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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.

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Mucha: 'Beauty is the Communication of Emotion'

Alphonse Mucha's ideas about beauty come across as strongly in his oil paintings as it does in his better known Art Nouveau posters.

Mucha: 'Beauty is the Communication of Emotion'

In his lectures on art, he said: "The expression of beauty is by emotion. The person who can communicate his emotions to the souls of others is the artist."

Mucha: 'Beauty is the Communication of Emotion'

"To communicate with the souls of man the artist must address himself to the senses of the body."

Mucha: 'Beauty is the Communication of Emotion'

"This harmony between the suggestion of the artist and the senses is memory, the first condition of beauty."

Mucha: 'Beauty is the Communication of Emotion'

The goal of the artist, Mucha said, is to communicate "the emotions of his own soul to the souls of others, even at the price of laborious work, and his greatest joy will be that of seeing other souls also vibrating with the happiness of his emotions."
Mucha: 'Beauty is the Communication of Emotion'--
Lectures on art: A supplement to The graphic work of Alphonse Mucha 

Otto Greiner: Observation and Imagination

Otto Greiner (German, 1869 - 1916) sketched from life, and those observations informed his imaginative work. 

Otto Greiner: Observation and Imagination

Here he sketches his self portrait in a mirror. His legs are crossed to raise his drawing board. He seems to have a drawing tool in each hand.

Otto Greiner: Observation and Imagination

This imaginative etching shows Christ (at center) being led to Golgotha. A convict is bound to the cross at left, and there's a grotesque figure of death with a scythe at right.

Otto Greiner: Observation and Imagination

Here's Greiner's portrayal of his drawing teacher.

Otto Greiner: Observation and Imagination

This one is a study for the Triumph of Venus (1909), and seems to be painted from life with the angel wings added. 

Speaking of winged figure, here's a tall vertical image of Ganymede:

Otto Greiner: Observation and Imagination

Ganymede in Greek mythology was "the most beautiful of mortals, abducted by the gods, to serve as Zeus's cup-bearer in Olympus."
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More examples online:

Thoughts about Bastien-Lepage from Breton



Thoughts about Bastien-Lepage from Breton
Jules Bastien-Lepage, Portrait of my Grandfather, 1874

In his autobiography, Jules Breton said: "[Jules] Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884) will leave a lasting fame. This young artist, cut down in the flush of his promise, was a true investigator. How conscientious was his work! He made his debut with a masterpiece, the 'Portrait of my Grandfather.' Touching familiarity, simple and accurate drawing, admirable truth of tone, strong and fine harmony, just relation of the figure to the background—all are there."

Abstracted Realism

Some call it "deconstructed realism," while others call it "disrupted realism" or "abstracted realism." 

Alex Kanevsky

The artwork suggests that the power of chaos rivals the power of order, or that the will to destroy equals the will to create.

John Wentz 

The painting contains both randomness and illusionism, signal and noise. 


Who are the inspiring progenitors of this movement? Beyond the abstract painters such as Franz Kline and Richard Diebenkorn, several realist painters can be identified as stylistic influencers: Andrew WyethRichard SchmidAntonio López García, and Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter

Richter, a painter with remarkable range and versatility, became known for taking a realistically painted face and smearing the oil paint with a squeegee.

Johanna Bath still II, Oil on Canvas, 19.7 W x 23.6 H x 0.8 D in

Gerhard Richter's influence can be felt in artists who use the rubbed out look, such as Johanna Bath.

Mia Bergeron
Seeing a painting created this way leaves no doubt that it's a painting, and it may remind the viewer of the struggle of creation or the fickleness of illusion.

Adam by Greg Manchess

When painters efface the surface of a portrait, they typically leave the eyes in a carefully finished state, both because of the psychological importance of the eyes, and to show that they're capable of painting realistically. 

But not always. Sometimes artists deliberately disrupt the mouth, eyes, or head. 


Artist Zack Zdrale says in the book Disrupted Realism, "I've taken passages of traditionally rendered figures and smashed them, breaking the illusion of form in space. I want to show the paint doing things that only paint can do."

Michelle Kohler

Michelle Kohler says: "Most of my years spent studying were focused on portraiture, as expressed through realism. As an artistic discipline, it has been a constant throughout my life. But it was only after a fortuitous departure into abstract painting that I was able to playfully and courageously combine two disciplines. Deconstructed Realism is my expression of artistic independence and creativity as it pertains to the depth and complexity of human portraiture."

(Link to YouTube) Mia Bergeron says that her approach to painting grew out of a frustration with the academic approaches to realism.

The deconstructive approach includes not just figural work, but also landscapes and cityscapes. 

Other artists that you've suggested to check out in the comments: Julie T. Chapman, Patrick Kramer, Jenny Saville,

More info:

Book: Disrupted Realism: Paintings for a Distracted World



Arrival of Schoolgirl to Blind Father

Vasily Perov (Russian, 1833 or 4-1882) painted Arrival of Schoolgirl to Blind Father in 1870. The painting is unfinished, and the unfinished parts give us insight into his picture-making process.

Arrival of Schoolgirl to Blind Father
Vasily Perov, Arrival of Schoolgirl to Blind Father, 1870

Two figures in a doorway appear in the pencil line stage at the far left. Presumably the woman in the dress facing away from us is the girl's mother.

Arrival of Schoolgirl to Blind Father

Is the man the husband, and is he holding a baby? If so, that would add a lot to the story of the schoolgirl returning to her father and it might explain her expression.

Arrival of Schoolgirl to Blind Father
The young woman's hand is also in an unfinished state. It appears that Perov changed his mind about the hand after the first attempt to paint it, and he then removed the paint down to the canvas and redrew it, ready for repainting. 

Given that the pencil lines are stated simply without sketchiness, it's probable that he had a full size drawing on thin paper and that he transferred the drawing to the canvas with some sort of graphite coated paper.

Arrival of Schoolgirl to Blind Father--

Online: Vasily Perov on Wikipedia

Book: Vasily Perov: Paintings, Graphic Works

Nikolai Astrup at the Clark

There are three days left for the exhibition Nikolai Astrup: Visions of Norway at the Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts.

Nikolai Astrup at the Clark

Nikolai Astrup (Norwegian, 1880-1928), Rainy Atmosphere beneath the Trees at Jølster Parsonage,
before 1908. Oil on canvas, 35 1/16 x 43 5/16 in. (89 x 110 cm).
Savings Bank Foundation DNB / KODE Art Museums and Composer Homes, Bergen

The Clark's website says: "Astrup’s oeuvre is notable for its intense, colorful palette, and the magical realism of his remarkable landscapes. Paintings and woodcuts from all periods of his career are presented in the exhibition, including multiple impressions of print compositions that reveal how Astrup modified the mood and meaning of these works through changes in color and the addition or deletion of motifs, often using multiple blocks to create his complex prints.
 
Nikolai Astrup at the Clark

"Astrup’s work responded to, and helped shape, Norway’s emerging national identity. He created a distinctive visual language that expands on the intentions and achievements of composer Edvard Grieg (1843–1907) and playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906) in Norwegian music and literature, respectively."
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The show Nikolai Astrup: Visions of Norway is up through September 19.

Brothers Klimt

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), known for his semi-abstract paintings, began in a realist mode, painting theatrical curtains and murals. 

He formed a company with his younger brother Ernst, who worked diligently on this complex painting of street theater. 

Brothers Klimt
Hanswurst on the fair stage by Ernst and Gustav Klimt,
1884-92, 450 x 100 cm Burgtheater, Vienna

It features a stock comic character called Hanswurst on the stage pointing to his forehead as the crowd looks on.

Brothers Klimt
Ernst and Gustav Klimt, 1884-92.

Ernst died in 1892 of an inflammation of the pericardium, leaving the painting unfinished, so Gustav finished it, adding a few more figures. 
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Zorn's Brewery Painting

Zorn's Brewery Painting
Anders Zorn, The Little Brewery, 1890 oil on canvas, 47.5 x 78cm

The museum website says: "In this interior from a brewery, women workers are bottling beer and corking the filled bottles. In the background, a supervisor is watching over their work. Women factory workers were not a new phenomenon in the era of Swedish industrialization. Their work could be both heavy and hazardous, but Zorn’s painting can hardly be interpreted as social criticism. On the contrary, he seems to have been mostly interested in capturing the light, the humidity and their concentration as they worked."

Footnote: I think the museum curator is right. He's not doing social criticism but rather has a deep affection for the people and the process of the brewery. Zorn's dad owned a brewery, and he grew up around the types. 

I'm guessing this painting was his response to the work scenes that Sargent painted in Venice, kind of a way of saying "I can pull this off, too."

History Paintings by José Moreno Carbonero

 José Moreno Carbonero (1858-1942) was a Spanish painter who brought moments of history to life with grandeur and pageantry. 

History Paintings by José Moreno Carbonero
Prince Don Carlos of Viana, 1881 by José Moreno Carbonero

He studied in Paris with Gerome, and spent time in Rome.

History Paintings by José Moreno Carbonero
The Entry of Roger de Flor in Constantinople by José Moreno Carbonero
Height: 350 cm (11.4 ft); Width: 550 cm (18 ft)

One of his large works shows "the Italian mercenary Roger de Flor and his troops of Almogavar warriors entering the city to relieve the Byzantine emperor from the Turkish."

History Paintings by José Moreno Carbonero
The Conversion of the Duke of Gandía by José Moreno Carbonero

This painting illustrates a spiritual—and gruesome—moment as San Francisco de Borja, Marquis of Lombay converted to Christianity "after contemplating the rotten corpse of Empress Isabel of Portugal, wife of Emperor Carlos I of Spain. The empress died in Toledo on May 1, 1539, her body being transferred to Granada, the city where the scene represented in the painting took place. When the duke contemplated that the corpse of the empress, whose beauty had captivated the entire Castilian Court, had decomposed due to the heat of the trip, the nobleman decided to 'Never again, never again serve a lord that I may die,'" He then entered the Order of the Jesuits.

History Paintings by José Moreno Carbonero

In “La aventura de los mercaderes” (Adventure of the Merchants), Carbonero illustrates a scene from Don Quixote where the knight from La Mancha confronts a group of silk merchants in his usual psychotic fashion and ends up getting beaten by one of their servants with his own broken lance.

History Paintings by José Moreno Carbonero
Adventure of the Merchants by José Moreno Carbonero

Here's a detail showing the care he lavished on each figure.
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Quotes from Wikipedia: José Moreno Carbonero

Yablonskaya Visits a Collective Farm


Yablonskaya Visits a Collective Farm
Tatiana Yablonskaya, Bread (or Grain), 1949 Tretyakov Gallery

Tatiana (or Tetyana) Yablonskaya (Ukranian, 1917-2005) produced more than 300 drawings and studies for her composition showing the grain being harvested for the making of bread.

Yablonskaya Visits a Collective Farm

She traveled to a working farm to document the harvest. Her painting expresses the optimism of the early Soviet years. She said: "The vast scope of work performed by the united, happy workers at the collective farm astonished me. Being there made me clearly realize what a big debt our art still owed to our great people, how little it had done to reveal all the greatness and dignity of the Soviet people."

Yablonskaya Visits a Collective Farm

In planning the composition she said that she "did not paint individual people or details of the landscape, I tried to capture whole groups, along with trucks, sacks, and structures, naturally forming a unique composition that one can only find in real life."

Yablonskaya Visits a Collective Farm 

Yablonskaya "wanted to show the communal energy of work, the joy of collective labour... Happy, always accompanied by song, shared work. Its vigorous pace and joyous cadence left a strong impression on me, and I tried to express it in all my studies, and especially in my sketches and drawings."

Yablonskaya Visits a Collective Farm

But according to a museum publication, conservatives criticized the work because they felt that her expressive paint handling undermined the the realism of the scene, and that it "revealed the harmful influence of Impressionism, and where 'realism was sacrificed to the so-called painterliness.' 

Yablonskaya Visits a Collective Farm
Tatiana Yablonskaya, detail of Bread (or Grain), 1949

Fortunately, critics later exonerated her, and the painting is one of the most cherished images in the Russian collection.

Yablonskaya Visits a Collective Farm

Yablonskaya Visits a Collective FarmYablonskaya said, "In order to create truly valuable works of art, the artist has to live with the people and learn about every aspect of their lives. To observe life in its entirety. Only then one may be able to sum it up. This is why I am convinced that I was absolutely right to make so many sketches during my stay at the collective farm."
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Mucha: 'Beauty is the Communication of Emotion'Otto Greiner: Observation and ImaginationThoughts about Bastien-Lepage from BretonAbstracted RealismArrival of Schoolgirl to Blind FatherNikolai Astrup at the ClarkBrothers KlimtZorn's Brewery PaintingHistory Paintings by José Moreno CarboneroYablonskaya Visits a Collective Farm

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