Tuesday, September 24, 2019

"A Bird's Eye View"

9 x 12"
oil on panel

You are probably aware there is currently a film out based on Donna Tartt's novel The Goldfinch, largely revolving around a 1654 painting by the Dutch artist, Carel Fabritius.  The actual painting resides in the Mauritshuis in the Hague, Netherlands.  In 2014, it went on a world tour and landed in the Frick in New York around the same time Tartt's best-selling novel won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.  Over 61,000 people visited the Frick just to see Fabritius' painting.

The real story behind the painting The Goldfinch - the artist, Carel Fabritius, lived in Delft, was a well-known artist and a student of Rembrandt's and in 1654, a gunpowder factory next to Fabritius' apartment exploded.  Ninety-thousand pounds of gunpowder exploded five times in what was known as the Delft Thunderclap.  The explosion killed over 100 people, including Fabritius and destroyed a quarter of the city.  The artist was 32 years old.  Six paintings were retrieved from his apartment, including The Goldfinch.

Interestingly, the real painting's history has some similarities to the novel, although the author said she never knew about the Delft Thunderclap event and chose a painting that would appeal to a child and small enough to carry.  Also, at the time of the artist's death, he was working on a portrait of a local church deacon, Simon Decker, who had the same name as the main character in Tartt's novel.

Hanging next to The Goldfinch is Self-Portrait by Fabritius' painting teacher, Rembrandt. 

Please click here for a larger view and purchase/contact information.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

"A Look Inside"

8 x 10"
oil on panel

Believe it or not, and it's been my observation, that a lot of museum visitors in the Art Institute of Chicago take a quick glance at The Bedroom by Vincent van Gogh and then move on to the next painting.  It baffles me.  There is the exception of youngsters - they are frequently drawn to the most colorful of artworks, understandably.

The Bedroom, one of three versions van Gogh painted, is an important one - in that it's more personal.  It was his space.  A room he had moved into in the "Yellow House" in Arles, France.  It was the first time Vincent had a home of his own.  And like a lot of us, he enthusiastically painted the walls and chose his decor and painted several pieces to hang on the walls of his new bedroom.  He painted the walls a lilac-blue,  a brick-red on the floor boards, a yellow on the bed and chairs, an orange for his dressing table, a blue for his washbasin and trimmed the window in a dark green.  He chose a pale yellow-green for his pillow cases and sheets with a deep red bedspread.  As viewers, we would consider his choices of colors a bit frenzied or over-the-top maybe.  To Vincent, it seemingly was heaven, a calm sanctuary he could call his own.  That is why I think it's an important painting by van Gogh.  He saw the world, the wheat fields, the sunflowers, the starry night sky in vivid, saturated colors that most of us don't see.  That's a gift.

Please click here for a larger view and purchase/contact information.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

"Seeing Red"

5 x 8"
oil on panel

I thought this different view of a different one of Ellsworth Kelly's Chicago Panels made a potentially good companion piece to Umbrella Stand you see on the post before this one.

I love the subtle colorful reflections on the marble floor in both scenes.  And note what I mentioned in the post below, that Kelly's inspiration for the six Chicago Panels was observations of various birds, this red panel presumably from a cardinal.

From the second floor in the American Art Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

"Umbrella Stand"

6 x 8"
oil on panel

On the second floor of the American Art Wing in the Art Institute of Chicago, the galleries are surrounded by hallways flooded with natural light and on the walls hangs six brightly-colored, geometric shapes called the Chicago Panels by Ellsworth Kelly.

Ellsworth Kelly's success came in the 1950's.  He could fit into the categories of Minimalism, Color Field and Pop Art with his focus on shapes, forms and colors - intending for viewers to 1 - enjoy public art and 2 - to think of art in terms of the spaces where it occupies.  He took real-life observations and mimicked those subjects in an abstract way.  

As a kid, Kelly was a loner, had a slight stutter, spent most of his time as an avid bird watcher and was heavily influenced by John James Audubon. He wanted to study art, his father wanted him to sway more to technical training - he entered military service in the early 40's and used his G.I. Bill to study at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston where his mind opened up to Surrealism and modern art.  There he went to Europe for more studies for six years, returned to New York, stumbled a bit until his concepts found the right time and the right place and took off from there.  In the case of the Chicago Panels, each brightly-colored panel represents a bird - the yellow panel possibly a goldfinch - so you can easily see those years of bird watching kept with Kelly all his long life.  He lived to be 92 and died in 2015.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019


9 x 12"
oil on panel

If you've been to the Art Institute of Chicago, you know Gustave Caillebotte's enormous painting Paris Street, Rainy Day - it's one of the museum's treasured Impressionist paintings.  I've featured it in many paintings of mine in the past years.  Paris Street is currently on loan in Berlin and The Floor Scrapers made the long trip from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris to Chicago to take its place.  You must grasp how very lucky we are to be able to see this painting - to my knowledge, it has never left France.  Ever.

Gustave Caillebotte was an unusual artist in that he was lucky to have been born in a wealthy family whose father owned a textile mill that supplied military needs to Napoleon's army.  Gustave got a law degree by the age of 20, trained as an engineer and served in the Franco-Prussian War which devastated France.  So presumably, he pitched the law and engineering to study art, as several artists of the time did.  He inherited the family fortune at age 26, spent a number of years collecting his fellow artists/friends' paintings and squeezed in about 500 paintings of his own while collecting orchids, building and racing yachts before he died at the age of 46 from heart disease.   Interesting enough, Caillebotte never sold any of his paintings (he didn't have to) and his brother donated all of his work to private collectors and museums all over the world.

A little more about The Floor Scrapers - Caillebotte completed it in 1875, submitted into France's most prestigious art exhibition, the Salon, where it was unanimously rejected by the snooty judges because of its depiction of working-class people doing their job without all of their clothes on.  They deemed it a 'vulgar subject matter'.  Of course the same snooty judges deemed Degas' paintings of a woman washing clothes as 'vulgar' too.  Art critics disagreed, calling the decision 'a very bad mark for the official jurors.'  So there.

Please click here for a larger view.