Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fidelia Bridges

Fidelity Bridges, Milkweeds, 1876. Watercolor and gouache on paper
Fidelia Bridges (1834 - 1923) was known for her meticulous botanical studies, many of which were painted outdoors in nature.

Both of her parents died when she was in her teens. She never married, but had a small circle of friends, including Mark Twain, for whom she served for a time as a governess of his daughters. 

She lived by herself in a home in Canaan, Connecticut, overlooking a stream and a flower garden filled with birds and butterflies. A writer of the time described her this way:

"She soon became a familiar village figure, tall, elegant, beautiful even in her sixties, her hair swept back, her attire always formal, even when sketching in the fields or riding her bicycle through town. Her life was quiet and un-ostentatious, her friends unmarried ladies of refinement and of literary and artistic task who she joined for woodland picnics and afternoon teas."

Fidelia Bridges, Calla Lily, 1875
She was inspired by reading John Ruskin's Modern Painters, which preached truth to nature. She found her way to study under William Trost Richards, who became a lifelong mentor. Her early studies in watercolor and gouache, such as this one of a calla lily, show a patient and observant eye. 

Bridges was one of only seven women who became members of the American Watercolor Society in the 19th century. She worked for the Prang company in her later career, and her work was often reproduced on greeting cards.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dan Gurney's Sons Drive His Cars at Indy



My cousin Dan Gurney was mighty proud last Sunday when his four sons took some laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four of his creations. (link to YouTube)

Plein-Air Painting in the 1920s



A silent black-and-white film from the 1920s (Link to YouTube) turned up in the basement of an art club.

At 2:03, it shows a group of well dressed men painting outdoors, using a variety of easels that were typical of the time.
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Thanks, Stuart Fullerton and Robert Horvath.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

W.T. Richards "Into the Woods"


William Trost Richards painted Into the Woods when he was about 27 years old. It's in oil, and it's not large (15.5 x 20 inches / 39.7 x 51 cm). 

William Trost Richards, Into the Woods, oil/canvas, 1860
I would guess that it was painted entirely on the spot in at least a dozen sittings, and probably in at least two different locations. As with some of Asher B. Durand's woodland studies, the foreground and background seem to be composited together. Such complete vistas rarely exist readymade in nature.

The painting caught the attention of the art public of his time. He had read Elements of Drawing and Modern Paintersthe books by John Ruskin which urged young artists to be absolutely faithful to the small details of nature.

William Trost Richards, Woodland Brook, 1861
Several artists tried to take up the idea, but WTR did so with the most tenacity. One observer said "he persisted, and carried imitation in art further" than the other pioneers. Another commentator noted that he had "a slow, keen vision, and a slow, sure hand."

Other critics argued that he missed the poetry for the details. In fact, WTR shifted his attention more to express the moods of light and atmosphere in his later canvases. Ruskin suggested that young artists begin by modeling themselves after the Pre-Raphaelites, and with that under their belts, try to emulate the more evocative aspects of Turner.

The painting is in the collection of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine Previously on GJ: Foliage / Forest Interiors
Exhibition catalog: The New Path: Ruskin and the American Pre-Raphaelites


Monday, May 25, 2015

Gérôme on Truth, Illustration, and Photography

Late in his life, academic painter and teacher Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) wrote a statement of his beliefs about art.



"The fact is that truth is the one thing truly good and beautiful; and, to render it effectively, the surest means are those of mathematical accuracy. Nature alone is audacious above anything human; she alone is original and picturesque. It is, then, to her that we must become attached if we wish to interest and enthuse the spectator."

Illustration by Howard Pyle
"The art of illustration has made progress. It is more documentary, but none the less artistic. From this point of view the Americans excel. They have learned how to make use of the document and to make it serve their purpose. In this, instantaneous photography has been of inestimable assistance…. From all this one must conclude that our sense of sight is not as well developed as that of the Greeks or of the Japanese, and that it is not one of our gifts to observe with sufficient attention the various aspects of nature when in rapid motion."

Jean-Léon Gérôme - Diogenes, 1860, Walters Art Gallery
"When one is young and inexperienced one prefers the art of sentiment, and has even the false idea that too much study, too much truth, take away from work its light and its movement. When one has grown old in the harness, when one has worked for many years, observed well, compared well, ideas change. The artist should be a poet in conception, a determined, honest, and sincere workman in the execution. One must put into his work an artistic probity, and, above all, work, work. But there can be no serious and durable work if it is not based upon reason and mathematical accuracy.—if, in a word, art is not allied to science."

"Color and Light" in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean


We just received copies of the new Chinese hardback edition of "Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter" (upper left) from the Eurasian Publishing Group / Solutions Publishing (link to publisher's web page).

There's also a Chinese softcover edition and a Japanese and Korean edition.
The little dinosaur on the cover is Mei long, from China's Liaoning province.