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Weekly Alibi Cezanne in Cyberspace

Fine Art on the WWW

By Devin D. O'Leary

NOVEMBER 10, 1997:  Art and technology may seem like two forces at odds with each other. One belongs to the realm of creativity--the other, to the realm of science. But the truth is, as technology creeps, undetected, into more and more of our lives, a collusion between the two becomes inevitable. Computers have been restoring old films, matching house paint colors and generating goofy "fractal" pictures for years now. There's no reason to believe that our little electronic friends wouldn't serve the beret-wearing artistic community as readily as they serve the pock-marked wargaming community. So, with an eye toward the aesthetic and an index finger on my mouse, I decided, this week, to dive into the world of the online art gallery.

Bryan Griffith's Edward Hopper Gallery (www.geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/8295/)--I don't really know who Bryan Griffith is, but I certainly know Edward Hopper. He's one of the few artists I can name and with whose work I have a passing knowledge. Bryan Griffith is, I suspect, like most art fans in cyberspace. He bought a poster to brighten up his new apartment (Edward Hopper's seminal Nighthawks), became a big fan and has now collected a pile of information on the artist, which he's more than happy to share with the world at large. Griffith's Hopper Gallery consists of some 21 images (many of which change on a regular basis), covering some of Hopper's more famous paintings. The scans are good, if a little washed out. A small bio gives some of the more salient details of Hopper's life and work. While far from conclusive, Griffith's site does add a few nice little touches that make browsing it a pleasure. For example, soothing classical music plays in the background as you peruse the gallery's many pages (assuming, of course, that your computer can handle Java). There are hundreds of similar "fan pages" scattered throughout cyberspace. Plug the name of your favorite artist into your favorite search engine and see what crops up.

WebMuseum, Paris (sunsite.unc.edu/wm/)--Of course, if you're looking for something a little more professional, this is really the place to go. Since March of 1994, Nicholas Pioch has compiled, perhaps, the most extensive catalogue of art on the Web. The scope of this site is truly impressive and, like any good museum, would require several good days of browsing to take it all in. The WebMuseum, currently, is featuring the work of Paul Cézanne (over 100 artworks). Thumbnails with descriptions lead to bigger JPG images. Again, the scans are a little faint, but you still get the impact of the work. You can browse through the "Famous Paintings" collection by either theme (from Gothic to Pop Art) or by artist (do you feel like Degas or Vermeer today?). Hundreds and hundreds of artists and their works are represented. Look a work up by theme, and you'll be treated to a detailed description of the particular artistic movement behind it. Ever wondered what Fauvism is? Well, here's the place to find out. Important names, dates and styles are all highlighted in blue, and clicking on them will lead to further explanations in simple, easy-to-grasp language. This site is tops on my list!

Musée du Louvre (mistral.culture.fr/louvre/louvrea.htm)--moving right along to the big boys. The Louvre is probably the most famous museum in the world, housing some of Europe's finest masterpieces (like that Mona Lisa job). Fortunately, the site can be accessed in English, French, Spanish and Japanese (how continental). From the main page, you can access Collections, Publications, Temp Exhibits plus Guided Tours and Programmes. A "History of the Louvre" section gives some detailed background on this art world treasure and its checkered past. The Musée's collections are divided into seven main departments. Click on the "Egyptian Wing," and you'll be treated to some crisp photos of marble sphinxes and gold statues. Unfortunately, those cheap French bastards have chosen to put only the tiniest fraction of their collection online. Each department features only about 10 or so images. There are a few other problems in addition, that keep this from being the stellar site it should be. The "Publications" section has no actual files; it just tells you what's available for sale at the Louvre gift shop. Psych! Also, all the Guided Tours and Programmes are available only in French. Still, it's not a bad place to catch a glimpse of some world-renowned artworks.

Words of Art (www.arts.ouc.bc.ca/fiar/glossary/gloshome.html)--Of course, if you don't really have the patience to wade through a bunch of digitized artwork, you can always go straight to this "online glossary of theory and criticism for the fine arts" and at least sound like you know a lot about art. The Fine Arts Department at Okanagan University (nope, I never heard of it either) has put together this fat dictionary of art terms. Now you can toss off words like macula (meaning "blemish or stain") like an expert. Unfortunately, the site is still under construction and many words (like "verfremdungseffekt") are still undefined.

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