Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Blue In Nature

So far, blue has been the color I have blogged about the most. The following pictures and comments are by Linda Gaskill for Houzz, a wonderful website I highly recommend for anyone loving great ideas for houses and yards.

"Blue surrounds us more than any other color, making it easy to love and use — it’s the color of our planet, the oceans and the sky. It plays well with all of the other colors (think about how you can put literally anything with a pair of blue jeans), is a favorite of both men and women, and can match any mood, from playful (aqua) to soothing (ice blue) or dramatic (midnight). Let’s look at blue through the lens of nature for a fresh perspective on this well-loved color.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Color and Mood

Color Mood: Quiet and Tranquil
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A serene, peaceful feeling in a home is fostered by colors that are muted using large doses of white and gray. These undertones temper a color and reduce its intensity to a pale, pastel version. Take blue, for instance, by choosing a grayish hue with plenty of white in it, you get a watery aqua popular in spas and resorts. In this bathroom, aqua rains down from the ceiling, instilling the space with tranquility. Do the same with green and you get an appealing mint shade that calmly recedes. Yellow becomes buttery and smooth. These colors are easy-to-live-with backgrounds that you can use throughout your home.

Color Mood: Cozy and Warm
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There's no secret about the colors that make a home feel cozy and warm. They are the fire lit shades of red, orange, and gold. These deep, resonant hues are richer than their primary, energetic versions because they are influenced by brown. A brown undertone turns yellow into amber and red into russet. It cozies up other hues as well, such as teal, eggplant, and aspen green. Wrapping a room in these hues ensures that even an ample, light-filled space takes on an autumn feel. This living room has large windows, French doors, plenty of bright white woodwork and shutters, yet it still feels toasty thanks to a crimson velvet sofa and sable-brown walls and ceiling.

Color Mood: Creative and Provoking
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The surest way to boost your creativity is to choose quirky colors. Simply put: Be bold with your hues. One way to do this is to buck the prescribed conventions of your home's architecture. Do you live in a sleek, modern condo? Fill it with classics like navy and Kelly green. If you have a traditional home, look for bright, acidic colors to awaken the spaces. This living room in a colonial home, for instance, has unexpected charisma with a chartreuse sofa and pink and purple accents. Another way to be creative with color is to model unusual pairings in art, nature, or global influences. Borrow from a landscape painting's hues, and put sky blue on the walls and grass green on your sofa. Use the downy brown center and gold petals of a black-eyed Susan to kick off a kitchen scheme. Or, let Chinese pottery guide you in picking cobalt and porcelain white for your dining room.

Sometimes, a favorite fabric or object can inspire a color scheme.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Monet's First Wife's Influence on His Paintings

monet and camille

camille Doncieux
Camille Donceaux in the Green Dress,
 Monet's first portrait of her 1875

Camille as Monet's fashionable model
 in The Strollers

Camille Reading

Camille holding her pet dog
Camille at the Beach

Camille in the Garden

Camille on her deathbed

 The Influence of the Popular Media - Drawings,
 Photography,and  Fashion Illustrations. 
For their full-body portraits of women, progressive painters
 such as Monet, Manet and Renoir were
 inspired by the popular pictorial world of their times. 

Already in the nineteenth century, Paris was the center
 of the international fashion world which became particularly  inspiring for many painters. Around the middle of the century, the first large department stores were opened - true consumption temples of fashion - 
and, for the first  time, outstanding tailors were 
celebrated as brilliant  designers. 

Numerous illustrated fashion magazines were
 launched. In them, young artists found idealized figures
 in intriguing poses which served to effectively show the 
fashionable silhouettes of the dresses they were wearing.

By  the 1860s, photographic portraits in the small carte 
de  visite format were very popular. Even for them, full-body  representations were characteristic. Photography was still  young in those days, and the painters were greatly interested in it; but, on the other hand, photographers also  took over presentations, poses and attributes from 

The purpose of all of these media was to present fashionable  clothes.

Soon after Monet, Renoir and Carolus Duran had exhibited  portraits of their friends in the Salon, they received orders for representative paintings from the bourgeoisie.
 Now they had to bring their artistic ambitions in line with
 the ideas of their clients.
The three artists dealt with this task quite differently: in his
 Portrait of Madame Gaudibert, Monet did paint a
 representative interior, but he showed only a lost profile 
of his model, so her face can hardly be recognized. That
 way, he refused to go along with the main purpose of 
bourgeois reminiscent paintings.
 He soon gave up painting  portraits altogether and became
 a pure landscape painter.
Renoir, on the other hand, tried to balance his liberal artistic
 style and the representative purpose of a portrait. In the
 late 1870s, he created several paintings ordered by 
collectors and intellectuals.

Carolus-Duran came closest to meeting the expectations 
of his clients. His Portrait of Madame Feydeau is an 
adaptation of Monet's Camille to the taste of a broad
 public: his model turns her face towards the viewer, and 
its individual lines have carefully been worked out. Even
 her pose and the way her clothes are painted comply 
with her representative demands. Hence, Carolus-Duran 
became the favorite portraitist of the Parisian upper 
middle classes.

8) Small-Format Variations - A Fashionable Genre in an 
Impressionist Style
Full-body portraits of women were not only done in large
 formats. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Monet's close friend, transferred 
the motif into smaller formats in the 1870s and incorporated
 it in genre-type situations such as strolling, reading, or 
taking care of pets. The compositions and the narrative
 style of his paintings thus verged upon the popular 
single-figure genre. At the same time, however, 
he transformed this genre into an Impressionist style.
Here, too, the lines between genre and portrait are indistinct:
 the painting Camille Monet Reading is an individual portrait,
 but it shows the model in her domestic environment, doing  something quite normal.

Despite his early success with Camille in the Green
Dress, Monet and  his friends later kept being rejected 
by the conservative jury of the Salon. 1874 was the first year in which they  organised an independent exhibition
to show their works.
 Here, Monet's painting Impression was also
 shown, which made a critic disparagingly call the artists

 Although they differed greatly in style,
 the Impressionists were all interested in motifs taken
from modern life, and they all had a free, individual techniques. Today, the 1870s are considered the
prime years of Impressionism.

Camille acted as tireless model for Monet and many of
his friends, immortalized in these beautiful works. 

(I love the brave Impressionists. Text from the 2006 exibition catalog-BBL)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Queen of Colors-Black

 Renoir's Self Portrait
Picture courtesy of A Polar Bear's Tale
Robert Genn, the fabulous Canadian painter and raconteur, gives us his wonderful comments on the color black. Many Impressionists would not allow the color on their palettes. Yes, Renoir, after studying art in Italy later in his career, had a change of heart about the important characteristics of this magical color and its properties.

"Renoir declared, "I've been forty years discovering that the queen of all colours is black!" What he meant was that black works as a darkener because its near chromal neutrality does not sully the colour it grays. While scorned on a few snooty palettes, black is the loyal friend that helps make other colours look more brilliant than they are. Wise artists do not say derogatory things about black.

The essential blacks are lamp black, ivory black and Mars black. Lamp black is a pure carbon pigment made by burning oils and collecting the soot from flues. It's one of the oldest manufactured pigments. Ivory black, originally made from burning real ivory, is now a bone byproduct of the slaughterhouse. Mars black, one of a pantheon of Mars colours, is an iron-oxide product that in many ways is more stable than the other blacks. It does not effloresce, maintains total integrity in oil and water-based media, and, to my knowledge, is the only paint that's magnetic.

Black inks, Indian, Chinese, etc., are carbon derived and go back to the dawn of writing and drawing. Cuttlefish ink, used by the early Romans, is an impermanent anomaly. Japanese "Sumi" ink has a tradition of nuance and refinement. Ralph Mayer says, "The connoisseurship of sumi amounts to a cult."

Give black a chance. A challenge is to work with only black and white for a day. After a week one begins to feel the brilliance of black. As seasoned artists have found out, if it works in black and white, it works.

Try the method of grisaille--a monochrome painting executed in shades of gray. Used as an under-painting, grisaille was first popularized by the Northern Renaissance artists. These days, using bright white grounds and a range of grays, full value can be had by glazing with acrylics or other media. In painting, black is mother of learning.

Best regards,

Robert Genn

PS: "Black and white are absolute. They express the most delicate vibration, the most profound tranquility, and unlimited profundity." (Shiko Munakata)

Esoterica: Payne's gray, a composite pigment, endures, well-loved on many palettes. Depending on the brand, it's made from varying combinations of blue, black, red and white permanent pigments. Payne's gray is the black of preference for the timid soul." RG

Renoir's painting Young Woman Reading a Fashion Illustration

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

An Exhibit, 'Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938

Rene Magritte's work is unsettling to many, but the current exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago may be worth seeing because it is so large and fascinating.

A review of the exhibit by Lisa Marder, art expert, follows:

"I was privileged recently to see the exhibit, "Magritte: the Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938" at the Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibit was organized by the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Menil Collection, Houston, and runs through Monday, October 13, 2014. If you are in Chicago or can get there, I recommend seeing it. For a fascinating, interactive preview of the exhibit, go to (This is fascinating, if this link does not work, type in the address in your browser. There are so many images to see, and includes x-ray views of earlier ideas redone in some of the works!)

Rene Magritte (1898-1967) was a 20th century Belgian artist known for his Surrealist works. Artists help us to see the world differently, some by showing us what they see, some by showing us what they imagine or dream, some by reflecting ourselves back to us. Surrealists explore the human condition through imagery that extends beyond the limits of reality and enters the realm of the subconscious. Magritte's main goal as an artist was to make the viewer see differently by using odd and surprising juxtapositions of familiar objects at varying scales, by deliberate exclusions, and by playing with words and meaning, as in one of his most famous paintings, "The Treachery of Images," which is a painting of a pipe below which is written "Ceci n'est pas une pipe."  (English translation: "This is not a pipe.") The works in this exhibit display a visual tension that is transmitted to the viewer.
The Art Institute of Chicago's website reads, "Throughout these seminal years, Magritte used displacement, transformation, metamorphosis, and the 'misnaming' of objects as well as the representation of visions seen in half-waking states, consistently unsettling the balance between nature and artifice, truth and fiction, reality and surreality.  His images, then and still today, force us to question the nature of appearances - both in the paintings and in reality itself."  Through sometimes disturbing imagery, Magritte's work draws us to see the mystery in the ordinary.  He paints identifiable objects in a manner that is almost photorealistic, but compels us to take notice and look deeper by carefully rearranging reality into jarring juxtapositions and by selectively omitting things and confounding expectations. 

Walking through the darkened intimate warren-like spaces of the exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute, one feels as though one is "discovering" each painting one by one, heightening the sense of the mystery, and compelling the viewer to linger and ponder the meaning of it. In combination with Magritte's paintings, the experience is powerful, and even unsettling. It is almost a relief to exit the exhibit and to re-enter the "real" world. 

“Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”  - Rene Magritte

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pets in Portraits

LONDON.- A little known painting of three Elizabethan children containing what may be the first portrait of a guinea pig has been uncovered by the National Portrait Gallery, London, during the making of its exhibition Elizabeth I and Her People (10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014), The portrait depicts three unknown children aged six, seven and five with a beige, brown and white guinea pig, cradled by the little girl at the center of the group. It is possibly the earliest-known depiction of this animal in a portrait. Popular in Europe as exotic pets, guinea pigs were introduced from South America by Spanish traders.

 In an exhibition richly endowed in portraits with animals, the youngest boy in this painting holds a small bird, probably a finch, which was a particularly popular pet with children because of its striking plumage. Its representation in children’s portraiture may be intended to symbolize the Christian soul by association with depictions of the infant Christ with a goldfinch.

 The sitters almost certainly belong to a wealthy family of the nobility or gentry as they are expensively and fashionably dressed, whilst the skillful painting suggests that it is the work of an artist familiar with Dutch techniques. 

Portraits of children became popular among the nobility and gentry in the sixteenth century across Europe, enabling families to document lineage and fertility, and to capture individual likenesses, at a time when child mortality was high.

 The image reflects the growth in different types of portraits in this period, a major theme of the Gallery’s  exhibition, which is the first to look at the rise of new social classes in Elizabethan society. As well as the usual portrait staples of horses, stags and dogs, more exotic animal appearances in Elizabeth I and Her People include an elephant on a crest, a falcon, a ring decorated with a tiny depiction of a grasshopper and an intricate purse made in the shape of a frog.

 William Cecil, Lord Burghley, is shown riding a mule and the Queen herself is depicted with an ermine and, in the recently discovered Isaac Oliver postcard-sized portrait of Elizabeth I and the Three Goddesses, with a peacock. With of over 100 objects, including accessories artifacts, costumes, coins, jewelery and crafts, Elizabeth I and Her People will include not just portraits of courtiers, but also intriguing lesser-known images of merchants, lawyers, goldsmiths, butchers, calligraphers, playwrights and artists – all of whom contributed to the making of a nation and a new world power. 

The exhibition showed how members of a growing, wealthy middle class sought to have their likenesses captured for posterity as the mid-sixteenth-century interest in portraiture broadened. Portraits of courtiers such as Christopher Hatton, Bess of Hardwick and Elizabeth Vernon are joined by explorers such as Francis Drake and Martin Frobisher, ambassadors such as Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun, financiers such as Thomas Gresham and poets including John Donne. Elizabeth I and Her People was curated by Dr Tarnya Cooper, the National Portrait Gallery’s Chief Curator and its Curator of Sixteenth Century Portraits. She is the author of A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits (2008) and Citizen Portrait – Portrait Painting and the Urban Elite, 1540–1620 (2012).