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arts quote

Arts Quotes: Edgar Degas
"Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things."
Europe, Visual Arts

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Edgar Degas
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
Europe, Visual Arts

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Salvador Dali
"You have to systematically create confusion, it sets creativity free."
Europe, Visual Arts

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Salvador Dali
"When I paint, the sea roars. The others splash about in the bath."
Europe, Visual Arts

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Salvador Dali
"People love mystery, and that is why they love my paintings."
Europe, Visual Arts

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Salvador Dali
"Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing."
Europe, Visual Arts

arts quote

Arts Quotes: John Dryden
"Dancing is the poetry of the foot."
Europe, Literature, Dance

Painting by Johannes Vermeer

Arts Days: October 31, 1632: Johannes Vermeer
Thank goodness for recordkeeping. Much of what we know of the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer stems from official documents used to note births, deaths, marriages, and other life milestones. Artistically speaking, however, we learn much about the times in which Vermeer lived by examining his paintings.

Renowned for interior scenes of 17th century life in Holland, Vermeer’s principal subjects were usually women engaged in ordinary activities like pouring milk, reading a letter, or sewing. Captured through soft light, generally provided by an open, left window, Vermeer’s hallmarks were simple forms, muted colors, and restrained brushwork. Vermeer’s work is viewed today as one of the high points of the Golden Age of Dutch Painting.
Europe, Visual Arts

Christian Dior

Arts Days: October 08, 1946: Dior Opens His Doors
Before and during his years of service in the French military, Christian Dior—the man who helped revolutionize women’s fashions—was drawn to sketching hats and clothes. He worked for a couple of French design firms before opening his own shop, backed financially by a textile manufacturer named Marcel Boussac. Dior’s feminine designs—dubbed “The New Look” by one observer—captivated everybody who followed fashion trends.

In Paris and New York, editors of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue began to dress their models in his curvaceous creations. Dior’s dresses made women’s waists appear tiny in contrast to the voluminous skirt beneath. Quite often, the designer used hip padding, corsets, and other technical means to exaggerate and celebrate female curves. Decades later, Dior remains a big name in the fashion industry.
Fashion, Innovators & Pioneers, Europe

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns

Arts Days: October 09, 1835: A Prolific Talent
Composer and organist, conductor and pianist, Saint- Saëns composed numerous works including Carnival of the Animals and Danse macabre. Among his contemporaries, the music he composed and performed was typically regarded as technically flawless.

He was famous for sitting stock-still at his keyboard during performances and playing every note perfectly. That calm demeanor earned him some criticism for his apparent lack of feeling. But to collectively consider the hundreds of pieces of music he composed in his lifetime, Saint- Saëns’ music shows much emotion and beauty.
Composers, Music, Music Legends, Orchestra, Europe

Giuseppe Verdi

Arts Days: October 10, 1813: Viva Verdi
Don't think you know any opera? Bet you do. Several pieces by Giuseppe Verdi have taken such deep root in worldwide arts culture that you've probably heard them—and could even hum them with a little effort. “La donna e mobile,” written by this Italian Romantic composer, is one such recognizable piece from his opera Rigoletto, based on a play by Victor Hugo.

Verdi broke some standard “rules” of opera; for example, his Macbeth was the first Italian opera that did not include a love story, and is considered a truly original piece for that reason. Verdi’s incredible range of operatic works can be heard in La Traviata, Aida, Il Trovatore, and Falstaff. Think opera. Think Verdi.
Composers, Opera, Europe, Music, Music Legends

Cannes Film Festival

Arts Days: September 20, 1946: Stars, Paparazzi, and Cinéma
For 12 days in May, this annual event, set in the luxurious seaside resort of Cannes, France, is a showcase for new movies. While it’s an opportunity to watch films and spot celebrities, the festival began for political reasons. In 1939, Jean Renoir's film The Grand Illusion was passed over at the Venice Film Festival; top honors went to films made by Germany's Ministry of Propaganda and by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's son.

French, British, and American filmmakers withdrew from the competition to protest what they considered an overtly political decision, and the French government agreed to underwrite the cost of a rival film festival that would be free of political bias. At Cannes, films have always been judged on their artistic merits alone.
Art Venues, Europe, Fashion, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Fiddler on the Roof

Arts Days: September 22, 1964: Mazel Tov! It’s a Hit!
It was just a simple story of a Russian Jew with five daughters, based on a book by Joseph Stein. But thanks to Jerry Bock’s music, Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics, and Zero Mostel’s unforgettable turn as Tevye the milkman, Fiddler on the Roof became one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals. Tevye tries hard to preserve the traditions of his childhood, but as his daughters grow up, fall in love, and leave the family’s village, he struggles to accept change.

In songs like “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” Tevye’s family’s life is recounted with both hilarity and poignancy. Fiddler would go on to be the first musical to break the 3,000-performance mark on Broadway.
Broadway, Musicals, Europe, Folklore, History, Theater, World Cultures

Moon face looking out of a telescope

Arts Days: September 01, 1902: Sci-Fi’s First Flight
This French silent film, which features a now-iconic image of a smiley-face moon with a spaceship poking it in the eye, is widely considered to be the first science-fiction movie. Lasting only 14 minutes, the movie tells a story of astronomers who travel to the moon and fight with bug-like aliens.

Along the way, they get a close-up view of the Big Dipper constellation (with human faces peering out of each star) and a moon goddess sitting on a crescent moon-shaped swing. Le Voyage dans la Lune, its title in French, was directed by Georges Méliès. A true film pioneer, he experimented with special effects, double exposures, fades, and dissolves. His work was incredibly innovative for the times.
Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Europe, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Cave Painting of a Horse

Arts Days: September 12, 1940: The Writing on the Wall
Estimated to be about 16,000 years old, the paintings in a network of caves found by four teenage boys are rare examples of art from the Upper Paleolithic era. Here in a region called Lascaux, hundreds of painted animals are visible on the caves’ walls, ranging from bison to stags to horses.

There are also geometric figures and patterns of dots that some say correlate with constellations. Some of the paintings show a sophisticated grasp of concepts like perspective and depth, too. Art historians say that the paintings indicate some of our oldest ancestors’ ability to express themselves in art.
Folklore, Geography, History, Europe, Visual Arts, World Cultures

Giacomo Puccini

Arts Days: December 22, 1858: For the Love of Opera
Are you surprised to learn that Giacomo Puccini was the latest in a long line of musicians in his family? For a while, he served as a church organist and choirmaster, but then he happened to enjoy a night at the opera: Verdi’s opera, Aida. Puccini was so inspired by what he heard and saw that he decided he, too, would compose operas.

He went on to create some of the world’s best-known ones, from La Boheme to Turandot. Over the next decade or so, Puccini composed what were arguably his three most successful operas in a row—Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and La Boheme. Influenced by composers from Verdi to Richard Wagner, Puccini’s operas contain scores of passionate beauty and intensity.
Composers, Opera, Music Legends, Music, Musicals, Europe

A Christmas Carol

Arts Days: December 19, 1843: From Bah Humbug to Benefactor
Charles Dickens published this novella—longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel—about a cranky old fellow named Ebenezer Scrooge on this day in 1843. Stingy with money, even more so with compassion for the sufferings of his fellow man, Scrooge is visited by several ghosts on Christmas Eve, who show him scenes from his boyhood and the present day, as well as a dark and depressing future if Scrooge continues to treat others badly.

Scrooge undergoes a change of heart, waking up a new man on Christmas Day and doing good deeds for others. The story’s humor and gentle morality lessons delighted readers and critics then and now. Over the decades, A Christmas Carol has been adapted into musicals, films, ballets, and operas—there’s even been a mime version.
Literature, Europe, Folklore

James Joyce

Arts Days: December 29, 1916: An Author's Open Book
James Joyce’s first long work of fiction was also partly autobiographical. It explored the inner thoughts of Stephen Dedalus, a character invented by Joyce who served as his alter ego. Spanning Stephen’s childhood into adulthood, Portrait was partly based on people and events in Joyce’s own life. In the book, Stephen comes to question his faith, family and friends, ultimately detaching himself from everything and everyone in order to focus on writing.

To capture Stephen’s thoughts, Joyce made use of the stream-of-consciousness technique in his writing. The character’s thoughts and observations crash together in a seemingly random order, mirroring the way the human brain actually works. It can be challenging to read Portrait, since it’s not written in a linear, orderly narrative.
Innovators & Pioneers, Literature, Europe

Harmony in Red (La chambre rouge; La Desserte - Harmonie rouge), 1908-1909

Arts Days: December 31, 1869: Master of Color
The great French artist Henri Matisse moved fluidly through five decades of art, exploring several different media along the way, from sketching to a form of collage known as “cut outs.” He was one of the key members of the Fauve movement, whose adherents used unusually bold color combinations to create stylized paintings that pushed back against realism.

Yet later in his career, Matisse hewed more toward traditional types of painting, even as his use of color continued to electrify viewers. In his seventies, he also leapt wholeheartedly into collage, using scissors to cut shapes from paper when holding a brush became too difficult for him. Perhaps the greatest French artist of the 20th century, Henri Matisse made art until the very end.
Visual Arts, Europe

Carollers

Arts Days: December 25, 1818: Shhh!
Two Austrians collaborated on the words and music to “Silent Night,” which has become one of the best-loved Christmas carols, sung in churches and by roving carolers the world over. Father Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics, while an organist named Franz Gruber composed the melody.

On this Christmas night, the two played the song in the Church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria. Surprisingly, while today it’s usually sung at a pace akin to that of a lullaby, the song had a more up-tempo rhythm back then. If you celebrate Christmas with your family, think about offering a round of caroling for your neighbors.
Music, Popular Culture, Europe

Beethoven

Arts Days: December 16, 1770: Music’s Master
Young Ludwig van Beethoven was first given music lessons by his dad, performing his first concert at age seven. He stunned listeners with his technical abilities on the piano and organ, impressing them even more when he produced his first composition at nine. The father of this child who would become one of the greatest classical composers in history hoped his son would follow in the steps of Mozart himself, who died when Beethoven was 21.

Beethoven went on to write symphonies, like No. 9 in D Minor, the first symphony written by a prominent composer to include a choral portion. Though he eventually went completely deaf, Beethoven’s genius was such that he still composed and conducted even when he could not hear a single note. Beethoven was a brilliant improviser, rule-breaker, and master of dramatic music.
Composers, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Europe, Music, Orchestra

Wax Figures by Marie Tussaud

Arts Days: December 01, 1761: Waxy Lady
Anna Maria Grosholtz—better known as Madame Tussaud—was taught to make life size wax figures by the doctor for whom her mom worked. While the art of creating often eerily lifelike wax versions of people had been around since the Middle Ages, it was Tussaud and her traveling show of wax figures that made viewing such figures a form of “edutainment”—partly a way to learn about famous people of the past and present, partly just plain fun.

While Madame Tussauds’ London museum kicked off the phenomenon—today everybody from Benjamin Franklin to Jennifer Lopez to President Obama is on view at outposts in Shanghai, New York, Amsterdam, and its newest addition, Washington, D.C.
Popular Culture, Visual Arts, Europe

Schindler's List

Arts Days: December 15, 1993: Angel in the Darkness
People who went to see director Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List were surprised to find the movie about the Holocaust was filmed in black and white. But the surprise gave way to deep emotion as the story unfolded. Spielberg wanted to shine a light on the little known story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman active in the Nazi party, who saved as many as 1,100 Jewish people from death in German concentration camps by hiring them to work in his factories.

Actor Liam Neeson brought Schindler's character to life on screen, and the film went on to win seven Academy Awards®, including Best Picture and Best Director. The movie—including its final scene, in which real-life people saved by Schindler’s actions, place rocks upon his grave—is deeply moving and has captured the attentions of millions of viewers worldwide.
Movies & Movie Stars, History, Controversial, Europe, Military, Tragedy

Charles Perrault

Arts Days: December 12, 1628: Father of Fairy Tales
Not many people can seriously lay claim to inventing an entire literary genre, but Charles Perrault is one exception. Relatively late in life, at age 67, Monsieur Perrault published new versions of old folktales in a slender book aimed at children. Complete with engaging characters, fantasy-laden plots, and moral lessons, the eight “fairy tales” in the book included “La belle au bois dormant,” otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty, and “Le petit chaperon rouge,” or Little Red Riding Hood.

He also used descriptions of actual places in France to embellish the stories; for example, Sleeping Beauty’s castle was based on the Chateau Usse, a real castle in the western part of France that centuries later would inspire Walt Disney himself as he designed castles for his theme parks.
Innovators & Pioneers, Europe, Literature, Popular Culture, Folklore

John Milton

Arts Days: December 09, 1608: A Man of Letters
John Milton is best known for penning Paradise Lost, a really long poem published in the mid 17th century. How long you ask? So long it filled ten books; a second edition published a few years later filled 12 books. In this epic work, Milton explores man’s fall from grace as told in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. In his version, he incorporates elements from Greek classicism, paganism, and other areas of study.

Milton was a learned man with a broad range of interests, and he wrote about other things, too, like history, travel, marriage, censorship, you name it. Late in life, Milton lost his eyesight completely, but never his rigorous intellect and deep curiosity. He is generally considered the greatest English poet after Shakespeare.
Europe, Poetry, Literature, Controversial

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