Art history

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A detail from the north wall of Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry. Diego Rivera, 1932. Detroit Institute of Arts

Detroit, 1932: when Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo came to town

A new exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts highlights a controversial mural commissioned during a period fraught with social unrest.
Drawings by male warriors – like Black Hawk’s ‘Dream or Vision or Himself Changed to a Destroyer or Riding a Bufalo Eagle (1880-1881)’ – often depicted visions perceived during meditation and fasting. New York State Historical Association, Fenimore Art Museum/John Bigelow Taylor

From the Great Plains, Native American masterpieces emerged

A new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrates 2,000 years of artistic achievement.
Studies of a reclining male nude: Adam in the fresco ‘The Creation of Man’ on the vault of the Sistine Chapel. c. 1511. Michelangelo. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The truth about sex in ancient Greece

Here are the facts behind four commonly held beliefs about Ancient Greek sexuality.
Some of the earliest applications of photography came in the fields of archaeology and botany. Pictured is a photograph from botanist Anna Atkins' Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843).

How photography evolved from science to art

Because a photograph came from a machine – not a human hand – many were not entirely sure if it could be called art.
A 1893 self-portrait of the French artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903). Wikimedia Commons

How computer science was used to reveal Gauguin’s printmaking techniques

Artist Paul Gauguin is perhaps most famous for his colorful paintings of Tahitian life. But for years, art historians puzzled over his lesser-known prints: how did he form, layer and transfer images from one medium to another?
Graham Beal led the Detroit Institute of Arts through the city’s financial crisis. Les Ward

Rescuing Detroit’s art museum: an interview with director Graham Beal

Graham Beal, the Director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, recently announced that he will be retiring after fifteen years at the helm. Two of his achievements particularly stand out. The first is his…
From where does opposition to depictions of Muhammad arise? Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters

Why there’s opposition to images of Muhammad

After the violent attacks on Charlie Hebdo – the French satirical weekly that routinely published caricatures of Muhammad – many are wondering: are depictions of Muhammad actually forbidden in Islamic…
Adolf Wölfli drawing from 1926: a prolific artist. Wikimedia/Kulture Online

Outsider art can refashion how we think about mental illness

Organisations such as MIND work tirelessly to raise awareness of mental health problems and real progress has been made in destigmatising mental illness through campaigns such as Time to Change and Black…
The unfinished Crazy Horse memorial in Custer County, South Dakota. Bernd00/Wikimedia Commons

Crazy Horse: leader, warrior, martyr … artist?

More than a century after he died, the Lakota warrior Crazy Horse, who famously fought General Custer in the Battle of Little Bighorn, is thought of as transcendent force – attuned to the universe in a…
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…

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