Assignment 4: “Claustrophobia”

Updated on 23 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

20 November 2016. In order to make it for cut-off I decided that I would need to start working on my assignment alongside the remaining exercises for this part.

The requirement is a large format. I will go for the largest support I have at home to fit the portfolio (60 x 90 cm grey carton). The landscape will be totally imaginary again and I will try and paint an extensive river gorge/cave in the rough painting-knife style I discovered to work well for me in one of the previous exercises (Lacher-Bryk, 2016a).

22 November 2016. Last night I went in my head through my personal spontaneous reactions when hearing the term “claustrophobia”, and what first appeared as an image in my head was that of a cave diver getting stuck with his oxygen cylinders in one of the rocky tunnels. So maybe this is a pointer for closing around, so to speak, my river gorge theme.
While leaving my last sketch and background for the exercise I am working on at the moment to dry, I embarked on some additional research considering the term “claustrophobia”, so that I would not base all my planning on the overwhelmig feeling of mental overload I have at the moment. I was particularly interested in approaches by different artists. Many works of art are interpreted as being “claustrophobic” by the art world, although they do not explicitly address the phenomenon as main subject of the work. The person shown in Expressionist Edvard Munch’s (1863-1944, Norway) “The Scream” for example is interpreted by others as showing a claustrophobic reaction (Bolton, 2013, p. unavailable), while Munch himself explained his inspiration thus: “One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.” (Art Institute of Chicago, 2013) (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Edvard Munch: “The Scream”, 1893, oil, tempera and pastel on cardboard. Source: Edvard Munch (1863-1944) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
When entering the search term “claustrophobia” into my browser, it became immediately obvious that there does exist a need of visually transporting this feeling. There are many similar ideas, with persons trapped in tiny, bare, box-shaped spaces with no way out. Many of them with outstretched arms or arms crossed very tightly across the chest, as if trying to make the space (outside or inside the body) larger and/or avoid for it to get even smaller, see e.g. a collection of related images on Pinterest (Pinterest, n.d.(a)). Many of them do not feel related to what I am looking for, but the eighth photo down on Graphics Think Tank (2011) probably gets close to what I need. It appears as if there are many different kinds of claustrophobia, some of real places, some of real people, some of unavoidable overwhelming situations. And I will have to be very careful, because obviously the subject is a playground also of the horror movie gang.

24 November 2016. Maybe better to follow my own idea, especially since I do not want a person at the centre of this picture, but the landscape. A claustrophobic landscape, basically, is one that provides too little space for the person entering it. If I want this effect to work for everybody, I will need to employ strong signals, e.g. abnormally low ceilings in a cave. Today I came across the work of Ted Pim (*?, Ireland), who draws his inspiration from the Old Masters, but takes his dark subjects into abandoned buildings. What I found especially haunting at first sight was the location of one of his outdoor murals, “Bass Brewery” (Pinterest, n.d.(b)). Looking further for “claustrophobic landscape” I found the work of American concept artist and illustrator Jack Gallagher and his small series called “Obstructions” (Gallagher, 2016), which composition-wise comes close to where I want to get, although mine would be somewhat more complex.

However, while watching this short video documenting attempts at entering a cave via an impossibly narrow crack in the rock (Bennett, 2012), I kept thinking that I am looking in the wrong places. For me it is probably not so much the fear of getting stuck, but the fear of not being able to breathe. And this finally takes me to where I really need to be in this assignment. It is all about an operation I had when I was six years old. It was no spectacular operation, just having my nasal polyps removed, because until then I had been able to breathe through my mouth only. Back then, 44 years ago, it seems to have been common still to get etherised. At least this was what I got, black face mask pressed hard on my nose and mouth, sick, sick feeling of suffocating, wanting to scream and kick with my arms and legs only to be held down by doctors and nurses, taking ages (several minutes in fact) to fall asleep with operation theatre going round and round in dark circles. Just now I found a detailed German language article describing exactly my own experience to the smallest detail (Zimmer, n.d.). It is basically a trauma, which left me with horrible nausea every time I smell ether or related substances and an intense fear of places, situations and stressful experiences, where there might not be enough oxygen.
So I need a really tight place to transport the feeling. Like this (Vela, n.d.).

26 November 2016. I decided that the best way to proceed would be initially to produce several spontaneous large-scale (A2) charcoal sketches while trying to invoke the traumatising situation from the operation. Here comes the result of the first round, experimenting with an imaginary cave, which suggests a way out, but which by the looks of it is agonizingly narrow. The rock I want to feel heavy, but smooth, without too many sharp points and cracks, because this is what the increasing paralysis provoked by the ether felt like. While drawing it was difficult for me to breathe, so this approach is probably not far from what I need. Interestingly, the drawing worked in all directions (looking somewhat like a coloscopy image :o)) and I compared them for their relative properties (Fig. 1-4):

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4

The second version was my favourite, since it appeared to provide the greatest resistance to leaving the cave, but I will have to increase the stifling feeling inside the hall. It is too spacious yet. So I produced another large-scale charcoal sketch on the basis of the former and tried to make the interior feel tight, with the way out near-blocked several times, while the sky is clearly visible (Fig. 5):

Figure 5

Although the cave is not as dark as I would have liked it to be, the arrangement seems believable. Guessing from the chosen eye-level the size of the nearest crack is probably too narrow for anyone but the slimmest persons to fit through without squeezing. In addition, there is no way of telling whether the path behind that obstacle would not be narrow, too. The making of the cave was a very enjoyable experience (apart from indeed feeling claustrophobic), because the charcoal allowed whatever change came into my mind with absolute ease. It would incorporate any previous layers, which had looked completely different at various stages of developing the drawing. Overall I like the way the daylight falls into the cave with the innermost speck of light more or less mirroring the “window” to freedom.

27 November 2016. With this working setup tested for effectiveness on my husband (“I don’t like this, I cannot breathe.”), I started on the next step of the project. In my expectation the choice of colours would play an essential role. I would need a colour standing for freedom (a light blue most likely) to enter the cave to meet a combination of colours, which suggest a suffocating atmosphere. The latter for me always comes with a substance present in the air (ether!), so I went to have a look at the chemical properties of diethyl ether (University of California, n.d.). It is a colourless liquid with a boiling point of 34.6 °C. So it might be reasonable to assume that some (colourless) haze might be visible in the darker parts of the cave to support the message. The light falling into the cave could be made visible in “dusty” rays. I will first test this effect (haze plus light) to see if it would increase or decrease the primary effect. Apart from that I will try and apply intense colour only in areas exposed to the light from outside, the rest of the cave should remain as in the charcoal above, maybe in a warm dark grey in order to make the presence of haze believable (somewhat higher air temperature near cave entrance).

28 November 2016. After having tested a few painted thumbnail sketches with two warm (grey, brown) and cold (violet and blue) versions of the cave, I decided that I would stick with the brown version, because it is much easier to create a believable stifling atmosphere in a seemingly warm environment. Also I had the impression, when comparing the cold variants, that these colours tended to “push me out” of the cave, while the warmer ones “wanted to keep me in”, so to speak. The paper in my sketchbooks unfortunately is not ideal for loose painting, despite priming the paper tends to come off in tiny flakes and the colours grow dim while drying (Fig. 6):

Figure 6. Sketchbook – testing colours

Next I tested how to reproduce the sunlight inside the cave (Fig. 7):

Figure 7. Sketchbook – testing the painting of rays of sunlight against a dark background

28 and 29 November 2016. I prepared a mix of dark brown, primary cyan, primary magenta, gold ochre and white to produce a warm grey tone. With this I painted a uniform background on a 60 x 90 cm grey carton, then proceeded through several stages to produce the cave. It took a large number of correcting steps in order to create believable lighting conditions inside the cave and an arrangement of rocks, which would cause the required “closed-in” feeling. In the end I found that with this painting it was crucially important to always align my eye-level with the intended size of the cave. A few centimetres out would immediately cause the volume of the cave to “grow” and thus “widen” the way out.
Here are some of the stages (Fig. 8-12):

Figure 8
Figure 9
Figure 10
Figure 11
Figure 12

After having finished the main painting, I found it difficult to determine whether I would be able to include the sunlight and haze interplay as intended. The viewpoint is slightly outside the cone of light, so it might be possible to see some of it, but I was not sure whether it would add to the atmosphere. So I left the painting to dry and returned a few hours later.
Here is the finished piece with the added sunrays. I noticed that extremely good lighting conditions are required for the colours to come out properly, but overall I am quite happy with the result (Fig. 13):

Figure 13. Finished painting

For a detailed analysis of the finished painting please see my self-assessment report (Lacher-Bryk, 2016b) posted separately.


Art Institute of Chicago (2013) Becoming Edvard Munch: Influence, Anxiety and Myth: Quick Facts: Munch’s The Scream [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 November 2016]

Bennett, L. (2012) Tight Squeeze at Deep Cave [online]. Lee Bennett, [n.k.], 21 August. Available at: [Accessed 24 November 2016]

Bolton, R. (2013) A Brief History of Painting: 2000 BC to AD2000 [online]. Hatchette Book Group, UK. Available at: [Accessed 20 November 2016]

Gallagher, J. (2016) 5 Obstructions [blog] [online]. Jack Gallagher, [n.k.], 1 March. Available at: [Accessed 24 November 2016]

Graphics Think Tank (2011) 200+ Adorable Examples of Surreal Photography
[blog] [online]. Graphics Think Tank, [n.k.]. Available at: [Accessed 20 November 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016a) Part 4, project 3, exercise 1: Expressive landscape – creating mood and atmosphere [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 17 November. Available at: [Accessed 20 November 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016b) Assignment 4: Self-evaluation [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 29 November.
Available at: [Accessed 29 November 2016]

Munch, E. (1893) The Scream [oil, tempera and pastel on cardboard] [online]. National Gallery, Oslo. Available at: [Accessed 20 November 2016]

Pinterest (n.d.(a)) Claustrophobia and Other Things Of Fear and Anxiety
[image collection] [online]. Pinterest. Available at: [Accessed 20 November 2016]

Pinterest (n.d.(b)) Old Bass Brewery, Belfast, 2009 [mural] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: [Accessed 24 November 2016]

University of California (n.d.) Standard Operating Procedures: Diethyl Ether [online]. University of California, Berkeley. Available at:  [Accessed 27 November 2016]

Vela, C.M. (n.d) Cave Explorer [photograph] [online]. Cristian Mihai Vela, Caransebes. Available at: [Accessed 24 November 2016]

Zimmer, J. ( n.d.) Die Entstehung und Therapie von posttraumatischen Belastungsstörungen [lecture script] [online]. Available at: [Accessed 24 November 2016]

Part 4, project 5, exercise 3: Working from drawings and photographs – working from a photograph

Updated on 23 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

20 November 2016. How time flies. On April 20th this year I found a photograph in our local newspaper, which I knew I would like to try for this exercise. It has neither trees in the foreground nor hills in the background as set out in the study guide, but the subject – strips made by tractor mowing the grass – and composition are so beautiful that I want to take the risk and try it nevertheless (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Sketchbook – collecting ideas for the exercise

Regarding the physics behind the phenomenon, which is well-known mostly from football fields, I found a (German language) explanation (Dewald, 2012). Countless artists noticed and made extensive use of the beauty of this effect. David Hockney (*1937, UK)  used it in his series of Yorkshire landscape paintings, e.g. in “Garrowby Hill” painted in 1998 (Hockney, n.d.(a)) or “Going up Garrowby Hill” from 2000 (Pinterest, n.d.), both shown below as printouts from the internet (Fig. 1). It has also inspired more abstract painters such as Latvian artist Raimonds Staprans (*1926) (Fig. 2) and even quiltmakers, e.g. “Sunset Desert” by Gloria Loughman (*?, Canada) (Loughman, n.d.).

Figure 1. Sketchbook – internet printouts of David Hockney’s paintings “Garrowby Hill” (top) and “Going up Garrowby Hill” (bottom)
Figure 2. Sketchbook – internet printout of Raimonds Staprans’ style of painting

26 November 2016. After having had another look at my photo, I knew that I would want it changed somehow, because after the excursion to Hockney’s paintings it suddenly felt boring, and the pattern transferred to another, wider, undulating landscape. I went to look for suitable photos and decided to superimpose the former on the latter, changing both colours and composition (Fig. 3):

Figure 3. Sketchbook – Internet printout of undulating landscape

27 November 2017. This is how far I got today. I noticed how important it is to try and feel the story behind each part of the landscape, so this is not a matter of just adding stripes, but I need to feel my way round both reality and the developing composition (Fig. 4):

Figure 4. Developing the landscape, 40 x 40 cm acrylic paper

28 November 2016. Today I worked some more on this painting, adding new patterns with care, changing the colours of older ones and trying to guide the viewer through the image (Fig. 5):

Figure 5. Finished painting

I think that I should leave it where it is now. The composition feels complete to me, for whatever reason. In order to make it a working painting, however, I would need to apply paint with greater consistency across the whole support. It was an interesting experiment and quite revealing regarding the thought processes involved in the abstraction of patterns taken from the real world.


Dewald, U. (2012) Rätselhafte grüne Streifen. Warum der Rasen auf dem Fußballfeld gestreift ist
[online]. Farbimpulse. Das Onlinemagazin für Farbe in Wissenschaft und Praxis, 20 June. Available at: [Accessed 20 November 2016]

Hockney, D. (n.d.(a)) Garrowby Hill [online]. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Available at: [Accessed 20 November 2016]

Hockney, D. (n.d.(b)) Going Up Garrowby Hill [online]. Private Collection. Available at: %5BAccessed 20 November 2016]
Loughman, G. (n.d.) Landscape Quilts [image collection] [online]. Gloria Loughman. Available at: [Accessed 23 March 2017]Pinterest (n.d.) Raimonds Staprans [image collection] [online]. Pinterest. Available at: staprans&rs=typed&term_meta[]=raimonds|typed&term_meta[]=staprans|typed [Accessed 23 March 2017]

Part 4, project 4, exercise 1: Painting outside – painting a landscape outside

Updated on 23 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

16 November 2016. There is a warm front travelling to come into Austria on Friday, so I need to be quick in order to plan and carry out my plein air painting exercise before more winter weather. There is a special place in our vicinity, a bit of woodland growing in a sandy pit in a restructured river basin. This place I chose before once for one of my Drawing 1 projects (Lacher-Bryk, 2015). Since I did not follow study guide instructions in the previous exercise (use and rework an existing painting), I decided that I would carry over this instruction to this exercise and apply it to the following drawing I made last year (Fig. 1):
Figure 1. Own drawing from OCA Drawing 1 course “Study of several trees”, ink pen, oil pastels and marker pens, 2015

I will make some preliminary sketches on site tomorrow (bad weather) and compare with what I have got, then quickly use the fair weather predicted for Friday to make a very rough painting with my largest brush to be completed outside. There is no plan to continue working on it in my workshop, so what I achieve outside will be what I get.

17 November 2016. Proceeding as planned, so setting off to the site just after lunchtime. The weather was very changeable, from overcast and some raindrops to sunshine and quite pleasantly warm and windy, so partly ideal for painting outside. I found the site mostly as it had been the year before, except that the sandy forest floor was covered in lots of brown autumn leaves and the incredible near-white sand and the contrast I had been looking for were invisible (I should have known better, being an ecologist and all that :o). I still took a set of photos of the spot, walking round to see whether other views might be attractive (Fig.2).

Figure 2

In the end I went for a beautiful view across the river with a small, eye-catching patch of white sand on the far bank and produced a landscape and a portrait format mini watercolour sketch (Fig. 3-5):

Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5. Sketchbook – watercolour sketches

Cycling back I went through the colour options and the research on Fauvism and Expressionism I had done earlier that day. At first I had wanted to use autumn colours as found on site, but then came up with another option including very light colours, basically warm and cool shades of grey on a darker background prepared with a mix of Paynes grey and small amounts of other colours I would like to use, so that in the end the objects of the painting would have clear dark outlines. We’ll see whether this is feasible.

18 November 2016. It is very warm today and windy – what is called a “Föhn” weather situation typical for the Alps. It gives lots of people headaches, but others like me get a wonderful break from the November drizzle. It also makes painting outside a bit more difficult, since we get quite strong gusts of wind. Before going out I did a greyscale test in my sketchbook in order to find the colours I would need to take with me (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. Sketchbook – 50 shades of grey, more or less

Around lunchtime I left with my bike and 25 year old trailer full of painting materials and was extremely lucky to get to my site with the sun shining and the wind dropping (Fig. 7).

Figure 7

Here is my open air studio with prepared painting carton. I had a quantitiy of the mix used for the background with me and from this I mixed the rest of my colours. This system worked well, although I found that the conditions changing from bright sunshine to cloudy made my mixing results a bit arbitrary (Fig. 8).

Figure 8. Studio in the leaves

When I found that a hue would not fit the purpose I had intended it for, I used it intuitively in other parts of the composition.
Here is the first stage of the finished painting. Lying in the shade it looks rather blue, which it is not under proper lighting conditions (Fig. 9):

Figure 9. First stages of the finished painting

I had two full hours of painting, before it suddenly got very cold and I had to call it a day.
This is how far I got today. I quite like the “coarse” areas of colour in the centre (see detail of white tree across the river and tree stumps in the middle ground below) (Fig. 10-11).
Contrary to what I said earlier I think that I will do a little more work on the exercise in the workshop during the next few days (when there will be November weather and snow again) to try and carefully apply this technique to other parts of the composition.

Figure 10
Figure 11. Detail

20 November 2016. Today I spent some time trying to extend the discovered technique to the whole painting. Some of it appears successful, some of it not so. While I was quite happy with the changes to the light, especially by achieving a weird glow in the willow tree hanging over the river and the trees to the left, I think that the trees in the foreground need some more change, although I cannot yet think of what would be required (Fig. 12).

Figure 12. Finished painting

Commentary: “The experience of painting outdoors”

The work required for painting outdoors was not unfamiliar to me. I have done so on many occasions in the past. Although this was mostly watercolours, I knew what to bring and was able to plan ahead taking into acount the weather forecast. The most important piece of equipment is my bicycle trailer. It allows me to take along all necessary equipment apart from an easel, but when working outside I usually prefer sitting on a stool with the support lying on the ground in front of me. Although I know that the faithful copying of the things seen is probably easier on an easel, I appreciate the slightly longer interval between taking in the visual information and putting it on canvas as a very valuable creative break. Also, for me working from above the support results in a much looser brushmark that when standing in front of the easel.
Making linear and coloured thumbnail sketches with ink pen and watercolour, as well as testing the range of colours I wanted to bring in a small sketch using acrylics in my sketchbook, was immensely helpful when approaching the final work. It allowed me to develop in my mind a working “reflection” of the painting-to-be. Working on the final piece consisted of modulating my gathered experience by what came up on site. It was very enjoyable to see and feel this work and I guess that slowly these techniques come more naturally to me.
With regard to formal compositional rules I tested on a printout that to a relatively large extent elements of both the Rule of Thirds and more so the Golden Mean are present, as well as a working foreground – middleground – background construction. There is a pathway into the painting provided by the sandy area leading to the river and on across the river via the conspicuous white fallen tree and the mirrored white in the path leading away from the far side of the river. I also tried to include mirror structures and areas of colour: the white in the fallen tree and far side path, the violet in the smaller tree on the right and in the tangle of very young trees to the left, the turquoise of the river and the hanging tree, and also the shape of the fallen tree mirrored in the branch arching over the hanging tree. Also, I tried to include considerations of aerial perspective by gradually reducing detail as well as colour contrast and intensity. I was happy with the idea of having a selection of shades of grey mixed from an initial mix of Paynes grey, natural burnt umber, raw umber and white at the basis of the composition, since it allowed me to adapt with ease to different requirements and also this slightly aubergine hue went extremely well with all the colours introduced at later points (oriental blue, cadmium red, cadmium yellow medium, cobalt turquoise and black).
Overall I think that the outcome is quite satisfactory, although I am increasingly able to see the weak points in composition and choice of colour.
(514 words)


Lacher-Bryk, A. (2015) Part 3, project 1, exercise 3: Trees – study of several trees [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA study blog. Available at: [Accessed 16 November 2016]

Research point: Expressive landscape

Updated on 22 March 2017 (Harvard referencing and some content).

13 November 2016. Closest probably to transposing human states of mind into real world phenomena visible in landscapes were the German Expressionists.Their observations of the ever-changing mood found in landscapes relate directly to human emotion. Emil Nolde (1867-1956, Germany/Denmark) is famous for his wonderful elevated watercolour observations of the stormy sea of his home. In real life the intensity of these colours would be exceedingly rare to see, their presence in a work of art thus causes a raised awareness in the viewer (see e.g. a selection of related works (Pinterest, n.d.). He often uses a generally subdued background together with very carefully and cleverly selected areas of high intensity colour with enviable knowledge and ease, so that despite the deceptive casualness the result is always both a believable and highly emotional setting. Ernst Ludwig Kircher (1880-1938, Germany) was another founding member and outstanding representative of German Expressionism around the turn of the 19th/20th century. His style was much more graphic and harder than Nolde’s (probably owing to his being a printmaker, too). The painting “Graubünden Landscape with Sunrays” (Fig. 1) below, although very much in the Expressionist tradition, reminds me somehow of the votive tablets found in the Alpine region – especially the sunrays, which on rare occasions do appear in reality and which in religious paintings are interpreted as emerging from celestial beings resting on the clouds. Also Kirchner’s choice of viewpoint makes both for a noble real-life representation of the high mountains, helping to raise religious feelings in viewers familiar with this tradition  – see example of a votive tablet underneath (Fig. 2, photo unfortunately out of focus, but ideal for purposes of comparison):

Figure 1. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: “Graubünden Landscape with Sunrays”, media n.k., n.d.. Source: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Figure 2. Votive tablet by unknown artist: “Dank für Genesung nach einem Holzunfall”, painting on wood, 1740. Source: [Anon] [Public domain] via Wkimedia Commons
In Symbolism, on the other hand, a movement starting in the late 19th century with Gustave Moreau (1826-1898, France), landscapes were filled with mythological creatures to stand for the universal human emotions such as anger, fear, love or hate (Myers, 2007). It was thus not the landscape, which was the primary transporting medium of an emotion, but the entities populating it. Moreau seems to have been exemplary for the movement with a great interest in ancient mythology. His “Death of Sappho” (Fig. 3) below is typical of his approach:

Figure 3. Gustave Moreau: “Death of Sappho”, oil on canvas, c. 1870. Source: Gustave Moreau (1826-1898) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Painter and designer Léon Bakst (1866-1924, Russia) was in line with Moreau’s approach, see for example his painting “Terror Antiquus” (Fig. 4) below. Being on the cautious side (caused by six years of Latin at school) regarding the title of the painting and its uncommented translation “ancient horror”, I tried to find out more about its meaning and it is explained as “the Dionysian force which fuels true art” (Davidson, 2000), hence the quiet despite the seemingly ferocious title.

Figure 4. Léon Bakst: “Terror Antiquus”, oil on canvas, 1908. Source: Léon Bakst (1866-1924) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918, Austria) was an outstanding representative of Symbolism. I was unable, however, to find a landscape painted by him, which in my opinion would have qualified as symbolist. All his landscapes appear close to reality (my husband is from the Attersee region, where Klimt used to paint many of his landscapes and I have been to many of the locations). They do not seem to include symbols in the expected way, for example in “Beech Grove I” below (Fig. 5). Regarding composition: The incredibly beautiful light appearing in specks on the stems and foliage at the back of the young forest, and on some of the trunks in the middle ground, appears essential to me here by producing a horizontal counterbalance for the vertical stems. Of course the overall square format (which I tend to prefer myself) helps to quieten down any stress contained in a scene and reminds me of the necessity to think carefully about my own choices of support:

Figure 5. Gustav Klimt: “Beech Grove I”, oil on canvas, 1902. Source: Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954, Mexico) was a later representative of the Symbolist movement, who to me seems to take her symbols away from ancient to modern sources and somewhere near Surrealism. To my great joy I found her painting “Suicide of Dorothy Hale” (Fig. 6), since (by coincidence?) it ties in with the votive tablets I mentioned above in the section about Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and has been haunting its viewers ever since it was painted, telling the story of the never-solved mystery of the unlikely suicide committed by actress Dorothy Hale in 1938.

Figure 6. Frida Kahlo: “Suicide of Dorothy Hale”, oil on masonite, 1938. Source: Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) [Fair use] via Wikimedia Commons
A single landscape by her, painted in 1946, however seems to be in a category by itself. The landscape itself is interpreted as representing her broken body (Frida Kahlo Paintings, Biography, Quotes, n.d.).

16 November 2016. While both Expressionists and Symbolists remained with the real landscape without deviating too much from to the outward physical appearance, the Surrealist movement used – among many other approaches – imaginary landscapes with the aim to find ways of “unleash the subconscious imagination“. This goal for me immediately connects with the work of Sigmund Freud, whose discoveries rose to immense interest and popularity with intellectuals of the time (Tate, n.d.(a)). In the approach of historical painter and precursor to Surrealism Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978, Italy) landscapes do not appear to be at the centre of interest, but are rather used in a stage-like manner. They are mainly barren, desert-like, flat or rocky backgrounds, which by being inert allow a wealth of impossible things to emerge, happen, develop and transform, in the shape of “disordered collections of symbols” (The Art Story, n.d.(a)) so that there is an entry point into a dream-like world for every human mind. Which may be the main reason for the immense and ongoing popularity of surrealistic painting. De Chirico’s interest appears to have circled around the mythological elements of Ancient Rome and Greece, as e.g. in “The Disquieting Muses” (Fig. 7):

Figure 7. Giorgio de Chirico: “The Disquieting Muses”, oil on canvas, 1916-18. Source: Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) [Fair use] via Wikiart
To me, the basic composition of landscapes used by Salvador Dali (1904-1989, Spain) (The Museum of Modern Art, n.d.) seems to have been greatly and very faithfully inspried by de Chirico, although his stages were populated by very different elements. In some of his works, though, the real coastline near his home in Catalonia (Cadaqués) served as the stage (Jones, 2007) as e.g. in his arguably most famous work, painted in 1931, “The Persistence of Memory” (The Museum of Modern Art, n.d.). In the glossary entry on “Surrealism” found on the Tate website (n.d.(a)) above there is an interesting documentary about a cooperation between Salvador Dali and the Disney Corporation (scroll down a bit) in making a surrealist film, which was discarded due to financial constraints after the war and rediscovered in 2008. This made me realise that one very weird and disturbing animated (childrens’!) film we have – “Le Roi et l’Oiseau” (“The King and the Mockingbird”) from 1980 (IMDb, n.d.) is exactly that, a surrealist painting come to life. The possibilities offerend by film appear to enhance the effects sought by the surrealists and no doubt their poineering approach is an immensely rich source to all types of visual art. Painter and sculptor Max Ernst (1891-1976, Germany) was very close to de Chirico and Dali in style and choice of subject, see e.g. “Ubu Imperator” (The Art Story, n.d.(b)), but also very recognizable his own, e.g. in the wonderfully agitated “L’Ange du Foyeur” from 1938 (Bunyan, 2013). Graham Sutherland (1903-1980, UK) again was inspired by religious motives and to a large extent by the landscape of Pembrokeshire, as e.g. in “Welsh Landscape with Roads” from 1936 (Tate, n.d.(b)). Painter and designer Paul Nash (1889-1946, UK) I already wrote about in a previous post (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). To me he feels the most authentic of the surrealist painters. There seems to be no artificiality in the choice of his objects, but rather an immediate connection with his concerns. For example see the haunting “Totes Meer (Dead Sea)” (Tate, n.d.(c)) painted in 1940/41.

In retrospect the term “expressive landscape” remains difficult to pin down. To me all landscapes are expressive by nature and no matter how reduced the visible content, it seems impossible to escape it. Enhanced expressiveness, however, that sort sought for and put to good use for a particular purpose, uses carefully chosen and/or altered landscape to stand for and enter into communication with a human condition and there are probably few other subjects in art, which lend themselves with similar ease to the transporting of universally understood messages.


[Anon] (1749) Dank für Genesung nach einem Holzunfall [painting on wood] [online]. Österreichisches Museum für Volkskunde, Vienna. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Bakst, L. (1908) Terror Antiquus [oil on canvas] [online]. State Russian Museum, St Petersburg. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Bunyan, M. (2013) Exhibition: ‘Max Ernst’ at Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Switzerland [blog] [online]. Art Blart. Available at: [Accessed 22 March 2017]

Davidson, P. (2000) “The Muse and The Demon in the Poetry of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Blok” in Russian Literature and its Demons [online]. Berghahn Books, New York, Oxford. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

de Chirico, G. (1916-18) The Disquieting Muses [oil on canvas] [online]. Private Collection. Available at: [Accessed 22 March 2017]

Frida Kahlo Paintings, Biography, Quotes (n.d.) Landscape, 1946 – By Frida Kahlo [online]. Frida Kahlo Paintings, Biography, Quotes. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

IMDb (n.d.) Le Roi et l’Oiseau [online]. IMDb. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Jones, J. (2007) The Riddle of the Rocks [online]. The Guardian, London, 5 March. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Kahlo, F. (1938) Suicide of Dorothy Hale [oil on masonite] [online]. Phoenix Art Museum. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Kirchner, E.L. (n.d.) Bündner Landschaft mit Sonnenstrahlen [n.k.] [online]. Available: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Klimt, G. (1902) Beech Grove I [oil on canvas] [online]. New Masters Gallery, Dresden. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Artist Research: Paul Nash [blog] [online]. Andrea Lacher-Bryk, Hallein. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Myers, N. (2007) “Symbolism” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, August 2007. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Moreau, G. (c.1870) Death of Sappho [oil on canvas] [online]. Private collection. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Pinterest (n.d.) Art: Emil Nolde [image collection] [online]. Pinterest. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Tate (n.d.(a)) Surrealism [glossary] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Tate (n.d.(b)) Graham Sutherland OM [online]. Tate, London. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

Tate (n.d.(c)) Totes Meer (Dead Sea). Paul Nash

[online]. Tate, London. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

The Art Story (n.d.(a)) Giorgio de Chirico [online]. The Art Story, New York. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

The Art Story (n.d.(b)) Max Ernst. Ubu Imperator [online]. The Art Story, New York. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

The Museum of Modern Art (n.d.) Salvador Dali. Introduction [online]. The Museum of Modern Art, Now York. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016]

The Museum of Modern Art (n.d.) Salvador Dali. The Persistence of Memory [online]. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Available at: [Accessed 22 March 2017]

Part 1, project 1, exercise 1b: Getting to know your brushes – landscape from memory

Post updated on 18 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

15 February, 2016. Last year I had a dream, in which I was flying, for the first time since my childhood. It was an incredibly vivid, colourful, 3D experience. I flew over a rocky ridge made up of Mars-coloured giant blocks. The ridge was bordered on the left side by a savannah-like landscape and dropped off to the right. It travelled more or less up to the horizon, where on its farthest outcrop there sat a giant, Mars-coloured chanterelle with two window-like openings. This is the landscape I have been planning to paint since the dream and I will take the opportunity to make a first sketch for this exercise (see Fig. 1 below):

Figure 1. My dream chanterelle

I found it relatively difficult to capture a true likeness of my dream image, since it was only a second long at the time, during which I flew over the landscape at high speed. On the other hand I was free to fill the gaps with whatever my imagination came up with. I had lots of weird ideas reminding me of Hieronymus Bosch (The Netherlands, 1450 – 1516), whose incredibly imaginative work I love and whose 500 year anniversary is celebrated this year (National Gallery of Art, 2017). The most well-known of this works is probably “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (Fig. 2):

Figure 2. Hieronymus Bosch, “The Garden of Earthly Delights”, oil on panel, ca. 1480-1505, source: Hieronymus Bosch (ca. 1450-1516) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

16 February, 2016. I decided, however, to leave the idea of a more extended version of my above sketch for later in the course, when my skills have improved.
In the above, in order to continue the experience gained in the mark-making experiment I tried to make use of most types of brushmark, except for the footprint-like marks often used for foliage, which I personally do not like for the evenness of the result. For me, most mark-making and the interaction with its results has been more or less intuitive so far, but I will start making a habit of observing closely and learning how to best translate into my personal painting language the effects of different marks, in particular by studying and comparing the ways of contemporary artists before attempting an exercise.
So, off to painting a piece of fruit next.


  1. National Gallery of Art (2017) ‘Bosch, Hieronymus. Biography’ [online]. National Gallery of Art, Collection, Artists 17 Feb. Available at [Accessed 17 February]