All Picture This Articles

Looking at art leads to thinking about life

  • Has Reality Finally Caught Up to Thomas Pynchon?

    “Paranoia’s the garlic in life’s kitchen,” remarks the central character, Maxine Tarnow, of Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel, Bleeding Edge. “You can never have too much.” Pynchon seasons his latest epic voyage into...

  • Were the Cave Paintings Painted by Women?

    Art history (and all history, for that matter) has shortchanged women for a long time. A recent article about the authorship of the earliest cave paintings—the earliest images made by human beings—sets the...

  • Can Contemporary Art Become Too Popular?

    Contemporary art, believe it or not, is hot. When comedian Stephen Colbert “begs” British graffiti artist Banksy not to make the walls of his studio’s building the next target in his Better Out Than In series...

  • Is David Bowie the Picasso of Our Time?

    When David Bowie played Andy Warhol in the 1996 film Basquiat, he wore Warhol’s actual wig and glasses. Bowie met Warhol in his travels through the art world and even played the song he wrote about him to Warhol,...

  • The Darker Side of Magritte, the Kinder, Gentler Surrealist

    Is any artist linked inseparably with an article of clothing as René Magritte and the bowler hat? Whether raining down from the sky or with faces obscured by apples, Magritte’s bowler-hatted men have found a home...

  • Should Gaudí’s Basílica de la Sagrada Família Be Completed?

    “My client is not in a hurry,” architect and sculptor Antoni Gaudí famously responded to someone asking when his last masterpiece, the Basílica de la Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain (shown above), would be...

  • Is Balthus the “Crazy Cat Lady” of Modern Art?

    When London’s Tate Gallery asked the French painter Balthus for some personal details to include in a 1968 retrospective exhibition, Balthus replied via telegram: “No biographical details. Begin: Balthus is a...

  • Do We Show Our Real Selves While Sleeping?

    “Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed/ The dear repose for limbs with travel tired,” William Shakespeare writes in his Sonnet 27. “But then begins a journey in my head/ To work my mind, when body’s work’s...

  • How Picasso Found Truth in a Closed Room

    One of the first words nixed by postgraduate education is “truth.” Amidst all the deconstructing and linguistic acrobatics, “truth” is just too troublesome and old fashioned. So, imagine my surprise to see the...

  • Why Does the NSA Control Center Look Like the Bridge From Star Trek?

    Growing up, I fell in love with Science Fiction watching reruns of Star Trek, the version now known to fans as “The Original Series.” The storylines and (then state of the art) special effects hooked me early on,...

  • How (and Why) to Remember 9/11

    The Stories They Tell celebrates “September 12th thinking” at its best—a generosity of the spirit, a heroism within us all, and a strength to continue moving forward despite the terrible knowledge that the anarchy...

  • Is This the First “Honest” Bible?

    As Penn Jillette said right here on BigThink.com, “Reading the Bible (or the Koran, or the Torah) will make you an atheist.” Of course, just reading the Bible itself—all 66 canonical books (more in some...

  • Do We Learn to Love Bad Art?

    Does great art last because it is great or is it great because it lasts? Do works find a place in the canon by familiarity, like a ubiquitous tune you can’t shake, or do they play on through sheer merit? A recent...

  • Julia Margaret Cameron: Pioneer of Modern Glamour Photography?

    “It may amuse you, Mother, to try to photograph during your solitude,” Julia Margaret Cameron’s daughter told her while presenting her with her birthday gift in 1863 while Mr. Cameron and sons were away....

  • Are We Ready to Listen to the MoMA’s “Soundings” Exhibit?

    As comedian Martin Mull (allegedly) once said, “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” Sound’s non-verbal qualities help it elude any attempts to pin it down definitively through the critical...

  • John Lewis and Civil Rights March on in a New Graphic Novel

    This past weekend people gathered in the nation’s capitol to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech that was part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in...

  • Hans Thoma: Hitler’s Favorite Artist?

    You can’t pick your fans. If you could, nobody would pick Adolf Hitler. The frustrated painter turned Führer and genocidist enjoyed any art that embodied in some form for him the “blood and soil” values of German...

  • Why Walker Evans’ American Photographs Feel Like Déjà Vu

    Seventy-five years ago, The Museum of Modern Art staged their first exhibition devoted to the work of a single photographer—Walker Evans: American Photographer. That show brought together many of Walker Evans’...

  • Building a Better Comic Book

    When Rodolphe Töpffer drew the first comics in 1837, he couldn’t possibly have imagined where the genre would go. It’s comparable to the Wright Brothers trying to picture stealth bombers while standing on the...

  • Robert Williams: Bitchin’ Art Crusader?

    As artist Robert Williams grew up in his often dysfunctional, divorced home in the 1940s and 1950s, his mother wished he’d become a cowboy. After seeing Cecil B. DeMille’s 1935 film The Crusades (rereleased in...