Posts Tagged ‘Impressionism’

:The Preserve

Normally I am not a fan of long phone conversations—except with our out-of-state family members.  But now and then I bend an ear with local good friends.  Although an in-person chat is preferred, there are times when we can only meet on the phone.

Speaker phone may be one of the 20th century’s greatest inventions.  I use it to keep my hands busy and my brain from going nuts while stuck on the phone.  Recently I banged off the above rendering, in the process of listening and also doing a significant share of the talking.

Three things can be noted:  1) The fact that the days are lengthening is evident in this little piece.  Gone is the snow (in my head; we still have snow on the ground).  From now on it will be flowers, land and waterscapes, or far out abstracts in COLOR minus snow.

2) The above painting was done primarily with a wooden knitting needle.  I picked up the idea of a stick from DVDs by British artist, Shirley Trevena.  She frequently uses a stick, culled from outdoors, to add detail to a painting—squiggly lines, dots, whatever.  Watching Shirley work with a stick gave me the knitting needle clue; knitting is another one of my passions, and I knit exclusively with wooden needles.  So I used the telephone time to dab away with a needle—and blotched a wet paintbrush over the tree top and background to finish off the job.

3)  In the world of “real art”, this painting would be considered a “sketch”—simply a precursor to a finished work which would take far more time than a phone conversation.

I spend a lot of time gazing at the work of well known artists in books that we have at home, plus library books.  I love the late 19th century and early twentieth eras of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Les Fauves (The Wild Beasts) who were considered revolutionary because they took wonderful liberties with color.  From my studying and reading, a favorite artist has emerged.  I am fascinated by and thoroughly enamored with the life and work of Camille Pissaro—a Danish citizen of Jewish Portuguese descent who was raised in the West Indies and settled in France.

Before reading about the life of this artist, I was wiped away by his work which largely portrays French country landscapes and scenes of country people—their life and labors—in a warm Impressionist vein.*  Actually learning about the man has made me love him.  His personality was one of stability and a love for family and friends.  A bit older than Monet, Degas, and other artists of his period, Pissaro was looked up to as a leader.  He was instrumental in organizing the shows of Les Refusées—those avant garde painters defying the traditional Paris art establishment which dictated standard themes:  Biblical, historical, or mythological accounts rendered in precise detail.  Many of the new artists were refused entrance in the annual exhibition of the Paris Salon—or Académie des Beaux-Arts—hence the name, “Les Refusées”.

The Impressionists broke with tradition not only by focusing on the subtle nuances of color, atmosphere, and the effects of light, but also by depicting scenes of everyday life rather than classic themes.  Whereas many of these artists painted gatherings in cafés or gardens, public events, boating parties, etc., Pissaro painted peasants at work planting, harvesting, carding wool, washing clothes in a stream, whatever.  Many of his paintings feature roads and undulating trees, and there is a gentle, graceful rhythm to his work.

His renderings are not idealized; there is no glossing over the reality of hard work.  Pissaro’s paintings display his compassion for working people, plus his belief in the dignity of time-honored rural life.  He realized that the countryside was on the cusp of change, that machinery would soon alter the French landscape, and he wanted to capture those vanishing moments of the 19th century.

Pissaro was a socialist at heart, in the best sense of the word, at a time and in a society where working people did not receive fair recompense for their labors.  But his political sentiments never spoiled the freshness and honesty of his paintings.  Perhaps there is nothing more potentially destructive to fine art than the blatant parading of a social or political agenda.  Pissaro was never guilty of that; he simply painted country landscapes and the people who lived and worked therein.

I cannot post a Pissaro print on this blog due to copyright restrictions, but do encourage anyone interested to GOOGLE “Camille Pissaro” and bask in the beauty of this artist’s work.  For fascinating insights into art and artists in late 19th century France, you can read Irving Stone’s biographical novel of Pissaro, THE DEPTHS OF GLORY.

Meanwhile as I wield a paintbrush or knitting needle, whether on speaker phone or in some quite corner, I know that my renderings are really “sketches”—and very “sketchy” at that.  But what a joy!

Margaret L. Been, January 2015

*Absorbed by the novelty of “Pontillism”—a kind of scientific theory of the breaking up of objects into colored dots which the eye then sees as a shaded whole—Pissaro painted in this style for a few years of his career, only to realize that the structure was confining and, for him, stylized.  Happily, he returned to the freedom and spontaneity of his former works.

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Windows to Beyond

Always Time for Tea 2

Art makes fascinating study.  I’m continually amazed at the varying views and disagreement between artists in every detail of painting.  Some staple or tape their paper to a board before proceding, while others (and I am one of these) just let the paper float so that they can lift and blend colors or rinse off areas which are still damp when so desired.  Many artists make value sketches before beginning to paint, and plan every brush stroke in advance, while others begin intuitively—letting the first blobs of paint on wet paper determine the subject of the work.

Some artists will say, “Never extend a shape to the edge of the paper or let part of an object disappear”, while others contend that disappearing shapes make a piece far more interesting.  (The latter suits my taste best, as you can see in my above still life titled “Always Time for Tea.”)

Both of my samples pictured here (the top one is titled “Windows to Beyond“) defy the supposedly “set in stone” art rule which insists that light comes forward and dark recedes.  Obviously the concept of advancing light and receding dark applies to the magnificent chiaroscuro (strong contrast between light and dark) works of the Old Masters which frequently featured portraits. 

Recently I was treated to a traveling exhibition of Rembrandt’s self-portraits at the Milwaukee Art Museum.  The face and form of the artist loomed prominently in lights and midtones, highlighted in subtle shadows and flanked by a definitive background of darks.  But I am not a “master” in any sense of the word.  Although I understand the chiaroscuro precept (among other art rules) I don’t consciously attempt to employ it.  Rather, I just sit down and paint—and invariably my darks come forward and my lights recede.  

Perhaps my darks are not true darks.  My handling of watercolor evokes the medium’s transparency and ability to diffuse, but I may never replicate the incredibly rich, velvet-textured darks produced by oils.  That’s okay.  I greatly appreciate the skills and materials which are way beyond my ken, and I’m thankful to have even a rudimentary degree of understanding concerning the principle of light and dark.  Also, quite possibly my darks come forth and my lights recede because my (perhaps one and only!) strength is COLOR.  As one of my favorite contemporary artists, Charles Reid explains: vibrant color always predominates.  Viva les couleurs! 

I delight in reading all and any art history I can get my hands on—and there is enough of it out there to keep me entertained for the rest of my life.  Most of the reading is enjoyable and informative, but I’m especially drawn to the artists who exploited color to the max—the Impressionists, Post Impressionists, and various other “Ists” of the 2nd half of the 19th Century into the early 20th.  Currently my most beloved painter of that era is Matisse who shocked the Parisian art world with his blatant use of color.  Matisse and his followers earned the title:  Les Fauves—meaning “Wild Beasts”.

Reading about artists and art movements is, to me, like eating chocolate or maple sugar—thrilling beyond words.  In fact, the reading is far better than candy!  I can’t get sick on reading art history!  Only more and more inspired, drawn, captivated, and excited about the entire amazing world of shape, texture, and COLOR!  🙂

Margaret L. Been ©2013

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I wonder if there ever could be a more widely known and beloved painter than Monet!  Throughout the ages and centuries of Western Civilization art, some of the Renaissance masterpieces comprise what we could term the highest art—due to their richness, representation of genius, complexity, the variety of surfaces on which they were painted, and the Biblical themes they depict.  But when it comes to a universal love for paintings that we can live with, I believe the artist of choice would be Claude Monet.

Considered the “father” of Impressionism, that 19th century movement which revolutionized the art community in Paris and throughout Europe and America, Monet differed radically from some of his also famous contemporaries such as Manet, Renoir, and Degas in that—as he developed—Monet concentrated mainly on landscapes, water, and gardens while his fellow artists painted social gatherings at Parisian cafés, ballerinas, and nudes.

In his early years Monet traveled and painted around France, particularly to areas bordering the sea.  He evacuated for a brief period to London, during the Franco-Prussian war, and London became his favorite European city—perhaps partly due to the ever changing nuances of light and fog on the River Thames. 

In variance with his gregarious artist friends, Monet was a solitude-loving family man.  He is most widely remembered for his home and the gardens which he created at Giverny, about forty miles northwest of Paris, where he lived for forty some years.  The gardens deteriorated over the decades after Monet’s death in 1926, but since the late 1970s they have been restored to their former glory.  Monet was a master gardener who loved every inch of his turf as well as the ponds and Japanese foot bridge which he designed.  His plantings were conceived and arranged with his palette in mind, and he has left gardeners and art lovers a treasure of tranquil beauty.  

How many homes, perhaps some without even realizing it, contain traces of this artist/genius who helped to move the art mentality from a penchant for rigid, detailed reality to the more illusive and painterly qualities of color analysis and intricacy?  Below, you will find my tribute to a painter whom I love, an umbrella with a Monet print hanging from our living room ceiling—to the puzzlement of the little folks who visit here; they have never seen such unusual interior decorating in any other home. ↓ 

I love Monet for his Impressionistic mark, and even more for later pioneering the subsequent phases of art history—Post Impressionism and the beginnings of Abstract Expressionism.  Unlike some later Abstract painters who had an agenda (either political, social, or personal) to shock or debunk, Monet produced work that was life affirming.  He painted the scenes around his home and land, over and over—recording the times of day and changing seasons in haystacks, surrounding fields, and the famous ponds and gardens of Giverny.

Margaret L. Been

Note:  I am adding to my “Simply Art” page—trying to remember to add something at least once a week.  Today’s addition is my very latest watercolor on Yupo paper, titled “Country Roads”.  Now is the time of year when those roads beckon us and lead us into months of wonderful surprises and advenures!

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