I was privileged to be asked by the Education Department at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. to teach a class to visiting school children. The class consisted of several groups from third to sixth grades. As a copyist, I often have to speak to students who come through with their teachers and chaperons. They are always interested in speaking with a real live artist, even more so than looking at the paintings on the walls. They ask all kinds of questions. “Did you paint all the pictures hanging on the walls?” “Did you do this in one day?” “Do you sell your painting for a million dollars?” The questions are endless and their curiosity is enormous. Although I’m asked some of the same questions occasionally from adults, the children are so much fun. They want to know how did I get to paint at the gallery, how do I begin, how long does it take to finish, at what age did I start painting? This time I finally had an opportunity to interact with them.
The Education Department wanted to develop a program so the children can see the process of a working artist. The course began in the East Wing in front of a painting Both Members of This Club by George Bellows. We talked about how to develop a drawing by studying the shapes of the subject or a model – picking out rectangles, cylinders, circles, squares that form a figure. The Bellows painting has many shapes. The children were fascinated by the bloody boxing figures, which are of course a bit violent for the younger children, but they were really more interested in picking out shapes in the composition than interpreting the meaning behind the subject.
During the second half of the course the children were able to spend time with me in the West Building watching me paint. The Education Department chose the Self Portrait by Vincent van Gogh for demonstration. I showed them how I prepare to begin a copy, from making a grid to drawing, underpainting and finally what they all long anticipated – the actual painting. Of course I didn’t have time to complete the painting for them, but the teaching team requested I finish the painting, which you can see in the photo above.
The background of the original portrait appears blue, but through the use of x-ray imaging, conservators at the NGA have discovered the original background was likely bright purple. Over the years, it seems the red pigment van Gogh used to mix his purple (a light sensitive pigment called “Geranium Lake”) has faded out of the mix he applied for the background. I chose to stay true to the original and paint my copy with a bright purple background.
The third part of Art Around the Corner was painting in the education studio where the children were able to do their own painting.
The Arts Club of Washington presents a one of a kind exhibit that will surely wow you. A magnificent collection of art has been created by some very talented independent artist and copyist at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Each copy has been created in front of the original masterpiece. As copyist, we learn and perfect our skills by studying the styles, history and procedures of great painters from the past as the master artists we copy did before them.
Come out, meet the artist and enjoy a fun evening of great art. Opening Reception will be on Friday, January 5th from 6:30-8:30, The Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I Street and 20th NW. Parking options include free street parking on Pennsylvania Avenue after 6:30 PM, metered parking in front of the of the Arts Club, and at the Colonial Garage, 2100 Pennsylvania Avenue, where you can prepay and reserve a space online. The club is also within a few blocks of both the Foggy Bottom and the Farragut West and North Metro stations. For more information go to the Arts Club of Washington. This event is free and open to the public.
Note: this exhibition is not organized, supported, or endorsed by the National Gallery of Art.
Henri Matisse was one of the most influential artists of the early 20th century. He achieved this status primarily through the revolutionary use of brilliant color. Matisse often exaggerated form to express emotion. Born in 1869, Henri Matisse first began a career in law. However, in 1891, he began to study art. He started by taking a drawing class in the morning before he went to work. Then, at age 21, while recuperating from an illness, his true vocation as an artist was confirmed. As has happened in the lives of many artists, Matisse decided it is never too late to follow your passion. Matisse went through many changes in his style and was influenced both by artists who came before him as well as contemporaries. He was particularly taken by the work of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac who painted in a “Pointillist” style with small dots of color rather than full brushstrokes.
A love of bright colors is what Matisse is most known for today. He produced major creative breakthroughs in the years 1904-05 eventually leading to the emphasis on capturing mood rather than merely trying to depict the world realistically.
I was drawn to Still Life with Apples on a Pink Tablecloth because of the unique placement of the composition and the majestic use of color. Like many of the paintings that hang at the National Gallery of Art (NGA), the years have somewhat dulled the paint used by the original artist. I try to imagine what the painting looked like when it was created in 1924 and try my best to reach back in time to recreate the luster that was intended by Henri Matisse. It is always a challenge but what a privilege it is to be at the NGA doing what I love to do. I don’t even think twice when I have to wake up at 4:30 am every Tuesday morning to begin the 50 mile journey to the museum. I’m currently in gallery #81. Stop by and say hello!
Tuesday, April 8, 2014, was the fifth day of copying Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son. I love the atmosphere in the Impressionist Galleries. Everyone has been searching for spring this year and we just haven’t been able to find it. However, in the Impressionist Galleries, it’s always spring and I love being there! Visitors are happy and the mood is grand. I can feel electricity in the air when folks enter the galleries to view the magnificent works of Monet, Renior, Cezanne, VanGogh, Picasso, etc. Color explodes inside these rooms and I enjoy every minute I’m there. This is my second copy of Woman with a Parasol. It was so much fun copying it the first time that I decided to produce a second copy, and try to make it even more perfect. But mostly I am simply excited at being in that room.
Monet favored painting landscapes – a subject that was attuned to outdoor painting. Impressionism evolved in the late 1860’s from a desire to create full-scale, multi-figure depictions of ordinary people in casual outdoor situations. It is believed that Claude Monet painted Woman with a Parasol in just 4 hours, very spontaneously as is evident particularly in the clouds and conveyed by a repertory of animated brushstrokes of vibrant color. Bright sunlight shines from behind Madame Monet making her appear in silhouette while color reflections from the wildflowers below touch her front with yellow.
This is the perfect time to visit the National Gallery of Art. The cherry blossoms will be in full bloom within days and spring has decided to finally pay us a visit bringing an abundance of color inside and out. I’m in gallery 85 every Tuesday. Come by and say hello!
On Tuesday, March 12th I began a new copy, Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son by Claude Monet 1875. Landscape painting was a subject that Monet favored. His skill as a figure painter is equally evident. Monet delieneated the features of his sitters as freely as their surroundings. He painted in a very spontaneous manner, outdoors, and probably in a single session with the intention to convey the feeling of a casual family outing rather than a formal portrait. It is believed that he painted this masterpiece in about four hours. The brevity of the moment portrayed is conveyed by a repertory of animated brushstrokes of vibrant color with the clouds being the most difficult to replicate because of the freedom and spontaneity of the brushstrokes and his style. I often wonder what Monet was thinking as he painted Woman with a Parasol. In this case I think that Madame Monet is saying, “Claude, hurry it up, its windy up here.”
Woman with a Parasol is one of Monet’s most popular works and attracts a great deal of visitors to the National Gallery of Art. I enjoy the opportunity to be able to speak and discuss this masterpiece with the public.
Looking at the latest photo of “Riverbank” you can’t see much difference between the previous weeks photo images and the current one. One needs to see it in person and get up close to study the variations. After an additional 5 hours of copying “Riverbank,” I’m beginning to feel it is coming close to the end. My last session will be toning down colors with glazes in order to make the painting look more like the original. As I’ve mentioned many times before, my copies are always brighter in color, the result of newer, fresher paint. Often the public prefers the brighter look.
By 1886, a year after Cezanne completed “Riverbank,” his financial troubles were at an end and he was free to pursue his commitment to painting without outside interference. He preferred to spend his days in solitary pursuit of those ambitions in painting which were as vivid to him as they were obscure to others. He begins to paint with confidence and robustness, with an ambition and clarity about his work that suggest an artist coming to terms with his own temperament and realization. Many of Cezanne’s most distinctive subjects, like “Mont Ste-Victoire” and the “Card-Players,” made their definitive appearance at this time. The paintings of this period of his life show a rich interplay of colors, gestures and a massiveness that reminds us of the hard-won mastery that Cezanne had achieved in his thirty years as a painter.
The weather is getting milder (we hope) and visitors and art lovers are starting to venture out to see the sights in Washington, DC and the great new exhibits at the National Gallery of Art. I look forward to seeing friends and family at the NGA. Let’s have lunch together, I’m in gallery #84.
A difference that is immediately noticed in the above photo is the color. “Riverbank” was painted in 1895. One of the most asked questions from visitors while I’m painting regards the noticeable differences in colors. Am I purposely changing the color of my copy? The answer is no. The differences are traced to the age of the original painting. Time, atmosphere, dust, and climate have faded and discolored many of the original works. I often wonder if the original painting as it was painted looked more like my copy in both color and brightness. Eventually, my intention is to tweak and tone down the colors with a glaze to make them look more like the original. However, in some cases, visitors or a client might like the brighter, more colorful look. I may choose to stay somewhere in between.
Although Cezanne has always been considered an Impressionist and his masterpieces hang in the Impressionism gallery at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., his association with Impressionism was a brief and unsatisfactory one, a marriage of convenience rather than a true affair of the heart. Initially, he welcomed the opportunity to exhibit his paintings in the company of some of the impressionists he respected, namely Pissarro, Renoir and Monet. Cezanne was a ‘high strung’ individual, and often experienced dark depressions and irrational outbursts of anger with even his most loyal friends. He eventually disassociated himself from the impressionists. The weather seemed to affect his moods often having to deal with long periods of rain and dreariness which prevented him from going outdoors to do what he loved best, paint the light.
Regarding the weather, I imagine many of us are feeling like Cezanne with the winter of our discontent this year. We have barely recovered from the last snow and ice storm and must now prepare for an even larger amount of the white stuff. We’re expecting up to 14″ of snow tonight and strong winds tomorrow. We’re hoping not to lose power again so I’m rushing to get this blog published just in case. I will try to keep my “dark depressions and irrational outbursts of anger” to a minimum.
My routine of posting a new blog on a Wednesday following a Tuesday copiest session at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. was derailed by an ice storm which hit our area hard leaving behind a half inch of ice on top of snow with down trees, limbs, power lines and a host of other problems. Our power was off for two days forcing me to flee to a warmer shelter and unable to do any work related to art or blog. We’re just getting back to normal. Like everyone else feeling the effects of this winter, I’m hoping for better days ahead.
Tuesday, February 4, was day two working with Paul Cezanne’s “Riverbank”. As one can see from the photo, while it is barely beginning to hum, as my favorite museum guard often says, it is coming along nicely.
Nature was the foundation and inspiration for Cezanne’s art. He painted with feeling and his own strong emotion. He had a personal, independent perception of the world which was formed by studying the great masters but always aspiring towards the intense and artless vision of a child. He searched for his own temperament. Cezanne asserted that art must strive to be ‘equivalent’ to nature and painted with a series of marks, colors and tones on a canvas that was the realization of his sensations. As I copy “Riverbank”, my task is to figure out how those marks were made and the meaning behind them. I discover as I work that Cezanne observed every nuance of light and tone in nature and every time the light changed, he would interpret that light with a different color layered thinly one on top of the other in a very determined fashion. Copying “Riverbank” requires close observation and much thought and study.
The Gallery has several new and exciting exhibitions. Let it warm your days viewing beautiful works of art and if you visit on a Tuesday, don’t forget to stop by to see me in gallery #84. It looks as if I’ll be there for a while before going on to my next copy.