Saturday, November 27, 2010

November 27

Orgelb├╝chlein Trio on Guitar
I have been playing this technically simple Bach trio on the pipe organ since I was 14 years old. How refreshing it is to hear it played on classical guitar, with such simplicity and lack of sentimentality (as so often happens with transcriptions). Even a cursory look at the fingering reveals how difficult this is to play on guitar.
Performed by Andreas Kaesler.

But I digress.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

November 25

Freedom from Want (1943)
Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want” appeared in the pages of The Saturday Evening Post on March 6, 1943, as the third installment of Rockwell’s famous Four Freedoms series. The magazine published the paintings as a series after the United States government declined them.
Seeing the huge success of The Post publications, the U.S. government changed its mind about Rockwell’s art. Soon after, the Office of War Information issued the series as posters to serve as an incentive for War Bond purchasers.
Rockwell's inspiration for the series was the Four Freedoms speech given before Congress by Franklin Delano Roosevelt on January 16, 1941.

    “In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
    The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.
    The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.
    The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.
    The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.  That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called "new order" of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.”

Rockwell, knowing he was too old to serve in the military, sought to do something to help his country during World War II. He came up with the idea of illustrating Roosevelt's speech. He labored on these paintings for six months in 1942. He lost fifteen pounds and many nights’ sleep. When he was finished, he had created some of the greatest masterpieces of his career.
In addition to publishing the paintings, Curtis Publishing commissioned essays to accompany painting in print as it appeared in the Saturday Evening Post magazine. Each essay expounded on the thoughts provoked by Rockwell’s imagery. The essay “Freedom from Want” was written by Philippine immigrant, poet and author, Carlos Bulosan (1913-1956), who spent his childhood in the Philippines before his voyage to America (1930), where he spent years as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West. His works have often been used to demonstrate how brutal racism can be.
Recognizing the demand sure to be generated, the U.S. Treasury Department, in conjunction with Curtis Publishing, organized a nationwide tour for the paintings. It was called The Four Freedoms War Bond Show. The tour opening at Hecht’s, a department store in Washington, D.C. (now Macy’s), was radio broadcast across the nation. The tour then took the four original paintings to fifteen other American cities, where almost a million and a quarter people were able to appreciate the paintings in person, raising more than $130 million dollars worth of bonds. Thus  the Four Freedoms Tour helped shorten World War II.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 24

Your Tax Dollars at Work: Gay Portraiture

Dancing Sailors
Watercolor by Charles Henry Demuth (1883-1935)

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has launched an exhibit dedicated to gay and lesbian portraiture. Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture is on display through February 13.

The oldest image dates from 1871, showing a bearded Walt Whitman, who spent the days before and after the civil war with his lover, Peter Doyle, a confederate deserter.
Hide/Seek is one of the biggest and most expensive shows the National Portrait gallery has ever launched, with over a hundred works of art. The show includes an ad for Arrow dress shirts from 1914 that pictures a pair of handsome bachelors enjoying domestic bliss. The illustrator, J.C. Leyendecker, used his boyfriend as one of the models. 

Leyendecker's "Men Reading" is the original painting for an Arrow shirt ad that appeared in 1914

Other pieces in the exhibition include a pair of somber grey paintings by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Lovers for six years, the artists completed the paintings during their breakup. And a moving conceptual piece by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), is a pile of candies that weighs 175 pounds. That was the weight of his lover, Ross Laycock, who died of AIDS-related complications. Viewers take candies until the piece vanishes, evoking the subject's slow passing, and his sweetness.
This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
The National Portrait Gallery is housed in the Donald W. Reynolds Center at 8th and F Streets NW, Washington DC. Metro stop: Gallery Place/Chinatown. Open daily 11:30a-7:00p. Closed Christmas Day. Free admission.