Thursday, May 08, 2014

More . . . "Pictures at an Exhibition"

Picking up where left off yesterday, here is an image of three of the bridge paintings of Monet done in London, showing how he portrayed the varying moods throughout his painting days; watching the light change, noting how the shadows moved and especially keying into the way the changing light effected the hues and tints of his subjects. In these three paintings alone, The Art Institute of Chicago has some of the finest representations of Impressionism - focusing on the ordinary, encompassing unusual viewing angles, depicting subjects with small, thin but substantially visible brush work, and of course, the strong emphasis on the accurate depiction of light and its changing qualities - but there was still so much more to see and digest.

Rounding a corner, another of the master works that I had come to see, George Seurat's tour-de-force work, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, stood before me, surrounded by admirers and young wanna-be artists alike. I smiled at seeing a group of young children spread out in front of the painting, taking notes, drawing their own versions of Seurat's subjects and seeming completely engaged in joy of the work before them. As with the Caillebotte master work from yesterday's posting that I had really been stopped in my tracks by, Seurat also made it difficult for me to move beyond, momentarily, being spell bound by the incredibly well thought out pattern of his composition. Having read a great deal about his time consuming preliminary outlines and designs for his paintings, how he constantly shifted ideas and moved subjects around until he felt all the elements were in the only possible positions they could be - a 'problem' I often find myself within when working out an idea for a new piece - yet making the end result seem as if it all just materialized, complete and serendipitously thrown together in an instant, capturing a very specific moment in time, truly represented to my eye the true genius of the work and the artist who produced it.

On a wall adjacent to his large canvas, I found two small 'studies' for the larger work and was intrigued to see some of his preliminary ideas, very distinctly noted and worked out before hand and to see how they reflected changes in his overall composition as time passed and he continued to work out his ideal placements of each of the subjects. As an artist, I relish seeing the thought processes of other artists and especially the masters of the past in studies like this or in preliminary drawings, but I also see the relevance this sort of information has to the general public visiting a museum or exhibition as they too, can see the inner workings of the mind of an artist at work . . . education and enlightenment at its best.

Passing through to another gallery, I was confronted with yet more of Monet's wonder works. The piece below, Sadviken, Norway (Village in the Snow), stopped me 'cold' as I marveled at his soft touch, muted pastel palette of colors and the overall chill of the scene that he was able to communicate in rough, rapid brush work. A work that I had never scene in books or exhibitions before, it almost became my most favorite unfamiliar Monet yet.

And yet one more Monet moved me to stop and savor. This one with more gusto and deeper color yet still showing the same sharp, rapid brush work as in the snow scene. Boats on the Beach - Etretat, painted in 1885, reminded me of his myriad of hay stack paintings (several of which hung in an adjoining gallery) in the way he used the peaked roofs of the central structures to bring one's eye into the work and direct it around the other elements of his overall composition. 

Walking through to that next gallery, one of Monet's smaller scale water lily paintings took center stage (you can, though, just see several of those hay stack paintings to the side). In this long shot, you really can get the feel of the soft reflected light of the pond and lilies, all the colors and sharp brush strokes so typical of Monet's gesture and style of painting melding everything into a marvelous, understandable image. Yet, when you get up close, and study, as in the image below this one, you can see very clearly just how staccato his brush work is, dabbing and dashing and thumbing the paint onto the canvas with flourish - no really strong edges or details, just splashes of color representing the fall and filter of the light bouncing off the lily pads and water and reflections. This IS the genus of Impressionism!

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