Trump’s Fake Renoir

Two Sisters (On the Terrace), Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1881

Author Tim O’Brien in a recent Vanity Fair article recounted an incident that occurred while he was researching his 2005 book, Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald. O’Brien was riding with Trump on his airplane to LA. He spied the painting “Two Sisters” on the wall and asked the Donald if it was an original. To which Trump affirmed that it was. From Chicago, O’Brien challenged Trump, because the original hangs in the Chicago Art Institute and has since 1933 or thirteen years before Trump was born. On the return flight Trump introduced the painting to O’Brien again, as an original and as if the previous day’s conversation had never occurred. Time passed, Trump was elected president and in his first post-election interview with Sixty Minutes, the fake Renoir can be seen in the background of his Trump Tower apartment. This story is comical, but is also emblematic of Trump’s sad and bizarre essence. The very arbitrator of fake news is the biggest fake of them all. 


This Josef Albers painting, Homage to the Square: Wondering is somewhat familiar to me. I think that my Mom might have owned something similar. It could have even been an Albers, because according to the museum plaque describing this work, he made over a thousand paintings in his Homage to the Square series, from 1950 to his death in 1976. Each painting in the series is described as a variation of the format seen here, but produced in an array of color combinations chosen to provide a particular visual sensation. Albers began his repetitive and rigorous experimentation with geometric abstraction well before the development of Minimalism. He influenced countless artists not only through his art, but also through his teachings at the Bauhaus in Germany, Black Mountain College and Yale. I could be misremembering or it could have been done by a student. My Mom was an avid art collector and purchased many copies of famous furniture pieces that I’ve seen in the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Chicago Art Institute. We went to the museum to see the Bingham show and I haven’t forgotten that I had promised a post on that show too, But there was also a flower arranging show going on that evening, Flowers in Art. These three flower arrangements were based on the Homage to the Square painting.

Soul Food Supper

Cotton Pickers, Thomas Hart Benton, 1945

Cotton Pickers, Thomas Hart Benton, 1945

The American regionalist Thomas Hart Benton painted Cotton Pickers based on notes of a trip he made to Georgia in the late 1920s. He depicted the dignity of the cotton pickers in the face of backbreaking labor and intense summer heat, rendering the dry fields and the working bodies in a sinuous, curvilinear style. For his time, Benton held progressive views on race, social relations and politics and he believed ardently that African-American history was central to the understanding of American culture. Cotton sharecropping, a system of tenant farming that developed after the Civil War, allowed landowners to rent land to poor farmers in return for a share of the crops. Because sharecropping kept agricultural laborers impoverished, it became a symbol of a racially and economically unjust system. Cotton cultivation became one of Benton’s most important subjects, especially as the rapid industrialization of the nation during World War II changed the American landscape.

Anne and I went to the annual soul food supper at the high school tonight. This event is held every February, in honor of Black History Month. This year is the 15th anniversary dinner. We’ve been going to this event ever since Dan and Dave went to school there. Tonight’s menu included: fried chicken, black-eyed peas, collard greens, mashed potatoes, candied yams, corn bread, mac & cheese, ham & beans and rounding it all out, sweet potato pie. It was all good and everyone there knew Anne’s name.

It would be as dishonest as padding the word count of a blog post and about as useful as a 401(k) for a dog, to spook chickens to lay square eggs. Any big-headed baby, who is bound for college-scholarship gravy knows that.


Mosaic Fragment with Leopard, Byzantine, northern Syria, 450/500

Mosaic Fragment with Leopard, Byzantine, northern Syria, 450/500

The powerful figure of a striding leopard fills this fragment of a floor stone in mortar mosaic. It is said to come from what is now modern Homs, Syria. Images of hunting or striding figures on the prowl were popular in this region as decoration for civic buildings, as well as for wealthy homes. Interest in hunting scenes in mid-fifth-century Syria was sparked by art influences from the nearby Persian Empire.

Before Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he didn’t first form a focus group, take a poll or hold an offsite to discuss his decision. He just did it. He overthrew the Roman Republic and installed himself as dictator. Later he paid the ultimate price for his actions, “Et tu, Brute?”, but his kind went on to rule Rome for hundreds of years afterwards. Now, I would not advocate or even condone such a threat to American democracy, but still like most Americans I daily subject myself to someone else’s dictatorial whims, when I go to work. In the workplace the boss dictates and unless you are self-employed, you obey, such is the lot of a modern wage slave. In his think piece, Slaves or wage slaves – Incentives, rewards, bonuses and bonding experiences – Roman slave owners were the first management theorists, Jerry Toner wrote for Aeon comparing and contrasting the ancient Roman master / slave relationship with today’s manager / worker.