Ben Fenske

Ben Fenske
Originally from Minnesota, Ben Fenske now deivdes his time between Sag Harbor, NY and Florence, Italy. Fenske studied at the Russian Academy of Art, The Florence Academy of Art, the Studio of Joseph Paquet, Minnesota, and Bougie Studio, Minnesota.

Fenske paints still life, landscapes, interiors, portraits and figures with a fresh color palette, economical notation and painterly vigor — often with brushy scrubbing of color in areas that barely covers the support, at other times with a more refined and developed approach. In many cases, there is a appealing Van Gogh-like quality to his brusque, directional brush strokes.

Throughout his work is a keen sense of light and dark, often used to dramatic effect; even simple still life subjects take on a sense of visual drama. His seemingly casual paint application belies a nuanced approach to the use of texture — defining planes, revealing light and inviting you into his paintings with tactile presence.

In addition to his website, you can find an extensive selection of Fenske’s work, at times with larger reproductions, on the site of the Grenning Gallery.

There is a brief plein air process video on Vimeo.

[Via Marc Dalessio and Leo Mancini-Hresko]


Eye Candy for Today: Jan van Huysum still life

Fruit Piece, Jan van Huysu, highly detailed 18th century Dutch still life
Fruit Piece, Jan van Huysum

The link is to a zoomable version on Google Art Project; there is a large (14mb) downloadable image on Wikimedia Commons; the original is in the Getty Museum, which also has a zoomable image, as well as a large (18mb) downloadable image.

Even among the highly detailed and superbly rendered still life compositions of his contemporaries, I find the work of 18th century Dutch painter Jan van Huysum extraordinary.

There is a richness of tactile reality and a physical presence in his work that bears witness to his insistence on painting from life, often delaying the progress of a painting until certain flowers were in bloom.

He’s taken the practice of including insects in still life paintings to another level, not only including multiple examples, but studying them with the eye of an entomologist, and his plant forms with with an accuracy that would stun most botanical artists.

It’s not the detail itself that impresses me, however — that’s seldom satisfying on its own — it’s the way Van Huysum has incorporated that level of keen observation and intricate rendering with the artistic goals of a harmonious, dramatic composition. His control of color, texture, and in particular, value, is a joy to behold.

The painting involves you in levels, inviting you further and further into the depths of the artist’s fascination with the visual splendor of nature at a small scale.


CJ Hendry

CJ Hendry, detailed large scale pen drawings of fashion items and food
I have to say that I’m consistently unimpressed with most of the “amazing photorealist drawings” that seem to proliferate as click-bait around the web, but the large scale pen drawings of Australian artist CJ Hendry are a notable exception.

Hendry takes as her primary subjects fashion items — designer shoes and handbags in particular — and renders their often shiny leathery surfaces at a large scale as detailed tone drawings in ink, created with fine point markers in a combination of hatching and stipple.

Hendry’s work has become quite popular and in demand with collectors.

Unfortunately, Hendry doesn’t appear to have a dedicated web presence other than an Instragram account, and most of the images I can find are of work in progress, or Hendry holding up the finished piece, rather than a photo of the work itself.

Many of the drawings highlighted on her Instagram page, and on articles about her, are from a recent project in which she completed 50 drawings of various food items in 50 days.

There is a brief process video on Vimeo.

[Via DCAD Library]


Eye Candy for Today: Manuel Ocaranza’s Love of the Hummingbird and The Dead Flower

The Love of the Hummingbird, The Dead Flower, Manuel Ocaranza
The Love of the Hummingbird and The Dead Flower, Manuel Ocaranza

Links are to zoomable versions on Google Art Project, downloadable version of The Love of the Hummingbird and The Dead Flower on Wikimedia Commons, originals are in the Museo Nacional De Arte of Mexico (no images).

The Love of the Hummingbird is a charming genre set piece — as much as still life as it is a portrait/figure study, but together with The Dead Flower, the two paintings may be intended to tell a morality tale — in which the promise of blossoming love suggested in the former is echoed in a metaphor of lost virtue in the latter.

The model is different, but the theme and compositional elements are very similar; the lily, in particular, links the two and can serve as a metaphor for the young woman’s virginity.

Though Ocaranza never officially tied the two works, they were painted during the same period, and displayed together when first revealed; it’s generally assumed they are meant to be related.


Ettore Roesler Franz

Ettore Roesler Franz, watercolors of Rome
Ettore Roesler Franz was a 19th century German/italian painter, noted in particular for his watercolors of Rome.

A number of these comprise a series titled “Roma sparita” (loosely: “Vanished Rome”), meant in part to record scenes of buildings and landmarks the he feared would be demolished in an effort to modernize the city.

His watercolors are wonderfully textural, with dramatic value contrasts and great use of perspective.

Frustratingly, examples of his work online are scattered and frequently smaller than one might hope. Wikimedia Commons has quite a few, but most are small (though there is a nice larger version of the image above, top here). You can find larger images with a Google search of Sothebys or Bonhams auction sites (below).

The best single source I’ve found otherwise is, which has a better selection of images at a larger size than Wikimedia Commons. Unfortunately, the site is poorly organized (image sections are linked on the left), and the site plays music at you, and I can’t find a way to turn it off — so use at your own risk of annoyance.


American Dreaming

American Dreaming documentary on mid 20th century American car design art
American Dreaming is an as yet unreleased documentary on mid 20th century American car design art, the artists and designers who created it and the attempts of art collector Robert Edwards to collect and preserve as much of it as possible.

Much of this art was meant to be destroyed by the car manufacturers who commissioned it, lest their advanced designs, even the unused ones, fall into the hand of competitors.

The artists themselves saved some of the art, smuggling it out of the company offices in false-bottom boxes and by other means, rather than seeing it destroyed.

PBS has a selection of about a dozen examples on their website.

(Images above: George Krispinsky, Ben Kroll or Richard Arbib, Del Coates, Charles Balogh)