Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘painting’

On view as you enter the front door.

Read Full Post »

When Steve tapered the legs of the dining room table he made by hand this pandemic season … I gardened, he made furniture … these pieces of wood were left behind. Now he told me about these pieces before I actually saw them and said, “I can turn them into a fan for you to do something with. I just need to get the right bolt.” “You mean like a Japanese fan?” He shrugged. “Yeah, more or less.” And I exclaimed with glee, “Yes, make that and we’ll hang it on the wall.”

Given that I don’t work with wood yet and he can’t read my mind yet, we each merrily traveled down a mental path completely unaware that we were not on the same page. He made the fan, 9 pieces bolted together and because of the nature of the design they have to hang down and not up as I had imagined in my head. And while I thought it was a totally him piece … his creation … he seemed stuck on this idea of collaboration. Well, I do declare. “You can stain it like you did the table,” I said. He nodded slowly then said, “But I think a watercolor wash might be better. That’s just me.” And for an eternity … actually only a few moments … we went back and forth. Finally I threw up my hands in exasperation. “Okay, mister, I’ve got some watercolors somewhere. What’s your vision?” He shrugged. “I don’t have one. You’re the artist.” He walked away as I semi-glared.

And then I began to play …

… knowing that nothing would be perfect and that I was learning along the way.

There are nine leaves to the fan. I began to think of the leaves as nine opportunities to tell a story or vignette. I think that is how I will handle such an opportunity in the future.

Watercolor on wood. You can’t get much more ephemeral so who knows I may use these same thin pieces again one day. But this fan can stay as it is for a bit because a certain someone is beginning to work on a new table. A much smaller table. We’ll see what falls by the wayside this time for our next collaboration. Be well,everyone. 🙂

Read Full Post »

“I have always wanted to paint from nature, but it is too late when my work is finished for the day, so I am confined mostly to copying. On Sundays and holidays I go out to the country and paint, but holidays are few and far between and the weather doesn’t always permit. I’ve done a few farms, and last spring I did a picture of an old New England farm which I sold to C. A. Coffin of Lynn.”

The Boston Globe, Sunday, April 30, 1911

In the spring of 1911, the Boston Globe shared the story of artist John P. Rollins. Born in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1852, he trained as a house and sign painter. While in Philadelphia practicing his trade, he began exploring painting as an art. His efforts caught the attention of African American artist David Bustill Bowser.

Bowser mentored the young artist and even encourage him to set aside his trade and focus on fine art. But Rollins was aware, despite Bowser’s success, how hard it was to make a living as an artist especially for a Black man. Curious about the world, a world he might paint one day, he took a job as a sleeping car porter on trains traveling cross country. He finally settled in Boston and worked at Young’s Hotel located in the Financial District. He worked there for 20 years, painting during his off-hours. He managed to find time to take vocal lessons at the New England Conservatory. He sang in Baptist choirs across the city and eventually served as choirmaster for several churches including Boston’s Twelfth Street Church.

After leaving Young’s Hotel, Rollins was a messenger for a large banking house. A personable man, Rollins made connections with a mercantile and social elite who began to purchase his artwork. He was able to copy the works of great masters from a simple postcard. Both his reproductions and original art caught the attention of Boston artist and teacher Walter Gilman Page.

Page allowed Rollins access to his studio. As the two men developed a relationship, Rollins introduced Page to others in the black community who were artists as well. Like Rollins they pursued their dreams of painting while working whatever jobs they could find to make a living. They worked as elevator operators, waiters and janitors. With Page’s support, in 1907, the men formed the Boston Negro Art Club. Soon thereafter they had their first exhibit showcasing many works of art. Rollins served as Vice-President of the group.

“There’s nothing like seeing other men doing good work to make one want to keep up to the standard,” said Rollins. “But the fact of being able to sell your pictures is probably the greatest help. I have always been particularly interested in painting Venice. It has been the wish of my life to go there; from the time I was a little shaver down in Virginia … Venice has been to me like a stick of candy, way up high on a Christmas tree …”

“State Street, 1801” by James Brown Marston located at the Massachusetts Historical Society

“One of the best copies I have ever made is of ‘State Street, Boston – 1801,’ the original of which is at the rooms of the Massachusetts Historical Society. There are a number of people who take an interest in my work and when some of my friends go away and travel either in this country or in Europe they send me all the postcards they can of the scenery, and it gives me great pleasure to copy and enlarge them.”

After its debut in 1907 the Negro Art Club had a few more exhibitions. By the time Rollins was interviewed by the Boston Globe in 1911 the group had likely disbanded. A 1920 Census shows that Rollins was still working as a porter at the bank and one can hope that he was still painting. Whether any of his paintings survive is unknown.

Sources and Additional Reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bustill_Bowser

Read Full Post »

It was simply and strangely beautiful. Walking through a world-class museum. There should have been chaotic hustle and bustle, the sounds of school children, teens taking selfies, seniors dressed to the nines meeting up for tea. Instead my friends and I were part of a very small cohort of people with tickets to see the Monet exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Art until we we were ready to leave and create space for others to enter. It was a special treat. Even as social distancing has become a new norm of the moment in the age of COVID, there have also been created these weirdly intimate opportunities to experience the world.

I expect that this exhibit of 35 Monet and other paintings would have been curated quite differently pre-pandemic. The current curation is expansive. There’s lots of space between paintings, and you’re moved through several large rooms that provide just enough information about his life, his influences, the growth of his garden, and the creation of that magnificent pond.

We are reminded of Monet’s triumphs. He was an acknowledged success during his life time. But we are also reminded of his humanity as we learn of his struggles to achieve his artistic vision … struggles that in the end produced great beauty.

An excellent exhibit and one I hope others have an opportunity to view in person. But if you can’t visit there is a lovely preview video on the MFA’s website, a slide show, behind the scenes with the curator and much more. See link below.

https://www.mfa.org/exhibition/monet-and-boston-lasting-impression

Read Full Post »

athena

The Bowdoin Murals are found in the rotunda of the Walker Art Building at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. The four murals in the building represent Athens, Florence, Rome and Venice, honoring cities that had profoundly affected western art. Each of the four artists chosen to paint the murals were considered masters of figure painting. One of those artists was John La Farge. Among his fellow artists, which included Elihu Vedder, John Thayer and Kenyon Cox, La Farge was considered the elder statesman or senior artist.

DSCN8383

La Farge chose as his subject Athens and the goddess Athena. Each of the murals features a central female form. In La Farge’s case his mural’s central subject is not Athena, but a nymph being painted by the goddess herself in a sacred grove.

lafargemural

Due to be completed in spring 1894 just before the building’s dedication, La Farge’s mural was not actually installed until 1898.

DSCN8385

In the following publication you can read a very detailed and fascinating account of the Walker Art Building, the creation of the murals and the behind the scenes of La Farge at work. https://digitalcommons.bowdoin.edu/art-museum-miscellaneous-publications/2/

Read Full Post »

bluepeacockvault

With new lighting comes new opportunities to create. Trinity Church in the City of Boston has been updating its interior lighting, and with new light have come revelations so to speak as ceiling artwork once hidden in the shadows comes to life once more as originally conceived in 1877. Of course this provides new photographic opportunities like capturing this lovely blue peacock amidst green vines and rose flowers. We’re at work translating this image into merchandise for the shop. So far, we’ve created a latte mug, a decorative pen and … hold your breath … yes, a silk chiffon scarf is waiting in the wings along with a charming hand mirror. Stop by the shop sometime to see these and other items that capture the unique beauty of this National Historic Landmark and active Episcopal church. https://www.trinitychurchboston.org/visit

Read Full Post »

Padova,_cappella_degli_scrovegni,_esterno

Exterior of the Scrovegni Chapel, also known as the Arena Chapel, in Padua, Italy

This particular walk (or ramble) through history began after reading a footnote by stained glass historian Virginia Raguin. In her online history of stained glass in America, there is a footnote that reads, “Client and patron intermingled intellectually and socially; Brooks, H. H. Richardson, and La Farge had viewed Giotto’s Arena Chapel in Padua together. See John La Farge, The Gospel Story in Art (New York, 1913, repr. 1926), 279. ” I first learned of Reverend Phillips Brooks, architect H. H. Richardson and painter and stained glass designer John La Farge through their creative collaboration that produced the National Historic Landmark Trinity Church in the City of Boston. But what were they doing hanging out socially? What was The Gospel Story in Art that, if indeed it was published in 1913, it was done so after La Farge’s death? Who was Giotto and was there something special about his Arena Chapel?

BrooksRichardsonLaFarge

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886), John La Farge (1835-1910)

The first question is easy to answer. Born in the 1830’s, these gentlemen were of a generation. Though ostensibly from very different backgrounds, they were each members of a larger social class that would have socialized in the U.S. and abroad. With earned and/or inherited family wealth, they were expected to travel … the oceans were no barrier to lengthy tours of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The men were also connected by their attendance and/or connection to elite schools like Harvard, Yale and Princeton. They would have attended the same literary and art salons in Boston, New York and elsewhere. Richardson and Brooks were friends long before Richardson entered the competition to build the new Trinity Church in Copley Square. And Richardson and La Farge were well-acquainted long before La Farge was asked to orchestrate the interior decoration of the new church. It would not be unheard of for these three men to be meandering about Europe and somehow meet up at a church. As for the second question …

JonesandLaFarge

Painting of Mary Caldawader Jones, and self-portrait of John La Farge

Apparently, The Gospel Story in Art, was a labor of love for La Farge that he never completed. Today La Farge is most well-known for his stained glass windows but he began his career as a painter and muralist. Throughout his life he studied art (even when he thought he was to become a lawyer), and eventually he would become a prolific writer and lecturer on the subject. La Farge died in 1910 but his friend New York socialite and philanthropist Mary Caldawader Jones compiled his work, with the illustrations that he used as reference for his text, and had the book published in 1913.  In the preface she explains that La Farge “had cherished the wish to write a book on the representation of the Christian story in art, a work for which few men were so well-fitted. Born and educated in the older faith of Christendom, he brought to his task not only the reverence of a believer, but also full knowledge of the widely different forms through which the life of Christ has been expressed by artists.”

GospelStoryInArtLaFarge

I found the reference on Page 297 referred to in the footnote, and, if I do the math correctly based on some other information I know, the three men likely stood in that chapel in 1882. Yet I know from other letters, memoirs, etc. that at least Brooks and La Farge had visited the chapel earlier in their lives, La Farge in 1856 just as he was beginning his artistic studies in Europe, and Brooks possibly in 1865 as he took a respite from preaching in Philadelphia. The young La Farge was so moved by what he saw that, once back in the U.S., he purchased etchings of Giotto’s paintings.

By 1872, Brooks was Rector of Trinity Church in Boston. His friend Richardson was overseeing construction of the new church. They’d discuss wanting the interior to be colorful, atypical of a traditional Episcopal church. When, in 1876, they commissioned John La Farge to decorate, did they reference Giotto and the chapel in Padua?

DSCN3126

decorative detail of wall inside Trinity Church

H. H. Richardson died in 1886, and his friend Phillips Brooks passed away in 1893. Whenever the two men had stood in the Padua chapel with La Farge, this is what La Farge remembered of the moment in The Gospel of Art. “Let us turn once more to Giotto, as the greatest of all those who represent the history of Our Lord. … 

ChapelViewFromEntrance

LaFargeQuote

ChapelViewTowardEntrance

In his book, La Farge references Giotto (c. 1267-1337), an Italian painter and architect, at least 49 times. He includes excerpts by Leonardo about Giotto as a leading figure in resurrecting art“…it was in truth a great marvel that from so rude and inapt an age Giotto should have had strength to elicit so much that the art of design, of which the men of those days had very little, if any, knowledge, was, by his means, effectually recalled into life.” A noted painter during his day, Giotto’s work in the Scrovengi Chapel, also known as the Arena Chapel, is considered his masterpiece. Frescoes depict the life of Mary and Jesus.

LastJudgementDetail

detail from Last Judgment fresco

La Farge writes:

LaFargeQuote2

JoachimShepherds

scene from the life of Joachim

“Were we to stand before the painting of Giotto in Padua, we should find it difficult to realize, in our present habit of passing over legends, how important these legends once were …”

AscensionDetail

detail from the Ascension

“If a movement of line can give the impression of sound, Giotto has done it … “

angel

angel

In earlier essays in his life, La Farge describes how his youthful travels in France and Italy, and in England among the Pre-Raphaelites, influenced his understanding and use of color. But only in this book do I suspect that he rhapsodizes about Giotto in a book that is about art and perhaps about La Farge’s connecting with his faith. One can only wonder what lasting impressions were made when a 21-year old La Farge first walked into that church.

Sources & Additional Reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrovegni_Chapel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giotto

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_La_Farge

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Hobson_Richardson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillips_Brooks

http://college.holycross.edu/RaguinStainedGlassInAmerica/Home/index.html

http://college.holycross.edu/RaguinStainedGlassInAmerica/Museum&Church/Museum&Church.html

Image Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mary Cadwalader Rawle Artist: William Oliver Stone (1830–1875) Date: 1868 Medium: Oil on canvas Dimensions: Oval: 12 x 10 1/2 in. (30.5 x 26.7 cm) Classification: Paintings Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Max Farrand and Mrs. Cadwalader Jones, 1953

The Gospel Story in Art by John La Farge page 297

The Gospel Story in Art (Archive.org)

Playful Padua by Rick Steves

Web Gallery of Art: Frescoes in the Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

Read Full Post »

IMG_20181025_135532104

The beauty found when one wanders the Boston Museum of Fine Art. I’ll write down the artist’s name when next I visit. Have a good weekend, folks.

Read Full Post »

KadirNelsonNYKRcoverJuly2018

One of my favorite New Yorker covers to date, and an uplifting sight to pull from my mailbox at the end of the day. The artist is Kadir Nelson and you can read more about him, and the story behind the painting, on his website: http://www.kadirnelson.com/about

Read Full Post »

LaFargeScarfPromotion

Not only will there be a new audio tour available at Trinity Church coming soon, but during the next two weeks, a new scarf will be available inspired by the magnificent mural, Christ Woman at the Well, by John La Farge. Recently cleaned and restored with improved lighting, it is even easier now to understand the impact that this colorful mural, as well as the other interior decorations, had on society when the Copley Square building (the third building for the parish) was consecrated in 1877.

LaFargeMural3imagesofscarf

While best remembered today by many people for his later grand achievements in stained glass, John La Farge was first and foremost a painter of light and color. It is indeed an honor to be surrounded by his work and to be inspired by his creativity.

muralscarfringed

Follow the shop Facebook page to keep on top of this scarf’s arrival and of what’s new in general. Tours to learn more about La Farge (and others!) can be found at: https://trinitychurchboston.org/visit

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »