Mitchell Family Favorites: Art Edition

One of our favorite games to play around here when there’s a lull in the conversation (almost never), the girls have a new friend over (all the time!), we’re trying to distract somebody (usually Charlotte, usually from pain caused by some injury), or long car rides (pretty much daily) is “Favorites.” You know the game: one person gives a category and the others say their favorite. It might be something like “Favorite boy’s name” or “Favorite breakfast food” or “Favorite summer activity.” Sometimes the categories are a little obscure. Here’s a conversation we had just today:

Me: “Favorite kitchen utensil!”

Charlotte: “Spatula!”

Adrienne: “Tongs!”

Jim (pulls out a spatula): “This exact spatula. It’s the perfect width, all its proportions are just right.”

Me (pulls out a different spatula): “What about this one? I put it in your stocking because it’s perfect for flipping pancakes.”

Jim: “It’s not though. It’s too short.”

Me (glaring): “Girls, Dad is losing at ‘Favorites.’”

You can see how much fun we have!! Anyway, I’d like to start a Nice and Easel installment of “Favorites” for a few weeks. Each week I’m going to select a few friends’ and/or family members’ favorite pieces of art to feature on the blog. Because I have easy access to my immediate family and they’re well-versed in how to play the game, I’ll start with them. Presenting… Mitchell family favorites (art edition!)

Jim: Unlike with the spatula situation, this time I accept Jim’s answer: Country Road by Terry Redlin. Jim grew up bird hunting in the country, so this reminds him of his childhood. I love it when art so blatantly evokes emotions. Tons of art makes me happy on a surface level. But every now and then something hits a little deeper, as this painting does for Jim. Do we have “Take Me Home Country Roads” stuck in our heads now? Maybe for eternity? One hundred percent. Bonus points if you can name the singer. (Answer below.)

Watertown, SD is home to the Redlin Art Center. SD also boasts the highest pheasant population in the world!

Julie: I tease Adrienne for struggling with our Favorites game. She hates picking a favorite anything, but I make her because I’m a good parent who forces her children to make decisions against their will. My point is, I don’t want to pick a favorite art piece because that’s impossible! I’m a gamer though, so I’m saying Da Vinci’s Last Supper. I know, it sounds like a cop-out. But that fresco has it all: perfect technique, mystery, religious symbolism, a fascinating story of love, betrayal, and sacrifice. How can I not pick it?!

I never, ever get tired of staring at this one.

Molly: Molly is a stoic person, so I wasn’t surprised when she picked a stoic piece of art. You know it and love it… the Statue of Liberty. Molly explained she likes the idea of immigrants coming to Ellis Island and being greeted by the statue. She also really likes “The New Colossus” on the statue, which I’ve included because the written word is art too, right?!

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Adrienne (aka “A”): A couldn’t decide on a favorite, so I let her pick two and promised that these don’t have to be her favorites forever. Don’t say I never do anything for my kids! First, she named Rebecca Humes’ dictionary dresses from last year’s Art Prize. I agree with A when she says, “It’s a neat way to do art!” (And, FYI, I see you can now book a photo session wearing one of the dictionary dresses! Click here for info!) Adrienne’s second choice is a classic: A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Again, she appreciates Seurat’s innovation at a time when most artists were painting with strokes, to experiment with a new technique. And “I made a pointellism butterfly once. It’s hard.”

Charlotte: Charlotte immediately recalled her favorite piece from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Fire (United States of the Americas) by Teresita Fernandez. It is one of the first pieces visitors see and takes up a huge wall- it’s hard to miss! I like it because of its largesse and am impressed with Fernandez’s ability to make the blurred charcoal states look 3D. Charlotte said she likes it because, “It makes me wonder. Like how did she make it? How do they move it around?”

There you have it! Our family’s art faves! *Subject to change at any moment.*

Answer: John Denver sings “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

Who Painted It Best?

My favorite part about going to the dentist is leafing through magazines I don’t normally read. I catch up on celebrity gossip, learn mind-blowing facts like Jussie Smollett played Terry Hall in “The Mighty Ducks,” note some fashion fads I will never be able to pull off (I’m looking at you, septum rings) and of course, cast my vote for “who wore it best?”

There are lots of scenes painters have portrayed throughout the years that are so important to history or so stunning or so lovely that they’ve been done many times by many artists. Let’s compare some of these and decide who painted it best. And I promise not to drill your teeth afterward!

First up: The Last Supper. One of the most painted scenes in history. There are so many renditions of it, has a Top 24 list, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of Last Supper paintings. Many monasteries commissioned artists to paint it in their dining halls, as was the case with da Vinci’s famous fresco. This is my favorite painting of all time, so it was hard for me to pick a comp, but I decided to go with Bassano’s depiction of Jesus’ last meal.

It seems like both scenes take place at the exact same moment- when Jesus announces someone at the table will betray Him. Didn’t He know you aren’t supposed to talk about money, politics, or betrayal of the Savior of the world in polite company?! Conversation explodes, and that is what da Vinci and Bassano capture. Look at Judas. In da Vinci’s painting, he has the guts to join the conversation, make eye contact, ask, “Who would do such a thing?” In Bassano’s rendition, Judas is sneakier, playing the “if I don’t look at them, maybe they won’t look at me” card. He’s all “Lalala. Mm, good wine!” Jerk.

Some other similarities and contrasts: John is his usual chill self in both paintings, Jesus is wearing similar garb in each, and is of course, the focus of each painting, slightly illuminated in both. The most interesting contrasts, I think, are that in da Vinci’s painting, the diners are wearing sandals (the term “flip-flop” wasn’t coined until the 1960s!), and in Bassano’s painting they are barefoot. Also, check out the animals in Bassano’s Last Supper. He was famous for his paintings of animals, and I like that he included them here. The cat symbolizes treason, the dog fidelity.


Another scene artists love to paint is that of Saint George slaying the dragon. Raphael painted the most famous portrayal of this scene. It is on the left. I picked Paulo Uccello’s depiction of the slaying for our purposes, because it is housed at the National Gallery of Art along with Raphael’s painting.

Raphael’s painting was done in 1506 and Uccello’s in 1470, but he doesn’t get points for that, since this is a scene that’s been painted since the early 11th century. Raphael shows George before he kills the dragon, the second painting shows the actual, gory action. Both feature indifferent princesses and white horses that, if you ask me, are more interesting than any of the other subjects. Whatever your opinion, I think we can all agree we imagined the dragon to be bigger.


The last piece in our “Who Painted it Best?” contest is not a painting at all. But we have to do it, you guys- we have to talk David. Like our previous artworks, these Davids capture a similar moment in time, if not the exact same moment. Donatello’s David includes Goliath’s head, so obviously this is immediately following the fight (if you can call it that). Michelangelo’s David is still holding his pebbles, so we assume this is right before he attacks the giant.

I have a clear favorite, though both are incredible. Donatello’s sculpture gets mad props for being the first free-standing nude of the Renaissance, and the first done in bronze. Very brassy, Donatello! It also differs in that Donatello outfitted David in boots and a… hat? I mean- okay, whatever. Michelangelo’s David is completely naked, much bigger, and (in my opinion) more David-y. Or how I imagine David, anyway. Youthful, but pensive; scared, but courageous; humble, but faithful.

Do you have a thought or opinion on who painted (or sculpted) these pieces best? I’d love to hear what you think!

Note: It cannot go without saying: I finally (unintentionally!!) put all four ninja turtle namesakes into one post!!