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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Eye Candy for Today: Caillebotte’s Yerres, Effect of Rain

erres Effect of Rain, Gustave Caillebotte impressionist painting
erres Effect of Rain, Gustave Caillebotte impressionist painting

Yerres, Effect of Rain, Gustave Caillebotte, oil on canvas, roughly 32 x 23 inches (80x 59 cm).

Link is to page on WikiArt, from which you can click “View All Sizes” to get to a larger image. Original is in the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University Bloomington.

I had the pleasure of seeing this in person at an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2009. Most of the images of this painting on the internet, including the museum’s website, are too dark and oversaturated. The one I’m linking to is not bad, though I’ve taken the liberty of lightening is slightly. There is another here on Flickr.

Several of Caillebotte’s works are subtitled with the word “effect” — as in Rooftop View (Effect of snow). Like the other French Impressionists, Caillebotte was concerned with the effects of light and atmosphere under different conditions.

Here, he gives us a perfect evocation of the light and atmosphere of a light rain on a small stream. The Yerres River is a tributary of the Seine, southeast of Paris, near where the artist lived.

 
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