Tag: Art History

Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo

Posted July 10, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly SujoTitle: Provenance (Goodreads)
Author: Aly Sujo, Laney Salisbury
Published: Penguin, 2009
Pages: 301
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

For those that don’t know, a provenance is a document (or documents) that chronologies the ownership of a historical object. In the art world, the provenance serves almost like a certificate of authenticity as well as a historical document of the ownership, custodies or locations the piece has been displayed. The problem was, there was a time in art history where authenticating a provenance was all you needed to prove the art was genuine. This lead to all kinds of problems, in the world of computers and photocopiers it became very easier to make a document look authenticate than it was to forge a painting. This book explores this very problem; Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art tells the story of what was described as ‘the biggest art fraud in the 20th century’.

Provenance has one of the most extraordinary narratives I’ve ever read in a non-fiction book; it reads like an art thriller, full of suspense and mystery. It wasn’t what I expected from a true crime book on art history, I was hooked in this world and on the edge of my seat to find out what will happen next. The authors of this book, Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo are both investigative reporters and spent the time to research and tell us the story of John Drewe, a villainous con man that set out to defraud the art world. Recruiting a struggling artist, John Myatt, to paint the forges, it is estimated that over 200 forgeries were made and only about 60 of them recovered. This means there is about 140 paintings still out there been accredited to artists like Giacometti, Dubuffet and so on.

If I may, I want to quickly touch on the problematic approach to authenticating a provenance rather than a painting. As I said before the use of computers and photocopiers made it easy to fake these documents, but John Drewe went further by sneaking forged documents of auctions, gallery displays and so on into the archives of museums and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. What was scary about the elaborate efforts Drewe went to to make this provenance real is the fact a test on the painting might have been so much quicker. If they took the effort to test the paint they would have found that Myatt used a combination of emulsion paint, K-Y Jelly and then vanish to make the paintings look like oil paintings.

All my knowledge on art forgery came from people like Neal Caffrey (White Collar) so I’m not nearly knowledgeable on the topic, as I’d like to be. Art history and art crimes can be fascinating topics and what I loved about Provenance is how it showed how crime seeps in and becomes part of the history. When John Myatt served his time he decided not to point out any paintings that he had done, and that raises an interesting question. Is it better to point out the 140 or so fakes still out there and have the owners lose all that money or not? If a fake is just going to be burnt is it better to own up to the forgery or let it remain a piece of art? The financial and artistic costs would be devastating but what about the moral code that Myatt wished to live by?

This is what made for a fascinating read, I learned a small part of art history, art crimes and it also raised some philosophical questions. I know I might have said a little too much but this is history, can you give spoilers on historic events? It is a great piece of narrative non-fiction and a great way to learn more about art crimes.


Reading Non-Fiction

Posted September 15, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

I’m not a non-fiction reader, much to my own disappointment. A few of the non-fiction books I have read have been good and the book that inspired me and turned me into a reader was in fact a non-fiction book. Recently I’ve been inspired with an idea; this idea will require a lot of non-fiction reading and research. So I need to motivate myself in becoming a bigger non-fiction reader.

My research will require some reading up on philosophy, art history and maybe even pop culture which will be good for my blog Knowledge Lost and hopefully will give me some new posts for that poor neglected site. Here is what I need, I want to become a better non-fiction reader so I would love some recommendations of books that I might be interested in and are really interesting reads. It doesn’t have to be related but that would be a bonus; I just want some motivation and I hope some great recommendations will help. Also I need tips and advise to become a non-fiction reader. Do audiobooks make for a good way to get through a non-fiction book?

My idea may never be realised but I feel inspired to research it, even if it takes me a lifetime. My goal to become a non-fiction reader will hopefully be a result in this inspiration. My goal is to read at least one non-fiction a month; this challenge may turn me into the type of reader I want to become. I love learning new things but I need to force myself into reading those non-fiction books. One of the biggest problems is working out how to review these books, so I might just do a mini review or something in order to take some of my pressure off.

I’m not going to tell you about my idea but I will give you a list of books I plan to read; this is a very random list but these books I hope will give me some inspiration and guide me down different paths that might help. I know some of these books will be a big help, others are just interesting or books on my shelves already that might help in one form or another.

  • Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder by Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss
  • If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland
  • Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo
  • The Culture Club by Craig Schuftan
  • The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick
  • The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan
  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas G. Carr
  • You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney
  • Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry’s Greatest Generation by Daisy Hay

Question Tuesday: What made you start studying again?

Posted July 24, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Question Tuesday / 0 Comments

When I was in school I wasn’t interested in studying and I didn’t do well in school. I didn’t really have much interest in anything, except computers and music. It wasn’t until 2009 when I discovered my mind crush Craig Schuftan did I really start reading and wanting to learn. I started Knowledge Lost because I found my passion and I wanted to write what I’d learned while learning. I know I don’t write on that blog as much as I should but I still love it and want to keep it there to write anything that I learn. When I started Literary Exploration (the blog) it was because in my love for learning I found a love of literature and I wanted a place to document my literary journey without overcrowding Knowledge Lost with book rants. The idea was to have Knowledge Lost to be educational and Literary Exploration to be about literature.

I decided at the beginning of the year that while I was having fun being an autodidact, I wanted to learn more and enrolled in university. I’ve never been to a higher learning facility to learn something I was passionate about but I wanted to explore my passion and hopefully one day land a job in a field relevant to it. I decided a Bachelor of Arts would be a good place to start. It will give me a good overview of the topics I’m interested in and also I can get a degree in English Literature.

I’ve discovered that my love for learning and the arts has been growing and I (not so) secretly want to get so many degrees it’s not funny. While I will focus on the English Literature degree, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to take some classes in other discipline to get an idea about what they are like. Now I’m only doing this part time while working full time which is a shame because at my rate the first degree will take me about ten to twelve years. But if I had the time I would want to dive into some of these disciplines as well (not for a full degree but to have some more information about them);

  • Art History
  • Criminology
  • Journalism
  • New Media Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Screen Studies
  • Sociology

And the list will probably expand. I know my love for literature will increase with my studies but I wanted to also share my passion of learning and the humanities with you as well. I hope to experience a taste in all these subjects and who knows, maybe one day I might get a chance to share about them over at Knowledge Lost.

I would love people to share about their passions and experiences with studying their passion in the comments below.


Guernica; Picasso's Masterpiece

Posted January 27, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art / 8 Comments

In 1937 the Spain was at war; a civil war between the Republic Government and Francisco Franco’s Francoist army. Franco led a rebellion army to overturn the government and bring communism to the Spanish people. The Francoist army had the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. On April 26, 1937, 24 planes bombed the Basque town of Guernica. The town held no military significants, the objective; to send a message.

This tragedy effected many people including Picasso, and with a commissioning by the Spanish Republican government, Picasso set to work on a mural which would become his most famous piece of work. The painting, Guernica, broke Picasso out of a creative drought and renewed a passion, but now he did not want to be known as an icon breaker. Now, he set to work to create an icon.

The painting was 11 x 25.6 feet reflects the devastating effect of the bombing.   while early sketches showed images of hope and optimism, this faded and we are left with this powerful painting. We can pull a lot of meaning from this painting and many spend time analysing it. Like the ever-seeing eye; the focus of everyone’s gaze and could be a symbol of evil or the bombers, the light bulb in the eye symbolising the devastating effect of technology or maybe it’s there because the Spanish word for light bulb is “bombilla”, which makes an allusion to “bomb”. Some symbols in the painting may be easier to recognise, like the open palm of the dead soldier is a stigmata, a symbol of martyrdom. No matter what you see in the painting, it truly is a masterpiece that stirs up a lot of emotion.

I would love to hear what you see and think of the painting but I would like to leave you with a story I’ve heard about Picasso, the painting, during World War 2.

During the 1940’s Picasso’s studio on the rue des Grands-Augustins was often visited by German officers. On one of their raids a Gestapo officer found a postcard of “Guernica,” Picasso’s 1937 lament for the Basque town bombed by the Luftwaffe.

“Did you do this?” asked the German.

“No, you did!” replied Picasso.  “Take it? Souvenir”


Picasso – The Icon Breaker

Posted January 21, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art / 0 Comments

Pablo Picasso is known as the pioneer of the avant-garde art movement known as Cubism; a modern art (almost surrealist) style which involves objects being broken up, analysed, and re-assembled in an abstract form. Not only is he known for this art style, but he should also be remembered as an ‘Icon Breaker’. Picasso made it a mission to break from the traditional; not interested in pleasuring the viewer, but trying to get to the core of the person in the painting.

Traditionally, art often depicted a man on a horse, nudes and the classic portraits; but for Picasso, well, let’s look at some examples.

Boy Leading a Horse (1906)
Boy Leading a Horse (1906)

In 1906 Picasso painted “Boy Leading a Horse”.  Most traditional paintings of a man with his horse depict a symbol of power and a man demanding respect; Picasso’s painting did the opposite.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

The ever popular nude was another target for Picasso. In a nude the woman is a simple of grace and beauty, but the 1907’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” showed five nude female prostitutes from a brothel, each woman, in a disconcerting confrontational manner and none are conventionally feminine.

Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910)
Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910)

When it came to the traditional Portrait, Picasso often painted in the cubism style and painted how he saw his subject. As depicted in paintings like the 1910’s “Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler”.

So what changed for Picasso that turned him from the “Icon Breaker” into an “Icon Maker”?

Find out next week


My Goals for Knowledge Lost

Posted November 26, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Writing / 0 Comments

My wife and I decided to look at our goals in life and what we would like to achieve as a couple and individually in the next one to five years. Of course, my dream involve writing & my blog. It is obvious that I would need to put in a lot of work and study into achieving my goals and that’s fine, but I feel like I’ve come up with a plan to help build towards these goals.

Knowledge Lost has primarily been about my personal growth in Art, Culture, Philosophy and Literature. I feel that if I want to be able to able to get a job or do something related to these topics, I might want to learn how to teach people about them.  As you may be aware there are four little windows across the top of my blog which have been used to display the most recent post in the four primary topics of my blog. What I’m planning to do is change that; I’m going to transform them into launching pads for a basic lesson in the four topics of my blog. This way I’m still learning and I’m also compiling an action plan for my future, just in case I ever get the opportunity. This also starts me building material for possible ebooks in the future.

This is going to be hard to do and will take a lot of work, but I would love to know if anyone has a wealth of knowledge in Art, Culture, Philosophy and Literature. I don’t want to have these turn in to personal opinions and would love to have someone I could ask for advice and bounce ideas off in regards to these issues. This will be a workin progress for me but will make a big change to me and my blog.


Cultural Profile – The Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood

Posted January 24, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art, Culture / 0 Comments

I mentioned avant-garde in the previous entry so I thought it was only fitting to look at the originals. The Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood has been considered the first avant-garde movement in art. They throw away the rule book of art to create something different and exciting. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art, hence the name Pre-Raphaelites.

The brotherhood rejected the rule and formula of art that were been taught by Sir Joshua Reynolds and the Royal Academy of Art. They considered the work ‘sloppy’ and formulaic, they believed that Sir Sloshua (Sir Joshua) was stopping them explore other styles, they wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.

The brotherhood stop up against the norm and followed their own doctrine:

  • To have genuine ideas to express;
  • To study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
  • To sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote;
  • And, most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.

Influenced by Romanticism, they thought that freedom and responsibility were inseparable so they followed the principles of realism. The Brotherhood was met with lots of controversy in there struggle against the Royal Academy of art, but ultimately they influenced and changed art history as well. When the brotherhood disbanded the artists who had worked in the style still followed these techniques (initially anyway) but they no longer signed their works with “PRB”