Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Art Renewal Center Announces Winners

The Art Renewal Center has announced the award winners in the fifth International ARC Salon Competition.  Congratulations to everyone;  the artwork is very inspiring.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

On Learning from Richard Schmid

Undoubtedly, Richard Alan Schmid is one America's greatest living representational artists.  His contributions to the art world are immeasurable, not only because of the wonderful art he has left for us, but also because of the influential impact he has had on the many artists who have followed in his footsteps.  Such wonderful contemporary realists as Nancy Guzik, Scott Burdick, Susan Lyon, Rose Frantzen, Jeremy Lipking, and Casey Baugh have all benefitted from Schmid's teachings, and are in their own turn carrying on Schmid's legacy.

Now in his late seventies, Schmid has stopped offering workshops, and only occasionally presents demonstrations of his working methods (the upcoming Weekend with the Masters is one such example).  Thankfully, in 1973, Schmid began recording his lessons and philosophies in his seminal art instruction book, Richard Schmid Paints the Figure:  Advanced Techniques in Oil.  He followed this with Richard Schmid Paints Landscapes:  Creative Techniques in Oil (1975), and later, with his crowning achievement, Alla Prima: Everything I know About Painting. Upon the success of Alla Prima, Schmid also began offering videotaped demonstrations of his work, which, like his books, have become fast favorites.  Still, for many of us, we wish we were able to study directly with Schmid, no matter how wonderful are his teaching aids. 

Fortunately, the next best thing to studying one-on-one with Richard Schmid has just presented itself.  Gifted Massachusetts artist, Katie Swatland, has just collaborated with Schmid to offer monthly on-line lessons beginning in June.  A member since 2004 of the Putney Painters, an invitation-only group of artists who paint weekly alongside Schmid, Swatland began an intensified, regular course of study with Richard two years ago.  The monthly installments will offer "articles containing in-depth technical information on painting, step-by-step demonstration, pictures, video, and unlimited access to high-resolution images of paintings and demonstrations" by the master himself.

"I feel extremely humbled and grateful," says Swatland, "for the opportunity to learn from (Richard) directly.  I feel that it is extremely important to document these lessons and experiences so other people can have the opportunity to learn also.  I am hoping these monthly newsletters/lessons will help further emphasize Richard's teachings and help people understand fully these fundamentals of painting.  Richard is a brilliant man, generous, articulate, and a skillful painter- his knowledge needs to not only be shared but understood." 

Planned topics include:

  • The Value of Copying Works
  • Saturday Lessons with Richard, Nancy Guzik, and the Putney Painters
  • The Mancini Exhibit- Field trip to Philadelphia
  • The Art of the Block-In
  • The Quality of Brushwork- Make Each Stroke Have Purpose
  • Learning from your Failed Paintings
  • Everything is Relative- A Tribute to Albert Einstein
  • Squinting-  Learning to Use This Masterful Tool
  • Notes on Landscape Painting
  • Always A Student
  • Sargent, Zorn, and Sorolla-  The Brush Painters
  • Painters of Light
  • Composition and Design
  • The Cecilia Beaux Exhibit
  • The Vanderpoel Museum
  • Painting What You See
  • Discussions on Canvas and How to Prepare it Yourself
  • Painting Equipment and Tips on Customizing Your Own Painting Box
... and more.

Swatland, in addition to being a talented artist, holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Syracuse University, so her discussions promise to be structured and acutely analytical- a bonus for all of us seeking clear instruction.

Visit Katie Swatland's website to learn more.


On a side note, Katie is working with Richard on his upcoming landscape book, a book which I mentioned in an earlier post as an item to which I was looking forward, and about which I was quite excited.  Katie has told me that the book will contain over 160 high-quality images of Schmid's art!  It cannot be released soon enough for me!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Upcoming Events at Salmagundi Club NYC

April 29 - May 7, 2009:
 American Masters Show and Sale.  Artists include Bill Anton, Clyde Aspevig, Scott Christensen, Don Demers, Dennis Doheny, Sarah Lamb, David Leffel, Richard Schmid, and many more...

June 7 - 14, 2009:  Richard Schmid & His Influence:  Childhood Innocence

June 29 - July 10, 2009:  Non-Member Juried Exhibition  (deadline for entries must be postmarked no later than April 3, 2009)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Greg Manchess Interview at TOR.COM

On Tuesday, Irene Gallo, art director at TOR books, posted an interview with illustrator Gregory Manchess regarding his working methods on the new book, Canticle, by Ken Scholes.  Make sure to check it out.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Also on View: Steven Assael (b. 1957)

March 19 - May 2

Exhibition Catalog Available for $25.00

Forum Gallery
745 Fifth Avenue, 5th Floor
(between 57th & 58th Streets)
New York, NY 10151

Tuesday - Saturday 10 AM to 5:30 PM

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Random Inspiration: Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta (1841-1920)

A Portrait of Aline Masson Leaning on a Sofa
26.25" X 13.875", oil on panel
Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, Spanish, (1841 - 1920)

Born into a family of famous artists,  the Spanish painter, Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, was bound for greatness.  His early studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, and later in the studio of Leon Cogniet in Paris, prepared Madrazo for a career as a strict Academic painter.  Possibly under the influence of his brother-in-law, artist Mariano Fortuny, whose paintings were characterized by loose brushstrokes, Madrazo's art became more decorative, and his paint application, more direct, as his career progressed.  

In his pictures of his model and lover, Aline Masson, Madrazo achieved some of his greatest works, combining sensuality and elegance with his bravura brushwork and sophisticated palette. 

Madrazo's genre paintings of leisurely life were well sought-after in  fin de siècle Paris, and in the United States amongst its wealthy  collectors.  Today you can find his art in several American museums, most notably the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which owns several.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Color Palettes: Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 - 1912)

The Finding of Moses, 1904

We are fortunate that Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema is one of those rare Victorian artists of whom there is much information available, though that was almost not the case.  Soon after his death in 1912, Tadema's popularity greatly diminished, and he faced being relegated to obscurity by the Modernist politicos.  Luckily, nearly sixty years after his passing, Tadema's reputation and art were saved by the most unlikeliest of heroes. 

A Greek Woman

In My Studio

When Allen Funt, creator of TV's Candid Camera, wanted to decorate the living room of his new Manhattan apartment in a Victorian motif, he approached a London dealer looking for appropriate artwork for his whimsical theme.  The dealer asked Funt if he wanted to see a "picture by the worst painter who ever lived," and the curious Funt, who held a B.A. in Fine Arts from Cornell University, was introduced to his first Lawrence Alma-Tadema, which he purchased on the spot.  The year was 1965, and by 1973, Funt had amassed a group of 35 Tadema paintings, nearly ten percent of the artist's entire output, and the largest collection of the artist's work ever held by a single person:  this includes Tadema himself, whose paintings were in such demand during his career that he never could keep so many in his studio at a time.

Spring (detail), 1895

Spring (detail), 1895

Spring (detail), 1895

Sadly, Funt was forced to liquidate his entire collection in 1973, when he found himself without any savings, the victim of his accountant's embezzlement of $1,285,826 from the TV personality.  The paintings fetched $570,000 at Sotheby's Belgravia (London), and Funt was left with only photographs of his beloved paintings, and several of the original frames, custom-designed by Tadema, which, unfortunately, Funt had separated from their proper artworks.  Today, a single painting by Alma-Tadema, such as The Finding of Moses, which Funt sold in 1973 for $72,000,  is valued in the millions (The Finding of Moses sold at Christie's Auction House for $2,500,000 in 1995).


Cherries (detail)

The auction of Funt's collection of Tadema paintings in 1973, as well as the exhibit of those same works, begrudgingly displayed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art earlier that same year, brought renewed interest in the artist.  Since then, several museums have acquired Alma-Tadema paintings for large sums, when in the 1960's they wouldn't even accept them as gifts (The Newman Gallery tried to give away The Finding of Moses to museums in 1960 but could find no takers!).  There are now a number of monographs available on the artist, and his art has appeared in various exhibitions since the 1990s, as well as on merchandising around the globe, and at the Art Renewal Center, Tadema is the second-most popularly sought after artist of the over-five-thousand artists represented in their online museum.

Portrait of a Woman (detail) Unfinished

It is without doubt that Allen Funt's collecting of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's paintings led to the artist's current popularity.  Had not Funt followed his own tastes and ignored the conventions of the critics of the 1960's and '70's, we would not have the resources on Tadema that are available to us presently.  Though this resurgence came at quite a price to Funt, who died in 1999, I am sure that he, as a philanthropist and a man who liked to make people smile, would be happy to know that his art collection is directly responsible for bringing joy to so many art lovers today.

A Reading from Homer, 1885

Though Alma-Tadema's paintings show an increased brightness after 1885, it is most likely due to his move to a new studio with vaulted, aluminum ceilings, rather than any change in the colors he employed.  His palette, which owes its origins to London's Slade School, were as follows:

  • Brown Ochre
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Naples Yellow
  • Flake White
  • Orange Vermilion
  • Light Red
  • Chinese Vermilion
  • Rose Madder
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Ivory Black
And on occasion:

  • Raw Umber
  • Cadmium Yellow Deep

Exhausted Maenides After the Dance (detail)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Painting the Nude Outdoors

If you consider for a moment, you will perceive that painting the figure in the open involves a simultaneous attack on nearly every problem in the wide domain of art.  You have first of all the out-door questions of atmospheric vibration and refraction, and the consideration of the color-scale and value-scale;  then, in addition to these, you have practically all the in-door problems, which include figure-composition and arrangement, in addition to the usual problems of drawing and modelling(sic) - the latter presented in a reversed and unfamiliar form, owing to the new and unexpected color-reflections from the sky and surrounding sunlit landscape.
-Birge Harrison, Landscape Painting, 1909

In the above paragraph, Birge Harrison describes only partially the difficulties involved in  painting a figure en plein air (the most glaring omission of  Harrison's being the obstacle of the ever-changing light out-of-doors).   He goes on to dissuade the young artist from tackling this challenge, no matter how tempting it appears, because of the very many problems which need to be simultaneously addressed.  Even the best of artists must go through yards and yards of canvas before they execute a successful figure painting under these conditions.

Many artists have created paintings of nudes in a sylvan setting, though few were convincing as representations of an actual figure in the natural world.  Bouguereau, as example, painted many beautiful figures against a backdrop of nature, but there is little doubt that they were generated in a studio.  (Of course, it can be argued that it was not Monsieur Bouguereau's intention to capture this truth in nature, as mythology and allegory  were the subjects of his outdoor nudes:  as an artist openly criticized for portraying fantastical scenes with an irreverent verisimilitude,  he fell short of achieving the full realism he obviously sought by NOT characterizing the actual play of light on his models).  It was not until the Naturalists, who experimented with photography and direct nature studies, and who worked outdoors or in specialized, glasshouse studios, that the first compelling depictions of the nude en plein air were painted.

Though artists like Sorolla and Sargent are known for exploring the motif of the human body  outdoors, it is Anders Zorn who is probably best associated with this demanding theme.  At a time when society accepted nude mythological characters in paintings, but prudishly rejected the naked body in and of itself, Zorn openly challenged the public's hypocritical stance by painting the nude in naturalistic poses and settings.  Using photography as an aid in capturing staged "candid" moments of disrobed female models in and around his hometown of Mora, Sweden, Zorn went on to create a large body of paintings centered on the subject of the figure outdoors.  His choice of topic could have potentially led to controversy had it not coincided with a national movement in Sweden extolling the health benefits of living a more "natural" lifestyle.  This movement, along with the Zorn's brash choice in subject matter, paved the way for other Swedish artists to tackle the same theme,  and  very likely had a direct influence on such contemporary painters as Jeremy Lipking and Ignat Ignatov when they too chose to revisit this theme.

Anders Zorn ( 1860 - 1920)

John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925)

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863 - 1923)

Jeremy Lipking ( b. 1975)

Ignat Ignatov (b. 1978)

There is one painter, the British artist Henry Scott Tuke, who spent much of his career exploring the subject of the play of light on the naked human form, but he is often overlooked, most likely because his subject was the nude male rather than the nude female. 

Henry Scott Tuke painting on location in Falmouth.

Tuke was born into a devout Quaker family in York, England in 1858 and by the age of seventeen was enrolled in the Slade School.  From there he went on to study in Florence, where he first attempted the subject, painting boys swimming at the coast near Livorno.  While studying in Paris from 1881 to 1883, he met, and became an adherent of, the artist Jules Bastien-Lepage, and upon Tuke's return to England,  headed to Newlyn where like-minded artists such as Stanhope Alexander Forbes explored the Naturalist movement in Great Britain, painting local scenes with an eye toward unposed realism.  Settling in Falmouth in 1885, Tuke  purchased and refurbished an old French brigantine, which became his floating studio, enabling him to better paint his seaside pictures from direct observation.  In 1886, along with Forbes, Tuke was a founding member of the New English Art Club, which showcased the Naturalist art of Britain when the Royal Academy would not, though he later increasingly showed at the latter venue (he was made an associate of the Royal Academy in 1900, and became a full member in 1914).   By 1892, after a trip to Italy, Albania, and Corfu, Tuke altered his palette, reflecting the brighter, impressionistic colors of the mediterranean, and he abandoned the square-brush technique of Bastien-Lepage for a more fluid painting technique. Always loving to travel, Tuke visited Jamaica and Central America in 1923 where he produced some fine plein air watercolors, but took ill, and had to return home to England.  Never fully recovering from his sickness, he passed away in 1929, and was buried in Falmouth.

Unfortunately, Tuke's subject matter brought him some notoriety, and probably affected his chances of achieving fame as a British impressionist outside of his home country.  To this day, his work is often attacked, and museums and public buildings which display his art are often derided for exhibiting his paintings, which many consider to be outward representations of pedophilia.  Nevertheless, his celebration of male youth is sometimes sensual, but never sexual, and should be viewed from the point in history when they were painted (ie. a time when nudity among swimming boys was the norm), and though his paintings were sometimes controversial, there was never any hints of scandal in Tuke's dealings with his models.  As works of art, Tuke's paintings are brilliant and need to be appreciated for his understanding and portrayal of light.  His ability to capture this subject is among the best.

Henry Scott Tuke (1858 - 1929)

... it does no harm occasionally to shoot arrows at the stars even if you know that they will not carry.  But for students seriously to shoulder all these problems at once, shows both courage, and naivete, but little discretion.  Did they know that Sorolla himself worked for twenty-five years at the problem before he painted his first successful out-door canvas, they would perhaps attack it with less enthusiasm.  But courage is an admirable thing, and it seems a shame to put obstacles in its path.

- Birge Harrison, Landscape Painting, 1909