Archive for May 26th, 2011

This landscape by Ivan T. originated from a photo he had taken in the Greek islands.  In the photo the boats are smaller, more evenly spaced and with more water visible between them.  The houses are smaller because they’re farther in the distance.  The hills are also smaller because they’re very far in the distance.  That’s what he started with.

At the beginning of the class I showed how Cézanne pushed the distant elements of his landscape up in the picture plane. (See previous post.)  Ivan immediately applied this insight to his 24 x 18 painting, which he had started the previous class.  The boats became bigger, crowding the harbor.  The houses became bigger and fewer in number. The houses farther up the hill are not diminished in size, as perspective would dictate and as they appear in the photo.  At this point we suspect that he might be pulling a Cézanne on us.  When we take in the mountains, there’s no doubt:  this is Cézanne country.  The mountains have been pushed up and towards us.  The whole tripartite scene is being pushed forward and crammed into the picture frame.  The composition is made up of three elements: boats, houses and hills. Each of these sections is “in front;” nothing recedes into the distance. This immediacy is made even more tactile by the handling of the paint. The artist painted with a palette knife, thick and loose.  So that we’re looking at boats and at the same time paint itself.  We get this effect in Cézanne, too, who did not blend, but rather left his individual brush strokes visible.

There’s more to explain the dynamic of this painting: 1) the zig-zag of the overall composition; 2) the golden section; and 3) the cropping of the mountain.

1) The pink lines in this diagram trace the zig-zag of the big forms in the painting.  (See post “Skies Tahiti,” April 22, 2011 ) The masts, rather tame and thin in the photo, are zig-zag and coarse, an invention of the artist.

2) The green line shows the golden section, a topic for a future post.

3) The mountain on the left is brought up to the upper edge of the canvas so that the sky does not go clear across the top of the scene.   This has the effect of bringing the mountain even closer to us.  I’ll talk about that in connection with Caillebotte’s photographic cropping in a future post.  Soon.

And what about that orange house to the right.  And the rhythm created by the windows, which are painted in single slashes of the brush.  It’s an engaging painting.

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