Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament Round 1: Cozens v. Cragg!

John Robert Cozens
1752 - 1797


Tony Cragg
1949 -


Vote for the artist of your choice!  Votes go in the comments.  Commentary and links to additional work are welcome.  Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament Round 2: Cassatt v. Catena!

Mary Cassatt
1844 - 1926
American; worked in France

Defeated Andrea del Castagno in Round 1.


Vincenzo Catena
c.1480 - 1531

Beat American naturalist George Catlin in Round 1.


Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 1: Del Cossa v. Courbet!

Francesco Del Cossa
c.1435 - c.1478


Gustave Courbet
1819 - 1877


Vote for the artist of your choice!  Votes go in the comments.  Commentary and links to additional work are welcome.  Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Play-In Artist SubTournament: Phase 1, Flight 3

Phase One Rules:
  1. You may cast votes for up to four artists.  
    • One vote per artist per person.
  2. Since play-in artists were nominated by your peers in the IAT community, including myself, courteous and affirmative voting is in order
    • Which is to say, no baggin' on the aesthetic sensibilities of the nominators.
  3. Full rules, procedures, and anticipated timeline for the Play-In SubTournament are available on the Play-In SubTournament page, if I've gotten around to updating it with the recent revelations.

Phase 1, Flight 1 closes Sunday, September 23.
Phase 1, Flight 2 will be open for voting for... oh, another month and change.
Flight 3 will be open for approximately two months.

Mark Ryden
1963 -

Pieter Saenredam

Remedios Varo
1908 - 1963
Spanish; worked in Mexico

The Artist(s) of the Chauvet Cave
30,000 or more years ago

Alex Grey

Andrew Logan
1945 -

Geertgen tot Sint Jans
c. 1465 - c. 1495

Luis Royo
1954 -

Vote for up to fours artists! Votes go in the comments. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. This poll will be open for approximately two months past posting.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Autumn Sabbatical

For the next few weeks, I'll be travelling.  And not the way I usually do it, where I drive around on backroads until I find some coffee shop in some little town with wi-fi, where I hang out and write up a glib little article about Magnesium or something.  When I do that, you never even know I'm gone.

No, this is serious travelling. I will be putting myself in an environment so alien, so foreign, so cut off from the outside world, that there will not even be internet access as we know it.

(I should mention perhaps that Castle5000 will be occupied in my absence, and we don't really have that much of value anyway, and that I may or may not leave lethal man-traps.)

So, see you sometime in October.  Until then, it's Art Tournament business only!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 2: Carpaccio v. CarrĂ !

Vittore Carpaccio
died 1526

Beat modernist sculptor Sir Anthony Caro in a dust-up that went down to the last vote in Round 1. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!


Carlo CarrĂ 
1881 - 1966

Defeated 16th Century Italian Annibale Carracci by a landslide in Round 1.


Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Saint of the Month: St. Stephen! ...of Socrates and Stephen fame.

St. Stephen as he might have appeared if he was for
for some reason holding a doll's house.

St. Stephen 

AKA: n/a
Feast Day: Definitely September 17.

Really Existed? Hard to tell.
Timeframe: Hard to tell.
Place: Wales, England, or Turkey.

Credentials: By tradition.
Martyrdom: Unspecified.

Patron Saint of: n/a
Symbolism: n/a

The “Roman Martyrology” is the authoritative roster of saints, according to their saints' days, maintained by the Vatican. It is really just a list, with a very few details given for key figures in Christian history. Obviously it’s an important point of reference for the amateur hagiographer, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to get access to a current version that doesn’t require a paid subscription.

In the Martyrology as it was about 100 years ago, at any rate, was a reference to two saints “…in England, the holy martyrs Socrates and Stephen,” whose saints’ days were September 17. Of this pair, St. Stephen is our Saint of the Month.

Now, when Mrs.5000 suggested I start a Saint of the Month feature, it wasn’t my intention to focus on minor saints. Indeed, I picked St. Stephen for today to stay out of that rut – the St. Stephen that you usually hear about, after all, is a very important guy, the “protomartyr” or first saint, a figure right out of the Acts of the Apostles. What I hadn’t counted on is that Stephen is a very common name.  If I’d thought about it, I would have remembered that when “Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the Feast of Stephen” it was Christmastime (or to be more precise December 26 or 27, depending on whom you ask).

There are lots of St. Stephens, as it turns out. There are, among others, St. Stephen of Muret, St. Stephen of Mar Saba, St. Stephen of Obazine, St. Stephen of Surosh, St. Stephen the Anchorite, St. Stephen the Great, St. Stephen Harding, St. Stephen I, St. Stephen Theodore Cuenot, St. Stephen Vinh, St. Stephen Min Kuk-ka, and last month’s Saint of the Month, St. Stephen of Hungary. And out of all of these, perhaps none are as obscure as St. Stephen of St. Stephen and St. Socrates fame.

The ubiquitous Rev. Alban Butler, a towering figure among 18th century hagiographers, wrote that their names are illustrious in the British Martyrologies. They suffered during the persecution of Dioclesian. Many churches in Wales were formerly dedicated to their memory; and they are thought to have glorified God by their death in that part of Britain. That’s a little vague except for the churches in Wales part, yet if there were churches in Wales dedicated to Stephen and Socrates there sure aren’t any now. Rev. Butler gave three footnotes, one to the Roman Martyrology (quoted in full above), one to a 16th Century source that does not in fact mention either Stephen or Socrates (I checked!), and a third to a source that I have been unable to get my paws on. Based on the evidence at hand, though, “illustrious” would seem to be pushing the point.

Online saint sites divide into two camps, depending on where they swiped their content from. One set says that St. Stephen was “an early martyr venerated in England" and that "No other information has survived.” The other set, cribbing from the Wiki, says that Stephen and Socrates "are recorded in certain martyrologies as having been martyred in Britain. It has been conjectured by some that what may have happened was that 'in Britannia' was mistakenly written for 'in Bithynia.'"  Who’s doing the conjecturing? I don’t know. What’s Bithynia? Roughly, the northwest coast of Asian Turkey.

So in sum, St. Stephen, always associated with St. Socrates, is an official saint by tradition, but no one is really sure why. The pair may have experienced religious martyrdom in Wales, or England, or maybe Turkey. If there is anything more known about these guys, it has eluded my amateur internet researches.  I will try to go with somebody more famous again next month.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 1: Corot v. Correggio!

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
1796 - 1875


c.1489 - 1534


Vote for the artist of your choice!  Votes go in the comments.  Commentary and links to additional work are welcome.  Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Element of the Month: Francium!

September's Element of the Month:


Atomic Mass: 223 amu or thereabouts
Melting Point: 27 °C, theoretically
Boiling Point: 677 °C, theoretically

Francium, Element 87, is not one of the inherently fakey elements, although it is sometimes arrived at through fakey means. It is, however, a transitory mayfly of an element, coming in three flavors ("isotopes," if you will) with half-lives of between about five and twenty-two minutes. Atoms of it pop into being due to the natural decay of uranium or thorium, strut their brief hour on the stage, and then shed alpha or beta particles to become atoms of Radon or Actinium. At any given moment, all the Francium on Earth would be roughly equivalent to the mass of your thumb. You are probably never going to have any Francium in your Elements collection. Not for long, anyway.

Because of the uncanny cleverness of Dmitri Mendeleev and his periodic table, it was fairly clear for decades in advance that there would be an Element 87. Clever chemists and physicists went looking for it, using a variety of techniques. D.K. Dobroserdov, from Russia, thought he had discovered "Russium," but he was wrong. Fred Allison, from Virginia, thought he had discovered "Virginium," but he was wrong too. Horia Hulubei, from (then) Moldavia, thought he had discovered "Moldavium," and might well have been right. But it is Marguerite Perey, from France, whom most referees credit with scoring the first unambiguous sighting of "Catium," in 1939. People thought that "Catium" sounded silly, though, so Perey's discovery got renamed to honor her country, even though there already was an Element (Gallium) with a name that honored her country.

If you imagine the mass of your thumb being spread more or less evenly throughout the entire planet, you will realize that there aren't any major concentrations of Francium around. Amounts of up to a couple hundred thousand atoms have been briefly synthesized, but there has never been enough in one place for anyone to know for sure, for instance, what it looks like. The odds are, as regular readers would expect, that it would be a silvery metal.

I am interested to see that a major open-source online reference says (as of this writing) that the extreme heat of decay would immediately vaporize any viewable quantity of Francium. This opinion goes a long way towards illuminating last months' speculations regarding the hypothetical "pound of Bohrium." (See Element of the Month: Bohrium! and discussion in comments)

The Centerfold!

An image of the glow produced by 200,000 sythetic Francium atoms.
There's an minor internet meme out there about how you can get a big explosion by tossing a few grams of Francium into water. Having got this far, however, we can see the essential silliness of this idea: regardless of the theoretical truth of the assertion (fairly low, I think) it is a non sequitor: there's no such thing as a few grams of Francium, and if there were you'd be in serious trouble long before you got the bucket of water ready.

Commercial applications for Francium are, at present, considered quite limited within the human community.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Wednesday Post

A Message from Willi Baumeister
The 20th Century German bids farewell to the Infinite Art Tournament.

The West German postal service celebrates Baumeister's 100th Birthday
The established order is the symmetrical. The symmetrical composition of a printed page ... is nothing other than the decorating of a facade. The energy distribution of this composition distributes energies and tensions to both sides. ... This system does not provide a beginning and entrance for the eye. ... This composition in no way complies with reading. ... The introduction of the eye into the absolute planar system of the printed page can only take place by shifting the emphasis and, namely, after the beginning to. ... the upper left. The richly decorated initials of old handwriting were functional and, for that reason, correct.        --Willi Baumeister

"Early on Willi Baumeister caused a stir as a typographer and commercial designer. In the 1920s and early 1930s, he contributed a great deal to the development of typography and commercial art in Germany and Europe, not only though his practical works, but also through his theoretical writings. These can be traced throughout three and a half decades of his work....

Directly after his return from World War I he made a name for himself not only as a painter, but also as a typographer, in addition to working as a stage designer for Stuttgart theaters, wall designer, textile and interior designer, even as a color designer of dance cafes and house exteriors. In 1948 he wrote his friend and biographer Eduardo Westerdahl: 'I always had two activities, 1. typography, poster, stage, textile designs, and so on, 2. fine art with which I could consistently make modern art without compromises or concessions.'  Baumeister considered it important to not pit commercial art and the High Arts against each other. Up to the end he also encouraged his students to abolish the old tension between free and applied Art."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Round Two: Gentile Bellini v. Bassano!

Gentile Bellini
c.1429 - 1507

Lost to Max Beckmann in Round 1.
Defeated Willi Baumeister in Left Bracket First-Round Elimination by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!


Jacopo Bassano
1510 - 1592

Defeated Pompeo Batoni in Round 1.
Lost badly to Jean-Michel Basquiat in Round 2.


Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting, but likely much longer.