The Story of The Elgin Marbles At The British Museum

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

The remaining part of a sculpture from the west pediment of the Parthenon. 

Around 490 BCE, on the peak of the Acropolis, Athenians began building a temple to Athena Parthenos. It was unfinished when the Persians sacked Athens soon after, and then in 438 BCE was completed by Pericles as a temple to the goddess Athena. No expense was spared — even the roof was covered in the finest white marble rather than the usual terra cotta tiles. 

Fast forward to when British colonization is at its peak...

At the beginning of the 19th century, Thomas Bruce, the British Earl of Elgin (hence the reason they are now called "Elgin" marbles and not Parthenon marbles) and ambassador to Constantinople, acquired most of the surviving sculpture from the Parthenon which was being used as a military base at the time.

In 1801, he shipped it back to decorate a lavish mansion for him and his wife, but his wife had left him by the time he got home and the marbles were part of a financial dispute. He ended up selling them at an incredibly low price.

The room that holds the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum. 

The remaining sculpture, that was not lost or too damaged, is now in the British Museum in a room created specifically to display the marbles that portray scenes from the life of the goddess Athena. 

A close up of one of the sculptures from the west pediment

The west pediment illustrated the contest that Athena won over Poseidon for rule over the Athenians, and the other pediment shows the birth of Athena, fully grown, from the brow of her father, Zeus. 

The remaining sculptures from the east pediment. The gap in the middle represents a missing sculpture.

The female form is expertly rendered in the marble under the folds of fabric. It's hard to believe that it is cold marble and not actual clothing that covers the headless figures. 

Like many countries around the world that were the subjects of British colonialism and lost many of their historic objects to Western museums, the Greek government continues to try (so far unsuccessfully) to have the marbles returned.

You can visit the Elgin Marbles in person for FREE at the British Museum in London

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The Watch List: Tim's Vermeer (or, how Vermeer created photo-realistic paintings before photography was invented)

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Believe it or not, I am not usually a fan of documentaries. I tend to read non-fiction and watch fiction, so when I do sit on the couch in front of the TV, it's usually for a drama, rom-com, or hilarious sitcom.

But, recently, I have jumped on the documentary train, and have discovered some pretty fascinating stuff.

Tim's Vermeer is a film created by Penn and Teller (yes, the Penn and Teller), that follows the journey of multi-millionaire entrepreneur and inventor Tim Jenison as he spends five years figuring out how the 17th century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer created photo-realistic paintings before photography was invented.


The fact is, Vermeer captured colours and light in his paintings that are unseeable by the human eye. They are only elements that we can see once they have been captured in a photograph. 

There have been books written by scholars suggesting that Vermeer used lenses or a camera obscura to create his paintings, but there has been very little practical testing of this theory. So, Tim decided to try it out.

What he discovered, however, is that though you can project an image on a wall or canvas using a camera obscura, you can't match colour to the projected image.

So, how did Vermeer manage to paint with such perfect colours? 

The documentary goes on to show how with a combination of a mirror and lenses, and a whole lot of patience, even the most untrained painter can create a Vermeer.

It is incredible what Tim achieves from his research and hard work, and a willingness to believe that art and science are not mutually exclusive, but can be combined (as the great masters used to) to create something truly extraordinary.

Check out the preview below:

10 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit The Tate Modern In London

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,

Bust of A Woman, 1944     Pablo Picasso

Located on the south bank of The River Thames in London, the Tate Modern is the world's most popular contemporary art gallery (more than five million visitors stroll through its doors every year!), and one of the top sights in London.

Study for Homage to the Square, 1963-1964     Josef Albers

The building, that houses the more than 60,000 works on constant rotation, was once a power station that was transformed by award-winning Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron.

It is now a contemporary, light-filled space that boasts incredible views of the river and St. Paul's Cathedral. (For some great photo ops — and great coffee — head to the coffee bar on the 4th floor). 

From Line, 1978      Lee Ufan

One of the best parts about visiting galleries and museums in the UK is that admission is FREE! Yup, you read that right. There are often special exhibits that require a fee, but you will see more than you can possibly absorb with all the free art on display, so don't fret about having to shell out extra cash if you don't want to! 

If you have visited my website before, you know how much I LOVE taking photos of art when I am in Europe, and as you can imagine, I have hundreds of photos from my most recent visit to the Tate. Here are some of my favourite shots.   

Otaiti, 1930 (detail)      Francis Picabia 

Large Split Relief No. 34/4/74, 1964-5      Sergio Camargo

Fascism–The Most Evil Enemy of Women. Everyone To The Struggle Against Fascism!, 1941      Nina Vatolina

Autumn, 1948      Henri Laurens

I aspire to ripeness of form. I should like to succeed in making it so full, so juicy that nothing could be added.
— Henri Laurens

Figure (Woman), 1956-7      Magda Cordell

Planning your trip:

The Tate Modern is located on the south side of the river at Bankside. The website has VERY detailed instructions on how to get to the gallery using various forms of transport. Admission is FREE, except for special exhibitions, and the gallery is open Sun to Thu from 10 am to 6 pm, and Fri and Sat from 10 am to 10 pm. 


The Tate Modern in London

Eight Photos Showcasing 90 Years Of Art In Alberta, Canada

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Numerous, 2013      Faye HeavyShield

The Art Gallery of Alberta is one of the oldest art galleries in Canada and celebrated its 90th birthday with the exhibit 90x90 featuring 90 pieces by 90 different Albertan artists created between 1924-2014. 

I was lucky enough to preview the exhibit and was completely blown away by the work on display.

The show was an eclectic mix of sculpture, installation pieces, painting, portraiture, and everything in between — an incredibly diverse showing of the fantastic creative talent that lives in Canada.

Here are a few shots of some of the synamic and diversepieces. 

Errol and Alice, 1983      John Brocke

Lubicon, 1988      Alex Janvier, R.C.A., C.M.

John Will, 1992-2009      John Will

Quilt, 1997      Shelly Ouellet

Large Pink Head #2, 1991      Chris Cran

Studies of Nature I, 1994/2014      Laura Vickerson

Camouflage Painting 1, 2002      Arlene Stamp, R.C.A.

Against All Odds: Artists Tarzan and Arab Creating Art on the Gaza Strip

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

If you think you've met a struggling artist before, think again.

Tarzan and Arab (real names Ahmed and Mohamed Abu Nasser) are 25-year-old twins who were born and raised in Gaza City where theatres don't exist (the last one was destroyed a year before they were born), and artistic expression (of ANY kind) is considered to be pornographic.

Despite the odds stacked against them (and thanks to their amazing father who was a former teacher), these twins make art and films anyway. Using whatever they can get their hands on — according to the curator of their international exhibit, they have used ketchup and crushed herbs to create pigments for their pieces — their work is vivid, colourful, dreamlike and presents a utopian version of Gaza rather than the violent, war-torn city that exists in reality. Despite the tight restrictions and horrors of war, the men love their home and consider it to be paradise (according to curator Kelty Pelechytik). 

Today you’re going to struggle, tomorrow you’re going to struggle, the next day you’re going to struggle, but eventually you won’t. It is art for art’s sake. If you do work that satisfies you, you don’t need anything else. It is all worth it for when you see someone in the street and they say. ‘Oh, I saw your movie.’ This keeps you going forward.
— Arab Abu Nasser

Their work has been shown in exhibitions around the world (New York, London, Dubai to name a few), and they have won awards and international recognition for their creations.

They have only been able to travel with their work a handful of times (mostly secretly), and in 2012 were forced to flee Gaza because their family was receiving death threats from fundamentalists who disapproved of their work. They now live as refugees in Jordan, without permission to travel, unable to see their family, yet still creating art.

In 2012 they were named among the 50 Most Influential People in the Middle East by Al-Monitor

I got to see their FIRST solo exhibition, This Is Our Land, at the Latitude 53 Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. All of the paintings displayed were for sale, priced from  $1100-$3000, and ALL proceeds went directly to the artists.

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