Eye Candy for Today: Abraham Brueghel still life

Pomegranates and Other Fruit in a Landscape, Abraham Brueghel
Pomegranates and Other Fruit in a Landscape, Abraham Brueghel

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art; use the download or zoom links under their image.

This 17th century still life is an example of how tenuous the attribution of historic art can be. Over time, it has been ascribed to Diego Velázquez, Giuseppe Ruoppoli, and Giovanni Paolo Spadino.

The current attribution is to Flemish painter Abraham Brueghel (son of Jan Brueghel the Younger, grandson of Jan Brueghel the Elder and great Grandson of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, quite a family heritage).

Still life set against a landscape is not an unusual compositional device in painting, but this one looks wonderfully strange. If you take the background shapes to be mountains, the three fruits in the background are atop and escarpment, and those in the right foreground seem to hang above a waterfall.

Whether still life at a giant scale is actually the artists intention, I don’t know, but I enjoy being able to interpret it that way. I also like the tiny (and/or giant) lizard in the foreground.

Regardless of illusions of scale — intended or imagined on my part — it’s a beautiful still life.

It’s naturalistic at a distance, but I love how brushy and painterly this is in close-up — wonderful for a 17th century still life — the apples, figs and grapes look as though they might have come off the brush of Manet, 200 year later.

Slawek Fedorczuk

Slawek Fedorczuk, illustration, character design, concept art
Slawek Fedorczuk is an illustrator, character designer and concept artist based in Warsaw, Poland.

Fedorczuk has a springy, energetic style with blocky geometric shapes forming much of the natural environment, giving his image a cartoon-like verve.

His palette ranges from muted to high-chroma, depending on the demands of the image, with touches of texture adding dimension and atmosphere.

Fedorczuk’s web portfolios don’t give much information about his background or projects, but his Behance galleries are divided by project names.

I particularly enjoy his series of illustrations for a project called “Witch’s Forest” (character with red hair, images above).

Władysław Czachórski

Wladyslaw Czachorski
Władysław Czachórski was a Polish painter active in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Though he also painted still life, landscapes and other subjects, Czachórski was known primarily for his portraits and genre paintings of women, dressed in finery and expressively posed among flowers and elegant furnishings. These were rendered with academic realism and a finessed command of textures and tone.

Some of his compositions were apparently closely repeated with different models, perhaps because of requests from patrons, or because of the success of particular subjects.

He was also noted for his interpretations of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays.

Resources for images of Czachórski’s work are somewhat scattered, and a number of the reproductions are not of good quality, but you will find enough that are to give you a feeling for his style.

Eye Candy for Today: Conrad Martens landscape

One of the falls on the Apsley, Conrad Martens
One of the falls on the Apsley, Conrad Martens

Watercolor and gouache, 18 x 24 inches (66 x 46 cm); in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Their image is zoomable, even though they don’t give a visible indication to that effect — click on their image to enlarge. There is also a zoomable version on Google Art Project and a downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons.

Though the landscape looks like a cross between Chinese ink paintings of stylized mountains and a fantasy artist’s interpretation of Conan Doyle’s Lost World, this beautiful watercolor by English-Australian painter Conrad Martens is of a real place in New South Wales, Australia.

Reportedly, Martens exaggerated the height a bit for dramatic effect, confronted with the challenge of conveying the feeling of a place like this in an relatively small painting.

Martins has combined transparent and opaque watercolors here to great effect — in particular, using the bold qualities of the former in the foreground, and the delicate atmospheric quality of the latter in the distance.

I love the attention to the texture of the foreground trees, and little touches like the break in the trees at the top left of the middle prominence (images above, third down).

This is one of those dramatic landscape vistas that artists anchor to the foreground with closer details to give them scope and a point of context for the viewer. It’s intersting to compare this to another of Martens’ paintings of the same region, Apsley Falls, in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Amanda Sage

Amanda Sage, visionasy art
Amanda Sage is a visionary artist whose intricately patterned compositions are meant to represent states of awareness or inner visions as opposed to ordinary perception of the visual world.

Sage studied with Michael Fuchs, and his father Ernst Fuchs, a well-known pioneer of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism and a mentor to the contemporary visionary art movement.

With them she studied the early Renaissance mischtechnik, or “mixed technique”, for which which Ernst Fuchs is credited with prompting a 20th century revival. In the original, egg tempera was used with oil paints and associated resins to create particularly luminous layers of color.

In the modern variation that Sage employs, a base of acrylic color is used, over which the painting is refined with casein and oil.

Common to works in the visionary art genre, many of Sage’s compositions feel influenced by 16th century Buddhist thangkas, and have a mandala-like symmetry, perhaps as an invitation for contemplation.

I also think that many of the artists in this field have been influenced by the layered imagery and geometric progressions of Salvador Dalí’s “atomic” phase.

Of particular interest in this type of painting is the indication of overlapping layers of fine-lined patterns, suggesting motion, and a different kind of visual depth than is usually encountered in painting.

Sage will be co-leading a workshop with Christopher Ulrich at beinArt Gallery in Brunswick, Australia on December 11, 2016.

She will also be teaching Mischtechnik at a three-week seminar at the Vienna Academy of Visionary Art July 8th – July 30th, 2017.

Eye Candy for Today: Dürer’s Large Piece of Turf

The Large Piece of Turf, Albrecht Durer, watercolor and gouache
The Large Piece of Turf, Albrecht Dürer

Watercolor and gouache on paper mounted to board, roughly 16 x 12 inches (41 x 31 cm). Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Albertina, Vienna.

For its small size and unassuming subject, this painting ranks among the most well known works in the history of art. In it, Dürer did not set out to create a work of art, but simply to study from an artist’s greatest teacher, nature.

And study he did. The painting is a marvel of clear, direct observation and painstakingly precise but naturalistic rendering.

In a clump of grass, weeds and leafy plants that few would consider worth a second glance, let alone hours of intense study, Dürer reveals a world of intricate plant forms, their shapes, colors and patterns of growth worthy of a dozen separate botanical illustrations.

The painting has been studied, copied, analyzed and even modeled in 3-D. Its plants have been identified and listed. Much has been made of the artist’s keen powers of observation. There is a Wikipedia page that may serve as a jumping off point for more about the painting.

This is the most famous of Dürer’s naturalistic and strikingly detailed studies of small bits of nature (unless you count his wondrous Hare, painted a year before and also in the Albertina).

In particular, I love the way he has painted the delicate tufts of the grasses, with the same attention one might give to the form of a great tree.

Though not directly related to the painting, I’m reminded of a quote from writer Henry Miller: “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself”