CHILDREN PLAYING ON THE BEACH

Mary Cassatt was the “new woman” of the 19th century – a highly-trained artist who never married.  During the Impressionist Period, when female artists were generally dismissed with contempt and confined to painting indoors, she competed admirably with established male artists.  She even developed a close friendship with Edgar Degas while living and working in France, and the two became close collaborators for a long period of time.

By 1866, Cassatt had established herself as a uniquely skilled painter of mothers and children.  Many believe Children Playing on the Beach was a tribute to her sister, who died in 1882, and was perhaps inspired by a trip she took with her ailing mother to Spain, where the two sought the healing power of the seaside climate.  Whatever the muse, this work was clearly special to her.

Children Playing on the Beach (original and copy in progress)
Children Playing on the Beach, 1884, Mary Cassatt (original and copy in progress)

Children Playing on the Beach is very special to me. It was a favorite of my late husband, who never got to see it in person, and after it was relocated to Gallery #85, I simply couldn’t resist copying it.

I also love this work because it’s one of the best demonstrations of Cassatt’s superior skill with color and process.  Palettes were quite limited at that time, and yet she’s able to bring out so many shades that the painting almost appears to echo contrasting moods.  For example, the subtle blues of the ocean and sky effectively convey the feeling of cool, possibly dreary weather over the sea, while the vivid blues she uses in the girls’ dresses evoke a feeling of warmth, sunshine and happiness.  She was an absolute genius with color.

As most paints do, Mary Cassatt’s have aged over time.  I could have chosen to copy Children Playing on the Beach using my interpretation of the colors she used in 1884, but instead I chose to create a copy as close to the current version as possible. As always, it will be a challenge because matching color is one of the most difficult tasks a copyist faces.

I’ve learned a great deal from Mary Cassatt. Her remarkable use of color as well as her ability to manipulate brush and paint to create beautiful strokes is inspirational. Join me in Gallery #85 where I’ll be working on copying another wonderful Impressionist painting The Harbor at Lorient, 1869, by Berthe Morisot.

 

 

 

“Woman Holding a Balance” after Johannes Vermeer

Recently I was commissioned to copy Woman Holding a Balance by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). Vermeer was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life and was perhaps better known for Girl with a Pearl Earring. I was very excited for the opportunity to create this copy as the old masters (particularly the Dutch) and the chiaroscuro style of the 16th century were part of my earliest training and I’m very fond of them. After having completed many commissions in the Impressionist galleries, I welcomed this new challenge.

Several of Vermeer’s masterpieces are on display in an intimate room at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., where I have been a copyist for the last five years. Because the room is small, copyists are typically prohibited from working inside and must instead work from memory and photographs.

Woman Holding a Balance takes your breath away as you enter the gallery room. It’s a dark painting with a brilliant focal point: a young girl and her fine fur cloak illuminated by sunlight streaming through a nearby window.  The young woman appears to weigh jewels and coins with a hand-held scale.  Vermeer positions a painting of the Last Judgment behind her on the wall.

Paintings-within-paintings were a common technique of the period, often serving as vessels for symbolism. Perhaps Vermeer includes the Last Judgment to remind us that just as the young woman weighs her riches, in the end God will weigh our choices in life.  Maybe greed and vanity should be avoided.

This copy required many layers of glaze to achieve the right amount of contrast between the darks and lights. Vermeer, having been self-taught and influenced by Caravaggio, probably used the same technique. It was a challenge creating this painting during this summer’s heat and humidity.  Each layer took quite a while to dry. However, the painting is now complete and ready for delivery. I hope my patron will be happy with it.  I certainly am.

A note to my followers: I am currently working on Farmhouse in Provence after Vincent Van Gogh in the National Gallery of Art. I always look forward to seeing fans. Please contact me through this web-site if you would like to visit.

“The Harbor at Lorient” after Berthe Morisot

Copy in progress
Copy in progress

I’m back in the Impressionist gallery, #85, at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.  I spent a couple of months in the American Gallery painting “Right and Left” after Winslow Homer.  I love the excitement and activity of the Impressionist Galleries.  It’s a bit noisier than other galleries but even some of the guards like it best for the same reasons I do.

The “Harbor at Lorient” is a little jewel that I’ve wanted to paint since it came into the gallery.  But because paintings are often sent out on loan to museums around the world, I had to wait for it to come back from tour even though I had previous approval on availability.

Berthe Morisot is the first female artist whose work I have copied, although we have many wonderful paintings by women artists. The “Harbor at Lorient” was painted when Berthe visited her newly married sister, Edma Pontillon, in the summer of 1869 while she was living in Lorient, France.  Edma was married to a navy man and did not have children.  Since both girls were interested in painting they were free to spend their time painting outside.  During this period Berthe was experimenting with a highly Impressionist style.

The “Harbor at Lorient” draws the eye to the sky’s refection in the water and expresses both movement and the future.  The boats in the background are leaving from the port and moving to another location,  a symbolic reason to create this work as she moved into Impressionism.  The harbor is lit from the right hand side which is clear from the line of shading that runs across Edma’s body.  Her parasol protects her face from the sunlight but the bottom of her dress is radiant in sunlight.  The tone of this work is merry and positive.

When Berthe returned home she anxiously showed her painting to artist friends and colleagues and it was declared as one of her best works.  It found it’s way to the first Impressionists showcase. Unfortunately, the  “Harbor at Lorient” received a critical reception, deemed painted too spontaneously and casually for the time period and with an unfinished feel.   However, after her death, the painting was displayed in a large number of countries and has been well-received by its many viewers who today acknowledge it as one of her foremost Impressionist paintings.

Berthe was influenced by Carot, Manet and Monet.  She was very close to her sister Edma, who was the model in many of her paintings.  Berthe Morisot was a copyist at the Louvre.  She is fast becoming my favorite female artist.

New Exhibition at Art At The Mill

Turnips
Turnips

The Art At The Mill exhibit in Millwood, Virginia is one of the most recognized and prestigious art shows in the Washington, DC area.  Artists from all over America compete for this juried show.  This year, Art At The Mill is celebrating its 25th season of exhibitions that bring artists together and promote the region’s extraordinary talent.  Today I am proud to announce that Art At The Mill has chosen me to participate in this year’s exhibition with five pieces of artwork juried into the show.

Peonies in Vase
Peonies in Vase

The drive to Millwood is a beautiful drive peppered with horse farms and wineries along the way.  The Mill is an amazing relic from the 18th century.  After viewing the beautiful artwork, make your way across the street to have lunch at the Locke Modern Country store or have a picnic in the meadow.

Art At The Mill is located at the Burwell-Morgan Mill, 15 Tannery Lane, Millwood, Virginia.  The show runs from October 3-18th, Mon-Thurs 12-5, Fri & Sat 10-5, Sun 12-5, with an artist reception on Sunday, October18th, 2-5 pm.  Admission prices are as follows: Adults $5, Seniors $3, kids 12 & under free.  For more information visit www.clarkehistory.org/art-at-the-mill.html.

Cherry Blossoms Alla Prima

Cherry Blossoms

Fun day painting the Cherry Blossoms at Tidal Basin in D.C. today “alla prima” .  Blossoms were past their peak but the crowds were down and the weather was perfect. A little more sun would have been nice to make the painting brighter but the temperature could not have more pleasant and best of all, no bugs (at least not yet).

Silverliners Visit the NGA

On Tuesday, March 10, fifteen of my friends from the Silverliners visited me at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  It was a very exciting day that began with Docent Bela Demeter treating us to a private tour of the museum with his delightful sense of humor . After the tour, Bela brought the group to the Impressionist Gallery where I am currently copying Oarsmen at Chatou by Auguste Renoir. We were all then escorted to the top floor of the East Wing for a lovely lunch at the museum’s VIP Restaurant.

Silverliners International is a group of former flight attendants from Eastern Airlines (one of the carriers from the “golden age” of air travel). It’s a fun-loving alumni group that also supports several charities, including Paul Newman’s The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. As a former Eastern Airlines flight attendant (1960’s), Eastern is very close to my heart and I’m proud to be part of this group.

Tuesday was a wonderful day. A special thank you to Bela Demeter for organizing a magnificent tour and lunch. Viva Bela!

Oarsmen at Chatou after Pierre-August Renoir

I’m still working on Oarsmen at Chatou after Pierre-Auguste Renoir.  It is a delightful painting with much detail and many intriguing brush strokes that are very time consuming to create but very enlightening.  I hope to complete this work by Tuesday, March 10 at which time I will be pondering my next copy.

For the next three weeks, I will be making my trip to the National Gallery and Washington, D.C. on Fridays, due to a change of schedule by officials at the NGA.  Unless that changes, I expect to be back to my regular Tuesday copying on March 10.   Stop by to see the El Greco exhibit before it leaves.  Get there soon as the last day will be February 15!  Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence will be up until May 2 and worth the trip.  The colors are glorious.

Stop by the Impressionist Gallery #85 and look for me on Fridays.