Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"Bird Sighting"

6 x 8"
oil on panel

I saw this exquisite painting at the Delaware Art Museum a few years back.  I felt .... lucky.  There haven't been many chances in my life to see those Pre-Raphaelite portraits of women in their luxurious clothes and settings.  They're so yummy.

The painting in my painting is 'Veronica Veronese' by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, done in 1872 - first sold to a frequent collector, a rich shipping magnate Frederick Leyland, changed hands a few times then it was donated to the Delaware Art Museum in 1935.

Rossetti's painting is filled with symbolism - the uncaged bird, the daffodils, the camomile in the cage.  Rossetti was English, a co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of artists and poets, which evolved through the years.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Out to Lunch

On this Easter holiday weekend, I want to say I've completely lost my mind.

I've had a long time desire to paint Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party since the day I saw it in person about seven years ago.  I tackled it once.  It was much looser.  And there was a crowd in the way.  I was saner back then.

Now I'm zeroing in on Renoir's incredible attention to detail, seeing things I've never noticed before.  Here's my slow progress...

I really should go dye some eggs.

I also wanted to mention Senator John McCain wrote an article in the New York Times today - about a recent obituary, the death of a U.S. soldier Delmer Berg.  He was 100 years old.  

The reason I bring this up?  Picasso's painting Guernica, which I recently featured in my painting War Paint.  

Mr. Berg was the last known veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.  One of about 3,000 mostly-American volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War, in defense of the leftist government of Spain, against the Nationalists, led by Franco.  I never knew about the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.  It was part of the International Brigade, which included tens of thousands of foreign volunteers that fought against the bombings and destruction of many little hamlets in Spain.  Guernica being one of them.

So coming to the aid of a foreign land and people, people that these volunteers never knew - is quite profound.  

~  Happy Easter

Sunday, March 20, 2016

"Mystic" (study)

6 x 8"
oil on panel

And now for peace....

The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC is home to this beautiful, wooden sculpture 'Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz)' - commissioned in 1675 by a convent near Seville, Spain to a 21-year-old artist named Francisco Antonio Gijon.  The contract survived all these years, stating the work was to be made of cypress supplied by the monks and be finished in less than two months time.

Saint John of the Cross was a 16th century Spanish mystic, imprisoned for pushing reform of his Carmelite order - his imprisonment inspired some of the most admired poetry and spiritual verses ever written in Spanish.  The mystic figure holds a quill on one hand and a book with a model of a mountain surmounted by a cross in the other - referring to his 'The Ascent of Mount Carmel'.

This 6-1/2' sculpture will bring you to your knees.

~ Happy Spring

Friday, March 18, 2016

"War Paint"

28 x 8"
oil on panel

When I started this painting, I thought I must be out of my mind.  I rarely tackle something I know will take days.  And it did.  

My main drive was to submit this painting to an upcoming museum exhibition, but I couldn't meet the deadline - but I just kept plugging away.  It was challenging - mostly deciphering the many grey tones and values of Picasso's painting - I must have mixed 50+ different blacks and greys and tans.  I was obsessed with getting just the right combinations for days.  

Last night, after I completed the painting,  I took the dogs for a walk in a nearby cemetery and as I was walking on the asphalt, I was determining what colors to mix to get the color under my feet.  My brain couldn't shut it off - I thought that was amusing.

The more I dove into the history of Picasso's Guernica, the more his painting seemed so timely - a small town of innocent people driven out of their home by total destruction, much like Syria.  War.  What is it good for?

Here are several close-ups of this piece, starting from the left....

 Please click here for a larger view.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

"War Paint" (study)

6 x 6"
oil on panel

Considered Pablo Picasso's most famous painting, Guernica, was a powerful political statement depicting the horrors and devastation of the Nazi's bombing of the town Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in 1937.   The size of Picasso's painting is 25 1/2' x 11' which effectively awes any viewer.

Picasso was working on a mural at the time of the bombing, commissioned by the Spanish Republican government for the upcoming Paris exhibition but scrapped his original idea and began planning his composition of Guernica.  News of the massacre reached Paris and protests erupted all over the city - newspaper pages covered with stark black & white photographs of the devastation - which inspired Picasso to start working on Guernica in black and white and blue-grey tones.

Picasso finished three months later, delivered to the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris Exposition already in progress.  Initial reaction was overwhelming critical - the German guide described the painting as 'a hodgepodge of body parts that any four-year-old could have painted' and dismissed it as the 'dream of a madman'.  Even Russia, who sided with the Spanish government, criticized it, saying a more-realistic painting would have impacted the social or political future.

After the Paris tour, Guernica made its rounds in Europe and North America raising atttention to the threat of fascism.  During WWII until 1981, it hung in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, traveling back and forth to other countries - but never Spain.  Picasso refused it go to Spain 'until the country enjoys public liberties and democratic institutions' - which in 1981, after the death of Franco and the movement towards democracy, Guernica was put in its final home, the Reina Sofia in Madrid.

Friday, March 11, 2016


5 x 5"
oil on panel

My appreciation for the multitudes of colors in a fish.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

"The Bigger Questions"

10 x 10"
oil on panel

In the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston hangs one of Paul Gauguin's finest works of art 'Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?' - a manifesto of sorts painted while he was living in Tahiti in 1897.  This 12" x 4.5" masterpiece contains people, animals and symbolic figures with the mountains and sea in the background - oozing with rich, jewel-tone blues, purples, greens reds and golds.  

What's nuts is that Gauguin painted this in a month, even told a friend after it was completed, he went up into the mountains to attempt suicide - which may or may not happened since Gauguin was famous for his self-promoting antics.  

Gauguin's frustration with a lack of recognition in Paris and a lack of money is what lead him to sail to Tahiti in 1891 - stating he's leaving European civilization and 'everything that is artificial and conventional'.  Yes, he abandoned his wife and five children as well - clearly ready for a change.  At one point in his young life, he was a successful stockbroker but he took a leap of faith wanting to be an artist and he must have felt like he failed everybody and everything.  

Thankfully, Gauguin shipped all of his paintings from Tahiti to his artist friend Vollard to be displayed at his Paris gallery in hopes of sales and recognition.  Interesting enough, his large masterpiece never sold, his friends attempted to donate it to the French state unsuccessfully until the Museum of Fine Arts purchased it in 1936.

Please click here for a larger view.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

"Giving Pause"

5 x 7"
oil on panel

My ongoing attention to James McNeill Whistler inspired this new painting - a woman pausing before Whistler's 'Harmony in Green and Rose: The Music Room', which hangs in the Freer Gallery of Art - a commonly missed museum in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


12 x 12"
oil on panel

This painting should compel you to take off your clothes and dance around.   Henri Matisse's very famous painting 'Dance' is one of those joyful works of art.  From the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City,  a young man seemingly feeling the vibe.

Please click here for a larger view.