Another Disputed Discovery: Are Negatives Really by Ansel Adams?

Ten years ago a Fresno, California, man named Rick Norsigian made a garage sale find of sixty-five negatives which he came to believe were by the famous American photographer Ansel Adams.  Late last month, at a Beverly Hills press conference, he announced experts who had studied the writing on the negative sleeves had identified the hand as that of Adam’s wife — adding considerable weight to Norsigian’s claim.  The estimated value of the negatives if authentic:  $200 million.

But an 87 year-old Oakland woman named Marion Walton, who just happened to have some prints very similar to Norsigian’s in her home and saw a clip of the Norsigian press conference on television, almost immediately disputed the claim.  She thinks the photos were taken by her Uncle Earl.

Today, KTVU TV in Oakland reports that another panel of experts who have examined and compared the Norsigian plates with Ms. Walton’s prints agrees that indeed Uncle Earl — Earl Brooks, who back in the 1920s apparently did a lot of picture-taking in one of Adams’ favorite haunts, Yosemite — was the artist, not Adams.

Norsigian will probably continue to argue his case, but I think at this point we can at least score one for Uncle Earl.

If you’re interested, Greensboro Public Library has a number of books on or by Ansel Adams.  These include:  America’s Wilderness:  The Photographs of Ansel Adams, with the writings of John Muir, edited by Elaine M. Bucher; Ansel Adams:  America’s Photographer; A Biography for Young People by Beverly Gherman (juvenile); Ansel Adams:  A Biography by Mary Street Alinder; Ansel Adams:  Classic Images by James Alinder and John Szarkowski; Ansel Adams:  Letters and Images, 1916-1984, by Ansel Adams, edited by Mary Street Alinder and Andrea Gray Stillman; foreword by Wallace Stegner; Ansel Adams, An Autobiography, with Mary Street Alinder; and Ansel Adams, Our National Parks by Ansel Adams, edited by William A. Turnage and Andrea G. Stillman.

Recent Discovery Not a Caravaggio, Experts Say

In this “year of Caravaggio” — the 400th anniversary of the controversial artist’s death has seen a major exhibit in Rome, as well as the possible discovery of what’s left of his mortal remains — there was news again last week when the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported on a newly found painting by the late Italian Renaissance master called “The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence.”

However, numerous experts have disputed the attribution, and today the Vatican has withdrawn their claim.  Vatican Museums head Antonio Paolucci now says the painting is “most likely a copy of an original by a Caravaggio-influenced artist.”      

Caravaggios do turn up occasionally.  A few years ago, Jonathan Harr wrote a best-seller, The Lost Painting, about the rediscovery of one of the artist’s works in Ireland in 1990.    

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) was fairly obscure until the rekindling of interest by Roberto Longhi and others in the 20th century.  He is now viewed by some as essentially the first modern artist; many are intrigued by his troubled personal life, the details of which are mostly preserved in ancient court records, while others are fascinated by the use of strong contrasts of light and dark and the homoerotic elements in many of his paintings.       

At any rate, if you’re interested in reading about Caravaggio, follow this link to a previous post which lists some of Greensboro Public Library’s books on the great artist.

Italians 85% Sure They’ve Found Caravaggio’s Remains

In a brief followup to an an earlier post on the search for Caravaggio’s bones, MSNBC is reporting that the team which last year recovered remains thought to belong to the great artist has completed their analysis and announced they have a likely candidate — but they can’t be absolutely sure.  

‘There can’t be the scientific certainty because when one works on ancient DNA, it is degraded,’ Giorgio Gruppioni, an anthropologist on the team, told The Associated Press.  ‘But only in one set of bones did we find all the elements necessary for it to be Caravaggio’s — age, period in which he died, gender, height.’

Caravaggio (full-name Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, (1571–1610), is considered to have been the last of the great Italian Renaissance artists.  His works, known especially for their dark chiaroscuro style, are credited with inspiring the Baroque period of the late 16th-18th centuries.  Others are intrigued by his troubled and tormented personal life, while some believe Caravaggio was the first truly modern painter.

Caravaggio Bumps Michelangelo from “Top of the Charts”

In a brief follow-up to a recent post, check out this neat article from the New York Times analyzing the rising popularity of the Italian Renaissance artist Caravaggio (1571-1610).  Author Michael Kimmelman attributes increased interest in Caravaggio to identification of the latter with the modern anti-hero (the great artist had a very sordid personal life) and the accessibility of his style to current tastes. 

If you’re interested in art in general, please remember we’ve got plenty resources for you at Greensboro Public Library, especially at the Hemphill Branch Library on West Vandalia, as well as at the Central Library in downtown Greensboro.

Nature Photography Contest at the Library

We’ve had lots of winter weather recently, and Spring may not seem close at hand, but here at the Kathleen Clay Branch we’ve already made plans for our annual Earth Day Celebration on April 10th. As part of the celebration we feature a Nature Photography Contest, and this year we’re opening it up to all grades, Kindergarten through 12th. The only requirement for the photographs is that they should depict nature in Guilford County.

The deadline for submissions is March 17th, and you must deliver your photo to the Kathleen Clay Branch between 6 pm and 9 pm. To enter the contest, put a 4×6 photo in a sealed envelope along with an index card including the student’s name, address, telephone number, school, and grade level.  Also include a title for the photo, and the location in Guilford County where you shot it. Deliver your photograph early, because only the first hundred photos in each category (Elementary, Middle, and High School) will be accepted! (For more information about Earth Day and detailed rules for the contest, see the library website.)

When our Earth Day celebration rolls around on April 10th, we will put all the photos on display, and the contest winners will be those who receive the most votes. So come by between 1 pm and 4 pm to vote for your favorite, and encourage your friends to come as well! There will be prizes for the first and second place winners in each age category.

If you’re looking for inspiration or help with your technique, check out some of these books that we have at the library: National Audubon Society Guide to Nature Photography, The Magic of Digital Nature Photography by Rob Sheppard; Galen Rowell : a retrospective  compiled by the Sierra Club, Hugh Morton, North Carolina Photographer, Carolina Nature : a Photographer’s View of the Natural World in the Carolinas by Eric Horan,  John Shaw’s Nature Photography Field Guide, and Essential Skills for Nature Photography by Cub Kahn.

Have the Bones of Caravaggio Been Discovered?

Italian archaeologists are claiming to have discovered the remains of the last great Italian renaissance artist, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, (1571–1610), whose influence is credited with inspiring the Baroque painting style of the late 16th-18th centuries. 

Caravaggio’s paintings are especially known for their dark, brooding shadows and the contrasts of dark and light which are known as the chiaroscuro style. 

But in addition to being an artist of legendary talent, Caravaggio apparently had a rather sordid personal life and seems constantly to have been in trouble, fighting brawls, fleeing from one place to another, and even being accused of murder.  

Some are convinced in fact that the great Caravaggio himself was murdered, though the Italian archaeological team led by Georgio Gruppioni, which claims to have found his remains, believes they have documentation — in the form of a death certificate — that he died of natural causes.

Comparison with the DNA of Caravaggio’s descendants will be employed to prove or disprove the identity of the remains, which were originally buried at San Sebastiano and later moved to a crypt in a church in Porto Ercole.  The bones were apparently in an unmarked ossuary.    

However, British art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon is skeptical that the bones are really those of the famous artist.  “In my view, there’s no way in hell they can say they have found Caravaggio’s remains,” he says. “What’s the proof? They found a headstone saying: ‘Here Lies Caravaggio’?”  And he claims the death certificate is fake.

Nonetheless, everyone seems to be in agreement that Caravaggio was a towering figure — Graham-Dixon calls him “one of the two or three greatest and most original painters ever to have lived.”

If you’d like to learn more about Caravaggio, Greensboro Public Library has a few books which may be of interest, including The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr, Caravaggo:  Painter Of Miracles by Francine Prose, M:  The Man Who Became Caravaggio by Peter Robb, and Caravaggio by Catherine Puglisi.