Sunday, 27 February 2011

Places to paint: Riva degli Schiavoni

The Riva degli Schiavoni in Venice is a place which has proved popular over the years with various artists who have painted Venice - from Canaletto to Francesco Guardi to John Singer Sargent and more contemporary painters such as Ken Howard.

For one thing it provides a distant view of the church of Santa Maria della Salute.  It also has a long curve which provides an interesting perspective.

I've painted on the Riva degli Schiavoni but never portrayed it and I thought it might be inteersting to see how different artists have approached this task.

The first painting below - of the Doges Palace and the waterfront which is the Riva degli Schiavoni - appears to have been painted while sat in a boat in the Bacino of San Marco.  JMW Turner appears to have painted a number of his studies in this way given the perspectives he gets on places in Venice.  In 1840, the Riva is obviously a very busy place.

This is a late painting by Turner.  This is a link to Turner's 1840 sketchbook of Venice - Venice and Botzen Sketchbook [Finberg CCCXIII - which can be found online at Tate Britain.  From this you can see that most of his studies are done in pencil and are monochrome.  So was this study done in venice or constructed from his sketchbook wehn he got home?
Venice: The Doge's Palace and the Riva degli Schiavoni, from the Bacino  1840 JMW Turner (1755-1851)
watercolour on paper

How many times do you put off painting landscapes because the weather is grey?  John Singer Sargent is, in my opinion, a master of the coloured grey and well worth studying if you want to find out how to make a dull subject more interesting.  When you've looked at a few of his paintings of landscapes and city scapes in grey weather, I find I start to see the colour 'grey' in a totally different light!

This is a view of the Riva degli Schiavoni which is known as Venice in Grey Weather - but grey does not mean dull in this painting.

Venice in Grey Weather (1880) by John Singer Sargent
oil on canvas
Note how this painting delivers a masterly blend of:
  • complementary colours - subdued mauve greys offset by pale yellow ochre
  • a mix of colours (pinks, blues ochres) in the foreground creating interest in the large area of pavement on the Riva degli Schiavoni in Venice
Cafe on the Riva degli Schiavoni (1880-82) by John Singer Sargent
watercolour on paper
In this painting Sargent is very obviously sat at a table in front of one of the hotels or cafes (round about where the Danieli is located) painting the view looking west - in the evening - towards Santa Maria della Salute.  This one is certainly painted plein air, in situ.  I suspect the time of day might account for the people thinning out - or maybe Sargent just chose to paint very few of those who were passing?

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot also painted the Riva.  Corot is admired as a landscape painter but his landscapes are often rural and this painting which includes landmark architecture appears to me to be constructed from different studies in the studio.  I say this because the proportions and perspective of this view - right outside the Doge's Palace at the western end of the Riva - look "off" to me.

Venice, the Piazetta - View from the riva degli Schiavoni by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

James McNeil Whistler did a set of etchings of Venice after he had to leave London following his little 'run-in' with John Ruskin. 

The Riva, No. 1, 1879–80 Etching and drypoint by J M Whistler
This one is of the Riva.  It's suggested that the rooftops of the campanile of the basilica of San Marco are on the right.  In which case this etching was drawn plein air and transposed when printed.  It appears as if this was drawn from a window high up in one of the buildings adjacent to the Riva and the foreground area has been flattened in order to fir the format, include the foregorund interest and yet allow the recession of the buildings in the background

Riva degli Shiavoni

The Riva degli Schiavoni is a wide waterfront promenade and landing stage in Venice which borders the Basin of San Marco.  It starts outside the Doges Palace and continues eastwards towards the Arsenal.

It was constructed in the ninth century after the area was drained and silt was dredged from the bed of the Grand Canal.  The original width would have much more like that at its western end. In 1342 it was paved using birck.  Subsequently, it was enlarged in the last years of the Republic with work being completed in 1782. The Ponte della Paglia, which marks the beginning of Riva and the Bridge of the Ca 'di Dio marks the other end.

Its name relates to the Slav merchants who used to land meat and fish on the various wharves along its length. Waterbuses, private water taxis, gondolas and working boats continue to tie up along its length today.  It's also now home to some of the more expensive hotels in  Venice such as the Danieli

Riva degli Shiavoni - from Google Maps
The idea that one cannot paint subjects like Venice because they have been done before is frankly ridiculous.

There are no new subjects, only new languages. It is how you say it that matters, just as much as what you say.

Canaletto, Corot, Boudin, Sickert, Bonnington, Monet, Renoir all painted Venice, to name but a few. Why? Because it is the most beautiful, unique and inspirational place in the world. As long as there are painters there will be paintings of Venice.
Ken Howard

    Have you painted the Riva degli Schiavoni?

    Wednesday, 23 February 2011

    The Great British Landscape - Watercolour competition

    In the UK, most artists know about The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition. Now it would seem it has a new rival - in name if not in the size of the prize on offer.  But it's only open to non-professionals who paint the British landscape!

    Lindisfarne Castle by Thomas Girtin 1797
    watercolour on rough cartridge paper

    The Sunday Telegraph Watercolour Competition

    The Sunday Telegraph has decided to have a competition to mark the Watercolour exhibition at Tate Britain - see The Sunday Telegraph watercolour competition.

    They have chosen The Great British Landscape as the theme for the competition - doubtless in honour of the many great watercolour artists from the past who have produced magnificant images of the British Landscape. 

    However I predict there will be much umming in the land as people decide whether or not to categorise their work as amateur as this competition is categorically NOT open to professional artists.  Maybe think of it more like "non-professional" ie you don't make a living from your art........?

    Here are the details of the competition and how to enter.......

    Monday, 21 February 2011

    Winter Landscape: Kinryusan Temple at Asakusa by Ando Hiroshige

    Hiroshige was an artist of snow and rain 
    This, for me, is one of the "all time great" winter landscapes of an urban area under snow. It was created by the famous Japanese ukiyo-e artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) as part of the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo which was produced between 1856-8.  This one is Image #99.

    Kinryusan Temple at Asakusa by Ando Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858)
    From the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (JP2519)
    Oban format, woodblock print; ink and color on paper;
    H. 14 1/16 in. (35.7 cm), W. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm)
    In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006)

    Here, a large lantern and a temple gate are so closely viewed that motifs are cropped, while the use of one-point perspective, a Western technique, to depict the pathway to the main hall of Kinryusan temple contrasts the powerful details of the foreground with the inexorability of the temple hall in the distance.

    Source: Ando Hiroshige: Kinryusan Temple at Asakusa: From the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (JP2519) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Note also that:
    • all the people are turned away from the artist; many are further obscured by umbrellas
    • the leaden sky is captured perfectly - but the colour is also 'reflected' at the base of the painting
    • the red vertical of the doorway is echoed by the vertical banner and the tiered tower in the rear of the image
    • the terrific contrast between the red and the green of the buildings and the white and blue/grey of the natural elements - the snow and the sky - making this a very "look at me" image.
    You can read more about the landscapes of Hiroshige and the One Hundred Views of Edo in my information site Hiroshige - Resources for Art Lovers

    You can see more snow scenes by Hiroshige on John Stewart's excellent website about The Woodblock Prints of Ando Hiroshige

    Saturday, 12 February 2011


    The Paintmap website - showing the Venice Paintmap

    Continuing the Places to Paint theme of this blog, this is
    What is Paintmap?

    This is how the website explains the concept of Paintmap and how it functions
    Paintmap is a geolocation-oriented painting sharing website with the following goals: on one hand, it allows painters all around the World to locate physically the subject painted by others and learn about the artistic activity at a given area.

    On the other hand, Paintmap allows Google Earth users to complement the physical and photographic knowledge of a given area with the artistic descriptions provided by users.

    Last but not least, Paintmap will contribute to the capture of our nature and human heritage through the artistic work of users as a record for future generations.

    Last summer it had 300 participating artists and over 2,000 paintings on the site.

    What I like about it is that it shows and tells you where people were when they did specific paintings.

    Examples of artists on Paintmap

    These are artists who have got a page for their work on Paintmap
    Do you have a page on Paintmap?  What do you think of Paintmap as a website?

      Saturday, 5 February 2011

      The Faraway Nearby: Georgia O'Keeffe and the New Mexico Landscape

      The Faraway Nearby: Georgia O'Keeffe and the New Mexico Landscape is the title of a a video piece created by composer and multimedia artist Nell Shaw Cohen.  
      This piece features a chamber music score and footage of the New Mexico landscapes where painter O'Keeffe found inspiration.
      Nell left a comment on Georgia O'Keeffe's landscapes of northern New Mexicoto tell me about it.

      I took a look and was entranced.  Now I appreciate much better why it was that Georgia O'Keeffe made this part of northern New Mexico her home for so many years.  How could one fail to be stimulated by that landscape?

        What was also surprising was to learn about O'Keeffe's relationship to music - and all the various places where Nell went to film the landscape for the video.  You can read and see all about this in the blog which she created as a record of the making of this film - Nell Shaw Cohen Composer.

        Here are the links to the posts about specific places and landscape
        Here's Nell on the topic of her film.
        "The Faraway Nearby: Georgia O'Keeffe and the New Mexico Landscape" was funded in part by an Entrepreneurial Grant from New England Conservatory's Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department. The score, which was inspired by the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe, was composed prior to the conception of this video. I filmed on location in New Mexico in June 2010, and edited and animated the video over the summer. The video received its premiere screening, with a live ensemble performing the music, in November 2010. I am seeking additional screenings (with live performances or pre-recorded score) and gallery installations for this piece.
        I believe that painter Georgia O'Keeffe (1887--1986) achieved an important artistic ideal: to create new meanings, previously unrealized connections, and heightened ways of perceiving the world and filtering experience. I seek to do the same with "The Faraway Nearby": to offer new insight, new ways of experiencing the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe, and her source material -- to bring you into her world as I imagine it.
        "The Faraway Nearby" is about seeing. When I look at O'Keeffe's paintings of New Mexico, I am reminded of that remarkable landscape in a way that feels almost more immediate and more meaningful than the reality. I see the abstract shapes, colors, and compositional ideas that informed her interpretation of the visual world around her. I see the relationship to place that was immensely important to her, which she forged while hiking for endless hours through desert badlands. This piece is my attempt to create an immersive visual and musical experience that captures these qualities.

        Wednesday, 2 February 2011

        Sherrie York draws and prints the landscape underfoot

        Sherrie York (Brush and Baren) is a fine art printmaker who primarily produces original, hand-pulled relief prints in woodcut and linocut of the environment where she lives.
        Most of the images reflect my ongoing curiosity about the natural world: wildlife, wildlands, and sometimes not-so-wild places, too.
        Reduction linocut - 10 colors
        Edition of 10 | Image size 12" x 16 "
        Hand printed on Hosho paper.
        copyright Sherrie York
        I think her work is totally stunning and I'm impressed by it every time I review her website or blog. Sherrie has a huge talent in terms of draughtsmanship, the ability to see pictures where others wouldn't think to look and a wonderful sense of colour which enriches without being overwhelming.

        Sherrie is currently featuring as the Artist of the Month at the Pikes Peak Library Distric.  As a result of which she gets to have an exhibition - and to be on TV!

        This is a video which was made for the latter which explains:
        • how she became to become interested in the landscape underfoot
        • how she produces her linocuts of her enivironment using the reduction method and up to 12 colour printing (using a baren)

        Sherrie York: Art Underfoot

        I recommend you go take a good look at her blog and website if you like what you see in the video.

        You can also purchase small prints through her Etsy store, Rio Salida Art



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