February 2006
Page 2
Feature: Recently Read
Jonathan Harr's The Lost Painting
by Chris Brooks

During the Holidays I read Jonathan Harr’s The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece published by Random House last year. Harr, a magazine writer and journalist, is best known for his bestselling non-fiction work A Civil Action, which was made into a movie (1998) starring John Travolta, Robert Duvall and Tony Shalhoub. In his most recent book, Harr recounts the story behind the discovery of a Caravaggio masterpiece which was lost for centuries and captivated the minds of numerous Caravaggio scholars. The detective story behind this discovery goes from the dusty archives in an Italian villa to the attic of the National Gallery in Dublin.

The Lost Painting is a detective story that begins in Rome with feuding scholars debating over the attribution between a real Caravaggio and a masteful copy. Caravaggio had a bright reputation in his own day but sank into relative obscurity shortly after his death. It was only in the middle of the last century that his reputation began to be reestablished and now he is one of the most famous of the Baroque masters. Because of his obscurity, most of his works have been lost, with only seventy or so in existence. Because of his new fame, attributions of paintings can change the fortunes and reputation of scholars, collectors and museums. It is this powerful factor that drives the intrigue of the story.

In 1989, a new project to approach art history in a systematic and scientific process leads two young art history students to search the provenance of a disputed work by Caravaggio. In a dusty family archive in a remote Italian villa, the two students discover vital information that firmly establishes the previously thought copy as the original.

At the same time, an Italian restorer working for the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin begins cleaning a painting owned by a local Jesuit residence. As he strips layer after layer of dust and grime from the painting, he becomes increasingly convinced that what he has found is “The Taking of Christ” by Caravaggio, a piece thought to be lost for centuries. Despite his conviction of the quality of the work, he has a hard time imagining how the piece could have ended up in this obscure Northern setting. In the end, the work done by the young students in Italy connects with the Dublin piece, and justifies the attribution, turning the art world academia on its head and greatly increasing the fortunes of the Irish Museum.

The Lost Painting started out as a piece for the New York Times Magazine, and at times I felt like Harr’s story got caught somewhere in between a magazine piece and a full book. He goes into detail about the lives of some of the people involved in the discovery of the painting, including information that seems more like filler than crucial details. He also includes information about the life of Caravaggio throughout the book and here I felt the exact opposite. I wanted more about the wild, rough and passionate life of the artist. By the end of the book I only felt as though I saw him through a dark varnish. What I liked best about the work is the detailed look it provides into the world of art history and academia.

The Lost Painting is fascinating as a detective story. It has something of the interest of the DaVinci Code, though I doubt we will be seeing a movie with Tom Hanks as a painting restorer anytime soon. But what “The Lost Painting” may lack in thrill elements (the closest one gets to a bad guy is an angry professor) it makes up for in the fact that it is true. For anyone who enjoys going to garage sales on a Saturday morning hoping to find a lost Dixon or Minerva Teichert, The Lost Painting will feel like a perfect read.

Purchasing The Lost Painting from Amazon through this link not only saves you money but helps to pay for 15 Bytes web hosting.

Wildlife artist Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen has recently published a coffee-table book of his art. Brest van Kempen, who resides in Salt Lake, recently displayed his work at the Rose Wagner Art Center. The book, entitled Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding, is over 300 pages and contains 132 color plates of the artist's work as well as etchings and drawings. It's beautifully designed, and graced with a foreword by Carl Brenders, an introduction by David J. Wagner, PhD, and the core text by the artist himself including captions for each of his paintings. On his website, the artist says:

"They said it would never happen, but here we are!
I've begged, borrowed and bullied.
I've lied, bribed and libeled.
I've demeaned, debased and humiliated myself.
I've even engaged in some actual hard work, and now can announce the release of a magnificent new book of my paintings."

To take a peek at the book and even order online, visit the website here.

Feature: In Plain Site
Ursula Brodauf's Intensity

Firefighters might not be the first people that come to mind when you think of art, but Salt Lake City's public art program is making sure that in addition to being a storage space for red engines, fire houses in the city are also landmarks with public art honoring the people who work there.

Salt Lake City's Fire Station No. 11, located at 700 North and 2360 West near the Salt Lake Airport, is adorned with a 1999 cast bronze and concrete sculpture by Salt Lake artist Ursula Brodauf. This modernist work combines the image of contained flames and the wheel to represent the work of the firefighters in large scale to serve as a landmark for the station.

Brodauf grew up in a small town near the Czech border during the Nazi regime. She pursued her interest in art in Soviet-dominated East Germany, and "crossed into West Berlin three times under gunfire in order to transport her belongings and supplies to the school there." Her first load of possessions was stolen. "I got smarter each time," Brodauf said in retrospect of her experience. Perhaps as a test of her patience and perseverance, after her dangerous travels across the trans-Berlin barrier, she was denied acceptance into the school she planned to attend. In the mean time, Brodauf would reside in West Berlin yet another year working odd jobs and living in substandard housing." She was eventually admitted into the Academy of Art in West Berlin and studied with Klakow, Seits, Sintenis, and Van Verkerk and met visiting artists such as Marc Chagall, Henry Moore, and Alexander Calder (for a more extended biography by FrankMcEntire click here).

Brodauf eventually emigrated to the United States and was planning to pursue her career in Hollywood, but she stopped in Salt Lake to visit a friend and never left.

Brodauf's work can be seen at Patrick Moore Gallery, as well as various public venues in the state, including the Salt Lake Convention Center. For more images of her work, visit the Utah Artists Project. To view more public art pieces in Salt Lake City, including other firehouses, visit the Salt Lake Arts Council page.

Artists of Utah News
New Site Design

At the beginning of 2006, Artists of Utah relaunched its site under a new format designed to trim some of the fat and build up some muscle mass. And we did it in an orange color you're not likely to forget so that, well, you won't forget. We'll need your help to accomplish our New Year fitness goals so here is an overview of some of the features on the site.

These are our arms and legs. With our artist listings we reach out to the wonderful and varied talents of the Utah visual arts community.
Artist Listings: We have maintained our artist listings, which are open to all professional artists living or working in Utah. These listings include a description of the artist, three images and a link to the artist's website. The listings are arranged alphabetically as well as by category. Not all of our categories are active yet.
Organization Listings: These free text listings with hyper links are available to all galleries, museums, societies, clubs and other organizations related to the visual arts in Utah. The listings are organized by region.

As always, Artists of Utah is your portal to 15 Bytes, Utah's visual arts ezine. We will continue to strengthen and develop 15 Bytes, so that it can be our shoulders and upper body to lift the Utah visual arts for everyone to see. From the 15 Bytes page you'll be able to access the current edition as well as past editions, which are organized by year. 15 Bytes will be connected to the forums (see below) allowing for immediate commentary and discussion on the articles. You will see links for "comments" at the bottom of some articles or else you can click the Letters to the Editor icon at the top of each page.

This is where YOU get to flex your muscle. The forums are a message board style section designed to facilitate dialogue and interaction between members of the community. The success of the forums will be determined by participation from individual members. Think of this as the abdomen. It may be hard to start working out but will pay big dividends if you do.

This is the area for our core muscles. Here we will be working out the whole body.
Featured Artist Website: Incorporated from our old home page, this section features an artist's website and will rotate on a monthly basis.
Announcements: Post your messages to the community. These announcements cover a variety of Topics including Call for Entries, Employment Opportunities, Classes & Workshops
About & FAQ: We'll be adding all the information you'll need to know about our organization and website, including contact info, how to get listed, and underwriting.
Directories: We have added directories for Deceased Artists of Utah and Expat Artists of Utah. Due to search engine variables we have decided not to incorporate our artist or organization listings here.
Exhibitions: Here you can post comments and read others' comments on exhibitions in Utah.

Frank McEntire


Spring City artist Joe Bennion On the Spot

1) What are you reading lately?

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman
Doctrine and Covenants
The Open Space of Democracyby Terry Tempest Williams

2)What hangs above your mantel?

There is no mantel in our home. Above the door between our dining room and our laundry room is a bison skull given to me by an old Ute medicine man who passed away last summer. Darrell Arlen Gardner was a great friend and spiritual mentor. The last time I saw him alive he was performing a blessing on my wife who was sick with a pituitary tumor. Gratitude....

3) If you could choose any artist (living or dead) to paint or sculpt your portrait, who would it be?

Of course it would be Lee Udall Bennion.


15 Bytes is published monthly by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization located in Salt Lake City Utah. The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of 15 Bytes or Artists of Utah.

Editor: Shawn Rossiter
Assitant Editor: Laura Durham

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