Lady with a Bouquet, (Snowballs), Charles Courtney Curran
Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Birmingham Museum of Art (AL) which also has a zoomable version. Oil on panel, roughly 12 x 8 in (31 x 22 cm).
American painter Charles Courtney Curran was known for his genre paintings, often of well dressed young women in idyllic surroundings.
In this small painting, Curran’s wife poses for a delicately sensitive portrait in which her shadowed face is in the same value range as the foremost of the flowers in the bouquet she examines, both illuminated from behind by gentle sunlight from a window outside our view.
I particularly admire the rather daring way Curran has silhouetted her profile against the bright passage of one of the sunlit groups of blossoms, using the value contrast to advantage as the focus of composition, while taking the risk that it might overwhelm the delicate modeling of her face.
Throughout, the brushy paint application is so loose and confident as to appear almost casual, though Curran’s superb draftsmanship and the powerful naturalism of the scene indicate that his approach was anything but casual.
Originally from Arkansas, educated in Colorado and New York and currently living in Denver, Daniel Sprick is an American painter who focuses on portraits, figures and still life, and occasionally landscape.
Sprick’s subjects are clearly observed, precisely drawn and rendered with finess, but to my eye, they always seem to carry with them an element of chaos — passages at the edges that feel rough and unfinished, a suggestion not only that this is paint on a surface, but a hint that reality itself is fuzzy at the edges, and perhaps this is a truer representation than absolute fidelity.
When you view the works in the portfolio and archives sections of his website, be sure to click the “view larger” link at the upper right of the images. The difference in size isn’t great, but Sprick’s approach is still more rewarding with an incremental increase in the size of the reproduction (leading, of course, to a wish that they were reprodied even larger).
In his still life subjects, I find a particular fascination in the way he uses texture and edges to control focus, again seeming to weave refinement and roughness into a coherent whole.
There are videos from the Denver Art Museum and the Delaware Art Museum in which Sprick briefly discusses his work, an interview on Painting Perceptions and an essay by Jane Fudge from the Denver Museum show archived on Sprick’s site.