Today is Giving Tuesday and I am participating in my own way - donating 75% of the final sale of this painting to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home here in Atlanta. This hospice operates solely on private donations and cared for my dad.
I usually donate proceeds from my calendar, but I haven't been able to get that done this year - so please consider bidding on this painting instead. I would appreciate it.
Please click here to the auction page. Auction ends December 9th 9 pm ET.
One of the many masterpieces in our National Gallery of Art in DC is Winslow Homer's Autumn. It will take your breath away. It's casual and approachable. Homer's rich reds, bronzes, greys, greens and golds are as stunning as the fall leaves that surround us during these few weeks. Ode to autumn.
Winslow Homer is an American treasure, born 1836 in Boston - a printmaker, painter, illustrator. A little-known fact - at the age of 25 he was sent to the front lines of the Civil War to sketch battle scenes, camp life, commanders - all of which were published in Harper's magazine. Those sketches were later formed into realized paintings when Homer returned home.
Homer then turned his attenton to more nostalgic scenes of childhood and family - then to postwar subjects of Reconstruction and depictions of African American life after emancipation. The most familiar paintings of Winslow Homer are his landscapes and seascapes - done is his later years when he moved to Prouts Neck, Maine. It has been said Homer led an isolated life as an old man but continued to paint vigorously, hinting a turn to more abstract and expressive art. He died at the young age of 74.
Speaking of American treasures....
I watched President Obama's ceremony today, awarding 21 Medal of Freedom recipients who all are truly outstanding humanitarians who've made positive, progressive, compassionate, brilliant contributions of our country. I will miss President Obama for his grace and thoughtfulness and reminding me what's important and good about us. Take some time and watch the ceremony in its full version here.
I've just returned from a trip to visit family and spent an afternoon soothing my soul in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. As I crossed Constitution Avenue on my walk back to the car from the museum, I stopped to admire our newly-renovated, unscaffolded Capitol Building.
I usually don't talk to anyone in the museums but I told this woman I loved her shirt. I said it was a work of art itself. She seemed delighted to hear that.
I've also mentioned in prior posts that I'm not a great fan of abstract expressionism, a movement that came along in the 1940-1950's. But there is something that stops me in my tracks when I see a Franz Kline or Robert Motherwell painting - I suppose it's the patterns. Like this woman's shirt.
Franz Kline was born in 1910 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania - a town we hear a lot of during this Presidential campaign. It was a small, coal-mining community, now the state's 13th largest city. I've been there - as a little girl, my dad would take my family for a Saturday drive seeking out one of several authentic Italian delis for lunch in Wilkes-Barre.
Back to Kline ... as a young man, he was sent to an academy in Philadelphia, studied at Boston University then a school of fine art in London, returned to the U.S. working as a designer in New York City. It was there he developed as an artist, gaining recognition.
His style came about using simplified forms based on locomotives, landscapes, large mechanical shapes from his coal-mining hometown. You can see that. His friendships with like-minded artists such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock influenced his direction of abstract expressionism - direct and spontaneous brushstrokes which defined him as both an action painter and a minimalist.
Kline tended to avoid defining his art or offering explanations of what his 'message' was, which shows in his titles like his painting you see in my painting - Painting, 1952 which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.
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Ahhhh. Nothing quite as exquisite as a Vermeer painting. The artist Jan Vermeer was born in the Netherlands in 1632, one of the most highly regarded Dutch artists of his time and all time.
There are scant records of Vermeer's start as an artist, but experts draw a straight line of influence to Rembrandt and Caravaggio. Many of his masterpieces are about domestic scenes, depictions of women doing chores around the house - the notable and famous painting Girl with a Pearl Earring portrayed a young woman who worked in his household.
Jan Vermeer suffered financially in his old age, due to the Dutch economy tanking after being invaded by France in 1672. He was deeply indebted by the time of his death in 1675, only then becoming more world-renowned and leaving approximately 36 paintings that are hung in prominent museums around the world including the gem you see in my painting titled Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
I started this new study yesterday morning. The painting the young woman is looking up at is one of my favorites by Norman Rockwell titled Girl in a Mirror.
I was listening to Michelle Obama's inspirational speech as I was painting. Here is a portion that stuck with me...
"What message are our little girls hearing about who they should look like, how they should act? What lessons are they learning about their value as professionals, as human beings, about their dreams and aspirations?"
You can read Michelle Obama's speech in full here.
When I began listing works of art I'd like to feature portraying the American Spirit, I remembered this exquisite painting in Crystal Bridges titled The Indian and the Lily by George de Forest Brush, done in 1887. It's one of the many pieces in the museum that knocked my socks off. It is so intimate in size, so beautifully painted, so tender, a glimpse of a moment in the life of a Native American Indian.
A little bit about the artist, George de Forest Brush - born in Tennessee, raised in Brooklyn and Darien, Connecticut, he trained in New York then later in Paris under the brilliant artist Jean-Leon Gerome. Gerome is one of my personal favorites and I can use the same descriptions of his work - intimate, exquisite, precise realism, glimpses into personal lives. The influence of Gerome is so very evident in Brush's paintings.
After Brush returned to America and in 1882, he ventured west with his brother and found his subject, America's native people. For more than a year he lived among the Arapahoe and Shoshone in Wyoming and the Crow in Montana - creating paintings and etchings of Indians 'far removed from the reality of contempory Indian life'. Brush chose to depict the Indians in a 'timeless environment undisturbed by the advent of the modern'. He resented the rapid industrial revolution and how it negatively affected the Native Americans, instead he desired to portray them in their way of life and their connection to the natural world.
An article I found tied Brush's painting to the story of Narcissus, the perils of seeking an unattainable perfection and the novel Imensee, a story of a man reaching out for a perfect water lily but nearly drowns when he falls into the pond, getting tangled in the roots of this perfect flower. He climbs out of the water, looks back at the water lily floating calmly - a metaphor for the struggle of the Indian tribes maintaining their way of life in a complicated, progressing world.
I'll tell you a couple of things you don't know about me.
I love major league baseball. We watch nearly every Braves game and we're bummed the season is ending this weekend. We often watch late night LA Dodgers games for the pleasure of listening to Vin Scully announce the play-by-plays. And sadly, that simple pleasure is coming to an end. So a salute to Vin Scully, who's retiring after 67 seasons as the Voice of the Dodgers. You'll be so missed. On a happy note, the Chicago Cubs may very well be in the World Series and I'm rooting for them to go all the way. Truth is, no other sports do a thing for me. Just baseball.
Another thing you don't know about me - I failed Art History in college. Two different classes as a matter of fact. So now, I'm not only atoning for that, I'm avid about it. The older I get, the more I grasp history and how art connects to it, to us. You're never too old to learn.
Which brings me to my new project. I'm mapping out the work for an upcoming solo show in the spring. My recent visit to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art got me thinking about our American history - how art reflected the times, the movements, the struggles, the politics, everyday life.
That notion evolved along with the summer of this Presidential election. What's happened to me is I'm feeling defensive more and more about what kind of country we want, what we aspire to. Do we embrace the past lessons and have we learned from them? Do we want to move forward, progress as people, as a nation? Do we accept our differences and find a way to live in harmony? Are we proud of how we got here, our ancestors who many were immigrants? Don't we want to be proud of our melting pot? Do we want to be respected and show respect to one another?
That has brought me to an idea, a theme - something in the vein of American Pride or Spirit. When I think in those terms, the best artworks I know come to mind. I have a true passion for American art - you may have picked up on that. Hopper, Rockwell, Thomas H Benton, Wyeth to name a few - depictions of who we are as Americans. What we've accomplished thru thick and thin.
So that's where I'm heading with my idea and I'd like you to be involved. Be my focus group. Offer ideas of iconic works of art that convey that American spirit. I'll be working on small studies as I go - give me feedback. Poopoo it if you want, give me a thumb's up if you want. It all means something to me.
Now - a little bit about my new painting, which features Portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumball, which hangs in Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. John Trumbull was an artist during the American Revolutionary War, famous for his historical paintings - his Declaration of Independence is on the back side of the 2-dollar bill.
Trumball painted Hamilton's portrait in 1792, one of many made of Hamilton and considered the 'greatest known portrait' of one of our Founding Fathers.
I first saw Jamie Wyeth's Portrait of John F. Kennedy in person in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC - the painting now hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in their permanent collection. It is exquisite.
Jamie Wyeth was 20 years old when he was approached by the Kennedy family to paint a posthumous portrait in 1965. Wyeth spent the next two years creating preparatory drawings, joining senators Robert and Edward Kennedy on their campaign trails to pick up on shared family traits and mannerisms.
There are brilliant nuances in Wyeth's portrait - one eye is directed to the viewer, the other slightly looking into the distance - his clenched fist in front of his mouth, a gesture Jacqueline Kennedy considered 'strikingly accurate'. It was said Robert Kennedy wasn't fond of the portrait, who felt 'his brother's disconcerted look was a painful reminder of his uncertainty during the Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs invasion'. In the end, the official White House portrait went to another artist, Gardner Cox.
Wyeth's portrait has hung in the JFK Library, was reproduced on an Ireland postage stamp and for a time hung in the Washington DC home of Vice President Joe Biden. Biden 'always appreciated how President Kennedy's concentrated gaze demonstrates the difficult decisions world leaders face.'
Imagine yourself in coastal Maine, around 1911, one of the privileged few who spends the summer days watching boats races, dressed in fine, elegant clothes - enjoying the prosperous times without a care in the world. Those were the images painted over and again by the American artist Frank Weston Benson. One of those, Summer Day hangs in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.
In 1901, Benson resided in Salem, began renting and later purchased Wooster Farm, one of the enormous homes built for the upper class who summered with friends and family and servants on North Haven Island, Maine. Summer Day depicts Benson's two younger daughters although he originally included his oldest daughter, Eleanor, but later removed her - according to several curators - to simplify the composition and open up the horizon of the glimmering light of the sea.
It is speculated Eleanor, who just returned home for the summer after graduating college had been introduced to and espoused to liberal views known as 'parlor pink' - a derogatory term to mean one has leftist or socialist sympathies. Pink meaning a lighter shade of red, thus a lighter form of communism. Mr. Benson was not happy. Removing her from the painting may have been his way of separating Eleanor from his younger, 'untainted' daughters.
Featured in my new painting is Pablo Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror, painted in 1932. There are few paintings of the 20th century that have been analyized, interpreted, reanalyized as much as this work of art. Really, just Google 'analysis of Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror' and you'll get over 8,000 articles.
My observation, women are very drawn to it. It represents vanity, self-image - what we see when we look in the mirror. That's the easy interpretation. Then it gets complicated.
The model for Picasso was his young mistress Marie-Therese Walter, whom he painted numerous times. Her real self on the left is brightly colored, beautiful, firm breasts, possibly pregnant while her reflection in the mirror is painted roughly, darker colors, her body more contorted, aged. Some say it's her confronting her mortality, her future, her fate. Some say it represents the anxiety of the times, rumors of wars, the world economy, fear and instability - the suppressed, real feelings deep down in one's heart. In the daytime, we're vital and presenting beauty and confidence and at night we're fractured and anxious, fearing our fate. Sound familiar?
I don't usually analyize art. I react - with pleasure due to the composition, colors, skill of the artist, etc, or the opposite of all those things. Part of me always considers Picasso's renderings of women to be an example of the man himself - admiring youth and beauty, some say misogynistic and/or chauvinistic, hypersexual. At least that's what people tell me.
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I just finished this new painting. Yikes. It took almost an entire week but I was determined to conquer it (pun intended). It features one of the most famous paintings of Napoleon Bonaparte crossing the Alps - one of five versions painted by the French artist Jacques-Louis David in the years 1800-1805.
Initially commissioned by the King of Spain, this first version depicts Napoleon, in the spring of 1800, leading his army across the Alps, through the Great St. Bernard Pass to conquer Italy and take the territory seized by the Austrians. Although everyone doubted he could cross the Alps in the first place, especially in the spring - with great audacity, he shocked everyone and did it - truth was, the weather was quite nice and he actually rode on a mule, not the triumphant horse as David depicted. Truly propaganda.
I could keep going with the fascinating history of this portrait and it's five different versions commissioned by various rulers - not to mention the details of Napoleon's uniform and all his accessories - but it's a lot, so read up on it if you're interested.
I will include a bit about the artist David, who painted one of my favorites The Death of Marat. David became a great supporter of the French Revolution and admired Napoleon and when he first met him, he was enamored with Napoleon's face, sketching him when he was able, turning out to be important studies for future commissions - and after Napoleon crossed the St. Bernard Pass, it was requested that David portray him 'calm upon a fiery steed' rather than a mule, and David complied - making him the official court painter of the regime. He went on to paint the extraordinary Coronation of Napoleon, which included the choir of Notre Dame as fill-ins and Pope Pius VII, who blessed David for the masterpiece.
It gets complicated after all the revolutionaries, including David, ordered 'off with their heads' of Louis VXI and VXII. When the new king Louis XVIII took over, he granted David amnesty and the position of his court painter, but David refused and fled to Brussels, continued to paint and teach and became wildly popular and rather wealthy until - one night as he was leaving the theater, he was hit by a carraige and died in 1925. As shown in Les Miserables, you gotta watch out for those carraiges.
My painting will be included in the upcoming group show Lions + Tigers + Bears opening at the Vendue Hotel in Charleston on October 20th.
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Before I post the link to this new painting going on auction tonight, I have a cool story to tell you.
Yesterday I received an email from a woman asking about a painting I had done back in 2013. I replied it had sold way back. She asked for a print. I replied I don't make prints.
She then told me the subject, a bungalow I spotted in Nebraska, on our road trip from San Francisco back to Atlanta, was her family's home.
In disbelief, I asked her for the street address so I could compare it to my original photo - then with Google street view, I found the house, compared it to my photo and damn, if it wasn't the house! In this big country, in all of the millions of houses in all of the small towns, I painted her house. It still blows my mind.
The number one question I'm asked is 'does anyone recognize themselves in your paintings?' And to this day, in twelve years of doing over a couple of thousand paintings, it hasn't happened yet. But someone out there, hundreds of miles away, recognized their house. Absolutely freaking amazing.
Okay - back to my new painting.
A woman resting on a bench in the Art Institute of Chicago, with her Hopper gift bag full of souvenirs.
my list of personal favorite painters, Edward Hopper is in the top 5.
When I am lucky enough to stand in front of one of Hopper's paintings in
a museum, I always sigh. I stay for a while. I'm always in awe.
There's a connection with me - his choices of subjects - stately homes
in New England, urban scenes, sunlight's angles on windows and
sidewalks, quiet, lonely, still scenes of city streetscapes, maybe just
one person in the painting or nobody. Delicious colors.
Which brings me to one of my all-time favorite Hopper's 'Early Sunday Morning',
which hangs in the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City -
one of more than three thousand works bequeathed to the museum by
Hopper's wife in 1968. The 1930 painting is, Hopper said, 'almost a
literal translation of Seventh Avenue' - reduced to bare essentials.
Each individual window gives hint to the different people in each unit,
and although Hopper originally included one lone figure in a window, he
removed it, deciding it wasn't needed to convey anything more. It is
quintessential 20th century American realism.
Hopper was born in Upper Nyack, New York in 1882 - his parents
encouraged his art, kept him stocked with materials, illustrated books,
instructional guides, and in his teens, he was creating watercolors,
oils, charcoals and pen-and-inks. He went on to the New York School of
Art and Design - became an illustrator which he came to hate, traveled
to Europe several times, ended up back in New York reluctantly returning
to advertising and illustration.
experienced long periods of inertia, not knowing what to paint - in a
funk so to speak. At one point, he turned to etching, producing over 70
pieces of urban scenes of New York and Europe. They are notably the
beginnings of his painting subjects down the road - solitary figures,
interiors of the theater, nautical scenes, etc. He and his wife worked
in the theater, creating backdrops for plays - and I always thought
'Early Sunday Morning' felt like one of those backdrops - as if you were
across the street from this typical row of businesses and upper floor
of my favorite quotes from Edward Hopper - 'Maybe I am not very human -
what I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house'. I
can dig that. I often feel the same.
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I decided to paint a serene landscape today, 1 - because I haven't painted a landscape in some time and 2 - it's a mellow Sunday and 3 - because I rocked out to the 30th Anniversary for Bob Dylan all afternoon while I painted.
left half detail
right half detail
A panoramic view from the coast on Rock Harbor, Cape Cod.
Peter Paul Rubens' Daniel in the Lion's Den cannot go unnoticed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Including the frame, it measures approximately 12-1/2 feet wide by 9 feet high. Rubens painted large masterpieces throughout his very successful artistic career.
Sir Peter Paul Rubens, born in 1577, was a Flemish Baroque painter known for his altarpieces, portraits of royalty, landscapes and history paintings of symbolic and mythological subjects - bringing me to Daniel in the Lion's Den, which he painted at the age of 37.
The story in the Old Testament, in the Book of Daniel, tells how Daniel is promoted to high office by Darius the Mede (King of Babylon), but his rivals trick the king into condemning Daniel to death. Darius casts him into the lion's pit, crossing his fingers that he'll survive, visits him the next morning asking if God has saved him. Daniel replies 'God sent an angel to close the jaws of the lions because I was found blameless before him'. The king then rounds up the back-stabbers and their wives and children and tosses them into the lions' pit and commands 'all the people of the whole world to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel'. It all may be fiction or folktales, but yikes, that's harsh.
The scene was depicted by several notable artists including Henry Ossawa Tanner and Jan Brueghel the Younger and is included in music thru the years - example, in Fiddler on the Roof, the song Miracle of Miracles - 'Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, God took a Daniel once again, turned him around and miracles of miracles, walked him through the lion's den.'
I worked hard on this new painting, using my little brush for a change with respect to the details of Rubens' attention to the lions' hair and Daniel's exaggerated pose. This painting will be included in the upcoming group show Lions + Tigers + Bears represented by Robert Lange Studios and held at the Vendue Hotel in Charleston, opening October 20th.
For me, discovering the artist, Chuck Close, was a revelation. I was a teenager, already obsessed with drawing people. And there I stood, staring at a gigantic canvas of a face, wondering how he did it. Realizing that his technique was to grid the original photo and essentially blow it up on canvas was a huge learning experience for me. Naturally, I started to grid every photo, album cover, magazine ad I could find and practice. He's been a hero of mine ever since.
Close is a man to be admired not just for his extraordinary artistic abilities. He is the son of artistic parents who supported his creative interests right from the start. He suffers from dyslexia, struggled with schoolwork, couldn't play sports due to a neuromuscular condition but he did excel in art. He lost his father at the age of 11, his mother fell ill with cancer and Close suffered health problems that kept him home and in bed for long periods of time. At the age of 14, he saw an exhibition of Jackson Pollock, which made him want to become an artist.
He studied art during the abstract-crazed art world, chose to go in the completely opposite direction and developed his photorealism style. Interesting enough, Close suffers from prosopagnosia, or face-blindness, not recognizing faces - which boggles the mind considering his ability to replicate details on faces to a tee. His technique for applying color helped the development of the inkjet printer - bet you didn't know that.
By the 70's, Close's work was in the finest galleries all over the world and he was thought of as one of America's best contemporary artists. At the age of 48, he suffered the sudden rupture of a spinal artery and was left almost entirely paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. After regaining the partial use of his arms, he pushed on, developing a studio to accommodate his wheelchair and with a brush taped to his wrist, he began painting a combination of abstract and looser pieces that I particularly love - like his self-portrait above, done in 2005.
He's a man with no excuses. A man who never played the victim. He's evolved with age, years and limitations. He's a man to be admired.
"You should keep on painting no matter how difficult it is, because this is all part of experience, and the more experience you have, the better it is... unless it kills you, and then you know you have gone too far." ~ Alice Neel
"If I had the energy, I would have done it all over the country" - Edward Hopper
"It's what you carry to an object that counts." - Andrew Wyeth
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"When I'm old and gray, I want to have a house by the sea. And paint. With a lot of wonderful chums, good music, and booze around. And a damn good kitchen to cook in."