It’s spring and it’s easy to become steeped in busyness. The urgent screams, but we must search out the most important.
I am pondering artists who spoke to my heart in my youth. As I pack for a trip that will include an art retreat, I need only take the minimum. At home, I collect. Travel teaches us that less is truly more, one of the many paradoxes in life. After a muddy wet season, we have a spectacular Superbloom. After a mild injury, I absolutely delight in good health and recovery. Separation from our comfort zone leads to growth, expansion, regeneration…and a few steep learning curves.
Turning a significant age this year gives me pause.
I find myself returning to some of my early favorite artists and that’s ok. I had an early love affair with the French Impressionists and artists rooted in their techniques. I was enchanted by the brilliant colors and patterns. Impressionists, Expressionists, Post Impressionists caught my eye and captured my heart. Bonnard, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse... (examples follow in order)
Early California painters were also influenced by these mavericks and the magnificent scenes of the Golden State. As a Californian, two female painters, Donna Schuster and E. Charlotte Fortune come to mind. (below)
At least for now, I may retrace the lives of some of my old favorites and why not?
Looking through my essays from decades ago, I found a paper on the influence of environment on painters (featuring, of course, Impressionist painters such as Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) I noticed points of interest: Cafe Gerbois in Paris. Today, with the magic of Google map, I see it is a trendy men’s clothing store. A footnote on Les Nabis, whose work was characterized by patches of color, bold contours and simplified drawing --- states the term is Hebrew for prophet. I was correct, it was coined by poet Henri Cazalis comparing the new painters (active from 1888-1900) to prophets of modern art. I noted that the Impressionists, influenced by Japanese prints and philosophy, that Zen Buddhism offered the belief that “the soft will vanquish the hard” – from a 1964 book on Bonnard by Antoine Terrasse. This may be inaccurate and over simplified definition—but it certainly illustrates my point:
Enjoy chasing the artists who first drew you to painting! Or composers (my music major college roommate was quick to point out that Impressionism influenced composers such as Debussy).
I am enjoying Chasing Matisse by James Morgan, a chronicle of his move to France and fascination with the studios and homes of Henri Matisse.
Cafe Gerbois where the Impressionists gathered (left);
my painting of a cafe across from my Paris apartment 2018 (right)
My challenge for you:
Who were your early favorites? What drew you to them? Style? Color? Technique? Geographic location? Allow yourself to reminisce and ponder painters who influenced your early life. If art is a new passion-enjoy!
Although technology speeds up research, do not allow a photograph to replace the real thing. Visit museums, galleries and homes where the real art works may surprise you.
Last year I visited the Musée Rodin in Paris—and was overwhelmed by his work…alas another study awaits. Decades ago, my visit to the Van Gogh Museum changed my perception.
This has definitely been an unusual season. Weather. News events. As I study the lives of artists and compare anecdotes about them to my life, I realize we continue to carve out the creative lives that are the most important to us!
Sketching in garden of Musee' Rodin from sculpture (models who do not move!) - my watercolor sketch of one of the Burghers of Calais.
Note: The last 15 months have challenged us! This month I encourage you to learn from the isolation and I wish you a cautious, but joyous June reopening!
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