Fractal Analysis: Famous Works by Artists Like Dali Showed Early Signs of Disease

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Brushstrokes in paintings could help early diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases, according to a study published on Thursday of works by famous sufferers such as Salvador Dali and Willem De Kooning.

The analysis was carried out on 2,092 paintings, including those of two artists with Parkinson’s disease, Dali and Norval Morrisseau, and two with Alzheimer’s disease, De Kooning and James Brooks.

Works by Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet, who were not know to suffer from any such disease, were also included for comparison.

“Knowing that you have a problem sooner rather than later is always going to be an important medical breakthrough,” said Alex Forsythe from the University of Liverpool, one of the authors of the study.

Fractal analysis — a way to study patterns that is already used to spot fake paintings — was used to gauge the relative complexity of the works.

Fractals are often described as “fingerprints of nature.”

For De Kooning and Brooks, the study showed a sharp decrease in the complexity starting around the age of 40 — long before their Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

De Kooning received an official diagnosis in 1989 — the year he turned 85 — and Brooks when he turned 79. Read the rest of this entry »


Diego Rivera: Portrait of Natasha Zakólkowa Gelman

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Portrait of Natasha Zakólkowa Gelman – Diego Rivera


Museum Set to Accept Art Nazis Looted

Franz-Marc

The Kunstmuseum Bern is expected to decide as early as Saturday to accept the estate of the late Cornelius Gurlitt.

BERN, Switzerland— MARY M. LANE reports: A small art museum in the Swiss capital is preparing to take possession of more than 1,000 artworks bequeathed to it by the son of one of Hitler’s main art dealers, unshackling Germany from an embarrassing burden that has weighed on it for a year.

Barring any last-minute legal objections, the Kunstmuseum Bern is expected to decide as early as Saturday to accept the estate of the late Cornelius Gurlitt, according to three people familiar with the museum board’s discussions.

‘When something like this falls into your lap of course you’re going to vote to take it.’

—A person at the Kunstmuseum Bern’s board meetings

That could expedite restitution for heirs of Holocaust victims, many of whom have seen their claims that the art was stolen from their families languish since the existence of the trove was publicly revealed a year ago. For some works, restitution could happen within days if the museum accepts the bequest.

Stuart Eizenstat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ’s special adviser on Holocaust issues, called the prospect “tremendously welcome and wonderful.”

“It was obvious from the start, and a huge source of angst, that accepting the works would fundamentally change the identity of our museum forever.”

The collection includes masterpieces by Claude Monet, Henri Matisse and Pierre Auguste-Renoir and was amassed during and shortly after World War II by Mr. Gurlitt’s father, a museum director turned art dealer for Hitler. Historians and lawyers have already concluded the trove contains several pieces stolen from European Jews by the Nazis.

The Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland.European Pressphoto Agency

The Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland.European Pressphoto Agency

The German government has been quietly urging the museum to accept the art, according to the people familiar with the discussions. Since the existence of the trove was revealed a year ago, Berlin has been under pressure from Holocaust victims’ families as well as the U.S. and Israeli governments to return all stolen pieces to their original owners.

“One of the prime pieces is an Henri Matisse portrait of a creamy-skinned brunette that a German-government appointed group of experts has already determined is looted.”

Mr. Gurlitt unexpectedly bequeathed his estate to the museum shortly before he died May 6 at 81. According to the will Mr. Gurlitt signed on his deathbed, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, the Kunstmuseum Bern would be required to conduct this research and restitution. Museum director Matthias Frehner has pledged that it would do so if it accepts the bequest.

If the museum were to decline the collection, it would go to Mr. Gurlitt’s distant relatives, who are dispersed in and outside Germany. While his will stipulates that they also return Nazi-looted art, lawyers say there is no way to make sure the multiple heirs conduct such research properly or efficiently outside of going to court, meaning individual cases could drag on for years.

One of the prime pieces is an Henri Matisse portrait of a creamy-skinned brunette that a German-government appointed group of experts has already determined is looted. Read the rest of this entry »


Swiss Museum Sole Heir in Will of Art Collector Cornelius Gurlitt

Hildebrand Gurlitt originally assembled his son Cornelius's collection. Photograph: AP

Hildebrand Gurlitt originally assembled his son Cornelius’s collection. Photograph: AP

Several works in his collection suspected of having been looted from Jewish families during Nazi era

For The GuardianPhilip Oltermann writes: A Swiss museum has inherited one of the most controversial art collections in recent European history. Kunstmuseum Bern confirmed on Wednesday it has been named the “unrestricted and unfettered sole heir” in the will of the reclusive collector Cornelius Gurlitt, who died on Tuesday.

[See also: Oops! Nazi-Looted Art Found in German Parliament]

Several works in the collection, which was originally assembled by Gurlitt’s father Hildebrand, are suspected of having been looted from Jewish families during the Nazi era. A taskforce of art experts is examining the provenance of the works in a secret location in Germany until the end of the year.

[See also: First glimpse of newly uncovered, Nazi looted art collection released on German website]

Kunstmuseum Bern’s director, Matthias Frehner, said in a statement: that the news had come “like a bolt from the blue”, since Gurlitt had at no time had any connection to the museum. Already boasting works by Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee, the museum could soon be showing paintings and sketches by Claude Monet,Pierre-Auguste RenoirMarc Chagall, Oskar Kokoschka and Max Liebermann among others. Read the rest of this entry »


Marc Chagall: Between Paris and Vitebsk

Chagall: Love, War and Exile

Exhibition at the Jewish Museum
Marc Chagall in Paris, 1921

Marc Chagall in Paris, 1921

 writes: It’s a testament to the breadth of an artist’s body of work that more than one school of interpretation claims it, especially when those claims seem to be issued on mutually exclusive grounds. Marc Chagall (1887-1985) has inspired impressively schizophrenic critical accounts of his artistic efforts, at once called the “quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century” and a “pioneer of modernism.” He is often characterized as both a chronicler of provincial Jewish folklore and an urbane, cosmopolitan aesthete. Treatments of Chagall’s artistic achievements typically either highlight his nostalgic depictions of rural Jewish life in his Russian hometown, Vitebsk, or the sophisticated European universalism he imbibed in Paris.

The apparent polarity of Chagall’s influences often translates into a wild cacophony of images inhabiting the same canvas: Christian and Jewish, Russian and Parisian, urban and rural, sectarian and secular, ancient and modern. It has become increasingly common for his critics to find only unresolved conflict as the abiding theme in his work, the result of which are paintings over-teeming with cramped symbolism, or what the art historian James Sweeny called “curious representational juxtapositions.”

This untidy melange of influences seems to issue from one perceived incongruence: Chagall’s Judaism, and the emphasis on his attachment to a particular community of people, and his modernism, or his magnetic attraction to a universal conception of mankind. The rise of the modern state dictated a split between church and state, relegating religion to a matter of conscience, a private affair conducted by individuals out of the public square. But traditional Judaism defies this compartmentalization, asserting itself primarily as a public practice, authoritative for the whole body politic. While individual Jews generally enjoyed a greater measure of freedom within this new configuration, the cost was the expression of an authentic Judaism which refuses to be numbered merely one pursuit among many, bereft of public power. The eminent Jewish historian Jacob Katz, writing about the tension between Jewish practice and modern German culture, articulated the conundrum for Jews with concision: “Jews had been emancipated, Jewishness was not.”

Read the rest of this entry »