Mental Floss

Feel Art Again returns!

Andréa Fernandes

On the eighth day of Christmas, mental_floss gave to me... eight reader requests!


"Feel Art Again" was on hiatus for a month, but we're back today and better than ever! In the spirit of Christmas, to celebrate the New Year, and to get back in the swing of things, today's post is a gift to our readers: eight reader requests fulfilled. So enjoy the wide range of art today, and come back on Saturday for another fresh post!

"Self-Portrait," Caterina van Hemessen
Requested by Jessy
The Flemish painter Caterina van Hemessen (1528~1587) is credited as the first artist to paint a self-portrait in which the artist is seated at an easel. Her 1548 self-portrait depicts herself seated at her easel, beginning a painting. As far as most art historians are aware, no other painter, male or female, had painted such a self-portrait previously.

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"Ophelia" (1894), John William Waterhouse

Requested by Nerak

Italian-English painter John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) is famous for his depictions of female characters from mythology and literature. He is perhaps most famous for his depictions of Ophelia, from Shakespeare's "Hamlet." His first Ophelia painting was submitted in 1888 to receive his Royal Academy diploma. He painted her in 1894 and again in the early 1900s, creating an "Ophelia in the Churchyard" series. Waterhouse had planned at least one more painting of Ophelia for the series, but was unable to continue the series as he fell severely ill with cancer, passing away in 1917.

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"Pegeen," Robert Henri

Requested by Gizank Gizank

Like many artists, American painter Robert Henri (1865-1929) had a colorful family life. A distant cousin of Mary Cassatt, Henri was actually born Robert Henry Cozad; his father founded the town of Cozaddale, Ohio, in 1871 and Cozad, Nebraska, in 1873. Henri's father, John Jackson Cozad, fatally shot a rancher, Alfred Pearson, during a nasty land dispute that had turned physical. Although he was cleared of wrongdoing, Cozad and his family fled town, changed their names, and pretended the sons (Robert and his brother Frank) were adopted.

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"Without Borders," Peter Max

Requested by Karen

Peter Max (born 1937) might be known for his "cosmic "˜60s" art, but his art education truly spans the globe. Born in Germany, Max was introduced to art while living in China by his nanny, who taught him to paint calligraphy. He then moved to Haifa (Israel), where he took art lessons from a Viennese painter, followed by Paris, where he took classes at the Louvre. Finally, Max arrived in America for high school and went on to study at the Art Students League of New York. It is only fitting, then, that one of his earliest major exhibitions was titled "The World of Peter Max."

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"Night Sky #2," Vija Celmins

Requested by Michael

Latvian-American artist Vija Celmins (born 1938) is known for her paintings of scenes of nature, which are often painted from photographs. In June 2008, during an exhibition of her "Night Sky" series at the Carnegie Museum of Art, a guard at the museum took a key to "Night Sky #2." The painting, valued at $1.2 million, was "damaged beyond repair" merely because, as the guard admitted, he "didn't like the painting." The "Night Sky" paintings, often described as "meditations," don't fit the usual categories—political or religious—of vandalized artwork.

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"Execution," Yue Minjun

Requested by Carole

Chinese painter Yue Minjun's "Execution" was bought in 1997 by a British junior investment banker, working in the region, who spent approximately one third his salary on the painting. The investment banker, Trevor Simon, left the painting in storage for 10 years, as stipulated by the conditions of the sale, and then sold it at Sotheby's in 2007. The work by Minjun (born 1962) sold for a record £2.9 million (roughly $5.9 million), making it the most expensive work by a Chinese contemporary artist. "Execution" was inspired by the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 but, like most of Minjun's work, depicts Minjun's own laughing face on the bodies of the protesters and the soldiers.

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"Reverse," Jenny Saville

Requested by Corrine

Young British Artist (YBA) Jenny Saville (born 1970) is famous for her huge paintings of women, often larger than life. She studied at Glasgow School of Art, the University of Cincinnati, and Slade School of Art, but she also spent hours observing plastic surgery operations. Saville was lucky enough to have her entire senior show purchased by Charles Saatchi, who also commissioned works from her for the next two years.

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"The Three Graces," Kehinde Wiley

Requested by James

American Kehinde Wiley (born 1977) is a portraitist who depicts his African-American male subjects in poses from Renaissance paintings, particularly portraits of saints. According to Wiley, although his works are contemporary and hip-hop in nature, they "quote historical sources and position young black men within that field of power." Wiley's 2005 painting, "The Three Graces," references

Raphael's painting

of the same name, which depicts the Three Graces (thought to personify any number of virtues) nude, holding the Golden Apples of the Hesperides (apples which grant immortality).

To see larger versions of the paintings, click on each painting. Those interested in more information on any of the aforementioned artists should visit the following sites: Caterina van Hemessen on Wikipedia; the scholarly John William Waterhouse fan site; Robert Henri at the Art Renewal Center; the official site for Peter Max; Vija Celmins on PBS' art:21; Yue Minjun's official site; Jenny Saville at the Gagosian Gallery; and the official site for Kehinde Wiley. "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at artist suggestions, with details of current exhibitions, or for sources or further reading.