Eye Candy for Today Mrs Smith watercolor of plums and caterpillars

ranch with a cluster of ripe plums and caterpillars, botanical illustration watercolor by Mrs. Smith
ranch with a cluster of ripe plums and caterpillars, botanical illustration watercolor by Mrs. Smith

Branch with a cluster of ripe plums and caterpillars, Mrs. Smith; watercolor, roughly 10 x 10 inches (25 x 25 cm). Link is to the image page on Wikimedia Commons. Original is in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

The image is credited to “Mrs. Smith”, based on a pencil signature at the lower right of the paper. Neither Wikimedia Commons nor the museum offer any clue as to who “Mrs. Smith” is, and I can find little elsewhere. The painting is dated 1830 and country of origin is listed as the UK. Beyond that, we’re on our own.

We can assume Mrs. Smith was a botanical artist of some skill if not of particular note.

Close up, she has used broad, painterly and seemingly casual marks to define her subject, but when seen from a normal distance, her colors and values are so accurate that the representation of the fruit, leaves, branch and insects is wonderfully naturalistic.

 
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Zufar Bikbov

Zufar Bikbov paintings
Zufar Bikbov paintings

Orignally from Russia, Zufar Bikbov is a painter now based in the U.S. whose landscapes and occasional still life paintings are painted with bold confidence based on a solid draftsmanship.

His color palettes are balanced between high chroma highlights and restrained supporting colors, giving a feeling of bright but naturalistic color.

I particularly admire the way he often suggests his landscape backgrounds with a minimum of detail, while maintaining a variety of color within them.

Bikbov’s website includes galleries of his work, and indicates that he sometimes conducts workshops via Zoom, though none are listed at the time of this writing.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Pere Borrell del Caso trompe-lœil

Two Laughing Girls, Pere Borrell del Caso trompe-lœil painting \
Two Laughing Girls, Pere Borrell del Caso trompe-lœil painting

Two Laughing Girls, Pere Borrell del Caso; oil on canvas, roughly 27 x 27 inches (69 x 69 cm); link is to Wikimedia Commons, original is in the Museu del Modernisme Catalá, Barcelona.

Spanish painter Pere Borrell del Caso, who was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is known for his trompe-l’œil paintings, in which the subjects are not only rendered realistically, but come forward with a dimensionality that seems to break the picture plane.

Though not his most dramatic or well known trompe-l’œil painting (which is Escaping Criticism), this one is my favorite, perhaps because it’s more subtle.

The painting of the girl’s faces — one highlighted, the other entirely in shadow, who appear to be looking directly at the viewer — is engaging enough. The relationship of their faces in light and dark already gives the painting depth.

The values of the dark and light faces are emphasized by the tone gradient behind them, light behind dark and dark behind light. The dimensionality is accentuated by the right hand of the girl in shadow, which is reaching forward into the light and pointing out at the viewer.

What kicks it over the top into trompe-l’œi eye candy is the sleeve and elbow of the girl in front.

Although the sleeve is dark compared to the rest of the figure, which keeps us from focusing on it right away, once we notice that it is apparently projecting out of the frame, resting on the edge and casting a shadow on it, we’re pulled into that wonderful uncertainty of what is real and what isn’t, which tickles the brain and is part of the joy of trompe-l’œi.

On closer examination, you can see that the inner ring of the frame, the same color and just as elaborately decorative as the rest of it, is false — part of the painting and not part of the actual frame.

 
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Charles Davis

Charles Harold Davis, landscape paintings
Charles Harold Davis, landscape paintings

The work of Charles Harold Davis, an American painter active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, shifted in style over the course of his career.

His early work shows his training at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts school, as well as his study in Europe at the Académie Julian (where he studied with Jules Joseph Lefebvre) and his subsequent time painting in the Forest of Fontainebleau.

There he was influenced by the painters of the Barbizon School, and his style shows tonalist leanings and eventually develops into an impressionist character. It is in the latter style that he painted a number of cloudscapes that he became noted for.

 
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Jessica Hayllar

Jessica Hayllar interiors and still life
Jessica Hayllar interiors and still life

Jessica Hayllar, a British painter active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, focused largely on interiors and domestic scenes, and later in her career, on florals.

Like her four sisters, Hayllar was tought by her father, James Hayllar, who was a painter of portraits, landscape and genre subjects. Jessica took painting to heart with more dedication than her sisters, though her sister Edith also successfully exhibited.

Jessica Hayllar’s work was less academically restrained than that of her father. Her interiors and florals are often bathed in sunlight from windows and doors that open to yards and gardens. Her floral still life subjects usually featured visually appealing pottery and often included more of the room interior than typical still life arrangements.

 
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Jan Bogaerts

Jan Bogaerts still life and landscape paitings
Jan Bogaerts still life and landscape paitings

Every once in a while I come across a painter to whom I have the delightful reaction of “Wow! How did I not know about this one before?”

That was my response when I stumbled across a painting by Johannes Jacobus Maria ‘Jan’ Bogaerts, a Dutch painter active in the early to mid 20th century, whose work carries wonderful echoes of his 17th century predecessors.

In searching for more of his work, I found beautifully subtle and muted landscapes, often cast in low light with subdued value relationships, and, in particular, striking still life paintings that are somehow simultaneously restrained and bold.

I’ve seen plenty of still life that would fit in the category of “realism”, but there is something about the balance of naturalistic representation and painterly effect in Bogaert’s simple arrangements that I find especially appealing.

Part of the appeal, I think, is his choice of still life objects that are chipped or cracked and otherwise show signs of age and wear, as well as background walls and tiles that show something of the same.

The best source I’ve found for images of Bogaert’s work is a Dutch gallery, Simonis & Buunk. Their page includes a bio of the artist as well as links to large images.

 
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