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stunning Belle Epoque architecture in Nice - lost and "recovered"

The city of Nice in southern France has long attracted holiday makers from the north. The construction of the Promenade des Anglais in 1820 suggests that the town council was actively targeting British tourists who, if they had enough money, would certainly want to avoid the cold winter at home. Show More Summary

Surrender of Acre

The Surrender of Acre by the French painter Merry-Joseph Blondel (1781-1853). The most important victory of the Third Crusade. Here the Muslim garrison surrenders to the French king Philip Augustus and the English king Richard I. Another piece for the Crusader Gallery in the National Museum in Versailles.

London's East End - my grandmother's life

My paternal grandmother’s descriptions of living in the East End of London were fascinating, but I never knew how accurate her memories were. And there was no way I was going to discover details about my grandmother by reading about royal, noble or wealthy families, from army or church records or even from newspaper clippings. Show More Summary

Fleeing Joseph

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife. A Flemish Illumination from the 15 th century.

Illuminating Walt Whitman’s Words with Pictures

It’s one of the great openings in all of American literature: “I celebrate myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” So begins Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” the opening and central poem of Whitman’s life’s work, Leaves of Grass. Show More Summary

Prussian Battle

Hochkirch by the German realist painter Adolf von Menzel. (1815-1905). Menzel shows here the inferno of a battle. Men are struggling to move forward, they are afraid. There is no dumb heroism.

Pieter Brueghel's village lawyer, 1615.

I love 17th and C18th art that made commentary on social issues in the communities where the artists lived. William Hogarth (1697-1764), for example, documented the seamy side of life in England, firing off his artistic bullets against corrupt politic­ians, negligent mothers, sleazy men who seduced gullible young women and alcoholics. Show More Summary

New Amsterdam - New York

Henry Hudson was an experienced and busy English seaman. Firstly he had been commissioned by the English merchants in the Muscovy Comp­any in 1607; he was to find a north west passage to China via a route above the Arctic Circle. This...Show More Summary

Does Opera Have a Weight Problem (But Just for Women)?

“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” American sport fans have heard that Wagnerian opera allusion countless times when one team seems hopelessly behind but with plenty of time to come back. Unfortunately, the stereotype of overweight...Show More Summary

Historical Drama

Eruption of Vesuvius by the English painter John Martin (1789-1854). Martin specialized in dramatic natural disasters and presented his paintings as a kind of pre-cinema.

An Exhibition About an Art Critic?

Nobody goes to a baseball game to watch the umpires, so why would someone go to a museum to see an exhibition dedicated to an art critic—one of those arbiters of taste who hopes to mediate but sometimes only muddles the interaction between...Show More Summary

Royal and noble affairs for an Australian country girl - Sheila Chisholm

In preparing for the book Sheila: The Australian Beauty Who Bewitched British Society by Robert Wainwright (2013), I had to ask myself if I wanted to read about cashed up young women from the colonies who moved to Britain to meet eligible but impoverished young noblemen. Show More Summary

Dutch Scenery

Hagar and Ismael in a Dutch landscape by the Dutch Mannerist Painter Abraham Bloemaert (ca.1564-1651).

Victor Lustig - the world's most hopeful swindler?

I could not quite believe the story of a London City councillor, Ivan Luckin, who was stuck with a bridge over the Thames that did not work well. But the story was true - he really did market London Bridge to the Americans as a symbol of historic London, a feat of engineering that could trace its lineage back to its medieval ancestor. Show More Summary

Kara Walker’s Sweet, Not So Subtle Revenge on Big Sugar

If you know the sexually and racially charged art of Kara Walker, you know one thing—she’s not subtle. Walker’s artistic oeuvre to date makes the title of her newest work, which is also her first large-scale public project, all the funnier—A Subtlety. Show More Summary

Sweet Kitsch

Lesbia Weeping over a Sparrow by the Dutch born British painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadelma (1836-1912). Alma Tadema refers here to the poem Lesbia's Sparrow by the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus. "All you Loves and Cupids cry and all you men of feeling my girl's sparrow is dead..."

Does America Need More Wa?

The 2011 T?hoku, Japan, earthquake and tsunami killed thousands of people and damaged more than one million buildings, including the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant. The initial crisis of rebuilding that region quickly became a question of how to rebuild, including how to rebuild the fractured spirit of the place. Show More Summary

Roz Chast’s Comic Take on Taking Care of Elderly Parents

“It was against my parents’ principles to talk about death,” Roz Chast writes in Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir. “Between their one-bad-thing-after-another lives and the Depression, World War II, and the Holocaust, in which they both lost family—it was amazing that they weren’t crazier than they were. Show More Summary

How Patrick Kelly Emancipated Fashion

“I’ll take American Fashion History for $500, Alex.” “The answer: This man was the first American to be admitted as a member of the Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode, the prestigious French fashion association, in 1988.” “Who is Patrick Kelly?” The question remains decades later. Show More Summary

Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his literary influence

I spent my 1966 Gap Year abroad, largely with young, socialist, passionate South American students. Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014) was soon to be their hero...so naturally I too wanted to read his books. My first venture into Marquez's...Show More Summary

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