Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Last Supper

This is Holy Week in the Christian calendar.  Today is Maudy Thursday, and tomorrow is Good Friday.  It seems an appropriate time to talk about Leonardo Da Vinci’s fresco, The Last Supper.

The Last Supper

Here are some surprising things I learned about The Last Supper when The Art Caravan visited Milan and had a look…..

*It’s a fresco, not a painting.  (In my mind’s eye, I expected a “Paint-by-Numbers” sized oil, hanging on a wall.)

*It’s painted on the (former) refectory wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a 15th century church and Dominican convent.  Yes!  That’s the top of a doorframe butting into the tablecloth under the centre figure of Jesus.

*Leonardo da Vinci used an experimental technique to paint the fresco, and it started deteriorating twenty years after its completion.

*The colours are muted; most reproductions don’t reflect the deterioration of the work.

*It’s been restored many times, some attempts more successful, and more sensitive, than others.  (Pietro Marani, a curator and Renaissance scholar expresses this graciously:  “The beautiful heads of Bartholomew and James the Lesser–which recall the busts of antiquity–can now vaunt their original design and no small part of their former beauty, a perfect counterpoint to that of Matthew.”)

*Santa Maria delle Grazie is beautiful, too, and worth a visit. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Travel tip  (courtesy of Rick Steves):
When you plan to visit Milan and see The Last Supper (of course you will!) you MUST have reservations. You can (theoretically) purchase tickets on-line, but the website (the last time I tried) didn’t work all that well.  It’s better to pay for a walking tour that guarantees your admission.



Congratulations, Wanda!

The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were just announced….. and (Winnipeg!) painter Wanda Koop was one of the worthy recipients.

Click here and here to see two very short, informative videos…..(even just to admire her studio!) The videos also give a better indication of the size of her work than the images reproduced here (courtesy of the Winnipeg Art Gallery.)

Perhaps the most interesting and admirable thing about Wanda Koop (besides being an internationally acclaimed artist!) is that she is the founder of Art City in Winnipeg.  Art City is a not-for-profit community art centre providing high-quality art instruction in an inner-city  neighbourhood in Winnipeg.  She saw the need for accessible arts programming, and almost 20 years later, the centre is still going strong.

Art City’s vision statement:  To Dream, To Imagine, To Create.  A Space for Art in Every Life.

Here, here!  The Art Caravan couldn’t agree more.  Congratulations, Wanda!



House of Dreams

I recently had the pleasure of experiencing  House of Dreamsa musical presented by Tafelmusik, the acclaimed baroque orchestra from Toronto, Canada.  Who knew there were such things as baroque musicals?

The evening’s concert is a journey to five 18th century European cities, where music was performed in private homes surrounded by fine art works.  The first visit is to Handel’s London home, where he had amassed at least 80 paintings and 64 engravings, including works by Watteau, Canaletto and Rembrandt.  (Handel collected art!  But of course…..) We next travel to Venice, where Joseph Smith, a merchant banker, had a home filled with books, musical instruments,  and art.  His home was said to be “….the most perfect union of all the sciences and all the arts.”  Smith was an agent for Canaletto, and owned Vermeer’s The Music Lesson.

Tafelmusik House of Dreams

Tafelmusik House of Dreams

The musical also visits the Delft home of Jacob Dissius, a Dutch bookbinder, who happened to own 21 (twenty-one!) Vermeer paintings.

Visits to the Palais-Royal, in Paris, and the Bose family home in Leipzig, complete the musical.

House of Dreams is an exciting production. It’s multidiscipline, multi-genre art at its finest.  There is the  visual pleasure of the staging, along with the projected art reproductions (note the ‘gilded’ frame), combined with an excellent narrator/interpreter.  At its base is, of course,  is superb musicianship, played on period instruments.  Not only did the violinists produce  the most exquisite sounds, but they also moved about the stage, in graceful choreographed patterns.

House of Dreams successfully integrates fine art with musical story-telling. Now if only it had the same exposure as Jersey Boys!



Here’s an interesting idea….or two…..

….courtesy of John Luna, who is giving a series of three lectures this month at the Vancouver Island School of Art.  (John reminds me of the writer, Adam Gopnik.  He has an encyclopedic knowledge of art, history, philosophy, literature….His lectures are dense, entertaining and fast-moving. I certainly didn’t understand all the references, but I enjoyed the experience!  The lecture was entitled “Empty glances: photography, painting, witness and imagination.”)

The first idea is pretty obvious, once you think about it….but it hadn’t ever occurred to me before. All of those still life paintings, and domestic scenes in Dutch painting of the 17th century are a direct result of the Protestant Reformation.  The Biblical scenes and the saints were left to the Catholics.  The Protestants, and the humanists, had to find new material.

The Putnam Foundation

Still Life by Pieter Claesz

The second idea came from a viewing of Vermeer’s painting Woman with a Pearl Necklace. ( I wasn’t familiar with this painting, and immediately thought of Girl with a Pearl Earring.)

Vermeer Woman with a Pearl Necklace

John pointed out that Siri Hustvedt, in Mysteries of the Rectanglehypothesizes that this is a coded Annunciation painting.  I find that a fascinating idea.

As with all of Vermeer’s painting (all being a mere 36 in known existence) light, perspective, shadow, framing and editing are paramount.  The first time Ms Hustvedt saw this painting, she spent four hours looking at it.  It’s a hint, perhaps,  of what we might see if we gave artworks more time and attention.