Eye Candy for Today: Alma-Tadema’s Pheidias and the Frieze of the Parthenon

Pheidias and the Frieze of the Parthenon, Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Pheidias and the Frieze of the Parthenon, Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Pheidias and the Frieze of the Parthenon, Lawrence Alma-Tadema; oil on wood panel, roughly 28 x 44 inches (72 x 110 cm); link is to the file page on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the collection of Birmingham Museums, UK.

Also known as Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends, Alma-Tadema’s painting shows the great Greek sculptor and architect showing off his frieze in the Parthenon, the temple in Athens dedicated to the goddess Athena, of whom Phidias also created the
monumental statures known as the Athena Parthenos and the Athena Promachos, inside and outside the temple.

Historians have identified some of the figures in the painting as Pericles, Socrates and other known individuals of the time.

I love the way Alma-Tadema has lifted us up on the scaffolding near the ceiling with Pheidias and his guests, and heightened the drama with contrast between the darkness in the rear portion of the scaffolding and uplighting from the chamber below.

Watch your step!

 
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James Skvarch (update)

James Skvarch, etchings
James Skvarch, etchings

James Skvarch is an artist I featured back in 2007. He is primarily a printmaker working in traditional methods of etching. He uses to advantage the characteristics of etching that allow for delicate lines and hatching for tones. When printed on cream or off-white paper, these provide a visually appealing controlled contrast.

His website galleries are divided into sections for Landscapes, Interiors, Ships, Cars, and “Caprices” or imaginary structures; the latter inspired by the architectural fantasies of Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

There is also a section for “Paintings”, though the ones shown are few and older. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect in that regard between his website and his Facebook page, which features more recent paintings (images above, bottom).

As much as I enjoy his etchings of caprices, I admire even more his landscapes and interiors, which capture a sensation of light, place, and the texture of materials and objects.

I particularly enjoy his etching of Fort Herkimer Church (images above, top, with detail), in which he incorporates a landscape showing the exterior of the church into his drawing of the building’s interior.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Eyvind Earle trees

Eyvind Earle
Eyvind Earle

I don’t know the title or the size of this serigraph by ex illustrator and former Disney background artist turned gallery artist Eyvind Earle. I just know it’s wonderful.

I love the exaggerated atmospheric perspective, the trademark stylization of the trees, the splashes of light across the trees and shrubs and the perspective imparted by the geometric indication of field rows.

My link is to the image posted on Muddy Colors as part of this article.

For more, see my previous posts on Eyvind Earle, linked below.

 
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Christina Chung

Christina Chung illustration
Christina Chung illustration

Christina Chung is a Brooklyn based illustrator who describes her nationality as Taiwanese-Hongkonger-American. Her clients include The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Scientific American, Science Magazine, NPR, Abrams Books, Penguin Random House, and Lucasfilm, among others.

Her illustrations, often in a line and fill approach, use restrained palettes and carefully controlled value relationships to imbue complex drawings with harmony and mood. Her images invite you in to gradually reveal their thoughtful narrative elements.

Chung appears to work out her ideas with sketches in traditional media before moving to digital for the final illustration. There is a description and walk through of her process on the site of her artists representative, Richard Solomon.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Levitan’s bridge at Savvinskaya Sloboda

Bridge. Savvinskaya Sloboda, Isaac Ilyich Levitan
Bridge. Savvinskaya Sloboda, Isaac Ilyich Levitan

Bridge. Savvinskaya Sloboda; Isaac Ilyich Levitan; oil on canvas, roughly 10 x 11 inches (25 x 29 cm).

Link is to the file page on Wikimedia Commons; the original is in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, though the gallery does not include it among the Levitan pieces from their collection that they display online.

I suspect that to 19th century Russian landscape master Isaac Levitan this small painting of a little wooden footbridge in a rural area outside of Moscow was a “sketch”, or a “study”, something impromptu and relatively quickly realized. Parts of the painting are economically suggested to the point of feeling unfinished. In some places the paint is thinly applied, revealing the texture of the support, but in the area of interest it’s thickly and more carefully painted.

Sketch or not, to me this is not only a strikingly beautiful work, but a lesson in casual mastery. My eye is immediately drawn to the bridge itself, as obviously was Levitan’s. On one level the contrasts in value are striking and dramatic — as in the relationship of the dark mass of the bridge to the light in the stream and the dark slash of the reflected tree trunk — but at another level, the value and color relationships are extraordinarily subtle.

Look in particular at the contrast between the deep blue-gray shadows and muted yellowish spots of sunlight as they are expressed on the left side of the bridge — where the wooden planks are in deeper shadow — and the way similar patterns of light and shadow are presented on the right side of the bridge, where the ambient light is stronger and the blue-gray of the shadows is lighter and lower in chroma.

Just remarkable.

My guess is that Levitan did not set out to give that phenomenon of light special attention, but instead simply observed and mixed, observed and mixed, as his years of painting experience would have allowed him to do almost without thought.

 
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Blair Atherholt

Blair Atherholt
Blair Atherholt

Blair Atherholt is a painter whose approach to still life combines modern sensibilities with traditions from the “Golden Age” of 17th Dutch still life. Many of his compositions feature dark backgrounds and strong chiaroscuro in the definition of objects, as well as attention to “lost and found” edges.

He departs from those traditions in his use of textural paint application — often in a direction that helps define the form or the intensity of light against it — and his occasional choice of unconventional objects. He also sometimes casts lighting around or behind objects in a way that suggests theatrical halos of light.

He also plays with contrasts of high and low chroma passages within his paintings, forcefully drawing your eye to specific parts of the composition, but retaining a naturalistic feeling overall.

I particularly like the evocative combination of texture and dimensionality in his approach.

 
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