Saturday, April 30, 2016

"For Your Viewing Pleasure"

6 x 8"
oil on panel

Pardon my absence - I've been working on several paintings for a Small Works Auction taking place in July.  I've got one more to go and I'll post all of them.

This new painting is of a woman viewing Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon which hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  It's HUGE - 96" x 92", which effectively feels like the women in the painting are life-size and on display for all eyes to see.  

The painting portrays five prostitutes from a brother in Barcelona - it has a distinctive primitive style and is really the beginning of cubism and Modern Art.  First exhibited in 1916, it was quickly deemed as immoral.  Years later, exhibited in a gallery in New York City, MOMA bought the painting for a mere $24,000.
Crazy cheap.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"Arm In Arm"

9 x 12"
oil on panel

After painting 'Party Crasher', I had no intention of working on another one that would take me days to complete.  But Gustave Caillebotte, the painter of Paris Street; Rainy Day featured in this new painting, was one of the chaps in Renoir's painting Luncheon of the Boating Party and it got me thinking about his most beloved painting in the Art Institute of Chicago.  I fell in love with it back when I was in high school in Chicago - I'd spent countless hours studying every little detail as I sketched the figures.  It blew my mind how anyone could paint something so perfect and so large.

In the past 10 years, I've painted Paris Street; Rainy Day almost a dozen times, including the patrons who marvel at it's perfection - although I never dove into the details until now.  And yes, I got out my small brush.  


Gustave Caillebotte was a French neo-Impressionistic artist, meaning the neos generally painted with more realism and detail rather than broad brush strokes.   He was born into a well-to-do family, earned a law degree, was an engineer, fought in the Franco-Prussian war then after the deaths of his parents, he inherited a fortune which meant he painted without the stress of selling his work.  Also to note, Gustave was one of the first painters to use his photography for his process of painting.  He was a good friend to other fellow artists - Monet, Pisarro, Renoir, to name a few - and was a great support of all of them, collecting their work, paying rent, etc.  A good, good friend.

At the age of 34, Gustave stopped painting and took up gardening, building and racing yachts - living a full and comfortable life.  He never married and died young at the age of 45.

Please click here for a larger view.

Friday, April 15, 2016

"Party Crasher"

10 x 10"
oil on panel

The span of days you didn't hear from me recently was largely due to my working on this new painting.  It tires me to drag out a piece for days - I suffer from a short span of attention, paint for a few hours and seek out other things to do around the house.  I truly love starting a painting in the morning and finishing in the evening.  

But Renoir's masterpiece Luncheon of the Boating Party is complex - you have a landscape, still life and fifteen figures and a dog all in one.  Sixteen figures including the my viewer.  

The famed painting is in the Phillips Collection, one of the off-the-mall museums in Washington DC - and a must-go-to place.  Especially to soak in Renoir's painting.

The Boating Party is a very interesting anatomy of Renoir's friends -

- the woman on the bottom left, holding a dog, is Aline, who married Renoir and together they had three sons.

- the man on the bottom left wearing the boater's hat is Gustave Caillebotte, an accomplished artist who painted Paris Street, Rainy Day - a crowd favorite which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.  Gustave was also an avid boatman.

- in the threesome in the upper right corner is the actress Jeanne Samary with two of Renoir's closest friends flirting with her.

- the man with the boating hat in the upper left and the woman in the boating hat leaning on the rail are brother and sister and children of the proprietor of the restaurant Maison Fournaise, where the scene takes place.

- the remainder are poets and critics and a wealthy art historian, collector and editor of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts.

Clearly the in-crowd.

Please click here for a larger view.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"Figured Out"

6 x 8"
oil on panel

When I posted this new painting last night, I said I wanted to add a bit more interesting facts but I was late for my evening walk with the dogs.  I was in such a rush, I mistakenly wrote Picasso was the artist, which is why my eBay listing says so.  It was Henri Matisse.  Yikes.  That'll teach me.

Anyhoo.... back to 'Bathers By A River'.  It has a prominent spot in The Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago - on a huge wall as you enter the gallery.  The painting is enormous, so much so, most stand way back for a view.  I'm so drawn to this painting, I beeline right to it when I'm at the Tute.

Back in 2007,  the experts at the Art Institute studied this painting in depth, knowing Matisse was known to work on paintings in stages and piecing together separate panels - and knowing The Bathers took over eight years to complete, they went into more of an examination of his technique.

The Bathers and two other paintings were commissioned by a Russian collector, originally planned as three panels to fit in the man's residence - and after seeing a watercolor study, he rejected it.  But Matisse kept working on it during the next eight years, changing colors - really the whole design.  This was evident when the conservators removed the varnish and used infrared technology and X-rays - seeing a completely different palette.  That discovery morphed into an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, then MoMA, titled 'Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917' - which examined more of Matisse's works and techniques.

As for Matisse, it is a fantastic biography of his life and career - I find the most interesting personal tidbit being that his wife Amelie, whom he was married to for 41 years, suspected infidelity and ended the marriage.  The woman he was having the affair with attempted suicide by shooting herself in the chest BUT she survived and returned to a now-single Matisse and was his loyal assistant for the rest of his life.

Around the age of 71, Matisse was diagnosed with abdominal cancer and after surgery that left him bedridden, he was physically unable to paint and he turned to a new medium, creating cut paper collages for another decade and produced some of the most extraordinary works you're probably familiar with.

Friday, April 1, 2016


6 x 8"
oil on panel

The Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington houses a few paintings by one of it's native sons, Howard Pyle.  Pyle is referred to as 'the father of illustration'.   He was why, as a little budding artist, I wanted to be an illustrator.  He founded the Howard Pyle School of Illustration Art in the early 1900's, later named the Brandywine School.  If Brandywine sounds familiar, it is where the artists of the Wyeth family lived and painted.  N.C. Wyeth was a student of Pyle's - becoming one of the most extraordinary book illustrators of his time.

If you were a student of Howard Pyle, you and other fellow students and painters would set off to historical sites - often taking along costumes and playing out the scenes - reaching into their imaginations of maybe what the life of a pirate was or how the Pilgrims dealt with their new land in Plymouth.  It had to be a wonderful, unique experience for those artists.

The painting I feature is one of my personal favorites titled Marooned.  The painting is quite simple in composition but it really tells the story.  Marooning was a punishment for a member of the crew who violated the pirate's code.  It was first mentioned in Treasure Island and it was a real practice where they would banish the poor guy to a deserted, bleak island with a little water, food and a pistol to commit suicide.  Historically, a few survived their punishments and lived to tell.

I learn something new every day.