Nari-Kunjar, a Unique Genre of Art

Nari-Kunjar a remarkably unique art genre which started trending amongst the Indian artists, starting early 17th century was a result of the influence of an art-style from Persia. The main composition of the artform is a framework of a Kunjar, a Sanskrit word, which means, the Elephant, within the shell, figures of women, nari, are artistically intertwined and seated in a creative manner. The figures are generally dancers, musicians or just a jubilant group of women. The creativity of the artist lies in the acrobatic postures used for the figures, their adjustment within the composition and their voluptuous form.

Shown below is a Persian (Left) and an Indian painting (right) of Composite elephant. Its evident, how much the Indo-Islamic artform influenced the Indian artstyle. The difference is the Persian painting is a Pashu-Kunjar (composite elephant made of animals) and the Indian style is Nari-Kunjar (composite made of women).

Composite Elephant, Persian painting, 1600 (circa)


Victoria and Albert Museum, 1800 (circa)


The composition typically followed a set pattern of nine women dressed ostentatiously. Four of the figures formed the beasts’s legs. The plait of one of the woman played the role of the elephant’s tail. The figure which served as the trunk, took the most difficult acrobatic posture. The tusks were generally formed by a figure carrying two similar items like swords or fans, depending on the subject of the painting.  The deity riding the elephant mostly carried an ankusha (elephant goad). The remaining female figures formed the back and the belly, one of whom would typically be playing an instrument called mridanga (double-headed drum).

Shown below is a Nari-kunjar painting from Rajasthan School, Sitting astride the elephant is Krishna, the gopi’s intertwined bodies form legs, body, and tusks of the elephant. The composition depicts the spiritual union of the gopi’s with their lord.

19th Century , The British Museum


These charmingly unusual compositions were a metaphorical depiction of different theories and philosophies. Paintings from Rajasthan school were mostly creative manifestations of the devotion and love of the gopi’s for their Lord Krishna. Mughal paintings depicted the splendor and flamboyance of the royal courts. The series created in South India depicted God of love Kama with his flashy attendants serving as a kunjar (Elephant), symbolizing the passion and romance associated with him.

Shown below is a Mughal painting, it illustrates a kingly figure riding an elephant formed by dancers and musicians, he is shown to control the beast with an elephant goad, and a woman behind him holds a fan over him. The painting is a symbolic demonstration of the pomp and show of the royal court.

Early 17th century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


The Nari-kunjar shown below is delightfully intriguing and diverse from the rest, a cobra coiled around the legs of the dancer interestingly makes the trunk more comprehensive. Ducks are cleverly used by the artist to appear as shoes for the dancers serving as the legs of the elephant.

circa 1750, Sothebys collection


Lord Vishnu riding an elephant composed of female orchestra and acrobatic dancing girls.

1800 (circa), The British Museum


Manmatha or Kama Dev, the God of Love, mounted on an Elephant composed of nine women

1820 – 1825, Victoria and Albert Museum


Composite elephant made of beautiful Apsaras at a Vishnu temple in Tamil Nadu


A contemporary painting of Nari-Kunjar made by Baani Sekhon. Oil on canvas, Size- 30”x36” inches, 2017

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When Art inspired Art

It has been a common practice for artists to replicate the composition of the paintings made by their favorite master artists.  These replicas have been a result of sincere admiration and genuine inspiration. We have listed few such reproduced artworks that have been created with similar theme as the original masterpiece but yet each the copied painting retains its own uniqueness made with fresh creativity.

Vincent van Gogh made over 30 copies of artworks made by his favorite artists- Delacroix, Jean-Francois Millet and Rembrandt. These replicas are not ‘plagiarized ideas’, he reproduced the paintings infusing his own originality with new art techniques and symbolism.

Noon Rest from Work by Jean-Francois Millet (Original)



Noon – Rest from Work by Vincent van Gogh



‘Portrait of Young Woman with Unicorn’, a painting made by Raphael was inspired by the ‘Mona Lisa’, painted by Leonardo da Vinci. The landscape in the background, three-quarter cut of the portrait and the subjects pose, clearly takes on the composition of the masterpiece made by Leonardo da Vinci. However Raphael’s model has naivety and innocence in contrast to the mysterious Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci (Original)



Portrait of Young Woman with Unicorn by Raphael



Silk-screen prints of Kate Moss by the British artist Banksy are reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe. The graffiti artist has given a contemporary makeover to the classic masterpiece with superimposed hairstyle and vibrant backgrounds.

Andy Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe (Original)



Banksy’s portraits of Kate Moss



‘The Balcony’ a painting by Edouard Manet was inspired by ‘The Majas at the balcony’ made by Francisco Goya. Manet applied an interesting color contrast, the three models are Manet’s friends shown in a casual setting. Goya’s theme on the other hand is rather tense, two elegant women are watched over by hostile male figures in the background.

‘The Majas at the balcony’ made by Francisco Goya (Original)



‘The Balcony’ a painting by Edouard Manet



‘Women of Algiers in their Apartment’ is a depiction of a Muslim harem, the painting was created after Eugene Delacroix’s visit to Morocco. The artist was captivated by the Oriental culture, brightly colored flowing costumes, Caravans, Veiled women, and Erotic Harems. In homage to this artwork, Pierre-Auguste Renoir created ‘Parisian Women in Algerian Costume (The Harem). Later Picasso in his cubist style made a series of 15 paintings inspired by Delacroix’s masterpiece.

‘Women of Algiers in their Apartment’ by Eugene Delacroix’s (Original)



‘Parisian Women in Algerian Costume’ by Renoir



Women of Algiers by Picasso



Taking inspired from the composition of ‘The Pastoral Concert’ made by Titan, Edouard Manet painted ‘The Luncheon on the Grass’. Unlike Titan’s mythological theme, Manet’s painting had a contemporary setting. In that era, the art critics considered Manet’s painting obscene, lacking any mythological theme or allegorical precedent a nude and a scantily dressed female along with two fully cloth men in an urban setting couldn’t be passed off as a respectable subject. Claude Monet further inspired by Manet’s painting made his own version of ‘The Luncheon on the Grass’.  James Tissot’s version ‘The Foursome’ was more animated but it was much tamer and sober.

‘The Pastoral Concert’ made by Titan (Original)



‘The Luncheon on the Grass’ by Edouard Manet



‘The Luncheon on the Grass’ by Claude Monet



The Foursome by James Tissot



The composition of ‘Bedroom at Arles’ painted by Roy Lichtenstein is an exact replica of Vincent van Gogh’s painting of the same title. The technique is what gives the Pop artists painting its originality.

‘Bedroom at Arles’ by Vincent van Gogh (Original)



‘Bedroom at Arles’ by Roy Lichtenstein



‘The Third of May 1808’ is a painting made by Spanish artist Francisco Goya to honor Spanish resistance to Napoleon’s armies. The artwork inspired Edouard Manet’s painting ‘Execution of Emperor Maximilian’ and Pablo Picassos masterpiece ‘Guernica’. Manet’s painting portrays the execution of the Emperor of Mexico and ‘Guernica’ is and anti-war painting made by Picasso depicting the aftermath of the Nazi German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

‘The Third of May 1808’ by Francisco Goya (Original)



‘Execution of Emperor Maximilian’ by Edouard Manet



‘Guernica’ by Picasso



The Card Players is a series of oil paintings made by Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cezanne, depicting peasants engrossed in their pipes and playing cards. Cezanne gained inspiration from the painting ‘The Card Players’ made by one of the Le Nain brothers. While the original is highly animated and has a lot of drama, farmers in Cezanne’s artwork are calm and intensely focused on their game.

‘The Card Players’ by the Le Nain brothers (Original)



‘The Card Players’ by Paul Cezanne

the card players 25x33


Johannes Vermeer’s painting ‘The Art of Painting’ is in fact a self portrait, the artist has his back towards the viewer. Perfectly balanced composition, flawless lighting and remarkably realistic technique makes this masterpiece artwork one of the finest creation made by the artist. Salvador Dali revered Vermeer, ‘The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table’ is a surrealistic painting made by him in reference to Vermeer’s appearance in his popular painting ‘The Art of Painting’.

‘The Art of Painting’ by Johannes Vermeer (Original)



‘The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table’ by Dali



‘Woman with a Parasol’ (Mrs. Monet and their son) was painted by Claude Monet in a single session probably within few hours, the impulsiveness is clearly visible with the bold and dynamic strokes of multiple shades. Upwards perspective, windy atmosphere and the juxtaposition of Mrs Monet with her partly visible son, adds a sense of amazing depth. Inspired by this remarkable artwork, American artist John Singer Sargent, painted ‘Two Girls with Parasols’, the theme and feel of the painting is similar, it depicts a relaxed and casual outing on a sunny, fair weather day.

‘Woman with a Parasol’ by Claude Monet (Original)



‘Two Girls with Parasols’ by John Singer Sargent



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10 Legendary Muses in Art History

For centuries, in the history of art many master artists captivated by heir muses have created remarkable masterpieces. The magnetic force of the muse has proved to expand the mesmerized artists’ creativity. It’s interesting how the intensity and nature of muse-artist relationship clearly reflects on the artworks. We have featured some of the most popular muses’ who have been responsible for inspiring renowned artists’ in creating highly creative and incredible paintings.

Emilie Louise Flöge an Austrian fashion designer and successful businesswoman made a lasting impression on the symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. A creative, free-spirited and an accomplished woman, who led a bohemian life style had much in common with the artist. She is known to be his life companion, in his final moments Klimt’s last words were “Get Emilie”. She modeled for his paintings, designed attires for the figures in his artworks and greatly influenced the decorative patterns of his paintings.



Gala Dalí, a powerful inspiration for her husband Salvador Dalí, was also a muse for many other writers and artists of her time. She modeled for some of the best known paintings and sculptures created by her husband. The surrealist painter was so enamored by his wife that eventually he started signing his paintings with his and her name. He stated “(i)t is mostly with your blood, Gala, that I paint my pictures”.




Lydia Corbett was an inspiration that lead Pablo Picasso into creating 60+ remarkable artworks. She was a charming 19-year-old at the time she met the artist, she tied her blonde hair in a typical high ponytail fashion with fringes. At the first meeting itself he was taken by her youthfulness, innocence and her timid nature. Art historians have termed this phase of Picasso’s art as his ‘Ponytail Period’ and the artworks as ‘Sylvette series’ (Lydia was then called Sylvette). Lydia Corbett is an artist in her own right who has held numerous successful exhibitions of her remarkable artworks.



George Dyer was a petty criminal when he met British painter Francis Bacon. It is said that Dyer was caught by Bacon conducting burglary into the artist’s apartment. Bacon latter stated that he was attracted to Dyer’s helplessness and immaturity, Dyer on the other hand was awe-struck by the artist’s intellect and self-confidence. Their fiery and passionate relationship led the artist to create some of his most original and creative portraits and artworks.



Victorine Meurent modeled for many impressionist artists however she was predominantly featured in most of the masterpieces made by Edouard Manet. The artist is said to have been charmed by her when he first saw Meurent in the street carrying her guitar, she use to play the instrument in café-concerts. ‘The Luncheon on the Grass’ and ‘Olympia’ (Shown below) are the two most popular artworks that feature her nude portrayal. An accomplished artist herself, she regularly exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon.



Saskia van Uylenburgh, wife of painter Rembrandt van Rijn served as his muse for numerous masterpieces. The artists featured her in many of his mythical, biblical and historical themed artworks and painted numerous portraits of her. Saskia died after giving birth to their fourth child Titus’s, most likely from tuberculosis. There’s a collection of touching artworks which he lovingly created of her while she was sick on her death bed.



Camille Monet, wife and muse of French painter ClaudeMonet has been featured in number of his masterpieces. ‘The Woman in the Green Dress’, which earned Monet critical acclaim at the Paris salon, is the most popular painting which features her as a subject. Besides being Monet’s muse, she also modeled for other known Impressionist artists, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edouard Manet. Tragically, Camille died very young due to pelvic cancer, grief-stricken Monet made numerous intense and expressive paintings of his dead wife.


Elizabeth Siddal, a talented artist herself, inspired her husband Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She has been the central subject of Rossetti’s symbolic and mythological paintings and drawings which have been said to amount in thousands. Rossetti represented Siddal as Dante’s Beatrice in one of his most famous works, Beata Beatrix. While posing for artist John Everett Millais’ ‘Ophelia’ (Shown below) in 1852, Siddal floated in a bathtub full of water to represent the drowning Ophelia. Millais painted daily into the winter putting lamps under the tub to warm the water.




Frida Kahlo once stated “I am my own muse, I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better.” In her life-time Frida Kahlo created 55 self-portraits. The experience of excruciating physical pain (due to a childhood accident) and emotional turmoil owing to her tumultuous personal life is characteristically represented by her in her self-portraits.

Self Portrait Frida Kahlo


Camille Claudel, a famed French sculptor started her relationship with artist Auguste Rodin as his pupil eventually became his companion and inspiration. Quoted as a ‘woman genius’ by the art critics, she not only played the role of a muse but also influenced sculptor Auguste Rodin’s art style. Interestingly, their turbulent and passionate relationship echo’s on both, Rodin’s and Claudel’s artworks.


Orientalism- a unique genre of Art

The Harem Dance by Giulio Rosati

‘Orientalist Paintings’ is a genre started by the western artists in late 18th century illustrating the culture and ethnicity of Middle East, North Africa, and West Asia. After Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798, significant amount of interest got stimulated in Europe regarding the Eastern culture. Many artists (mostly French) traveled extensively to study the lifestyles of the locals, the artworks created by these master’s pleased the western audiences’ growing curiosity of the oriental lifestyle. The remarkable and realistic paintings of Caravans, Carpet vendors, Veiled women, Bazaars, and Erotic Harems further added more charm to the mystical image of the East. Listed below are some of the most noteworthy Orientalist artists-

Jean-Léon Gérôme, known as one of the best historical artist, his visit to Egypt in 1856 triggered his interest in the oriental culture. More than two-thirds of his collection of paintings illustrates orientalist subjects. His best-known realistic works include:

Cafe House (Turkish soldiers, casting Bullets)

The Carpet Merchant



John Frederick Lewis– His authentic paintings were the source of inspiration for other Orientalist painters in France. Lewis spent several years in Cairo and produced exquisitely detailed artworks depicting Egyptian culture, architecture, furnishings, screens and costumes.

Encampment in the Desert


On the Banks of the Nile



Eugène Delacroix- In 1832, Delacroix traveled to North Africa, as a diplomat after France occupied Algeria. His contribution to Orientalism is immense, over 100 paintings were created by him based on North African ethnicity.

Arabs Traveling 

Eugène Delacroix’s Orietalist paintings continued to further influence future master artists of twentieth century like Renoir, Matisse, Paul Klee, Kandinsky and Oskar Kokoschka. Shown below is Renoirs painting ‘The Harem’ (Right) as homage to Eugène Delacroix’s ‘Women of Algiers in their Apartment’ (Left).

Renoir_Eugene Delacroix


Giulio Rosati was one of the most recognized Italian artist of 19th Century, his expertise were not just limited to the art domain but also the cultural studies of Orientalism. His remarkably realistic artworks made considerable amount of contribution to the Orientalist art collection.

The Rug Merchant

Giulio Rosati The Rug Merchant

The Arab Riders

Giulio Rosati_The Arab Riders
Frederick Arthur Bridgman:– Enamored by the Eastern culture, Bridgman made frequent trips to North Africa starting 1872, he gathered a huge collection of costumes, architectural pieces, traditional accessories and illustrated 300+ sketches as reference materials for his noteworthy artworks.

An Interesting Game of Chess

An Interesting Game


At the Waters Edge

Frederick Arthur Bridgman AT THE WATER'S EDGE 24x37



Rudolf Ernst:- In France, Ernst was known for his creative tin-glazed pottery with Orientalist theme. His fondness for tiles and pottery strongly reflects on his artworks, they are best known for the detailed interiors and traditional motifs.

The Perfume Makers

RUDOLF ERNST the perfume makers 22x18


Moroccan Potter by Jean Discart

Moroccan potter


Rest in the Syrian Desert by Eugen Bracht



A Caravan at Rest by Charles Theodore Frere

A Caravan at Rest, The Temple of Karnak, Thebes in the distance


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VINCENT and THEO: The Van Gogh Brothers

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VINCENT a creative genius and THEO a Charismatic art dealer, as illustrated in manga- Les deux Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, a classic model of an eccentric and a tortured genius, shared a fiercely strong bond with his beloved brother Theo van Gogh, who was his only confidant, closest friend and amongst the few who understood the artist. Theo was not just a loving brother, who gave financial and emotional support with unwavering love but also played the role of an art dealer, who promoted and introduced Vincent’s art to the evolving art scenario in Europe, unfortunately his efforts only fructified after his dead.

It is almost impossible to talk about Vincent’s art and achievements without referring his brother’s influence. The connection between the two intensely devoted brothers was admirable, Theo was like Vincent’s second self, an alter-ego of the artist.

Loving Vincent

Vincent and Theo- as illustrated in the animation movie ‘Loving Vincent’

There have been many cultural depictions that have highlighted their warm brotherly love. Listed are few of the most popular movies and books:-

Vincent & Theo– a 1990 biographical drama film about the painter Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) and his brother Theo (1857–1891). The film highlights the warm relationship of the siblings, it starts from 1883 when despite his father’s protests Vincent decides to pursuit art as a career, Theo is introduced as the only family member who supported Vincent’s decision. In his lifetime, Theo never lost hope in Vincent’s artistic skills, he continued to encourage him till the end and as an art dealer persistently tried to establish him as a successful artist in the market. As a concerned brother, he even financed Paul Gauguin’s relocation to Arles with the hope that his company would help Vincent cope with depression and he trusted Gauguin’s influence might shift his dark palette to a brighter one, as was the pattern followed by the avant-garde impressionist artists of that time.


Promotional posters of the movie Vincent & Theo


Van Gogh: Painted With Words- A bio-documentary released in 2010, based on the real letters of Vincent and Theo, it showcases the correspondence between the two brothers and the circumstances at the moments the letters were written. Shown below is the promotional poster of the bio-documentary

Van Gogh-Painted With Words

Promotional posters of the bio-documentary ‘Van Gogh: Painted with Words’


In their lifetime, Vincent van Gogh and his brother exchanged over 903 letters, the brothers had a constant correspondence, living apart didn’t bring any sort of distance or gap in their relationship. In the letters, Vincent expressed his artistic ideas and emotional experiences with complete honesty. These letters reveal the artist’s inner struggles, creative growth and personal thoughts.

Below are few books based on the collection of Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo:

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh– edited by Mark Roskill

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh-


Dear Theo- edited by Irving Stone



Theo: The Other Van Gogh by Marie-Angelique Ozanne and Frederique De Jode
The book questions- Would Vincent have been Vincent without Theo? It analysis the key role the younger brother played in emotionally supporting and shaping his career as an artist.

TheoThe Other Van Gogh


Les deux Van Gogh (Sayonara Sorushie) An interesting graphic novel released in 2012 by Japanese Author/Artist Hozumi. Though the tear-jerking manga (Japanese term for graphic novels) is partly fictional but the way the Author/Artist has narrated the siblings attachment is extremely touching. This award-winning work is a must-read for all art enthusiasts.



Theo was with his beloved brother till his last hours of life, on 27 July 1890 when he receiving the news that Vincent shot himself in the chest, he rushed to be at his brother’s side. Theo was distraught by the loss and died six months later, his body was buried with his brother at Auvers-sur-Oise. Theo’s widow held a memorial exhibition of Vincent van Gogh’s artworks, and he was an instant sensation in the art circuit in Europe. Today Vincent van Gogh is one of the most recognizable artists, his creative techniques laid down the foundation for the modern art.

Vincent and theo

Vincent and Theo- A Creative genius and a Charismatic Art Dealer, as illustrated in Manga Sayonara Sorcier.

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The Curious Case of- ‘The Barnes Collection’


Albert Barnes a chemist by profession is known as one of the most insightful and intuitive art collector. In late 19th century/early 20th century, when modern artists like Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani were considered too vague and forward, he invested in their artworks and gradually made an art collection of 2,500 art items which is currently worth at least $25-billion.


With his perceptive vision, he bought priceless artworks at advantageous prices. Artworks worth millions in today’s time were bought by him within four to three-figures price range. Today ‘The Barnes collection’ is considered to be the best private art collection of post-Impressionist era. The amazing collection includes – 69 Cézannes, 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos, 178 Renoirs, 18 Henri Rousseau, 14 Modigliani, 6 Georges Seurat, Edgar Degas, 7 Vincent van Gogh and more.

Shown below are some of the prized assets-



But his excellent taste in art is not the only thing he is known for, after Barnes’ death, ownership of his exclusive collection had become a very controversial issue. Only once, did Barnes showcase his private collection publically, the displayed artworks were brutally criticized and ridiculed by the local art circle leaving a permanent resentment towards the art critics and institutes of Philadelphian.

Before long, he got a mansion built and designed especially for his collection, access to which was limited to selected few, mainly art students. Idea was to make a school and use the art for educational programs rather than showcasing it as a typical museum. The arrangement of the paintings, ancient artifacts, furniture and other antique pieces (African sculptures, Asian prints, medieval manuscripts, Old master paintings of Peter Paul Rubens, and Titian) in the mansion was unique and aesthetically interesting unlike a museum-like clichéd display.

Artworks as displayed in Barnes Mansion



For the sake of his art collection, he founded ‘The Barnes Foundation’ which stated clearly that the artworks should be only used for educational purpose, they shouldn’t be sold and that the pieces should not be moved out of the mansion under any condition. The foundation permitted the collection to be open to the public, only for few days a week.

The building where the Barnes collection was displayed in Lower Merion


After Barnes death, in due course, as the masterpiece artworks value increased, The Philadelphia Art Museum, the very institute Barnes detested, claimed that the collection deserved to be made public. Supporters of the original foundation and nonprofit corporations voiced against the proposal since it conflicted with Barnes wishes. The factions accused the government of overlooking and disrespecting the basic rights of private property and monetizing the collection for tourism purpose. After years of legal struggle, the city finally obtains it for $107 million, a measly amount compared to the estimated $25 billion worth collection.

Supporters of the Barnes foundation protesting against the relocation of the art collection



Barnes protest

Vandalized signs of the protester’s

Photo by William Thomas

‘The Art of the Steal’ is an excellent documentary worth watching (not to be mistaken with the Hollywood movie releases in 2013), it follows this controversial struggle for control of Dr. Albert C. Barnes’ 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art.


Other than Barnes’ radical art collection and controversies, what’s more intriguing and admirable is his keen sense of art and intuitive nature. Entrepreneur to the core, the fact that he formed a foundation to protect his art possession proves that he anticipated that his collection in due time would become priceless. He spent most of his fortune on the artworks which the art critics of his time, yet didn’t recognize as masterpieces. Art collectors and enthusiasts like Albert Barnes are rarities in the art world.

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Feathers in Audubon`s Cap

“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.”
– J.  J. Audubon

James Audubon, a self taught artist, naturalist and ornithologist is best known for his exceptional bird paintings, his ambition was to illustrate every single bird species of North America in their natural habitats. His collection of artworks were published as a book ‘The Birds of America’ encompassing 435 life-sized bird prints, the book till date is regarded as one of the most significant documented studies of birds.

Here is a selection of some of the most stunning drawings of Audubon along with few of his remarkable quotes. The birds in his artworks are dexterously illustrated in a manner that they are creatively appealing for an artist, inspiring for a nature lover and informative with incredible visual clarity for an ornithologist.

Aphelocoma Jay’s illustrated by J. J. Audubon


“I never for a day gave up listening to the songs of our birds, or watching their peculiar habits, or delineating them in the best way I could.”
–  James Audubon

The uniqueness of his painstakingly detailed artworks is the breathtaking realism of the anatomical features of the birds and a hint of their natural habitat in the background.

Falcorusticolu’s illustrated by J. J. Audubon


“The worse my drawings were, the more beautiful did the originals appear.”
–  James Audubon

Audubons’s water color technique was unique and experimental, he defied the traditional method by mixing other medias like graphite, pastel, oil paint, chalk, ink, and collage to add texture and depth.

Great Horned Owl illustrated by J. J. Audubon


“As I grew up I was fervently desirous of becoming acquainted with Nature.”
–  James Audubon

It is believed that Audubon’s financial and family life failed miserably due to his obsession with the feathered species. Allegedly his wife once complained- “I have a rival in every bird”. He went bankrupt due to his numerous failed business attempts that’s when he set off trekking across North America with a bold ambition of drawing every bird in North America.

Ruffed Grouse illustrated by J. J. Audubon


“During all these years there existed within me a tendency to follow Nature in her walks.”
–  James Audubon

Audubon’s achievement was extraordinary, in his era there were no documented reference on birds, binoculars or camera available, for the sake of his work he managed to record and study the birds in their natural environment with his own innovative methods. He catalogued 25 new species and introduced bird-banding, a method used to study birds and their travels. He tied yarn to the legs of Eastern Phoebes, monitored their movements, and discovered that this species returns to nest in the same spot each year.

Carolina Parakeet illustrated by J. J. Audubon

Brasilian Caracara Eagle illustrated by J. J. Audubon

Columbia Jay illustrated by J. J. Audubon

Black Warrior illustrated by J. J. Audubon


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Mona Lisa- The Queen of Mysteries

Ocher Art Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa is undoubtedly the most popular portraits in the art world, the greatest creation of renaissance period and the finest masterpiece of Leonardo da Vinci. Surrounded with bazillion mysteries this accomplished work of art has been the most widely reproduced work and the ultimate source of inspiration for visual and literary arts. Here are some of the most intriguing mysteries that have boosted the artworks popularity.

To begin with, the most talked about mystery is Mona Lisa’s captivating half-smile, so much so that it even originated a popular urban legend, which states that an a young French artist, Luc Maspero, in 1852 threw himself from the fourth floor window of his Paris hotel. In a final letter, he wrote: “For years I have grappled desperately with [Mona Lisa’s] smile. I prefer to die.”

However a recent study, resolves the mystery to a certain level. Art experts, latest belief has been that the genius artist, applied optical illusion called sfumato. If a viewer looks at the eyes (or any other feature) of the sitter, due to the clever shading and color blending around the cheek bones and mouth, ones peripheral vision (side vision) makes the upturn of the smile appear more prominent and perceptible. Looking directly at the mouth the smile instantly becomes flat and extremely faint. The experts from Sheffield Hallam University have termed this hopping smile, generated by playing with the side and direct vision as the ‘uncatchable smile’.


Mona Lisa’s identity is another mystery that still remains unresolved. Though there have been many speculations that have stemmed from the uncertainty of the sitters identity, most widely believed presumption is that the sitter was Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine cloth merchant. Some art historians however believe that the model for the portrait is a man named, Gian Giacomo Caprotti, whom is identified as Leonardo’s apprentice, nicknamed Salai.

In addition, with digital analysis there are set of experts who assert that there is a possibility that Mona Lisa is a self portrait.

Ocher Art_MonaLisa Salai

Gian Giacomo Caprotti’s Portrait (Right)


Ocher Art_Monalisa_Selfportrait

Leonardo da Vinci’s self-Portrait (Right)


For the longest time people have speculated as to why Leonardo da Vinci didn’t make eyebrows and eyelashes for Mona Lisa. Just recently, Pascal Cotte, a French engineer, claimed that he discovered with a high-definition camera that Leonardo da Vinci originally did paint eyebrows and eyelashes however with time they have faded or unintentionally got erased at some stage of clean the painting.

Ocher art_Eyes


Leonardo da Vinci’s notoriety for placing hidden codes and messages in his artworks has led to in-depth analysis of almost all his artworks. Specially after the release of thriller books like- Da Vinci Code, art detectives have been tiresome working hard to spot secret symbols and messages. Just recently, President of Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage, spotted symbols, in Monal Lisa’s eyes. In the right eye appear to be the letters LV which could well stand for his name, Leonardo da Vinci, while in the left eye the letters appear to be CE which haven’t been deciphered so far.

On the arch of the bridge in the background, number 72 is artfully concealed based on which some historians have asserted that it reveals the location of the background- Bobbio, a village in northern Italy. The numerals are a reference to 1472, the year in which a devastating flood destroyed Bobbio’s bridge (shown in the background). Leonardo used the numeric’s to record the event.

However there are many art experts who have rubbished all these theories, stating that these are simply cracks which have emerge over the years on the painting.

One of the nuttiest claims has been that Mona Lisa had high levels of cholesterol. Medical expert Dr. Vito Franco, from Palermo University claims that the signs of fatty acids around the eyes and cheeks of the subject is one of the reasons for her illusory smile.

Was Mona Lisa Pregnant? – With the three-dimensional infrared scanning conducted by experts in 2004, it was discovered that the transparent veil worn by the sitter was typically used by women in that era during pregnancy or just after giving birth. So the answers to the long standing question of Mona Lisa’s pregnancy can be considered resolved.

There are many of more speculations and theories, Mona Lisa is one such mysterious masterpiece which never seizes to intrigue interest. Analysis, deciphering and scrutiny for this artwork are never-ending…




Why are some Artworks so expensive?

For outsiders, art world is an alien place where prices are illogically high and the artworks are fanatically sought-after items. However there are perfectly logical reasons to these so-called bizarre prices and the passion of the art collectors. Out of, the sea of reasons to ‘why art is expensive’ here are few factors that rule the evaluation process.

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Historical significance– Artists like Monet, Vincent van Gogh and Picasso were responsible for starting new revolutionary art movements. Their artworks created with radical techniques and style went on to change the face of the art world forever and laid down foundations for new art era’s. These masterpieces with historical baggage gain enormous value.

Le bassin aux nymphéas (Water lilies series) sold for $80 Million in 2008, made by Claude Monet, the founder of Impressionism.


The basic market equilibrium of demand and supply is applicable in the art world as well. Once a Master artist passes away, his artworks get limited, in other words supply gets restricted hence his paintings become rare articles and more in demand.

The fame of Vincent van Gogh began to spread during the last few year of his life and it reached its peak after his death, whereas during his lifetime, he apparently sold only one painting. One of world’s most popular and most expensive painting- Irises got sold for $53 million (adjusted price $111 million) in 1987.


Artworks created during the period marked as the turning point in an artist’s career are of great value. Each artist has a defining point in his life where his technique matures and gets marked as his signature style, which is generally his mid-career. Originality and inventiveness of these pioneer artworks is what adds value and esteem.

Picasso’s career after passing many phases like blue and rose period finally took a radical turn when he discovered Cubism. One of world’s most expensive painting- Les Femmes d’Alger (Women of Algiers) got sold for $179 million this year (2015) at Christie’s.


Artworks are also evaluated based on its Subject matter and CompositionSignificance of what the artworks subject narrates, symbolizes and conveys are few of the key evaluator.

Composition significantly affects the visual impact and overall illustrative quality of the painting. Focal point of the painting, correlation between the lines and shapes, optical harmony, angels and arrangements are some of the layout techniques that distinguish a masterpiece from the rest.

Dance at le Moulin de la Galette  made by Pierre Renoir got sold for $78 million (adjusted price $141 million) in 1990. The subject of the artwork illustrates the typical life style and celebratory nature of the Parisians. The artwork is skillfully broken in to numerous micro compositions, which adds perspective and movement.


Appreciation adds value, in principle this is the most significant and central reason for art pricing. Some artworks are just appealing without any explanation as to why. Lofty prices rule such masterpieces purely because of its aesthetic value and appeal.

Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers and Water Lily Pond are the finest examples of artworks that have universal appeal. The former was auctioned for $39 million (adjusted price $82 million) in 1987 and the latter was sold for $80 million (adjusted price $79 million) in 2008.


Cost, admiration and appeal also climbs if there is any fascinating or emotional story related to the artwork. A Glamorous muse, tragic romance, eccentric behavior of the artist, spirited effort are few such instances.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer got sold for $135 Million (adjusted price $157 Million) in 2006, made by Gustav Klimt. Like Adele Bloch-Bauer, who was known for her scandals and bohemian lifestyle, her gold-embellished portrait is also surrounded with controversies. After Nazi’s confiscated the painting, Adele’s niece fought for over 9 years with Austrian government  for its procession.


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Everybody Loves Landscapes

Every art collector has a favorite genre but landscapes is one such kind which is liked by all art enthusiasts, whether it’s green open fields, vast coastal views, serene valleys, wild forests or a simple foliage of a garden. Here are few reasons to why it’s the most loved art theme.

In today’s time, being surrounded by the beauty of nature in any form is what generally people would call a perfect get-away from their hectic city life. Landscape paintings manage to capture the scenic beauty of these experiences, making sceneries a popular theme among city populace. Fine examples of these are the landscapes made by the impressionist artists.

Landhaus in Rueil By Edouard Manet


The Water Garden by Childe Hassam


Field with flowers near Arles by Vincent van Gogh


Landscape as a subject is extremely flexible and versatile, the composition can be stylized in many ways- abstract, realism, impressionism or cubism. Cezanne, Dali, Marc Franz, Rousseau are few artist’s who painted landscapes, each following a radically unique style (artworks shown below).

Landscape and a Seascape by Henri Rousseau and Dali

Ocher ArtRousseau Dali


At the Water’s Edge by Cezanne


Deer in a Monastery Garden by Marc Franz


The Home of the Heron by George Inness


Artists like Constable and Turner on the other hand followed realism. Constables masterpiece’s ‘Wivenhoe Park’ (top-most image of this post) and ‘An Old Bridge at Hendon’ (Shown below) are classic examples of landscapes made during the romanticism era. Fresh colors, rural subjects, countryside views, twilight scenes and slush greenery in harmony with a brilliant blue sky were some of the elements of romanticism.

An Old Bridge at Hendon by Constable


Landscape paintings are also favored by the interior designers because it’s a genre that goes well with all sorts of interiors- traditional interiors for home, contemporary corporate spaces or theme based décor. Nature showcased in any form or style, adds a soothing effect to a space, its welcoming, attractive and the color palette is mostly wide enough to harmonize with the other elements in the interior.

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For a small room with poor lighting or a windowless space, a landscape painting makes a lot of difference, it creates a feeling of wider space. Adding landscapes and sceneries are one of the many tricks used by professional interior designers for adding an illusion of increased space in small apartments and flats.

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In Feng Shui, landscape paintings are a popular element used to energizing the atmosphere. Landscapes with flowing water symbolize abundance in cash inflow or career advancement. Scenic greenery and cultivated fields makes a painting best suited for well being and liveliness. Trees, budding flowers and mountains suggest growth and support. Scenic paintings are one of the easiest and most flexible elements used by Feng Shi experts to modify energies and attract positive vibrations.

Morning Sunlight Effect by Camille Pissarro


Finally, love for scenic landscapes is an inherent nature of mankind because we evolved in it. We have had an age-old connection and a profound relationship with nature, the impact of a scenic painting is bound to be of joy and captivity.

Undergrowth with Two Figures by Vincent van Gogh


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