My newest painting for the show Summer Duet, opening this weekend at Robert Lange Studios features one of my personal favorite paintings The Gross Clinic, by Thomas Eakins. Inspired by a recent New York Times article, I was reminded of my last visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art years ago. I strolled into a quiet room, high ceiling, nobody else there. I walked straight ahead, not sure what was in this room, turned around and there it was. The Gross Clinic. Nearly 8 feet high and 7 feet wide. My mind was blown.
Thomas Eakins was 31 years old when he completed this masterpiece. 31! He was studying art, completely enamored with the human anatomy, bound and determined to render figures in a realistic, accurate manner. He followed the rapid advances of medicine and participated in the theater-like demonstrations of one particular physician, Dr. Samuel Gross, a man very well-known in his birthplace city of Philadelphia. Dr. Gross served as an advisor to the US Surgeon General during the Civil War, wrote "A Manual of Military Surgery" which was the first of its kind - providing medical instructions for Union Army battlefield surgeons. That manual was later pirated by the South and a Confederate version was released a year later. Dr. Gross later served as the 20th president of the AMA, going on to publish many surgical text books throughout his long career.
When Eakins revealed his extraordinary painting, critics were brutal. The New York Times art critic described it as "so dreadful that the public may be well excused if it turn away in horror." much like the only female figure in the painting to the left of Dr. Gross. Notice no surgical masks, no scrubs, no surgical gloves - that didn't exist at the time. The patient was suffering from an infected femur bone and with no anesthesia, underwent the amputation procedure which was revolutionary and ended the butcher-surgeries performed up until then.
The ridiculous part of the initial criticism of the painting centered around the "violence" and the melodramatic woman's reaction - when in fact, it's one of the most important works of art of the 19th century. Eakins sold it for a paltry $200 in 1876 and it hung in the medical building and later the alumni building of Thomas Jefferson University until 2006, when the University voted to sell it to the National Gallery of Art and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art for $68 million. But that's not the end of the story.
The sale to the two museums was deemed as a secretive act and efforts to keep the painting in Philadelphia, regarding it as an historic object, raised $30 million, with a bank agreeing to float a loan for the remainder. Other works of art owned by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts were thrown in as part of the final deal.
Please click here for a larger view and purchase/contact information.
For the upcoming Summer Duet show opening July 3rd - a new painting featuring David Hockney's Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Hockney's painting is a staggering 10' x 7' without the frame, appearing like a colorful wall mural that will take your breath away.
The British-born Hockney has lived in Los Angeles since the '60's and clearly has a deep affection for the city with many, many paintings of sunny landscapes, shimmering swimming pools and friends and lovers memorialized in his life in California.
Mulholland Drive is a panoramic map of LA based on his daily road trip from his home in Hollywood Hills to his studio on Santa Monica Boulevard - all painted from memory in just a few weeks. The road curves around the top of the painting, showing the movement and high-altitude of his daily trek, passing trees, power lines, houses and tennis courts. Amazing work of art.
Please click here for a larger view and purchase/contact information.
You tend to hear more about Claude Monet or Edgar Degas or Auguste Renoir when French Impressionists are named. The art world, for centuries, was and to a point, still is a male dominate thing. Back in the 1800's, a daughter was veered towards domestic life or nursing - the rebels became famous writers and poets and a few became painters, like Mary Cassatt.
Cassatt was one of seven children raised in an upper class family. Her father was a stockbroker, her mother came from money. They raised their children to be educated with traveling abroad a part of their privileged childhood. At a young age, she was exposed to artists in Paris and Spain, returned to America and enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 15, where females made up 20% of the students. That only made Cassatt more determined to make art her career. She went on to study in Paris under extraordinary painters but it wasn't until she was in her mid-30's when she hooked up with the Impressionists, namely Degas, who became a close friend and important influence.
Cassatt is best known for her paintings of mothers and children, including the painting on the left Boating Party, said to be inspired by Boating by Edouard Manet (on the right). Her painting wasn't well received and she convinced her friend to buy it, where that collection was eventually bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.
My newest painting is timely but not planned that way. Art imitates life they say.
The Hope poster by Shepard Fairey came to represent Barack Obama's presidential campaign back in 2008 - printed as a street poster with versions stating "hope" or "change" or "progress". The campaign initially was independent of but later gave their nod to the image and even commissioned Fairey to do official posters and T-shirts.
The following year the National Portrait Gallery in DC acquired the large, mixed-media version then things took a sour turn when it was revealed the reference photo was taken from an Associated Press image without the permission from the photographer. Fair use of the original was fought in court and both parties settled in 2011. Fairey got in more trouble the following year when he destroyed and fabricated documents, attempting to hide he used the AP's photo - then admitting to his wrongs, plead guilty, got 2 years probation, community service and a $25,000 fine.
Fairey had worked at redeeming himself since and, along with other artists, is responding to the death of George Floyd. He recently said "My way of coping when too many people seem indifferent has been to make images spotlighting these issues and injustices. I use these images to donate to organizations like Black Lives Matter, the ACLU, The Southern Poverty Law Center, the Equal Justice Initiative and #Cut50, all of which do critical work on the social justice front lines."
I finished this new painting last night, Memorial Day evening. It features a sliver of Emanuel Leutze's depiction of Washington Crossing the Delaware - a massive painting nearly 22' x 13' not including the elaborate frame.
The story behind this famous oil - the event took place on Christmas night in 1776, Washington's aim was to attack Hessians, German auxiliaries fighting on behalf of the British, in Trenton, New Jersey during the American Revolution. It of course depicts the future first President of America and also the future fifth President James Monroe who's holding the American flag.
The artist Emanuel Leutze was a German who grew up in America, born 40 years after the Battle of Trenton. He returned to Germany as an adult, where he painted this moment in history, hoping to inspire and motivate the European liberal Revolutionaries.
A few things where the artist took poetic license - the flag didn't exist until a year after the battle, the boat was more of a raft and Washington was much younger than portrayed and knew enough not to stand up in a rowboat. Historians don't believe Monroe crossed the Delaware, although he did fight in Trenton and got a bullet in his shoulder that remained for the rest of his life. The other occupants in the boat were from different walks of life - fur trappers, an African, a Scot, farmers and one woman who represented women who fought and died for freedom.
The painting was damaged by a fire during the first year and Leutze successfully repaired it and completed it before a German art museum acquired it. That painting was destroyed in 1942 during a WWII bombing by British forces. Luckily, Leutze created a copy (can you believe it?) after he finished the first one that was shipped to New York City in 1851 where it was displayed in a gallery and at the U. S. Capitol in Washington, DC. It is now on permanent display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
~ In the NYT obits today was the passing of John Driscoll who owned New York City's oldest art gallery, the Babcock Gallery. I was surprised to read this portion "In 2015, Dr. Driscoll arranged the purchase of one of two surviving versions of Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware,”
from 1851. A collector who had lent it to the White House for 35 years
sold it to the founders of the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona. It’s probably the most famous American painting west of the Hudson River,” Dr. Driscoll said when it was unveiled. “At auction, this picture would have pulled out not only art collectors but ultrapatriots who are very wealthy.” Mr. Driscoll died of the COVID-19 virus.
So..... I have a lot to catch up on here. I hope you're doing well.
I was to have a solo show open on July 3rd at Robert Lange Studios and it very well may be a virtual show with other artists. Who knows? In any event, I've been working on pieces every day, with the newest painting to show you today.
The spectacular painting the woman is viewing is Island Funeral by the great N. C. Wyeth. Many people who see originals by N. C. Wyeth for the first time are surprised by the size of the works - like Norman Rockwell, the majority were illustrations for books or magazines. Island Funeral is jaw-dropping in person. The deep, rich blues and greens were a result of Wyeth's collaboration with the DuPont Company, (based in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and home of the Wyeths.) DuPont developed the vibrant blue and green dyes that have proven to last nearly 100 years.
There's an interesting story behind the painting. In the fall of 1935, the Wyeth family watched from the porch of their summer home in Port Clyde, Maine, the flotilla of boats passing by on their way to Teel Island for the funeral of Rufus W. Teel. Teel was a legendary lobsterman, born and lived his whole long life of 97 years on the island.
Wyeth organized his first solo gallery show around Island Funeral - hoping to dispel the notion he was just an illustrator. His unique composition and perspective, hovering above the activity like a sea gull, and his colors demonstrated he was indeed an artist.
I spotted this painting on Instagram and recognized it as one of the popular prints I used to frame for customers back in the day. People commonly referred to it as "the goose girl", its real title is To Pastures New by Sir James Guthrie. The painting has traveled all over the globe but does reside at the Aberdeen Art Museum in the UK.
James Guthrie was a Scottish painter during the late 1800's - early 1900's, during the Victorian era and what is called the Gilded Age. The wealthy commissioned portrait artists - think John Singer Sargent and others, including Guthrie, to paint large, elaborate portraits of their patriarchs, wives and children to adorn their mansion walls. It was all the craze.
young group of Scottish artists, the Glasgow Boys, who Guthrie was associated with, considered themselves
rebellious, rejecting the older generation of artists and declared
themselves to be anti-establishment. Other groups, like the union of newspaper illustrators with members such as Winslow Homer, grew tired of the upper crust being depicted in popular art and felt the need to portray the working class and African-Americans who were experiencing prolonged lives of enslavement during Reconstruction. They felt an obligation to show their dignity and contributions despite their suppression.
To Pastures New is a perfect example of Guthrie's commitment and sense of pride painting directly from nature and his surroundings in Scotland, portraying a young, hard-working peasant girl filling the canvas like a giant shepherding her animals through the field on a normal workday.
Today, I thought you might appreciate knowing about an American hero, Ruby Bridges and why she mattered in our country's history almost 60 years ago.
Norman Rockwell's iconic painting The Problem We All Live With was completed in 1964 for Look Magazine - his first illustration for the publication after ending a 47-year association with The Saturday Evening Post. He worked with Look Magazine for 10 years, illustrating some of his deepest concerns about civil rights, poverty in America and the exploration of space.
In 1960, Ruby Bridges was six and became the first African American student to integrate an elementary school in New Orleans after a bitter year of resistance by the Louisiana school board. What it took was a federal court ordering the state to desegregate and despite Louisiana's efforts to create entrance exams for African American students in order to enter any all-white school, Ruby was one of five who passed the exam.
Ruby and her mother were escorted to school every day by four federal marshals for the entire school year. Undeterred and dignified, she walked past crowds screaming vicious slurs at her. Parents withdrew their kids from school and only one teacher, a white woman from Boston, was willing to accept Ruby in her class of one. She ate lunch by herself and never missed a day of school that year.
The Bridges family suffered for their daughter's courage - the grandparents were evicted from the farm where they had lived for 25 years, her father lost his job and grocery stores refused to sell to her mother. Ruby graduated from a desegregated high school, married and had four children, became a life-long activist for racial equality and established a foundation to promote tolerance and change through education. In 2000, she was made an honorary deputy marshal in a ceremony in Washington DC.
The painting The Problem We All Live With has traveled around the world, resided at the White House during President Obama's terms and can be viewed in the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Took a breather from a larger painting to do a little house, one of my favorite subjects. I spotted this little homestead outside of Sterling, Colorado on a road trip - with ominous skies looming in the distance.
Back in 1977, I was 16 years old and was taking Saturday classes on figure drawing at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago. I lived in the burbs, took the train downtown to the city, walked about five blocks to class which was on the back side of the museum and when class was over, I walked into the museum and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting and sketching people looking at art. After a couple of years doing that, the paintings were like old friends. I knew a lot of them well. Especially Paris Street; Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte.
The Art Institute bought it in 1964 for an undisclosed price. Although the world had not yet recognized the Caillebotte's talent, the curator knew what she was looking at. Most of Caillebotte's works are privately owned by his family, this painting is one of the few in public collections. So I always felt lucky to visit my friend.
If you venture out much of what you'll see resembles an Edward Hopper painting. Isolated streets, quiet neighborhood scenes. No artist has portrayed isolation like Hopper. Keep in mind, he lived in New York City.
Hopper once said about his paintings "What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house." and spent his lifetime pursuing light in his resonant paintings. Morning Sun captures that beam of sunlight coming through the window, onto the woman on the bed - his wife, Jo, was often his model for his work.
What Morning Sun means to me, especially now in the midst of this pandemic, is even in isolation and darkness, look for the light.
Hopper's painting resides in the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio and at one time traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago for a Hopper exhibition, which is where I had the pleasure of seeing it in person.
John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo has to be in the Top-50-Best works of American art in my humble opinion. Its home is in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, a museum that is in and of itself a work of art. The painting is a massive 12' by 7' canvas, not including the frame. It hangs in a darkened niche at the end of a long hallway. As you approach it and step into this cramped, intimate space, you feel like the luckiest person on earth viewing this masterpiece in splendid solitude.
Sargent had a fascination with Spain, spending 5 months traveling thru Spain and North Africa in 1879. He spent months completing El Jaleo, referring back to numerous sketches he made on his trip, paying special attention to the dancer's movements and the drapery of her dress. The dancer moves from left to right, accompanied by musicians and dancers seated along the wall.
El Jaleo is Spanish for the lively solo dance with castanets. When Sargent entered the painting in the Paris Salon in 1882, the full title was El Jaleo: Danse des Gitanes (Dance of the Gypsies). Six years later, the wealthy art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner purchased it from another collector.
Very rarely does a painting take me a solid week to complete and I'm not sure I comprehended how challenging this one would be. But.... on day 2, working from left to right, I got the gist. I sorta tackled it like a paint-by-number on the landscape - sketching out an area, ridges and all, and working on just that area, then move right to the next area. Not the quickest way to progress, but it helped me not be so overwhelmed.
On my previous post, below this one, I wrote about the artist Albert Bierstadt, the painter of the extraordinary piece I've featured here, Among the Sierra Nevada. It hangs in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC and is one of our nation's greatest treasures.
I'm working on one of the hardest reproductions I've ever done of the masterpiece by Albert Bierstadt - getting lost in the Sierra Nevada mountains. There's a certain Zen to painting a scene so peaceful and awesome.
Albert Bierstadt was a German-American artist, born in Prussia, moved to America at the age of 1. He traveled westward with a U. S. land surveyor to witness the unseen, vast, mountainous landscapes and returned to New York, completing several paintings from sketches done on his trip. He went back west for a second time, this time staying a couple of months in the Yosemite Valley - returning back home and painting his massive-scale pieces that he is well known for.
Bierstadt's images were vital to the aspirations of Americans and Europeans who were immigrating to the United States. It showed them a world that had scarcely been seen and explored.
~ Stay healthy my friends and please stay home if you are able. There's light at the end of this tunnel.
Pablo Picasso's Mother and Child in the Art Institute of Chicago does seem to affect many visitors. It moves them. It's majestic. It's relatable. It's a mother holding her child, surrounded by a serene background of sand, water and sky. It's sweet.
Picasso painted this in 1921, the year his son Paolo was born. In the following two years, he painted over a dozen works on the subject of mothers and children. He had painted this theme during his Blue Period, depicting figures that were frail and in despair but this mother and child are noticeably more solid and happy - showing Picasso's general feelings of stability and sentimentality with the birth of his own child.
~ On a personal note, please take good care of yourself during these scary days. Look out for your friends and family. Be kind to strangers. We'll get through this.
The astounding fact of Rembrandt's portrait Old Man with a Chain is that he painted it at the age of 25. It was 1631 and he was honing his skills with classic portraits and, what is widely believed, used his father as the model and dressed him in a fancy coat with a plumed hat and an ornate, gold chain with a medallion. I'll say it again. Rembrandt painted this at the age of 25.
From the Art Institute of Chicago.
Please click here for a larger view and purchase/contact information.
A couple of years back, I got to see one of Amy Sherald's first exhibitions in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art - recognizing immediately this was the artist who painted the official portrait of the First Lady, Michelle Obama, unveiled just a few months before.
Amy Sherald is a young 47 years old, from Columbus, Georgia - went to Clark University in Atlanta and after a chance encounter with a street artist who encouraged her to pursue art as a career, decided to do just that. Her signature figurative paintings are large, featuring ordinary African-American people (some she knew and some she didn't), demonstrating everyone has value. Her skin tones are in grey tones rather than brown "so the bright colors really pop out" and she's now one of the most successful black painters of our time. I love everything she does.
The painting above features Amy's portrait titled She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them. Amy's sister, a writer, often titles her paintings for her.
I loved this man I spotted in the National Gallery of Art. First glance, I assumed he was dragged to the museum but he stopped at every single painting during the five or ten minutes I watched him. He seemed truly interested in any artist, any subject, and in any room. He spent more time with Vincent van Gogh's work - most visitors do because they know who van Gogh is.
Vincent van Gogh painted 36 self-portraits in his short career of a mere 10 years. Early on, he concentrated on landscapes and still life and a few portraits but after he admitted himself into the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, still painting the fields nearby and surrounding landscapes, he suffered a severe breakdown. Many believe his demise resembled the symptoms of epilepsy, but the disease was not understood at the time. Vincent was incapacitated for five weeks and retreated to his studio, during which he painted the Self-Portrait you see in my painting.
This self-portrait is a standout - done in a single sitting - the artist dressed in his smock holding his palette and brushes. His face is somewhat haunting, his awareness of his gaunt, pale face is painted with stark greenish/blue tones, the brush strokes are thick with paint. Most of all, it feels intense as if van Gogh's anxiety was portrayed so honestly. Within a year, in 1890, the artist was dead at the age of 37.
The astounding legacy Vincent van Gogh left, in just a decade, was about 2,100 artworks including 860 oil paintings. A fact I still can't comprehend.
The most enthusiastic audiences for Edgar Degas' ballerinas are little girls. Especially popular is the bronze sculpture you'll find in several art museums The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer - it's real to those young girls in a way that one-dimensional paintings are not. It's one of those moments that art impacts a human being at an early age.
An art historian wrote an interesting article for Vanity Fair and claimed Degas was "a bona fide misogynist". He apparently took pleasure in watching his dancer/models contort in agony and even referred to them as his "little monkey girls". Degas never married, known to be anti-Semitic - a result from the Dreyfus Affair when a French military officer, who was Jewish, was wrongfully accused of treason. He blamed his family's business difficulties on Jewish competitors and grew more and more resentful. His bitter prejudice cost him many friends and certainly the respect of his more-tolerant Parisian artists friends and peers.
From the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, a little girl is mesmerized while viewing Dega's Dancers Practicing at the Barre, with the sculpture The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer next to her.
The Montgomery Museum of Art in Alabama, make no mistake, has treasured works of art. My personal favorite is the striking New York Office by the great Edward Hopper.
Hopper painted this masterpiece at the age of 80, four years short of his death. The painting is quintessential Hopper - an urban scene, a lone figure and a business office with the viewer or voyeur essentially unnoticed by the woman at her desk in the window. Hopper featured women working in offices frequently, perhaps showing his admiration for who really runs the show.
Out of the blue, I got an email from a woman who explained she had inherited a painting that had been in her family most of her life. Her words "When I was a kid, I never thought about what I wanted to inherit from my parents when they passed away … except for this piece! It was the one thing I would fight for, I thought."
She did her research online looking for information on the artist Lee Jurick and couldn't find anything, but did find my name then read that my mom was an artist and "Viola!", the mystery was solved. The magic of the internet.
This was a meaningful gift to me - to see a tangible reminder of part of my mom's creative soul and it happened to be on the anniversary of my mom's passing 38 years ago.
The painting shows my mom's love for color and especially painting in the Cubism style. She loved Picasso and Braque. She really loved all styles of art. She did pen and ink drawings of life around her in Thailand, then scenery in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She did linoleum and wood prints and mono-prints, which is when I learned all about printmaking as a young girl. She even sculpted. She belonged to the Doylestown Art League during our time in Pennsylvania, where this painting changed hands to the parents of this wonderful woman, who took the time, found me and wrote me an email that made my day. My week. My year.
I'm lucky to have a dozen or so pieces of my mom's work. This has encouraged me to photograph all of what I have and create a devoted page on my website - I'll let you know when that's published.
Good things happen when you least expect it. Thank you Kris.
"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
About Leaving Comments
I welcome comments relating to each specific post - please do not include outside links or your comment will not be posted. Comment moderation is necessary to prevent SPAM left by the losers out there - I recommend all bloggers do the same to stop this nonsense once and for all. Thank you.
"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."