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.
The latest project and the largest copy I’ve attempted is Claude Monet’s “The Artist’s Garden at Vetheuil.” This very popular painting seems to hang in every young girls bedroom, according to the buzz of the visitors at the National Gallery of Art. I remember when my daughter went off to college she decorated her bedroom with Monet posters. The attraction of Monet’s art seems to be the varied palette he used to describe light and shadows and its effect on objects. Everyone loves Monet!
Monet planted gardens wherever he lived. He described objects with the colors that surrounded and were reflected from an object but by the time he created this painting in 1880, the painted surface was more important than capturing a spontaneous effect of light and atmosphere.
This painting shows his young son with his toy wagon very spontaneously described as are other members of his family on the steps leading to the house. Monet could create a 60″x 48″ painting in just a few hours in order to capture the days long shadows often leaving the viewer wondering what the object actually is or is that really a person on the steps that lead to the house?
My copy is not yet complete. I am still working on details and color adjustment so I plan to be in Gallery 85 for a few more Tuesdays. Stop by and say hello.
Spring term classes are over at the Art League School in Alexandria thereby allowing me to focus my energy on creating new works for exhibitions. Not having to work on assignments for my portrait and figure class will give me time to be more creative and experiment with different media, perhaps trying my hand at some abstract and impressionistic work. Copying the Impressionists at the National Gallery of Art has inspired me to move away from the classics to a looser format, at least for a little while. I’d like to do a series of paintings perhaps with just a palette knife and see where I can go with a thicker, imposto style. The excitement of being an artist or painter is the ability to have the freedom to express what you see in any form that comes to mind. It can be in the style of Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt or Vermeer. I guess you can say I have not found my personal style yet. Galleries look for a cohesive collection of work before they will consider giving an artist a solo show. For me, that will have to come later. I am satisfied exhibiting on a smaller scale. Right now I plan to have fun doing whatever comes to mind, an advantage when it comes to commission work as I feel confident I can do whatever the client desires. The above paintings were painted from life. Lucky for me the beets stayed fresh long enough to complete the painting. By the way, they tasted delicious after I roasted them. The strawberries had to be painted quicker, almost “alla prima”. I backlit the setup in order to create a glow coming from behind and may try doing a series in this manner with different fruit. I promise to keep you posted on new creations.
The Needlewoman by Diego Rodriquez de Silva y Velazquez (1566-1660), Spanish, was the second project attempted in the Copyist program. Because The Needlewoman was an unfinished portrait with little detail, the copying process took only 4 Tuesdays to complete, about 20 hours. The head of The Needlewoman was modeled in light and shadow and is the most fully realized part of this painting as opposed to the remainder of the painting including the arms, hands, etc., which are sketched in only briefly. The resulting painting displays the Velazquez facility to portray gesture and his ability to suggest the subject melding into the background. It is believed that The Needlewoman was not completed by Velazquez. The painting was found upon examination of the inventory in his home at the time of his death. The Needlewoman is very similar to several of his other works.
I participated in a workshop entitled “Painting in the Manner of Velazquez” with Robert Liberace in the summer of 2011 at the Art League School in Alexandria, Virginia. I was intrigued by the Velazquez style and therefore welcomed the opportunity to copy an original at the National Gallery of Art. During the workshop I used authentic paints as were used in Velazquez’s time. I prepared my linen canvas according to conventions of the period. I felt transformed back in time. Many of Velazquez’s paintings were dark compared to other more colorful painters of his time. However, he put down paint beautifully, very thin paint, almost nothing at times and yet in chiaroscuro style achieved a luminosity that made his work glow.
I learned a great deal from the study of Velazquez. How much? You be the judge.