Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Artistic Revival of Austin Briggs, Part 1

One of the most inspiring stories of a mid-career revival came from the mid-20th century illustrator Austin Briggs (1908-1973), who told how he rediscovered painting from nature:

"Some years ago," he says, "I became very discouraged with my work. I was studying the work of other illustrators, which, in the beginning, was very helpful."

"But my own work had no individuality. Every few months as I became aware of a new illustrator's work, my style changed and not one of my pictures looked as though it was painted by me — especially the backgrounds and the landscapes. What had happened was that my ability to observe and learn from nature was dying from disuse."

"Finally it dawned on me that I should get away from the influence of other artists and work directly from nature to develop my own personal reaction to the visual world. Having decided this, I took an immediate vacation and went to the Gaspé Peninsula in Canada for four months. There I sketched any and everything — from nature."

"During my vacation on the Gaspé Peninsula, I did this painting of sailboats. While painting many pictures like this, I began to experience a very personal reaction to forms and the play of light on them. In fact, I became so interested in landscapes that they became, and still are, an integral part of my work, almost a trade mark you might say."

"Here is another landscape done after returning from the Gaspé Peninsula. By now I knew that the points of view borrowed from other artists were not suited to my temperament. Indeed they were damaging and antagonistic."

"As you can see, in this landscape I began to realize a positive and individual reaction to nature."
Tomorrow: Part 2: What happened next.
Quoted from Famous Artists Course (1954 Edition) Lesson 16.
Austin Briggs Flickr set by Leif Peng
Briggs Flickr collection by Matt Dicke


Steve said...

Thanks for bringing Austin Briggs back into my awareness. I remember Charley Parker's excellent post about him.

Seeing these paintings in black and white is a nice segue from the gas station gouaches, I suppose, but I can't help wishing I could see them in full color.

Four months on the Gaspe would do wonders for just about anyone's spirit and vision...

Tom Hart said...

I'm looking forward to the next chapter. This post really resonates with me. As much as I love and thrive on reading about and viewing art, I try to always be aware that influences including instructional influences, have to be both absorbed and, at times, forgotten about to a certain degree.

Like Steve, I'm wishing I could see these in color. I'll have to do some Google-ing...

Chris Jouan said...

Thanks, James. This is particularly timely as I have been struggling with the same issues. Four months off would be a great luxury!

A Colonel of Truth said...

Go your own way (as sung by Fleetwood Mac). Indeed! And simplify.

Rich said...

Without his past illustrator-education the result would have been different.

He wouldn't have had the "muscles" to realise his individual impressions this way, fronting Nature, I'd say.

Anonymous said...

I too cannot wait until the next episode. This message speaks very strongly to me right now. Landscapes are my love, but recently I have been battling the influences of what goes down in the print-on-demand sites. Glad I found you James!

Indian Art Idea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Indian Art Idea said...

The paintings given above depicts the story and description very well. I have seen one of the famous online art gallery which has eminent collection of paintings and artwork.

Matt Dicke said...

Briggs was not only an amazing and inspiring painter but also a power house of a draftsman. Glad to see you giving him some attention. I like this story on how he found his personal voice! here are some more pics for fans