On this Date in History, May 26: Birth of Aaron Douglas, Gwendolyn Knight and Philippe de Champaigne

On this date in history: May 26

What happened in the world of Art History on May 26It was the birthday of three artists.

Aaron Douglas was born on this day in Topeka, Kansas in 1899 (May 26, 1899 – February 3, 1979).   Douglas was an African-American painter and print maker who was an important artist in the Harlem Renaissance.  After studying at the University of Nebraska and the University of Kansas, he moved to New York City where he worked as an illustrator.  He was known for his modern figurative style of paintings and unique color palate.  Later he moved to Nashville where he was a painting professor at Fisk University.  He taught a the University for over two decades and spent the rest of his life in Nashville.  His work and style had a lasting impression on many artists.

Aaron Douglas, Let My People Go, c-1934-39, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gwendolyn Knight (May 26, 1913 – February 18, 2005) was an American painter who was born in Barbados, moved to America and spent much of her life in Seattle.  Knight studied in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance. She was the wife of painter Jacob Lawrence who was a Professor in the Art Department at the University of Washington.

Knight had a large retrospective when she was nearly 80 years old titled "Never Late for Heaven: The Art of Gwen Knight," at the Tacoma Art Museum in 2003.  The Tacoma Art Museum says this of Knight on their website-

"An expressionistic painter with a strong interest in people, Gwendolyn Knight has developed a fluid sense of design using a brilliant palette of bright greens, reds and blues over the past seventy years. As an artist on one of the federal government’s Depression-era public art projects, Knight met her husband Jacob Lawrence in 1937. They lived in New York City until 1970 when they moved to Seattle. Each maintained their own artistic style, while their humanist interests created a strong intellectual bond. For most of her career Knight painted people who posed for her at home or in various studio settings and recreated scenes from the various neighborhoods in which she lived."

Annunciation, Philippe de Champaigne, 1644, Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Our final artist born this day was Philippe de Champaigne, born in Brussels in 1601 (May 26,1602 – August 12,1674).  He was a Baroque painter who spent the majority of his life in Paris.  He moved to Paris in 1621 to work with the French painter Poussin.  Later de Champaigne became a founding member of the Académie de Peinture et de Sculpture which opened in Paris in 1648.

On this Date in History, May 15: Salon des Refusés, Hammershøi and Edward Hopper

May 15th is a notable date in art history-

On May 15, 1863 an exhibit was created in Paris from the paintings that were rejected by the jurors of the Salon of the French Academy. In that year of the Annual Salon more than half of the works of art, over 2,000, were not selected to be part of the exhibit. Therefore the "Salon des Refusés" was held, giving those artists a chance to exhibit their work.  The idea for this alternative Salon was that of Emperor Napolean III who felt the jurors were too harsh, and this would give the public a chance to decide for themselves.

Manet, The Luncheon in the Grass, 1863, Musee D'Orsay, Paris


As Robert Rosenblum wrote in the book 19th-Century Art:

"This so-called Salon des Refusés, however, immediately took on the stature of a counterestablishment manifestation, where artists at war with authority could be seen and where the public could go either to jeer or to enlarge their ideas of what a work of art could be.  The counter-Salon opened two weeks after the official one, on May 15, and immediately attracted hordes of Parisians, who numbered as many as four thousand on a Sunday, when admission was free."*

The Salon des Refusés was a turning point in French 19th century art and included works by Manet, Whistler and Henri Fantin-Latour.

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior with Ida Playing the Piano, 1910, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Japan

Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi was born on this day in Copenhagen (May 15, 1864 - February 13, 1916).  He studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen from 1879 -1884.  Hammershøi painted several subjects including portraits, landscapes and cityscapes, but he is best known for his interior spaces and was called De Stillestuers Maler (The Painter of Tranquil Rooms).  He has also been called the Danish Vermeer as he has been influenced by Dutch Baroque painting.

Edward Hopper, The Nighthawks, 1942, Art Institute of Chicago

On May 15th 1967 American painter Edward Hopper died in New York City (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967). Hopper spent most of his life in New York, studying at the New York School of Art and Design under William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri.  He worked as both an illustrator and painter, creating works in oils and watercolors, as well as making many etchings.  Hopper is best known for his realistic style of painting and portraying contemporary American life, both in urban scenes and landscapes.  He painted throughout his life and died at age 84.  His works have had a big influence on later generations of American artists.

Books on the Salon des Refuses-

The Judgement of Paris by Ross King. 2006

19th-Century Art. by Robert Rosenblum and H.W. Janson. 1984.

*Rosenblum, Robert. and H.W. Janson. 19th-Century Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1984. p. 281.

Art & Architecture in Florence 2017: Summer Drawing Workshop & Art History Tour

I am excited to announce that in the summer of 2017 my colleague, artist Geoff Flack, and I are co-teaching a two week art workshop in Florence, Italy!  Geoff and I work together at Gage Academy of Art where we have both worked since 2005.  He teaches Figure Drawing classes and the Flack Drawing Atelier and I am the Adult Program Director and I also lecture on art history.

"Il Duomo" Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy

Geoff Flack is an MFA graduate of the New York Academy and he a master at drawing, in particular drawing the figure and also architecture and perspective. He also sometimes works in gouache and drawing with mixed media.

Gouache study of Italy, Geoff Flack

I am really looking forward to the opportunity to show students around one of my favorite cities while viewing some of the world’s most beautiful painting, sculpture and architecture.  Lecturing on art history will take place both in the classroom and on site at several well-known museums and churches in Florence.  We'll discuss the history of this famous city that is considered by many to be the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. 

Copy of Michelangelo's David, Piazza della Signoria

I have co-taught a Gage workshop in Florence twice before (in 2013 and 2014 with Atelier instructor Juliette Aristides) and everyone had a really memorable time.  Here is what I wrote in a past blog post after I took the students to the Brancacci Chapel (in St. Maria del Carmine) which contains the famous early frescoes of Masolino and Masaccio:

“The frescoes were so gorgeous, the painted equivalent to the Gates of Paradise. I think that Quattrocento Florentine art is really my favorite. The art brought tears to my eyes and my students told me the same thing.  After we all went to Santo Spirito in the adjoining piazza, it was one of the most beautiful churches and the students were really glad they went.”

Brancacci Chapel: Saint Peter Raising the Son of Theophilus and 
Saint Peter Enthroned as First Bishop of Antioch, Masaccio, 1425, fresco (Santa Maria del Carmine)

Outside of the classroom students had many opportunities to draw and sketch; copying sculptures in places like the Loggia di Lanzi, making studies of famous paintings in the churches and museums and drawing both small architectural details and larger panoramic vistas.  Geoff Flack stresses the importance of drawing from life and it shows in both his work and in the work of his students.

Geoff Flack, Gouache study
Geoff Flack, Gouache study

Geoff recently returned from living in Italy for two years where he got the opportunity to really learn about the art and culture.  Here are some painted studies in gouache he made while there.
The Birth of Venus by Botticelli (1486)  Uffizi Gallery
During the day our workshop will include visits to several churches, museums and other sites as a group including these among others: 
  • Santa Croce- Contains work by Giotto, Taddeo and Agnolo Gaddi, Donatello and the famous Pazzi Chapel designed by Brunelleschi.
  • Santa Maria Novella- Contains work by Giotto, Masaccio, Ghirlandaio and Filippino Lippi.

Santa Maria NovellaLeon Battista Alberti, 1456-70

  • The Brancacci Chapel- Famous fresco cycle by Masaccio and Masolino.
  • Basilica di Santo Spirito- Beautiful Renaissance church designed by Brunelleschi and filled with artwork including a crucifix by Michelangelo, sculpture by Sansovino and painting by Filippino Lippi.
  • Bargello Museum- Sculpture museum of Florence with many works by Donatello, including his famous David and also sculptures by Michelangelo.
  • The Loggia dei Lanzi- Beautiful open air sculpture court looks onto the Piazza dei Signoria and is a wonderful place to draw.
  • The Pitti Palace- Contains many museums and the Boboli Gardens, the painting gallery holds many Old Master works including Raphael.
  • Museum of artwork from the Duomo- (Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore di Firenze) Museum filled with artwork formerly in the Duomo including work by Donatello (St. Mary Magdalene), Michelangelo (late Pieta), and Ghiberti’s original Gates of Paradise.

 The Baptistery with the Duomo in the background

Here is some additional information from the current Gage Academy of Art catalog in case you are interested in joining us next summer:

Art & Architecture in Florence: with Geoff Flack and Carol Hendricks
Gage Academy of Art Drawing Instructor:
Geoff Flack, Atelier Instructor
Art History Instructor:
Carol Hendricks, Art Historian & Gage Adult Program Director
Thursday, June 28 to Saturday, July 14, 2013 (16 nights)
$4,300 double occupancy bedroom in shared apartment/airfare not included

Madonna and Child with Two Angels
Fra Filippo Lippi, 1465, Uffizi Gallery
We invite you to join Geoff Flack and Carol Hendricks for this unparalleled opportunity to study the magnificent art and architecture of the Renaissance while refining your drawing skills. During this 2-week Florence Intensive, your drawing instructor, Geoff, focuses on training your eye and your hand to capture the essence of the remarkable city that surrounds you.

Concurrently, Carol, your Italian art history expert, introduces you to some of Europe’s greatest masterpieces installed in the city’s beautiful churches and extraordinary museums.

Additionally,students will have their own apartments for the duration of their workshop and will be able to explore the city on their own.

 Carol Hendricks in The Boboli Gardens in Florence, July 2013

Florence is one of my favorite cities and teaching there next summer will be my 10th visit, it is really a city I know well.  I often keep a travel blog during my trips abroad, feel free to look over some of my past photos and blog posts, both of the workshops and my travels.


We are both really excited to be teaching drawing and art history in Florence next summer and hope you can join us!

On this Date in History, May 12: Rossetti, Stella and the façade for the Duomo of Florence

What happened in the world of art history on May 12?

In 1828 English painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti (May 12, 1828 – April 9, 1882) was born in London.  Rossetti was the founder of a group of artists known as the "Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood" whose style changed the face of 19th century British art.  The Pre-Raphaelites took their inspiration from an earlier time (before the work of Raphael) and looked to Medieval and early Renaissance Art as well as Medieval literature such as the Italian poet Dante Alighieri after whom Rossetti was named.

Rossetti painted dozens of works in his lifetime, often focusing on female figures from classical mythology or literature.  The below work, Beata Beatrix, refers to Dante's muse, Beatrice Portinari and shows her at her moment of death.  The model for the painting was Rossetti's wife Elizabeth Sidall who had recently died.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Beata Beatrix, 1863, Tate Britain, London

On May 12 in 1887 the façade for the Cathedral of Florence (the Duomo) was unveiled.  The Neo Gothic façade was designed by Italian architect Emilio De Fabris in the 1860's.  As you can see from Giotto's 14th century Campanile (bell tower) to the right, De Fabris was interested in creating a 19th century façade that blended seamlessly with the rest of the much older cathedral.  The façade until the mid-19th century had a plain front.

The Duomo of Florence is one of the largest churches in Europe, the plans and design for it spanned over 600 years and the unveiling of the façade was one of the last steps towards its completion.

There was a revival of Gothic (12th-14th century) art and architecture in the 19th century, such as in the above example of the art of Rossetti.  With the advent of the Industrial Revolution the Gothic age was romanticized and presented as the return to a simpler time.  In the case of the façade of the Duomo, working in the Gothic style presented a harmonious design which visually unified the cathedral.

Façade of the Cathedral of Florence 'Duomo' in Italy with the Campanile to the right

1936 Frank Stella was born in Massachusetts, today he lives and works in New York City, he has lived there since graduating from Princeton in 1958.  He is well known in art history as a modern painter whose work in the late 1950's and 60's was a departure from Abstract Expressionism.  Instead he developed a style of minimalism and used geometric forms, his work influenced a new generation of modern painters.

Frank Stella, Harran II, 1967, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

12 Famous Artists Known by their Nicknames

Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) is one of the best known artists in the world.  However most people don't realize his name wasn't really "Botticelli" at all, it was a nickname which means "little barrel" in Italian.  The name referred to the well-rounded nature of his older brother who was a government official in Florence, and then later  became his own nickname.  His given name was actually Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi.

Botticelli's nickname has gone down in history as being synonymous with the art of the Italian Renaissance which began in Florence in the early 15th century.  Nearly everyone has heard of him, yet if you were to ask people about the paintings of "di Vanni Filipepi" most would not know which artist was being referred to.

La Primavera, Botticelli, 1478, Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Nicknames were commonplace for artists in Botticelli's time, especially in Italy.  Let's look at several other well known painters from the 13th to the 17th century whose nicknames are still in use today.  You may have heard of some or all of these artists, often people don't realize centuries later that we are referring to them by their nicknames and not their given names. 

Virgin Enthroned with Angels, Cimabue, c-1290-95, Louvre , 14' x 9' (4.27 m x 2.8 m)

Cenni di Pepi (1240-1302) 
In Italian this nickname means "Ox Head" which presumably refers to the artist's stubbornness.  Cimabue is thought by many to be the Father of Italian Renaissance art, his name is mentioned in Dante's famous poem.  Cimabue was known for his beautiful Madonna and Child paintings and was also the teacher of the painter Giotto.

 The Tribute Money, Masaccio, 1425, fresco, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence
Masaccio and Masolino
Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone (1401-1428)
Tommaso di Cristoforo Fini (1383 – c. 1447)
The given name of both of these early Italian Renaissance artists is "Tommaso" and both nicknames were taken from that. Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone was better known as "Masaccio" which means "clumsy Tom" or "messy Tom."  Tommaso di Cristoforo Fini was called "Masolino" meaning "little Tom" in Italian.  Both artists worked in Florence and they collaborated on the famous Brancacci Chapel frescos.  Masaccio's fresco of The Tribute Money (shown above) is the first time perspective was accurately applied in Renaissance art.

Monument to Sir John Hawkwood, Uccello, 1436, Duomo of Florence
Paolo Uccello 
Paolo di Dono (1397-1475)
In Italian the word uccello means “bird,” and Paolo was a naturalist who painted many animals, his nickname was inspired by his paintings of birds.  The famous 16th century art historian Giorgio Vasari writes this of Uccello in his book The Lives of the Artists-

"In the house of the Medici he painted some scenes on canvas and in distemper, representing animals; in these he eve took delight, and in order to paint them well he gave them very great attention, and, what is more, he kept ever in his house pictures of birds, cats, dogs and every sort of strange animal whereof he could get the likeness, being unable to have them alive by reason of his poverty; and because he delighted in birds more than in any other kind, he was given the name of "Paolo of the Birds."

Uccello also lived and worked in Florence and during his life created many paintings including the famous Monument to Sir John Hawkwood in the Duomo of Florence.  Hawkwood was promised an equestrian monument as a memorial, but to save money this one was painted rather than created as a life-size bronze statue.

The Doubting of St. Thomas, Verrocchio, 1467-83, Orsanmichele, Florence
Andrea del Verrocchio 
Andrea di Michele di Francesco de’ Cioni (1435-1488)
Verrocchio means “true eye,” in Italian and there are two thoughts on how he acquired that nickname.  The first is that the moniker 'true eye' was used to refer to his artistic talents.  The other is that Andrea received his first training from a goldsmith named Giuliano da Verrocchi and when he started his own artistic career he took on his name.

In art history Verrocchio is best known as the teacher of Leonardo da Vinci.  In his successful workshop in Florence Andrea del Verrocchio trained other Renaissance artists including Perugino (Raphael's teacher).  Verrocchio worked in painting as well as sculpture and his clients included the Medici family.

The Tempest, Giorgione, 1503-04, Accademia, Venice
Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco (1447-1511)

In Italian, "Giorgione" means "Big George" taken from his given name Giorgio. Giorgione is considered to be the ‘Father of the Venetian Renaissance Style” of painting, though he only lived into his early 30’s and is thought to have died of the plague.  Only a handful of his surviving paintings are acknowledged for certain to be his work.  He worked closely with the artist Titian who passed his style incorporating rich colors down through the 16thcentury.

Immaculate Conception and Birth of the Virgin Mary, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1485-90
Tornabuoni Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Domenico Ghirlandaio 
Domenico di Tommaso di Currado di Doffo Bigordi (1449-1494)
In Italian 'ghirlandaio' means “garland maker,” which was his father's profession. Ghirlandaio lived and worked in Florence and was one of the most sought after fresco artists of his time.  Michelangelo got his artistic start in the workshop of Ghirlandaio and was one of the assistants in the frescos for Santa Maria Novella.

Descent from the Cross, Rosso Fiorentino, 1521
Rosso Fiorentino
Giovanni Battista di Jacopo (1495-1540)
Giovanni the "Red Florentine" got his nickname from his hair color.  He was a well known Mannerist painter who worked in both Florence and in France in the early 16th century.  Fiorentino was trained along with Jacopo Pontormo in the studio of Andrea del Sarto.

The Last Supper, Tintoretto, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 1592-94
Jacopo Robusti (1518-1594)
Jacopo was the son of a dyer (tintore in Italian) giving him his nickname.  Tintoretto was one of the most prolific and influential painters in the Venetian Renaissance.  His hallmark artistic style was to start with a dark background and use bold colors and strong highlights.  His brushwork and use of perspective added much depth and drama to his paintings.
El Greco
Domenikos Theotokopoulos (1541-1614)
His nickname meant "The Greek" in Spanish as he was born on the island of Crete and spent the majority of his career working in Spain, primarily in Toledo.  El Greco created one of the most distinctive styles of painting in this time period.  He was influenced by both Greek Orthodox icon painting, a Venetian sense of coloring (since Crete was under Venetian rule at this time and he spent some time in Venice) and Spanish art after he moved to Spain.

The Calling of Saint Matthew,Caravaggio  (1599-1600) Contarelli Chapel, Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome
Michelangelo de Merisi (1571-1610)
This artist came from the town of Caravaggio in Northern Italy and it was not uncommon for artists to get nicknamed based on their place of origin if they later moved.

Caravaggio was an Italian painter of the Baroque period who lived a tumultuous life, he murdered a man in Rome and spent the next several years moving around Italy.  Around 1600 Caravaggio developed his famous style of extreme chiaroscuro (painting form with lights and darks) known as "tenebrism" which was a turning point in art.  Many other artists followed his style of dark backgrounds with dramatic highlights.

This list of 12 famous artists known by their nicknames are only some artists known by a name other than their own, there are actually quite a few more.  All create interesting stories throughout art history.


Hartt, Frederick and David Wilkins. History of Italian Renaissance Art, Painting∙Sculpture∙Architecture. Prentice Hall, 2010.

The Lives of the Artists (Oxford World's Classics) by Giorgio Vasari. Translated from Italian by Julia Conway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella. Oxford University Press, 1998.

Santi, Bruno. Botticelli. Milan: Scala, 1999.