Preparation for Assessment: A second attempt at a shadow entering a house dedicated to “learning the pattern”

27 Febuary 2017. In my Assignment 5 feedback my tutor stated, with respect to my inadequate processes of project development, that “I have the skills, but I need to learn the pattern”. In order to see whether I would be able to include in my assessment submission a learning sequence as expected by assessors, I produced this belated addition to the investigatory process relating to shadows entering houses, which I had done predominantly on a photo basis due to a long spell of extremely cold weather in January. My tutor had asked in her feedback, whether I could “afford” to try and work as faintly as Luc Tuymans in his 2004 painting “The Window” (Lacher-Bryk, 2017 and Fig. 1 below). To see what sort of development the intriguing word “afford” might trigger in someone like me, I was curious to to find out where it would take me:

1_sketchbook_prep_research_1_24022017
Figure 1. Sketchbook

While I am not sure whether Tuymans’s painting relates to shadows or reflections or possibly both, I understand that this kind of approach demands processes of deconstruction from both artist and viewer and helps to raise in the viewer an interest in engaging themselves with possible messages at a more than purely superficial level.
In order to start the process, I went back to my original photo of my shadow entering an old farmhouse, had one quick look at it, then started experimenting in my sketchbook. First I went to have another look at different artists and their very own methods. I found that on most occasions shadows were emphasized, not reduced, and made part of a vivid composition. The images below (Fig. 2) were taken from a review of an exhibition on show in 2008/09 in the Kunsthalle Wien, “Western Motel: Edward Hopper and Contemporary Art” (Kalafudra’s Stuff, 2009). Shadows were in all cases inseparable from their “producers”, the human shapes, so I would need to find a very different approach.

2_sketchbook_prep_research_2_24022017
Figure 2. Sketchbook: Some black and white Impressions from exhibition “Western Motel”

In order to set up a first compositional scaffolding I decided that I would start off with a charcoal sketch (Fig. 3) to identify dark and light areas as appearing in my memory. I quite like how the charcoal, with great ease, provides both mass and ethereal components. In my photo there had only been my own shadow, but I soon realized that I would want to include another, cast by a passer-by, as I had experienced on a number of occasions on my photo tour in January. At the same time, always with my goal of wanting to have a faint final result, I came up with the idea of including a living form on top of that faint painting. I therefore investigated how a dog, walking on a lead with the person passing by and at the same time in interaction with that person’s shadow, could add interest to my composition. I really like the idea but will have to avoid overloading the painting with messages:

3_sketchbook_charcoal_sketch_24022017
Figure 3. Charcoal sketch

In order to see how my provisional ideas could be arranged on the canvas I produced a sequence of rough acrylic sketches investigating possible viewpoints and painting methods (Fig. 4):

4_sketchbook_acrylics_bw_4_sketches_24022017
Figure 4. Sketchbook: Acrylic sketches. Top row: Positive shadows, bottom row: negative shadows

In the top row of Fig. 4 I painted the shadows in black on a whitish background, in the bottom row I used the negative technique introduced much earlier in the course (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). While I did not like the painted results after the charcoal I immediately saw that I would want to continue with the negative technique, since it produced a much more energetic and at the same time believable result. I also had the idea of having the dog being interested in me rather than its owner, so a connection would become visible between my world and that outside. The bottom right setup appeared the most promising and versatile to continue working with, to I did another sketch, this time filling a sketchbook page and continuing further by experimenting with making the result faint (Fig. 5-7):

5_sketchbook_acrylics_bw_large_sketch_stage1_24022017
Figure 5. Sketchbook: Page-filling skecth, stage 1

Making a very rough and faint ink pen sketch of my own shadow on a builing where wall and street met helped me setting my mind on the next step (Fig. 6):

6_sketchbook_inkpen_pale_24022017
Figure 6. Sketchbook: Ink pen sketch

So I went over the first layer (Fig. 5) with a number of semi-transparent layers of white and added a dog (Fig. 7):

7_sketchbook_acrylics_bw_large_sketch_stage2_27022017
Figure 7. White layers and dog added to sketch

While I think that the faint image is not bad for a first attempt, I am not happy with several aspects here. Again, regarding whether I could “afford” to paint faintly considering my subject, I would say yes and no. No, because I need to be ever so careful not to lose the viewer in a technical extreme without connection to my message, and yes, once I know for what particular reason I would want to paint faintly in the first place. For exercise purposes this is not a problem, but would require considerate planning for a finished painting. Also, I am not happy with the dog’s position here. There is no way how I could include it in the intended way without making the position of the lead look awkward. I liked the charcoal sketch better in that respect, but with that setup the connection between passer-by and myself would be cut. Will see whether I might have to let it go. Also, despite the interesting effects produced by the many brushstrokes, I do not think that they add to my message. On acrylic paper I find them hard to avoid, but on a smooth background produced using a roller on a grey carton I should be able to investigate the effect. I will have to cut out the result and stick into my sketchbook.

First, however, more research on Tuymans using faint painting techniques, to see how I could produce a quieter image avoiding brushstrokes. Very useful I found another painting by Tuymans, “Couple” from 1998 (Fig. 8, left). The gradual softening of edges does not occur “out of the blue”, but is an effect indeed connected with looking into the sky. Tuymans observed a natural phenomemon here and put it to good use by creating the appearance of the couple “having their heads in the clouds”. When examining the painting on the computer screen I can see may harder brushstrokes softened by a top layer of “fluffy” strokes. Maybe I will not have to work super smooth at all. We’ll see. I also liked the aureole effect around the figures in Tuymans’s “Saint-Georges” from 2015 (Fig.8, right), which enhanced the shadowlike effect without having to darken the figures. Here also the natural observation was thorough and included into the painting not just as an effect but for its actual presence in the real scene. This relationship with reality is something which lacks completely in my last sketch and I will have to think whether this is what I want. The white brushstrokes suggest light coming from a place completely different to where the sun is, which may make the scene awkward. Does it matter, though? I couldn’t say.

10_sketchbook_research_tuymans_27022017
Figure 8. left: Luc Tuymans “Couple”, 1998, oil on canvas, right: “Saint-Georges”, 2015, oil on canvas. Source: see text

To find out whether a difference would be visible, I prepared 3 small pieces of grey carton with 3 layers each of titanium white, Payne’s grey and cobalt turquoise using a roller. The background became very smooth. On the two smaller pieces of carton I tested the effect of a hard, worn-down brush and a soft brush (Fig. 9, top row): The soft brush was great for producing even layers with larger amounts of paint, where the brushstrokes were evident in the test using the hard brush. The former would not be not so ideally suited if little paint was to be evenly distributed, because the soft hair would not allow the exertion of any useful amount of pressure. My weathered hard brush worked well here, although I had to be extremely careful not to put too much paint on at the same time. The carton holds the paint in place as soon as it comes to lie there for more than a second or so. While writing this I remember hearing of a method involving sanding a prepared canvas, but I think that the carton is smooth enough for my purposes. Using both brushes I made another quick sketch of my layout using  the negative technique (Fig. 9, bottom). I noticed immediately that spreading the paint was much easier than on the prepared sketchbook paper. With care I might produce totally even layers of paint. For the purpose of this experiment, however, I switched between ways of applying paint and came up with some very nice-looking effects, especially in places where the dark background would shine through the white. I think that this is what I might need.

11_sketchbook_smooth_support_acrylics_27022017
Figure 9. Top: applying paint – left: with worn hard brush, right: with soft brush. Bottom: Negative sketch using both brushes

 

 

 

 

 

In the above experiment I particularly like the mix of soft and hard transitions between dark and light areas. This subject appears interesting enough, both as (more or less) working composition and possible story that I would not want to add any more information to it, so getting rid of the dog at this stage. I also do not want to go over the painting to make it faint, but there I am and it will have to be. This time I will not be tempted to just cover it all, but will – hopefully – use the opportunity to carry out this task with sensitivity and regard to the effects every change might have.

28 February 2017. I went over the first stage today with my worn brush (Fig. 10). I am quite happy with the changes to the shadow of the passer-by, especially the different shades in the corner of the house. The changes to my own shadow are not satisfying yet. I will need to work on the transition from ground to wall, wall to windowsill and inside wall. Overall the reduced contrast is pleasing to look at, but needs very subtle adaptations to gradation in several places.

12_sketchbook_smooth_suppor_acrylics_stage2_28022017
Figure 10. The sketch from Fig. 9 after a first attempt at softening the contrast.

Here comes how far the little journey would take me (Fig. 11). In the end I found a solution for the dog, which to me looks both interesting and fitting. Since the shadow of my passer-by appears to be that of a taking-the-dog-for-a-walk posture anyway, it was straightforward now to have a lead added, which may have the dog in a position to make contact with me, so something for the imagination of a potential viewer. With this added, however, I feel that the original idea of my own shadow entering that room might now be too much for one painting. For a working painting it might be sufficient to have my own shadow travel up the outside wall, but since this exercise belongs to the retrospective preparation of my Andersen theme, I will leave it here.

13_sketchbook_smooth_support_acrylics_stage3_28022017
Figure 11. Finished sketch


References:

Kalafudra’s Stuff (2009) Western Motel: Edward Hopper and Contemporary Art [blog] [online]. Kalafudra’s Stuff. Available at: https://kalafudra.com/2009/01/28/western-motel-edward-hopper-and-contemporary-art/ [Accessed 21 February 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) Part 1, project 2, exercise 4: Monochrome studies [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog. Available at:
https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/part-1-project-2-exercise-4-monochrome-studies/ [Accessed 27 February 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) Artist research: Luc Tuymans [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/artist-research-luc-tymans/ [Accessed 27 February 2017]

Tuymans, L. (1998) Couple [oil on canvas] [online]. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/99.74 [Accessed 27 February 2017]

Tuymans, L. (2015) Saint-Georges [oil on canvas] [online]. Musée des Arts Contemporains de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Available at: http://france.fr/fr/agenda/luc-tuymans-premonitions-lam-lille [Accessed 27 February]

Own artist research: Raymond Pettibon

21 February 2017. With things as they are now I can hardly get out to galleries. So I decided that I would look through local papers to see which exhibitions are on and do some distance research on the respective artists. I am well aware that this is no adequate replacement for the real thing, but still better than nothing.

My first goal was Raymond Pettibon (*1957, USA), who is on show at the moment at the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg (Museum der Moderne, 2017). He is self-taught and difficult to assign to any school, but describes himself as deriving technique and ideas from his past drawing pop art album covers and comics, with artists like Edward Hopper or William Blake as sources of inspiration. Best known are Pettibon’s ink drawings, which he combines with text to create highly critical and fierce, satirical comments. His aim is the subversive reconstruction of a broken American myth (Artnet, 2017).

It is probably dangerous at the given moment to try and deduct influential aspects of his work into my own, as for study purposes I need to detach myself, for the time being, from my illustrative approach. So I will not go into more detail here, but will no doubt return on later courses and with reference to my  work as a caricaturist.

References:

Artnet (n.d.) Raymond Pettibon [online]. Artnet. Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/raymond-pettibon/ [Accessed 21 February 2017]

Museum der Moderne (2017) Raymond Pettibon. Homo Americanus [online]. Museum der Moderne, Salzburg. Available at: http://www.museumdermoderne.at/de/ausstellungen/aktuell/details/mdm/raymond-pettibon/ [Accessed 21 February 2017]

 

Part 4, project 1, exercise 1: From inside looking out – view from a window or doorway (Prospect of a Roast Duck)

Updated on 18 March 2017 (Harvard referencing and contents).

11 October 2016. The moment I read the instructions for this exercise for the first time I knew that I would not want to go for a normal view out of our house, for reasons I explained in a previous post. I sat down to make a list of unusual views out of a house and decided that I wanted to concentrate on a fictitious view “out of” the door of our oven, on the environment where the future roast duck is still swimming happily in its pond, but inside our metal casserole dish.

In order to finally force myself to adhere to the instructions regarding the development of an idea I thought this exercise ideal. It will be quite challenging because of the unusual combination of pictorial elements: Conventional views out of rooms are usually transitions into the light, a view into my oven will be into an artificially lit interior, but also the quality of the light would need to be believably from outside. Coming to think of that the brilliant orange of a late evening summer sunset might serve both. What I saw in Caroline Walker’s work (Lacher-Bryk, 2016), especially her handling of hard transitions between light and dark areas might come in very useful here.

Fauvist painter Raoul Dufy (1877-1953, France) produced a great number of views out of or through elements of buildings, e.g. the gouache sketch “Open Window at Saint-Jeannet” (Dufy, 1926-27), “Interior with Open Windows” (Dufy, 1928) or “L’Artiste et son Modèle” (Dufy, 1929), in all of which to me the open window(s) make the interior somehow part of the outside. It is as if the salty breeze from the sea were wafting through the room. It took me a while to get used to his style of painting, but now I appreciate very much his subtle use of colour to produce a weird sort of aerial perspective, e.g. in “The Grid” (Dufy, 1930), which has become my favourite (Fig. 1 below).

the-grid-1930.jpg!Large
Figure 1. Raoul Dufy: “The Grid”, 1930, oil on canvas. Source: Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) [Fair use] via Wikiart
Looking at his work I think that the ethereal quality comes from, firstly, having the background slightly “shifted”, i.e. the blocks of background colour do not always coincide with the edges of objects, but seem to live a life of their own in a separate, lower picture plane, and, secondly, to have graphical elements do the same “on top” of all other planes. For the purpose of this exercise I will need to go and look further, since Dufy’s technique of linking the inside with the outside is diametrically opposed to my intentions.

It was very difficult to find, by Gwen John (1876-1939, UK/France), a suitable example for – as stated in the study guide “the gloomy claustrophobia of what lies within, and the stark emptiness of what lies without” – that was not a portrait in the first place. To me at least, e.g. her “A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris” (John, 1907-09) as shown below (Fig. 2) appears to be neither of the above, but is rather quietly happy. Her portraits again, while mostly of very composed women in bare rooms, rarely include the kind of physical view out, which I believe need to be looking for in preparation for this exercise. Her pleasant brushmarks and subtle treatment of light are something to remember, however.

gwen_john
Figure 2. Gwen John: “A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris”, 1907-1909, oil on canvas. Source: Gwen John (1876-1939) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

12 October 2016. Clearer to place are the paintings by American realist Edward Hopper (1882-1967, USA). His “Nighthawks” below, was painted in 1942 (Fig. 3). Deceivingly simple in composition it is both a look in and out of a number of windows, including – probably – those belonging to the personalities of the people populating the counter. Hopper’s choice of subjects apparently was often inspired by movies (Doss, 1981) and “Nighthawks” does leave the feel of a film set. I do not feel too comfortable with his exact and clean brushstrokes, but will keep his handling of light as a reference when planning my look into the oven.

edward_hopper_1942
Figure 3. Edward Hopper: “Nighthawks”, 1942, oil on canvas. Source: Edward Hopper (1882-1967) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
After having had another look through Vitamin P2 (Schwabsky, 2011) I get the impression that this subject is not much preferred by the featured artists. The inside and outside, physically and mentally, are mixed in a way to allow multiple interconnected possibilities of interpretation on the piece “I am into Shooting in Natural Environments” by Dana Schutz (*1976, USA) (p.270). Similarly, in the work on p. 224, “Lovers” by Surendran Nair (*1956, India), the view of the mountains appears to me to “seep” into the dark room by means of the swing door. Together with the deer the boundary between the inside and outside is dissolved. On a more straightforward basis, but nevertheless brilliantly executed, Martin Kobe (*1973, Germany) dissolves that boundary by creating phantastic buildings, which lack functioning walls or roofs (pp. 170-171). The elements appear to be hanging in mid-air, awaiting to be assigned their final role. Of course it is possible and not unlikely to over-interpret paintings, which do not want to be anything but views from windows, but the artist’s choice of viewpoint, materials and technique may betray subconscious throught processes. These may not always be clear to the artist and may nevertheless be true when felt by a viewer of a painting.

Since my own access to the subject will need a certain distribution of light, I had a final look at examples for similar strategies and came across Sangram Majumdar’s (*?, India/USA) wonderful “Window Study (Night)” (Majumdar, n.d.) and intriguing interplay of real and mirrored elements in “Light Steps” (Majumdar, 2013) (printouts from the internet in my sketchbook in Fig. 4 below). Lots of inspiration for the construction of my oven door!

First of all, however, off to some thumbnail scene-setting. I cannot resist using at least my pencil for the absolute beginning of finding a working composition (Fig. 5-6). I will, however, make several tonal sketches using the favourite view.

preliminary_sketchbook_1_13102016
Figure 4. Sketchbook – inspiration from Sangram Majumdar’s views on and out of windows
preliminary_sketchbook_2_13102016
Figure 5. Sketchbook – testing compositional options (1)
preliminary_sketchbook_3_13102016
Figure 6. Sketchbook – testing compositional options (2)

14 October 2016. With my painted sketches I did at first not know exactly how to proceed. For me paint-sketching persons is straightforward to imagine, but not for objects of everyday use or views from windows. So I had a look on the internet on how other artists do this. Many people don’t just paint, but they use a mix of drawing and painting, e.g. with this urban sketching example by Peter Sheeler (Sheeler, n.d.). But then I found the tutorial “The Painted Quick Sketch” (Mattabraxas, 2014), which set right my vague idea about the purpose and techniques of sketching with paint, especially that a sketch does NOT require to be painted fast. One of the most surprising lessons I learned there, by the way, was that warm light creates cool shadows and vice versa. And also that the correct colour is less important than the correct colour temperature, so I need to focus on the latter! Coming to think of that I may have been doing that already without knowing it. So, in order to get that aspect of the exercise right, I prepared two sketchbook pages, one with a white, one with an orange background and made some intuitive tonal studies (one monochrome, one coloured), in a style reminding of Majumdar’s approach with what in the end became a number of “stacked” ovens (Fig. 7-8). I quite liked how the original idea started to live a life of its own – which probably is at least part of the “liberating” effect my tutor mentioned when emphasizing the importance of sketching with paint.

5_tonal_sketch_monochrome_14102016
Figure 7. Sketchbook – monochrome study of stacked ovens
6_tonal_sketch_coloured_14102016
Figure 8. Sketchbook – coloured study of stacked ovens

I can see that over the time I have become somewhat more proficient at placing colours in relation to others by constantly observing their mutual influences and adjusting as necessary, although there is ample scope for improvement regarding the relative weight of each coloured field.
The glowing light inside the ovens looks believable to me. In order to fulfill the requirements of the exercise, though, I will have to concentrate on the view “out”, i.e. have one larger oven at the centre of attention and some others, maybe, along the periphery. Next I will need to fit in an outside scenery with sunset pond and duck alongside some relevant research.

Inevitably, I had to have a closer look at key impressionist Claude Monet’s (1840-1926, France) “Water Lily Pond” (Monet, 1919) (Fig. 9). It is interersting that contrary to my intuition Monet used brushstrokes of all sorts to paint the mirror images of the trees and cloudy sky on the water. I believe that this technique of reproducing water works only in connection with the crisp outlines of the water lilies resting on the water’s surface. I will test it though for my duck pond (with slices of carrot to replace the waterlilies) and see whether the contrast to the stronger brushstrokes I use for my oven might be interesting to see.

water_lilies_claude_monet
Figure 9. Claude Monet: “Water Lilies”, 1919, oil on canvas. Source: Claude Monet (1840-1926) [Public domain] via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

15 October 2016. In order to gain some overview over contemporary approaches to painting water lily ponds and ducks I had another look on the internet. To me the following examples were quite useful in deciding which styles to test: Susan Fowler (*?, USA), Fred E. Salmon Jr. (*?, USA) and Samuel Durkin (*?, UK) (printouts of all in Fig. 10-11):

7_sketchbook_liliypond_1_26102016
Figure 10. Sketchbook – water lily ponds for comparison
8_sketchbook_liliypond_2_26102016
Figure 11. Sketchbook – more pond and a duck

26 October 2016. This exercise takes ages to complete, the hospital thing has been intruding on us again with all its might. So far I am not too happy with the way my plan is developing, I don’t seem to be able to make a working connection. Somehow the subject seems irrelevant compared to what is happening to us in real life. The latter, on the other hand, is too strong for me to catch and build into my exercises, it effectively paralyses my imagination. So, coming as no surprise, my two boring sketches for the duck and pond reflect this irrelevance (Fig. 12-13):

9_sketchbook_roast_duck_pond_1_26102016
Figure 12. Sketchbook – first acrylic sketch of oven with duck added
10_sketchbook_roast_duck_pond_2_26102016
Figure 13. Sketchbook – second acrylic sketch

I know that I will have to learn to overcome this and to find a consistent method to allow the strong emotions to work for me, if I ever want to become a professional artist. In order to break through this paralysis, I started a large scale abstract sort-of painting alongside the final painting for this excercise, to use the energy derived from the former to to carry over to the latter. After having tried out this idea, I think that I found myself one successful technique to deal with unwanted intruding influences.

27 October 2016. Today I finished the painting. I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the process from the start with a Mark Rothko-like glowing orange square and very rough sketching with paint, to using several layers of transparent glazing and the – to me – novel use of bright single colour brushmarks to create something like an impressionist view over my pond with the prospective roast duck. I can see that my mark-making has become somewhat more confident and consistent and I have mastered, roughly, the art of stepping back and considering the effect of an action before continuing to work. This allows somewhat more control over unthinkingly destroying what was worth keeping, but also vice versa, over hanging on to something without reflecting on its quality. Since the lighting conditions were highly changeable over the last three days, I found it very hard to produce photos with identical colours (Fig. 14-18):

11_finished_painting_stage1_27102016
Figure 14
12_finished_painting_stage2_27102016
Figure 15
13_finished_painting_stage3_27102016
Figure 16
14_finished_painting_stage4_27102016
Figure 17
15_finished_painting_finished_27102016
Figure 18

And now, finally, on with Part 4 …

References:

Doss, E.L. (1981) Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, and Film Noir [online]. Post script 2, pp. 14-36. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20091016091540/http://www.colorado.edu/finearts/erikadoss/articles/postscriptessay.pdf [Accessed 12 October 2016]

Dufy, R. (1926-27) Open Window at Saint-Jeannet [gouache on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/dufy-open-window-at-saint-jeannet-t03565 [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Dufy, R. (1928) Interior With Open Window [oil on canvas] [online]. Private Collection. Available at: http://thrive.davidkanigan.com/post/39849744006/raoul-dufy-interior-with-open-windows-1928 [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Dufy, R. (1929) L’Artiste et son Modèle [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2014/impressionist-modern-art-day-sale-n09140/lot.184.html [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Dufy, R. (1930) The Grid [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.wikiart.org/en/raoul-dufy/the-grid-1930 [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Durkin, S. (n.d.) Abstract Mallard Duck [n.k.] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.redbubble.com/de/people/samdurkin/works/9468336-abstract-malard-duck-painting [Accessed 15 October 2016]

Fowler, S. (n.d.) Water Lily Pond [oil on panel] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://susanfowlerartist.com/works/2310730/landscape-water-lilly-pond [Accessed 15 October 2016]

Hopper, E. (1942) Nighthawks [oil on canvas] [online]. Art Institute of Chicago. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a8/Nighthawks_by_Edward_Hopper_1942.jpg [Accessed 12 October 2016]

John, Gwen (1907-1909) A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris [oil on canvas] [online]. National Museum Cardiff. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Gwen_John%2C_A_Corner_of_the_Artist%27s_Room_in_Paris_%28Cardiff%29.jpg [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Artist Research: Caroline Walker [blog] [online]. Andrea Lacher-Bryk, Hallein, 5 October. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/artist-research-caroline-walker/ [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Majumdar, S. (n.d.) Window Study (Night) [n.k.] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/132152570288085454/visual-search/?x=83&y=83&w=334&h=334 [Accessed 12 October 2016]

Majumdar, S. (2013) Light Steps [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.sangrammajumdar.com/reconstructions/j3ho9mru3yovfzp38cxd7rgrg162lt [Accessed 12 October 2016]

Mattabraxas (2014) The Painted Quick Sketch [blog] [online]. Art Tutor, Liverpool. Available at: https://www.arttutor.com/blog/201403/painted-quick-sketch-becoming-better-artist-5-days [Accessed 12 October 2016]

Monet, C. (1919) Water Lilies [oil on canvas] [online]. The Met Fifth Avenue, New York. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/438008 [Accessed 14 October 2016]

Salmon, F.E., Jr. (2000) Lily Pond [oil painting] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.absolutearts.com/pdf/f/fsalmon/39082.pdf [Accessed 15 October 2016]

Schwabsky, B. (2011) Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting. Phaidon Press, London.

Sheeler, P. (2015) Untitled [watercolour sketch] [online]. Peter Sheeler, n.k.. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7331668@N08/16734391029 [Accessed 12 October 2016]

Research point: Evolution of landscape painting

Updated on 12 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

27 September 2016. How weird, starting Part 4 of Painting 1 makes me look back on the past eight months and I realise that I have lost my feeling for time. It feels as if I had just started this course and I have not yet made a working connection. No wonder, this recent past belongs to the most demanding periods of time I have ever experienced in my life and what we do is to try and survive from one day to the next. Part 4 probably comes at an awkward time, when I should be looking out from the inside, while I am mostly inside (mentally and physically). Also, autumn is coming and I hope to be able to complete my plein air paintings before the weather turns cold and wet.

9 October 2016. A bit more settled now into the new daily routine I feel fit to start Part 4 with researching the evolution of landscape painting, which, rather surprisingly at first, took as long as the 18th century to develop as a separate genre. On the other hand, the painting of landscapes with no other intention or purpose, religious or mundane, might be seen as a somewhat luxurious side-effect of increasing overall wealth. Landscapes as we are free to see them now used to be mainly dangerous grounds, on which the survival of the local population depended. Their delicate agricultural properties together with the effects of weather and climate, all of which make spectacular and dramatic elements of landscape painting, were then, understandably, rarely valued for their aesthetic qualities. Even I remember from my own 1960s’ childhood in Austria that the farmers we knew were extremely keen to set right, with admirable brutality, the romanticist view my artist parents held about a rural life in beautiful landscapes.

Landscape painting evolved nevertheless and since its beginnings has come up with a great wealth of the most wonderful and intriguing works of art. As with other new genres it was first developed by Dutch painters and as with the painting of interiors it was the rise of the merchant middle classes and their demand for affordable good quality paintings for their own homes, which sped its evolution. Pioneering landscape artist Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665, France) (Fig. 2) shifted his interest from historic to landscape painting, because he believed that it was possible to express emotion with similar effect via the properties of a landscape and prepared the grounds for an only slowly rising acceptance of this genre by the leading teaching institutions in the 18th century. His landscapes, as far as I could find out, were still always populated, following the long tradition of historical painting, but it can be felt that the landscape did no longer serve as a backdrop to some historical event. Roles appear reversed – people move in and use a landscape in a more or less natural way, but are not necessarily the main subject (The J. Paul Getty Museum, n.d.):

nicolas_poussin_kl
Figure 1. Nicholas Poussin: “Landscape with a Calm”, 1650, oil on canvas. Source: Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Still, it was only when the term “historic landscape” was promoted by Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750-1819, France), serving as a safety mark for official recognition of quality in the transition from historic to landscape painting, that academe came to change its hitherto rigid stance (The National Gallery, n.d.; The J. Paul Getty Museum, n.d.). De Valenciennes was among the first to ask students to sketch and paint outside as an essential element of their training (Oakley, 2015;  The J. Paul Getty Museum, n.d.). Plein air oil painting requires thorough preparation, though, and a fast, bold stroke in order to capture a mood or atmosphere before it changes. This is visible in an oil sketch by de Valenciennes (Fig. 2), which to me feels very modern and indeed his plein air paintings proved groundbreaking on the way to Impressionism (The J. Paul Getty Museum, n.d.):

pierre-henridevalenciennes
Figure 2. Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes: “Rome: Houses and a Domed Church”, ca. 1783, oil on cardboard. Source: Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750-1819) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
This development occurred at a time, when on the one hand the whole hitherto agriculturally dominated social landscape was being reformed by the full-blown Industrial Revolution, and on the other, photography began to exert a strong influence on landscape painting. It is not surprising then that the young genre changed and diversified rapidly. Idealized rural landscapes were gradually, but not completely, replaced by increasingly innovative and critical compositions and choices of subject. Groundbreaking among these was French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), eagerly studied at a later point by the Impressionist painters, especially Cézanne and Van Gogh, but also artists far into the 20th century (Galitz, 2009), see e.g. “The Stone Breakers” in Fig. 3 below in comparison with Paul Cézanne’s (1839-1906, France) “The House with the Cracked Walls” (Fig. 4):

gustave_courbet_018
Figure 3. Gustave Courbet: “The Stone Breakers”, 1849, oil on canvas. Source: Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
paul_cezanne_033
Figure 4. Paul Cézanne: “The House with the Cracked Walls”, 1892-1894, oil on canvas. Source: Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
With the rise of photography landscape painters learned to adopt previously unthought-of viewpoints, e.g. by cropping the landscape, providing unusual viewing angles or introducing novel types of brushmark, such as in the wonderfully fresh paintings of Canadian Tom Thomson (1877-1917, who died prematurely by drowning in one of the lakes he used to paint, University of Victoria, n.d.) (Fig. 5):

tom_thomson
Figure 5. Tom Thomson: Study for “Northern River”, gouache, brush and ink over graphite on illustration board, 1914-15. Source: Tom Thomson (1877-1917) [Public domain] via Art Canada Institute
Throughout the 20th century and up to now this process of diversification has been continuing, giving rise to a number of specialized categories such as “urban”, “cultural” and “industrial landscape” as well as landscape architecture (The J. Paul Getty Museum, n.d.), and with the advent of new media with an increasing cross-over of subject and technical approaches.
Below, for example, Wassily Kandinsky’s (1866-1944, Russia) famous blue rider (Fig. 6), allegedly eponymous for the rebellious “Blauer Reiter” expressionist movement, which was in existence for only three years from 1911 to 1914 but of huge influence (The Art Story, n.d.). For Kandinsky the colour blue was the colour of spirituality (The Art Story, n.d.), and the appearance of blue in both the rider and the landscape appears to me as a sign that Kandinsky may not have made a difference between the spirituality of man and that of nature, but that both are one, and that he may not have made a distinction at all between the rider and the landscape he moves in:

wassily_kandinsky
Figure 6. Wassily Kandinsky: “The Blue Rider”, 1903, oil on canvas. Source: Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Edward Hopper (1882-1967), an American realist painter, on the other hand, explained that his main interest in choosing the subject below was no more than the wonderful distribution of light in the spectacular rocky landscape and that he paid no separate attention to the intrusion of man into and exertion of possible negative influences on that valley (14), as e.g. in “Road in Maine” painted in 1914 (Fig. 7):

edward_hopper
Figure 7. Edward Hopper: “Road in Maine”, 1914, oil on canvas. Source: Edward Hopper (1882-1967) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
One of the most accomplished 21th century Austrian watercolour landscape and cityscape painters is Bernhard Vogel (*1961). For a comprehensive overview over his work see his website (Vogel, 2017). From personal encounters (participating in one of his watercolour courses many years ago) I know that his incentive for choosing a subject is a pure aesthetic pleasure in what he sees. When surfing the web, I gained the impression that he appears to share his approach with the overwhelming majority of landscape painters working today (enter “urban landscape painting” in your browser and see for yourself). It was thus difficult to find a mainstream of artistic voices uttering a mild concern about, say, climate change, social decline in our megacities or the destruction of our rainforests. If they want to share their opinion, they do it with all their might and, of course, with the advent of powerful graphics engines the critical voices among the contemporary painters received an impressive tool to utter their concerns. The power of modern computers has been allowing the creation of hyperrealistic, overwhelming apocalyptic worlds (Qu, 2013) for some time, whose impact is probably hard to top by mainstream painting. To me, interestingly, the composition of these worlds appears to tie in with the origins of landscape painting. People surviving the desaster, i.e. after having been kicked out of Paradise, appear to operate before a backdrop of destroyed landscape.

Of course in our century anything has become possible, including the landscape itself serving as canvas for the relatively new phenomenon of “land art”, where artists express themselves in exchange with an existing landscape, from the very simple to highly elaborate pieces, as in Fig. 8 and Fig. 9 below:

spiral_with_anemon
Figure 8. Zeevveez: “Spiral With Anemon”. Source: Zeeveez (n.d.) [Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic] via Wikimedia Commons
chelsea_flower_show
Figure 9. Patche99z: “Land art in one of the show gardens, Chelsea Flower Show 2006”. Source: Patche99z (2006) [Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported] via Wikimedia Commons

For a visual overview over the development of landscape painting also see a slideshow provided by the Tate gallery (Tate, n.d.).

References:

Cézanne, P. (1892-94) The House with the Cracked Walls [oil on canvas] [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/36/Paul_C%C3%A9zanne_033.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Courbet, G. (1849) The Stone Breakers [oil on canvas] [online]. New Masters Gallery, Dresden. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stone_Breakers#/media/File:Gustave_Courbet_018.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

de Valenciennes, P.-H. (c.1783) Rome: Houses and a Domed Church [oil on cardboard] [online]. Louvre, Paris. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blick_auf_die_Umgebung_von_Rom.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Galitz, K. C. (2009) Gustave Courbet [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/gust/hd_gust.htm [Accessed 27 September 2017]

Hopper, E. (1914) Road in Maine [oil on canvas] [online]. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4f/Edward_Hopper_Road_in_Maine.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Kandinsky, W. (1903) Der Blaue Reiter [oil on canvas] [online]. Stiftung Sammlung E.G. Bührle, Zurich. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7b/Wassily_Kandinsky%2C_1903%2C_The_Blue_Rider_%28Der_Blaue_Reiter%29%2C_oil_on_canvas%2C_52.1_x_54.6_cm%2C_Stiftung_Sammlung_E.G._B%C3%BChrle%2C_Zurich.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2017]

Oakley, H. (2015) Favourite Paintings 5: Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes and Thomas Jones, Plein Air, c 1782 [blog] [online]. The Eclectic Light Company, n.k., 18 February 2015. Available at: https://eclecticlight.co/2015/02/18/favourite-paintings-5-pierre-henri-de-valenciennes-and-thomas-jones-plein-air-c-1782/ [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Patche99z (2006) Land art in one of the show gardens, Chelsea Flower Show 2006 [photograph][online]. Patche99z, n.k.. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chelsea_006_to_008.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Poussin, N. (1650) Landscape With a Calm [oil on canvas] [online].Getty Centre, Los Angeles. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/Nicolas_Poussin_%28French_-_Landscape_with_a_Calm_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Qu, James (2013) “Oblivion” – 20 Epic Examples of City Destruction Matt Paintings
[image gallery] [online]. James Qu, n.k., 29 July 2013. Available at: http://www.psdvault.com/inspirations/oblivion-20-epic-examples-of-city-destruction-matt-paintings/ [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Tate (n.d.) Landscape [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/l/landscape [Accessed 27 September 2016]

The Art Story (n.d.) Der Blaue Reiter [online]. The Art Story, New York. Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-der-blaue-reiter.htm [Accessed 12 March 2017]

The J. Paul Getty Museum (n.d.) Brief History of the Landscape Genre [online]. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Available at: https://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/classroom_resources/curricula/landscapes/background1.html [Accessed 27 September 2016]

The National Gallery (n.d.) Pierre Henri de Valenciennes [online]. The National Gallery, London. Available at: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/pierre-henri-de-valenciennes [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Thomson, T. (1914-15) Study for “Northern River” [gouache, brush and ink over graphite on illustration board] [online]. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Available at: http://www.aci-iac.ca/tom-thomson/key-works/northern-river [Accessed 27 September 2016]

University of Victoria (n.d.) Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History. Death on a Painted Lake. The Tom Thomson Tragedy [online]. University of Victoria. Available at: http://www.canadianmysteries.ca/sites/thomson/tragedy/indexen.html [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Vogel Bernhard (2017) Works [image gallery] [online]. Bernhard Vogel, Salzburg. Available at: http://www.bernhard-vogel.at/en/works/ [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Zeevveez (2013) Spiral With Anemone [landart] [online]. Zeevveez, n.k.. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/14/Spiral_with_Anemon_%288496619437%29.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]