Friday, July 30, 2010

Did You Know? :: Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Flash in Naples," 1983

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an artist from Brooklyn, New York. He was born December 22, 1960; he died August 12, 1988, after a short but meteoric career during which his work was popularized and made famous in part by his associations with Andy Warhol, Al Diaz, Julian Schnabel and the musical performer Madonna.

As a child, Basquiat showed an affinity and skill for drawing, and was encouraged to create art by his mother, who was Puerto Rican by descent, and his father, who is of Haitian descent. As a result, Basquiat was fluent in Spanish, French and English from an early age.

In late 1977, while a student at City-As-School high school in Brooklyn, Basquiat and his friend Al Diaz started spray-painting graffiti art on buildings in lower Manhattan, adding the signature of "SAMO". The graphics were messages such as "Plush safe he think.. SAMO" and "SAMO as an escape clause". In December 1978, the Village Voice published an article about the writings. The SAMO project ended with the epitaph "SAMO IS DEAD" written on the walls of SoHo buildings.

Basquiat dropped out of high school in September 1978, at the beginning of his senior year. He decided to leave his home and began living with friends, earning money by selling T-shirts and postcards on Manhattan's streets, and working in the Unique Clothing Warehouse on Broadway. By 1979, Basquiat had appeared on Glenn O'Brien's live public-access cable show TV Party. In the late 1970s, Basquiat formed a band called Gray with Vincent Gallo, Shannon Dawson, Michael Holman, Nick Taylor, Wayne Clifford. Gray performed at nightclubs such as Max's Kansas City, CBGB, Hurrahs, and the Mudd Club. Basquiat starred in an underground film Downtown 81 which featured some of Gray's recordings on its soundtrack. He also appeared in Blondie's video "Rapture" as a club disc jockey.

In June 1980, Basquiat participated in The Times Square Show, a multi-artist exhibition, sponsored by Collaborative Projects Incorporated (Colab) and Fashion Moda. In 1981, Rene Ricard published "The Radiant Child" in Artforum magazine, which brought Basquiat to the attention of the wider art world.

In late 1981 he joined the Annina Nosei gallery in SoHo. By 1982, Basquiat was showing regularly, and alongside Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi, became part of what was called the Neo-expressionist movement. He was represented in Los Angeles by the Larry Gagosian gallery, and in Europe by Bruno Bischofberger. He started dating then-aspiring performer Madonna in autumn 1982. That same year, Basquiat met Andy Warhol, with whom he collaborated in 1984-1986. He was also briefly involved with artist David Bowes. Basquiat worked on his paintings in Armani suits and often appeared in public in these same paint-splattered $1000 suits.

By the mid 1980s, he had left Annina Nosei gallery, and was showing in the famous Mary Boone gallery in SoHo. On February 10, 1985, Basquiat appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in a feature entitled "New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist". He was a phenomenally successful artist in this period, but increasing drug use began to interfere with his personal relationships. After Andy Warhol's death in 1987, Basquiat became increasingly isolated, and his drug use and depression increased. After attempting to quit heroin use during a trip to Hawaii, Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in his New York studio on August 12, 1988, at the age of 27.

Selected Bibliography
Deitch J, Cortez D, and O’Brien, Glen. Jean-Michel Basquiat: 1981: the Studio of the Street, Charta, 2007.

Fretz, Eric. Jean-Michel Basquiat: A Biography. Greenwood Press, 2010.

Hoban, Phoebe. Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art (2nd ed.), Penguin Books, 2004.

Marshall, Richard. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Abrams / Whit
ney Museum of American Art. (Catalog for 1992 Whitney retrospective, out of print).

Marshall, Richard. Jean-Michel Basquiat: In World Only. Cheim & Read, 2005.

Marenzi, Luca. Jean-Michel Basquiat. Charta, 1999.

Mayer, Marc, Hoffman Fred, et al. Basquiat, Merrell Publishers / Brooklyn Museum, 2005.

McCluskey, Danny. "Jean-Michel Basquiat: Art Capitalism Mascot or Radiant Child?” Cameron, 2009.

Tate, Greg. Flyboy in the Buttermilk. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

Thompson, Margot. American Graffiti, Parkstone Press, 2009

Looking at Flash in Naples

  • Ask guests what they see in the mixed media piece Flash in Naples.
  • Ask guests if they know who the Flash character was. Ask guests what they think about comic book art.
  • Explain that the Flash is a name shared by several fictional comic book superheroes from the DC Comics universe. Created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Harry Lampert, the original Flash first appeared in Flash Comics #1 (January 1940). Nicknamed the Scarlet Speedster, all incarnations of the Flash possess "super-speed", including the ability to run and move extremely fast, use superhuman reflexes and seemingly violate certain laws of physics.
  • Explain that Basquiat was fascinated by symbols, Roman mythology, comics, and numerous other narrative references.
  • Writer, curator and gallerist Fred Hoffman called Basquiat’s work “a rich compendium of figurative imagery and references” with “an array of specific textual references to Greek mythology, Roman history, African tribal culture, systems of monetary exchange, and natural commodities, as well as states of health and wellbeing.”
  • Explain that the neo-expressionist movement in contemporary art was influenced by Pop Art of the 1960s, and formed in reaction to the late 1970s fascination with conceptual and minimalist art.

Did You Know? :: Pablo Picasso, "Musical Instruments and Fruit Bowl on a Pedestal," 1913

Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso, known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso, was born October 25, 1881; he died April 8, 1973.

Pablo Picasso, Musical Instruments and Fruit Bowl on a Pedestal, Fall 1913. Oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 32 inches. Private Collection. © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Picasso was baptized Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Crispiniano de la Santísima Trinidad, a series of names honoring various saints and relatives. Added to these were Ruiz and Picasso, for his father and mother, respectively, as per Spanish law. Born in the city of Málaga in the Andalusian region of Spain, he was the first child of Don José Ruiz y Blasco (1838–1913) and María Picasso y López. Picasso’s family was middle-class; his father was also a painter who specialized in naturalistic depictions of birds and other game. For most of his life Ruiz was a professor of art at the School of Crafts and a curator of a local museum. Ruiz’s ancestors were minor aristocrats.

The Blue Period (1901–1904) consists of somber paintings rendered in shades of blue and blue-green, only occasionally warmed by other colors. This period’s starting point is uncertain; it may have begun in Spain in the spring of 1901, or in Paris in the second half of the year. Many paintings of gaunt mothers with children date from this period. In his austere use of color and sometimes doleful subject matter—prostitutes and beggars are frequent subjects—Picasso was influenced by a trip through Spain and by the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas.

The Rose Period (1904–1906) is characterized by a more cheery style with orange and pink colors, and featuring many circus people, acrobats and harlequins known in France as saltimbanques. The harlequin, a comedic character usually depicted in checkered patterned clothing, became a personal symbol for Picasso. Picasso met Fernande Olivier, a model for sculptors and artists, in Paris in 1904, and many of these paintings are influenced by his warm relationship with her, in addition to his increased exposure to French painting. The generally upbeat and optimistic mood of paintings in this period is reminiscent of the 1899–1901 period (i.e. just prior to the Blue Period) and 1904 can be considered a transition year between the two periods.


  • Arguably the seminal art movement of the twentieth century, cubism enjoyed only about 12-14 years of prominence before the events of World War I and its aftermath helped to extinguish the avant-garde spirit that brought Cubism into being.

  • Works in several different cubist styles (see below) are marked by visual abstraction, obfuscation, temporal disorientation, avant-gardist rejections of past values, and the breakdown of class and art hierarchies such as “fine” and “folk” art.

  • It is hard to overstate the extent to which Cubism developed in a period of rapid change and impending war, shaped by a coalition of artists committed to an idealistic conception of society opposed to war.

  • Cubism is generally broken into two categories, Analytic Cubism and Synthetic Cubism (see below). However, the two were not distinct movements so much as an evolution of the experimentation of the avant-garde style.

  • 1907-1909 was a period of intense interest in all things “primitive,” especially children’s art, and art from the so-called “primitive cultures” of Africa, Oceania, and indigenous cultures, to which the Primitivist Modernists attributed an authenticity of vision and spontaneity of expression that they felt had been eroded from the contemporary styles of their art forms.

  • Between 1909-1912 Cubism was widely explored, and the avant-garde experimenters revolted against nineteenth-century academic techniques of perpectival illusionism and the related assumption that a painting must represent a single moment in time and be seen from a fixed point in space (or, for that matter, depict a single position in space). The works of this period experiment with multiple viewpoints, distortions of form, ambiguous spatial relations in part in response to new theories about space and time being developed concurrently.

  • 1907-1914 Cubism has a kind of cultural-political motivation in its subversion of nineteenth-century academic art styles, as well as the development of a kind of French artistic nationalism following the success of cubism.

  • 1912-1914 is the period during which Cubism explodes conceptions of art beyond painting, and reaches into fields of design, architecture, and beyond, through the advent of collage and assemblage sculpture. Collage represented another rejection of academic tradition (oil on canvas) and assemblage problematized traditional sculpture by exploding the dichotomy between “high” and “vernacular” art through the use of everyday materials.

Analytic Cubism (1909–1912) is a style of painting Picasso developed along with Georges Braque using monochrome brownish and neutral colors. Both artists took apart objects and “analyzed” them in terms of their shapes. Picasso and Braque’s paintings at this time have many similarities. Synthetic cubism (1912–1919) was a further development of the genre, in which cut paper fragments—often wallpaper or portions of newspaper pages—were pasted into compositions, marking the first use of collage in fine art.

Analytic Cubism is one of the two major branches of the artistic movement of Cubism, and was developed between 1908 and 1912. In contrast to Synthetic Cubism, Analytic cubists "analyzed" natural forms and reduced the forms into basic geometric parts on the two-dimensional picture plane. Color was almost non-existent except for the use of a monochromatic scheme that often included grey, blue and ochre. Instead of an emphasis on color, Analytic cubists focused on forms like the cylinder, sphere and the cone to represent the natural world.

During this movement, the works produced by Picasso and Braque shared stylistic similarities. Both Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque moved toward abstraction, leaving only enough signs of the real world to supply a tension between the reality outside the painting and the complicated meditations on visual language within the frame.

In Paris in 1907 a major museum retrospective exhibition of the work of Paul Cézanne opened shortly after his death. The exhibition was enormously influential in establishing Cézanne as an important painter whose ideas were particularly resonant among young artists in Paris. Both Picasso and Braque found the inspiration for Cubism from Paul Cézanne, who said to observe and learn to see and treat nature as if it were composed of basic shapes like cubes, spheres, cylinders, and cones. Some believe that the roots of cubism are to be found in the two distinct tendencies of Cézanne's later work: firstly to break the painted surface into small multifaceted areas of paint, thereby emphasizing the plural viewpoint given by binocular vision; and secondly, his interest in the simplification of natural forms into cylinders, spheres, and cones. However, the cubists explored this concept further than Cézanne; they represented all the surfaces of depicted objects in a single picture plane, as if the objects had had all their faces visible at the same time. This new kind of depiction revolutionized the way in which objects could be visualized in painting and art.

Synthetic Cubism was the second main movement within Cubism that was developed by Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris and others between 1912 and 1919. Synthetic cubism is characterized by the introduction of different textures, surfaces, collage elements, papier collé and a large variety of merged subject matter. It was the beginning of collage materials being introduced as an important ingredient of fine art work.

Considered the first work of this new style was Pablo Picasso's "Still Life with Chair-caning" (1911–1912), which includes oil cloth that was printed to look like chair-caning pasted onto an oval canvas, with text; and rope framing the whole picture. At the upper left are the letters "JOU", which appear in many cubist paintings and refers to the news-paper titled "Le Journal.” Newspaper clippings, sheet music, and like items were also included in the collages. Whereas Analytic Cubism was an analysis of the subjects (pulling them apart into planes), Synthetic Cubism is more of a pushing of several objects together. Less pure than Analytic Cubism, Synthetic Cubism has fewer planar shifts (or schematism), and less shading, creating flatter space.

Thinking about the Altered Landscape

Patricia Nelson Limerick’s essay in NMA’s 1999 book The Altered Landscape considers the meaning of the word ‘altered’ as it is used to describe the work of the ‘New Topographics’ artists and their followers. Limerick is an accomplished writer and historian who deals with issues of the American West. About ‘altered’ she writes:

“This flexible and hardworking word supplies three rich meanings for the price of one. After two hundred years of American colonization, the West has indeed been altered, in the sense of changed, made different, modified. In cheerful and positive terms, it has been reshaped and resewn in order to make a better fit for the needs and habits of the humans who have colonized it. And in the glummest of terms, the West has been castrated, neutered, and robbed of its power.”

Limerick looks at the validity of all three definitions and leaves the answers to the viewer. She asks, “Can one celebrate and admire these photographers and still find much of their work irritating? You bet! A photograph can attract and still scrape and scratch at the viewer’s mind.” She points out that this work can irritate us because it doesn’t come with packaged answers. We have to figure it out ourselves – ultimately a satisfying task! And she believes that whatever the passion and convictions a photographer may have, “taking a photograph requires the photographer to calm down, think, plan, and hold still – a discipline, regrettably, forced on few other professions.”

She talks about walls of buildings – “the most easily recognized lines between the human sphere and the natural sphere” – and how the different photographers consider them. She talks about light: “And light, artificial light, just as much as natural light, is a wonder and a miracle, as a number of these photographs remind us. Over the last century, night has been transformed; starlight and moonlight may hold onto a magic that a light bulb will not match, but starlight and moonlight nonetheless dim when they compete with the radiance of electrical light. Lewis Baltz’s photograph of a construction site at night returns us to the familiar slippage of the border between inside and outside and suggests that anything may happen in this luminous place; a prophet might come upon a vision; hope might get a new life; a new life might be conceived and born. Of course, it is a construction site; of course it is an artifact of the despoliation of a more-or-less intact Western landscape; of course it is an imposition of sovereign, arrogant human will on the earth. The house is also quite a beautiful arrangement of line and light.”

“ The West has been altered, adapted to a better fit with human activity, and one element of that adaptation is that the nights are a lot brighter. It is a great deal easier after sunset to read, write, cook, sew, and look at one another than it was a century ago, to spend the evening watching TV or using a computer. Dams, coal-fired plants, and nuclear power plants made this possible. And now some people tap into these omnipresent power lines, turn on their computers, and write impassioned denunciations of the injuries inflicted on the West by the production of cheap electrical power.” But as a counterpoint to that she points out that, “All the exercises of power recorded in these photographs, exercises in earth-moving, dam building, house-constructing, road making, and power distributing have trashed landscapes that someone loved.”

Limerick feels that whether or not we are religious, we do subscribe to the story of the loss of Eden; as if we, through our relentless development, have lots our chance to live in Paradise. “By altering the Western landscape, by neutering it and stripping it of its power, we arranged for our departure from Eden. Americans themselves barred their own way back to Eden, and barred it not with a dramatic flaming sword, but with the sheer prosaic passage of time and the even more prosaic development of business and real estate. We locked the door back to Eden – not with swords, cherubim, and many-headed beasts, but with subdivisions, parking lots, commercial shopping strips, dams, highway interchanges and power lines.”

She speaks of some of the Altered Landscape photographs that depict places where nature truly has been savaged by development. And yet she reminds us that Nineteenth-Century America, with its civil wars, slavery, mistreatment of Native Americans and widespread poverty was not a paradise. “The great consolation of the historian’s life comes in the dozens of reminders that the past holds no golden age. Life today is a mess. Fortunately, life in the past was also a mess...Let me put this gently; those who see in the desecration of Western nature a ratification of the legend of the Fall, those who think that we are now living in desperate and declined times, would find some relief for their terrible sense of loss if they put down the newspaper and read a little history.”

Limerick speaks of two Wests: “ the out-of-doors, wide-open-spaced, dirt-dominated rural West, and the enclosed-spaced, walled-off, indoors, asphalt-covered urban West.” They are “trying, not very successfully, to work out a virtually agreeable zoning code. The loudest voices from the rural West ask for the freedom to make a living from the land; they demand their right to continue to practice ‘traditional’ land uses that are, in fact, barely a century old. The most audible requests from the city, meanwhile, ask for the rural West to be defined primarily as a place for urbanites to drive, hike, ski, ride mountain bikes, camp, romp, stay in bed-and-breakfasts, admire views, and recover from the pressures of life in the city. She points out that so many in the cities never consider where their food comes from, where their lumber comes from, or how it is that heat and light appear in their homes. “There is a chance that these fine-tuned urbanites would starve, or freeze, or spend their evenings in the dark if they succeeded in imposing their standards on rural America.”

Lastly, Limerick writes about aerial photography which shows “the surface of the planet as a canvas marked by geological and biological forces and by acts of the human will. Viewed from the vantage point of the sky, the transformation of the world by patterns of electric light at night leaves one stunned and speechless. Viewed from above, roads become hieroglyphics carved into the earth. In their arbitrariness and cryptic logic the roads become riddles in dirt.”

“The photographs in the Altered Landscape collection permit us to respond to ourselves, and to the messages we have marked into the earth. The photographers themselves do not pose a detached and omniscient group of observers. They admit, instead, to being part of the species that does both the looking and the marking.”

--Kathleen Durham

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Did You Know? Tim Hawkinson: Totem

Tim Hawkinson was born in 1960 in San Francisco. He graduated from Cal State San Jose and later earned his MFA from UCLA. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles. A twenty-year survey of his work was shown at the Whitney and then again at LACMA in 2005. Hawkinson’s work consists of drawings, prints, and photo-collages; however, he is most recognized for his sculptural creations. Hawkinson’s human-centric sculptures are often abstracted representations of his own body and usually incorporate homemade mechanical inventions in their creation and/or completion. His sculptures range greatly in size from his two inch sculpture of a bird skeleton made from his own fingernails to the stadium-sized installation at MassMOCA (and later at the Getty) of “Überorgan” – a fully automated bagpipe-like creation of inflated plastic sheeting resembling internal organs that emit an original groaning musical compilation.

Überorgan, 2000

Bird, 1997

Hawkinson’s work has a distinct handmade quality. He works with ordinary materials in unusual ways. He is known for his simple mechanical innovations in the creations of his sculptures. In his sculpture Signature Chair (1993) Hawkinson used a repurposed record player to create a machine that would automatically crank out copies of his signature. In Hawkinson’s intestine-like drawing Wall Chart of World History from Earliest Times to the Present (1997) he created a drawing tool using a basic drill with a pen attachment to create his large-scale linear drawing.

TOTEM, 2009

Hawkinson uses recognizable, ordinary, scavenged, personal and or collected materials to create his extraordinary sculptures. In Totem you will notice the forms of various plastic bottles and containers. The fountain we have on display at the Museum was based on a 2007 collaged sculpture of the same name made of string, plastic containers and papier mache. The Totem (2009) fountain on display is one of an edition of four. The one at the Nevada Museum of Art is the first installation of the piece. It is here on loan from the Pace Wildenstein Gallery in New York.


Totem poles are attributed to the indigenous cultures of the Pacific Northwest Coast and are traditionally carved from cedar. Totems vary greatly in subject matter but were traditionally used to illustrate local legends, family lineage, notable happenings or personal tributes.


  • Ask visitors to think about this sculpture without the water. How does the water change the way we interpret the sculpture?

  • Ask visitors to think of the storytelling aspects of traditional totems and to create a story about Hawkinson’s modern Totem.

  • Ask visitors to think about the relationship between Native American cultural traditions and land use and water use conflicts and how this might relate to Hawkinson’s sculpture.

  • Ask visitors to think how this sculpture might relate to modern-day issues of consumption and waste.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Views from China: Yang Yongliang and the Modern Metropolis

Did You Know? :: Views from China: Yang Yongliang and the Modern Metropolis

Yang Yongliang, Viridescence, Stock World, 2009. Inkjet print on paper, 16 x47 inches. Courtesy of the artist and LIMN Gallery, San Francisco.

Main Text
Upon first glance, Yang Yongliang’s photographs appear as dreamlike Chinese paintings, not unlike the traditional Chinese art he studied extensively as a student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Upon closer inspection, however, one finds that his works are cleverly crafted from montaged digital photographs of China’s bustling cities—and then manipulated into haunting imaginary landscapes that critique China’s rapidly developing built environment.

Born in 1980, Yongliang is a resident of Shanghai, China, who depends heavily on a camera and a laptop computer to make his art. Using only these tools—and a knowledge of traditional Chinese painting—Yongliang invents urban scenes that depict skyscrapers under construction, freeway systems, electrical power plants, and bustling urban corridors. His compositions reveal the impacts of technological progress that China has undergone over past decades.

Between the years 1966 and 1976, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, the nation of China experienced a period of political instability. During this time, artistic production came under strict government supervision. Yongliang is among a generation of young artists who came of age after the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and therefore embraces a level of artistic freedom that is not common among earlier generations of Chinese artists. This is Yongliang’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States.

Traditional Chinese Scroll Painting

  • Handscrolls provide a continuous horizontal surface of silk or paper on which to develop a composition. Though often displayed in their entirety in museums, traditional handscrolls are meant to be viewed by only one or two people and unrolled from right to left two or three feet at a time. In this way, the viewer may "travel" through a story or landscape that conveys a progression of time. Separate papers containing titles or colophons may also be attached and the complete scroll mounted with silk boards. A wooden dowel is attached on the left end of the scroll and a semicircular rod at the other end. After viewing, the scroll is rolled up around the dowel from left to right and secured with ties.

  • Hanging scrolls provide the artist with a vertical format for an image. The painting surface of paper or silk is mounted with decorative silk borders. A wooden rod is attached at the bottom to give the scroll the necessary weight to hang smoothly on a wall, as well as a means of being rolled up for storage. A thin wooden strip with a cord is attached at the top for hanging the scroll. The composition of a hanging scroll usually places the foreground at the bottom of the scroll with the middle and far distances moving upward toward the top of the scroll. Hanging scrolls are displayed only for short periods of time and are then rolled up from bottom to top and secured with ties for storage.
  • Scholar Officials Chinese painters and calligraphers were often members of an educated class of men. Their formal education in classic Chinese literary, historical, and philosophical texts, as well as in the history of Chinese calligraphy, painting and music, was considered essential for a cultured man. Their knowledge was highly respected in Chinese society. An educated man's responsibility was to use his knowledge to serve his ruler, the emperor, and to improve society. By the beginning of the Song dynasty (960–1279), scholars or educated men were generally required to pass a series of difficult exams to serve in the government.
  • Seals are impressions made from carved stones or other media pressed into a thick, red, oil-based paste. They are affixed to a document, painting, or calligraphy to certify authorship or ownership. Since artists and writers typically used several names throughout their lives, they had several seals inscribed with their given names, artistic names, the names of their studios, and, possibly, an identifying literary expression. Usually rectangular or round, seal designs are cut into materials such as jade, ivory, and soapstone. If the characters are incised, they will appear white in the impression; if carved in relief, they will appear red. The script often used for seals derives from an ancient script, known as "seal script," used during the late Zhou (ca. 1050–256 B.C.) and Qin (221–206 B.C.) dynasties.
  • Yin and Yang constitute an ancient, fundamental concept that describes the underlying nature and order within the universe. The interaction between these two polar, yet complementary, opposites can be seen in nature: the darkness of night leads to the brightness of day. Yin is associated with darkness, softness, water, passivity, the moon, the feminine, and the earth. Yang is associated with brightness, activity, the masculine, the sun, fire, and the sky.

Friday, February 12, 2010

For a Little Fun...

Did You Know :: Penelope Gottlieb: No $ Down

Penelope Gottlieb: No $ Down


Penelope Gottlieb was born in Los Angeles and grew up next to the infamous housing development, Mt. Olympus. She received her BFA from Art Center College of Design and her MFA from UC – Santa Barbara. Her work has been exhibited in numerous galleries as well as the Krannert Art Museum. Her work is represented in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 21c Museum, the Drawing Center New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and numerous corporate collections, including the Fannie Mae Corporation.

Text Panel
For nearly a decade, Penelope Gottlieb has worked to produce a series of drawings that examine the archetypal American dream of home ownership, while also exploring the idea of the house as a status symbol, marker of class identity, and focal point of desire. In NO $ DOWN, Gottlieb’s colored-pencil drawings catalogue frontal views of popular domestic architecture. From storybook homes and tract houses to traditional bungalows and numerous other architectural styles, Gottlieb offers an artistic response to the complex and evolving narrative of real estate in America.

To create her drawings, Gottlieb scours newspaper ads and real estate magazines, seizing on small photographs of houses, which become the inspiration for her finely-detailed, monochromatic renderings—some of which are based on advertisements published in Reno-area newspapers that Gottlieb collected during a recent trip to northern Nevada. Once Gottlieb completes a work, she matches it with a vintage “fixer-upper” frame, which she then elaborately “refurbishes” and paints to match the correlating drawing. This process wryly mimics the act of “flipping” houses that was common during the real estate boom of the last decade.

Gottlieb’s installation of No $ Down also includes a selection of white-washed furniture based on interiors from popular television sitcoms such as The Beverly Hillbillies and The Jeffersons. Both of these television programs implicitly linked class status with home ownership, and Gottlieb’s inclusion of these items draws attention to that complex phenomenon. Contemporary perceptions of home ownership, Gottlieb acknowledges, have changed dramatically over the past year due to America’s economic downturn. On a final wall of the gallery, Gottlieb hangs a wall of souvenir glass plates, each imprinted with an image of a single family home. These delicate plates encourage viewers to reflect on the American Dream of home ownership—a dream that has recently proven to be more fragile than ever.

Tour Framework

  • Ask guests (especially children!) to find a drawing of a house that reminds them of their own home or the home of someone they know.
  • Ask guests to look at the titles of the works—where do the titles of Penelope Gottlieb’s works come from?
  • Explain that Gottlieb’s drawings consider the implications of the housing boom, banking fiascos, and history of the idea of the American Dream of home ownership.
  • Explain that although resonant because of their subject matter in today’s economy, the works are also related to art historical precedents, including photorealism and especially the paintings of Robert Bechtle; later painting by artists such as Darlene Campbell and Salomón Huerta; and the photography of such artists as Joe Deal, Henry Wessel, Rondal Partridge, Robert Adams, Robert Isaacs, Robert Dawson, Laurie Brown, Fandra Chang and Jeff Brouws.
  • Ask guests about how they think the dream of home ownership is tied to the “American Dream.”
  • Ask guests about their thoughts regarding the current economic downturn and how the spate of home foreclosures in Nevada is effecting the “American Dream” and the “dream of home ownership.”

Docent Note: A Timeline for Raphael's Life

A Timeline for Raphael

  • 1483 – Raphael is born in Urbino, Northeastern Italy, on Good Friday.. His father, Giovanni Santi, is an artist and poet attached to the very sophisticated court there.
  • 1491 – His mother dies
  • 1494 – His father dies. Raphael is apprenticed to Perugino at some point in his teens.
  • 1495 (Leonardo da Vinci completes Last Supper, Michelangelo completes Pieta)
  • 1499 – (Michelangelo completes Vatican Pieta)
  • 1500 – At 17, Raphael is a master in his own right. Does commissions and collaborations in Perugia, Siena, Citta di Castello
  • 1503-6 – (Leonardo - Mona Lisa).
  • 1504 – Raphael moves to Florence. (Michelangelo installs David )
  • 1505-7 – Raphael works in Florence and Perugia
  • 1506 (Pope Julius II hires Bramante to rebuild Saint Peter’s)
  • 1508 –Raphael moves to Rome, starts work on frescos for the Vatican Stanze (rooms) for Pope Julius II. (Michelangelo starts on the Sistine Ceiling)
  • 1509- (Albrecht Durer does woodcut of Christ Driving the Moneychangers from the Temple)
  • 1510 – Raphael meets Agostino Chigi who will commission architectural projects as well as painting.
  • 1512 – Raphael does Portrait of Julius II and the Sistine Madonna
  • 1513 –Pope Julius II dies, is replaced by Leo X, a Medici
  • 1514 – Raphael works on Stanze, appointed architect of Saint Peter’s on Bramante’s death, does private architectural work
  • 1514-15 –Raphael does portraits of Castiglione, La Velata,
  • 1515- Raphael is appointed by Pope to oversee all archaeological excavations, and to use what he wants in the restoration of St Peter’s
  • 1517- Martin Luther posts his Theses in reaction to the excessive amounts Pope was levying ( through indulgences), to pay for restoration of St Peter’s – start of Reformation!
  • 1518 –Raphael works on plans for St. Peter’s with asst architect Sangallo. Raphael does a portrait of Pope Leo X. He is by this time running a large workshop with many artists.
  • 1518-19 –Raphael paints La Fornarina
  • 1519 – Leonardo dies in France
  • 1520 – Raphael, works on panel of Transfiguration. He dies on Good Friday, April 6. His fiancee, Maria Bibbiena, preceded him in death earlier this year. They are both buried in the Pantheon. His leaves money for the woman who was said to be his true love (and maybe his wife?) – Margherita Luti, known as the Fornarina, (the baker’s daughter). In August of this year a woman of the same name, listed as a widow, enters the protection of the convent of S. Apollonia
  • 1550 – Vasari writes the first true art history, The Lives of the Artists, and is thus Raphael’s first biographer.
  • 1564 – Michelangelo dies.
-- Kathleen Durham

Docent Note: Getting to Know La Velata

Getting to Know La Velata

Suppose someone finds a picture of you 500 years from now. What could they figure out about you? This picture is almost 500 years old. It is a portrait . Do you know what a portrait is? Let’s try to figure out something about this lady. She is called La Velata, which means ‘The Veiled One’, and sometimes she is called Incognita, the ‘Unknown One’..

  • What can you tell us about her?
  • Who painted her?
  • Where did they live? Where is that?
  • Did they have electric lights? TV? Computers?
  • How old is she?
  • Is she wealthy, or poor? Why?
  • Why do you think she is wearing a veil?
  • How much of her can we see?
  • Does she look happy?
  • What words would you use to describe her?
  • Why do you think she had her portrait made?
  • Do you think she has a job?
  • Would she wear those clothes to work?
  • Do you think she ever wore jeans?
  • Why is this painting special?
  • Have you ever had a portrait made?
  • Did you wear something special?
  • Can a photograph be a portrait?
-- Kathleen Durham

Docent Note: La Velata


We have only one painting to consider here, but it is probably Raphael’s crowning achievement in the field of portraiture. Raphael was known in the 1500s as he is today for the beauty of the madonnas he painted. He often spoke of an ideal conception of beauty that he used in his earlier madonnas. While in Florence he perfected ‘sfumato’, that soft smoky transition between colors that was developed by Leonardo. In another nod to Leonardo, Raphael began to do his portraits in half-length, which shows the sitter’s hands, instead of the old bust-length style. Once in Rome his portraits (and madonnas) reached a new level. They were no longer paintings of what people looked like. They were paintings that showed the inner essence of the sitter. Notable among these was the portrait of his friend Baldassare Castiglione, the painting that so impressed Rembrandt. The quiet direct gaze of the courtier, the soft colors and transitions, and the amazing fabrics – all worked together to set a new standard for portraiture.

The same year Raphael painted La Velata. Almost five hundred years later we can feel her warm gaze, and marvel at the perfectly modelled face and neck, the colors of her skin. We see her exactly as Raphael did. What amazing care he gave to her clothing! Julia Addison, a Victorian writer, felt that La Velata is holding her loose bodice with one hand, as if it were being removed. The texture of the flimsy gathered chemisette contrasts with the crisp damask of the slashed sleeve with its gold lining and trim, and with the long sheer veil. So much tender detail!

So who is she? Most people believe she is Raphael’s long-time lover, his true love, Margherita Luti, also known as the ‘Fornarina’,( the baker’s daughter.). Raphael was engaged for years to Maria Bibbiena, a niece of a Cardinal, but this portrait is not of Maria. There is no doubt that Raphael was fond of women. Giorgio Vasari, his first biographer, felt that Raphael’s early death came from an excess of romantic activity!

Raphael always put off his marriage to Maria. There is speculation that because of her uncle Cardinal Bibbiena, it would not have been wise politically for Raphael to break off the engagement. At any rate, Maria died in 1520 shortly before Raphael himself. In his will he specified that he should be buried with Maria at the Pantheon, but he also left an amount of money to Margherita. Several months after Raphael’s death, a woman who called herself ‘ Margherita Luti, widow’, entered the convent of S. Appollonia

Many critics believe that it is obvious from the depth of feeling in the portrait of La Velata that she was indeed Raphael’s true love. A German scholar, Oskar Fischel, called it a “commission of his (Raphael’s) own, in the midst of the great frescoes and orders for altarpieces.......a love-prompted improvisation”. There are those who feel that he was secretly married to Margherita Luti. Some say that since La Velata wears a veil as married Roman women did, that she could even be the new wife of his patron Agostino Chigi. Others say that he painted his love with a veil because they were married!

Whoever she was, Raphael used her face for the Sistine Madonna and for the Madonna of the Chair. In another portrait, La Fornarina, Raphael painted a woman who resembles La Velata. But here she wears nothing but a flimsy veil covering the lower half of her body. On her arm is a band with his name on it, and in her hair is a jeweled pearl ornament which appears to be the same jewel that La Velata wears. Recent cleaning has revealed a ring on her finger, setting off another round of speculation about the possibility that Raphael was secretly married to Margherita. It appears that no one will ever know the truth about La Velata’s identity. But does it matter? A Victorian poet, William Allen Butler, wrote a long poem about La Incognita (The Unknown One), another title often used then for La Velata. Here are the first few lines:

“Long has the summer sunlight shone
on the fair form, the quaint costume;
Yet, nameless still, she sits, unknown,
A lady in her youthful bloom.

Fairer for this! No shadows cast
Their blight upon her perfect lot,
Whate’er her future or her past
In this bright monument matters not.

La Velata remains a favorite at the art-filled Pitti Palace. It is such a privilege for us to be able to see her here, all by herself.

Raphael’s influence has continued through the years. We know, of course, that he influenced Rembrandt. The ongoing delicious gossip about La Velata/La Fornarina inspired Ingres to do a painting showing Margherita Luti on Raphael’s lap in front of an easel with the portrait of La Fornarina. Raphael was hugely popular in the Victorian era – much more so than his contemporaries, Leonardo and Michelangelo. The Victorians idolized him -Whittier, Browning, Butler, and Longfellow wrote poems about him, and engravings of Raphael’s paintings were everywhere. Manet used figures taken directly from an engraving after Raphael for his famous Dejeuner. And Picasso revived the mystery by drawing Raphael and his lover, with the Pope watching, and Michelangelo under the bed!

For a large part of the Twentieth Century Raphael was marginalized, probably as a result of way too many bad reproductions of his work, along with renewed interest in Michelangelo and Leonardo. But in recent years there has been renewed scholarly respect and popular interest in his work. A drawing of Raphael’s just sold at auction for the highest price ever paid for a work on paper.

--Kathleen Durham

Docent Note: Raphael and the Renaissance


Art historians will forever argue about when the Renaissance began, and exactly what it was. They are all in agreement, however, about its culmination in the ‘High Renaissance’, a period beginning about 1495 and ending roughly with Raphael’s death in 1520. The three stellar artists of the High Renaissance were Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael. (Michelangelo outlived Raphael by forty-four years, but the work of his later years changed in style and is not properly classified as ‘Renaissance’ but rather as Mannerism.)

So what does this term meaning ‘re-birth’ say to us? Many feel that this period began with Giotto (1267-1337) who brought life to painting with figures who had weight, and movement and real emotion. And his contemporary Duccio, in Siena (1278-1319), changed traditional stylized Byzantine painting into an Italian Gothic form with movement and real narrative. But it was not until the 1400s in Florence that these innovations flowered into an amazing period of growth in art and literature. In art, with Masaccio, Donatello, Lippi, Gozzoli, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, to name just a few, there was a new interest in naturalism, in perspective, in how to depict a figure in real space, and in the classical models of Greece and Rome. This period from 1420 to 1500 is generally known as the Early Renaissance.

So – Leonardo was born in 1452, Michelangelo in 1475, and Raphael in 1483 in Urbino. Raphael’s father was a poet and painter and was connected to the court of Urbino. Both of Raphael’s parents died when he was very young, and he was apprenticed as a teenager to Perugino, a painter of exquisite altarpieces. Raphael learned his style, as was the custom then, and executed many commissions with other painters and on his own. By the time he was seventeen, he was a master in his own right. In 1504 he moved to Florence, where he saw the work of Leonardo and Michelangelo. He must have known how difficult it would be to reach their levels of knowledge and powerful work. But he did just that. His career spanned only twenty years, but in that time he was able to assimilate the best of his contemporaries’ work and form his own distinct style.

In 1508 he moved to Rome and began to work for Pope Julius II, painting the walls of the Vatican Stanze (rooms). The paintings on these walls are a testament to Raphael’s achievement of perfect form and composition, the hallmarks of the High Renaissance . In these paintings one sees his ability to combine a large number of beautifully painted figures harmoniously, in a believable space, so that it is as pleasing to view the entire composition as it is to examine the beautiful details. If he had done just one of these frescoes – The School of Athens, for example, it alone would have earned him the right to be named in the same breath as Leonardo and Michelangelo.

In the next twelve years, until his death at 37, he continued to do frescoes for the Popes, but was also a portrait painter, an architect, and an archaeologist. He had been given a Papal commission to restore Saint Peter’s, and was also named archaeologist in charge of Roman excavations. And, unlike Leonardo and Michelangelo, he was able to transcend the position of artist as craftsman, and move freely as an equal in the Vatican court and social circles. He was apparently universally loved and appreciated. His first biographer, Giorgio Vasari, wrote: “As excellent as he was graceful, Raphael was modest and Raphael the rarest qualities of the heart shown forth.”

When he died in 1520, The Transfiguration, his last panel painting, was displayed at his funeral, and he was buried in the Pantheon, a signal honor.

--Kathleen Durham

Raphael: The Woman with the Veil Tour Blueprint

January 9 – March 21, 2010


The exhibition of Raphael: The Woman with the Veil is presented by the E.L. Wiegand Foundation’s Arte Italia, organized by the Portland Art Museum, the Nevada Museum of Art, and the Milwaukee Art Museum and supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. This exhibition was made possible by the Foundation for Italian Art and Culture (FIAC).


The Foundation for Italian Art and Culture, FIAC, is a non-profit organization established in New York City in 2003. FIAC's main purpose is to promote the knowledge and the appreciation of the Italian cultural and artistic traditions from the classical period to modern times in the United States, working closely with the Italian Ministry of Culture to accomplish this mission. In addition to sponsoring its own programs and exhibitions, FIAC acts as an intermediary between Italy and the United States to facilitate exchanges between American and Italian institutions.


Founded in 2008, Arte ITALIA promotes the exploration and conservation of Italian culture, including innovative exhibitions of classic Italian art and culinary programs showcasing visiting regional Italian chefs. Arte ITALIA is located in the historic Joseph Giraud House at 442 Flint on the northeast corner of California Avenue. The historic house, built in 1914, was designed by Nevada’s premier architect Frederic De Longchamps and was recently remodeled to share Italy’s rich culture with visitors.

The presentation of Raphael: The Woman with the Veil represents Arte ITALIA’s first major collaboration with the Nevada Museum of Art and serves as a model for the type of joint programming that will elevate the level of cultural life in northern Nevada. Given its historical and cultural significance, and the fact that the renowned painting has rarely left Italy, its exhibition in Reno presents a unique opportunity for the public to see, experience, and learn from a masterpiece that fully captures the ideals of Italy’s Renaissance.

Please visit Arte ITALIA to further explore the life and work of Raphael. Walking directions are available on the gallery brochure, and can also be obtained at the Main Admissions Desk. For more information about Arte ITALIA, please visit

Docents: Those of you leading public tours on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays: Please conclude your tour of The Woman with the Veil by offering to guide your tour goers to Arte Italia physically. If they wish not to go at the time you offer, please encourage visitors to make the short walk down California Avenue to the home of Arte Italia in the historic Giraud House at 442 Flint Street.

Text Panels

Who Was Raphael?

In his own time and afterward, Raphael was considered one of the greatest painters who ever lived, and the rival and equal of his contemporaries Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. He was born in 1483 in Urbino, a city famous for its rich artistic, intellectual, literary, and musical culture. Raphael studied first under his father, Giovanni Santi, a painter and poet in the court of Urbino’s ruler, and then with the city’s leading painter, Perugino. By 1504, Raphael had settled in Florence, where, like many others, he came under the influence of Leonardo da Vinci. His reputation grew, and in 1508, Raphael was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II to decorate the Stanze della Segnatura, a suite of private rooms belonging to the Pope. He was soon put in charge of all papal projects involving architecture, painting, decoration, and the preservation of antiquities. In Rome, Raphael’s art attracted international esteem and demanded extraordinary prices. While living there, he also completed remarkable portraits of the people surrounding the papal court. It was in this later period that he painted La Velata.

During his lifetime, Raphael was tremendously successful and deeply admired. There are many reasons for this, including his profound abilities as a draftsman and “composer” of pictorial elements; his ease at adapting to and assimilating new styles and innovations; his ambition and productivity; and his intellectualism and social skills. Unlike most painters at the time, Raphael wrote sonnets and befriended intellectuals, poets, and writers. These talents coincided with new ideas at the time concerning the role and status of artists, who were no longer viewed simply as trained craftsmen, but rather as professionals in their field. Raphael’s sudden death in 1520, at the age of 37, was said to have “plunged into grief the entire papal court.”

Was She Raphael’s Mistress?

The renowned Italian biographer of artists Giorgio Vasari, who lived two generations after Raphael’s La Velata was made, claimed that the model for the painting was Raphael’s mistress. That opinion stems from the demure eroticism of the portrait and from its likeness to another famous painting by Raphael, La Fornarina, made between 1518 and 1520, which almost certainly does represent the artist’s lover.

Raphael’s La Fornarina shows a woman, nearly nude except for a turban and a diaphanous veil, sitting in a grove of myrtle and laurel trees, which were well-known symbols of sexual desire. On her left arm she wears a type of band usually found on ancient statues of Venus. The band is prominently inscribed with Raphael’s name, suggesting an intimacy between the artist and sitter. But the question of whether the models for La Velata and La Fornarina are the same woman is not easily answered since the two were painted in very different manners. Whereas La Fornarina is filled with details that signal the woman’s relationship with Raphael, La Velata seems to obscure precise identification.

Almost three hundred years later, the famous French artist, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, further perpetuated rumors about Raphael’s amorous affair with La Fornarina. Ingres’ 1814 painting, Raphael and La Fornarina, depicts Raphael and his mistress embracing during a studio modeling session, while a drawing of his muse rests on an easel nearby.

Raphael’s Portraits

It is possible that the woman in Raphael’s La Velata may not represent a specific person at all, but instead an ideal one. Painted portraits in the Renaissance were not always concerned with achieving the true likeness of a person. Like other artists of his time, Raphael believed the painter’s role was not merely to imitate the world as it appeared, but rather to transform and idealize reality using skill and intellect. This idea had a long history, particularly when it came to portraying women. Renaissance painters and poets alike sought to outdo each other when creating—in paint or in words—the most affecting images of beautiful women. Another of Raphael’s well-known portraits embodying the qualities of Renaissance-era portraiture is that of Maddalena Doni (1506), which depicts a recently wedded bride adorned with jewelry and clothing that establishes her social status.

In seeking to capture with paint the “essence” of female beauty, Raphael’s portraits owe much to Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting Mona Lisa (1503-1506), which Raphael almost certainly saw and studied. Look closely at the two paintings. In La Velata, Raphael assimilated the Mona Lisa’s pose: including her direct, intimate gaze, and the expressive placement of her hands. All of these details contribute to our sense of her vivid “presence” and her complex inner life. Thus, regardless of who the model for La Velata was, through Raphael’s discerning eye and brush she has been made to embody and bring to life an ideal of female beauty.

The Italian Renaissance

Often considered one of the greatest eras of cultural achievement, the Italian Renaissance (spanning from about the late 1200s to 1600) was characterized by heightened intellectual endeavor, increased private and papal cultural patronage, and innovations in the fields of poetry, literature, philosophy, science, architecture, music, and the fine arts. The word Renaissance (rinasciamento in Italian) translates to “rebirth,” which at the time signaled a renewed interest and commitment to the study of the culture, arts, and humanist philosophy that had earlier emerged during classical antiquity. Although the Renaissance influence spanned throughout Europe, in Italy, the cultural resurgence was centered in the northern region of Tuscany and was eventually felt widely in Rome.

The Italian Renaissance movement in fine art is most often associated with three men—Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael—who espoused painting and sculptural techniques emphasizing the idealized human form, the creation of three-dimensional perspective, and balanced spatial harmony. During this period, these artists enjoyed commissions from some of Italy’s wealthiest clients—including the Medici family of Florence and later the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church. Although the Medici family, did not originally commission Raphael to paint La Velata, the painting eventually fell into their hands when its original owner Marquis Matteo Botti failed to pay his debts. Since that time, it has been housed at the famous Palazzo Pitti—a vast Renaissance palace in Florence that was once the primary home of the Medici family and the majority of their Renaissance treasures.

The Frame

The study of picture frames in general, and of Renaissance frames in particular, is a discipline in its infancy. Historic frames have always been the poor cousins of important collections of paintings and drawings. Throughout most of the modern era, original frames were discarded whenever a painting changed ownership, and a new frame more suitable to the work of art's new surroundings was provided. Only in the late nineteenth century did museums and private collectors develop an interest in historical authenticity that extended to frames as well as to the objects they contained. By that time, frames more than one or two hundred years old had grown exceedingly rare.

The elaborate frame that encases La Velata actually has a long and interesting history. The painting had for many years been in the collection of the Italian merchant Marquis Matteo Botti, but when Botti failed to pay his debts to his lenders, the Medici Family of Florence stepped in and paid them for him---in exchange for his entire art collection. In 1620, the Medici Family commissioned a craftsman to make this frame for La Velata. Each side of the ornate gold frame is decorated with carved griffins—legendary creatures portrayed with a lion’s body and eagle’s head and wings. The frame also has two hinges on its right side that are still used when the painting is on permanent display at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. The hinges allow the painting to be opened like a cabinet for exposure to nearby natural light, thereby allowing copyists a better view of the painting.


Europe in the Sixteenth Century

Social, intellectual, and religious unrest transformed European culture in the sixteenth century. Nearly continuous warfare pocked the European continent, and factions and rulers of numerous nation-states vied for power, land, and resources of all kinds, especially economic ones. Advances in cartography, astronomy and navigation led the way in the early period of what we now know as the scientific revolution. The advent of the printing press just a few decades earlier provided an enormous boost to the power of the written word and the advance of literacy and knowledge. The Habsburg (Holy Roman) Empire was widely acknowledged as the greatest power in Europe, if not the world, and yet shifting alliances, diplomatic efforts and military force changed the landscape frequently. The Church was an important player in this scene, wielding power, diplomacy, and military strength of its own. Indulgences (relief from punishment of sins, followed by absolution and forgiveness of sins for the insurance of salvation) were a common practice of the Church for centuries. The popularization that indulgences could be offered in exchange for financial contributions to the Church during the reign of Pope Julius II, Raphael’s patron, became one of the first targets of those within the established Church who began to seek internal reform, later known as the leaders of the Reformation.

Italy in the 16th Century: The High Renaissance

Conceptions of the Renaissance vary widely. This is partly because it represents the burgeoning of so many different areas of knowledge historically, and because it represents such a wide-ranging and complex cultural phenomenon. Thus, it can’t really be unanimously defined. More agreement exists about the Italian High Renaissance, which is said to have begun in the 1490s and lasted until the Sack of Rome in 1527 by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. It is sometimes referred to as the “High Renaissance,” “Imperial Style,” and the “classical phase” of the Renaissance. Ultimately, this style of art—characterized by the advancement of oil as a medium in painting, superseding tempera, as well as a greater understanding of anatomy, Medieval and Renaissance Humanism, and ancient classical art—spread across the rest of Europe (as evidenced by, for example, Rembrandt van Rijn’s collecting Italian Renaissance artworks personally). Another development the Italian High Renaissance is recognized for is the invention of both chiaroscuro (the use of light and dark contrast to create and intensify senses of volume and drama in two-dimensional art) and sfumato (generally, in painting, a lightly tinted varnish used to thinly cover an entire painting, creating a kind of smoky haze that was believed to mimic the quality and effects of light at dusk, the most highly prized light).


Born in 1483 in Urbino (northeastern Italy), Raphael arrived in Florence (north-central Italy) in 1504/05, having studied in Perugia (central Italy) under the famed painter Perugino. Raphael became successful very quickly, partly as a result of his widely-admired depictions of the Virgin and Child *(remember that at this time, art as we might conceive it was largely the realm of the Church, though private collecting basically started during the Renaissance). In 1508, Raphael left Florence for Rome, where Pope Julius II put him to work painting his private papal apartments, including the library, or Stanza della Segnatura, one of Raphel’s most famed bodies of work. Raphael continued to work for the successor to Julius II, Pope Leo X, as director of archaeological and architectural projects in Rome. Leo X was a member of the of Medici family, the members of which came to possess The Woman with the Veil in the seventeenth century.

Tour Framework and Questions


  • Who do you think this person in the portrait was?

  • How old is she?

  • Can you tell when she lived?

  • Does anything that the person is wearing give you any clues?

  • Besides the person himself/herself, are there any other objects in the portrait that give the viewer any clues? (objects that the person is holding, objects that are in the background, props such as chairs, tables, etc.)

  • Does the way the person is standing or sitting tell you anything about them?

Who, What, When, Where and Why

  • What does the picture tell you about the time that the subject lived?

  • What country might it have been painted in?

  • Who do you think it might have been painted for?

  • Do you think this is a portrait of someone who paid to have their portrait made, or she a person close to the artist?

  • What do you think makes this portrait unique?

Feelings and Emotions

  • How does the portrait make you feel?

  • What about this portrait interests you? Why?

  • How do you think the artist felt about the person he/she painted?

  • How do you think the person in the picture is feeling or what is their mood? How can you tell?


  • How has the artist arranged the portrait?

  • Do you think the woman posed for this portrait, or do you think the artist might have imagined her?

  • Where is the person looking (at the viewer, away, at something else)?

  • What does the background and the objects in the background of the picture tell us?

  • How much space has the artist left around the person and how is it used?

  • What view of the person is pictured? 3/4 view? Full frontal? Profile? Full body? Waist view?

Style of the Portrait

  • Is the portrait realistic (looks absolutely real) or are there abstracted or idealized elements (the artist was thinking about something real, but altered the visual reality of the subject in some way)?

Elements and Principles: Shape, Line and Space

  • What shapes can you see in this portrait? What shapes do you think Raphael used to create it?

  • Are the lines in the portrait straight or curved? Geometric? Organic?

  • How often does the artist repeat certain colors or shapes within the portrait?

  • What colors does Raphael use most prominently? Least? Are the colors light or dark? What effect(s) does this choice of colors, tints, and shades have on your perception of the painting and the sitter?