Wednesday, October 31, 2012

, Yayoi Kusama's Pumpkins

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! The pumpkins shown below are spectacular, unique versions by a fascinating artist, Yayoi Kusama.    

Reach up to the Universe, Dotted Pumpkin
Pumpkins are an important motif in Yayoi Kusama’s work, a fascination that extends from the artist’s youth during the years of World War Two. While Japan’s food supplies were generally disrupted, Kusama’s hometown of Matsumoto was relatively untouched by the conflict and local produce was in abundance. The family business was in wholesaling, and the Kusama storehouse was always full of pumpkins. Despite having consumed the vegetable to the point of nausea at the time, Kusama has maintained an attachment to its irregular, bulbous form.
Pumpkins first appeared in paintings and drawings executed during her studies of nihonga (traditional Japanese painting) at Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts. Their unpredictable, organic shapes are reminiscent of the automatic drawing technique of late Surrealism, the influence of which can be found in Kusama’s early work, and indeed across much Japanese avant-garde art of the early 1950s. Pumpkins would find renewed importance in Kusama’s practice as it expanded in scale in the 1980s and 1990s. Notable examples include her installation Mirror Room (Pumpkin) 1991, which simulated a vast field of the gourds, and was a component of her showing at the 1993 Venice Biennale; as well as giant outdoor sculptures, commissioned for Naoshima Island in Japan’s inland sea and for the Fukuoka Prefectural Museum of Art in 1994.
The significance of pumpkins to Kusama’s later work lies in the artist’s use of themes and motifs from her childhood. Formally, they are consistent with the blending of the manufactured and the organic in her sculptural work, while their random, almost mutant, appearance highlights the degree to which the natural world appears as strange and uncanny in modern culture. At the same time, they bear connotations of growth and fertility, and the sense that when a pumpkin swells to abnormal size it is a thing of wonder, a gift of the earth able to feed whole communities.
Her ‘Reach Up to the Universe, Dotted Pumpkin’ works appear as aluminium sculptures within a mirror installation, a technique Kusama pioneered in the early 1960s to solve the problem of how to visually represent the concepts of repetition, accumulation and infinity, concepts which are so important to her work. On one hand, Kusama’s mirror rooms open her self-contained, self-focused practice up to the world; on the other, they draw the world into the work. Here, this game of dualities is played out in a room with alternating black and orange walls, dotted with convex mirrors that replicate the gleaming, perforated exteriors and monochromatic interiors of the two over sized aluminium pumpkins.
Installation view of Reach Up to the Universe, Dotted Pumpkin 2011 as part of ‘Yayoi Kusama: Look Now, See Forever’, Gallery of Modern Art, 2011 / © Yayoi Kusama, Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc. / Photograph: Mark Sherwood

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Your Favorite Color Poll

To divide a crowd into smaller groups, try asking folks to gather with others with the same favorite color. The following is by Susan M. Heathfield, a guide on

 In a team building exercise I have used for years, participants are asked to name their favorite color. Then, they are asked to list words that describe their favorite color.
The consistently most popular color selected has been blue. (This is the universal favorite-BL) The second most popular color has been red. Blue words have included sky, serene, and calming. Red words have included exciting, daring, bright, and noticeable.
My poll below is showing different results than I have experienced in my team building activities.
My personal favorite color is purple. Words that I use to describe purple are: twilight, richness, splendor, wisdom, and stillness. Purple seems to be one of your favorites, too.'s Psychology Guide, Kendra Cherry, has written about The Psychology of Color and describes the meanings of colors. Scroll all the way down her article to find links to the meanings of the various colors. (You may want to change the shade of your office or car to better fit your personality or mood.)
What is your favorite color and what are words you would use to describe it?
Poll: What Is Your Favorite Color? Please share the words you'd use to describe your color in Comments.
I would love to know your favorite color. Leave it in the Comments section which follows this post. Add what that color brings to your mind.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Francisco de Paula Juan Nepamunceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruez y Picasso was born October 25, 1881. When he was born the midwife thought he was stillborn and left him on a table while she began to attend to his mother. His uncle saved his life by blowing smoke into his face. Tiny Pablo "grimaced and created a bellow of fury."

Picasso, was singular in the art world. Not only did he manage to become universally famous in his own lifetime, he was the first artist to successfully use mass media to further his name (and business empire). He also inspired or, in the notable case of Cubism, invented, nearly every art movement in the twentieth century.
Movement, Style, School or Period:
Several, but best known for (co-)inventing Cubism
Date and Place of Birth:
October 25, 1881, Málaga, Spain
Early Life:
Picasso's father, fortuitously, was an art teacher who quickly realized he had a boy genius on his hands and taught his son everything he knew. At the tender age of 14, Picasso passed the entrance exam to the Barcelona School of Fine Arts - in just one day. By the early 1900s, Picasso had moved to Paris, the "capital of the arts" and found friends in Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and George Braque, and a burgeoning reputation as a painter of note.
Body of Work:Before, and shortly after, moving to Paris, Picasso's painting was in its "Blue Period" (1900-1904),

which eventually gave way to his "Rose Period" (1905-1906).

It wasn't until 1907, though, that Picasso really raised a commotion in the art world. His painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon marked the beginning of Cubism.

Having caused such a stir, Picasso spent the next fifteen years seeing what, exactly, could be done with Cubism (such as putting paper and bits of string in a painting, thus inventing the collage). The Three Musicians (1921), pretty much summed up Cubism for Picasso.

For the rest of his days, no one style could maintain a hold on Picasso. In fact, he was known to use two or more different styles, side by side, within a single painting. One notable exception is his Surrealistic painting Guernica (1937), arguably one of the greatest pieces of social protest ever created.

Picasso lived long and, indeed, prospered. He grew fabulously wealthy from his phenomenal output (including erotically themed ceramics), took up with younger and younger women, entertained the world with his outspoken remarks, and painted almost right up until he died at the age of 91.
Date and Place of Death:
April 8, 1973, Mougins, France

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The History of Glass

Glass has existed for millions of years. Whenever natural events involving super high temperatures -volcanic activity, lightning strikes, or the impact of meteorites- cause certain type of rocks to melt, fuse, and then cool rapidly, glass is formed. Fossil evidence shows that Stone Age humans used this natural glass to make tools, such as spearheads, and cutting instruments, as far back as 9,000 years ago. (Better dating techniques may eventually push that date back much further.) Obsidian, the shiny black glass formed when lava cools quickly (as when flowing into water), was widely used by ancient people for these purposes.

moldavite(Image credit: H. Raab)
After thousands of years of using naturally-formed glass, humans finally discovered how to make it -probably by accident. The Roman historian Pliny wrote in A.D. 77 that Phoenician sailors places "stones of soda ash" into a fire (presumably to rest their posts on) on a sandy beach. They later found a "hard smooth stone" in the ashes. That's one possible scenario, given that sand, soda ash (sodium carbonate) , and heat are all ingredients for making glass. Another possibility is that potters inadvertently let some sand drift into their kilns, where it stuck to the wet clay, accidentally creating a hard, smooth glaze on their pottery when the baking was done.

However glassmaking was first discovered, historians agree that it happened about 6,000 years ago. The story of glassmaking after that is one of continuous technological change: refining the recipe to create new types of glass, learning to shape it into new forms, and finding new and better uses for it.


The first known methods used for shaping molten glass into objects were drawing and casting.

* Glass drawing. A metal hook is used to pull molten glass out of a tank while it is a very thick, red-hot liquid. In this state the glass can be drawn -much like taffy- into long, thin strands, which are allowed to harden into rods or are cut into decorative beads while still soft.

* Glass Casting. Molten glass is poured into a form and allowed to harden. The earliest glass molds were probably made out of sand.

casting(Image credit: Flickr user Tracy Lee)
These methods are believed to have been first used by Sumerians in ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq and Syria) more than 5,000 years ago. Glass beads and simple cast pieces dating to approximately 3,500 B.S. have been found in the region, and glassmaking instruction have even been discovered in ancient Sumerian texts. This new technology was passed around in trade routes to neighboring societies, and over the next 2,000 years, simple glassmaking spread across Mesopotamia and the Middle East.


The next big leap for glassmaking was using it to make containers. Around 1500 B.C., Egyptian glassmakers discovered that they could dip solid cylinders of silica paste (made of crushed sand and water) into molten glass. They allowed the glass to harden and then broke the core out -thus making the first known glass containers. The method was improved by pouring molten glass over compacted sand forms, and later by another technique, known as glass pressing: molten glass was poured into a mold, and another mold was pressed down into it. (This is till how many bottles are made today, but the process is done mechanically.)

A huge improvement over wood or clay containers, glass was put to many uses: as bottles for perfumes, dyes, and cosmetics; or as containers for carrying and preserving food and beverages such as honey or wine.

glass blowing(Image credit: Flickr user Ola Erik Blæsterdalen)
Around 30 B.C., craftsmen in Phoenicia (Lebanon and Syria) discovered that if they blew through a hollow metal tube into a lump of molten glass, it wold inflate and take shape. Glassmaking would never be the same. It quickly changed from the limited use of crude molds to the seemingly infinite possibilities of glassblowing. Craftsmen could now produce a greater variety of wares for a greater variety of uses. And they could do it faster, easier, and cheaper than ever before.

At the time, Phoenicia was part of the Roman Empire. The Romans embraced the new technology and over the next several centuries spread it throughout their empire, including the Middle East, North Africa, and almost the whole of Europe. Glassblowing would remain the dominant way of making glass in these regions for the next 2,000 years.

glass(Image credit: David Patchen)
Certain qualities of glass -color, transparency, and heat resistance, to name a few- are determined by the ingredients that are mixed with the silica. Through experimentation, these recipes gradually improved, and around A.D. 100 in Alexandria, Egypt, manganese oxide, a commonly-found mineral, was added to the mix. Result: a formula for nearly transparent glass. This soon led to the use of glass for windows (although only in the most important buildings in the most important cities, like Rome and Alexandria). Early windows were usually cast, but some may have been made from rolled glass: modern glass poured on a flat surface and rolled out like dough. Either way, the first glass windows were thick, cloudy, and uneven -but they let in light and kept the weather out.

The fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century marked the beginning of the Dark Ages in Europe and a near-halt in the progress of glassmaking. But by the seventh century, new Muslim empires began to flourish in the Asia and Africa. Over the next several centuries, Arab artisans, especially those from Syria, became the world's premiere glassmakers. They made huge advances in cutting, engraving, and coloring techniques, as well as inventing ways to paint, enamel, and gild glass. Intricately decorated, multicolored, gilded glass pieces from this era -especially vases in a wide variety of shapes- have been found in all parts of the Arab world. Even after dominance in the trade would shift back to Europe, European glassmakers were greatly influenced by the artistic and scientific advances of their Arab counterparts.


(Image credit: PHDCOM)
Nobody knows exactly when glassmaking began in Venice, but by 1224 the city's glassmakers had already formed a guild to protect their trade. By 1291 there were so many Venetian glassmakers that their furnaces were causing fires all over the city, which prompted the city council to move them all to the nearby island of Murano. This actually helped the guilds -they were better able to hide their advances from competitors. By the 14th century Venetian glassmakers were the world leaders in all aspects of the craft, including mastering the ingredients for making colored glass. For instance, the right amount of cobalt resulted in deep blue glass; manganese made yellow or purple. One of their more significant achievements was the development of the clearest glass at that time, cristallo. And that led to the first glass lenses, developed in the Netherlands in 1590, which would eventually lead to the invention of eyeglasses, the telescope, and the microscope.


As with many other crafts, the change to factory-made, mass-produced glass meant a fatal blow to an artisan's craft that had been practiced for thousands of years, but it also meant great leaps forward in quality.

* In 1820 a mechanical process of bottle production was introduced in the United States, greatly increasing the public's familiarity with the use of glass.

* In 1876 John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb started Bausch and Lomb in Rochester, New York. They developed and refined many types of lenses for use in microscopes, eyeglasses, and magnifiers.

* In 1915 Corning Glass made the first heat-resistant glass for cookware, calling it Pyrex, from pyro, the Greek word for "fire."

* In 1919 Henry Ford borrowed from a French invention, putting two layers of glass together with a very thin layer of cellulose in between. The resulting two-ply sheet was transparent and shatterproof. Ford ordered this "safety glass" put on all his cars. (Safety glass is made basically the same way today.)
bulbs(Image credit: Ulfbastel)
* In 1926 Corning developed the "399" or "Ribbon" machine to make light bulbs. It was soon capable of making 400,000 bulbs a day, more than five times the amount made by previous machines -which made light bulbs affordable for ordinary households.

* In 1959 Britain's Alistair Pilkington invented the "float process" for making sheet glass. A sheet of molten glass is drawn from a tank, then floated over the surface of a tank of molten tin and allowed to cool. This results in the smooth, lustrous, and consistent finish that consumers now expect -and take for granted- in windows. Nearly all sheet glass made today uses the float process.

* In 1970 Corning developed a workable silica optical fiber, an idea that had been around for decades. Used mostly for data transmission, this breakthrough jump-started the "fiber-optic" age.
fiber optics(Image credit: Flickr user John Adams)


What's next? A fairly recent development: "smart glass," or glass coated with different substances that make it react to outside stimuli. You've probably seen photochromic glass -glass that responds to light- in self-darkening sunglasses. Thermochromic glass does the same thing in response to heat, and electrochromic, the most promising, responds to electricity; a flick of the switch can change the opaqueness of the glass or how it reflects the light. Other techniques can even change the color of glass.

The science of glassmaking continues to advance. New methods are being discovered to produce glass faster and better; more uses for it are being found in computers, medical devices, and communications, to name a few. Thousands of years have passed since the discovery of that strange stone in the ashes of a fire. Who knows what uses the future holds for that simple but elegant substance -glass.

The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Fast-Acting Long-Lasting Bathroom Reader.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Colors Signify Diseases

"Remember color crayons? Close your eyes and imagine opening a fresh box. No, seriously. Go ahead and do it. I promise it will come back to you. Can't you just smell those fresh Crayolas? Remember the original eight colors? They were red, yellow, black, brown, green, blue, orange and violet. Give me a box of those crayons and coloring book -- or even a blank piece of paper -- and I could keep myself occupied for hours.
Every once in a while my mama would spring for one of the larger boxes that had silver and gray and turquoise and yellow green and lavender and forest green and colors I didn't recognize. I enjoyed trying to match the colors I encountered in real life with those I found in my 64-count box of Crayola crayons. Of course the crayons didn't stay in pristine condition for long and they didn't stay in the original box for long.
My sister and I would use those crayons up. It didn't take long for them to become so short that we had to peel the paper away to reveal more wax and then the official names -- like magenta and sepia and mulberry -- were lost to us forever. We had some spirited arguments over questions like, did you color Mickey Mouse's shirt sea green or pine green or periwinkle. The one Crayola color I never used was plain old pink. I left that one to my sister because everybody knew pink was a girl's color.
I've worn pink every day this week, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My lovely wife, Lisa, and I have been breast cancer awareness advocates for a long time now. Together we have walked hundreds of miles and raised thousands of dollars for breast cancer research. For a long time the "Think Pink" campaign was the only one I was particularly aware of. Over the past couple of years, however, I have become aware that there is a whole rainbow of cancer awareness colors out there -- or an entire Crayola box full -- and each is extremely important and deserves our attention.
In the U.S. this year there will be 227,000 new cases of breast cancer. That is more than 600 per day. I can now say that I know the fear that goes through each person's mind when they are first diagnosed, and despite the great strides that medical science is making, we will lose almost 40,000 of those battles this year, so we do, indeed, need to continue to think pink.
There are a few other colors we can pay attention to, also.  I also learned that orange is the color of the leukemia awareness ribbon. 
The color for heart disease is red and I was well-fixed to support folks by wearing red.
I'm not a fan of yellow, either, but that is the color of bone cancer, and if I need to wear a yellow ribbon to show support for those who are suffering from that disease, I would do so gladly.
Light blue is the color for prostate cancer awareness. I can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about prostate cancer -- except how it feels to beat it -- and I am working on that as hard as I possibly can.
Purple is for colon cancer -- as well as many other maladies -- and periwinkle is for stomach and esophageal cancer. I am close to people who have both right now.
Gray -- as in gray matter, I suppose -- is for brain cancer.
Green is for kidney cancer.
 Violet is for Hodgkin's lymphoma and gold is for childhood cancer. Silver is the color for ovarian cancer and there are many other ribbons for many other maladies and if I have left yours out of the list, I apologize.
There is one flag, however, that I will never raise concerning cancer. I will never raise the white flag. I will never give up, and neither should you. In the words of Churchill, "We must never give up; we must never give up. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up."
Darrell Huckaby is an educator and author.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Creating in a Polka Dot World

Those of you who know me well are aware that I like polka dots. It has not become an obsession, but after looking at works by this amazing 83 year old Japanese artist, I may begin allowing some dots to dance across my art soon. Please stop me if I start painting dots on my pets!

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Japanese avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama inspired, obsessed and passionate about polka dots

In this 1967 photo released by Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc., Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama poses with a horse in a happening titled "Horse Play" in Woodstock, New York. Kusama's signature splash of dots has now arrived in the realm of fashion in a new collection from French luxury brand Louis Vuitton - bags, sunglasses, shoes and coats. The latest Kusama collection is showcased at its boutiques around the world, including New York, Paris, Tokyo and Singapore, sometimes with replica dolls of Kusama. AP Photo/Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.

By: Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer
TOKYO (AP).- Polka dots are Japanese avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama's
lifelong inspiration, obsession and passion.

And so they're everywhere — not only on canvases but on installations shaped
 like gnarled tentacles  and over sized yellow pumpkins. As part of her retro-
spective on exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York,
 they also sparkle as "firefly" light bulbs reflected on water and mirrors.

Kusama's signature splash of dots has now arrived in the realm of fashion
 in a new collection from French luxury brand Louis Vuitton — bags,
sunglasses, shoes and coats.

"Polka dots are fabulous," Kusama said in a recent interview with The
Associated Press, looking much  younger than her 83 years in a bright red wig,
 a polka dot dress she designed herself and one of the  new Louis Vuitton
polka dot scarves.

Dots aside, Kusama cuts an odd figure for the fashion world. She has lived
 in a psychiatric institution for decades, battling demons that feed her art.

Still, in her Tokyo studio, filled with wall-sized paintings throbbing with her
 repetitive dots, Kusama said the collaboration was a natural, developed from
 her friendship with Louis Vuitton  creative director Marc Jacobs.

Louis Vuitton had already scored success 10 years ago by collaborating
on a bag line with another  Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami. The latest
Kusama collection is showcased at its boutiques around  the world,
including New York, Paris, Tokyo and Singapore, sometimes with replica
 dolls of Kusama.

"The polka dots cover the products infinitely," said Louis Vuitton, which
racks up 24 billion euros  ($29 billion) in annual revenue, a significant portion
in Japan. "No middle, no beginning and no end."

Dots started popping up in Kusama's work more than 50 years ago, from her
 early days as a pioneer Japanese woman venturing abroad.

Like most middle-class families in Japan those days, her parents, who ran
a flower nursery, were  eager to simply get her married. They wanted to
buy her kimonos, not paints and brushes. She  knew she had to get away.
And she chose America.

Dots may be fashionable today. But when Kusama arrived in New York in
1958, the fad was "action painting," characterized by dribbles, swooshes
and smears, not dots. She suffered years of poverty and obscurity. But
she kept painting the dots.

She put circles of paper on people's bodies, and once a horse, in "happenings"
and in anti-war performances  in the late 1960s, (see b/w photo
above)  which got some people arrested for obscenity but
 helped get media attention for  her art. While in New York, she befriended
 artists like Andy Warhol, Georgia O'Keefe and Joseph Cornell, who praised
 her innovative style.

In 2008, Christie's auctioned her work for $5.8 million. Her retrospective
at the Whitney Museum was previously at the Centre Pompidou in Paris
and Tate Modern in London. Earlier this month, a  major exhibition
 "Eternity of Eternal Eternity" opened in her home town of Matsumoto,
Nagano  prefecture, complete with polka-dot shuttle buses.

"I've always been amazed at Kusama's ability to pick up on and meld
current trends in thoroughly original ways," said Lynn Zelevansky,
Carnegie Museum of Art director. 

Dots had a rather sad beginning for Kusama. Since her childhood, she
had recurring hallucinations. A portrait of her mother that she drew when
 she was 10 years old shows a forlorn face covered with  spots. Immersing
herself in art was a way of overcoming her fears and hallucinations.

Since her return to Japan nearly 40 years ago, Kusama has lived in a
psychiatric hospital and remains  on medication to prevent depression
 and suicidal drives. But she commutes daily to her studio and
works viciously on her paintings.

Kusama, who has also made films and published several novels,
acknowledged she doesn't know  where she gets her ideas. She just picks
 up her brush and starts drawing.

The works are triumphant, humorous celebrations of potential, vulnerability
 and defiance — like Kusama herself, who at one moment, declares herself
 "an artistic revolutionary," and then, the next, mumbles: "I am so afraid,
all the time, of everything."

Her latest project is an ambitious series of paintings with whimsical motifs
such as triangles and swirls, along with her trademark dots, in vibrant,
almost fluorescent colors.

As Kusama worked on No. 196 in the series, the look of concentration
was childlike yet fierce  as she painted red dots inside white dots, one by one.

Kusama's sculpture, "Pumpkin" pictured below
shows its scale and the artist in costume seated
to the right of her creation. (I plan to decorate a
 pumpkin  this year with polka dots, just not this

"I want to create a thousand paintings, maybe two thousand paintings,
as many as I can draw," she said. "I will keep painting until I die."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Caravaggio, Part II

Despite Caravaggio's success, his life never stayed calm. He insisted on wearing a fashionably long rapier even though carrying a sword was forbidden to commoners. His life was filled with brawls over prostitutes and squabbles over artistic ability. His patron continued to defend him until he murdered Ranuccio Tommasoni. The two quarreled over the outcome of a tennis match. In a brawl involving a dozen people, Ranuccio was killed and Caravaggio wounded. He was smuggled out of town by his friends. In absentia, he was convicted of murder and the subsequent death penalty. There was a price on his head in Rome.

The talented Caravaggio headed for Naples, outside papal territory and near the Marchesa di Caravaggio, who remembered him from his Lombardy days. The Neapolitan society welcomed and treated him as a visiting celebrity rather than a fugitive. He should have stayed there.

He set off for the island of Malta, famous for its intrepid knights. This order of warrior monks defended the Mediterranean with dedication to chastity, obedience, and religious devotion. Its thought that Caravaggio hoped that acceptance into a religious order would help him achieve a pardon in Rome. He took the oath of the Knights of Malta on July 14, 1608 while standing before the altarpiece he painted during his novitiate. 

For more than a year his behavior was faultless. After that, he quarreled with a prominent knight and seriously wounded him. The artist-turned-monk was thrown into a prison cell known as the "birdcage" which was a pit carved into limestone. Soon after, he escaped and fled to Sicily. He had help escaping; someone powerful had arranged to get him out of Malta. Not surprisingly, the knights expelled him from the order in a ceremony where he was described as a "foul and rotten limb."

Caravaggio moved around Sicily acting like a visiting dignitary than a man on the run. In 1609 he abruptly returned to Naples under the protection of the Marchesa di Caravaggio. Evidently the artist learned that someone, presumably the knight he wounded on Malta, was on his trail. Reports from the time describe him wearing a dagger even while sleeping.

He might have stayed safe in the marchesa's palace, but the town's taverns proved irresistible. In late October he emerged to sample their wares. He was surrounded by armed men at one popular bar where he was stabbed in the face and left for dead. The knight finally exacted his revenge for the earlier injury.

Caravaggio was hardly recognizable even after months convalescing in the marchesa's care. Yet his creative drive became stronger than ever. As soon as he was able to wield a brush, he painted David with the Head of Goliath, pictured below.

This double portrait of the artist is one of the most haunting works of his career. Emerging from velvety darkness into a shaft of light, a young David holds a gleaming sword in one hand and the severed head of the giant Goliath, mouth agape and neck dripping blood in the other. David is the young artist, full of promise and innocence; Goliath's face is the current older self with face worn from carousing and scarred from fights.

News from Rome reported that a pardon was in the works for the earlier murder he was accused of. He set out from Naples in a small ship. A storm forced the vessel to seek shelter in a small town where he was arrested because he looked like a local bandit. It took a hefty bribe to free him. Once freed, he set out in the brutal heat of summer. He fell victim to malaria or another illness and collapsed with fever and died July 18, 1610 at age thirty-eight, unaware that a full pardon had been granted in Rome.

His fame prompted artists around Europe to imitate his realism and chiaroscuro technique. Sadly, by the 19th century as tastes shifted, he was all but forgotten. In the 20th century, his reputation revived. Today, his striking realism and depth of emotion are envied and appreciated by artists worldwide even though his life resembles more a character from The Sopranos than an artistic hero.

Credit for this excerpt from her book, Secret Lives of Great Artists, Elizabeth Lunday is a journalist specialized in architecture and art. She writes the "Masterpieces" column for mental_floss magazine and lives in Fort Worth Texas.