Friday, 25 June 2010

40 Antibes landscapes in 4 months by Claude Monet

Of the places people like to paint, the south of France has been a favourite with many artists because of the quality of the light.  It's interesting therefore to look at the different ways in which different artists treated it.

Antibes 1888 by Monet, Claude  
Oil on canvas; 
height: 65.5 cm (canvas); width: 92.4 cm (canvas); 
height: 85 cm (frame) ; width: 112 cm (frame); depth: 11 cm (frame)

One of my favourite paintings is a painting of a tree, called Antibes, painted by Claude Monet.  Its home is the Courtauld gallery and I sketched it recently (see Sketching Antibes in the Courtauld) - and I then decided that I wanted to find out a bit more about it.

Sketch of "Antibes" 
by Claude Monet at the Courtauld Galley
11.5" x 8" in Large Moleskine Sketchbook, pencil and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Monet painted gardens and the coastline in the south of France in the late nineteenth century.  What I'd never realised before is that Monet produced a large number of paintings of Antibes, all painted in fourmonths between January and May of 1888.  They're not really a series but I think I'd argue that they're very much a stepping stone towards his series paintings of the 1890s.
"I'm painting the town of Antibes, a small fortified town turned gold by the sun, standing out against beautiful blue and pink mountains and the everlastingly snow covered Alps."
Claude Monet
By the late 1880s Monet was definitely beginning to become interested in developing his series paintings.  Maybe because he was getting older and more settled at Giverny?  Maybe because his reputation now meant that he could take more time over his painting projects and become more involved with his interest in painting light? 

He certainly stopped painting people and started painting single motifs seen again and again in different light, different weather and in different seasons.  He was also trying to widen his audience beyond those who were familiar with his Normandy roots and the associated landscapes.  He was also trying to decentralise Impressionism - to take it to places beyond Paris.

Antibes was suggested by his dealer as being the antithesis of the Belle Isle.  It also enabled Monet to say that he painted both the south as well as the north of France.

Having now viewed these paintings (links below) I think the Antibes series is the beginning of Monet experimenting with repeated paintings of the same motif.

However research shows that starting to paint in a new area or a new motif was not without its trials and tribulations.  Having reviewed by books about Monet (some of which are listed below) it's become apparent that Monet was setting himself challenges.  He wanted new sites but wasn't averse to moaning about the difficulties he had in getting his paintings to work when he found one.  He wrote to Berthe Morisot while in Antibes as follows
It is so difficult, so delicate, so tender particularly for me who is inclined towards tougher subjects
To Geffroy he said
I am very worried about what I am doing.  It is so beautifiul here, so clear and luminous!  You are bathed in blue air, it's frightening!
While in Antibes he produced around 40 paintings of a limited range of motifs.  He initially had concerns about repeating himself and looked for more motifs.

On his return he created an exhibition Ten Marines from Antibes from 10 of the paintings at Boussod and Valadon in June 1888, which was about a month after he left the south of France. This was his second show of closely related works and it generated comment in the press.  All the works exhibited were purchased for 11,900Fr by Theo van Gogh (the art dealer brother of Vincent).  The remaining works were purchased by Durand Ruel and others which were mainly resold quickly to dealers in the USA.

The paintings are now dispersed and so far as I am aware nobody has tried to pull them together as a collection since they were painted.  Some are in private collections, some are in major art museums and some seem to have disappeared.  What follows are links to the ones I could find - listed by the location of their current owners.

Cleveland Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
Courtauld Gallery, London
  • Antibes 1888 (aka The Esteral Mountains)
Kunstmuseum Basel
Museum of Fine Art Boston
As Monet grew older, his paintings became simpler. He began to focus on a single, isolated motif, the better to record the changes in color and light wrought on it by different times of day and fluctuations in weather. "Cap d'Antibes, Mistral" is one of three paintings of these very same trees that Monet made during his four-month sojourn in Antibes, from January through May 1888.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The ancient walled city of Antibes is a hazy, ethereal presence across the sea in this painting of the Mediterranean coast, in which Monet's smooth brushwork evokes the heat of the morning and the languid stillness of the landscape. At the suggestion of the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, the artist visited Antibes on the Mediterranean Sea from January to April 1888. During the 1880s Monet increasingly explored areas beyond Paris and Normandy in search of fresh, appealing motifs. Sometimes these ventures into new territory were accompanied by doubts and challenges, as in the south, where the brilliant sun troubled Monet. He wrote to his companion and future wife, Alice Hoschedé, from Antibes: "How beautiful it is here, to be sure, but how difficult to paint! I can see what I want to do quite clearly but I'm not there yet. It's so clear and pure in its pinks and blues that the slightest misjudged stroke looks like a smear of dirt." Despite Monet's misgivings about his ability to evoke Mediterranean light, in June 1888 the dealer Theo van Gogh, Vincent's brother, bought and exhibited ten paintings that Monet made at Antibes, this work among them.
Jennifer A. Thompson, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 72.
Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio
Private Collections
Unknown locations
The main difference between the Antibes series and Monet's other series paintings is that the Antibe series featured a small number of different motifs.  He painted the same view of some of them (eg Antibes seen from the Salis Garden) at different times of day thus creating the pattern which was to become much expanded in later series.  The compositions for the most part are very simple and feature pine trees at the shoreline, or a view of the bay and distant town of Antibes.  In the background of most of them are the Maritime Alps. 

What's very clear from viewing them altogether as a group is that Monet had to change his palette to capture the colours of the south of France. His technique for making marks also ensured that he mad small touches of pure colour juxtaposed to create a vibrant shimmering colour as seen through the haze of the heat.

It's highly likely that many were bought as souvenirs of visits to the area.
    My reference sources for this post included:   

    Monday, 21 June 2010

    Georgia O'Keeffe's landscapes of northern New Mexico

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    Pedernal, 1942
    Georgia O'Keeffe
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    Georgia O'Keeffe's favourite 'place to paint' landscapes was northern New Mexico. My personal view is that her landscapes although less well known are just as worthy of public attention and acclaim as her very famous paintings of flowers.

    Once O'Keeffe visited New Mexico she knew she would always return.  She first visited in 1917 and subsequently spent several summers there in the 1930s but only moved there permanently in 1949 after buying a property and the death of her husband, the fanous photographer Alfred Stieglitz.
    When Georgia O'Keeffe first visited New Mexico in 1917, she was instantly drawn to the stark beauty of its unusual architectural and landscape forms. In 1929, she began spending part of almost every year painting there, first in Taos, and subsequently in and around Alcalde, Abiquiu, and Ghost Ranch, with occasional excursions to remote sites she found particularly compelling. Georgia O'Keeffe and New Mexico is the first book to analyze the artist's famous depictions of these Southwestern landscapes.
    Princeton University Press
    This is a chronology of her relationship with New Mexico - sourced from a really excellent book about Georgia O'Keeffe and New Mexico: A Sense of Placeby Barbara Buhler Lynes, Lesley Poling-Kempes, Frederick W. Turner.  I've written a review of this book -Book Review: Georgia O'Keeffe and New Mexico which I've posted to Making A Mark Reviews today.

    DateGeorgie O'Keeffe in New Mexico
    1917Spends several days in Santa Fe, New Mexico
    1929 (April-August)Travels to Santa Fe.  Moves to Taos as a guest at the house of Mabel Dodge Luhan who provides O'Keeffe with a studio
    1930 (April-August)Stays in New Mexico as guest of Luhan or at H and M Ranch
    1934 (June-October)Stays in New Mexico after a nervous breakdown and a long stay in hospital in 1933. 
    Visits Ghost Ranch in Rio Arriba County in norther New Mexico for the first time
    1935 (July-November)In New Mexico at Ghost Ranch
    1936 (June-September)Spends her first summer living at Rancho de los Burros, the house at Ghost ranch which she buys in 1940
    Lives there every summer until 1949 when she moves to New Mexico permanently
    1937 (July-October)Visits New Mexico
    1938 (August-November) Visits New Mexico
    1940 (June-November)In New Mexico - buys Rancho de los Burros - a house and 7 acres (part of the Ghost Ranch which is owned and run by a spiritual community)
    Meets Maria Chabot in October (who subsequently manages Ghost Ranch and helps organise painting trips)
    1941-1945In New Mexico for several months each year
    1945 (December)Purchases a ruined hacienda in Abiquiu some 16 miles (26 km) south of Ghost Ranch, which subsequently becomes O'Keeffe's second home and studio in Albiquiu
    This is located at County Road 164, House No. 13, Abiquiu, New Mexico
    1946In New Mexico (her husband Alfred Steiglitz dies in July 1946)
    1947 (August-December)In New Mexico
    1948 (April-October)In New Mexico
    1949Moves permanently to New Mexico; she splits her time between the property at Ghost ranch and the property in Abiquiu
    1971Loses central vision but retains peripheral vision
    1984Age 97, moves to Sol y Sombra - a house in Santa Fe
    March 6 1986Dies at St Vicent's Hospital, Santa Fe

    Her famous reluctance to engage with people other than those she knew well suggests one of the attractions of New Mexico was the scope to be alone and 'away from the madding crowds'.  Descriptions of her behaviour suggest to me somebody who was very much an introvert who was intensely absorbed with working out her own view of the world without distraction.  Put simply, she only needed the subject to paint, she didn't need any people to go with it - and none of her paintings ever include people. 

    Another attraction arises from the very diverse geology of the place.  The view from the back of her home at Ghost Ranch alone provided a profile and told the story of rocks layed down over the last 220 million years.  Much of the softer rocks were deeply furrowed and lined from heavy rain and water run-off.  While the harder rocks stuck out - up and above - becoming weathered with age and wind.  In other areas rock has eroded to produce holes between the different strata.

    What's fascinating about the book is it shows you photographs of the places she painted in New Mexico alongside the paintings.  Plus it explains the geology and how and why the shapes and colours are so wonderfully different from anywhere else.
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    The Red Hills, Grey Sky
    Georgia O'Keeffe
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    The changing light on the rich colours of the hills and cliffs provided an unending range of possibilities to paint.   To me she seems to have constantly simplified and abstracted what she saw without departing from the overall shape and form.  She also heightened the colours but stayed true to their hues.
    Badlands roll away from my door, hill after hill - red hills of apparently the same earth that you mix with oil to make paint...  All the earth colours of the painter;'s palette are set out there in the many miles of badlands.  The light naples yellow through the ochres - orange and red and purple earth - even the soft earth greens.
    Georgia O'Keeffe 1935 (page 31 op cit)
    I think one of the aspects which most attracted her was the scope to be inventive her palette and to explore the relationships between colours as well as forms.
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    Blue River
    Georgia O'Keeffe
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    Her favourite places (and motifs) included:
    • Pedernal - the flat topped moutain to the south of the Ranch
    • Black Mesa
    • Red Hills - see the above painting The Red Hills, Grey Sky
    • Lavendar Hills to the east
    • Purple Hills - a mesa near ghost ranch which darkened in the rain
    • the Chama River - see the above painting Blue River
    • Black Place: She developed an intense interest in what is called the "Black Place" 150 miles west of Ghost Ranch, northeast of Youngsville between Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico in northern New Mexico, which she photographed with Eliot Porter in 1948, 1953, 1959, and 1977. O'Keeffe said that the Black Place resembles "a mile of elephants with gray hills and white sand at their feet."
    • White Place: the enromous white cliffs in the Plaza Colorado a land grant north of Abiquiu.  This white rock formation located near her Ghost Ranch. In 1977, O'Keeffe said that the "cliffs over there are almost painted for you -- you think -- until you try to paint them."
    Knowledgeable visitors can look around and identify many of the scenes she painted. Red and gray hills like those across from the roadside park south of the ranch headquarters were frequent subjects. Kitchen Mesa at the upper end of the valley is an example of the red and yellow cliffs she painted many times. Pedernal, the flat-topped mountain to the south, was probably her favorite subject. "It's my private mountain," she frequently said. "God told me if I painted it often enough I could have it."
    Georgia O'Keeffe and the Ghost Ranch Landscape Tour
    When she died in March 1986, her instructions were that she should be cremated the next day and then her ashes should be scattered to the winds from the top of the Pedernal Mountain, over her beloved "faraway".

    She owned two homes because Ghost Ranch was a summer place and she needed somewhere for the winter as well.  The Ghost Ranch house is not open to the public.  However, for those like me who love visiting the homes and studios of artists, tours of the Abiquiu house are available on a limited basis and by appointment.  There is also a Georgia O'Keeffe and the Ghost Ranch Landscape Tour

    I RECOMMEND you take a look a

    No place made as big an impression on O’Keeffe as New Mexico did. In early summer 1929, O’Keeffe traveled from New York to northern New Mexico, having first seen the area in 1917, when she returned to Texas from a vacation in Colorado. As she later explained: “When I got to New Mexico that was mine. As soon as I saw it that was my country. I’d never seen anything like it before, but it fitted to me exactly. It’s something that’s in the air, it’s different. The sky is different, the wind is different. I shouldn’t say too much about it because other people may be interested and I don’t want them interested.” (In Perry Miller Adato, Georgia O’Keeffe, film.)
    Georgia O'Keeffe Museum - Landscapes slideshow
    This post can only give you a hint of the place and O'Keeffe's long-lasting fascination with the badlands of northern New Mexico.  If you'd like to know more about Georgia O'Keeffe and her landscape paintings (and her other paintings) can I suggest you either buy the book or consult my information site Georgia O'Keeffe - Resources for Art Lovers which contains all the links I can find to information about her life, her art, her homes and sources of further information about all aspects of her life.

    Note:  O'Keeffe died in 1986 and her estate retains copyright of her work so I'm using reproductions of her work as images in this post.  I have an affiliate relationship with

    Sunday, 20 June 2010

    JM Whistler's pastel landscapes of Venice

     The Guidecca - Winter: Grey and Blue (1879) by James Abbott McNeill Whistler
    8"x 11.75", chalk drawing

    I'm a huge fan of Whistler's pastel landscapes.  He made a number in his lifetime however he did a series in Venice while there making his suite of etchings of Venice following the court case against Ruskin which he lost.

    Margaret F. MacDonald writes about his approach to using pastels in  Palaces in the Night: Whistler in Venice. She reckons he used pastels when it was too cold to etch plein air.

    The Zattere: Harmony in Blue and Brown by James Abbott McNeill Whistler
    11" x 7.5", chalk drawing
    His technique for drawing landscapes using pastels is as follows:
    • use the colour of the paper to set the tone of the work
    • draw the outline of subject using black chalk; (his line shows the skill of an artist who can wield an engaving needle with dexterity)
    • limited application of coloured pastels; note there is no attempt to fill the tooth of the paper
    • delicate use of the side of the pastel (a breath on the paper) to scumble across the paper with the point being used to create emphasis
    Note also that the size of the support for the above work is A4 although to my eye it 'seems' bigger.  When drawing or etching he always seems to work at a size which is easily portable.

    You can find out more about Whistler in my information site which I compiled following a project about him - see James McNeill Whistler - Resources for Art Lovers 

    A contemporary artist who uses much the same technique with pastels is Diana Armfield RA RWS

    Saturday, 19 June 2010

    British Council - Landscape Art Collection

    A happy accident led me to this website which is home to an index of Landscape Art and Landscape Artists in the collection of the British Council.

    The British Council is the UK's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.  Its aims is to build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people worldwide.
    For more than 60 years the British Council has been collecting works of art, craft and design to promote abroad the achievements of our artists, craft practitioners and designers. The Collection, started in the late 1930s, with a modest group of works on paper has now grown to a collection of more than 8000 artworks covering all media and all aspects of British art and design of the 20th and 21st Centuries. The Collection has no permanent gallery and has been referred to as a 'Museum Without Walls'.
    About the British Council Art Collection

    The links to the artists provide:
    • an overview of each artist
    • sources for further reading about the artist (if available)
    • links to the works in the collection - including larger views of each work.  (Note that as the index is artist-oriented, not all of the works oin the collection are landscapes - but ach artist listed will have at least one work designated as a landscape)
    • which British Council sponsored exhibitions in which the works have been included
    It's a veritable treasure trove of viewing for fans of British Landscape Art!

    Some of the artists are extremely well known - including prominent artists of the past and present.  Some I've never heard of - but will look forward to discovering more about them.

    The artists are:

    Monday, 7 June 2010

    The Field of Gold

    Did you know that today is the anniversary 490 years ago of the setting up of the Field of Gold?

    No - that's not the Eva Cassidy song.  I'm referring to the Field of the Cloth of Gold - the site of a meeting that took place from 7 June to 24 June 1520, between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France which was intended to consolidate their friendship following the Anglo-French treaty of 1514.

    What's fascinating from an artist's perspective is the painting which records the meeting and the local landscape.
    • Landscapes at that time almost always featured as a backdrop for something specific in the foreground and this one is no different.  
    • It's also interesting to look at how the artist treated perspective which reflects hierarchy as much as literal perspective.
    The Field of the Cloth of Gold
    coloured print by James Basire in 1774,
    from a 16th century oil painting in the Royal Collection.
    Source: Wikimedia

    The original painting The Field of the Cloth of Gold, 1520 was painted around about 1545.  Presumably it was painted for Henry VIII.  It's now owned by the Queen.

    It's an oil painting on canvas and measures 168.9 x 347.3 cm - that's 66.5 in x 136.7 in which makes this a VERY BIG painting since that's over 5 feet high by more than 11 feet wide.
    The meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold took place on 7 to 24 June 1520 in a valley subsequently called the Val d’Or, near Guisnes to the south of Calais. It derived its name from the sumptuousness of the materials used for the tents, pavilions and other furnishings. It was a spectacle of the greatest magnificence and the several artists responsible for this painting have made a fairly accurate visual summary of the various festivities that took place during the meeting of the two kings, which was dominated by a seventeen-day tournament.

    The English party was based at the town of Guisnes, seen in the left half of the painting.
    The Royal Collection

    I tried locating the land in the painting between Guisnes and Ardes in the Pas de Calais on Google France Maps/Streetview.  It's just east of where the Eurotunnel comes out.  It appears that today the site of the Champ d'Or (Field of Gold) is now home to a French hypermarché!

    Thursday, 3 June 2010

    Hawaii - Virtual Paintout in June

    Hawaii (extract from Google Maps)

    The Virtual Paintout for June is Hawaii!

    This is a link to Bill's Virtual Paintout blog and the thread of the Hawaii Virtual Paintout in June 2010.  

    View Larger Map
    There's lots to explore in Hawaii. Beaches (of course), urban scenes, farm scenes, beautiful vistas, etc. Currently only two of the islands have Street View available. So wander around those two all you like and find that perfect spot. 

    Please be careful to note the following in Bill's post
    It is necessary to stress the importance of a couple of rules. One is the image size issue. It states in the rules in the right sidebar on this blog that the image has to be at a resolution of 72 and no larger than 1000 pixels on the widest side. Submissions not following the rules will not be posted.

    Also, each artist must now include the URL of the location that the artwork is based upon.
    If your submission doesn't show up on the blog, please check the list near the top in the sidebar entitled, "Don't see your submission? This could be the reason..." Thanks.
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