Posts filed under “Art”


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.


Eli “Bonkers” Johnson: Diagonal Line #6: Anthraquinone Blue, Up­per Left to Lower Right, but Deviating Slightly About Three-Quarters of the Way Along Where a Fly Landed on the Artist’s Elbow. Acrylic on canvas.

Albrecht Kunsthammer: Venus Giving Cupid a Time Out After That Busi­ness with the Movie Star and the State Repre­sentative. Oil on Wood.

Crandall Pinsk: Untitled No. 2: Revenge of the Untitled. Stuff glued to­gether with a hook in the back for hanging.

Margaret Derby-Wallington-ffitch: Philadelphia Fleabane (Eri­geron phila­delphicus) Posed as an Allegory of Virtue. Crayon on construc­tion paper.

Boris the Dog: Paw Prints No. 38. Mud on the mistress’ best linen.


Natural (adjective).—1. Of food, cosmetics, etc.: Packaged in materials made from petroleum by-products and processed into standardized units from ingredients ultimately derived from substances present in the physical universe.

2. Of art, literature, etc.: Conforming to the current clichés that define what is correct in representational art, as opposed to the clichés of the era immediately past, which are designated artificial.


Amphion Destroys Thebes with One Out-of-Tune D String, by engraver Abraham van Diepenbieeck.


What would it look like if the world were in color?

A monochrome world has a stark beauty of its own, of course. But what if we could see colors as well as shades of grey? This is the world our old friend Father Pitt decided to visit for a little while in his newest and oddest art project. He has created a world of Imaginary Color, and has begun to populate it with pictures of the world rendered as if the world were in color. So far the collection is small, hosted on an experimental site on a free server; but it demonstrates the principle. In theory, any monochromatic picture could be rendered in colors through the same process.

What is the process? It begins with an ordinary monochromatic picture. Some of the pictures old Pa Pitt has used were taken on monochrome film, but the same results can be obtained by taking a color picture and throwing out the useless natural colors. Then each segment of the image is hand-tinted, until the appearance of a colored landscape is created.

Is there any good reason for doing this? We hope not. Both Dr. Boli and Father Pitt abide by the principle emphatically stated by Mr. Oscar Wilde: All art is quite useless.


This utterly charming scene is used as the frontispiece to a history of toys from 1882, where it is labeled “Les Jouets de l’enfant Jésus, d’après une peinture sur bois de la fin du XVe siècle” (The Toys of the Child Jesus, after a painting on wood from the end of the fifteenth century).

Even better, though, is what you get when, hoping for more information about the painting, you use DuckDuckGo to look up “jouets de l’enfant Jésus” (“toys of the child Jesus”):

Now we know what Jesus was doing in the years between the return to Nazareth and the trip he made to Jerusalem at the age of twelve.


First, be delighted by this particularly skillful wood engraving from a painting by F. D. Millet (who went down with the Titanic) of a lovely ancient Roman domestic scene. Then see whether you can answer these two questions:

1. What egregiously obvious anachronism has the artist introduced?

And the second might help answer the first:

2. How might you guess immediately that an American painter was responsible for this image?

The answer: