David Hockney Designed Westminster Abbey's Newest Stained Glass Window—on an iPad

Westminster Abbey, YouTube
Westminster Abbey, YouTube

Westminster Abbey just got a new stained glass window whose colorful depiction of a country path contrasts starkly with the surrounding Gothic architecture. As The Guardian reports, famed 81-year-old British pop artist David Hockney sketched the scene of blossoming hawthorn on his iPad, then a 10-person team from Barley Studio in York, England installed the stained glass and brought his vision to life. The window, which replaced a section of "mostly blank" glass, is over 27 feet tall and nearly 11.5 feet wide.

It is called the Queen's Window, having been commissioned to celebrate the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. As for Her Majesty, no word yet on whether or not she likes it. "The Queen very often doesn't give you a very strong reaction," John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, told The Guardian. But Hall praised the newest addition to the church for having "an amazing brightness and clarity" and being a celebration of something the Queen has long loved: the countryside.

"It is wonderful to have something which is utterly contemporary from one of the greatest artists of the Queen's reign," Hall said.

It was certainly a bold choice, and as with much pop art, not everyone loves the end result. Dr. James Alexander Cameron, a freelance art and architectural historian who runs the blog Stained Glass Attitudes, wrote on Twitter, "I mean it depends on the quality of the actual glass but I think David Hockney might have topped Hugh Easton for 'worst window in Westminster Abbey.'"

Easton, the late artist Cameron is referring to, created six stained glass windows for Westminster Abbey. One window, dedicated in 1947, pays tribute to soldiers who fought in the Battle of Britain seven years prior. Two others, in a section called Cheyneygates, depict a wreath of roses and famed ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn.

This marks the first time in Hockney's nearly 60-year career that one his artworks has been rendered on stained glass. He's considered one of the most influential British artists of the past century, and, according to The New York Times, if a scheduled Christie's auction next month of one of his 1972 works sells for its $80 million estimate, he'll become the world's most expensive living artist.

[h/t The Guardian]

Could Leonardo da Vinci's Artistic Genius Be Due to an Eye Condition?

Young John the Baptist, Leonardo da Vinci (1513-16, Louvre, Paris).
Young John the Baptist, Leonardo da Vinci (1513-16, Louvre, Paris).
Christopher Tyler, JAMA Ophthalmology (2018)

Leonardo da Vinci was indisputably a genius, but his singular artistic vision may have been the result of seeing the world differently in more ways than one. A new paper argues that he had strabismus, a vision disorder where the eyes are misaligned and don’t look toward the same place at the same time. This disorder, visual neuroscientist Christopher Tyler argues, may have helped the artist render three-dimensional images on flat canvas with an extra level of skill.

Tyler is a professor at City, University of London who has written a number of studies on optics and art. In this study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, he examined six different artworks from the period when Leonardo was working, including Young John the Baptist, Vitruvian Man, and a self-portrait by the artist. He also analyzed pieces by other artists that are thought to have used Leonardo as a model, like Andrea del Verrocchio’s Young Warrior sculpture. Leonardo served as the lead assistant in the latter artist’s studio, and likely served as the model for several of his works. Leonardo was also a friend of Benedetto da Maiano, and possibly served as a model for his 1480 sculpture of John the Baptist. Tyler also looked at the recently auctioned Salvator Mundi, a painting that not all experts believe can be attributed to Leonardo. (However, at least one scientific team that examined the painting says it’s legit.)

With strabismus, a person’s eyes appear to point in different directions. Based on the eyes in Leonardo’s own portraits of himself and other artworks modeled after him, it seems likely that he had intermittent strabismus. When he relaxed his eyes, one of his eyes drifted outward, though he was likely able to align his eyes when he focused. The gaze in the portraits and sculptures seems to be misaligned, with the left eye consistently drifting outward at around the same angle.

'Vitruvian Man' with the subject's pupils highlighted
Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci (~1490, Accademia, Venice)
Christopher Tyler, JAMA Ophthalmology (2018)

“The weight of converging evidence suggests that [Leonardo] had intermittent exotropia—where an eye turns outwards—with a resulting ability to switch to monocular vision, using just one eye,” Tyler explained in a press release. “The condition is rather convenient for a painter, since viewing the world with one eye allows direct comparison with the flat image being drawn or painted.” This would have given him an assist in depicting depth accurately.

Leonardo isn’t the first famous artist whose vision researchers have wondered about. Some have speculated that Degas’s increasingly coarse pastel work in his later years may have been attributed to his degenerating eyes, as the rough edges would have appeared smoother to him because of his blurred vision. Others have suggested that Van Gogh’s “yellow period” and the vibrant colors of Starry Night may have been influenced by yellowing vision caused by his use of digitalis, a medicine he took for epilepsy.

We can never truly know whether a long-dead artist’s work was the result of visual issues or simply a unique artistic vision, but looking at their art through the lens of medicine provides a new way of understanding their process.

Learn to Paint Like Bob Ross in an Upcoming Facebook Live Event

Public television hero Bob Ross may no longer be with us, but you can still paint happy little trees in his honor. October 29, 2018 marks what would have been the 76th birthday of the beloved art teacher to the masses, and to honor his memory, the Quarto Group—publisher of the new book Painting With Bob Ross—is hosting a live-streamed painting party online.

Painting With Bob Ross provides step-by-step instructions to help you create some of the master’s favorite oil landscapes on your own. While Quarto’s October 23 painting party (a collaboration with Bob Ross, Inc.) can’t teach you how to mimic Ross's soothing voice, the celebration does include a painting session with Bernie Oropallo, a Certified Ross Instructor, who will demonstrate the techniques that Ross taught on The Joy of Painting.

Promo for The Quarto Group's Bob Ross painting party
The Quarto Group

The live-streamed instructional session will take place within the offices of a youth arts center in Beverly, Massachusetts, called Express Yourself. Oropallo will lead you through the process of painting “Distant Mountains,” one of the artworks included in the new book.

The painting lesson kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET on October 23. To participate, log onto Facebook and head to the QuartoCreates page to join the live event. Before it starts, check out the event page here for a list of the supplies you’ll need to complete the painting. If you can’t make it to a computer that night, grab Painting With Bob Ross on Amazon ($15) to get the next best thing. If that’s not enough for you, we suggest you curl up with the official Bob Ross art book and/or a Bob Ross coloring book.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER