“Almond Tree – Tree in Twilight”, oil, metallic and enamel paint on canvas.
I was raised to think that art history evolved linearly – a straight line from Giotto to Pollock. I was not prepared for the halting, meandering movement of a career in art, where you race forward with one idea, retrack steps, add something new, abandon a direction and end up end up in the middle of a hi-way clover wondering which way to go. Nor was I prepared for all the things that would influence my work — art history, a random photo, a hand injury, the availability of materials. This is why I find it so unnerving to write grants — “describe your project”. My project is to get from where I am to where I am going without crashing. My destination is uncertain, the GPS is broken, I don’t have a map, but I do know that moss grows on the north side of a tree.
With my Almond Tree series, I decided to go deep. Explore the imagery every way I could, and see where that took me. The latest incarnation besides kicking the sacred cow of a Pollock drip, also involved using metallic paint. For most of my career I have used high quality artist fine oil paints, but after attending a workshop with Vincent di Siderio, where he told us that he started a painting with roofing tar and Rustoleum, I thought, why not? The importance of how paint “feels” cannot be overstated. Silver Rustoleum is a lyrical medium with a mecurial affect. With it I was able to add a layer to my Monet inspired landscape, where I was not only depicting the light, I was creating it. In these paintings the surface changes with the light. You never see the same painting. When you move, it changes. When the light changes, it changes. The surface was set in motion.
Funny thing about motion. I started taking photographs of the landscape while I was moving.
“Tree Tracings”, 22.5 inches x 24 inches, photograph, archival inkjet print.
When I decided to paint the same thing, More adventures with paint suggested themselves.
“Tracings”, oil on canvas
“Drive By – Night” 68 inches x 42 inches, oil, metallic and enamel paint on canvas.
While driving around and capturing these images first as photos and then as paintings, I also observed what rain looked like as my headlights beamed off of the drops.
“Small Rain”, 40 inches x 72 inches, oil and metallic paint on canvas.
“Small Rain”, side view showing the reflective quality of the paint.
“Ebb Tide”, 70 inches x 70 inches, oil and metallic paint on canvas.
In the end the paint was able to create qualities that I observed in nature. Each effort suggested a new way of working with the paint, subjects that were at times representational and at others abstract. Trying to write about this in a grant is frustrating. All I can say is that I am skidding on black ice in a vehicle hoping not to crash.
Books of Interest :
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Monet, “Rocks at Port Goulphar, Belle Ile”
In 1897 and 1898 Henri Matisse visited Belle Île a remote island off of the Brittany coast. John Peter Russell, an Australian artist who was living there, introduced him to impressionism and to the work of Van Gogh (who was relatively unknown at the time). Matisse’s style changed radically, and he would later say “Russell was my teacher, and Russell explained color theory to me. [Wikipedia & Hillary Spurling, “The Unknown Matisse”]
Russell, “Belle Ile”
Matisse, “Belle Ile”
Russell had been friends with Monet, who also came to Belle Isle to paint. But he is perhaps best known for his portrait of Van Gogh. He believed in Van Gogh and had several of his drawings.
John Peter Russell, “Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh”
According to Hilary Spurling, at some point the Australian gave Matisse one of his Van Gogh drawings — something that he had never done before, and would never do again, which “suggests that he found in no one else the depth and strength of Matisse’s response.”
Vincent Van Gogh, “Townhall of Auvers”
Letter from VanGogh to Russell:http://vangoghletters.org/vg/letters/let627/letter.html
If you go:
Books of Interest:
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Or order from your local independent books seller. Mine is Battenkill Books. Find the independent bookstore closest to you at IndieBound.org
Monet?, “Self-Portrait in his Atelier”, 1884
In an earlier post [Is She or Isn’t She] I discussed whether or not a drawing attributed to Monet was actually by him. I thought that the drawing was by the minor Impressionist artist Helleu. Recently in an article in The Art Newspaper, “Monet’s favorite portrait of himself – but it is not by him,” Martin Bailey posits that the portrait that for years was thought to be a self-portrait by Monet is not by the artist at all, but by an unknown artist. And who are the likely suspects? As with the alleged Monet drawing, the name of John Singer Sargent, among others, is being circulated.
Monet’s [Self] Portrait in question
But here is the twist that interests me. Until recently, the painting was in the hands of Paulette Howard-Johnson, the daughter of Paul HELLEU! She died last year at the age of 104, and was the last person to have known Monet. She remembers seeing the painting in his bedroom at Giverny the last time she and her father visited Monet in 1925. She believed that Monet told her the painting was by Sargent. Why then, had Wildenstein, the author of Monet’s catalog raisonné, have it attributed to Monet. In the 1979 edition of the catalog, it was attributed to John Singer Sargent. In the 1994 edition, once the painting was owned by Wildenstein, it appeared as an authenticated Monet. Wildenstein may have had hopes of selling the painting, but was not able to obtain Monet prices for it.
When I inquired of the curator at the Clark about the provenance of the questionable Monet drawing, I was told, “Well, it’s in Wildenstein.”
I believe the drawing was by Helleu, but I was not sure if there was a connection between Monet and Helleu. Knowing now that he frequently visited Monet, makes it even easier to imagine how a Helleu drawing could get mixed up with Monet’s estate. And perhaps, in this case, too, Wildenstein had a hand in the misattribution.
But that doesn’t answer the question of who painted Monet’s portrait. There are clues in the painting itself. The landscape in the background is of a painting that Monet did while visiting Bordighera in 1884.
Monet, “Coastal Road at Cap Martin near Menton”, 1884
While in Bordighera he painted the portrait of an English artist. The identity of this artist was not known until recently. It is Arthur Alfred Burrington, who lived on the Riviera until his death in 1924.
Monet, “Portrait of an English Painter, Bordighera”, 1884
The portrait of Monet seems quite different from Burrington’s other work. But I like to imagine these two artists working face face to face on their two portraits with Burrington perhaps being infused with some of the master’s genius.
Painting by Burrington