Free Online Art Books

A wealth of free art resources can be found online, and I’d like to call attention to two of them.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has launched MetPublications, which will “eventually offer access to nearly all books, Bulletins, and Journals” published by the Met since 1870. Now available are well over 300 catalogs and other publications, which can be downloaded as pdf files or viewed online. Both options involve a little patience: long download times in the case of the former, and a lot of zooming in for the latter. But the riches that can be found there are considerable. You should check out the entire list yourself. Just scanning the letter A, and obviously reflecting some of my personal interests, I found:

Abbot Suger and Saint-Denis
Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain
Along the Riverbank: Chinese Paintings from the C. C. Wang Family Collection
American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School
Ancient Art in Miniature: Ancient Near Eastern Seals from the Collection of Martin and Sarah Cherkasky
Art and Autoradiography: Insights into the Genesis of Paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Vermeer
The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry
Art of Island Southeast Asia: The Fred and Rita Richman Collection
The Art of Precolumbian Gold: The Jan Mitchell Collection
Art of the Bronze Age: Southeastern Iran, Western Central Asia, and the Indus Valley
Art of the Dogon: Selections from the Lester Wunderman Collection

This comes just months after the Guggenheim Museum made almost seventy modern art catalogs available online. Here are a few from that collection that particularly caught my attention:

Art of the Avant-Garde in Russia
Francis Bacon
Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition
China: 5,000 Years – Innovation and Transformation in the Arts
Jean Dubuffet: A Retrospective
On the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky
Paul Klee 1879-1940: A Retrospective Exhibition
Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele
Edvard Munch
Mark Rothko, 1903-1970: A Retrospective

Late Night Thoughts

“Sometimes I’d wake up at two or three in the morning and not be able to fall asleep again. I’d get out of bed, go to the kitchen, and pour myself a whiskey. Glass in hand, I’d look down at the darkened cemetery across the way and the headlights of the cars on the road. The moments of time linking night and dawn were long and dark. If I could cry, it might make things easier. But what would I cry over? Who would I cry for? I was too self-centered to cry for other people, too old to cry for myself.”
— Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun, borrowed from the very enjoyable Murakamistuff: A Haruki Murakami Fan Blog

Sunday Salon 12-2-12

Time for a short visit to the Salon – a welcome respite on what was up until a couple of hours ago a gray, rainy day in Reno.

This has not been an especially productive week, largely due to an ongoing bout of insomnia that is making my brain even slower to function than usual. My only blog post for the week was a short note on the drawing Phases of the Moon by, or at least attributed to, Galileo. Many people expressed appreciation for this post, mostly, I believe, because this lovely drawing isn’t especially well known.

Most of this week’s Salon is devoted to lists, which partly serve to remind me that I did actually do something in the last seven days.

Books in progress
Michael Knight and Joseph Z. Chang (eds.): Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy
Joseph Campbell: Sake and Satori: Asian Journals – Japan

Recent music listening
Havergal Brian: Orchestral Music Vol. 2: Music from the Operas (Toccata Classics)
Henri Dutilleux: Orchestral, Piano and Chamber Masterworks (Virgin Classics)
Emerson, Lake and Palmer (self-titled first album, 2012 remaster) (Razor & Tie)
Pink Martini and Saori Yuki: 1969 (Heinz Records)
Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI: Mare Nostrum (Alia Vox)
The Secret Museum of Mankind Vol. 1 – Ethnic Music Classics: 1925-48 (Yazoo)
Wu Man and Master Musicians from the Silk Route: Borderlands (Smithsonian Folkways)

Films seen in the last week or so
The Decameron (1971, dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini)
Dracula’s Daughter (1936, dir. Lambert Hillyer)
Rashomon (1950, dir. Akiri Kurosawa)
Red Psalm (1972, dir. Miklós Jancsó)
Take This Waltz (2011, dir. Sarah Polley)
Unmistaken Child (2008, dir. Nati Baratz)
Wife (1953, dir. Mikio Naruse)

Returning to the subject of Galileo for a moment, he came from a very musical family. His father Vincenzo was a well-known lute player, composer, and teacher. Vincenzo was also a noted music theorist, having studied the relationship between string tension and pitch, and is even credited with being one of the inventors of recitative in opera. Both Galileo’s younger brother Michelagnolo (sometimes spelled Michelangelo) and son Vincenzo were also lutenists. As a special Sunday Salon musical bonus, here is the great Spanish guitarist Narciso Yepes performing, on the beautiful custom ten-string guitar he co-invented, the Saltarello generally attributed to Galileo’s father Vincenzo Galilei.

Galileo: Phases of the Moon

Galileo Phases of the moon
Galileo Galilei (attr.), Phases of the Moon (c. 1610)

I first saw this drawing in Thomas Christensen’s book 1616: The World in Motion, which I recently reviewed. According to a blog post Christensen made before the publication of his book, this sepia-toned drawing of the phases of the moon “was found in a manuscript copy in Galileo’s hand of his Starry Messenger, the book that made him an international celebrity.” The manuscript now resides in Florence’s National Library.

In 1609, Galileo, at that point a professor of geometry and astronomy at the University of Padua, heard about a new invention, the “spyglass,” that made distant objects appear closer. With help from other designers, he refined the instrument, increasing its magnifying power to something like 20x. Turning his new telescope to the sky, Galileo recorded his observations of the phases of the Moon and Venus, the four largest moons of Jupiter (now, in tribute to their discoverer, known as the Galilean satellites – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto), sunspots, and the Milky Way. The drawing of the phases of the moon may represent sketches that Galileo made as he was actually looking in his telescope, or they may be the model for the engravings that eventually appeared in Starry Messenger (Sidereus nuncius), which was published in March 1610.

It’s worth remembering that drawings like this attracted much controversy. The idea that the moon wasn’t an ideal sphere, as most people then thought, but rather, as Galileo described it, “uneven, rough, and crowded with depressions and bulges” and “chains of mountains and depths of valleys,” was thought blasphemous. In later years Galileo was in fact tried by the Inquisition and imprisoned. Ultimately, though, these and other observations, and Galileo’s interpretations thereof, helped finish off the Earth-centered Ptolemaic model of the universe and to confirm the heliocentric model proposed by Copernicus in 1543.

By the way, in case you’re still looking for the perfect holiday present, Galileo’s drawing is available on a t-shirt from Zazzle.