Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Archimboldo - April Fool's Day

Arcimboldo - Vertemnus (1591) - Skoklosters Slott Museum

Can there be any doubt that this is one of the most unique portraits in art history? Isn’t it bizarre! Seems appropriate for an April Fool’s day greeting… (be sure to click on the image to enlarge).

Did you notice the date in which it was created? Believe it or not, this is a portrait of king Rudolf II (Prague). He was Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s patron. Here Arcimboldo has represented all the major fruits and flowers of Europe as if they are all flourishing at the same time – a season of eternal spring – the Golden Age. (He actually did a whole series of paintings like this which he called ‘Seasons’ and ‘Elements’.)

Born to a wealthy Milanese family, Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a true Renaissance man. He was a painter, a draftsman and tapestry designer who also devised hydraulic machines and a musical notation system based on color, but these strange portraits are what he is most well known for today.

Gail Sauter - Journal: A Painter On Painting

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wolf Kahn - Color!

Faint Pink in the Sky, 2004
oil on canvas
28 x 30 inches

I fell in love with Wolf Kahn's work from the time I saw it. Color, color, color!!! Subtle colors, brilliant colors, muted colors, I love them all. In this painting, there are no hard edges, which is probably one of the things that most draws me to Kahn's work. Even with all the color he uses, there is a harmony, a feeling of subtle strength, with no brash tricks needed.

Wolf Kahn

Monday, March 9, 2009

Editorial - Hire Me!

“Hire Me”

“Unemployment rates for artists have risen more rapidly than for U.S. workers as a whole.”

This according to new research by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA website). Among the findings:

“The unemployment rate for artists climbed 2.4 percentage points between the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2008, compared to a one-point increase for professional workers as a whole, and a 1.9 point increase for the overall workforce.”

“The contraction of the arts workforce has implications for the overall economy. A May 2008 NEA study revealed there are two million full-time artists representing 1.4 percent of the U.S. labor force, only slightly smaller than the number of active-duty and reserve personnel in the military (2.2 million)."

"More recently, a National Governors Association report recognized that the arts directly benefit states and communities through job creation, tax revenues, attracting investments, invigorating local economies, and enhancing quality of life. There are 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations that support 5.7 million jobs and return nearly $30 billion in government revenue every year, according to a study by Americans for the Arts.”

Please support the Arts where and when you can… buy artwork, visit museums, go to the theatre, attend concerts, films and lectures, take art classes, donate your time and talents to non-profits. There are many delightful ways you can make a difference.

Gail Sauter – Journal: A Painter On Painting

Monday, March 2, 2009

Redfield - The Richness and Beauty of Grey

RedfieldThe Grey Veil (1930) – private collection

Edward Redfield was a hearty soul, and it seems to have paid off in a long life (1869 – 1965). He painted his paintings alla prima, en plein air. That's artspeak in Italian and French meaning ‘all at once’ and ‘on location’. His paintings are huge – often 6 feet in diameter and he is known to have started them in them morning and to have kept on painting until the whole thing was finished late in the evening. He lived and worked in the New Hope area of Pennsylvania (not far from Philadelphia) and always managed to capture that Pennsylvania air – plus a wonderful depth of space.

What I so especially enjoy about his work is the way he often divides his canvas up into areas of color. You can see that here -all the golds are in the middle and all the blues ae saved for the upper and lower horizontal bands with those deep dark evergreens serving as bridges between the two.

Gail Sauter – Journal: A Painter On Painting

Monday, February 16, 2009

Metcalf - Painting The Cold Of Winter

MetcalfIcebound Brook (1922) – private collection

“Go out and paint what you see and forget your theories.” Willard Metcalf

Here is proof positive that Metcalf practiced what he preached, and the resultant reality of ‘cold’ comes alive in his canvases. His is a quiet beauty, not overly dramatic, but one that conveys a real time and a real place.

It takes a determined soul to go out and paint in our New England winters (notice that he isn’t even wearing gloves!). But he surely has captured the deep hush of winter with the faint hope of spring yet to come.

(Amazing how beautiful snow is early in the season, but by mid-February, it has lost its charm completely and I’m ready for spring! Bring on those April showers!)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cave Art - Evolution of Art? (It's Darwin Day!)

Cave Painting, Lascaux, France

Cave paintings, 30,000 years old, possibly older. When people in caves drew these beasts, modern humans had been around for around 200,000 years. Presumably, art had as well. But why? Why do we do art? Elephants and chimps wielding paint brushes notwithstanding, humans are the only species to devote time and resources doing such a thing. Is art the peacock's tail? Did women decide men who were artists were sexier, and mate with them more often? The book The Nature of Paleolithic Art, by R. Dale Guthrie gives from fascinating insights into the origins of paleolithic art. Guthrie is not only a scientist but also an artist and a hunter, and so has a background well suited to shedding light on this fascinating question.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Morisot - on Brushstrokes

MorisotA Corner of the Rose Garden (1885) – private collection

This painting is an amazing web of brush stroke wizardry. Berthe had a way of scribbling her paint on and letting the imagery emerge from this flurry of activity… and I love it! She was one gutsy painter!

Very highly regarded by her fellow impressionists, she was among the first to let the vigor of her brushstrokes carry the painting. (Be sure to click on the image to see it enlarged.) She never ‘corrected’ herself by scraping and reworking, preferring instead to let the history of her working processes remain visible layer by layer in a tapestry laid down very thickly in some areas and barely washed on in others… a true maestra of the brush – brava!!

Gail Sauter – Journal: A Painter On Painting

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Diebenkorn - Oppsosites Appeal

Richard Diebenkorn,
(1923 –1993)
Ocean Park No. 54, 1972
100 x 81 inches
Oil on canvas

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

How many paintings did Diebenkorn do in his Ocean Park series? I don't know, but I've been attracted to every one I've come across. This painting, like the others, is a complex mixture of opposites: seen and unseen, definite and hazy, rigid and flexible. Underlying the surface is a skeleton of hard, incised lines, straight and inflexible, but each of these lines have other lines corssing them, deflecting them. The lines sweem to make usggestions rather than rules. Ane the paint pays little or no attention to the rules proposed by the lines. The overlays of colors are soft, obscuring and revealing the lines at the same time. What a joy for the eyes and the mind!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Derain: on "I don't know art, but I know what I like"

DerainThe Pool of LondonThe Tate Collection

Its funny how sometimes a painting will just leap out and grab a hold of you with that indefinable something that shouts “look at me!” This painting does indeed knock me over the head!

Seeing it got me to thinking (always dangerous!)… Many times I’ve heard the expression “I don’t know art, but I know what I like…”

Hmmmmm… I wonder if we really do know what we like about art.

I’m hard pressed to say exactly what appeals to me about this painting. The colors aren’t those that usually speak to me, the composition is rather strange for my liking; the subject matter is what I see around me all the time … Wait! That’s it!

The bridge in the distance looks very much like the drawbridge that connects Kittery, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I see it every day. In fact, my house is on the right where the left-hand mast meets the shoreline. Yup - tugboats. Yup - dinghys. Yup – lobster boats… hey! Where are the lobster boats! ... Whaddya mean this is London?

Hrmmph... (maybe I don't like it so much anymore.)

Gail Sauter – Journal: A Painter On Painting

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Velasquez: Daring the Impossible

Diego Velazquez
Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1650
Doria Pamphilj Gallery

Every great painting is a failure; and it is its failure that makes it great. More to the point, it is the artist’s recognition of the impossibility of success that separates a great painting from a facile, easily read one. This is a theme that merits exploring, and I’ll start with the magnificent Velasquez portrait of Pope Innocent X. Nowhere is the internal contradiction between success and failure more obvious than in portraits. We see portraits again and again that succeed in portraying their subject, but somehow fall short - even though possibly done with impressive technical skill - in truly engaging the viewer. The viewer is left wondering what is missing. It’s often said that the spark of life is missing, but I think it is more than that. I think what sets a great portrait apart is that in it we see the artist’s recognition that the task is impossible, that it is simply not possible to completely depict, and thus define, a human being, no matter what the means or medium.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Breughel: Hunters in the Snow

This painting has been endlessly praised and dissected, but that’s no reason why it can’t be investigated anew by those of us who never tire of it. In fact the sheer pleasure of standing in front of it is reason enough to make a trip to Vienna. Surely this is one of the great compositions. Our eye is naturally caught by the line of the returning hunting party, dark and bulky, in the foreground, which follows the strong diagonal of the march of trees. The sight line of this diagonal skims the edges of the pond where tiny skaters lead, one imagines, another sort of existence from that of the exhausted men and hounds, and curves up dizzyingly to the very highest peak. The trees themselves form a kind screen (seeming to anticipate the effect of Japanese printmakers on the impressionists). Flat and schematic, they provide the strong verticals which anchor the composition and balance the effect of the profusion of muted detail in the distance. A further diagonal cuts into the slope, anchored by the fire over which a pig is being cooked, and a third curves placidly around the hillside houses and crosses the picture plane between the two ponds. The genius necessary to the organization of this vast amount of information, information that informs our sense of this world and makes possible our ability to enter it emotionally, takes my breath away.

Supporting this very complex composition is a color scheme which couldn’t be simpler: I would think a palette of Prussian blue, black, white, and several earths. With this palette Breughel blankets his world in the piercing cold of deep winter. The only relief from the snow and the snow-laden sky, and the only hint of warmth anywhere in this world, is the wind fanned fire from the pig roasting, a wonderful hot raw sienna. All else is icebound.

The result of all this mastery is our experience of the duality of winter, the exhaustion, the elation, the impenetrable cold, and the fierce and uncompromising beauty. I love it. Is it why I paint? It’s certainly why I look, over and over.

Joan Terrell Smith

Monday, January 26, 2009

Vuillard - On Ideas and Faith

VuillardThe Striped Blouse (1895)National Gallery of Art

“...there is an idea in me in which I have faith… (and) the important thing is that I have faith enough to produce.” Edouard Vuillard

I find it interesting that Vuillard didn’t think the idea was what was important, but rather having enough faith in it to follow through is what matters.

I suppose that ideas and inspiration do flicker in and out of our consciousness but it is only when we act on them that they take on substance. That makes sense. It's even obvious. However, many of my painting ideas seem impossible to paint... and sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I give up before I even begin.

By concentrating on my faith in my idea, I have a whole new place to stand when facing that big blank canvas. If I focus on the ‘inspiration’ of the painting rather than worry about its technical execution, then I can allow the ‘how-to-paint’ to fall in place as the idea unfolds.

It's like heading out the door on a journey. Rather than needing to envision each twist and turn of the highway beforehand, it’s enough just to know where I want to go… and to start walking.

Gail Sauter - Journal: A Painter on Painting