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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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Andrew Wyeth's Images of Death

 Andrew Wyeth's Images of Death
Andrew Wyeth, Spring, 1978, tempera, 24 x 48

Andrew Wyeth was always fascinated by the subject of mortality.

 Andrew Wyeth's Images of Death
Andrew Wyeth, Dr. Syn, 1981, tempera on panel (21.5" x 19")

Before his own death in 2009, he painted several visions of skeletons, funerals, and gravesites.

 Andrew Wyeth's Images of Death
Andrew Wyeth, Drawing from Funeral Group

He worked on preliminary sketches for a composition of himself lying in a coffin, surrounded by the people who were important to him, such as his wife Betsy, and his models Helga and Anna Kuerner.

This "Funeral Group" of sketches offers a tantalizing hint at a composition that he never completed. "I might die before it's done," he said. "Maybe you'll only have a pile of loose ideas." 

 Andrew Wyeth's Images of Death
Andrew Wyeth, Snow Hill, tempera on panel, 48 x 72 inches, 1989

The Funeral Group sketches, along with a few selected finished works on the subject of death and life, are included in an exhibition currently on view at Colby College Museum of Art in Maine. The exhibition will be up through October 16, 2022.

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Wikipedia on Andrew Wyeth

Museum catalog: Andrew Wyeth--Life and Death


Wyeth Drawings on Display

Wyeth Drawings on Display
Undercover Study by Andrew Wyeth, 1970, pencil

It's a rare treat to be able to see drawings and studies by members of the Wyeth clan.

 Wyeth Drawings on Display

N.C. Wyeth, seated nude, charcoal, 1900.

The art produced by the Wyeth lineage—N.C., Andrew, Carolyn, and Jamie—grows out of a tradition of academic drawing and close observation. 

In the case of Andrew, Carolyn, and Jamie, it wasn't an atelier or an art school setting where they learned these skills, but something passed down privately through the family.

Wyeth Drawings on Display

Andrew Wyeth, charcoal portrait of Martin Leonard, 1936

The Fenimore Art Museum is currently displaying these mostly unpublished and unseen drawings. They're divided into several categories; academic renderings, figure studies, anatomy drawings, observations of the model, and animal sketches.

Wyeth Drawings on Display

  N.C. Wyeth, Oisin in the Land of Youth (composition drawing), 1940, graphite

Victoria Wyeth, Andrew's granddaughter, curated the show with the help of her uncle Jamie. 

They offer the benefit of an insider's perceptions. They recall, for example, that Carolyn would walk around in  studio wearing her father's knickers, which were eccentric even in N.C.'s day.

Wyeth Drawings on Display

Jamie Wyeth, pig drawing, 1969

There are a lot of kinds of observational drawings on view, so the art student or practicing artist will enjoy the behind-the-scenes glimpses. 

However, I wish there were more imaginative drawings, thumbnails, process pieces and a few finished paintings that would have shown the complete evolution of an idea from first concept to the end result. 

Wyeth Drawings on Display

Andrew Wyeth, Undercover Study, 1970, watercolor (included)

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Drawn from Life: Three Generations of Wyeth Figure Studies is at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY through September 5

Enchanted Exhibition in Tennessee

The Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee is showing a fantasy art exhibition, and it's turning out to be a success. 

Enchanted Exhibition in Tennessee

Chief Curator Nandini Makrandi says: "The exhibition has gone extremely well, with larger than usual attendance for us. It’s been really fun to see everyone enjoying themselves in the galleries."

Enchanted Exhibition in Tennessee

Cara McGowan, Director of Marketing & Communications, says the response has been "overwhelmingly positive. Visitation has been strong, with lots of first-time guests (or those who haven’t been to the museum in a while) coming to see the exhibition."

Enchanted Exhibition in Tennessee

Adera Causey, Curator of Education, says the museum has developed lots of programs for adults and kids connected to the exhibition. She says: "our summer campers have been delighted by it and it has inspired lots of monster-, dragon-, sword-, and fairy-themed art works by our campers." She says that the show has brought in lots of new guests, but also has helped existing audiences see the museum in new ways, too.
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Enchanted: The History of Fantasy Illustration" will be at the Hunter Museum through September 5, after which it travels to Flint, Michigan. The original curator and organizer of the traveling exhibit is Jesse Kowalski of the Norman Rockwell Museum. 

Exhibition about Lincoln Memorial Opens at NRM

Exhibition about Lincoln Memorial Opens at NRM

Daniel Chester French in his studio

The Norman Rockwell Museum has opened an exhibition about Daniel Chester French and the Lincoln Memorial.

Exhibition about Lincoln Memorial Opens at NRM

John C. Johansen (Danish-American, 1876-1964) Daniel Chester French in the Chesterwood Studio, 1926

The Museum partnered with nearby Chesterwood, the home and studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French, to assemble a trove of sculptural maquettes and artwork that detail how the memorial was conceived and executed.

Exhibition about Lincoln Memorial Opens at NRM
John Russell Pope (1874-1937) Design proposal for a Monument to Abraham Lincoln 
(Mayan temple style), 1912.

One of the initial ideas for the building to house the memorial shows a stepped pyramid at the end of the Mall.

Exhibition about Lincoln Memorial Opens at NRM

Among the artists attending were Shawn Fields, who illustrated a children's book called Monument Maker Daniel Chester French and the Lincoln Memorial, and Garin Baker, who created a massive mural about the making of the Monument called "28 Blocks." 

Exhibition about Lincoln Memorial Opens at NRM

I'm represented by a grisaille sketch I did at the location, the first time I saw the impressive monument.

Exhibition about Lincoln Memorial Opens at NRM

The other rooms of the museum are filled with extraordinary paintings by Norman Rockwell.

Norman Rockwell Museum

Color in French Art Prints

Color in French Art Prints
The Clark Art Institute in northwestern Massachusetts is presenting an exhibit of French printmaking called Hue and Cry: French Printmaking and the Debate Over Colors. It examines how color found its way into the world of black and white prints. 

Color in French Art Prints

Philibert Louis Debucourt, The Climb, or Morning Farewell, 1787, 
Color engraving on paper. The Clark Art Institute, 1955.1897.

The earliest prints were all black and white, using methods such as woodcut, wood engraving, and etching. When the technology made it possible to print in full color, tastemakers in France dismissed them, arguing that they were cheap and low-class. 

The exhibit includes fine examples of these early intaglio color prints, such as the one above.

Color in French Art Prints

When color lithography was developed, artists embraced it as a fast and efficient method that was perfect for large public posters. The show includes many prints by Jules Chéret, the master of the show poster.

Color in French Art Prints

Jules Chéret, Lady with a Mask [Comedy], c. 1891, Lithograph in sanguine on paper. The Clark Art Institute, 1955.2391.

I was also impressed by the informal sanguine prints by Jules Chéret, where he explores different arrangements of carefree figures. 

Color in French Art Prints
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, An Englishman at the Moulin Rouge

The exhibition also includes prints by Pierre Bonnard, Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, Maurice Denis, Camille Pissarro, Edouard Vuillard, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.  

I was hoping the show would include printed works by Alphonse Mucha. He was Czech, technically, but he was the major star in the Paris print scene, and his graphic works were extremely influential. Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen and Eugène Grasset were also notably missing from the show, perhaps because the Clark doesn't have good examples of the color prints in their collection. 

A secondary exhibit called "Competing Currents" about Japanese prints of the 20th century makes a perfect enhancement to the show. I'll share more about that on a future post. 

Hue and Cry: French Printmaking and the Debate Over Colors closes March 6. Admission is free for the month of January.

Enchanted Goes Next to Tennessee

  Enchanted Goes Next to Tennessee

"Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration" will travel next to Tennessee in May 20, 2022 through September 5, 2022  

Enchanted Goes Next to Tennessee
"Skeleton Pirate" and "Garden of Hope

Two of my paintings were part of the big fantasy exhibition, which happened summer 2021 at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
 
Enchanted Goes Next to Tennessee Artists also include Arthur Rackham, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Gustave Doré, NC Wyeth, Herbert Draper, Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parrish, Frank Frazetta, Winsor McCay, Jessie Willcox Smith, Joseph Clement Coll,  Willy Pogany, J. Allen St. John, Dean Cornwell, Virgil Finlay, Hal Foster, and many more.

The catalog produced by Abbeville, includes 180 images, mostly in color, with essays by Alice Carter, Stephanie Plunkett, and others.

After it goes to the Hunter Museum of America Art in Chattanooga, the exhibition "Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration" will travel to the Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, MI -- September 23, 2022 through January 8, 2023

Eden Musée

Eden Musée

Eden Musée opened in 1884, and it served up amusements and exhibitions to New York City. In the basement was the Chamber of Horrors. Upstairs was a collection of paintings and a waxwork collection. And there was a theater for viewing motion pictures, magic lantern shows, and marionettes.  

Eden Musée
"The intention of the Musee was to create a Temple of Art. It was filled with tableaux of icy solitudes, the burning sun of Africa as well as figures of distinguished persons, rulers, artists and scientists of the time. The Musee stood on 23rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues for nearly thirty years before closing its doors for the last time in 1915 - a sign of changing times. The collection from the Musee was then moved to Coney Island before it was completely destroyed in a fire in February 1932."
Online: Eden Musée on Wikipedia

Repin Exhibition in Paris


Repin Exhibition in Paris

A retrospective of artwork of Ilya Repin (1844-1930) called "To paint the Russian soul" (Peindre l'âme russe) is currently on view in Paris.

Repin Exhibition in Paris

"Le Petit Palais in Paris presents the first French retrospective dedicated to Ilya Repin, one of the greatest glories of Russian art. Little known in France, his work is nevertheless considered an essential milestone in the history of Russian painting of the 19th and 20th centuries. Around a hundred paintings, on loan from the National Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the State Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg and the Art Museum of the Ateneum in Helsinki, some of which are very large, will allow us to retrace his journey. through his masterpieces."

Repin Exhibition in Paris

Repin Exhibition in ParisThe exhibition will be on view through the 23rd of January, 2022.
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Book in English: Ilya Repin

Wyeth and More in Albany

There are four great exhibitions going on in Albany, and they're all in one museum: The Albany Institute of History and Art.

Wyeth and More in Albany

The first is The Wyeths: Three Generations: Works from the Bank of America Collection, which includes a couple dozen illustrations by N.C. Wyeth.

Wyeth and More in Albany

The show includes the cover and endpaper art of Rip Van Winkle, plus illustrations from The White Company and Drums.

Wyeth and More in Albany
 Andrew Wyeth (American, 1917-2009), On the Edge, 2001, Tempera on panel, Bank of America Collection.

There's also a big selection of works by NC Wyeth's son Andrew, his daughter Henriette, and his grandson Jamie. Because these are in the Bank of America Collection, they're not often seen except in traveling exhibitions.

Wyeth and More in Albany

Another show that's on view at the museum is a single large room filled with their famous collection of Hudson River School paintings, hung salon-style. 

Wyeth and More in Albany

Another small but impressive show is Romancing the Rails: Train Travel in the 1920s and 1930s, which focuses on the advertising art that promoted rail travel in the USA.

Wyeth and More in Albany
And there's a show called Fashionable Frocks of the 1920s which presents dresses from the flapper era, extravagant and bejeweled and made for dancing. We tend to think of the '20s in black and white, but it was a time of subtle and impressive coloration.
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The Albany Institute of History and Art also has a small collection of 19th century sculpture and a mummy. It's $10 for admission. The special exhibitions will be up for the remainder of the year.

Artists Collaborate with Museums to Explore Techniques

A growing number of art museums have teamed up with practicing artists to explore the painting methods of historical painters.  
 

Watercolor expert Mike Chaplin heads outdoors to demonstrate how J.M.W. Turner may have thought about tone (Link to YouTube). Instead of trying to copy a Turner, he paints directly from nature using materials and methods similar to what Turner might have used. Chaplin teamed with the Tate to produce similar videos with line and color.


London's National Gallery examines Titian's technique with commentary from art historians, conservators, and a practicing painter.  (Link to YouTube)


The Victoria and Albert Museum has demonstrated techniques of Renaissance artists (Link to YouTube).

Other museums such as the Yale Art Gallery have hosted illustrated lectures by conservators about painting methods, but it's not quite as engaging as watching someone try to replicate antique methods. It's a difficult gig for the living artist and it requires considerable humility.

Collaborations between artists and museum experts help to bring historical artists to life and make their work more approachable. Are you aware of other museum / artist collaborations? Please share them in the comments.
 Andrew Wyeth's Images of DeathWyeth Drawings on DisplayEnchanted Exhibition in TennesseeExhibition about Lincoln Memorial Opens at NRMColor in French Art PrintsEnchanted Goes Next to Tennessee Eden MuséeRepin Exhibition in ParisWyeth and More in AlbanyArtists Collaborate with Museums to Explore Techniques

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