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Artists' Letters: Leonardo da Vinci to David Hockney

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The Modern Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago now have some of the best art in the world. From Fiona Tan’s representational films to Idris Khan’s abstract paintings and drawings, here are five top shows to see this week. Read more

Currently preparing for her retrospective at Manchester Art Gallery, artist and educator Sonia Boyce is the latest to reflect on art, life and lessons learnt in our ‘As I see it’ series. She talks tuition fees, a love of Liberty and why we should all be prepared to dream of something different… Read more Jenny Holzer turns common public objects into subversive artworks bearing powerful words. She engraves poetic statements about power, feminism, and individual agency into benches made from streaked Carrara marble, spotted granite, and royal blue-tinged sodalite. Holzer renders her phrases in all-caps and serif lettering, turning them into monumental proclamations: “PROTECT ME FROM / WHAT I WANT,” “IT IS IN YOUR SELF-INTEREST / TO FIND A WAY TO BE VERY TENDER,” “RAISE BOYS AND GIRLS THE SAME WAY.” They become creative mandates in shared spaces and benevolent counterpoints to state directives. Visit free displays around the RA, including architecture in the Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery and a public project space for the RA Schools in the Weston Studio. For this piece, titled “You Blow Me Away,” he collaborated with photographer Jason Tozer. Ward’s typography was printed on several 7mm sheets of glass, through which various objects were fired.

When he’s not creating decorative type with a pencil or pen, inventive lettering artist Ian Barnard sometimes uses vegetables as unconventional tools. So far, he’s injected a broad bean, chili pepper, and even a courgette with ink to draw surprisingly beautiful “vegetable calligraphy.” The artist says, “Who knew that some broad beans would make such a great monoline marker.” Due to his many endeavors and despite his fame, da Vinci did not produce that many works throughout his lifetime, having less than two dozen paintings surviving over the centuries, but his love of science permeated his artistic work (e.g. Vitruvian Man). Strain has several other eye-catching typography posters in his portfolio, including portraits of David Lynch, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, and Freddie Mercury. Art now is more popular than it ever has been. We are in an era where art is at the centre of a public conversation about who we are, and where we want to go. Read more

A French-born painter famed for his detailed naval scenes, the artist had an adventurous early life, before returning to England in the 1750s to embark upon a successful artistic career and become a founding member of the Royal Academy in 1768. Read more As Leonard Manasseh becomes our first centenarian Royal Academician, his cousin, the architectural historian Timothy Brittain-Catlin, takes a look at a career of over 80 years. Read more In his early years, his paintings depicted colorful scenes of blue hues, whereas later it turned to blue-green hues that often depicted scenes of impoverished peoples.To please his father, he went to law school. He didn’t like it, and he was eventually allowed to go to Paris to study painting. I’ve set out a little curriculum from which you could teach someone to draw,” says artist and teacher Stephen Farthing, as he gives an audio tour of the online collection. Read more

In a letter dated 12 April 1889 (letter #2) from Rylands MS. #1293, Herkomer asks Spielmann in confidence to make a public notice that one of his pupils, a Mr. D’Urban, is now Art Master and Art Lecturer to Yorkshire College, Leeds, being chosen from a competitive field. In a letter dated 22 October 1890, Herkomer offers Spielmann two drawings by a Miss Sawyer to publish for a smaller amount than another customer’s offer, implying that publication would do more good to Sawyer’s career than the sale. From Rylands MS. 1293, Herkomer letter #6, dated 26 May 1889, explains his timing of a press notice for the performance of his play and then mentions that The Illustrated London News and The Graphic are doing drawings, but that no paper has a drawing of Herkomer’s except Spielmann’s paper: ‘I have told this as a compliment to you’. Spielmann frequently received exclusive publication rights to reproductions and engravings, and he reviewed books, such as William Frith’s Autobiography, early because artists sent him copies before they were available to other reviewers. Pop artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein also paved the way for everyday items to become the subject of serious art, especially the use of repetition to change the meaning of artworks. Like a portrait painter with their sitters, I have the feeling of a real relationship with the flowers I paint” As exceptional examples go on display in ‘Renaissance Impressions’, printmaker Anne Desmet RA reveals the story behind this pivotal development and discusses why these rare prints continue to dazzle us today. Read more Digital 3D lettering is the modern take on typography art, and Persani is showing us all how it’s done.A letterer and illustrator, McDevitt lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Some of her prominent clients include AT&T, Penguin Books, Nike, United States Postal Service, Sesame Street, and Target. That I have not liked your notices of me for a considerable time is true, more especially of my ‘Jacob’ this spring, which (if a lady friend who informed me, was correct) curtly stated that I had just finished two pictures ‘ not for the R. A.’, a sort of notice calculated to injure me exceedingly with those touchy gentlemen … I never authorised anyone to trouble you on the subject and you know it is quite contrary to my principles to complain or in anyway interfere with your liberty …. I will never be offended with you whatever annoyance I may feel at your remarks in print unless I were to think they were intended to offend or done in spite. 63 Six tonnes of steel mesh, a gallery flooded with seawater, a body you could walk through and an experience like no other. Relive our 2019 Antony Gormley exhibition with behind-the-scenes videos, inspiration from the man himself and works from the show. Read more Artists work in isolation, but they do it under the belief that one day people will experience their work. For Chris Orr, it’s the isolation of everybody else that’s frightening… Read more Although he enjoyed painting biblical and mythological scenes, he specialized in painting domestic interior scenes of the middle class lifestyle, often depicting the same scenes and individuals in multiple paintings.

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