Tag Archives: art

The Merry Cemetery of Sarpanta, where death does not deprive you of the dignity of ordinary life, a first-rate portrait and complaints about your mother-in-law

I don’t like to talk about it, but there was a dark time in my life.  I mean, I’m not ashamed exactly–it’s not like I was beating puppies or something.  The truth is, I was portrait painter.  An earnest, hard-working, spectacularly unsuccessful portrait painter.  No need to cue what my grandma called “the world’s smallest violin playing the […]

Cimabue’s crucifix in Arezzo

We arrived in Arezzo at dusk and by the time we walked to the highest elevation of this medieval hill town night had fallen.  The interior of San Domenico, a Gothic church, was dimly lit so we slipped a euro in a pay light-box. Crucifix, Cimabue c 1268-71. San Domenico, Arezzo. Cimabue’s startling crucifix lit up above us.   Here was Jesus is […]

Romanesque frescoes in San Isidoro de León

The Chicago Public Library once had a book on Romanesque art I repeatedly checked out, renewed the maximum amount of times, and then immediately put on hold again.  I’d leave bookmarks inside of the artworks I planned to visit, and the book would usually return to me with my bookmarks intact.  One of the bookmarked […]

The jauntiness of Bilbao: Guggenheim Museum and caroling Basques

Bilbao is just right: budget friendly, full of lively contemporary architecture, a handsome old town, decent public transportation and of course a spectacular museum I’d really hate to be a pig in Spain.  This isn’t even a specialty store–just a regular grocery and your choice of hanging pig legs. The Zubizuri (that’s White Bridge in Basque) […]

Collegio del Cambio: Perugino’s fashionable frescoes in Perugia

It was a great plan, in theory.  We’d get up early in Arezzo, take a train to Perugia, stop in Perugia for a few hours to view Perugino’s frescoes and then continue by bus to Gubbio.  Here’s what happened: we took a train from Arezzo to Perugia, stopped in Perugia for a few hours, and […]

How to travel in winter

Around this time every year I open my email to find an inbox full of cheap airfare alerts–cheap winter flights to cold weather destinations.  I feel cocky seeing those cheap winter airfares.  And oh yes, smug.  Just for a minute or two, I indulge in contempt for snowbirds, for sun-worshiping zombies, for geezer cruisers.  While they’re flipping themselves […]

Bernini’s Saint Teresa: ecstasy made of marble

We’re all bombarded daily with urgent demands: buy now! renew now! click now! save the environment!  save your soul!  I too have a demand for you and while it won’t whiten your teeth, update the virus protection on your computer, or reward you with salacious celebrity gossip, it’s truly urgent: get yourself to Rome.  Walk rapidly, dodging Vespas with a […]

Art is alive in Pilsen

Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood is alive with art.  Murals are everywhere; sophisticated and well-designed murals, political murals, naively-drawn murals, misspelled murals, and entire houses covered with murals.  Pilsen smells fantastic—a combination of tortilla factory corn, fried dough, sugar and spicy street food.  Houses are adorable and oddly sunk below street level.  Spanish is spoken everywhere, guitarists […]

Caspar David Friedrich painting or The Infamous Blue Traveling Poncho?

This could be a post about an ugly travel poncho.  Or more likely, a tribute to the earnestly brooding Romantic landscapes of German painter Caspar David Friedrich.  However, I’d prefer this to be be a story of how an undignified rain coat can transform the experience of traveling in crappy weather from dreary to hilarious. So, is it The […]

In which St. Francis preaches to the birds, tames a wolf and jumps the shark

What saint could be more endearing than St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals?  St. Francis (1182 – 1226) grew up as a rich, fashionable boy in Assisi, but a religious epiphany turned him from a dandy to a monk.  He “married” poverty, founded the Franciscan order of friars, and was a hugely influential […]