1. Leonardo daVinci’s famous “Last Supper“ (1498) is not a true fresco. Da Vinci painted on a dry wall rather than on wet plaster and chose to seal the stone wall with a layer of pitch, gesso and mastic, then paint onto the sealing layer with tempera. As a result, the painting started to flake soon after it was completed. By 1556, the painting was so deteriorated that the figures were unrecognizable. From 1978 to 1999, Pinin Brambilla Barcilon guided a major restoration project which undertook to permanently stabilize the painting, and reverse the damage caused by dirt, pollution, and previous restoration attempts. This restoration took 21 years and on May 28, 1999 the painting was put back on display. When it was unveiled, considerable controversy was aroused by the dramatic changes in colours, tones, and even some facial shapes.
2. Painters Eleven were a collective of abstract artists active in Canada from 1953 to 1960. The group, including Jack Bush, Oscar Cahén, Hortense Gordon, Thomas Hodgson, Alexandra Luke, J.W.G. Macdonald, Ray Mead, Kazuo Nakamura, William Ronald, Harold Town, and Walter Yarwood joined together in 1953 with the purpose of exhibiting abstract art in Toronto, Canada. Painters Eleven are credited with the acculturation of English Canada’s art-buying public to abstract expressionist painting. Their influence on the next generation of Canadian artists was immense, and their art is now a prominent feature in public galleries and corporate and private collections collections throughout Canada and in many international collections.
3. Synchromism was an art movement founded in 1912 by American artists Stanton MacDonald-Wright and Morgan Russell. It is based on the idea that color and sound are similar phenomena, and that the colors in a painting can be orchestrated in the same harmonious way that a composer arranges notes in a symphony. Macdonald-Wright and Russell believed that by painting in color scales, their work could evoke musical sensations. It became abstract and expressive, hoping to unite visual and auditory stimuli through a symphony of color. This phenomenon of ‘hearing’ a color or the pairing of two or more senses – synesthesia – was also central to the work of Wassily Kandinsky, who was developing his own synesthetic paintings, or ‘compositions’, in Europe around the same time.
4. Automatic drawing was developed by the surrealists, as a means of expressing the subconscious. In it, the hand is allowed to move randomly across the paper applying chance and accident to free the artist of rational control. The drawing produced may be attributed in part to the subconscious and may reveal something of the psyche, which would otherwise be repressed. Automatic drawing was pioneered by André Masson and was practised by Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Jean Arp and André Breton. The technique was adapted to painting and other media including computer graphics. Pablo Picasso was also thought to have expressed a type of automatic drawing in his later work, and particularly in his etchings and lithographs of the 1960s. Surrealist artists often found that ultimately their use of automatic drawing was not entirely automatic and that it did involve some form of conscious intervention to make the image or painting visually acceptable or comprehensible. “…Masson admitted that his ‘automatic’ imagery involved a two-fold process of unconscious and conscious activity….”
5. The Venus of Willendorf is one of the earliest images of the body made by humankind and is in the collection of the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna. The sculpture is an 11 cm high statuette of a female figure estimated to have been made between 27,000 BC to 20,000 BC. It was discovered in 1908 by archaeologist Josef Szombathy at a paleolithic site near Willendorf, a village in Lower Austria near the city of Krems. It is carved from an oolitic limestone that is not local to the area, and tinted with red ochre. Several similar sculptures of this kind and have been discovered and are collectively referred to as Venus figurines. The apparent large size of the breasts and abdomen, and the detail put into the vulva, have led many scholars to interpret the figure as a fertility symbol. The figure has no visible face, her head being covered with circular horizontal bands of what might be rows of braided hair or a type of headdress. Other differing theories of the Venus figurines and their purposes have ranged from the figurines being examples of Paleolithic art representative of the various population phases and periods of the Aurignacian culture to the figurines as goddess’s or symbols of a matriarchy in the hunter gatherer tribes.
Sources: Wikipedia (da Vinci), The Canadian Encyclopedia, Wikipedia (Painters Eleven), Wikipedia (Synchromism), Wikipedia (Automatic Drawing), Wikipedia, Minnesota State University (Venus of Willendorf)