Values in Monet’s Impression, Sunrise

Values in Monet's Impression Sunrise
Values in Monet's Impression Sunrise

Originally exhibited in the April 1874 exhibit of the Societe’ Anonyme des Artistes, Peintires, Sculpters, Graveurs, Etc. (Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Engravers, etc.), now referred to as the First Impressionist Exhibition, this painting by Claude Monet appeared with the title: Impression, Sunrise.

The name was picked up by unsympathetic critics and used derisively to label the group “Impressionists”. The name stuck, and the Impressionists picked it up and ran with it.

The painting is, as Monet has suggests in his title, an impression, or quick representation, of a fleeting effect.

As part of their effort to portray the effects of light and atmosphere, the Impressionist painters, and Monet especially, were fascinated with new theories of color that were being investigated at the time. Perhaps one of the most important of these ideas was the concept of simultaneous contrast, as presented by French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul in his book The Principles of Color Harmony and Contrast.

But simultaneous contrast was only one of the visual tools the Impressionist painters were adding to their methods of conveying the effects of light.

In more recent times, a professor of neurobiology at Harvard, Dr. Margaret Livingstone, noticed that if you reduce an image of Impression: Sunrise to grayscale — so that we see only value (luminance) — the sun almost disappears, save for the edges of the scant few brushstrokes with which it was painted.

She went on to point out this gave the painting a particular quality.

Our brain processes visual information in two different parts of our visual cortex, old and new. The older one senses light in a relatively primitive way — shared with other mammals, — in which it detects only luminance, but not color. The other, more evolutionarily recent area of the visual cortex — that we share only with other primates — sees color.

So, to one part of our brain, Monet’s sun, and the bright orange areas in the water and sky, are almost invisible. To the other, more sophisticated part, the sun is very much visible. In addition, against the muted blue of the background clouds, the effective brightness of the orange areas is accentuated by simultaneous contrast.

 
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Some early work by M.C. Escher

Some early work by M.C. Escher
Some early work by M.C. Escher

Many people are aware of the graphic work of Dutch printmaker M.C. Escher that bends logic and presents mind-boggling visions of impossible worlds and structures. Fewer have seen many of his earlier works, that are much more straightforward and “possible” (if sometimes fanciful).

Here are a few examples.

For more images and info, see my previous posts on M.C. Escher.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Janet Fish still life

Red Vase and Yellow Tulips, Janet Fish
Red Vase and Yellow Tulips, Janet Fish (details)

Red Vase and Yellow Tulips, Janet Fish; oil and graphite on canvas, roughly 42 x 86 in. (107 x 220 cm), private collection; link is to Christie’s Auctions.

Janet Fish is a contemporary American painter known for her luminous still life paintings, particularly of clear and colored glassware.

For more, see my previous post on Janet Fish.

 
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James Jebusa Shannon

James Jebusa Shannon
James Jebusa Shannon

Born in the U.S., James Jebusa Shannon moved to the UK to study when he was 16, and spent most of his life and career there.

Shannon made his mark as a highly successful portrait painter and has been compared to his contemporary, John Singer Sargent.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Autumn Trees along a Stream by Hugh Bolton Jones

Autumn Trees along a Stream by Hugh Bolton Jones
Autumn Trees along a Stream by Hugh Bolton Jones (details)

Autumn Trees along a Stream by Hugh Bolton Jones, oi on canvas, 16 x 24 inches (41 x 61 cm). Link is to page on Wikimedia Commons from which you can view a larger image. I don’t know the location of the original, but it was imaged by Vose Galleries, so I assume it’s in a private collection at this point.

American painter Hugh Bolton Jones, though not well known, is one of my favorite landscape painters. I partiularly enjoy his brushy, painterly techniques for representing trees and other foliage.

In this piece, he gives us an unassuming but beautiful scene of a group of young trees around a small stream.

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

 
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Alberto Varanda

Alberto Varanda, comics and illustration
Alberto Varanda, comics and illustration

Alberto Varanda is a French comics artist who has worked on a number of projects for different French and Belgian publishers. You can find English language versions of his Little Pierrot comics album on Bookshop.org and Amazon, and French editions of other books on Amazon.

His style can range from cartoon like children’s book illustration to various levels of comics illustration to intricate pen and ink renderings. I particularly enjoy the latter, as well as his looser figure sketches.

His website is available in both French and English versions, though some of the pages are only available in French.

 
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