Conservators Discover Grasshopper Embedded in van Gogh Painting

Courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

When Vincent van Gogh painted outdoor landscapes, he was sometimes plagued by hoards of pesky insects. “I must have picked up a good hundred flies and more off the four canvases that you’ll be getting," the artist wrote in an 1885 letter to his brother, Theo. Occasionally he missed a few, judging from a tiny grasshopper that conservators recently discovered embedded in one of van Gogh’s most famous paintings.

As the Associated Press reports, the grasshopper was identified at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, where art experts were researching the museum’s French painting collection for an online catalogue. Among their artworks is van Gogh’s Olive Trees, which he created in 1889 as part of a larger series.

Conservator Mary Schafer was examining Olive Trees when she noted an insect near the painting’s lower foreground, suspended in thick layers of paint. Since it can’t be seen with the naked eye, the creepy-crawly addition had gone unnoticed for nearly 120 years.


Photomicrograph, Olive Trees, 32-2. This image, taken through a microscope, captures the grasshopper embedded in the paint of Olive Trees.
Courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Schaefer wasn’t necessarily surprised to spot the grasshopper, since experts sometimes find bits of plant or insects in landscape paintings. “But in this case, we were curious if the grasshopper could be used to identify the particular season in which this work was painted,” Schaefer said in a statement.

University of Kansas paleontologist and entomologist Michael Engel studied the grasshopper, and noted that its thorax and abdomen were both missing. He also observed that it hadn’t disturbed the paint, which indicated that it landed lifeless on the canvas instead of dying a slow, sticky death.

Ultimately, the grasshopper didn’t yield enough clues to pinpoint when Olive Trees was created. That said, it's still proof that even the best-studied artworks can occasionally yield surprises.

[h/t Associated Press]

Meet the Artist Who Has Been Sketching New York City Subway Stations for 40 Years

art2002/iStock via Getty Images
art2002/iStock via Getty Images

The aesthetic appeal of New York City's subway system is often hidden behind a layer of grime or simply ignored by commuters. Philip Ashforth Coppola has been admiring those finer points of public transit for more than 40 years.

The New Jersey-based artist began sketching and researching the subway’s interior in 1978, Atlas Obscura reports. His pen drawings are in black and white, but Coppola notes the exact colors and the historic significance behind each. The beaver plaques at the Astor Place station, for example, represents real estate mogul John Jacob Astor, who first made his fortune in the fur trade.

“I’ve spent a lot of years on it,” he says in the 2005 documentary One Track Mind (also the title of his 2018 book). “But I haven’t accomplished that much.” The former art student is selling himself short: Coppola has drawn at least 110 of the city’s 472 stations, resulting in 2000 sketches spanning 41 notebooks.

In an interview with WNYC, Coppola admitted that he wasn’t a train enthusiast as a child. “When I was a kid, I liked to draw pictures and tell stories or write them down,” he says. “That sort of ... filed into this new adventure.”

Coppola sees the drawings as a way to preserve the subway system's overlooked details. “The idea is to make a record of what we’ve got, before more of it is lost," he says.

Even irritable commuters realized the significance of his endeavors. “People were just thunderstruck when they saw [Coppola’s] artwork,” says Jeremy Workman, the documentary's director. “It reminded them of art they had seen themselves and maybe didn’t notice. We thought that was a powerful message: Reminding people of the beauty that’s right in front of their eyes.”

You Can Rent a ‘Lisa Frank Flat’ in Los Angeles on Hotels.com

Hotels.com
Hotels.com

If you went to elementary school in the 1980s or 1990s, chances are there was at least one piece of Lisa Frank gear in your classroom. The artist's aesthetic helped define the decades, and wide-eyed, technicolor animals still hold a special place in the hearts of millennials. Now, you can live out your childhood dream of having a room that looks like the inside of your 3rd grade backpack: a penthouse suite inspired by Lisa Frank is now available to book in Los Angeles.

The Lisa Frank Flat, a collaboration between Lisa Frank and Hotels.com, screams nostalgia. Each room pays homage to the settings and characters in the artist's vast catalog. The bathroom is painted to look like an underwater paradise, with shimmering dolphins swimming in a pink and blue sea. The kitchen is stocked with snacks from your childhood—like Gushers, Pop-Tarts, Pixy Stix, and Planters Cheez Balls—and painted in bright, rainbow animal patterns that will reflect how you feel when your sugar rush peaks.

Lisa Frank bathroom.
Hotels.com

Lisa Frank kitchen.
Hotels.com

In the bedroom, the colors are toned down only slightly. A light-up cloud canopy and a rainbow sky mural create a soothing environment for falling asleep. And if seeing Lisa Frank around every corner makes you feel inspired, there's a place for you to get in touch with your inner pop artist. The desk comes supplied with pencils, folders, and a notebook—all branded with Lisa Frank artwork, naturally.

Lisa Frank bedroom.
Hotels.com

Lisa Frank desk.
Hotels.com

Interested in basking in the glow of your childhood hero for a night? Online reservations for the Lisa Frank Flat at Barsala in downtown Los Angeles will be available through Hotels.com starting October 11 and lasting through October 27. You can book your stay for $199 a night—just don't forget to pack your Trapper Keeper.

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