Louisiana chimpanzee wins first prize in art contest

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A painting by a 37-year-old Louisiana primate who applies color with his tongue instead of a brush has been deemed the finest chimpanzee art in the land.

Brent, a retired laboratory animal, was the top vote-getter in an online chimp art contest organized by the Humane Society of the United States, which announced the results Thursday. He won $10,000 for the Chimp Haven sanctuary in northwest Louisiana.

A Chimp Haven spokeswoman said Brent was unavailable for comment Thursday. “I think he’s asleep,” Ashley Gordon said.

But as the society said on its website, “The votes are in, so let the pant hooting begin!” – pant hooting being the characteristic call of an excited chimp.

Five other sanctuaries around the country competed, using paintings created during “enrichment sessions,” which can include any of a wide variety of activities and playthings.

Chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall chose her favorite from photographs she was sent. That painting, by Cheetah, a male at Save the Chimps in Fort Pierce, Fla., won $5,000 as Goodall’s choice and another $5,000 for winning second place in online voting, Humane Society spokeswoman Nicole Ianni said.

This undated image provided by Chimp Haven, Inc. shows Brent, a chimpanzee at its shelter in Keithville.

This undated image provided by Chimp Haven, Inc. shows Brent, a chimpanzee at its shelter in Keithville.


Ripley from the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Fla., won third place and $2,500.

More than 27,000 people voted, Ianni said in a news release. The organization is not giving vote totals “to keep the focus on the positive work of the sanctuaries and not necessarily the ‘winner,'” she said in an email. The sanctuaries care for chimpanzees retired from research, entertainment and the pet trade. Chimp Haven is the national sanctuary for those retired from federal research.

Other submitted paintings were by Jamie, a female at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in Cle Elum, Wash.; Jenny, a female at Primate Rescue Center in Nicholasville, Ky.; and Patti, a female at Chimps Inc. in Bend, Ore.

A profile of Brent on the Humane Society’s website says he has lived at Chimp Haven since 2006, is protective of an even older chimp at the sanctuary and “loves to laugh and play.” It continues, “Brent paints only with his tongue. His unique approach and style, while a little unorthodox, results in beautiful pieces of art.”

Cathy Willis Spraetz, Chimp Haven’s president and CEO, said she chose a painting by Brent partly because of that unusual method. She said she later held a canvas up to the mesh of his indoor cage so she could watch him at work.

Some other chimps use brushes or point to the colors they want on the canvas, but Brent comes up to smush pre-applied blobs of child-safe tempera paints with his tongue, she said.

“If we handed the canvas to them where it was on the inside, they might not want to hand it back,” she said. “They might throw it around and step on it.”


Ancient Carving of Roman God Found in Garbage Pit

A stone head possibly depicting a Roman god was found by Durham University archaeologists at Binchester …

A stone head possibly depicting a Roman god was found by Durham University archaeologists at Binchester …

Originally posted by:



An 1,800-year-old stone carving of what may be the head of a Roman god was recently found in an ancient garbage dump, British archaeologists announced today (July 3).

An undergraduate student at Durham University discovered the largely intact head during an archaeological dig at the Binchester Roman Fort, a major Roman Empire fort built around A.D. 100 in northeastern England’s County Durham.

Archaeologists involved in the dig believe that somebody probably tossed the 8-inch-long (20 centimeters) statue in the garbage when the building was abandoned in the fourth century, during the fall of the Roman Empire. [See Photos of the Stone Head & Dig Site]

The team is still not certain who the carved head is meant to represent, though they have noted its resemblance to a similar stone head discovered in 1862 inscribed with the name “Antenociticus” — a Celtic deity associated with military prayers in that particular region.

A shrine sits nearby the garbage dump, further suggesting the stone head was involved in prayer and represents a deity.

“It is probably the head of a Roman god — we can’t be sure of his name, but it does have similarities to head of Antenociticus,” David Petts, a Durham University archaeologist who was involved in the dig, said in a statement. “We may never know the true identity of this new head, but we are continuing to explore the building from which it came to help us improve our understanding of late Roman life at Binchester and [the] Roman Empire’s northern frontier in Northern England.”

The team is particularly interested in the unique local aesthetic of the head, which combines classical Roman art and regional Romano-British art. Some of the facial features also appear to be African, though this remains speculative.

“This is something we need to consider deeply,” Petts said in a statement. “If it is an image of an African, it could be extremely important, although this identification is not certain.”

The dig was conducted in collaboration with Stanford University in an effort to unearth evidence from the era leading up to the fall of the Roman Empire. The team has yet to publish a report on their recent findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Follow Laura Poppick on Twitter. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.


Van Gogh’s True Palette Revealed

A NEW LOOK A digital version of “The Bedroom” shows what may be the original violet walls.

A NEW LOOK A digital version of “The Bedroom” shows what may be the original violet walls.

Originally posted by-

AMSTERDAM — “The Bedroom,” Vincent van Gogh’s 1888 painting, with its honey-yellow bed pressed into the corner of a cozy sky-blue room, is instantly recognizable to art lovers, with his signature contrasting hues. But does our experience of this painting change upon learning that van Gogh had originally depicted those walls in violet, not blue, or that he was less a painter wrestling with his demons and more of a deliberate, goal-oriented artist?

These questions are raised by a new analysis, eight years in the making, of hundreds of van Gogh’s canvases as well as his palette, pigments, letters and notebooks by scientists at Shell, the oil company, in collaboration with the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency and curators at the newly renovated Van Gogh Museum here, which owns the world’s largest collection of works by that Dutch Post Impressionist.

The research did not lead to “earth-shattering new insights” that rewrite van Gogh’s life story, said the director of the Van Gogh Museum, Axel Rüger, but it could shift the understanding of van Gogh’s temperament and personality. The results of that study will be revealed in an exhibition, “Van Gogh at Work,” which opens on Wednesday and features about 200 paintings and drawings, 150 of them by van Gogh and others by contemporaries, including Paul Gauguin and Émile Bernard.

“You discover more clearly that van Gogh was a very methodical artist, which runs counter to the general myth that he was a manic, possibly slightly deranged man who just spontaneously threw paint at the canvas,” Mr. Rüger said. “He was actually someone who knew very well about the properties of the materials he used, how to use them, and also he created very deliberate compositions. In that sense it’s a major insight in that it gives us a better notion of van Gogh the artist. He was very goal-oriented.”

By using an electron microscope and X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, which reveals the parts of pigments without taking invasive samples, researchers found that early on van Gogh used perspective frames as a guide and drew on the canvas to correctly render proportions and depth of field in his landscapes. Later, as he gained mastery, he abandoned these grids. Like many artists, he reworked certain paintings repeatedly to perfect his desired effect. The most important insight was into his palette, said Nienke Bakker, curator of the show.

“We now know much more about the pigments van Gogh used and how they might’ve changed color over time,” Ms. Bakker said. “That’s crucial to our understanding of his works, and to know better how to treat them. The colors are still very vibrant, but they would have been even brighter — especially the reds. Some of the reds were much brighter or have completely disappeared since he painted them.”

Ralph Haswell, principal scientist at Shell Global Solutions here, which made its lab facilities and researchers available to the museum, said that at the turn of the 20th century artists had just started buying pigments off the shelf rather than mixing them in the studio. “One of the disadvantages of living in a very changing environment where pigments were very new was that they didn’t always know how things would turn out,” he said. “The chemical industry was growing hugely and they came up with all kinds of colors, but you never knew how long they would remain stable. Some pigments weren’t stable.” That was the case with van Gogh’s violet, used to depict the walls of his room in Arles. Because the red in the purple paint faded prematurely, probably even during van Gogh’s lifetime, it left behind only the blue with which it had been mixed.

That may have been fine with van Gogh, Ms. Bakker said, since the largely self-taught artist didn’t regard any of his work as final. He saw pieces as studies that helped him find his style.

“He wanted to express his individual way of seeing the world, and every work of art he made was moving him toward that goal,” Ms. Bakker said, “but he was never satisfied.”

The original hue — seemingly a minor change — presents a more soothing image, said Marije Vellekoop, head of collections, research and presentation for the Van Gogh Museum. The purple and yellow are “not a harsh contrast as we think of now,” she said. “That was something he wanted to express in that picture — tranquillity and a sense of rest.”

A FAMILIAR LOOK The painting as we know it, with blue walls perhaps caused by faded pigment.

A FAMILIAR LOOK The painting as we know it, with blue walls perhaps caused by faded pigment.

In color theory, Ms. Vellekoop said, purple and yellow are complementary contrasts. “Theoretically they have to reinforce each other,” she said. “For me, the purple walls in the bedroom make it a softer image. It confirms that he was sticking to the traditional color theory, using purple and yellow, and not blue and yellow.”

In other paintings the disappearance of the reds had different consequences. For example, in images of blossoming fruit trees,  blossoms are now white that were once pink because the red faded away. That might lead to changing the identification of the type of tree depicted, Ms. Vellekoop said.

In a way, his use of complementary colors places van Gogh strictly in the traditions of his time. Although he was radical in his use of bright colors, she said, “he follows the traditional color theory that was already written down in the first half of the 19th century,” she said, adding, “A lot of his artist friends were reading those books,” but didn’t use the pigments so boldly.

Van Gogh experimented with different techniques to applying color that were used by his contemporaries, including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who thinned out his paints and used flat colors. Van Gogh also briefly followed the Pointillists, whose images were built up from many dabs of color. The high-contrast colors of van Gogh’s later paintings are associated with the moment when he came into his own as an artist, developing his own style, in the last couple of years of his life.

The fact that he may have used an even brighter palette, with more reds and purples, indicates that his work may have been closer to that of his friend Paul Gauguin. In that sense, his color choices might have been safer and less iconoclastic than we might imagine.

But, she said, the new color insights don’t necessarily change our view of his psychology. “I don’t think it says anything about his state of mind,” she said. “In Arles, he was using a lot of colors and he was very optimistic about life and his future and his possibilities of selling his work.”

"Self-portrait," from 1887-1888

“Self-portrait,” from 1887-1888

He was also looking forward to Gauguin’s coming to Arles, Ms. Vellekoop said, but he was almost manic about it. “When the cooperation with Gauguin failed, and he was in the asylum, and he becomes more somber and depressed, his colors changed, he goes more towards the ochers, different shades of green and browns,” she said. “A more subdued palette. We do associate color with his state of mind, of course, but it’s not like the more blue, the more depressed he was.”

Starting in September two of van Gogh’s renditions of “The Bedroom” will be displayed side by side at the exhibition, one from the Van Gogh Museum and the other borrowed from the Art Institute of Chicago. Van Gogh painted three versions of the room in 1888 and 1889, and all now have those pale-blue walls. Scientists and conservators have also created a digital reconstruction of what the painting might have looked like when van Gogh first painted it, with those violet walls, which will also be part of the exhibition.

“It looks just, different, and a bit strange,” Ms. Bakker said.

Henry Ossawa Tanner – An Artist You Should Know

Henry Ossawa Tanner in 1907.Birth name Henry Ossawa TannerBorn 	June 21, 1859Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaDied 	May 25, 1937 (aged 77)Paris, France

Henry Ossawa Tanner in 1907.
Birth name Henry Ossawa Tanner
Born June 21, 1859
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died May 25, 1937 (aged 77)
Paris, France

Henry Ossawa Tanner (June 21, 1859 – May 25, 1937) was an African-American artist. He was the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim.

Early life

Tanner was born in Pittsburgh, PA. His father, Benjamin Tucker Tanner was a minister, editor, and political activist. His mother Sarah Tanner had escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad. The family moved to Philadelphia when Tanner was young; his father becoming a friend, sometime supporter, sometime critic of Frederick Douglass.


Although many artists refused to accept an African-American apprentice, in 1879 Tanner enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, becoming the only black student.His decision to attend the school came at an exciting time in the history of artistic institutional training. Art academies had long relied on tired notions of study devoted almost entirely to plaster cast studies and anatomy lectures. This changed drastically with the addition of Thomas Eakins as “Professor of Drawing and Painting” to the Pennsylvania Academy. Eakins encouraged new methods such as study from live models, direct discussion of anatomy in male and female classes, and dissections of cadavers to further familiarity and understanding of the human body. Eakins’s progressive views and ability to excite and inspire his students would have a profound effect on Tanner. The young artist proved to be one of Eakins’s favorite students; two decades after Tanner left the Academy Eakins painted his portrait, making him one of a handful of students to be so honored At the Academy Tanner befriended artists with whom he would keep in contact throughout the rest of his life, most notable of these being Robert Henri, one of the founders of the Ashcan School. During a relatively short time at the Academy, Tanner developed a thorough knowledge of anatomy and an ability to transfer his understanding of the weight and structure of the human figure to the canvas.

Issues of racism

Tanner’s non-confrontational personality and preference for subtle expression in his work seem to belie his difficulties, but his life was not without struggle. Although he gained confidence as an artist and began to sell his work, racism was a major condition in Philadelphia, as massive numbers of African Americans left the rural South and settled in Northern urban centers. Although painting became a therapeutic source of release for him, lack of acceptance was painful. In his autobiography The Story of an Artist’s Life, Tanner describes the burden of racism:

I was extremely timid and to be made to feel that I was not wanted, although in a place where I had every right to be, even months afterwards caused me sometimes weeks of pain. Every time any one of these disagreeable incidents came into my mind, my heart sank, and I was anew tortured by the thought of what I had endured, almost as much as the incident itself.

In an attempt to gain artistic acceptance, Tanner left America for France in late 1891. Except for occasional brief returns home, he spent the rest of his life there.

Life Abroad

After an unsuccessful attempt at opening a photography studio in Atlanta and teaching drawing at Clark Atlanta University  Tanner traveled to France in 1891, to the Académie Julian, and joined the American Art Students Club of Paris. Paris was a welcome escape for Tanner; within French art circles the issue of race mattered little. Tanner acclimated quickly to Parisian life.

In Paris, Tanner was introduced to many new artworks that would affect the way in which he painted. At the Louvre, Tanner encountered and studied the works of Gustave Courbet, Jean-Baptiste Chardin and Louis Le Nain.  These artists had painted scenes of ordinary people in their environment and the effect in Tanner’s work is noticeable. One example is the striking similarity between Tanner’s “The Young Sabot Maker” (1895) and Courbet’s “The Stonebreakers” (1850). Both paintings explore the theme of apprenticeship and menial labor.

He studied under renowned artists such as Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant and Jean-Paul Laurens.

Secret Painting in Rembrandt Masterpiece Coming into View

Originally posted  By Megan Gannon, News Editor | LiveScience.com – Sat, Jan 26, 2013

Scientists may be one step closer to revealing a hidden portrait behind a 380-year-old Rembrandt painting.

The masterpiece, “Old Man in Military Costume” by Dutch painter Rembrant Harmenszoon van Rijn, resides at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Scientists had noticed the painting bears faint traces of another portrait beneath its surface. Researchers had previously probed the painting with infrared, neutron and conventional X-ray methods, but could not see the behind the top coat, largely because Rembrandt used the same paint (with the same chemical composition) for the underpainting and the final version.

New studies with more sophisticated X-ray techniques that can parse through the painting’s layers give art historians hope that they may finally get to see who is depicted in the secret image.

“Our experiments demonstrate a possibility of how to reveal much of the hidden picture,” Matthias Alfeld from the University of Antwerp said in a statement. “Compared to other techniques, the X-ray investigation we tested is currently the best method to look underneath the original painting.”

Alfeld and an international team used macro X-ray fluorescence analysis to examine a mock-up of Rembrandt’s original, created by museum intern Andrea Sartorius, who used paints with the same chemical composition as those used by the Dutch master. Sartorius painted one portrait on the canvas and then an imitation of “Old Man in Military Costume” on top. [In Photos: Looking for a Hidden Painting]

When bombarded with these high-energy X-rays, light is absorbed and emitted from different pigments in different ways. The scientists targeted four elements of the paint to fluoresce, including calcium, iron, mercury and lead, and got much better impressions of the hidden painting in the mock-up than they were able to before.

“The successful completion of these preliminary investigations on the mock-up painting was an important first step,” Karen Trentelman, of the Getty Conservation Institute, said in a statement. “The results of these studies will enable us determine the best possible approach to employ in our planned upcoming study of the real Rembrandt painting.”

This isn’t the first time scientists have delved into Rembrandt’s paintings. Previous research revealed why his art possesses such calming beauty, finding the artist may have pioneered a technique that guides the viewer’s gaze around a portrait, creating a special narrative and “calmer” viewing experience.  Essentially, the researchers found Rembrandt painted more detail in and around the eyes of his subjects, tapping into an innate human attraction to the face.

Fine Art “Navajo Women” Print from the original oil on canvas

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Picasso at Work!

Pablo Picasso in 1962

Pablo Picasso in 1962

Pablo Ruiz y Picasso, known as Pablo Picasso ( 25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer who spent most of his adult life in France. As one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, he is widely known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture,[2][3] the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), and Guernica (1937), a portrayal of the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

Picasso, Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp are commonly regarded as the three artists who most defined the revolutionary developments in the plastic arts in the opening decades of the 20th century, responsible for significant developments in painting, sculpture, printmaking and ceramics.