I've tried copying a portrait by the Spanish realist Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta -- born in Rome 1841, died Versailles 1920. He lived most of his life in Paris. If Realism in literature -- French literature, at least (Zola, Maupassant, Flaubert) tends to depict the sordid, this is certainly not the case with de Madrazo. He painted pretty women in pretty clothes almost exclusively. His taste, if not his treatment of the subject, was Renoir-esque. If the notion of kitsch floats near his airy and blithe canvases, if you hear the beatings of its wings, try to match, or even approach, his facility, his technical near-perfection, and you may be left like me, one of his many admirers.
Representational painting can be unsatisfying when everything in the background is just as clearly defined as the subject, say a bird, in the foreground. This little scene is an attempt at creating a realistic background -- i.e. one that's out of focus, or merely vague, in relation to the subject (which is the thing in focus, clear). I have gone over the background with a couple of layers of medium, each laced with a small amount of pigment -- hoping vague impressions of people and things would result, without being obliterated. An alternative way occurs to me in recalling Renoir's theatre balcony, a young girl in profile as subject, and distant rows of other spectators as background; where he has managed a marvellous effect of distance, and blur, merely by brushing main forms, and ignoring detail. What I've tried to do here is probably not a good solution at all, risking mud. But the other way is something I'll have to work on. Maybe a glass or two of wine before embarking, would be a good idea.
Recently, I picked up a book of black and white, and sepia, photos created by a group of 'photo pictorialists' under the wing of the early 20th century American photographer Alfred Stieglitz. I quote from the editor's Introduction: 'The pictorialists believed that photography was not about the recording of documentary facts nor was it a vehicle for trying to recreate works of art, . . but was a means of creating a new purely photographic reality. . . . A wide variety of lenses negatives and manipulated techniques were used, including drawing etching, painting, and scratching both negatives and prints.' I have transgressed: by 'trying to recreate [from two or three of them] works of art.' Gertrude Kaserbier's 'Miss N' dates from 1903. Precocity, impudence, a world-weary indolence, shine languidly from that face. I have not caught anything much akin to the original expression. Using her as my model, dead though she has been these many years, I found challenge enough just translating the sepia shadows, highlights and half-lights, into colours. I spent a week in her enigmatic company. In this same collection are Clarence H. White's 'The Orchard' (1905) and Frank Eugene's 'Lady' (1910), my models for two of the paintings in last week's blog. The book, titled Camera Work, is published by Taschen.
This coffee pot, bought at a garage sale -- known picturesquely in France as a 'Vide Grenier' or attic-emptying -- expressly to by used as a model, proved a challenge, which may be obvious. I have not touched a paint brush or pallet knife for several months.
This was painted for Carol Marine's DPW challenge .
This is from a photo I took in Portugal. (The lady came walking along leisurely later -- as it were -- after I'd looked at the path and thought it needed an occupant.)
The painting is for the January challenge of Alice Thompson's Calypso Moon Artist Movement:
Painting and writing -- I've never known which of the two I want to do more. So why not both?
But I've come to realize that the writing tends to be lengthy, and may be too controversial, for a blog. So it won't be so much in evidence as my occasional absences from painting because of it.
I'm not a painting-a-day person. My Muses are fickle maidens and often skip away for weeks.
I think the subject of a painting should be intrinsically interesting -- and never far removed from the human.