Leonardo da Vinci: The Last Supper

Last Supper

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

When one refers to the name Leonardo da Vinci, “The Last Supper” is considered as one of his finest works.

The painting was commissioned by Sforza to be the centre piece of the mausoleum at the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy and measures some 15 feet x 29 feet in size.

The disciples sit either side of Jesus as depicted in the picture, all displaying facial emotions, which relate to him telling them he would be betrayed by one of them.

Looking at the picture we see Bartholomew, James son of Alphaeus and Andrew form a group of three, with a surprised look upon their faces, and seated on the far left.  Next we have Judas Iscariot, Peter and John form the next group of three; Judas partly covers his face, Peter shows anger and John looks ready to confront the perpetrator.

Jesus sits in the middle backed by three windows.

Thomas, James the Greater and Phillip sit as another group of three to his right.  Thomas is upset by such a suggestion, James appears stunned and Phillip seeks an answer.  Mathew, Jude Thaddeus and Simon the Zealot make up the final group of three; Jude and Mathew gaze at Simon believing he has the answer.

Over the centuries the image has fallen apart.  The reason for this is that if Leonardo had kept to the time old tradition of using tempera on wet plaster, the proffered method for fresco paintings, rather than experimenting using dry plaster for a more varied palette.  The image might have stood up to the years of neglect.

Instead his experimental method, proved to be a failure, and neglect saw the painting undergo many restorations over the centuries.

The painting was completed on 9th February 1498, and early signs of flaking were visible by 1517.

  • In 1652 a doorway was cut through the picture but later bricked up.
  • In 1726 Michelangelo Bellotti carried out a restoration by filling in missing parts using oil paint, and then varnished the whole picture.
  • In 1768, a curtain was hung over it as a form of protection, but when pulled back it scratched at the flaking paint.
  • In 1770 Giuseppe Mazza stripped off Bellotti’s repair, and repainted nine of the faces, but was halted due to public outrage.

In 1796 the French revolutionary troops used the refectory as an armoury, and threw stones at the image and later it became a prison.

  • In 1821 Stefano Barezzi attempted the removal of the painting, but was forced to re-attach damaged parts with glue.
  • In 1901-1908 Luigi Cavenaghi studied the structure of the painting, and cleaned it.
  • In 1921 Oreste Silvestri cleaned it further, and stabilised parts using stucco.

During World War II, the refectory wall was protected with sandbags, and managed to survive, when on 15th August 1943, the refectory was bombed.

  • 1951-1954 Mauro Pelliccioli cleaned and restored the image.
  • 1978-1999 Pinn Brambilla Barcilon undertook a restoration project to save this most important work from total destruction.

On the 28th May 1999 the painting was put back on show, for the entire world to see.

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Modern Art: Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol 1983, printed 1990 by Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was born under the name of Andrew Warhola on the 6th August 1928, in Pittsburgh USA, to parents Andrej and Julia Warhola, Czechoslovakian immigrants.

Andy’s early education was at Holmes School and free art classes at the Carnegie Institute.  From 1945-1949 he attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he attained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Pictorial Design.

Andy moved to New York in 1949, and in the September, had his first publication entitled “Success is a Job in New York” in Glamour magazine.  His debut into the world of artist/illustrator showed off a new talent, with a whimsical style of drawing.

His work appeared in many main-stream magazines in the 1950’s, including Vogue.  He went on to produce retail window advertising, which led to awards from the Art Director’s Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

During the early part of the 1950’s Andy changed his name from Warhola to Warhol, as his popularity grew.

During the 1950’s, he entered the world, of serious art, based on his experience and expertise within commercial art, and American popular culture.  In 1952 exhibited drawings at the Hugo Gallery in New York, based on the writings of Truman Capote.

1960 saw a change in Andy’s paintings, as he added advertisements and comic strips to his work.  A form of early “Pop Art,” influenced by Abstract Expressionism.  By 1964, his “Brillo Boxes” painting was far removed from Abstract Expressionism as one could get.

Andy worked across many mediums; painter, printmaker, illustrator, film-maker and writer.

In September of 1960, moved to a Lexington Avenue townhouse, which gave him a dedicated studio, located in Manhattan.  From 1962-1964 rented an old Fire House, for additional studio space.

Andy Warhol - Campbells Soup Cans

His work of the 1960’s was centred around advertisements and comic strips.  He created large scale graphic canvases by projecting images onto large canvas panels, and then he would trace the outline of the image.  In 1961, he used a similar process for his “Campbell’s Soup Can Paintings.”

In 1962 Andy explored the art of silk screening; creating a stencil and transferring image onto a porous screen, and apply paint or ink with a rubber squeegee.  He produced dollar bills, Coca-Cola bottles and shipping labels.  By the autumn of 1962, he had moved onto photo-silkscreen works, which involved transferring of a photographic image onto a porous screen.

Warhol changed direction, and produced life-size images of Brillo Box and screen printed their design labels onto blocks of plywood.

In 1963, Andy opted to explore moving mediums, and moved into film making.  He is known to have created some 600 films, from mini films of a few minutes to much larger works.

Andy Warhol - Velvet Underground

In 1967, he developed a project called EPI (Exploding Plastic Inevitable), a multi-media production, which combined the “Velvet Underground Rock Band” with projections of film, light and dance, culminating in a sensory experience of performance art.

In 1968, an attempt upon his life by Valerie Solanas, an acquaintance and radical feminist, led to him distancing himself from his current art scene, and sought out commissions within New York high society.

In the latter part of the 1970’s and early 1980’s Andy returned to the limelight, producing paintings which were abstract by design.  His Oxidation Printing series echoed Abstract Expressionism and its rawness.

In the latter years of his life, he turned to religious subjects, including the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.

Andy Warhol one of the most influential artists of the 20th century died on the 22nd February 1987, after suffering postoperative complications from a gall bladder procedure.

His memorial service was held at St.Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, where more than 2,000 people attended.  His final resting place was in his hometown of Pittsburgh.

Andy Warhol - Marilyn Monroe

Artist: John Constable

john-constable-detail-from-flatford-mill

John Constable, one of England’s prominent artists, was born to Golding and Anne Constable on the 11th June 1776, at the family home, in the picturesque village of East Bergholt, on the Suffolk/Essex border.

Golding trained John, his son in the ways of the family business, working within the mill, as it was expected of him, to follow in his father’s footsteps.  But his heart was else where, for when he could, he would be found on the banks of the River Stour, transferring images, to sketch pad or canvas.

J.T.Smith a close and valued friend, gave Constable early instruction into basic drawing techniques, where his potential as an artist shone through.  Golding was persuaded that John’s abilities lay in art, and should be allowed to study it professionally, leading to an acceptance at the Antique Academy in London, early in 1799.

Constable now a London resident considered his true home to be Suffolk, the home of his youth.  Returning as often as he could, to the surroundings of East Bergholt, to study and sketch the area.

In 1809, Constable admitted his infatuation with Maria Bicknell had grown since his chance meeting with her at the East Bergholt Rectory, and their association, proved to be an inspiration to the young artist.  Opposition to his growing attachment grew within the Bicknell home, for his profession as an artist was limited by his subject matter.  His love for Maria was strong, and so he entered the world of portrait painting, in order to earn greater commissions and boost his income.

Golding Constable, John’s father died on 14th May 1816, leaving him a yearly income of £200 per annum, with the remaining estate shared between him and, his brothers and sisters.  This plunged him into despair, seeing his life slipping by, so he took the initiative and married his sweetheart, Maria on 2nd October 1816 at St.Martin-in-the Fields Church.

John Charles, his first son, was born on the 4th December 1817 and was greatly spoilt, as were all the other children who followed.  In all John and Maria had seven children.

Early in 1828, Maria gave birth to Lionel who was to be their last son, then quite suddenly her father died in March of that year.  The death of her father, coupled with nursing her new born child, is believed to have contributed to her death on 28th November that year.

The Royal Academy elected Constable as an associate member in November 1819, but it wasn’t until February 1829, three months after the death of his beloved wife, that he was elected a full member.

Constable studied the works of the Old Masters, a practice he started in London and continued as long as he lived, comparing his and their styles alike.

Although he never lost his affection for the scenery surrounding East Bergholt, he gradually extended the subject range to include architecture and portraits, leading to greater commissions.  Salisbury Cathedral was painted for Dr Fisher the then Bishop of Salisbury, a valued friend and patron of his work.  Hadleigh Castle standing in ruins at the mouth of the Thames.  Christ Blessing the Bread and Wine, painted for the Altar of Nayland Church.

Suddenly he died on the night of the 31st March 1837, and was buried beside his wife Maria in Hampstead.  His final work, Arundel Castle and Mill never received the final touches he had intended.

Whenever we think of John Constable, the world renowned Suffolk artist, we think of his most memorable painting ‘The Haywain’ painted in 1820, the area has changed little over the years.

Sadly while he was alive he received little recognition for his work, he was only recognised long after his death.  The scenes that accompanied his early years, have been witnessed by many millions the world over in appreciation of his work.

Today, a large collection of John Constable’s work can be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang-Amadeus-Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

On the 27th January 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the son of Leopold and Maria Mozart from Bavaria, was born in Saltzburg, Austria.  On the 28th January, the young Mozart was baptised with the names; Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart at St.Rupert’s Cathedral.  Mozart came from a musical heritage, for his father Leopold was a composer and violinist, serving as an assistant concert master in the Salzburg court.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, Maria Anna came under the musical tutorage of their father; Leopold.  Wolfgang’s introduction into the world of music started when he was three and Maria was seven.  Wolfgang excelled quickly in the world of music, and by five, had written his first composition, and went on to demonstrate his abilities on harpsichord and violin.

With Wolfgang aged six, and Maria aged eleven, these child prodigies went on European tours.  Their father took them to the court of Bavaria, Paris, London, The Hague and Zurich in 1762.

In 1763, Leopold Mozart became Vice-kappelmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg.  In the latter part of 1763, the Mozarts toured Germany, France, England, Switzerland and the low countries, promoting their child prodigies, and returning home in 1766.  Towards the end of 1766, the Mozarts travelled to Vienna, where Wolfgang Mozart composed two operas.  In 1768, the young and talented Mozart, wrote a Mass and a collection of Serenades, and in the October of 1769 became honorary “Konzertmeister “at the Salzburg court.

These concert tours, would promote this child genius; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a possible prospect for employment by the noble courts of Europe, as a musician or court composer.

With Wolfgang’s sister having reached the age of 17, her musical career was all but over, for the custom of that time, no longer permitted her to show off her artistic talent in public.  It was now her time, to prepare for marriage.  With sadness in their heart, Wolfgang and his father, departed Salzburg bound for Italy in December of 1769, leaving his sister and mother behind.

Tours across Italy intensified to secure Wolfgang permanent employment, as they visited Verona, Mantua, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples.  Wolfgang composed the opera “Mitridate Re di Ponto,” which established his reputation in the world of opera.

Aged just 13, Wolfgang Mozart had made his mark, when Pope Clement XIV made him a “Knight of the Golden Spur,” and at Bologna admitted to the “Accademia Filarmonica.”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart along with his father returned from Italy in the March of 1773.  Leopold’s benefactor, Archbishop von Schrattenbach had died during their absence, and been succeeded by Hieronymus von Colleredo, who appointed the young Mozart as assistant concert master.  This gave Wolfgang the chance to experiment on different musical genres; symphonies, sonatas, serenades and operas.  It was during this experimental period he developed a passion for Violin Concertos, and during his life wrote five.  In 1776, he changed direction, and started writing piano concertos.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had much success with his compositions, but he wanted more, than be known as a mere assistant concert master in Salzburg.

In the August of 1777, departed Salzburg for Mannheim, Paris and Munich, accompanied by his mother seeking out better employment.  On the 3rd July 1778, Wolfgang’s mother died, and he was left along in a foreign country, to find his way home, whilst his father negotiated a better court position for him.  Mozart returned home, to take up the position of Court Organist.

Wolfgang was commissioned to write an opera, for the Court of Bavaria.  In November 1780 travelled to Munich to complete the work and conduct the “Idomeneo.”

In the March of 1781, Wolfgang was summoned by Colleredo to join his entourage in Vienna.  Treated much like a servant, and rolled out to perform chamber concerts in houses of nobility, did not go down well, and he often voiced his opinions to the fact on several occasions.

A heated argument erupted between Archbishop von Colleredo and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, resulting in Mozart’s resignation being accepted.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart settled in Vienna, at the home of Fridolin Weber, becoming a music teacher, writing music and performing concerts.

On the 4th August 1782, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart married Constanze Weber, with the approval of his mother, but his father believed his music was far more important, which led to difference of opinions regarding his forthcoming marriage.  Yet he finally gave way, and gave his son his blessing.  The couple were blessed with two children who survived infancy; Karl Thomas and Franz Xaver.

In the latter part of 1782 and early 1783, Wolfgang was influenced by the works of Johannes Sebastian Bach and George Frederic Handel, resulting in several Baroque styles compositions… (The Magic Flute).

He became friends with Joseph Haydn and often performed together, and went on to write six quartets dedicated to Haydn.

The opera “Die Entfuhrung” became popular, bolstering Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s name throughout Europe.

In 1784, he became a Freemason, and was well regarded by the secret society.  Freemasonry influenced much of his compositions.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart went on to compose some 600 works or more, lived an extravagant lifestyle, more associated with nobility.  By the latter part of the 1780’s Wolfgang and Constanze found themselves falling into serious financial difficulties.  To turn his finances about, he needed court appointment, as he had been borrowing from fellow Freemasons to retain his extravagant lifestyle.

In 1785 Wolfgang collaborated with Lorenzo da Ponte, composing “The Marriage of Figaro” which premiered in Venice and Prague in 1786.  With such success the pair wrote “Don Giovanni” which premiered in 1787.

In the December of 1787, Emperor Joseph II appointed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as chamber composer.  This income was most welcomed, as he was struggling with debt.

On the 18th November 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart conducted the dedication for the new Masonic Temple.  Just a few days later, on the 5th December he died in Vienna, Austria.