Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Total Immersion

The time had come to put myself in front of some real painting so I headed for London to spend three days 'doing' the galleries, but not in the usual cursory way. The particular galleries and indeed paintings were planned before going. I was delighted to have guidance for the trip from Martin Kinnear.

On the first day I spent the day doing the special Rothko and Bacon exhibitions, both of which blew me away and left me with intense feelings about some of the more negative aspects of the human condition. However, both exhibit wonderful mastery of the medium. Rothko - glowing glimpses of colour that are not immediate. Even his black compositions take on a colourful life of their own as you view them. Bacon - with meticulous preparation of grounds, thin stains of colour on unprimed canvas on which he builds effects with various densities of pain, followed by the tension and violence that his drawing and brushwork evoke. Whilst this work would not represent styles that I would wish to emulate, the beautiful application of paint, colour control and glazing certainly would be. Both exhibit that quality that seems to elude most of us, the ability to create fascinating brushstrokes full of texture, colour and light.

Second day - to the National Gallery and a langorous journey along a path suggested by Martin. On arrival I noticed that there was a special exhibition of Sisley paintings so I made a small diversion to investigate. What I found was inspirational for plein air working. Bold brushstrokes, impressionistic highlighting of colour, strong underpainting - lots of food for thought there for me.

On to my intended starting point. The wonderful arrangement of canvases, specified by Turner in his will. Two of his flanking one of Claude's - Bliss. Turner and his sun and vapour, layer upon layer of delicate colour in his sky. Claude, contre jour in differing glows that infuse the rest of the painting with light coloured in pink, yellow, red and orange. It would be possible to spend most of a day with this glorious trio. Dragging myself away to luxuriate in more Claude - feel the glow.

Then off to the Dutch, that I have woefully neglected in the past, Cuyp, Dubbels, Hobbema, Van Goyen, Van Ruysdael, Van Ruisdael and Van der Poel. Skies that go on for ever. The impact that their wonderful landscapes have had on generations of painters is clearly evident when one places them into historical context. For me the two most impressive are Meindert Hobbema ....

and Jacob van Ruisdael.

A weary walk to the hotel and dinner punctuated by a continuous parade of mental images inspired by the day's viewing.
Last day and another store of visual treats. To Tate Britain for Turner, light, and more light as well as an enjoyable colour experiment exhibit. The exhibit gives a great insight into Turner's technique and the colour theory that informed it. On leaving I had a much clearer understanding of the reasoning behind things I had heard and read about complementary colour and shadow colour. Then on to the list of English notables, Constable and others. I couldn't resist an interesting diversion to enjoy the Pre Raphaelites, a bit of a weakness of mine. A piece of Millais eye candy to close this post. One guy I picked up on that hadn't crossed the radar before was Francis Danby - one picture of a Norwegian fjord that had a big impact on me, mostly because of the beautiful highlights on cloud and rocks with lovely detailed shadows.

Time to go home. Spent a fortune on books, wore out my knackered knees and got on the train exhausted but content that I had had a deep immersion in some of the finest picture making that was available in our country.


Raquele said...

I frequently look at past and current works of those I consider the greats, great find in Danby

Mick Carney said...

A new reader or are you an old reader? I seem to remember that my friend Dan has a lady of that name. If I'm wrong, I apologise. Whichever, you are welcome.

The more I view paintings in the flesh the greater the sense of awe I have at the task I've set myself. I'll be reporting more visits soon.

Dan Corey said...

Sorry Mick, that was me , Dan,, I used the laptop after my Wife and didn't check how I was signed in..