Posts filed under “Art”


No. 1: Music.

The face of not having nice things in music, by Egon Schiele.

A quick tour of Wikipedia articles on music that began at Schoenberg’s opera Moses und Aron:

Moses and Aron is based entirely on a single tone row, itself constructed from cells…

Okay, what’s a tone row?

In music, a tone row or note row (German: Reihe or Tonreihe), also series or set, is a non-repetitive ordering of a set of pitch-classes, typically of the twelve notes in musical set theory of the chromatic scale, though both larger and smaller sets are sometimes found.

Okay, what’s musical set theory?

Musical set theory provides concepts for categorizing musical objects and describing their relationships.

Right at the beginning of that article is a helpful illustration with this caption:

Example of Z-relation on two pitch sets analyzable as or derivable from Z17, with intervals between pitch classes labeled for ease of comparison between the two sets and their common interval vector, 212320

The reason we can’t have nice things in music is that only people who find this stuff absolutely fascinating are allowed to write serious music.


Eli “Bonkers” Johnson, the well-known artist and provocateur, is the subject of a new exhibit at the Duck Hollow Museum of Art entitled “Bonkers.” The title, says Mr. Johnson, is reflective of the exhibit’s ambition to cause what he describes as a state of bonkershood in the viewer through the use of the simplest possible forms arranged in exactly the wrong ways. By courtesy of the museum, we are permitted to reproduce some of the works here.

Not Quite Horizontal Line, Almost but Not Quite Centered Vertically.

Not Quite Horizontal Line, Almost but Not Quite Centered Vertically, in Opposite Colors, to Make You Wonder Whether You Saw This Painting Already.

Perfectly Vertically Centered Horizontal Line, Maddeningly Extending Almost but Not Quite All the Way to the Right Edge.

Vertically Centered Horizontal Line—OR IS IT?

Diagonal Line in Exactly the Wrong Place.

Bunch of Lines in the Wrong Colors.


Once in a while Dr. Boli is privileged to bring before the world a long-hidden work of original art. Some time ago he revealed a newly discovered portrait from life of the great classicist Charles Anthon. Today he brings you another portrait, this one much older, discovered in a Renaissance folio with hand-colored woodcuts. In this case he has not been able to identify the subject, but he is confident that it is meant to represent somebody with whom the artist was well acquainted.

Bull with face in profile

The original woodcut, of course, represented the bull alone, illustrating the article De Tauro in the 1551 edition of the Historiae Animalium of Conradus Gesnerus. It was hand-colored, probably soon after the book was originally purchased. Some time later, a talented artist of the grotesque school, known for its combining of human with animal and vegetable forms, added the head in profile arising from the rearward parts of the animal.

What is the meaning of this unusual juxtaposition? Doubtless the artist meant to compliment his friend or patron by associating him with the power and nobility of the bull. Centuries later, we can no longer identify the subject of the portrait, but the intended compliment is legible to a wider audience than the artist could ever have imagined.


How will you spend your eternal slumber? If you are Andy Warhol, you spend it the way you spent your life: quietly and enigmatically receiving homage from fans who come from all over the world for the privilege of saying, “I met Andy Warhol.” They bring offerings of Campbell’s soup, of course, and rosaries as well, because Andy was a devout Byzantine Catholic all his life, for certain values of “devout.”

You will notice that Andy lies under a perfectly ordinary grave marker, indistinguishable from thousands of other grave markers installed in the late 1980s. That in itself may be seen as the consummation of a career devoted to finding the art in the ordinary.

If you make a pilgrimage to Pittsburgh, the land of Warhol, you may begin at the Andy Warhol Museum, which (with seven floors of Warhol) claims to be the largest museum in the world dedicated to a single artist. Then you can walk to the North Side subway station, where you can catch a Blue Line car and ride about half an hour out into the suburbs to Washington Junction, which is an easy walk from St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery.

But, you ask, if his monument is indistinguishable from everyone else’s, how will I find it in the cemetery? No need to worry. The cameras will point the way. Andy Warhol lies a mouldering in the grave, and his mouldering is livestreamed to the world, brought to you by the Byzantine parish he grew up in.

Empire was only a dress rehearsal. Andy Warhol is still working on the greatest avant-garde film of all time.

The pictures are from Father Pitt’s Pittsburgh Cemeteries. Like most of Father Pitt’s work, they are released into the public domain.


Strolling in Allegheny Cemetery

From the pyramids of Egypt, to the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, to the Taj Mahal, death has inspired the some of the greatest expressions of the human spirit. October 31 is Halloween, the traditional American celebration of the world’s most successful gaslighting campaign: viz., the annual barrage of press releases from manufacturers of packaged candy warning us that nothing homemade is safe to eat. But it is also a celebration of all things frightful and scary about death.

You will see all those things everywhere else on the Internet, so Dr. Boli thought he would set aside a day to celebrate beauty instead. Halloween is a perfect day for a stroll through a cemetery, and we borrow these pictures from Father Pitt, who took them all in one afternoon’s leisurely strolling in Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh. Every picture is provided in full resolution: you can click on any one of them to enlarge it and examine the details.

Winter mausoleum

The Winter mausoleum was designed by John Russell Pope, architect of the National Archives, the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery of Art, &c., &c. If you have money (Emil Winter was a banker), distinguished architects are at your beck and call. If Dr. Boli decides to die at some point in the near enough future, he plans to have a mausoleum designed by Frank Gehry.

Stained glass in the Flower mausoleum

An extraordinarily fine stained-glass window in the Flower mausoleum.


Many sections of the cemetery are quite prickly with obelisks.

Graham monument

A picture of mourning and consolation on the Graham family monument.

Penn Avenue gatehouse

The cemetery’s Penn Avenue gatehouse, with its weighty Romanesque tower, finished in 1889. The architect was Henry Alexander Macomb, a Philadelphia architect who won the cemetery’s design competition.

Many other beautiful and fascinating monuments can be found at Father Pitt’s Pittsburgh Cemeteries, a fine place to spend a few hours for Halloween.


Apparition of St. Carmen Miranda, by an unknown Baroque artist who was even baroquer after this image appeared.


We have mentioned before how Google uses its massive artificial intelligence to identify objects and locations in collections of photographs. But did you know that Microsoft is giving Google some stiff competition? If you store images in Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft will helpfully categorize them for you. For example:—

In the sense that this could depict a conference of the Olympians, “Sky” is appropriate. Or—

The moon is indeed an outdoor phenomenon, in the sense that it does not fit indoors in any building our puny Earth technology has hitherto been able to construct. Bravo, Microsoft. And here is some text:

It is actually the lower part of a picture of a snake with its tail in its mouth, but perhaps Microsoft meant “text” as short for “subtext.”

At any rate, it is good to see that Google has a rival in the artificial-intelligence market, and we may expect to see great things emerging from this healthy competition.


Dear Dr. Boli: I hear people talking about the “Fine Arts,” the “Useful Arts,” and so on. What is the distinction they are making? —Sincerely, Ann Ellers, Acting Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts.

Dear Madam: There are several generally recognized levels of art, and perhaps the best way to make the differences clear would be to give several examples of each.

The Fine Arts: Painting, sculpture, classical music, poetry, novels that no one buys, novels that everyone buys but no one reads.

The Pretty Good Arts: Illustration, popular music, movies, Broadway musicals, television shows, novels that people buy and read.

The Useful Arts: Architecture, cookery, garden design, plumbing, graphic design.

The Embarrassing Arts: Singing telegrams, macramé, karaoke, mime, advertising, performance art.

Dr. Boli hopes these examples will make the distinctions clear and be of some assistance in your work.


D for the Dermatologist you must see if you have a growth like this on your head.

E for the Ennui suffered by the bagpipe player who must keep up a constant drone for an hour.

L for the Liquor to which this poor man is addicted, causing him to see wild boars that no one else can see.

R for little Roberta playing the starring role in her third-grade play, Our Friend the Roach.

T for Throwing, a monkey’s favorite hobby.

X for Xerxes counting his million-man army and coming up with 999,997.

More fun with initials may be had on our page of initials in the Illustrations collection.