Thursday, January 31, 2013

Closely Looking at Raphael's "St. George and the Dragon" + Super Bowl Heavenly Turkey Chili

A Close Look at Raphael's painting
"St. George and the Dragon"

In this, our third close inspection of an artwork in a row, we have selected a very small painting by the great master of the 
Renaissance, Raphael. It is arguably his best and most interesting piece!

St. George was an English knight, who went on the crusades to the "Holy Land." As the legend states, he rescued a princess by killing the evil dragon who had captured her. Being grateful for her knight on a white horse and in shining armor, her village and kingdom all converted to Christianity.

This small "jewel" of a painting is only 8" x 11" about the size of a standard sheet of printer paper and hangs in Washington D.C. at the National Gallery of Art. It was painted over 500 years ago, in 1506, by the Italian artist Raphael. 

Saint George is the patron saint of England and also of that country's "Order of the Garter." This "Order" is important to Raphael's painting, because in May of 1504, England's King Henry VIII made the Italian Duke Guidobaldo a knight in the English "Order of the Garter." It is believed this small painting was commissioned by Duke Guidobaldo as a gift to Sir. Gilbert Talbot, the English knight who traveled to Urbino, Italy bringing the insignia and elaborate robes of the "Order" to properly install the Duke. The "Order" all wear their garter, which is embroidered with their motto: "Honi soit qui mal y pense." translated into English as "Evil to him who evil thinks."

Insignia for the English Knights in the "Order of the Garter."

Raphael was born, studied and worked in Urbino, Italy before moving to Florence (the center for art and creativity at the time). Raphael was only 23 years old when he painted "St. George and the Dragon", perfectly in his own distinct and classical signature style. 

Raphael's imagery was influenced by other artists: daVinci's fighting horses; daVinci's dragon imagery; Memling's trees; and by Donatello's famous sculpture of St. George. 
Donatello's St. George
ca. 1416
Leonardo da Vinci's Dragon drawing
A da Vinci horse sketch
Let us now look closely at some of the details of "Saint George and the Dragon" by Raphael.
Look at how Raphael composed this painting.
There is a strong X composition in the form of two diagonals. 1) From the upper left to lower right - the large boulders, the horse, the dragon's body and the horse's legs all form one diagonal. 2) From the upper right to the lower left, the tree line, the cape, the horse's head, the lance, St. George's leg, the dragon's head and the shadow of the small stone form the second crossing diagonal. The many tree trunks form contrasting verticals and the land creates strong horizontal lines. X l --- shapes making the composition pleasant and stable.

Raphael's Princess or "damsel in distress".
Also notice the beauty of the spiraling hair from the horse's tail 
which reinforces the soft feminine features of the Princess..

Mortally wounded, the dragon is masterfully drawn and scary, with the dark body contrasting with St. George's white horse.

Except for all leaves and some highlights, this oil painting has no discernible brush strokes. It was painted in thin glazes, building up the color density of each subject a little at a time and creating a glow to the painting as the light bounces back to the eye through the many layers of varnish.
The flora in Raphael's paintings usually have representative meanings, but these plants, in the center foreground of this painting, have no known significance.
An Italian fortress, possibly Urbino, Italy, in the distance.

We see that George's face seems to have been copied from Donatello's statue and looks quite frozen, with little or no life. The white horse, on the other hand, is animated and seems to be the focus of this painting. With all that is going on the horse is making eye contact with the viewer (and with a very pleasant or even "happy" face). This while it helps George fulfill his destiny and its hooves come down on the dragon.

Raphael painted the official embroidered
garter for the "Order of the Garter" 
on St. George's leg.

A larger view of the garter worn by the English Knights in the "Order of the Garter".
The golden glow of the trees in the upper right of the painting - Raphael learned how to paint trees like this, from observing the art by Hans Memling. A diptych by Memling hung in Urbino during Raphael's time there.

For centuries Raphael has been recognized as the supreme High Renaissance painter, more versatile than Michelangelo and more prolific than his older contemporary Leonardo. Although Raphael died at 37, his style of classicism was considered the goal of academic European painting until the mid-19th century. 

In this painting, with so much drama, Raphael shows his youth, love for painting and pleasure with the subject matter. Most of his paintings, during the rest of his career were commissions of biblical scenes - most memorable are his many Madonna and Child paintings and a few other works which refer to Greek Mythology. "St. George and the Dragon" is playful, dealing with the legend of a youthful male risking his life to save a beautiful young woman and her kingdom from a "dragon". Keep in mind this story is allegory which originated during the middle ages, a time of belief in elaborations of the truth, impossible to disprove. It would make a good plot for a motion picture today, now in 3-D of course.

(Text reference sources: "Master Paintings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Art";  Wikipedia. All photos were taken at the National Gallery of Art with permission, from the original painting of "St. George and the Dragon".)

It's Superbowl Week!
For game time, getting pizza delivery can be boring, so you should really try this chili !!!! It's great and will convince Beef lovers how great Turkey can be!

Super Bowl 
"Heavenly Turkey Chili"
(less than an hour in preparation and cook time)

1 Package of natural flavor, lean Ground Turkey (1.25 lbs)
1 Large Onion, diced
1 Green Bell Pepper, diced
2 Stalks of Celery, diced
5 Thick Cut strips of Bacon, (render out the drippings, dice the solids)
1 Can of Hot Chili Beans in sauce (15 oz, drained - reserve liquid)
2 Cans of Diced Tomatoes (14.5 oz each, drained - reserve liquid)
1  Rounded tsp of Steak Seasoning. any brand (ground steak seasonings usually include: peppercorns, dried garlic, sea salt, dried onion, seeds from coriander, dill & caraway)
1 Rounded tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
10 shakes of Original Tobasco Hot Sauce
1/2 cup of Organic Tomato Catsup
1/4 tsp of Liquid Smoke
1/4 tsp Salt & 1/4 tsp Black Pepper

In a large high walled skillet, cook the bacon to render out most of the fat, drain and reserve the solids, dice when cool. 

Place the ground turkey in the rendered bacon drippings, add the steak seasoning. Cook on top of the stove, chopping and stirring the meat until it has separated into small kernels - just until the last of the pink disappears. Pour cooked turkey into a bowl for later.

Pour in a little olive oil into the pan and saute the diced onions, pepper and celery stirring occasionally until they start to brown. 

Then add the drained tomatoes to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes, this will sweeten the tomatoes. 

Add the cooked turkey back into the mixture, plus add the beans and the (diced) bacon solids, Chili Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, Ground Cumin, Paprika, Ground Cinnamon, liquid smoke and 10 shakes of Tobasco Hot Sauce and mix completely. 

After combining, cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. 

Finally add the secret ingredient, the 1/2 cup of organic catsup, stir-in thoroughly and taste for seasoning. If needed add 1/4 tsp of both Salt & Pepper for taste. Also, if needed add the reserved tomato and bean liquid if too thick. Mix completely. 

Serve in individual bowls. (6+ servings)

This beautiful and simple TURKEY CHILI will make you want to give up the beef version forever and does not need any condiments - but if you insist - a dollop of sour cream is a great addition on top. 

(Source: original recipe © Jack Atkinson developed for

Until later,
ARTSnFOOD, is an online publication dedicated to "The Pursuit of Happiness, the Arts and Food." ™ All rights reserved. Concept, Original Art, Text & Photographs are © Copyright 2013 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. All gallery, museum, fair or festival photographs were taken with permission. Images © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.

Closely looking at Thomas Moran's "Green River Cliffs, Wyoming"

Thomas Moran (artist)
American, 1837 - 1926
Green River Cliffs, Wyoming, 1881
oil on canvas

25" x 62"


by artist Thomas Moran
A National Gallery of Art Special Exhibition
Up until June, 2013

In June 1871, Thomas Moran, a gifted young artist working in Philadelphia, boarded a train that would take him to the far reaches of the western frontier and change the course of his career. Just a few months earlier he had been asked to illustrate a magazine article describing a wondrous region in Wyoming called Yellowstone - rumored to contain steam-spewing geysers, boiling hot springs, and bubbling mud pots. Eager to be the first artist to record these astonishing natural wonders, Moran quickly made plans to travel west.

Framed size: 43" x 80" x 6"

Yellowstone was Moran's ultimate destination in the summer of 1871, but before he reached the land of geysers and hot springs, he stepped off the train in Green River, Wyoming and discovered a landscape unlike any he had ever seen. Rising above the dusty railroad yawn were towering cliffs, reduced by nature to their geologic essence. Captivated by the bands of color that centuries of wind and water had revealed, Moran completed the watercolors that would play a key role in the congressional decision to set aside the region as America's first national park. Over the years, however, the subject Moran returned to repeatedly was the western landscape he saw first - the magnificent cliffs of Green River, Wyoming.

Green river was a bustling railroad town in 1871. Three years earlier, Union Pacific construction crews had arrived intent on bridging the river. Their tent camp quickly became a boom town boasting a schoolhouse, hotel, and brewery. Yet none of these structures appears in Moran's Green River paintings, even the railroad is missing. (Photo by Andrew J. Russell - Wikipedia)

Moran focused on the dazzling colors of the sculpted cliffs and an equally colorful band of Indians are the focus. In a bravura display of artistic license, Moran erased the reality of advancing civilization, conjuring instead an imagined scene of a pre-industrial West that neither he nor anyone else could have seen in 1871. Ten years after his first trip west, in 1881, Moran completed "Green River Cliffs, Wyoming", the most stunning of all his Green River paintings.

Let's take a close look at our second painting this month "Green River, Wyoming", currently on display at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The geology of the the area is revealed in these eroded cliffs, so commonly associated with the Western United States.

On the right 1/3rd of the work is a beautiful depiction of Bristle Cone pines flourishing at the bottom of the cliffs and accented here by late afternoon light.

Almost home, the Indians on a hilltop overlooking their camp in the distance.
Moran captures the casual postures and personalities of the Indians and their horses as they chat and ride by the river, toward camp. Notice, there are no detailed facial features, just shapes.

A complex abstraction of heavily worked oil paint creates the landscape behind this Indian, as he follows the others up the hill. In this mini-painting, details of the horse, saddle, his clothes, headdress, hair, muscle tone of his arm and flowers among the tall grass are all present, yet quickly painted.

A masterful depiction of a lone horse, showing the influence of photography - with the legs cropped out of the frame, is painted at the bottom/center of the work.
Artist Thomas Moran
(East Hampton Public Library, New York)

Finally below, a detailed look at the large canvas in 1/3 segments. Notice the shifts of color and the abstracted shapes this landscape allowed the artist. 1881 is the same time period when Impressionism was in full bloom in Europe.

Left 1/3 of the canvas.

Center 1/3 of the canvas.

Right 1/3 of the canvas.
(Sources: All photos were taken of this artwork with permission -at the National Gallery of Art by Jack A. Atkinson. All reference information was provided by the the museum.) Note: there is no FOOD segment in this issue.

Until later,
ARTSnFOOD, is an online publication dedicated to "The Pursuit of Happiness, the Arts and Food." ™ All rights reserved. Concept, Original Art, Text & Photographs are © Copyright 2013 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. All gallery, museum, fair or festival photographs were taken with permission. Images © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Closely Looking at Rubens' "Daniel in the Lions' Den" + A Curly Endive, Roquefort Crumble & Crisp Warm Bacon Bits SALAD

"Daniel in the Lions' Den" by Peter Paul Rubens
(National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. - Flemish c.1613-1615, Oil on Canvas, 7 feet 4 1/4 inches by 10 feet 10 inches)
Peter Paul Rubens
Closely looking at the painting
"Daniel in the Lions' Den"
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

From time to time it is a pleasure to invite you to look at a painting with me. Like most museum visitors, I walk by the majority of the artworks giving the minimal 2.5 second glance at each piece before moving to the next, then a painting catches my interest. For this painting I look very deeply, investigating the surface, the under-painting and the preliminary drawing, the brush strokes or lack of brush strokes and the smaller paintings within the overall painting, checking-out every square inch of that painting. I can spend 10 or even 20 minutes taking in the details of a painting I find interesting. 

Sir Peter Paul Rubens
Self-portrait, 1623, National Gallery of Australia

Here we will take a close look at the large painting "Daniel in the Lions' Den" by the Flemish artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens. The artist's title for this work was "Daniel amidst many lions" 
(Painting size: 7' 4.25" by 10' 10". "Flemish" refers to Flanders which was a country made up of the NW part of what is now Belgium, plus some of SW Netherlands and some of Northern France. 

Rubens is most widely known for his portrayal of female beauty as fleshy and robust. The world has even adopted the term "Rubenesque" when referring to this type of female figure.

Daniel in the Lions' Den is a theological subject. According to the Old Testament, Daniel was purposely and falsely accused then thrown into a lions' den for not worshiping the Persian King, Darius. The unwilling king could not go against his own decree and said to Daniel: “May your God... rescue you!” The next morning and after the entire night of being locked-in with hungry lions, King Darius found Daniel safe and unharmed, without a scratch on him. Believing in Divine judgement, the king, removed Daniel from the den and the men who were his accusers where thrown in and quickly dispatched by the lions. Daniel is pictured in this painting as he prays, thanking God for his deliverance, after the stone over the entrance above him has been removed. 

If there is a visual prize in this painting, it is Peter Paul Rubens' fascination with the lions he often visited at the Royal Menagerie in Brussels - sketching and painting them from life and his personal observations and experience. Let's look closely at the personalities and postures of Rubens' lions and a detail of Daniel, the human focus of the painting, in a perilous circumstance.

This lion appears to be the dominant male of the pride, relaxed except for his face, which is aggressive and in-charge saying, "Don't Mess with Me!" 

The male, on the left, appears to be considering Daniel as breakfast, while the female, on the right, seems intent on making certain that does not happen.

The lioness shown from the back side, on the lower right of the painting, was not drawn from life, but Rubens used a small Paduan bronze statuette as the model. This lioness also seems to be trying to keep the more agitated male away from Daniel.

Many of the lions in the painting appear sleepy or asleep.

A lion sleeping in the background.

This skull deserves a closer look and may hold Rubens' hypothesis about how Daniel survived the night. There appears to be a glowing ember inside the eye socket of the skull, with heat and fumes emanating from the crack in the left temple. Question: "Were the lions sedated and put to sleep by a miraculous smoky haze?

The human bones in the lions' den
tell of lives lost.

This portait of a sleeping lion shows Rubens close observation of these animals from life.

Daniel is thanking God for keeping him safe through a frightful night surrounded by lions and by human remains from souls who were not so blessed. The lion in the foreground is the only animal in the painting 
with a look of immanent and dangerous intent on its face. The lion bearing his teeth, near Daniel's head, 
could be roaring but more likely it is yawning and stretching after waking up. 
Daniel's face is tilted back and up. This is a very difficult angle for an artist to paint a realistic face, but Rubens is masterful at the foreshortening. Daniel's whole body is tense down to his toes and his fingers are intertwined in a tight grip of praying hands. Painting intertwined fingers is another technically difficult feat for an artist. Look closely and see how confusing iintertwined fingers visually appear. 

Lions have long been considered the king of beasts, regal and powerful throughout European history. Rubens captures a sense of that power and romance in this face.

Rubens, who often worked in his studio with many assistants, did all of the preliminary sketches and all of the painting on the large canvas "Daniel in the Lion's Den" himself. The lions were all drawn from life, except the lioness on the lower right, which was borrowed from a bronze statuette. The pose for Daniel was also borrowed from an Italian painting.

The provenance (history of its ownership) of this painting is completely documented from Rubens' notes when he traded it for other art, through each owner and finally to the National Gallery.

Over the next couple of issues of ARTSnFOOD, I invite you along with me on my slow journey through a few paintings I saw on a recent trip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The National Gallery is a fabulous U.S. museum of masterworks and new contemporary art on the National Mall in D.C.

(Regarding Art Museums Today) A funny joke in the industry is a husband complaining to his wife: "If you stop and look at the art we are NEVER going to get out of here!" • As they say, Art is not Football when it comes to the general public, but sports are entertainment in the moment, and art delights us and tells society's story long after it is created. • I also get surveys from museums asking "Have you visited an art museum / 1 time in the past 6 months / 1 time in the past year / 1 time in the past 5 years / or / more than 5 years since your last museum visit?" This makes me smile! It's hard for me to comprehend visits to art museums less often than at least once a month. 

(Sources: the above photographic images were taken with permission from the original painting, photos © Copyright 2013 Jack A. Atkinson; information came from notes taken at the museum and facts gleaned from the guide book "Master Paintings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Art" and from wikipedia.)

FOOD: Salad
Curly Endive, Roquefort Crumbles & Crisp Warm Bacon w/ Vinaigrette

4 oz block of bacon, cut into cubes (should make 1 cup) 

4 oz curly endive, washed, dried and torn into bite sized pieces (approx. 6 cups)

4 oz of Roquefort cheese crumbled (should make 1 cup)

Home-made vinaigrette dressing

Salt & Pepper to taste

Place the bacon pieces in a large skillet and cook, stirring frequently over medium-high heat, just until it begins to render fat and starts to brown (4 to 5 minutes) 

In a large salad bowl combine the curly endive and crumbled Roquefort cheese. 
As soon as the bacon is cooked, remove it with a slotted spoon and sprinkle over the salad. Toss.

Add a few tablespoons of vinaigrette and toss again to coat the leaves. Season each serving with a small amount of salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Add a glass of wine and call this a meal!

Vinaigrette Dressing


2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
A grind of sea salt
A grind of black pepper

Combine vinegars, lemon juice and salt in a bottle and shake until the salt has dissolved. Add oil and pepper then shake until blended into an emulsion. Serve while blended or re-shake. (Will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.)

Until Later,

ARTSnFOOD, is an online publication dedicated to "The Pursuit of Happiness, the Arts and Food." ™ All rights reserved. Concept, Original Art, Text & Photographs are © Copyright 2013 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. All gallery, museum, fair or festival photographs were taken with permission. Images © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees