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Art history

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Painter Mark Rothko directs the installation of his murals in Harvard’s Holyoke Center in 1963. Artwork: © 2009 Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Elizabeth H. Jones, © President and Fellows of Harvard College

How we restored Harvard’s Rothko murals – without touching them

In 1989, I was a conservation student at the Courtauld Institute in London. During a class on varnish removal, my professor, Gerry Hedley, demonstrated how shining blue light on a picture with yellowed…
Frederic Bazille’s Studio 9 Rue de la Condamine (left) and Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barber Shop (right). The computer was able to detect similarities in the composition of both paintings. Yellow circles indicate similar objects, red lines indicate composition, and the blue square represents similar structural elements.

Computer science can only help – not hurt – art historians

I was the lead of a team of computer scientists at Rutgers that published a paper this past August titled, “Toward Automated Discovery of Artistic Influence.” In that paper we reported on our research…
Rising costs, the growing difficulty of securing loans, and a lack of curating talent have made the blockbuster exhibition a hazardous enterprise. Barney Livingston/Flickr

What happened to the blockbuster art exhibition?

A blockbuster art exhibition can double the annual attendance of an art museum and pull in significant amounts of money. Bring Vermeer’s The Girl with a Pearl Earring to the Frick Collection in New York…
In September, Tony Abbott returned two antique statues to India in the presence of his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. EPA/ Government of India

Stolen cultural objects: what’s the role of Australian galleries?

Last week, The Australian reported that 49 artworks had been identified by the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) with gaps in their ownership history that could signal they were stolen. Asian antiquities…
A view of the atrium from the Calderwood Courtyard. Zak Jensen

A preview of Harvard’s $350 million art museum renovation

After ten years of planning and six years of construction the Harvard Art Museums opens its doors to the public on November 16. The $350 million renovation combines the collections of three distinct museums…
You’re in a gallery looking at Dani Marti’s It’s All About Peter. What do you do next? Photo: Jamie North. Image courtesy of the artist and BREENSPACE, Sydney.

Three simple steps to understand art: look, see, think

What’s the key to understanding art? Could there be some easy steps to unpacking the meaning of an artwork? The short answer is: yes. I recently wrote an article for The Conversation called Three questions…
Why are Western Australian artists such as Flynn Talbot, whose work X Y is pictured here, left out of the bigger picture? Flynn Talbot Studio/Undiscovered Symposium

Western Australian art is excluded from the national conversation

Despite our interconnectedness through radio, television and the internet, the coverage of arts and cultural activities in Australia is viewed from a very close focus. This corrupts our understanding of…
Extreme duration can transform otherwise simple activity into something strange and powerful. Marina Abramović, The Artist Is Present, 2010, MOMA, New York. Andrew Russeth

Explainer: extreme duration in the performing arts

Last September, I sat down in the Capital Theatre in Bendigo to listen to American composer Morton Feldman’s String Quartet No.2 played by the Flux Quartet from New York. Sounds a nice way to spend an…
Jian’s case suggests the Chinese government is far from “opening up”. R. Ian Lloyd/Flickr

Guo Jian’s detainment paints a familiar picture of China

Earlier this week, just three days before the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square democratic movement, Chinese-Australian artist Guo Jian was taken from his Beijing home by local police. He’s currently…
John Constable, Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’, c.1828–9. Tate

Kenneth Clark – the last art historian in pursuit of beauty

There is currently something of a Kenneth Clark renaissance, with an exhibition devoted to him just opened at Tate Britain, and a new Civilisation planned by the BBC. If there is anything to be gained…
Corrado Giaquinto, Italian 1703–1766, worked in Spain 1753–62, Allegory of Justice and Peace (Allegoria della Giustizia e della Pace) c.1753–54 oil on canvas, 216.0 x 325.0 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (P00104), Spanish Royal Collection

Italian masterpieces from Spain in Australia? They brush up nicely

Nationalism is not always a good thing where understanding art is concerned, but in the case of Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court, Museo del Prado on show at the National Gallery of Victoria…
Sandro Botticelli, Three Miracles of Saint Zenobius, c. 1500. © The National Gallery, London

National Gallery bid to set stage doesn’t quite build full picture

A painting is often like theatre. There are actors, who give expression to a narrative. They are distributed across a stage floor and positioned against a scenic backdrop. The artist is both the stage…
Early prototype of Skippy. Kangaroo Private Collection Courtesy of Nevill Keating Pictures Ltd

It’s Australia v England, in battle over Stubbs masterpieces

Not for the first time Britain and Australia are at loggerheads over cultural heritage. At issue this time are two images of genuine historical significance to both countries: Kongouro from New Holland…
Max Dupain, Bankstown aerodrome camouflage experiment, c.1943. National Archives of Australia

Hidden history: Max Dupain, modernism and war time camouflage

Max Dupain and Frank Hinder are among the many significant artists who contributed decisively to Australia’s modernist tradition. Less well known, however, is that they both worked for Australia’s military…

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