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On the campus of Grand Valley State University is Alexander Calder Fine Arts Center. When I attended there I had zero clue who Calder was, and I wondered why GVSU named their building after some guy I’d never heard of.
So when I saw his selfie in the National Portrait Gallery, my interest was piqued to learn a bit about Alexander.
1st fun fact…He went by Sandy.
2nd fun fact…His wife was Louisa James, grand niece of the author Henry James.
3rd Fun Fact….He is the the 3rd Artist named Alexander in His family. His grandfather was Alexander Milne Calder (best known for the William Penn Sculptue on the top of the Philadelphia Town Hall Tower). His father was Alexander Stirling Calder who sculpted many public installations around Philadelphia.
Sandy painted this self-portrait in 1925, while attending The Art Student League in NYC. This is just before he moved to Paris (where his career as a sculptor would began to take shape).
Alexander started his career as an engineer, then began painting New York street scenes and portraits, before settling into the mobile wire type sculptures and wire figures.
He is mostly known as the father of the mobile, but he also created jewelry and was a well established and talented print maker.
Point to ponder while you wander…If you’re famous, universities will give you free honorary doctorate degree and name buildings after you. Suddenly makes my student loans seem really stupid. 😉
Seems off topic…but it is not. In July 1969, Sandy was in Grand Rapids for the dedication of his sculpture there. Grand Valley awarded him with an honorary Doctor in Literature at their commencement ceremony. Three years later, the newly completed art center was named in his honor.
(Photo: From GVSU Website, Photographer Unknown.
This is La Grande Vitesse in Grand Rapids. It is affectionately known as “The Calder” and can actually be found in GR’s city logo. (Photo: Public Domain)
Today’s artist….Vincent VanGogh, aka Vinny V!
Fun facts about Vinny V’s Selfies…
*There are 39 surviving self-portraits bainted by VanGogh.
*The lack of a model often inspired Vinny to paint a selfie.
*Vinny exchanged selfies and letters with fellow artists Paul Gauguin and Émile Bernard.
*He used a mirror to help him paint his selfies.
*I’ve personally seen two of Vinny’s selfies.
The first is hanging in the Detroit Institute of Arts. It’s an oil on pasteboard, entitled, “Self-Portrait with Straw Hat, Summer 1887″
The second can be found in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. This one is an oil on canvas entitled, “Self-Portrait, August 1889″. It is my favorite of Vinny’s selfies.
I love all the blues that make his eyes and ginger hair just pop! He seems confident in who he is, and what he is doing in this one. Maybe because 1889 was also the year he painted “Starry Night”, “Sunflowers”, and “Irises”. A very good year!
Bonus Selfie: There was one other self-portrait that is believed to have been destroyed during WWII. “Painter on his way to work: Vincent van Gogh on the road to Montmajour“.
Vinny painted it in August 1888. It was an oil painting on canvas, and was 48 × 44 cm.
My last visit to the National Gallery of Art I entered with an entire busload of Japanese tourists.
As we were moving through the galleries together I realized that this group of people were excellent selfie takers!
Now if you’ve been following along here for any length of time you know that where I start is usually not even close to where I end up. The journey on this particular day was how much effort selfies were before cellular phones.
In the present day…people with zero artistc ability can use selfie sticks & take as many shots as they need until they get a decent enough image to doctor with clever crops & fabulous filters.
But before that..
1. Set up the camera at the right height & angle. 2. Set the timer. 3. Then run like the wind to get in to the frame before the click. 4. Pray for a good shot.
But what about prior to cameras?
Seriously think about that!
To take a selfie…you had to have serious skills to draw, paint, or sculpt an image of yourself.
So I decided to do a new feature called #SelfieSaturday to celebrate how artists wished to present themselves to the world.
To kick it off…here is one of my own selfies. It’s a fave. It was taken several years ago while camping with friends.