Emily Dickinson was here

Emily Dickinson dress

Emily Dickinson’s only surviving dress, Amherst Historical Society, Amherst, Massachusetts, 2010 (photo: Annie Leibovitz, from Pilgrimage).

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N is for Neville

N is for Neville

View all the Gashlycrumb Tinies here.

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A letter from Edward Gorey

Gorey envelope

Envelope illustrated by Edward Gorey. (via)

“This is the theory… that anything that is art… is presumably about some certain thing, but is really always about something else, and it’s no good having one without the other, because if you just have the something it is boring and if you just have the something else it’s irritating.”

— Edward Gorey

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James Joyce

James Joyce. Scratchboard portrait by Mark Summers, whose work you will recognize from Barnes & Noble shopping bags, among other places.

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The lost Vermeer

Vermeer - The Concert

The Concert is a painting of c. 1664 by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in March 1990. It is considered the most valuable painting currently stolen. Its value has been estimated at over $200,000,000. It remains missing to this day.” — Wikipedia

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Mencken on great artists and virtuous men

The great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable. No virtuous man — that is, virtuous in the Y.M.C.A. sense — has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading.

H.L. Mencken

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Robert Longo: Shark

Longo - Shark

Robert Longo
Untitled (Shark 4)
Charcoal on mounted paper
88 x 70 inches/223.5 x 177.8 cm

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Bryan Christie - Inactivity

“Inactivity” by Bryan Christie Design.

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Le Grand Prix A.C.F.
Jacques Henri Lartigue
Gelatin silver print
4½ x 6¾ in.

via Art Blart

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Baldessari: Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell

Baldessari - Tips for Artists

Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell
John Baldessari (American, b. 1931)
Acrylic on canvas. 68 x 56½ in.

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After the forest fire


Burn #75 by David Nadel.

David Nadel has photographed the remains of burned-down forests in Northwest Montana for much of the past four winters. A resident of the state, he hikes up mountains and treks through trail-less terrain while lugging a large-format camera. He shoots color, though many of his images look like black-and-white etchings. His exhibition, “Burn,” is on view at Sasha Wolf Gallery in New York through March 26.


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California, 1940

Lange - Migrant Worker 1944

Photo by Dorothea Lange. 4.11.1940.

Edison, Kern County, California. Young migratory mother, originally from Texas. On the day before the photograph was made she and her husband traveled 35 miles each way to pick peas. They worked 5 hours each and together earned $2.25. They have two young children… Live in auto camp.

National Archives (via)

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Pacific Ocean

Sugimoto - Pacific Ocean

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Pacific Ocean

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Rockefeller Center, New York

Rockefeller Center, New York City


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Quote of the Day

Sargent in his studio

“Every time I paint a portrait, I lose a friend.” Sargent in his Paris studio, 1885. (Source. Via Exit Lines.)

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Late Traveler

Martin Lewis - Late Traveler

Martin Lewis, “Late Traveler” (1949) (via)

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Rockwell Kent - Whale Beneath the Sea

Rockwell Kent, “Whale Beneath the Sea” (1930) (via). More here.

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Classic icon prints

Icon prints


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Darwinian Theories of Beauty

In this TED video, Denis Dutton explains how our shared sense of what is beautiful may have its origin in human evolution. The theory connects to another idea I ran across recently: that we humans acquired our species-wide instinct for storytelling as a biological adaptation. Telling one another stories conferred on our ancient ancestors an advantage, i.e. storytelling animals were more likely to survive than non-storytelling ones. Brian Boyd seems to be the leading exponent of this theory with his book, On the Origin of Stories. (Boyd summarizes the theory here. An interesting review of the book by Michael Bérubé is here.) If all this is true — if we are hardwired to find certain art forms beautiful and to enjoy certain kinds of stories — then maybe we should not worry so much about the death of the novel after all.

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Still lifes by Christopher Stott

While stumbling around the web the other day, I came across the still-life paintings of Christopher Stott and was instantly smitten. Stott’s compositions are very sparse, usually just two or three ordinary objects grouped together against a neutral white background, drenched in sunlight. I have not seen them in person, but to judge from the images on the web his technique is very precise, almost photographic. He handles light beautifully. Even from a distance you can tell that much. But these are so much more than technical exercises or pretty pictures. The paintings I like best are little stories. They show ordinary objects with the patina of age and long use — battered old books, chairs, alarm clocks, suitcases — suggesting the rich stories and lives they have led. The painting above, “Three Vintage Fans” (2010), reminds me of a family — a father and two sons, say. The father is turning to share a moment with his mischievous younger son while the oldest boy looks straight into the camera, dutifully holding his pose. Obviously I am projecting my own life onto these inanimate things; that’s the magic of it. That is what the best still lifes do. They help you see the things around you in a new way. They make you stop and really look.

Chris has graciously allowed me to use one of his paintings to illustrate the home page of this web site. It is a lovely, inspiring invitation to the writing life. Until I sell a few more books, I will have to settle for “owning” one of his paintings this way. (But you don’t have to, I hope.)

Check out Christopher Stott’s paintings at his web site or Flickr feed.

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