Thursday, January 08, 2015

Bridge Anyone? (partie deux)




Picking up from yesterday's final comments, Corot's output certainly informed and influenced many of the early Impressionist painters that began to work their magic shortly after the midpoint of the 19th Century, the time when Corot's bridge, above, was completed. When thinking about that time frame and the early exploration of Impressionist plein-air painters, could there ever be too many paintings of bridges? If your name happened to be Claude Monet, there could never be such a thing as too many paintings of bridges.

In this next sequence of works which follow below (figures 12 through 21), all by one of the true masters of plein-air Impressionist painting, Monet explored color and light and all the variations and nuances of same through works where bridge subjects predominated. In the first set of three, figures 12 through 14, water level views emphasize the strength of the structure of the bridge at Argenteuil, Monet having settled there upon returning to France from England where he fled during the Franco-Prussian War. The painting on the left shows The Highway Bridge Under Repair after the war and I like the straight forward portrayal of the bridge and its reflection. Since Monet lived in Argenteuil for a half dozen years, he painted this bridge often and the other two works show the bridge, once completed, under different lighting conditions which was one of Monet's major foci of work. In each, even though there are other elements of design in the compositions, the bridge becomes the major subject.






In figures 15, 16 and 17, above, The Railroad Bridge at Argenteuil had become Monet's major subject as he once again explored the variations in light and time of day that influenced the colors of the bridge and its surroundings. In the four works, below . . . figures 18 through 21, two more incarnations of the highway bridge pair up with his iconic images, painted much later in his career than his stay in Argenteuil, of the Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies where he once again painted many canvases in an exploration of light, atmosphere and color.




One of my favorite Impressionist painters, Gustave Caillebotte is represented, below, in this next group of four works. In figure 22, his version of The Bridge at Argenteuil is seen, no doubt painted on a day when he and Monet and several others of the Impressionist click stood along the bank of the river, side by side, chatting and comparing notes, enjoying each other's company and learning from each other. In figure 23, Le Pont de I'Europe, I am especially drawn into the composition because of the sharp angular thrust of the bridge and its structural aspects which emphasize the strong perspective view; it is a composition very much to my liking as it is the sort of unique viewpoint that I try often to feature when composing my own works.

Figure 24 shows one of Camille Pissarro's many paintings of bridges, Old Chelsea Bridge painted while he also resided in England to escape the ravages of the Franco-Prussian War. Pissarro's contemporary Frenchman, Paul Signac is represented with Paris, Quai de la Tournelle in figure 25. The Signac calls to mind the strong angular movement of Caillebotte's two works as well as Turner's misty, hazy late-life painting mentioned yesterday and I can't help but think of how all of these interpretations (Impressions!) seem so forward looking and contemporary in feel compared to the works of the Barbizon painters who immediately preceded the onset of Impressionism.




(Before moving on, I wanted to post this discovery - a work not previously known to me by Caillebotte -which I happened upon while reviewing, referencing and preparing this essay, Sur le Pont de I'Europe. I've been completely enamored with The Floor Scrappers by Caillebotte for as long as I can remember, even having it as my desk top wall paper and never tiring of seeing it each morning when I turn on the computer for the day. I do believe, though, with the "discovery" of Sur le Pont, I may have found a new favorite. I am so taken with the very abstract nature of the compositional elements of this beautifully arranged work, its geometric  shapes, positive and negative spatial relationships and immensel) 




In this last grouping (below) of four works for today's installment, two each from Alfred Sisley (figures 26 and 27) and Norwegian Fritz Thaulow (figures 28 and 29), more Impressionist renderings of bridges appear. Of the two Sisleys, I am very drawn into, under and through (figure 27) Under the Bridge at Hampton Court. It is, once again, a very dramatic and unusual view, very contemporary in feel and a compositional idea I'd be proud to call my own. Both of the Thaulow works also appeal to me and I see a nice connection with the Van Gogh and Hubert Robert works spotlighted in yesterday's posting as Thaulow has also elevated the mundane chore of clothes washing (figure 29) in Washerwoman in the Morning at Quimperle while still maintaining a strong visual focus on the bridge.



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