A local art student is completing a project onen plein air in Art History and has requested responses from other artists on their experience of painting en plein air for comparative study.
“I am incredibly interested by painting outdoors, and was wondering if it were possible for you to answer some questions I have on the topic?”
Their particular area of study has included Scandinavian artists such as Peder Severin Krøyer (1851-1909) working en plein air in the town of Skagen, Denmark. They are looking at the Skagen artists’ relationship with light in Skagen, and especially, Krøyer’s en plein air works created during his ‘blue period’.
If you are able to answer any of the questions below to aid their understanding of painting en plein air (particularly before Friday 6 May) that would be fantastic and we will pass on responses to them.
A new Royal Academy exhibition displays paintings by artists of inspiration found in gardens, Claude Monet being preeminent among them and representing a quarter of the gallery space. Monet was not only a masterful painter but also a horticulturalist who regarded his “garden [as his] most beautiful masterpiece” and nature as “the source of [his] inspiration”. He once said: “I am good at only two things, and those are gardening and painting” and that he owed “having become a painter to flowers”.
“Using the work of Monet as a starting point, this landmark exhibition examines the role gardens played in the evolution of art from the early 1860s through to the 1920s.” – Royal Academy
Monet was riddled with artist’s anxieties, and a lack of self-belief and sales, at times, but this was compensated for by his overwhelming desire and obsessive drive to paint what he saw and experienced.
“Every day I discover even more beautiful things. It is intoxicating me, and I want to paint it all – my head is bursting…” – Monet
Apart from Claude Monet, the exhibition features works by Frédéric Bazille, Pierre Bonnard, Gustave Caillebotte, Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, Childe Hassam, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Gustav Klimt, Max Liebermann, Edouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Berthe Morisot, Emil Nolde, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Santiago Rusiňol, John Singer Sargent, Joaquín Sorolla, James-Jacques Tissot, Vincent van Gogh and Edouard Vuillard. Two women and just one Englishman, aren’t we a nation of gardeners?
Gardeners among the Artists
Among the artists, and in addition to Monet himself, Bonnard, Caillebotte, Cézanne, Pissarro, and Renoir, stand out as gardeners in addition to being painters. Pissarro was critiqued by contemporaries as an “Impressionist market gardener specialising in cabbages” whilst Monet has been described as “the artist-gardener par excellence” by Ann Dumas, co-curator of the RA’s show.
Monet Painting in His Garden
Over 120 paintings feature from across Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Avant-Garde periods including Monet’s monumental Agapanthus Triptych, and Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil from 1873, painted by Monet’s friend and colleague since art school, Renoir, on a visit.
In a reminiscence Monet said that Manet whilst painting Monet’s family was joined by Renoir doing likewise. After a while, Manet took Monet aside and whispered to him:
“You’re on very good terms with Renoir and take an interest in his future – do advise him to give up painting! You can see for yourself that it’s not his metier at all.” – Manet to Monet about Renoir!
Monet Painting in His Garden shows it was not unknown for artists to paint artists painting. This is something Paint Out‘s events have borne witness to with well over a dozen paintings featuring artists in the frame.
Plein Air Paint Out
Paint Out‘s previous plein air competitions in Norwich and Wells-next-the-Sea have focused on urban and seafront landscapes but it didn’t stop some artists seeking out gardens as inspirations.
The mass ‘paint out’ on Norfolk’s historic Mousehold Heath also gave artists the opportunity to paint the cityscape of Norwich or the heath itself- filled with trees, bushes, dogs, children playing, and 100 artists painting.
“the middle class garden in the 19th century did not just change the well-being of the population of Europe, but also the history of art as we know it. [the] exhibition at the Royal Academy [reveals] how the creation of the ordinary back gardens so prevalent today inspired a new generation of artists from Monet to Matisse.”
“Monet’s visions of the gardens he created at Argenteuil, Vétheuil and Giverny…are planted at intervals all the way through the show until they build to a grand finale at the end – a spectacular vision of water lilies, and of modern art.”
For those who’ve seen enough Monet, The Times says don’t be deterred:
“It’s the giddying profusion of colour that will first strike you. The visitor is led along light-dappled pathways into an all but fantastical chromatic world. Here are explosions of dahlias, there cascades of roses; here are banks of chrysanthemums, there the blaze of sunflowers. This show offers a sensory experience as much as an intellectual thesis.” – Rachel Campbell-Johnston
It is interesting to see how art is more appreciated, often many years after its initial creation, as the Independent review points out:
“Indeed, even the term impressionism was coined as a negative phrase by the then contemporary critic Louis Leroy, who declared that Monet’s painting was, at most, a sketch, and could hardly be termed a finished work.”
Not all the paintings concentrate on flowers, some emphasise the people in them, or even a pair of old boots:
“‘Miss Jekyll’s Gardening Boots’ is a painting by Sir William Nicholson. It was a gift for the architect Edwin Lutyens who worked closely with Gertrude Jekyll, the gardener. It’s a simple yet evocative painting of her boots and the only painting in the exhibition that proves keeping a garden takes hard work and dedication [just like painting!]. The boots are tired and made of leather, the left boot is losing a sole, and the right has a gaping hole where the sole has lost its grip on the leather completely.”
The exhibition runs 30 January – 20 April 2016 and is open Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm and late night Fridays till 10pm. Tickets are £16 plus optional donation and the Royal Academy address is: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BDs’
Stephen Fry chooses canvases & paints for Desert Island castaway luxury
The long-running BBC Radio 4 programme, Desert Island Discs– and its current presenter Kirsty Young, have secured Norfolk and national treasure Stephen Fry, for a second time, to quiz him on his castaway music, literature and luxury choices. One of his biggest regrets, it turns out, is that he feels that he cannot dance or paint, and rather than take a dance teacher as his luxury item he’s opted for the easel life of a marooned and abandoned artist.
After choosing T.S. Elliot’s Four Quartets, alongside the supplied Bible and Shakespeare, he opted to take as a luxury item on which to spend “all the time in the world”:
“canvases, and easels, and watercolours and oils and acrylics, I think, and all the brushes and turpentine and linseed, that go with them, and possibly an instruction manual.” – Stephen Fry on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs
Stephen Fry’s love of art & artists
Fry admires art and respects artists, as revealed to Kirsty Young:
“Well it’s is a whole area of endeavour that I admire enormously, is art, yet I can’t paint.”
When younger, at the Groucho Club, Fry recalls meeting a young artist and being fascinated by his confidence.
“I can’t paint… except use words, use language, so that’s what I’ve poured all my joy into…I’m not an artist and I really respect artists. I can remember… Damien Hirst…he just has some strange gift in his head that allows him to look at one thing and one thing only and decide upon it and think about it, hard and not get distracted by what people think… But you can’t be an artist if you care about what other people think.”
Learn to Paint by watching other artists
Stephen Fry has given us such joy with his use of words and language. Perhaps, Stephen will get his chance to explore art in his home county of Norfolk. As James Colman and Will Buckley of Paint Out have said:
“There is no better way to learn how to paint than to be able to watch and talk to people actually painting. It is the opposite of watching paint dry.”