The Louvre’s Entire Collection Goes Online: View and Download 480,00 Works of Art

If you go to Paris, many will advise you, you must go to the Louvre; but then, if you go to Paris, as nearly as many will advise you, you must not go to the Louvre. Both recommendations, of course, had a great deal more relevance before the global coronavirus pandemic — at this point in which art- and travel-lovers would gladly endure the infamously tiring crowdedness and size of France’s most famous museum. But now they, and everyone else around the world, can view the Louve’s artworks online, and not just the ones currently on display: through the new portal, they can now view access every single one of the museum’s artworks online.

“For the first time ever,” says last week’s press release, “the entire Louvre collection is available online, whether works are on display in the museum, on long-term loan in other French institutions, or in storage.”

This includes, according to the about page of the collections’ site, not just the “more than 480,000 works of art that are part of the national collections,” but the “so-called ‘MNR’ works (Musées Nationaux Récupération, or National Museums Recovery), recovered after WWII,” and “works on long-term loan from other French or foreign institutions such as the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the Petit Palais, the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, the British Museum and the archaeological museum of Heraklion.”

The masterpieces of the Louvre are all there, from Eugène Delacroix’s La Liberté guidant le peuple and Titian’s La Femme au miroir to the Vénus de Milo and the Great Sphinx of Tanis. But so are an enormous number of lesser-known works like a Giovanni Paolo Panini view of the Roman forum, an anonymous 19th-century Algerian landscape, Hendrick de Clerck’s Scène de l’histoire de Psyché (among many other Dutch paintings), and a powder flask amusingly engraved with human and animal figures, all of them in search of their rightful owners since their retrieval from a defeated Germany. You can also explore the Louvre’s online collections by type of work: drawings and engravings, sculptures, furniture, textiles, jewelry and finery, writing and inscriptions, objects, and of course paintings. In that last category you’ll find the Mona Lisa, viewable more clearly than most of us ever have at the physical Louvre — and downloadable at that. Enter the collection here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless: How World War II Changed Cinema & Helped Create the French New Wave

Did World War II help create the French New Wave? In a roundabout way, yes, according to this video essay by Nerdwriter. Although Jean-Luc Godard’s A Bout de Souffle (aka Breathless) was not technically the first Nouvelle Vague film, it was the film’s revolutionary look and feel, and Godard’s exquisite sense of how to work the promotional machine, that caused it to reverberate around the world. A few years later, many other countries would be launching their own New Waves: Britain, Germany, Eastern Europe, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Iran, and America. Each were particular to their own countries, but all sought to create an alternative to the dominant film culture, either Hollywood or their own country’s Hollywood-influenced film industries.

That decision did not come about in a vacuum, as the video points out. After the war, France was left with $2 billion in debt. Former Interim Prime Minister and then Ambassador Leon Blum signed an agreement with America’s Secretary of State James F. Byrnes to cancel debt and to start a new line of credit. One of the provisions of the 1946 Blum-Byrnes agreement was opening France up to American cultural product, in particular Hollywood films.

In French cinemas, four weeks out of every thirteen weeks would be devoted to French films. The other nine were reserved for foreign (i.e. mostly American) films. But the trade off included a tax on movie tickets, so the increased audience helped fund the French film industry.

Certain results came about that were not planned. A young cinephile generation was born, and its main journal was Cahiers du Cinema, edited by writer and theorist André Bazin. The French could not lay claim to an industry like Hollywood’s, but they could point to inventing movies as we now know them (Georges Méliès and the Lumière Brothers were French), and for treating film as an art form (by the Surrealists, by the Dadaists) before anybody else, and not just as entertainment.

The young critics who wrote for Cahiers du Cinema certainly loved the influx of American films, which they devoured daily in a city like Paris, especially at the Cinémathèque Française. Curated by Henri Langlois, this cinema/museum screened both new and old films, so much so that those critics began to see the artist behind the entertainment. The rise of the auteur theory, coined by Bazin among others, placed the director at the center of not just their one film, but demonstrated certain techniques and interests threading through all films that they directed.

Although there wasn’t a lot of money floating around, there was still enough to make short films and those critics—Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, and others—would start to put into practice the theory that they had been writing.

After a few shorts, Godard directed A Bout de Souffle, and the world wasn’t really the same after it.

The film was shot on a handheld camera, by Raoul Cotard, who had used such a camera in the war for newsreels. They used available light. And the two actors, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, improvised around a script that Godard would write the night before. Godard turned his brain inside-out, like emptying a bag across a table: all his cultural obsessions, not just in cinema, but in writers, philosophers, music, and more, all came out. If Godard was going to be an auteur, then this was how to do it. And yes, the jump-cut editing, as Nerdwriter points out, was shocking for the time. But so was seeing the actors walking around the actual streets of Paris. And so was hearing two people talk (and talk and talk) just like they do in real life. Even if a lot of those things have become common place these days, when everybody carries a movie camera in their pocket, Breathless still brims with life.

Over the course of the ‘60s Godard and his contemporaries would both honor, indulge, and then break away from Hollywood influences. The dominance of Hollywood product began to feel like imperialism, and America’s involvement in Vietnam and its overwhelming influence on consumer culture would lead to the events of 1968, and Godard’s outright rejection of Hollywood. He would end up killing his masters, so to speak. But that was still to come. There’s still Breathless, and there’s still 1960 in Paris.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

Hear the Beautiful Isolated Vocal Harmonies from the Beatles’ “Something”

How many songs did Pattie Boyd — fashion model, photographer, muse, and wife of George Harrison and Eric Clapton — inspire? It’s hard to say, since some of the lyrics purportedly written for her, like those in Harrison’s breakout “Something,” may have been for someone else, then diplomatically attributed to Boyd. Or, in the case of “Something” — the first Harrison song to come out as a Beatles A-side single and the song that convinced the world of his formidable songwriting talents — they might have been about a big, blue supernatural something.

According to Joe Taysom at Far Out magazine, Harrison “became obsessive in his studies of Krishna Consciousness when he wrote the song, and more specifically, its original intent was as a devotion to Lord Krishna.” Harrison “insisted that the original lyric was ‘something in the way HE moves,’ but he changed it.”

The masculine pronoun would have removed all speculation about Boyd but also would have confused listeners in other ways. In any case, Something‘s ambiguity, inherent in the title, made it a classic. Frank Sinatra once called it “the greatest love song ever written.”

Harrison, as usual, demurred: “The words are nothing really,” he said in 1969. “There are lots of songs like that in my head. I must get them down.” The song first came together during the 1968 White Album sessions. “There was a period during that album,” he remembered, “when we were all in different studios doing different things trying to get it finished, and I used to take some time out. So I went into an empty studio and wrote ‘Something.’” Lacking confidence in his ability to persuade the band to record it, he first tried to give the song to Apple Records artist and old Liverpool friend Jackie Lomax. The song, he felt, came too easily and might not be good enough, and he had lifted the opening line directly from James Taylor.

Lomax went with another Harrison tune for his first single, and the Beatle continued to work on “Something,” recording a demo of the finished song in February of 1969. But he still didn’t think of it as Beatles-worthy and gave it to Joe Cocker instead, who released his version that year, with Harrison on guitar. (Harrison later claimed to have written the song with Ray Charles in mind.) Whatever his reservations, he did, of course, finally record “Something” with his bandmates, with results familiar to all and everyone. But you’ve probably never heard the song as you can hear it here, with isolated vocal harmonies “you can’t put a cigarette-paper between,” writes Julian Dutton on Twitter. “Totally in simpatico; a synergy that began I suppose all those years ago on the school bus.”

At the top, hear the multitrack vocals that made the Beatles’ “Something” such an incredible recording (including a fun, yelping sing-along to the guitar solo at around 1:50). Further up, hear the whole song deconstructed into its parts (with timestamps for each one at the video’s YouTube page.) And just above, hear the band figure out the harmonies in a studio demo of the song. It was, John Lennon conceded after Abbey Road came out, “about the best track on the album, actually.” Paul McCartney said of the Harrison classic that “it’s the best he’s written.” And Bob Dylan later remarked that “if George had had his own group and was writing his own songs back then, he’d have been probably just as big as anybody,” a thesis Harrison got to prove the following year with his surprisingly amazing All Things Must Pass.

via Julian Dutton

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Udacity Running a 60% Off Sale on Online Courses Through April 13

A quick heads up: Udacity is running a 60% off sale through April 13 in the US (and April 20 in all other countries). Founded by computer scientist and entrepreneur Sebastian Thrun, Udacity partners with leading tech companies and offers an array of courses (and Nanodegree programs) in data science,  cyber security, machine learning, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and autonomous systems. To get the 60% off discount, click here, select a course/program, and then use the code CYBER60 during the checkout process.

Note: Open Culture has a partnership with Udacity. If readers enroll in certain Udacity courses and programs, it helps support Open Culture.

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Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine Is Streaming Free on YouTube

Earlier this year, Michael Moore released the 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine on his official YouTube channel. The winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the film “set out to investigate the long, often volatile love affair between Americans and their firearms, uncovering the pervasive culture of fear that keeps the nation locked and loaded.” Criterion goes on to write:

Equipped with a camera and a microphone, Moore follows the trail of bullets from Littleton, Colorado, and Flint, Michigan, all the way to Kmart’s midwestern headquarters and NRA president Charlton Heston’s Beverly Hills mansion, meeting shooting survivors, militia members, mild-mannered Canadians, and rock provocateur Marilyn Manson along the way. An unprecedented popular success that helped usher in a new era in documentary filmmaking, the Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine is a raucous, impassioned, and still tragically relevant journey through the American psyche.”

Nearly two decades later–and right on the heels of two massacres in Atlanta and Boulder–Moore’s film has unfortunately not lost its relevance. You can watch it online, right above.

via NoFilmSchool

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Meet the Forgotten Female Artist Behind the World’s Most Popular Tarot Deck (1909)

As an exercise draw a composition of fear or sadness, or great sorrow, quite simply, do not bother about details now, but in a few lines tell your story. Then show it to any one of your friends, or family, or fellow students, and ask them if they can tell you what it is you meant to portray. You will soon get to know how to make it tell its tale.

– Pamela Colman-Smith, “Should the Art Student Think?” July, 1908

A year after Arts and Crafts movement magazine The Craftsman published illustrator Pamela Colman-Smith’s essay excerpted above, she spent six months creating what would become the world’s most popular tarot deck. Her graphic interpretations of such cards as The MagicianThe Tower, and The Hanged Man helped readers to get a handle on the story of every newly dealt spread.

Colman-Smith—known to friends as “Pixie”—was commissioned by occult scholar and author Arthur E. Waite, a fellow member of the British occult society the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, to illustrate a pack of tarot cards.

In a humorous letter to her eventual champion, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, Colman-Smith (1878 – 1951) described her 80 tarot paintings as “a big job for very little cash,” though she betrayed a touch of genuine excitement that they would be “printed in color by lithography… probably very badly.”

Although Waite had some specific visual ideas with regard to the “astrological significance” of various cards, Colman-Smith enjoyed a lot of creative leeway, particularly when it came to the Minor Arcana or pip cards.

These 56 numbered cards are divided into suits—wands, cups, swords and pentacles. Prior to Colman-Smith’s contribution, the only example of a fully illustrated Minor Arcana was to be found in the earliest surviving deck, the Sola Busca which dates to the early 1490s. A few of her Minor Arcana cards, notably 3 of Swords and 10 of Wands, make overt reference to that deck, which she likely encountered on a research expedition to the British Museum.

Mostly the images were of Colman-Smith’s own invention, informed by her sound-color synesthesia and the classical music she listened to while working. Her early experience in a touring theater company helped her to convey meaning through costume and physical attitude.

Here are Pacific Northwest witch and tarot practitioner Moe Bowstern‘s thoughts on Smith’s Three of Pentacles:

Pentacles are the suit of Earth, representative of structure and foundation. Colman-Smith’s theater-influenced designs here identify the occupations of three figures standing in an apse of what appears to be a cathedral: a carpenter with tools in hand; an architect showing plans to the group; a tonsured monk, clearly the steward of the building project. 

The overall impression is one of building something together that is much bigger than any individual and which may outlast any individual life. The collaboration is rooted in the hands-on material work of foundation building, requiring many viewpoints.

A special Pixie Smith touch is the physical elevation of the carpenter, who would have been placed on the lowest rung of medieval society hierarchies. Smith has him on a bench, showing the importance of getting hands on with the project. 

For years, Colman-Smith’s cards were referred to as the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck. This gave a nod to publisher William Rider & Son, while neglecting to credit the artist responsible for the distinctive gouache illustrations. It continues to be sold under that banner, but lately, tarot enthusiasts have taken to personally amending the name to the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) or Waite Smith (WS) deck out of respect for its previously unheralded co-creator.

While Colman-Smith is best remembered for her tarot imagery, she was also a celebrated storyteller, illustrator of children’s books and a collection of Jamaican folk tales, creator of elaborate toy theater pieces, and maker of images on behalf of women’s suffrage and the war effort during WWII.

Outside of some early adventures in a traveling theater, and friendships with Stieglitz, author Bram Stoker, actress Ellen Terry, and poet William Butler Yeats, certain details of her personal life—namely her race and sexual orientation—are difficult to divine. It’s not for lack of interest. She is the focus of several biographies and an increasing number of blog posts.

It’s sad, but not a total shocker, to learn that this interesting, multi-talented woman died in poverty in 1951. Her paintings and drawings were auctioned off, with the proceeds going toward her debts. Her death certificate listed her occupation not as artist but as “Spinster of Independent Means.” Lacking funds for a headstone, she was buried in an unmarked grave.

Explore more of Pamela “Pixie” Colman-Smith’s illustrations and read some of her letters to Alfred Stieglitz at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s collection.

via MessyNessy/Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

BirdCast: You Can Now Forecast the Migration of Birds Across the U.S. Just Like the Weather

We talk about the weather more often than we talk about most things, other natural phenomena included. We certainly talk about the weather more often than we talk about birds, much to the disappointment of ornithological enthusiasts. This could be down to the comparative robustness of weather prediction, both as a tradition and as a daily technological presence in our lives. We can hardly avoid seeing the weather forecast, but when was the last time you checked the bird forecast? Such a thing does, in fact, exist, though it’s only come into existence recently, in the form of Birdcast, which provides “real-time predictions of bird migrations: when they migrate, where they migrate, and how far they will be flying.”

Developed by Colorado State University and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdCast offers both live bird migration maps and bird forecast migration maps for the United States. “These forecasts come from models trained on the last 23 years of bird movements in the atmosphere as detected by the US NEXRAD weather surveillance radar network,” says BirdCast’s web site.

Unprecedented in both the kind of information they provide and the detail in which they provide it, “these bird migration maps represented the culmination of a 20-year long vision, so too the beginnings of new inspiration for the next generation of bird migration research, outreach and education, and application.”

You can learn more about the development and workings of BirdCast in the recorded webinar below, featuring research associate Adriaan Dokter and Julia Wang, leader of the Lights Out project, which aims to get Americans spending more time in just such a state. “Every spring and fall, billions of birds migrate through the US, mostly under the cover of darkness,” says its section of BirdCast’s site. “This mass movement of birds must contend with a dramatically increasing but still largely unrecognized threat: light pollution.” The goal is “turning off unnecessary lighting during critical migration periods,” and with spring having begun last weekend, we now find ourselves in just such a period. Luckily, our fine feathered friends shouldn’t be disturbed by the glow of the BirdCast map on your screen. View live BirdCast maps here.

via Kottke

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hear Marianne Faithfull’s Three Versions of “As Tears Go By,” Each Recorded at a Different Stage of Life (1965, 1987 & 2018)

When a 17-year-old Marianne Faithfull finished the final take of her 1965 hit “As Tears Go By” — penned by a young duo of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as one of their first original songs — Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham “came and gave me a big hug,” she recalled “‘Congratulations darling. You’ve got yourself a number six,’ he said.”

Richards remembered the song in his autobiography as “a terrible piece of tripe” and “money for old rope,” but it actually peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for nine weeks, no small thing. So popular was “As Tears Go By” that the Stones themselves recorded a version the following year. Their take also entered the Hot 100, where it peaked at number six.

The story of the song represents in brief the evolution of its original singer. Fated in her early years to be known as little more than Jagger’s muse, an image she grew to hate, Faithfull went from hanger-on in the sixties, “an essential component of the Swinging London scene,” writes reviewer alrockchick; to a homeless heroin addict; to a legend revived, her “whiskey-soaked” croak of a voice the perfect vehicle for delivering smoke-filled tales of weariness and betrayal.

Along the way, there was “As Tears Go By,” a song Faithfull came to embody, though she didn’t think much of it as a teenager. (See Brian Epstein introduce her on Hulabaloo, above, in 1965.)

She was “never that crazy” about it, she said. “God knows how Mick and Keith wrote it or where it came from…. In any case, it’s an absolutely astonishing thing for a boy of 20 to have written a song about a woman looking back nostalgically on her life.”

The “boys” had help — at first they cribbed the title “As Time Goes By” from the famous tearjerker in Casablanca. According to Loog Oldham, he locked the two Stones in a room together and said, “I want a song with brick walls all around it, high windows and no sex.” How that became a Marianne Faithfull signature is something of a mystery. At times she claimed Jagger wrote the song for her; at others, she emphatically denied it. But as the contrast between her voice and the song’s saccharine, maudlin nature changed, so too did the power of her delivery, which is not to say her first recording didn’t warrant the attention.

“The voice on ‘As Tears Go By’ and ‘Summer Nights,’” altrockchick writes, “has an airy, surreal quality; the voice on Broken English,” her 1979 comeback (which does not include “As Tears Go By”), “is as real as it gets” and only got more real with time. In a Nico-esque monotone drone, she revisited the song she made famous in the mid-sixties in the 1987 take above for the album Strange Weather. She had just recently gotten clean and lost a lover to suicide.

The weathered vulnerability she projects is worlds away from the dreamy melancholy of the past, her voice “a far cry from the 60s sweetness,” The Music Aficionado blog notes. “Years of substance abuse and constant smoking dropped her pitch and made it raspy.” These qualities are even more pronounced in a 2018 version of the song from the album Negative Capability. It functions almost as a coda for a career as an interpreter of the songs of others, though she’s written no few of her own (and may yet release another version of “As Time Goes By.”)

She is remembered for much more than her first hit, but Faithfull’s revisitation of “As Tears Go By” over the years seems to speak to an ambivalent acceptance of Mick Jagger’s constant presence in her story — and a graceful, if not exactly uplifting, acceptance of the inevitable ravages of age and fame.

You can hear her very recent interview on the Broken Record podcast below:

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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