Eva Ibbotson (born Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner) published her first English language novel at age 50.  Known for her children’s books, she was an Austrian-born British novelist. This is my 9th installment in the Women in Art Series.

Born in Vienna in 1925, her father was a doctor who is credited with pioneering human fertility treatment (and probably used his own sperm). Her mother was a novelist and playwright who worked with Bertolt Brecht. When her parents separated in 1928, her father became a professor in Edinburgh while her mother hightailed it to Berlin. For Eva, it was a

“very cosmopolitan, sophisticated and quite interesting, but also very unhappy childhood, always on some train and wishing to have a home.”

Her mother’s writing career stopped when Hitler banned her work – and relocated her and Eva to London in 1934, avoiding the worst of the Nazi’s.

Eva initially thought she’d like to be a physiologist like her father, but she couldn’t commit to spending a life doing experiments on animals. While studying at Cambridge, she met her future husband, Alan Ibbotson, a university professor and entomologist.  They had three sons and a daughter and that was the end of her scientific career. She was briefly a teacher and began her writing career in the 1960’s.

Her first English language book was The Great Ghost Rescue published in 1975. Her books are known to be imaginative and often humorous. She wrote about magical places,  even though she disliked the supernatural –  she wanted to dispel that fear in her readers.  She said she disliked “financial greed and a lust for power”, which is another theme in her books. 

Interestingly, one of her books, The Secret of Platform 13 has been compared to the Harry Potter books – both platforms are located at King’s Cross Station!  But, as far as plagarism or copying goes, Ibbotson stated of J.K. Rowling

“I would like to shake her by the hand. I think we all borrow from each others as writers.”

To properly research this article, I chose to read the book One Dog and his Boy.  Interestingly, it was her last completed book, finally a good dog book where all the animals live (but not the author, sadly). Unknown

This is the story of a boy and a dog that were meant to be together.  His materialistic wealthy parents feel they give him everything he could possibly want or need.  But, what he really wants is a dog. So, they “rent” a dog for the weekend and fool the boy. When the dog is returned to the rental agency, the boy, of course, rescues him.  This turns into an odyssey involving another girl and four additional dogs and a trip to the circus.

“Ibbotson’s final book is a story with the heart of Lassie and the satirical bite of Roald Dahl…as funny as it is satifying”  Booklist

Would I read more of her books? You betcha!  Here are some quotes from her books:

“slowly, Anna put up a hand to his muzzle and began to scratch that spot behind the ear where large dogs keep their souls.” A Countess Below the Stairs

“Loneliness has taught Harris that there was always someone who understood – it was just so often that they were dead, or in a book” A Company of Swans

“I want to live like music sounds.” The Morning Gift

“You cannot stop the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can stop them nesting in your hair.” A Countess Below the Stairs

“…adventures are good for people even when they are very young. Adventures can get into a person’s blood even if he doesn’t remember having them.” The Secret of Platform 13

I think the quotes say is all! I am thankful my research on Women in Art introduced me to Eva Ibbotson!





3. helen frankenthaler 1957 images 17. helen frankenthaler

“The only rule is that there are no rules. Anything is possible…It’s all about risks, deliberate risks.”

This is how Helen Frankenthaler refers to the art she practiced for over 60 years, making history before she was 30 years old. This is my sixth installment of my Weekly Women in Art series.

How did she make history so young? By taking the technique accredited to Jackson Pollock  of pouring paint directly onto the canvas,  she adapted it to her own needs. Pollack used enamel paint that sat on top of the canvas. Frankenthaler used oil that was thinned with turpentine which soaked into the canvas, seemingly staining the canvas.

“It was all there. I wanted to live in this land. I had to live there, and master the language.”

That is what she said after seeing the Pollock show at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1950 or 1951.


Mountains and Sea


She painted this before her 24th birthday. Measuring 9 feet wide by 7 feet high Mountains and Sea directly affected both Kenneth Nolan and Morris Louis. Louis later said it was a

“Bridge betwen Pollack and what was possible.”

Helen was grew up on the New York’s Upper East Side. Her father was a New York State Supreme Judge, her mother a German emigre’.  It is safe to say she had a privileged background!

After graduating from Bennington College, she inherited money from her father (who had died in 1940) and was able to get a New York apartment AND have a separate studio! And, she began painting full-time.

When she organized an exhibition in 1950 at Bennington College she met Clement Greenberg, considered one of the foremost art critics of the day, and began a five year relationship with him. Through him she met Pollock, David Smith, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Franz Kline, Lee Krasner and other members of the New York artworld at the time.

When she separated from Greenberg, she met Robert Motherwell and married him in 1958. He  was also from a well-to-do family, and they were suddenly the “golden couple” of the artworld. They spent months honeymooning in Spain and France.

images-2 tumblr_lwvmgxbsTL1qbv4q2o1_1280

When they returned, they left the downtown art scene and moved uptown and began entertaining. British sculptor Anthony Caro recalled a dinner party on his first trip to New York which was attended by over 100 people. He sat between David Smith and Hedy Lamarr.

Helen loved entertaining, and she loved to dance. She attended a function at the White House in 1985 honoring the Prince and Princess of Wales. After dancing with a partner that twirled her around, she said:

“I’ve waited a lifetime for a dance like this. He was Great!!!”

When she returned to New York, she showed her assistant his card – “John Travolta”.

The awards she received are numerous. among them:

  • First Prize for Painting, Premiere Biennale de Paris, 1959
  • National Medal of Arts 2001
  • served on the National Council for the Arts of the National Endowment for the Arts
  • New York City Mayor’s Award of Honor for Arts and Culture 1986
  • Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement, College Art Association 1994

Honorary degrees received include:

  • Smith College 1973
  • Radcliffe College 1978
  • Amherst College 1979
  • New York Univerisity 1979
  • Harvard University 1980
  • Philadelphia College of Art 1980
  • Yale University 1981
  • Brandeis University 1982

Her exhibitions are just as impressive

  • two New York retrospectives before the end of the 1960s, at the Jewish Museum and at the Whitney Museum
  • Guggenheim Museum 1985 – works on paper retrospective
  • Museum of Modern Art, 1989

“Being the person I was and am, exposed to the things I have been exposed to, I could only make my painting with the methods – and with the wrist i have.”

“I have always been concerned with painting that simultaneously insists on a flat surface and then denies it.”

“My pictures are full of climates, abstract climates. They’re not nature per se, but a feeling.”

“Art has a will of its own. It has nothing to do with the taste of the moment or what’s expected of you. That’s a formula for dead art, or fashionable art.”

“There are three subjects I don’t like discussing. My former marriage, women artists, and what I think of my contemporaries.”

Helen Frankenthaler – December 12, 1928 – December 27, 2011


Adirondacks 1992


Painted on 21st Street 1951



9. helen frankenthalerimages-1



ink and pen

I didn’t know quill pens had such an interesting history!

First used around 600 AD in Spain, they were the main writing instrument until the mid 19th when the introduction of metal introduced the metal nib. 

They are made from the stiff-spined flight feathers on the leading edge of a bird’s wing. And for you bird lovers, they were feathers that were discarded by birds during their annual moult. There were only two or three feathers found per bird.

Goose feathers were most commonly used, with more expensive swan feathers used for larger lettering. However,  only in the USA feathers from the crow, eagle, owl, hawk and turkey were used.

To construct a pen, the shaft of the feather was cleaned, carved and then sharpened, with a slit cut at the point making a nib. 

On a true quill pen, the barbs are completely stripped away.  Later, some decorative barbs were left on the top. In short, the fancy plumed quill pen is an invention of Hollywood. (A barb is defined as one of the parallel filaments projecting from the main shaft of a feather.)

Thomas Jefferson actually bred geese to make sure he always had a supply of quill pens handy.

AND, to this day, 20 goose-quill pens are placed at the four counsel tables each day in the U.S. Supreme Court while in session: and it is said “most lawyers appear before the Court only once, and gladly take the quills home as souvenirs”.  This has been done since the beginnings of the court. Historic documents written by a quill pen include the Magna Carta, The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

Now – my FAVORITE fact, pens for right handed writers come from the left wing, while pens for left handed writers come from the right!  (I am left handed!)

As noted below, artists used the quill pen also.  However, Rembrandt favored the reed pen.

Wan to make your own quill pen?  Click here for directions!  If you make a quill pen or use one, leave me a comment, let me know.


View of the Alcantara bridge (Toledo) Nobility Section of the National Historical Archive, Toledo © Ministerio de Cultura


Compared to other painting mediums, such as oil and watercolor, acrylic paint is a baby.  Originally used as housepaint, Mexcian muralists began experimenting with it in the 1930’s.  Then came the WPA artists in the 1940’s.  It wasn’t until the 1950’s that acrylic paint became commercial available to artists.

What are the advantages of using acrylic paint?

  • it dries quickly
  • it will adhere to any surface
  • no base coat is needed
  • it dries with even luster – if the paint is applied evenly, there are no shiny or dull spots

This new type of paint offered the artworld endless possibilities.  It can produce the soft effects of watercolor, as well as the layered effects of oil.  The artists that embraced this new paint began experimenting and thereby  created new approaches that hadn’t been possible before.


Andy Warhol

David Hockney

Bridget Riley

Robert Motherwell

Mark Rothko

Helen Frankenthaler

Larry Poons

Click on the links to the artists above and see what they achieved with acrylic paint.

Acrylic paint is continuing to have a tremendous impact on the world of art.  Can you think of any more advantages of using acrylic paint?

City in the Mist
Acrylic and Collage on Canvas




The following list was published in London with a poll taken with Saatchi and Saatchi. There is alot I agree with and there are some things I just don’t understand. I don’t have a problem with Picasso and Cezanne in the #1 and #2 slot, but Klimt in #3? I am a big fan of Klimt’s work, and I like seeing it recognized. But still, is it ahead of DeKooning, Miro, and others? However, it makes you wonder when this is opened to the public, do they for artists because there was a recent sale of the work that made headlines or possibly retrospective at a major museum.
These are personal reflections, and I am not an art critic, just a lifelong student. I would never put Warhol ahead of DeKooning. I would never put Richard Price above Ansel Adams. Price appropriated artwork from the Marlboro ads!
There is little representation from women artists, and even less from African American artists – Basquiat being the only one on the list. Where is Romare Bearden??????
Some names I was happy to see are Yves Klein, Anselm Kiefer and even Mathew Barney. Teachers are here too – most notably Hans Hoffman and Josef Albers, who taught Pollack and DeKooning both..
Why is Kippenberger ahead of Rothko? Is it because he had a retrospective at MOMA this year( I saw it). Personal preference to painting? I wonder.
There is very little representation to Asian artists, and what is there is mostly late 20th century art (leanings to graffiti and cartoon, as well as anime, which I have to accept as valid forms of art!)
On a personal note – I’m glad Claes Oldenburg made the list at 100- Joel used to photograph his sculptures.

What do you think? any and all thoughts and discussions are welcome

Artist list Votes

Pablo Picasso

2 Paul Cezanne 21098
3 Gustav Klimt 20823
4 Claude Monet 20684
5 Marcel Duchamp 20647
6 Henri Matisse 17096
7 Jackson Pollock 17051
8 Andy Warhol 17047
9 Willem De Kooning 17042
10 Piet Mondrian 17028
11 Paul Gauguin 17027
12 Francis Bacon 17018
13 Robert Rauschenberg 16956
14 Georges Braque 16788
15 Wassily Kandinsky 16055
16 Constantin Brancusi 14224
17 Kasimir Malevich 13609
18 Jasper Johns 12988
19 Frida Kahlo 12940
20 Martin Kippenberger 12784
21 Paul Klee 12750
2 Egon Schiele 12696
23 Donald Judd 12613
24 Bruce Nauman 12517
25 Alberto Giacometti 12098
26 Salvador Dalí 11496
27 Auguste Rodin 8989
28 Mark Rothko 8951
29 Edward Hopper 8918
30 Lucian Freud 8897
31 Richard Serra 8858
32 Rene Magritte 8837
33 David Hockney 8787
34 Philip Guston 8786
35 Henri Cartier-Bresson 8779
36 Pierre Bonnard 8778
7 Jean-Michel Basquiat 8746
38 Max Ernst 8737
39 Diane Arbus 8733
40 Georgia O’Keeffe 8714
41 Cy Twombly 8708
42 Max Beckmann 8690
43 Barnett Newman 8643
44 Giorgio De Chirico 8462
45 Roy Lichtenstein 7441
46 Edvard Munch 5080
47 Pierre Auguste Renoir 5063
48 Man Ray 5050
49 Henry Moore 5045
50 Cindy Sherman 5041
51 Jeff Koons 5028
2 Tracey Emin 4961
53 Damien Hirst 4960
54 Yves Klein 4948
55 Henri Rousseau 4944
56 Chaim Soutine 4927
57 Arshile Gorky 4926
58 Amedeo Modigliani 4924
59 Umberto Boccioni 4918
60 Jean Dubuffet 4910
61 Eva Hesse 4908
62 Edouard Vuillard 4899
63 Carl Andre 4898
64 Juan Gris 4898
65 Lucio Fontana 4896
66 Franz Kline 4894
67 David Smith 4842
68 Joseph Beuys 4480
69 Alexander Calder 3241
70 Louise Bourgeois 3240
71 Marc Chagall 3224
72 Gerhard Richter 3123
73 Balthus 3090
74 Joan Miro 3087
75 Ernst Ludwig Kirchner 3084
76 Frank Stella 3078
77 Georg Baselitz 3048
78 Francis Picabia 3046
79 Jenny Saville 3034
80 Dan Flavin 3024
81 Alfred Stieglitz 3017
82 Anselm Kiefer 3010
83 Matthew Barney 3005
84 George Grosz 2990
85 Bernd And Hilla Becher 2980
86 Sigmar Polke 2966
87 Brice Marden 2947
88 Maurizio Cattelan 2940
89 Sol LeWitt 2926
90 Chuck Close 2915
91 Edward Weston 2899
92 Joseph Cornell 2893
93 Karel Appel 2890
94 Bridget Riley 2885
95 Alexander Archipenko 2884
96 Anthony Caro 2879
97 Richard Hamilton 2878
98 Clyfford Still 2864
99 Luc Tuymans 2862
100 Claes Oldenburg 2843
101 Eduardo Paolozzi 2839
102 Frank Auerbach 2836
103 Dinos and Jake Chapman 2827
104 Marlene Dumas 2827
105 Antoni Tapies 2825
106 Giorgio Morandi 2824
107 Walker Evans 2823
108 Nan Goldin 2819
109 Robert Frank 2818
110 Georges Rouault 2818
111 Jean Arp 2817
112 August Sander 2809
113 James Rosenquist 2808
114 Andreas Gursky 2804
115 Eugene Atget 2802
116 Jeff Wall 2790
117 Ellsworth Kelly 2789
118 Bill Brandt 2787
119 Christo And Jeanne Claude 2782
120 Howard Hodgkin 2781
121 Josef Albers 2781
122 Piero Manzoni 2777
123 Agnes Martin 2771
124 Anish Kapoor 2768
125 L.S. Lowry 2761
126 Robert Motherwell 2754
127 Robert Delaunay 2747
128 Stuart Davis 2742
129 Ed Ruscha 2731
130 Gilbert & George 2729
131 Stanley Spencer 2720
132 James Ensor 2719
133 Fernand Leger 2718
134 Brassai (Gyula Halasz) 2717
135 Alexander Rodchenko 2715
136 Robert Ryman 2711
137 Ad Reinhardt 2709
138 Hans Bellmer 2700
139 Isa Genzken 2699
140 Kees Van Dongen 2698
141 Weegee 2698
142 Paula Rego 2695
143 Thomas Hart Benton 2689
144 Hans Hofmann 2684
145 Vladimir Tatlin 2679
146 Odilon Redon 2653
147 George Segal 2619
148 Jorg Immendorff 2611
149 Robert Smithson 2435
150 Peter Doig 2324
151 Ed and Nancy Kienholz 2293
152 Richard Prince 2266
153 Ansel Adams 2262
154 Naum Gabo 2256
155 Diego Rivera 2239
156 Barbara Hepworth 2237
157 Nicolas De Stael 2237
158 Walter De Maria 2229
159 Felix Gonzalez-Torres 2228
160 Giacomo Balla 2225
161 Ben Nicholson 2221
162 Anthony Gormley 2218
163 Lyonel Feininger 2216
164 Emil Nolde 2213
165 Mark Wallinger 2211
166 Hermann Nitsch 2209
167 Paul Signac 2209
168 Jean Tinguely 2209
169 Kurt Schwitters 2209
170 Grayson Perry 2208
171 Julian Schnabel 2208
172 Raymond Duchamp-Villon 2208
173 Robert Gober 2208
174 Duane Hanson 2208
175 Richard Diebenkorn 2207
176 Alex Katz 2207
177 Alighiero E Boetti 2206
178 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 2206
179 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy 2205
180 Jacques-Henri Lartigue 2205
181 Robert Morris 2205
182 Sarah Lucas 2204
183 Jannis Kounellis 2204
184 Chris Burden 2204
185 Otto Dix 2203
186 David Bomberg 2203
187 Fischli & Weiss 2203
188 Augustus John 2203
189 Marsden Hartley 2203
190 Takashi Murakami 2203
191 James Turrell 2202
192 Isamu Noguchi 2201
193 Robert Mangold 2201
194 John Chamberlain 2201
195 Charles Demuth 2200
196 John Currin 2200
197 Alberto Burri 2200
198 Arnulf Rainer 2200
199 David Salle 2200
200 Hiroshi Sugimoto 2199


“GREAT ART HAS DREADFUL MANNERS” Schama says at the start of this series.

Who is Simon Schama and what qualifies him to produce a series for the BBC titled THE POWER OF ART? Schama is the University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia, previously teaching at Cambridge and Harvard. In the documentary series, THE POWER OF ART tells the story of eight remarkable artists and how they transformed the world of art.

I had seen some of this on PBS last year, and decided to start at the beginning. First up is Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio. Schama delivers his story with an almost boyscout zeal of enthusiasm and passion, asking Caravaggio questions, which he then answers.. The documentary has three elements; Schama standing in front of a particular piece of art, Schama standing in a place that was important to Caravaggio, and last but not least, effective recreations.

The result was a fascinating story of an artist whose dramatic life was as dramatic as the paintings he painted. Even though he was considered dangerous, he never lacked commissions. He was jailed frequently, and actually killed a man in a duel and was forced to leave Rome with a price on his head. He fled to Naples, and finally to Malta, where he actually became a knight. He often tried to paint his way out of trouble, which is exactly what he was doing with the painting shown above. He painted it to give to the Pope’s counsel in payment for a pardon. Along the way back to Rome he was jailed again, left by the boat, and died of a fever.

Why is his art important? When he arrived in Rome, art consisted primarily of beautiful paintings of Christ, Mary and the apostles. Caravaggio believed Christ was human, made of flesh and blood. He proceeded to paint him that way, making people more earthy and physical, something that had never been done before. He took his models from the street, taverns and brothels. With this, he changed forever what a painting could do, bring the viewer into the painting and often making them very uncomfortable. His paintings began a shift to naturalism with an almost theatrical use of lighting. Art was no longer “safe”.

Watch the dramatic first 10 minutes here. The question Schama poses in the first 10 minutes was why would Caravaggio paint a self portrait of himself as the severed head of Goliath. I was hooked!

If there is anything you’d like me to review, please leave me a comment. I’d love some feedback on this post