Progress, and old business

Making good progress on Kenyon Cox, might be completed in one more session. Still a lot to do, but it's coming together well.
The main reason for painting from master works is to learn, and (if it's not a commission), there's a point at which I've learned what this artist had to teach me, so it's okay to move on. I work quickly, a result of my plein air landscape work. More can be done in the studio later...but usually there's not much left to do.  

Here are some works from last fall, before the layoff. First up, Chardin's Still Life with White Mug:

16" x 20" and done in one four-hour sitting. The original looked very much like it had been done that way, premier coup or alla prima, so that was my plan as well. Chardin painted this late in his career, and it's filled with confidence and bravado. He painted the one right below (Fruit, Jug, and a Glass) 50 years earlier and it has the more tentative and labored feel of a young painter with something to prove. 

This Van der Neer Moonlit Landscape was an exercise in establishing nocturnal values. I wasn't concerned about the extremely fine details which are strewn throughout this painting like Easter eggs. Aert Van der Neer was known for his nocturnal landscapes during his lifetime.

Finally, this still life by Willem Kalf was technically fascinating. This painting, like so many others, has had an interesting and uneasy life. They are like humans in that way: they survive some rough or unfortunate treatment and bear the scars of that, but their beauty shines through. This painting had a huge tear in it at one point, had been overcleaned and inpainted to a shocking degree, but was restored to its original, sublime beauty by the best conservators in the world: those at the NGA. I didn't quite finish this on site before my sabbatical, but it won't take much to get it there. It's a classical 17th century Dutch still life, peaceful and lovely, belying its turbulent past.


Back to Work

After a layoff for some health issues and a digression into more drawing and watercolor, it's back to work in oil at the National Gallery. The painting I'm working from now is "Flying Shadows" by Kenyon Cox. This painting was acquired as part of the merger with the Corcoran collection, so it's only been at the NGA since 2015. There isn't a high-res image of it yet on the NGA site, nor many notes about its technical and historical background, but the Corcoran site still has an extensive entry on it for the scholars among you. The life of the physical painting is always fascinating, all that it has been through to reach its present state. Just like a human, it bears the evidence of some hard times but its beauty shines through.

Here's the start of day 1 and the end of day 2:

My canvas is 20 X 24". Still a long ways to go, many corrections and layers to add.

Kenyon Cox was a very important painter, illustrator, and muralist in the Academic Classical style. He trained at PAFA and in Paris. This landscape is an early work in his oeuvre, a bit looser than his later work. He taught at the Art Students League, where he applied the ancient dictum "Nulla Dies Sine Linea"--no day without a line (of drawing), still the best advice for artists of all kinds. There are a number of his drawings in the NGA collection as well.

The painting has a buff-colored ground and no overall undertone. It seems constructed of many thin layers built up to portray the lush softness of the grassy fields and the trees. That's my strategy, to get the soft, subtle glow of gentle color coming through. The biggest challenge is to tone down my usually-brighter palette without killing it. Landscape is definitely in my comfort zone, and Kenyon Cox has a lot to say about it.