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Can a Classic Museum Really Be Made Modern?

Every new cultural institution hopes for “The Bilbao Effect”—the economic boom the faltering, former industrial city of Bilbao, Spain, enjoyed after the 1997 rise of architect Frank Gehry’s game-changing design for the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum. Show More Summary

Ongoing story of the Alfred Dreyfus Affair: 1894-2014

I have written and lectured many times about the Dreyfus Affair that hit France from 1894 to 1906. But it has largely been from the perspective of the artists, writers and cultural salons, or the politicians and military men who took a stance on Captain Alfred Dreyfus (1859–1935), for or against. Show More Summary

Epic Battle

The battle of Salamis by the German romantic painter Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Theodor Kaulbach (1822-1839). Even the gods are taking arms in this legendary battle between Orient and Okzident.

Esther before the King

Esther before the King by the ItalianBaroque painter Andrea Celesti (1637-1712).

Spies, Writers and Artists in Hampstead

I have just read the fascinating book The Lawn Road Flats by historian David Burke (Boydell, 2014). The firm Isokon (Isometric Unit Construc­tion Control Co) was established to make modern flats, houses and furniture. Their Lawn Road Flats in Bel­size Park in Hampstead was a remark­able building that I knew and loved. Show More Summary

Art Nouveau Knights

Another powerful and elegant illustrations by the Austrian Art Nouveau painter Carl Otto Czeschka (1878-1960) done for an edition of "Die Nibelungen" (1909).

collecting British and French culture in the USA - Huntington Library

In 1870 railway magnate Collis Huntington (1821-1900) met Arabella Yarrington, 30 years his junior; in 1884 they marr­ied when he was 63 and he adop­t­ed her son Archer. Soon the couple built their gorgeous New York mansion, and devoted the rest of their married years to coll­ect­ing art, furniture and fine books. Show More Summary

The sometimes-great Australian film industry

With film technology emerging in France in the late 1800s, Australia excitedly jumped onto the new medium, and saw a period of rapid dev­el­op­ment in the industry. Inauguration of the Commonwealth 1901 was possibly the first feature-length documentary made in Australia and the first Australian film to use multi-camera coverage. Show More Summary

Old Comrades

Another Waterloo battle scene by the French battle painter Joseph Louis Hippolyte Bellange (1800-1866). An old greandier tries to comfort a dying comrade.

Must We Take Jeff Koons Seriously Now?

Comedian Stephen Colbert called Jeff Koons “The world's most expensive birthday clown” when the artist famous for his giant balloon animals appeared on his show in 2012. A year later, one of Koons’ balloon dogs sold for $58.4 million,...Show More Summary

How Cézanne Saw a World in an Apple

Just as poet William Blake asks us “To see a world in a grain of sand” in his poem “Auguries of Innocence,” painter Paul Cézanne asks us to see the world in an apple in the many still lifes that span his long career. In The World IsShow More Summary

The Monuments Men were more Frick-based than Hollywood-based.

After Henry Frick's death in 1919, his daughter Helen channeled her energy into turning the Frick Library into a premier centre for scholarly research. Frick’s private collection was one of the most coveted in the world, but it was the...Show More Summary

Coleridge's small cottage, great poems, sad marriage and opium

I saw the two comedians, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, in their 2010 film, The Trip. The road trip to Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Lake District was to review restaurants for a major British daily. But they also followed the poets' trails, and recited poetry to each other over sumptuous dinners. Show More Summary

Bloody Carnage

The Massacre of the Abencerrages (1874) by the French painter Georges Jules Victor Clairin (1843-1919). The cruel subject is taken from Chateaubriand's Aventures du dernier Abencérage (1826)i.e. Boabdil, the last king of Granada. Boabdil lured the rival tribe of the Abencerrages in the Alhambra, where all were slaughtered. Show More Summary

Is Performance Art the New Religion?

According to a Pew Research study, if you count people who change from one type of Protestantism to another, “44% of American adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being...Show More Summary

Salome Receiving Her Trophy

Salome by the Italian Baroque painter Gian Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666).

Is This the "Missing Link" of Shakespeare Studies?

Critics usually pose the greatest literary mystery of them all—the authorship question surrounding the works of William Shakespeare—as a “whodunit,” but it’s more of a “howdunit.” How could the small-town son of a glover develop into...Show More Summary

Paul Klee at the Tate Modern and the National Gallery of Berlin

Born in Switzerland, Paul Klee (1879-1940) started out as a musician like his parents but soon chose to study painting in Munich during the years 1898-1901. After finishing at the Acad­emy, he visited Italy with another young artist to widen his know­ledge of art. Show More Summary

A “Hoop Dreams” for Teen Homelessness?

Twenty years ago one of the greatest documentaries ever made, Hoop Dreams, premiered. Hoop Dreams told the story of two Chicago high school basketball players hoping to take their talents to college and then to the pros, all while fighting not just the long odds of the sports world, but also poverty, crime, and unstable family situations. Show More Summary

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