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Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

gurneyjourney.blogspot.com

Should We Change What We See?

Should We Change What We See?
Pine, 1892, by Ivan Shishkin

It's an age-old question: Should you as a plein-air painter try to capture exactly what you see, or should you deliberately make changes? 

Ivan Shishkin said: "The main thing for a landscape painter is a diligent study of nature. Because of this, the picture from life must be without imagination." John Ruskin said that the student should: “Go to Nature in all singleness of heart, and walk with her laboriously and trustingly, having no other thought but how best to penetrate her meaning, rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing.”

I don't think Shishkin is really dumping on imagination. Instead of the word "imagination," we might substitute "conventionalism" or "idealization." 

I sympathize with what Shishkin and Ruskin are advocating. There is a real joy and challenge for trying to capture exactly what's in front of you without changing or editing or "improving" it. Of course attempting to copy a scene from nature in all its color and detail is not really possible. You have to make choices and simplify something, because you can't capture it all. 

Back in the studio, armed with these studies, the artist can assemble the raw material of plein-air studies to create a virtual world of imagination.

I like having a lot of different conceptual approaches ready, like arrows in a quiver, when I head out. Sometimes when I'm on location I want to hold a mirror to nature. But other times I like to exaggerate, elaborate, or invent a fantastical scene while looking at nature.

Laloue's Dots and Lines

Eugène Galien-Laloue painted boulevards in Paris using gouache. 

Laloue's Dots and Lines
Eugène Galien-Laloue The Statue Of Étienne Marcel, Outside The Hôtel De Ville, Paris
Gouache, 7.5 x 11.12 inches (18.5 x 30.5 cm.)

His way of painting was relaxed but precise, alternating big shapes with small impressionistic dots and lines that suggest detail rather than delineating it.

Laloue's Dots and Lines

According to Wikipedia, "Galien-Laloue was in exclusive contract with one gallery and used other names: 'L.Dupuy', 'Juliany', 'E.Galiany', 'Lievin', 'G.L' 'Dumoutier' and 'P.Mattig'".

Lamplight Fantasies of Delphin Enjolras

Delphin Enjolras (French, 1857 –1945) did one thing, but he did it pretty well.

Lamplight Fantasies of Delphin Enjolras

He nearly always painted well dressed ladies in opulent interiors at eventide lit by electric light.



Lamplight Fantasies of Delphin Enjolras

Sometimes they're by themselves looking at a book, or sewing, or playing with a cat.

Lamplight Fantasies of Delphin Enjolras

Occasionally he'll place them on a balcony or a garden. But there's always that light. There must have been a ready market for these images of casual elegance and radiant illumination.

During his lifetime he witnessed the invention and adoption of electric light, which must have seemed magical, especially when the warm glow of the light was contrasted with the cool light of the sky.

Macchiaioli at the Caffè Michelangelo

Giovanni Boldini loved to paint his fellow artists at work. Here is Giovanni Fattori at work on a landscape painting.

Macchiaioli at the Caffè Michelangelo

Giovanni Boldini, Giovanni Fattori at the easel, 1866-67, Gallerie d'Italia, Milán.

Fattori was one of the founders of the movement of Italian plein-air painters known as the Macchiaioli. Like most art movements, this one grew out of a social setting, where artists could exchange ideas. Wikipedia puts it this way:  

"In the1850s Fattori began frequenting the Caffè Michelangiolo on via Larga, a popular gathering place for Florentine artists who carried on lively discussions of politics and new trends in art. Several of these artists would discover the work of the painters of the Barbizon school while visiting Paris for the Exposition of 1855, and would bring back to Italy an enthusiasm for the then-novel practice of painting outdoors, directly from nature." 

Macchiaioli at the Caffè Michelangelo
Macchiaioli at the Caffè Michelangiolo c. 1856

"In 1859 Fattori met Roman landscape painter Giovanni Costa, whose example influenced him to join his colleagues and take up painting realistic landscapes and scenes of contemporary life en plein air. This marked a turning point in Fattori's development: he became a member of the Macchiaioli, a group of Tuscan painters whose methods and aims are somewhat similar to those of the Impressionists, of which they are considered forerunners."

Boldini's Portrait of His Father

Giovanni Boldini was just 25 when he painted this portrait of his father Antonio.

Boldini's Portrait of His Father
Antonio Boldini by Giovanni Boldini, 1867

Giovanni grew up in an artistic family. His father was a painter of religious subjects Ferrara, Italy and his brother was an architect. Young Giovanni traveled to Florence, where he studied at the Academy. He befriended other realist painters in the school of Italian impressionistic realism known as the Macchiaioli.

There's a Boldini exhibition going on now in Paris until July 24th (Thanks, Peace)
Giovanni Boldini on Wikipedia.

Enrique Simonet

Enrique Simonet (Spanish 1866-1927) studied in Valencia, Málaga, Paris and Rome before traveling to the Holy Land. 

Enrique Simonet
Flevit super illam (He wept over it). 305 x 555 cm 1892 (Prado Museum)

There he was inspired to paint this monumental canvas of Jesus pausing before his final entry into Jerusalem.

"He painted this in Jerusalem, in response to Luke 19:41, in which Jesus approaches the city of Jerusalem. As he looks at the city, he weeps over it – hence the Latin words from the Vulgate – in anticipation of the city’s sufferings to come. This view is from the Mount of Olives, and won medals in Madrid (1892), Chicago (1893), Barcelona (1896), and in Paris in 1900." (Source)
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Strange Fate of "The Carpenter's Son"

American artist Edward Simmons created the painting "The Carpenter's Son" (Paris 1888, RA 1889) imagines young Jesus as a boy in a woodworker's shop.  

Strange Fate of

According to David Tovey:

Mr. Simmons "depicted his eldest son in his St Ives studio with wood-shavings scattered around, so converting the scene into a depiction of the Christ Child."

"The Chantrey Trustees were initially impressed by this informal presentation of Christ and offered to buy the painting, but an article in a Scottish newspaper denouncing it as heretical made them revoke their offer, which did not impress Simmons."

The painting ended up in the possession of the First Unitarian Church, New Bedford, Massachusetts.


In 1996 the painting suffered a strange case of vandalism. According to Wikipedia:
The painting was "yanked from the wall and cut out from its frame. The section depicting Jesus [was] taken, cutout and removed. The rest of the painting [was] left lying on the floor. The lost section was found in 2006, rolled up behind a refrigerator when it was being removed from the congregation’s kitchen. The painting was then restored and ownership transferred to the Rotch-Jones-Duff House and Garden Museum."

Wikipedia on Edward Simmons 

Zorn and the Rain Storm

American painter Edward Simmons (1852-1931) was an eyewitness to how Anders Zorn painted in watercolor:

"Zorn was one of those artists who are always showing much originality in the use of their materials and combining this with a sense of humor, which often produces fine results. I went into his back yard one day, and he had a six-foot water color leaning against the house, and was throwing pails of water on it—“bringing it together.” 

Zorn and the Rain Storm
Anders Zorn, Fish Market in St. Ives, watercolor and gouache, 100 x 76cm, 1888

"He had a great success at the Grosvenor Gallery with a picture of boats, sails, masts, and the seashore sand, with a fat fish-wife walking toward one. (In those days he thought the only beautiful women
were fat ones.) He laid this on a box hedge in the garden when a thunderstorm came up. We all rushed out and it seemed to me ruined."

Zorn and the Rain Storm
Anders Zorn, Fish Market in St. Ives, detail

"'Now I can make a fine picture,' he said. He painted out the smudges from the sails and fixed the dirty sky, but in the foreground, in the sands, were large spots of raindrops. These he turned into footprints, and their naturalness has been commented upon more than once."
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Books
From Seven to Seventy, a memoir by Edward Simmons (1852-1931)

The Skies of Josep Puigdengolas

Josep Puigdengolas Barella (1906-1987) was a Spanish/Catalonian landscape painter with some interesting ideas about skies.

The Skies of Josep Puigdengolas

A channel of blue sky bisects two groups of cumulus clouds. The blue of the sky gradates to a lighter value as it approaches the horizon.

The Skies of Josep Puigdengolas

Backlit clouds show light fringing all around, with crisper edges on the outside of the clouds and softer edges inside the cloud forms.

The Skies of Josep Puigdengolas

Small touches are relatively disconnected in the land forms but a bit more merged in the sky. A line of warm-colored clouds crosses a blue sky. The blue of the sky is spiced up with warm touches.

The Skies of Josep Puigdengolas

Simple flat colors show the bones of his thinking. Painting on a warm ground, he places a light cloud mass and a blue sky, but leaves a warm fringe all around. The washes of milky paint in the foreground let the warm ground shine through.

The Skies of Josep Puigdengolas

Since there's no Wikipedia page on Josep Puigdengolas, here's a little more, translated from Todo Coleccion: "He studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. He had his studio in Barcelona but lived for periods in Mallorca and Sardinia. In 1951 he was appointed Professor at the Superior School of Fine Arts of San Jorge in Barcelona."

Should We Change What We See?Laloue's Dots and LinesLamplight Fantasies of Delphin EnjolrasMacchiaioli at the Caffè MichelangeloBoldini's Portrait of His FatherYuri PodlyaskiEnrique SimonetStrange Fate of "The Carpenter's Son"Zorn and the Rain StormThe Skies of Josep Puigdengolas

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