dist­inctive sense of Israeli national identity and to separate its culture from that of its neighbours. Helped by the fact that many Yemeni Jews soon started opening falafel stalls, the Israeli government incorrectly promoted the idea that falafel had been imported not from Egypt but from Yemen.

By the 1960s, this nationalisation process was complete. Fal­afel had been identified as the Israeli dish par excellence. It was proudly served on long-haul flights by Is­rael’s nat­ion­al carrier El Al; and top chefs prepared special dishes in international cookery compet­itions. 

Falafel sandwich 
with pitta bread, tomato, mint leaves, pickled cucumber, turnip and lettuce 

By then falafel had begun to reach more distant shores. Waves of Arab and Turkish migrants in the early 1970s had taken it through Europe, especially Germany. Even in the USA in the late C20th, falafel began to be appreciated by a much wider audience.


In my parents’ home, I had never been to a Sephardi synagogue or heard of Sephardi cuisine. Presumably this was because almost the entire Jewish community in Melbourne before and soon after WW2 were from Poland, Russia, Germany or Hungary.

Then I joined a pioneering youth movement in 1963 where the focus was on scouting skills, working the land and Hebrew language. All the movement’s parties celebrated with platters of falafel, chumus, techina, pitta bread and pickled vegetables. Finger food!

Going to Israel the first time, for a Gap Year in 1966, the food in the academy was cheap, fattening and filling, but not very healthy. So although falafel was still not traditional enough for me to love it, some of the other Ashkenazi students from abroad readily adapted.

Then both of my Ashkenazi sons married beautiful Sephardi wiv­es (one family from Alexandria and one family from Damas­cus) and their diets changed. One son eats falafel and chumus as an entrée before every dinner. The other son has it on the table, with a range of other entrées, every single Sabbath and Holyday dinner.


Caravaggio and Giorgione, lost and found

Judith beheading Holofernes (c1607) was accidentally found in a manky Toul­ouse attic in 2014. Burglars had broke into the house, but they left the painting, believing it worthless! It remained a secret for another two years!! But since then, Judith and Holofernes has been analysed by experts at the Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France at the Louvre. Most of them concluded that it most likely created by Caravaggio (1571-1610).

The painting depicted the biblical story of Judith, the young widow in Biblical town of Bethulia who put an end to the Assyrian siege on her city by seducing and beheading General Holofernes.

Judith beheading Holofernes, c1607 
By ? Caravaggio, 

In 2016 the French government placed an export ban on the painting to allow time for the Louvre to consider whether it should be bought. The estim­at­ed price of €100m represented 15 years of the Louvre’s acquisition budget, and the museum already had three exceptional Caravaggios. The museum decided not to buy it and when the ban ended, the painting was available to travel. The Louvre decision meant the painting can be auctioned in late June 2019 in Toulouse. There are 68 known paintings by Caravaggio, including this one, only four of which are in private hands. So a museum would be the most likely buyer in June.

In the meantime, Judith and Holofernes is being displayed at Mayfair’s Colnaghi Gallery this week. Eric Turquin, a Paris-based expert in the Old Masters, is in London now with the painting, to make the case for it being a genuine Caravaggio.

Since Caravaggio was my favourite artist in the ENTIRE universe, I don’t understand why he was so unfashionable from 1650-1950. But apparently his paintings were worth very little in those 3 centuries. Note the last Caravaggio auction in 1971 when Christie’s offered Martha and Mary Mag­dalene (found in South America). The head of the Nat­ional Gallery did not believe it was a Caravaggio, so it failed to sell. Soon after it was bought privately for the Detroit Institute of Arts.

As there is no reserve price on Judith and Holofernes, please just wrap it up and send it to me. I don't have the US $115-170 million estimated value, but I will love the painting tenderly for the rest of my life.


Now a work from another artist, found in a different country and painted in another century. Read about Giorgione's life in Lives of the Most Excel­l­ent Painters, Sculptors and Architects written by the It­al­ian art hist­orian Giorgio Vasari (1511-74). The painter came from the small town of Castel­franco Veneto, 40 km inland from Venice. He probably served his apprentice­ship in Venice under the beautiful Giovanni Bellini; there he settled and rose to prominence as a mas­ter. Giorgione in turn influenced the even more beautiful Titian. But was Giorgione Titian's master? It is possible that they were both pupils of Giovanni Bellini, and lived in Bell­ini’s house. They worked together on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi frescoes and Titian finished some paintings of Giorgione after his death.

His skill was recognised early. In 1500, at 23, he was chosen to paint portraits of the Doge and other dig­nitaries. In 1504, he was commissioned to paint an altar­piece in the Cast­el­franco cathedral. In 1507, The Council of Ten commissioned a picture for the Hall of the Audience in the Doge's Palace.

In 1507-8 he and others were employed to fresco the exterior of the newly rebuilt Fondaco dei Tedeschi-German Merchants' Hall at Venice, having already done the exterior frescoes of other Venetian pal­aces.

Leonardo da Vinci met Giorgione when the old master's visited Venice in 1500 and found the young man to be charming, a great lover and a mus­ician. Giorgione expressed the grace of contempor­ary Venetian existence in his art, Leonardo said.

Sadly Giorgione died of the raging plague in Oct 1510, only in his mid 30s. Fortunately he had already had a great influence on his foll­owers in the Ven­et­ian school and remained one of the greats of the Renaissance era.

Now a chance discovery in a Sydney library of a 500-year-old sketch has impressed art historians. The red-chalk draw­ing by Giorg­ione was found at the University of Sydney Library, on the last page of a 1497 edition of Dante Alig­hieri’s Div­ine Comedy. The sketch has an ­accompanying hand-written inscrip­tion in black ink and dated 1510: “On the 17th Sept, Giorgione of Castelfranco, a very excellent art­ist, died of the plague in Venice at the age of 36 and he rests in peace.

Melbourne Uni Prof Jaynie Anderson, author of  the book Gior­g­ione: The Painter of Poetic Brevity, estimated its worth to be in the mil­l­ions. And, she said, the Sydney discovery transforms our un­der­stand­ing of ­Giorgione’s life and his relation to other artists. [Both claims may have been overstated]. In 1510, at the time of Giorgione’s death, the book had likely been the art­ist’s property. It contained a Virgin Mary and child, with the emphasis on the Christ child. “The Virgin’s face is blank. It is very abstract, little more than a doodle, but all the more beautiful for that.”

Giorgione sketch, The Madonna and Child. 
University of Sydney

The 1497 copy of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy
gold-tooled inboard binding.
University of Sydney’s Rare Books and Special Collections.

Prof Anderson said that the c1500 sketch was related to a group of paint­ings attributed to Giorgione: Holy Family and Adoration of the Sh­ep­herds in the National ­Gallery of Art in Washington, and the London Nat­ional Gall­ery’s Adoration of the Magi. These paint­ings showed similar Vir­gin and child groupings, as analysed in the British art jour­nal Burl­ington Magazine in March 2019.

Were Venetian paintings of the early 1500s without literary reference? No. Sydney Uni­versity’s discovery suggested that the Venetian artist read Dante’s early C14th verses in the Tuscan dialect AND that his sketch was a direct response to the narrative poem.
How did the 1497 Dante edition arrive an Australian university? Apparently the University’s first vice-chancellor Charles Nicholson began collecting rare books in the 1850s. His collection of antiq­uities formed the basis of the university’s Nicholson ­Museum. My main references were published in The Australian Newspaper, 16th Feb 2019 and 23rd Feb 2019. And the Sydney University Newsletter 25th Feb 2019.


Lord Horatio Nelson, William Wilberforce and slavery in the Caribbean

Horatio Nelson (1758–1805)’s first long sea-voyage as an adolescent boy was to the Jamaican sugar colonies of the West Indies in 1771-2. He served in the region as a Naval officer during the War of American Indep­end­ence (1775–83). This was at the very time million of Africans were being transported to European colonies as slaves.

Nelson had developed a close affinity with the planters in the Caribbean, befriending local colonists. He became a close friend of Simon Taylor, a Jamaican slave owner, and in 1787 married his wife Fanny Nisbet, daughter of a wealthy slave owner. And they all firmly believed that the Britain's booming economy rel­ied heavily on the Atlantic slave trade.

Portrait of Nelson, 1797 
by L.F Abbott 
75 x 62 cm, National Portrait Gallery

Who was Will­iam Wilber­force (1759–1833)? He studied at Cambridge University creating a lasting friendship with future prime minist­er, William Pitt the Younger. In 1780, Wilberforce became M.P for Hull, later representing Yorkshire. In the 1780s Wil­b­erforce and his allies argued for an end to slave-trading on the basis that it was an immoral blotch on the reputat­ion of a proud, Christian nation. 

Slave holders, on the other hand, patriot­ically maintained that their trade was utterly vital to Britain’s imperial econ­omy. And the connection between the Navy and the colonies was very strong. Import duties collected on British colonial produce helped fund the Treasury whose primary objective was defence of the realm. The country was divided.

So how do modern histor­ians know Lord Nelson’s true beliefs? Let­t­ers he wrote onboard HMS Vict­ory reveal­ed his posit­ion, showing his vehement opposition to Wilber­force ’s camp­aign for the abolition of the slave trade and his sympathy with the slave-owning elite. To help his friend Simon Tay­lor, Nelson wrote he would launch his voice against the “damn­able and cursed doctrine of Wilber­force and his hypocritical allies”. Afua Hirsch says Nelson used his position to "perpetuate the tyran­ny, ser­ial rape and ex­ploitation org­anised by West Indian planters, some of whom he counted among his closest friends".

Wilberforce, the Anglican Bishop of London and their religious allies had to work for decades to end Britain’s offic­ial in­volve­ment in the transatlantic slave trade. His nation­wide camp­aign helped bring an end first to the trade between Africa via Brit­ain and the Caribbean in 1807, and then to slavery itself in the 1830s.

Nelson was widely celebrated for victory in the 1798 Battle of the Nile, off Egypt's Mediterranean coast. And he became even more famous as the heroic victor of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. He lost his life at the height of the fight­ing, against the rival combined fleets of Napoleonic France and Spain, aboard his flag­ship HMS Victory. The dead Admiral was soon elevated to the status of an al­most god-like imperial, patriotic hero. But though extremely capab­le in command of a fleet, he had been in other ways a flawed human being, limited by his own experiences and friend­ships. Thus Christer Pet­ley showed how Nelson, the British Navy and Trafalgar were all linked to the big­ger British political struggle over slavery.

Thanks to Lord Nelson, the British Navy soon enjoyed almost complete control of the seas. After the British formally abolished the slave trade in 1807, Nelson’s succ­essors took freeing of the slaves ser­iously.

  Slaves working the sugar cane, early C19th 

The hundreds of USA statues that still stand, often in southern states, have always been the subject of trauma for many African Americans. The mem­or­ials are rightly seen as glorifying slavery and segregation, and perhaps energising white supremacist groups. While the USA argues about whether to tear down monuments to the support­ers of slavery, Britain has trouble in confronting its ugly past.

The USA is moving on from its slavery and segregationist past. But have the British at least put the nation’s monuments in their historical context? Yes, Nelson’s column does include the figure of a black sailor, cast in bronze in the bas-relief. He was probably one of the thous­ands of slaves promised freedom if they fought for the British mil­itary, only to be later left destitute and homeless, in London. The black slaves whose brutalis­ation helped make Britain a global power ..largely remain invisible.

Lord Nelson’s supp­ort­ers have moved to defend him. They argue that he was the man who twice defeated Napoleon at sea, and, in so doing, confirmed Britain’s unparalleled naval supremacy. Now Afua Hirsch says that Britain should look more carefully at its past, to understand itself better today. The Trafalgar Square statue should be protected since Nelson was truly one of the nation’s greatest maritime heroes. But a full picture is required; historically accurate plaques need to be added.

Battle of Trafalgar, c1807 
by JMW Turner
171 x 239 cm, Tate

In the British sugar colonies in the Carib­b­ean in the late C18th, it was the transatlantic slave trade that drove the thriving plantat­ion econ­om­ies and made huge profits that flowed back into the wider British economy. Could British colonial­ism continue to thrive without the trans-Atlantic slave trade?

In the battle over slavery, Nelson clearly symp­ath­ised with the sugar traders’, naval leaders’ and slavers’ pol­itical outlook. As he became more exper­ienced, he increasingly despised Wilber­force and staunchly opposed the British abolitionist campaign. Brit­ain’s best known naval hero, he might have used his seat in the House of Lords and his hugely influential position to perp­etuate slavery in the British Caribbean. If he had lived long enough!

Nelson's Column 
Trafalgar Square, London

For new research, about the Royal Navy and the C18th British Atlantic Empire, read Christer Petley’s book The Royal Navy, the British Atlantic Empire and the Abolition of the Slave Trade, 2016. And for Napoleon's role in making slavery legal again in the French colonies, read the BBC article. The Emperor's efforts to restore slavery meant that campaigning for the 1806 Act in Britain would help to undermine Napoleon's plans for the Caribbean. 



The most famous artists' colony in Paris - La Ruche

In art, lit­erature and music, Paris had long been the home of the avant-garde and by 1900, the city was still dominant. The ambitious 1900 Intern­ational Exhibition only reinforced Paris’ importance. Some of Paris' most noted structures were built for the 1900 Fair, including Gare de Lyon, Pont Alexandre III, Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. The Paris Metro began operating to coincide with the Fair, and Gare d'Orsay/now Musée d'Orsay, opened in May 1900.

Eventually the hub of artistic creativity moved across Paris from Mont­martre (18th arrond) Montparnasse. Pablo Picasso, for example, was irritated by an influx of tourists who were crowding the cafes his neighbourhood. So he moved out of his Montmartre studio, and moved across the Seine to Montparnasse on the Left Bank.

Many of the newly arrived artists lived in a rotunda called La Ruche, an art­is­ts’ colony in Montparnasse (15th arrond.) that was born from the gener­osity of the famous and wealthy sculp­tor Alfred Bouch­er (1850-1934).

circular La Ruche, 

Paris' arrondissements
Montparnasse in the south
(press to expand)

When the Universal Exhibition of 1900 ended, Boucher bought a sub­stantial block of land in Danzig Passage and a wine pavilion de­s­igned by Gustave Eiffel. He resurrect­ed the circular metal struct­ure over 3 floors and decorated it with bricks. Soon other arch­it­ec­t­ural el­e­m­ents came from the Universal Exhibition.

Then other workshops were erected next to the rotunda, in the gardens. Inside, La Ruche had 140 bedroom-cells and light-filled work­shops. A large salon that served as an exhibition space for the artists opened in 1905. Ruche des Arts theatre was erected in the central garden.

Sculptors and painters arrived from across Europe. Rents were low, and even then, Boucher was patient when an artist could not pay. Some were French eg Fernand Léger; most were migrants from Eastern Europe eg Ossip Zadkine, Marc Chagall, Jacques Lipchitz, Pinchus Kremegne.

In 1908, the year Cubism began, Fernand Léger moved into La Ruche, and there he soon found himself in the centre of avant-garde art cir­cles. Léger soon got to know the artists Robert Delaunay, Marc Chagall and Chaim Sou­t­ine; Jacques Lipchitz and Henri Laurens; and the poets Guil­laume Apollinaire and Max Jac­ob.

As a Lithuanian scul­ptor, Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973) was fasc­in­ated by the possib­il­ity of presenting an object from many view­points. He moved to Paris in 1909 to study at the École des Beaux-Arts where he was soon impressed by Cubism. In 1920 Lipchitz held his first solo exhibition at Rosenberg's Galerie L'Effort Moderne.

Ossip Zadkine
working in his La Ruche studio

In 1909, Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) was in Paris, renting a studio in Mont­parnasse. Paul Guillaume was an ambitious young art dealer who took an interest in his work and introduced him to sculptor Constantin Brâncuși. Modigliani's great sculptures were exhibited in the Salon d'Automne of 1912. He visited La Ruche reg­ularly and painted a series of friends’ portraits: Chaim Soutine, Moïse Kisling, Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, Juan Gris, Max Jacob and Jean Cocteau.

Marc Chagall from Belarus moved to Paris in 1910. He lived on coffee and poetry read­ings from his equally imp­o­v­erished neigh­bours. And he painted all night. In the days, he took any jobs to survive. Like the other penn­il­ess painters, sculptors, writers, poets and composers from Eastern Europe, Chagall thrived in the creative at­mos­phere and cheap rent of La Ruche. Living with­out running water, in un­heated studios, he sold his works for a few francs just to buy food. Most of Chagall’s neighbours at La Ruche were Jewish, often fleeing the pogroms of Central and Eastern Europe. So no matter how tough their lives were, at least they could keep homesick­ness at bay by socialising in Yiddish.

In time Chagall came to feel that Cubism lacked poetry and colour. He light­en­ed his palette and made his work more express­ive, harm­on­ious, unif­ied. Self Portrait with Seven Fingers 1913, still show­ing clear cubist influences, was more fan­t­asy and less portrait. Painted at La Ruche with its bare floorboards, Chagall painted a Russian scene with an improb­ab­le Eiffel Tower through the window.

Lithuanian Michel Kikoine (1892-1968) moved to Paris in 1911 and studied at l'Ecole Nat­ionale Superieure des Beaux Arts. He moved into La Ruche, where he met the other mem­bers of the School of Paris. Kikoine’s discovery of the French landscape allowed him to achieve a new personal style, a synthesis between Russian landscape trad­it­ion and exp­r­essionism.

From 1914-9, Kikoine joined the French army as a volunteer. After the war ended, he visited southern Fr­an­ce, fell in love with its light and painted many landscapes. Kikoine was soon exh­ib­iting at Salon d'automne.

Lithuanian Pinchas Kremegne (1890-1981) was a friend of both Sout­ine and Kikoine. After studying sculpture at the Vilna Art School, he left for Paris in 1912. He got off the train at the Gare de l'Est with 3 rubles to his name and no French! On­ce settled in La Ruche, he wrote to his good friend Chaim Soutine, inviting him to Paris.

In 1913, Chaim Soutine followed his friends Pinchus Kremegne and Michel Kikoine, emigrating from Belarus to Paris where they all lived at La Ruche. Soutine studied at the École des Beaux-Arts where he developed a highly personal painting technique. 

A La Ruche bedroom-studio, 

Artist Sonia Delaunay (1885–1979) was also Ukrainian, Jewish and a Yiddish speak­er, but she had one great advantage. Her wealthy fam­ily in Russia sent her money and food parcels every month, while the other young artists lived in dire poverty. The highlight of the men’s week was when Sonia Delaunay arrived at La Ruche with Russian herring and pickled cucumbers.

Diego Rivera studied art at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City. Then he was sponsored to study in Europe by the governor of the State of Veracruz. Rivera initially went to study in Madrid in 1907 and from there went to Paris. In La Ruche, his friend Amedeo Modigliani painted his port­rait in 1914. His circle of close friends included gallery owner Léopold Zborowski.

La Ruche was preserved and is still being used.

Read Shocking Paris: Soutine, Chagall and the Outsiders of Montparnasse, by Stanley Meisler, 2015


Anna Ticho's house museum and art exhibition in Jerusalem

I have always liked the idea of an artist’s work being shown in the family home that the artist once lived in. Consider, for example, Rembrandt’s home in Amsterdam, Durer’s home in Nuremberg or Ruben’s home in Antwerp. The idea of a house-museum seems more authentic than a multi-artist, multi-era gallery built decades after the artist’s death.

Anna Ticho (1894-1980) was born in Moravia, now Czech Rep­ublic. Anna moved with her parents to Vienna at 15, and studied draw­ing at an art school directed by a Czech artist. She was in the right place at the right time! Pre-WW1 Vienna was still the glittering capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was the beating heart of the art world. Ticho loved contemporary art­ists such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, from the avant-garde Sec­es­s­ionist group. And she could visit galleries like the Albertina as often as she wanted, to see paintings by German Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer and Flemish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel. She was exposed to both the traditional, classical art of Europe and to C20th excitement.

Three years later, in 1912, she was travelling to Palestine to be with first cousin opthal­mologist Dr Albert Ticho. Anna married Albert just be­fore war broke out, and moved to Damas­cus with her husband where he served as an Austrian Army doctor and she as his assistant. Dr Ticho was discharged after war ended.

The Tichos managed to find their way back to Palestine a year or so after the end of the war and in 1924 they acquired the building that now houses Anna Ticho’s works. This large house, originally built in 1864 by a prominent Ottoman family, was and is surrounded by gard­ens. The Jerusalem house had to be comfortable and elegant because they hosted local and British government officials, artists, writers, academics and intellectuals. The Tichos were always active in Jerusal­em’s social and cultural life, including involvement in the Bezalel Art School. 

Ticho House and garden

Ticho House galleries

Ticho House museum collection

Besides assisting her husband in his medical duties, Ticho found time to travel around the country, to capture some of the country’s scenery. This was interest­ing since the Israeli land­scape could not be more physic­ally and cult­ur­ally different from Brno’s and Vienna’s. So it took her a while to adapt to the very diff­erent natural light & colours of the Levant.

I am assuming she connected to her new home in a biblically hist­orical context and not via religious commands. The Israel Museum noted that Ticho depicted Jerusalem as “a dead and desolate city, a far cry from the ‘navel of the world’, holy to three religions.”

They lived far away from the world’s major art centres, but Ticho did take other cultural influences on board. And they mixed with every travelling artist arriving in British Pal­estine. Her works were first shown at the historic exhibition of local artists at David’s Tower in the Old City of Jerusalem in the early 1920s.

Pride of place was given in her new home to drawings she had brought from Vienna’s young and talented artists: Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka. They converted the lower storey into an eye clinic. Anna was busy running her husband’s medical practice and running the home, so there didn’t seem to be as much time for art as she would have liked.

Eventually her drawings of figures and Jerusalem landscape were done from nature, using the familiar hills, rocks and olive trees as source material. Perhaps the barren Jerusalem landscape encouraged Ticho to turn to sketching and water colours, not oils. The stony Judean Hills, treeless and human-free, lent themselves to her austere sketches.

Despite living in the Levant, Anna made several successful trips back to Europe and also exhibited in the USA. Her atten­t­ion to detail was central in Ticho’s best known works. Old City of Jerusalem, a graphite drawing from 1934, was also very precise and detailed creation.

Only later did Ticho focus on solitude and eternity, depicting olive trees, houses and aging people. She drew the maze of rooftops of the houses of the Old City stretching to the horizon above their opaque win­dows, creating a delicate interplay between stones and windows interwoven with domed roofs. She moved to earthy tones.

Ticho, Old Jerusalem
Etching, 13 x 15 cm

Ticho, Portrait of a Bearded Man
Watercolour, 61x47cm

In the 1940s and 1950s, the influence on Ticho of the avant-garde time in Vienna emerged. Schiele in particular influenced the way she worked on her line drawings. In this era she fav­oured a naturalistic approach, employing shading and flowing lines, and leaving areas of the page untouched, but as an integral part of the composition.

Her beloved husband’s death was in 1960. Afterwards, Anna continued to live and work in the same house until her own death in 1980. Toward the end of her own life, Anna bequeathed the house, the library, her art collection and her husband's extensive Judaica collection to the City of Jerusalem for use as a public art gallery.

And it’s not just Ticho’s own work on display. Today part of the Israel Museum, it also houses temporary exhibitions by other artists. "A Room of Her Own", for example, was an ex­hibition of women in portraiture from the C19th on. And the Israel Museum wanted ex­hib­­itions that covered a range of media, including painting, photo­gr­aphy and video to explore issues of living spaces and women in art.

The exhibition “Lifescape: The Work of Anna Ticho” currently fills most of the gallery’s ground floor and will be on dis­play until mid March 2019. Curated by Timna Seligman, the exhibition chronicles Ticho’s experiences and cultural bagg­age, in Brno, in Vienna and in Jerusalem. It is her story, but it reflects on the much wider story of the Jewish people, immigration, and the creation of the state of Israel within her lifetime.

Read the book “Lifescape: The Work of Anna Ticho” by Timna Seligman.


Scotland's architecture, whiskey distilleries and kosher tours

Eddie's Kosher Travel is offering a tour that combines my great loves – early modern architecture, British history, synagogues and Scottish whisky (not necessarily in that order). There will be two options for the tour, from 16th Jun-20th Jun 2019 or from 23rd Jun-27th Jun 2019

Sunday Head to The Loch Katrine National Park. It is a place of contrasts from rolling lowland landscapes in the south to high mountains in the north, with lochs and rivers, forests and wood­lands. It is also a living, working and recreational landscape. Hire a bike and explore the many cycle routes, from wide forest tracks through the area’s stunning forests.
7:30PM Dinner at L’Chaim Restaurant

8.45am Travel by bus to Edinburgh, one of the world's most classically beautiful capital cities . Edinburgh’s compact nat­ure allows a wide range of special att­ract­ions, culture hot spots and great shopping. Visit Scott Monument, Salisbury Crags, Carlton Hill and Arthurs Seat. Tour the Scottish Parliament building where guides share the history and pro­cedures of Scotland’s Parliament and about its award-winning modern architecture.


Then the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Holyrood's role today is as Queen Elizabeth's official residence in Scotland. See the West Drawing Room, used by members of the Royal Family as a private sitting room during Royal Week; it not normally open to the public. This beautiful room boasts a fine C17th plaster-work ceilings. Then tour through the State and Historic Apartments.

Edinburgh Castle

Lunch at The Princes Street Gardens will be below the magnificent Edinburgh Castle. The afternoon will provide free time for retail therapy along The Royal Mile and Princess Street, from the high-end fashion retailers to the weekly stalls of the large, award-winning Edinburgh Farmers’ Market. Enjoy the best loved Edinburgh attractions including The Castle and Queen Mary’s Bath House by using the Hop On/Hop Off Bus.
5.30PM Tour the synagogue belonging to the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation.
7:30PM Dinner at a restaurant

6:00am The bus departs for a 3+ hour drive to the Highlands up north to visit three world famous distilleries, in the very heart of Speyside, halfway between Inverness and Aberdeen. Enjoy the drive through spectacular scenery.

On Glenfiddich Distillery Explorers Tour, discover tall copper tuns, great wooden washbacks and stone-walled warehouses filled with earthy, aged aromas. Glenfiddich Distillery is one of the last independent distilleries in Scotland, with the freedom to maintain its tradition of innovation with a pioneering spirit.

On Macallan’s Distillery Six Pillars Tour, the guide will explain how they create The Macallan's rich spirit in a working still house and introduce the Six Pillars. Learn how the company’s investment in the finest casks contributes to the natural colours, aromas and flavours that set The Macallan apart. Then experience a nosing and tasting of four The Macallan whiskies.

Glenlivet Distillery is nestled deep in the dramatic scenery of Speyside, the heart of Scotland’s whisky-making country. Explore the turbulent history of the whisky smugglers, delve into the enigmatic world of distilling and sample its special single malt. Enjoy the Visitors' Exhibition Museum of Whisky.
8:00PM Dinner at a restaurant

Garnethill Synagogue, Glasgow
Photo credit: Wiki

8:45am A bus tour visits Glengoyne Whisky Distillery for the A Taste of 4 Award Winners Tour. Dating to 1833, Glengoyne is one of Scotland's oldest distilleries. Be welcomed with a dram of the Glengoyne 12 Year Old, overlooking the water fall and the secret glen where it all began. Follow the journey the spirit makes, through mashtun and washbacks to the swan-necks of our copper stills.

Stirling Castle is a great symbol of Scottish independence and a source of national pride. A place of power, beauty and history, the Castle's long, turbulent history is associated with great figures from Scotland’s past eg Scotland's Kings, William Wallace & Mary Queen of Scots. Knights, nobles and foreign ambassadors once flocked to the Royal Court to revel in the castle's grandeur.

National Wallace Monument

Then there is a steep 10min walk up to The National Wallace Monument. In 1861 Victorian craftsmen embarked on a special assignment to build a monument to commemorate a Scottish Hero Sir William Wallace. Follow the story of a patriot, martyr and guardian of Scotland, a landmark that has fascinated visitors with its exhibits and displays for over 140 years.

Explore Glasgow on the bus tour offering the best sights, with time for shopping and strolling. Complete the day with a tour of the Garnethill Grand Synagogue that opened in 1879. It was the first purpose-built synagogue in Scot­land and the finest example of high Victorian synagogue architecture. 
7:30PM The farewell dinner with bag pipe performers

9:00am Departure for The Kelpies. See the world's largest equine sculp­tur­es up close and from inside, to marvel at the engineering that created these fantastic pieces of art. A walking tour goes through the vision of Andy Scott, the story of the real life working horses of the area, the local history and the history of the canals.

Visit the site of The Falkirk Wheel on the Scottish canals which was opened by the Queen in May 2002. It is a unique rotating boat lift that connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal.

 Macallan Distillery

Then onto the Auchentoshan Distillery Tour 4 Dram Experience, the only Triple Distilled Single Malt in Scotland. Auchentoshan’s new spirit is the highest distillate of any Scot­tish single malt distillery. Strong notes of fruit and citrus show that they have distilled away all the impurities in the liquid, making Auchen­toshan the smooth­est, most delicate tasting single malt whisky since 1823. 

The Scotland Tour ends as guests head to the airport for flights home.



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