Eye Candy for Today: John Henry Twachtman landscape and sketch

Arques-la-Bataille, John Henry Twachtman
Arques-la-Bataille, John Henry Twachtman and preliminary version for same.

When 19th century American painter John Henry Twachtman moved to Paris from Munich, he abandoned the dark palette of his original teachers, and adopted to some extent the brighter palette of the French Impressionists.

However, he also moved away from their broken color and loaded brush paint application, bringing to much of his work a subtle, tonalist approach barely breathed onto the canvas.

The large studio painting at top, with two detail crops — 60 x 789 in. (152 x 200 cm) — was based on the earlier smaller scale painting — 18 x 26in. (46 x 66cm) — painted on location in Normandy (above, bottom, with detail).

Both paintings are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


NRM Illustration History resource and archive

NRM Illustration History resource and archive
Since its inception, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA has sought to expand its focus from a single artist to a relevant context and then more broadly to illustration in general.

In that spirit, the museum, through its associated Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, has just launched a new web-based project: Illustration History: An educational resource and archive.

The intention appears to be the assembly of a large and sweeping overview of the illustration field, as seen in multiple aspects — a noble and ambitious goal.

The site has a section on history, seeking to put the whole in context, with increments of half-centruries or individual decades, but the primary focus of the site is on individual artists and genres.

The artist listings can be searched or browsed. Individual artist articles include an attempt to put them in context by linking to related artists and time periods; and there are selections of their work accessed from small thumbnails at page bottom. There is a promising mix of both historic and contemporary illustrators.

You can also browse through genres, or a master list of individual illustrations. Each illustration accessed that way has its own page, with medium, support, size and collection location when available. (Note that the “mobile-friendly” design of the website limits the size of the images on pages to the size of your browser window.)

There are also essays and a selection of links to resources, including artist interviews, blogs, books, museum collections and illustration schools.

The design has a few quirks to be worked out, but for the most part the designers have done a good job of bringing the subject matter forward (with the glaring exception of the obligatory social media buttons, which are not only unnecessarily repeated, but are intrusive and persistent to the point of being a genuine annoyance).

The selections and genres are a bit sparse yet, with few images and many glaring holes to be filled, as well as some odd inclusions. Ben Franklin is listed, for example, but there are no entries for Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac or other major European figures. I can only assume that the museum is starting at home with their own resources, which focus primarily on American illustration, and will expand out from there.

The project is in its nascent stages, and what we see is more the form of what will come, a field of saplings, as it were — but the site is certainly worth visiting at this point, and following as it develops.

Illustration History promises to be a wonderful resource.

[Via Gurney Journey]


Art Renewal Center (update)

Art Renewal Center: Daniel Gerhartz, Jason de Graaf, John Buxton, Geraldo Gilberto, Gavin Glakas, Arantzazu Martinez, Peter Fiore, Tanvi Pathare, Jake Frima, Cornelia Maria Hernes, Kelly Phelps, Jeffery Larsen, Vitaliy Shtanko, Sergio Lopez, Donato Giancoia, Hanwu Shen, Heather Theurer
As I mentioned in my article on the 10 year anniversary of Lines and Colors, my first post was on August 22, 2005. It was about the Art Renewal Center, a long-standing bastion of representational realism on the web. At the time I had both enthusiasm and some reservations for ARC, and I suppose that is still the case.

I still admire what they’ve accomplished in putting the site together, it’s an amazingly extensive resource. However, I no longer include ARC among the online image resources in my article listings for figures from art history, as they have had to institute a policy of restricting access to many images to signed-in members in order to encourage financial support of the site.

Not that I fault them in that policy in any way — it’s expensive to maintain a site at that level — nor do I mean to suggest that membership in ARC is not worthwhile, I have a membership myself; but I also have my own policies for Lines and Colors, one of which is that I do not link to sites that block access to their articles or images.

For this same reason, I do not link to artists’ Facebook pages, Pinterest, New York Times articles, Artist Daily or any of a number of other sites that block or restrict access in some way. I’m not trying to criticize with that policy, my goal is simply to provide Lines and Colors readers with a barrier-free experience when I give them links to art images.

However, I will take this occasion to recommend areas of the ARC site that are not at this point restricted by membership requirements, and are most certainly worthwhile. Specifically this is their coverage of contemporary artists, both in the form of their listing of “ARC Living Masters“, and their yearly ARC Salon competitions.

These are notable both for focusing on artists in the tradition of representational realism, and for featuring high-resolution images of many of the artists’ works, often larger than any images on the artists’ own websites.

The Salon is of particular interest for the variety of genres and the division of them into award categories. Once on the page for a given year, look for the links to the various categories at the bottom of the pages.

To some degree, there is an emphasis on highly refined work, somewhat in the academic tradition, but there are painterly artists, and the roster has expanded over the past decade to include more artists in the fields of illustration and fantasy art (“Imaginative Realism” in their parlance). There is also an emphasis on oil over water media, but they do pay a fair bit of attention to drawing.

I’ve chosen some images above that represent some of their featured artists and Salon winners.

(Images above: Daniel Gerhartz, Jason de Graaf, John Buxton, Geraldo Gilberto, Gavin Glakas, Arantzazu Martinez, Peter Fiore, Tanvi Pathare, Jake Frima, Cornelia Maria Hernes, Kelly Phelps, Jeffery Larsen, Vitaliy Shtanko, Sergio Lopez, Donato Giancoia, Hanwu Shen, Heather Theurer)


10 years of Lines and Colors

10 years of Lines and Colors
Today marks the 10th anniversary of my first post on Lines and Colors, on August 22, 2005.

My initial intention for the blog — which you can read more about here — is still basically the same: to introduce my readers to wonderful art and artists that they may not be familiar with, or to point out something of interest about more well-known artists.

The artwork I feature is in a broad variety of genres, but tied together by two common factors — I personally like it, and it’s more or less within the traditions of representational realism. Other than that, as I’ve always said in the blog’s capsule description, if it has lines and/or colors, it’s fair game.

You can see some of the range of genres in the “Categories” listing in the left hand column, and below that, in the “Archives”, you can still read all of the posts I’ve added over the past ten years. (Well, almost all — I still need to restore about 10 posts from July of 2013 that were “misplaced” when I moved the blog from one server to another — it’s constantly a work in progress.)

My most popular single post to date, at least in terms of response and comments, has been “How Not to Display Your Artwork on the Web“.

The images I’ve selected above are meant as a small sampling of what you may find in the archives.

It has always been my hope that those interested in a particular genre of art — like traditional painting, plein air, art history, comics, concept art, fantasy art or illustration — would be drawn to Lines and Colors to pursue their area of interest, and through it discover wonderful art in other genres that they may not have sought out or encountered otherwise. I see that aspect of what I’m doing as an attempt to gently counter the ever-increasing fragmentation of art interests on the web.

In the 10 years since writing my first article for Lines and Colors, the resources for art images on the internet have expanded dramatically, most notably in the form of major museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian and the Rijksmuseum, posting high-resolution images from their collections online; the appearance of remarkable resources like the Google Art Project; and new online destinations for illustration, comics and concept art.

Originally, my posts were short, and the images single and small, and I actually worried that I would run out of “favorite artists” to write about. Today, after more than 3,400 posts (not quite a post a day for ten years, but pretty close), I have an ever-growing list of potential topics to get to — that may actually be longer than the list of already written ones.

There’s more to come!



Eye Candy for Today: Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Water Pitcher

Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, Johannes Vermeer
Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, Johannes Vermeer

In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; use the zoom or download icons under the image on the museum’s website.

Of the 35 or 36 Vermeer paintings acknowledged to exist, I’ve had the good fortune in my time to have seen perhaps 20 in person. Young Woman with a Water Pitcher is my favorite, which is to say one of my favorite paintings by anyone in the history of art.

Unfortunately, reproductions can’t really do justice to the jewel-like quality of the original, which is relatively small but arresting beyond its physical size. Even amid nearby Rembrants and the four other Vermeers in the Met’s superb collection, this painting captures a disproportional amount of my time and attention whenever I visit the museum.

It serves as a prime example of why I find Vermeer so extraordinary, even compared to arguably greater and more important artists.

There is an uncanny quality here — not just of light, which seems to have a physical presence as it makes its way though and around the widow like a mist of atomized honey — but of suspended time. The light, the atmosphere, the actions of the woman, all seem to have gently paused, as though the universe itself was caught up in a moment of reverie and grace.

Vermeer’s window — which can take many forms but is in a common position in a number of his compositions — here is of clear leaded glass, but it assumes the character of stained glass as it captures the sky and clouds and carries them into the room like a Baroque hologram.

The woman’s face, at once plain and angelically serene, is gently lit beneath her translucent linen headdress. In the hands of other painters of the time, the linens would have been rendered in carbon grays or umbers, but Vermeer has used an etherial blue; painting the shadowed tones with genuine Ultramarine (lapis lazuli) — a pigment more expensive by weight than gold — and anticipating an approach to optical color that would not be common among other painters for another 200 years.

The multi-faceted planes of the pitcher and basin are subtly aglow, as if gilded with sunlight, and rendered with a surprisingly painterly finesse — hardly an approach I would call “photographic”.

They also capture the room’s other colors, like an analog of the artist’s eye. Along with the other objects in the room, they demonstrate Vermeer’s seldom credited role as one of history’s great still life painters, even if his subjects were always presented in the context of an environment for figurative works.

This is obviously a household of some means — and it is assumed the objects, including the recognizable chair and table covering that appear in several of his works, are from Vermeer’s own house — but the suggestion here is of the ordinary made extraordinary. An everyday moment has been lifted from time and distilled into eternal clarity by the artist’s contemplative vision.

Did Vermeer use optical devices to assist in visualizing and composing his paintings? I think it’s likely (as did many artists throughout history). But for those who suggest that this in some way lessens Vermeer’s genius, or diminishes his power as an artist, I can only sigh, shake my head, and say I’m so sorry to hear you have no poetry in your soul.


Works on Paper at Arcadia Contemporary

Works on Paper at Arcadia Contemporary: Matthew Cornell, Sam Wolf Connelly, Miguel Angel Moya, Amya Gurpide, Julio Reyes, Aaron Wiesenfeld, Baugh, Stephen Mackey, Christopher Pugliese, Andy Espinoza, Gregory Mortenson, Jordan Sokol, Candice Bohannon

This is one of those wonderful group shows in which there is a common theme (simply works on paper), a broad variety of approaches, media and technique, and a high level of skill among the participants.

There is a sub-theme, in that 17 of the works were done specifically at a size that could be presented in a custom-made Moleskine sketchbook, in cooperation with the Moleskine store in Soho.

Works on Paper” will be on view at Arcadia Contemporary in Soho until August 31, 2015. (Note: the link to images from the show will change to the next show after that date.)

(Images above: Matthew Cornell, Sam Wolf Connelly, Miguel Angel Moya, Amya Gurpide, Julio Reyes, Aaron Wiesenfeld, Baugh, Stephen Mackey, Christopher Pugliese, Andy Espinoza, Gregory Mortenson, Jordan Sokol, Candice Bohannon)