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Showing posts from February, 2014

Edward Hopper v.s. Thomas Kinkade- Who's The Painter of Light ?

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Edward Hopper, Rooms for Tourists, oil, 1945


An oil painting by Thomas Kinkade

One of the best reasons to look at art is it teaches us how to enjoy our eyes. Paintings are always lessons in seeing. Really good paintings simply help you have a lot more fun. 
Thomas Kinkade, probably one of the best known American artists and certainly one of the best marketed, passed away in the spring of 2012. Kinkade called himself "The Painter of Light", a slogan that had a certain ring to it. Kinkade's ubiquitous images are likely some of the first paintings most Americans were likely to have stumbled across. But if one keeps looking, there are probably other artists who have a great deal more to say to us about painting light with real authenticity.
Longtime readers of this blog won't be surprised if I offer Edward Hopper as an alternative. Comparing the two landscapes above is revealing of some of the deeper essentials of painting. 
If painting is primarily about seeing who can rep…

Winslow Homer's Gentle Push

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Winslow Homer, The Trapper, oil on canvas, 19 x 29 1/2", 1870, Colby College Museum of Art. This oil likely served as a  preparatory canvas for the larger oil below.



Winslow Homer, An Adirondack Lake, oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 36 1/4",  1870, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle.




Cover of exhibition catalogue for the 1970 show The American Scene 
featuringa detail from the Henry Art Gallery's version of Homer's painting.


Today is Winslow Homer's birthday (Am. 1836 - 1910). I was reminded of this by the Colby College Museum of Art's Facebook post wishing that old master of American Realism the best this afternoon. Accompanying their good wishes was the painting at the top, The Trapper, from their Collection that Homer painted in 1870.  It probably served as a preparation for a larger work Homer painted expanding on the subject that's now in the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle. (I had the good fortune to tour the impressiv…

Which is More Important: Color or Drawing?

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Philip Koch, Morning: Acadia, vine charcoal, 10 1/2 x 14", 2013

My title asked a trick question. One for which there is no answer.

To me there's more connection than separation between drawing and painting. Drawing implies leaving a great deal of the surface of the paper exposed, while painting suggests covering over most or all of the ground of paper or canvas. I usually tell my painting students that "painting is mostly drawing," It is an exaggeration I know, but it does get their attention.

The most magical thing about painting for me is of course color, as it is for most of us. But color is so powerfully fluid and multifaceted that it can easily elude us. A painting that is only about color would be like trying to get a drink in a parched desert without a cup.  You need a vessel.  Drawing in a great set of shapes "holds" the colors in place for your eyes to drink them in. 

Shapes, and by that I mean the flat silhouettes that are the building blocks of…

Jo Hopper and Charles Burchfield

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Above is an oil portrait of Jo Hopper painted by her husband Edward. I love its direct and concentrated energy and absolutely masterful design. As introverted and silent as Edward Hopper was, Jo was famously gregarious and scrappy. She had been an actress as well as an art student in her earlier days before marrying Edward. The two of them had a complicated decades long relationship, by turns closely intimate and other times explosive to the point of violence. It was Jo's initiative that really jump started Edward's rise to art stardom. Unfortunately her career as a painter lagged badly after her marriage, a source of long simmering resentment for her.
I was reading through the journals of the painter Charles Burchfield (Am. 1893-1967) and ran across his entry for March 6 - 12, 1939 with its amusing observation from Burchfield about the Hoppers.  Jo's painting had just been rejected from an exhibtion for which Edward had served on the selection panel-
I stopped in to see Hop…

Charles Burchfield's Dream About Edward Hopper

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Edward Hopper, Sugar Maple, watercolor, 1936
Two artists I look at a lot are Charles Burchfield and Edward Hopper. Their work intrigues and delights my eyes. But just as important studying their art has made me a far stronger painter.
Unlike taciturn Hopper, Burchfield prodigiously kept journals throughout his life. His writing is often poetic and sometimes shows surprising candor.

Burchfield recorded a dream he had about Hopper in his journal from July 28, 1947. (The two were friends, showing for years together at New York's Frank Rehn Galleries. Despite the major differences in their painting styles, each deeply respected the other's work).

Here's what Burchfield  wrote-

Dream:
Of being in a wood, and coming upon a picture by Hopper which he had just completed (It seemed as if he he was "summering"in the woods and had rented a small portion of it, to which he confined himself- There were several large oaks surrounding a small clearing). The picture I thought was sup…

Edward Hopper's Legacy: Taking His Eyes Seriously

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Hopper, House on Middle Street, Gloucester, watercolor, 1924 Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH
The Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, NY has asked me to be part of the program at their Annual Spring Benefit on Sunday, May 4. There will be tours, music and sparkling wine. I'm going to give a short talk on Hopper's legacy and how he has influenced me and other artists since his time. 
The setting of Hopper House will do a lot of the talking for me. 
Hopper, far more than many prominent artists of his generation, found his ideas in his immediate surroundings. The Hopper House Art Center, his boyhood home where he lived until he was approaching 30, in many ways was one of the key influences on how he saw the world. Above is one of his watercolors from the Currier Museum of Art. With its rhythm of irregular highlights and shuttered windows it's brimming with quirky personality. I believe that's in part because Hopper was open to seeing its potential as it so resembl…