Iconic Expressions: Mona Lisa and The Scream

Written by on June 7, 2010

Mona Lisa still smiling... Scream still screaming...Few paintings make the transition from museum circle legend to pop culture icon. We have our favorites, be it by Degas, da Vinci, or Duchamp.

Mona Lisa and The Scream

The above listed paintings are two examples of famous paintings that have achieved pop culture icon status. What else do these paintings have in common? The latter, The Scream, is a “study of my soul,” according to Munch, a universal expression of human anxiety according to others. Mona Lisa is supposed by some scholars to truly be da Vinci himself. But aside from being supposed or literal interpretations of the artist, these two artistic icons have something else in common – music.

Mona Lisa Inspires Nat King Cole

Not yet another rigid profile painting of nobility by a notable painter, Mona Lisa is a girl who captured the world by her secretive smile. As a painting, we can impress upon her any of our experiences and imagine who Lisa del Giocondo was, what her life might have been like. We can suppose what his life might have been like, for those who favor the theory that da Vinci disguised himself in her. For those who do favor the theory, it may interesting to note Marcel Duchamp, among others, created L.H.O.O.Q. as an artistic parody of the original, including a mustache, goatee, and flattering inscription of “Elle a chuad au cui,” translated as “She has a hot ass.”

“Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa? Or just a cold and lonely lovely work of art?” Nat King Cole asks this of the painting in a song that topped Billboard’s charts for eight weeks as the number one song in 1950. “Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep. They just lie there and they die there.” Mona Lisa is the woman the viewer can’t have, by her expression as much as she is a painting which inspired a chart topping song.

The Scream and Screamo?

Before creating his 1893 masterpiece, Edvard Munch was taking a stroll down 76th Drive in Forest Hills (Queens, New York) only to be struck down by a most invasive muse. Munch said that the painting was a study of his own soul, describing the moment of inspiration thusly,

“I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature.”

At this particular point in his artistic career Munch was struggling with a major bout of madness, and in the coming years underwent therapy which brought upon a new era in Munch’s art.

According to Bob Olson, a professor of contemporary music at Texas State University, it was a revolutionary moment in music heard from a nearby apartment that gave Munch more than an anxiety attack. “It’s just another example of great art begetting great art,” said Olson in a CNN.com article, “A genius in one medium inspiring a genius in another.”

Whatever Munch heard that day is not yet clear. Given the era, it certainly was not Screamo, but the sound incurred a similarly unique expression in Munch. Art begets art. Great art begets great art, and art changes lives.

We each have our favorite paintings, be it a part of a museum collection, a favorite of popular culture, or a local creation. It will be exciting to see what new revolutions in music inspire art and what artists we know today, be they locally or nationally recognized, who will create the next great art icon. Who knows what Jimi Hendrix or Lady Gaga may have secretly inspired?

Until we find out, explore Mona Lisa, The Scream, and other iconic favorites at overstockart.com.

The Legacy of Norman Rockwell

Written by on June 2, 2010

Many artists, particularly painters, have made a name for themselves for their artistic ingenuity. They’ve painted and brought new Norman Rockwell - Freedom from Wantmeaning to an object or a scene or an event. However there are seldom artists who make use of their craft in addressing day to day issues, such as poverty, love, freedom, communication, bravery, work and everyday mundane activity of human life. Norman Rockwell is one of those few.

Norman Rockwell has made a great impact not only in terms of his art, but also in terms of his social contribution.

To give you a glimpse of who Norman Rockwell was and what he’s done that has made an indelible mark in history is to bring you back to the city of New York where he was born on February 1894. This is where he cultivated his gift under the tutelage of instructors from Chase Art School, the Academy of Design and finally the Art Students League. His artistic style was influenced by his instructors Thomas Fogarty, George Bridgman, and Frank Vincent Dumond.

Norman’s first major breakthrough came in 1912 at age eighteen with his first book illustration for Carl H. Claudy’s Tell Me Why: Stories about Mother Nature. This catapulted him to become the art editor of Boys’ Life published by the Boy Scouts of America. Unfortunately, his streak was cut abruptly with an imminent war.

Rockwell’s family moved to New Rochelle, New York (The same suburban town from the movie “Catch me if you Can” starring Leonardo De’Caprio) when Norman was 21 years old and shared a studio with the cartoonist Clyde Forsythe, who worked for The Saturday Evening Post. With Forsythe’s help, he submitted his first successful cover painting to the Post in 1916. Norman Rockwell published a total of 322 original covers for The Saturday Evening Post for over 47 years. Rockwell’s success on the cover of the Post led to covers for other magazines of the day, most notably LIFE Magazine.

In 1943, during the Second World War, Mr. Rockwell continued on to produce his most famous four part series of paintings of the most powerful war caricatures inspired by the famous Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech – Four Freedoms. These masterpieces as described were the four principles for universal rights: Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, and Freedom from Fear.

During his long career, he was commissioned to paint the portraits for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as those of foreign figures, including Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru. One of his last works was a portrait of Judy Garland in 1969.

For “vivid and affectionate portraits of our country,” Rockwell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America’s highest civilian honor, in 1977.

Rockwell died November 8, 1978 of emphysema at age 84 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. First Lady Rosalynn Carter attended his funeral.

To see more of Norman Rockwell’s paintings, you can visit the Norman Rockwell Museum. The Museum’s collection is the world’s largest, including more than 700 original Rockwell paintings, drawings, and studies.

Revolutionizing the Wall Décor Industry

Written by on May 11, 2010

overstockArt.com launches view in room applicationoverstockArt.com is making purchasing art online a personalized and interactive experience with the launch of the “View in a Room” application.

The new tool will revolutionize the way people buy wall décor online. “View in a Room” allows customers to upload an image of a wall in their home and then place oil paintings that are available through the online retailer onto their walls. This new visualization tool essentially allows users to gauge how a painting will look on their wall before purchasing it and taking it home – something they cannot do in their local gallery.

“As an online retailer it is important to make shopping on our site a personal experience for our customers,” said David Sasson, CEO of overstockArt.com. “‘View in a Room’ makes shopping for art online a personal, interactive experience, as people can now virtually experience the art in their home before purchasing it.”

Although retail is a mature online category, shopping for wall décor online is not. As such, overstockArt.com has invested heavily in creating a unique experience shopping for art online. “This is what makes it exciting for us to offer tools that will revolutionize the buying process for an entire industry,” said Sasson. “This new tool is bridging the gap between the touch and feel experience of shopping at a brick and mortar store compared to the obvious advantages of shopping online.”

overstockArt.com feels confident its customers will embrace “View in a Room.” “We are expecting to increase our conversion rate by 30 percent with this new tool because it’s going to make shopping for art online that much easier,” said Sasson.

“View in a Room” has two final enhancements scheduled before it is completely rolled out. In early June users will be able to test out framing inside the system and by late June customers can share an image of the painting on their wall with their friends and family via e-mail or their social networks. The final enhancement will make purchasing art online a social experience as people will enlist their social networks to help them select which oil painting will look best hanging on their wall.

“Most things on the Web aren’t social quite yet, but that is changing and we are working to establish ourselves as an online retail leader by making shopping online not only a personal and interactive experience, but a social experience as well with this new tool,” stated Sasson.

All Children Are Born Artists

Written by on March 3, 2010

The month of March is Youth Art Month – an annual observance to emphasize the value of art education for all children and to encourage support for quality school art programs. one might ask, what is so important about art that we need an annual event to observe it?

If we sit and observe whenever little kids draw, finger paint or play, it’s intriguing how they seem without self-doubt, judgment or fear of doing it wrong. A preconceived expectation of the end product doesn’t seem to play a role in what they are engaged in and in that moment they simply get lost in the doing of it. It’s as if they approach their art, free of inhibitions and with an openness to take risks, experiment and most importantly have fun. It’s as if being fully present in the moment and entering that space of spontaneity, comes so easily.

I recently spoke to someone who runs a local community art school. She shared with me that they had noticed a decreased attendance in their children’s art classes. When I asked why, she speculated that it was the result of kids being less and less encouraged to do art for the sake of the experience and for play. Instead, in order for parents to feel they were getting their money’s worth they were expecting their kids to produce a nice finished product at the end of each class. If the art piece resembled something out of preschool, their child must not be learning something valuable.

Is it possible that in this day and age of video games and computers, where shapes are colored within the clean lines of digital images, we’ve suppressed the urge to color outside of the margins? Are our children losing touch of their innate nature to create something in the mud, draw in the sand and venture down the road of their own imaginations? Is the art of trial and error no longer valued?

As we “grow up” the courage to create slowly moves into the background of our lives and we measure what we produce with labels of “Success” or “Fail” with nothing in between. We develop an apprehensiveness towards taking risks and the fear of doing it wrong keeps us from looking foolish in the process. Is learning to suppress free expression, suppressing our own imaginative instincts that we were naturally born with when we first entered this world?

“All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

I once heard a grade school teacher encourage parents to, “Praise the effort rather then the outcome.” We often have the bad habit of discounting the process in it self. Undermining the steps in the middle that hold moments of exploration while focusing too much on the end product. If we approach our careers or our art giving value to the effort perhaps we will resurrect the courage to create; remembering what it was like to drenched our fingers in paint and draw out of the lines.

Sir Ken Robinson said it best, the ecology of our education will need to change and adapt. Art and creativity will need to take an active and central role for this world to develop and the only way we can do it is by seeing our children for the hope that they are.

Top 10 Masterpieces in the Media

Written by on January 19, 2010

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa most talked about oil painting of the decade

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa most talked about oil painting of the decade.

overstockArt.com, released today a list of the top 10 oil paintings featured in the media in the last decade. Topping the list is Leonardo Da Vinci’s internationally revered Mona Lisa. Oil paintings by master artists Frida Kahlo, Gustav Klimt, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, and Johannes Vermeer also made the list.

The list was composed according to appearances of the art in newsstands, television shows and motion pictures. The data was gathered using media aggregators and public Google trends statistics.

“Oil paintings were featured across all media platforms throughout the last decade – the most memorable being Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa,” said David Sasson, CEO of overstockArt.com. “Da Vinci’s iconic masterpiece was at the heart of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ craze and we might see a revival of that as the next Dan Brown thriller comes out in the coming decade.”

The oil paintings that received the most media attention in the last decade are:

  1. The Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci – featured in the #1 best selling book of the decade and the 2006 blockbuster movie “The Da Vinci Code,” starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou.
  2. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Gustav Klimt – according to Forbes magazine, Adele is the most expensive oil painting in history. The painting was purchased by Ronald S. Lauder, the cosmetics tycoon, in 2006 for a record breaking $135 million. Today it is proclaimed as Manhattan’s Mona Lisa as it hangs in the Neue Galerie in New York City.
  3. Girl with Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer – subject of the 2003 film “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson.
  4. Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh - according to overstockArt.com’s statistics, Starry Night was the most popular and best-selling oil painting of the last decade.
  5. Le Rêve (The Dream in French), Pablo Picasso – In an accident witnessed by a group that included Barbara Walters and screenwriters Nora Ephron and Nicholas Pileggi in 2006, casino magnate Steve Wynn accidentally created a 6-inch tear in Picasso’s 74-year-old painting. Before the incident, he had agreed to sell Le Rêve for $139 million to Steven A. Cohen, thus making it the most expensive sale of all time. Needless to say Wynn kept the painting and has had it restored.
  6. Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress, Frida Kahlo – featured in the 2002 biopic “Frida,” starring Salma Hayek and Mía Maestro.
  7. The Café Terrace, Vincent van Gogh – according to overstockArt.com’s statistics, The Café Terrace was the second-highest sold oil painting of the last decade. The small coffee shop in Arles has become one of Southern France’s most sought after attractions.
  8. Untitled, Mark Rothko – has become the talk of the town ever since it has been featured on the AMC’s Emmy® and Golden Globe®-winning series “Mad Men.”
  9. The Scream, Edvard Munch – In 2004, the most treasured Modern Art Nordic piece, The Scream, by Edvard Munch, was stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway. The painting was later recovered in 2006. The Scream sustained considerable damage and had to be restored before going back on display in 2008.
  10. Poppies near Vetheuil, Claude Monet – one of the four paintings stolen from the Buehrle Foundation museum in Zurich in 2008. The painting was later recovered by Swiss police.

According to Sasson, there is a connection between sales and media placement, “A lot of people like to keep up with the latest trends in design, and the media is a key influencer in what is deemed hip and desirable.” In 2007 The Mona Lisa was named overstockArt.com’s seventh top-selling oil painting of the year. “This is a prime example of the correlation between sales and media placement of oil paintings. The Mona Lisa did not make the annual Top Ten list until after ‘The Da Vinci Code’ film was released and the renowned work of art was featured in it.”

In the past decade overstockArt.com sold more than a million oil paintings. They are one of the Web’s most successful distributors of wall décor items with over 10,000 daily visitors and 100,000 loyal customers.

Gustav Klimt’s the Kiss Popularity

Written by on December 31, 2009

Gustav Klimt's the Kiss Oil PaintingThe Kiss has become one of the most popular paintings in the world and is Austrian artist Gustav Klimt’s most famous painting. The Kiss Painting shows off Klimt’s best known style of gold shades and symbolic additions, and it is this that has made his work so popular with modern art lovers who prefer something uplifting to add to their homes.

The glowing themes of The Kiss painting by Klimt showed lovers intertwined into one being, symbolizing the strength of this bond. Some art traditionalists rejected this for its use of eroticism, but others found it refreshing.
Gustav Klimt’s popularity and appeal across Europe with more modern-thinking art lovers helped him to sway the seas of discontent that erupted from the erotic nature of many of his paintings. His prominent role in the Viennese Society and links to several galleries and museums across Austria helped him to continue his style. Klimt fans loved his use of golden backgrounds, intensive colors & ornamental layouts.

Improve Creativity in Your Organization

Written by on

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
– Albert Einstein

The value of creativity has been discussed by many business visionaries. Michael Dell said, “It’s through curiosity and looking at opportunities in new ways that we’ve always mapped our path at Dell.” Bill Gates said “I’ve always been an optimist and I suppose that is rooted in my belief that the power of creativity and intelligence can make the world a better place.”

Leaders often place a value on “thinking out of the box.” But if creativity is so important why do large and small companies often leave it to chance?

The development of creativity in your organization should be approached with conscious intent. You need to create an atmosphere that fosters creativity. Many organizations have gray cubicles, bare walls, bland conference rooms, and semi-isolated employees working in small areas covered by creativity-reducing colors, visions and sounds. How can we expect people in this environment to think creatively for our organizations?

So what can companies do to improve this most critical element called creativity? It is amazing how much can be done with a relatively small investment.

  • Replace standard corporate posters in conference rooms, hallways and offices with beautiful oil paintings. Hand-painted reproductions of great masters such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and Klimt.
  • Invest in a simple sound system that plays classical music. If this is inappropriate in some work zones, designate break rooms and conference rooms for music. A study by the University of California, Irvine demonstrated that IQ scores rise significantly (although temporarily) when subjects are tested while listening to Mozart.
  • Designate a room a company “thinking room.” Place small toys, crayons, markers and paper in the room. Let employees express themselves in this room a few times a day. You can even have a mandatory “10 minutes thinking time.”

The ability to think creatively should not be the sole responsibility of the leader or CEO of the business. This function could be shared by all and by doing so increase the productivity of any company. The three steps listed above are simple to take and require a relatively small investment. It’s vitally important to enjoy this process and let your own creativity dictate the application of these steps.

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