Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nacreous Color

 Top: 15.5 x 39.5 inches 

The Circle of the Sea

The American painter (Thomas) Alexander Harrison 1853 - 1930, was best known for his marines. In The Circle of the Sea, he has captured the nacreous (pearly) effect of evening light.

Harrison rented a ramshackle cottage near the Brittany town of Beg-Meil, and each evening raced to the dunes to watch the sun set over the ocean. In late-summer 1896, he was joined there by struggling writer Marcel Proust and composer Reynaldo Hahn. He opened their eyes to how light plays on water:

"We have seen the sea successively turn blood red, purple, nacreous with silver, gold, white, emerald green, and yesterday we were dazzled by an entirely pink sea specked with blue sails."

Hahn is considered the inspiration for the title character in Proust's attempted first novel Jean Santeuil, but another character, "C", seems to be based on Harrison, along with aspects of the character Elstir, the painter in Remembrance of Things Past.

His brother, L. Birge Harrison (1854 -1929), also a painter, particularly successful in snow scenes, was a pupil of the École des Beaux Arts, Paris, under Cabanel and Carolus-Duran. Another brother, Butler Harrison (d. 1886), was a figure painter.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Edgard Pieter Jozef Farasyn, 1858-1938, 28 x 43 cm

Painterliness in the waves and sky, contrasted to the crisp fine detail of the fishing boats, gives a sense of movement.
Though the brushstrokes in the waves are painterly, they conform to the planes of the waves.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Academic Art

William Bouguereau, L'orage (The Storm)

This is not technically a marine painting but it is suffused by a marine atmosphere.


Lately I have become increasingly aware of certain ideological disputes within the art world. Whenever ideology creeps in - whether left-wing or right-wing - painting suffers. The main divide is between conservatives and progressives. In the complex world of art movements conservatives have become at times radical reactionaries, while progressive artists have sometimes re-explored the painting of the nineteenth century from a slightly ironic viewpoint.
I have an admiration for the technical skills of the nineteenth century painters, but recognize that much of the work from that period is sentimental, superficial and even kitsch, or born out of attitudes no longer tenable today, such as Imperialism and Eurocentrism. As with any period of art, much of it is just mediocre. At the same time, I think a lot of people look at a quality Victorian painting and automatically see something tainted by Imperialism, sexism or some other oppressive ideology of the past, without really pausing to consider it as paint applied to canvas. 
There are a lot of nineteenth century works on this blog, but the intention is not to take a conservative, anti-modernist stance, as the Art Renewal Centre has done. The reason there is so much nineteenth century art  posted is that I feel there is a lot that can be learnt about image-making, from that period.
There are works from the modern movement also represented here, but it's pretty obvious that the  golden age of the seascape was the 19th Century. However, there are many contemporary artists turning to the genre from a fresh angle, and I seek to include their work whenever possible.

For further reading on this topic I recommend this open letter to the ARC by the artist Mark Vallen

The academic Artist William Bouguereau, foe of the Impressionists, is one of the ARC's heroes, though they do, perhaps reluctantly, include some Impressionist work on their site.
This is a contemporary reworking of one of his marines, La Vague, by the Worth 1000 vandals :).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jamie Wyeth

Top: The Sea, Watched, oil on canvas, 30 x 48 inches.
Bottom: The Rookery

American painter, Jamie Wyeth, is the third generation of artists in the Wyeth family.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dramatic Lighting

Source: J Russell Jinishian Gallery
Russ Kramer, The Wizard and the Queen
Donald Demers, Sunrise at Sea
Christopher Blossom, Silhouette