Archive for August 22nd, 2011

When André Derain painted this landscape in 1906, this is not what he saw.  The painting is called “The Turning Road, L’Estaque.”  That’s a town in southern France, I’ve been there and I can testify to the fact  that the trees there are not red and neither is the grass. It’s all green green green.

What Derain saw is closer to what Charlene W. saw when she painted three trees near the Evanston Art Center.  Tree trunks tend to be brownish-gray and grass is inevitably as green as grass.  This relentless greenness is one of the challenges of landscape painting. Not that we don’t like green.  On the contrary, the various shades of green in nature are cool, refreshing and relaxing.   We seek out such relaxing sites and it’s probably  why we like to sit on the porch and enjoy our lawns.

But the experience of a real landscape comes with the fresh scent of rain, perhaps, or a breeze  that makes us close our eyes in appreciation.  In a painting we don’t have these accompanying sensations.  All we have is a rectangle with color and shapes.  I can’t think of any painting that is as truly green as the landscape that inspired it.  And while we’ve had all blue paintings (Yves Klein), all black paintings (Ad Reinhardt) and all white paintings (Robert Ryman), I’ve never come across an all green painting.  Hmm, what is it about the color green…someone please make an all green painting so we can think about this more clearly.

Charlene, looking at all that green, turned to me and said, I want to have more color.  I showed her a book on Fauvism and she immediately recognized kindred spirits in that movement.  “Les Fauves” means “the wild beasts,”  an appellation attached to painters who showed their work in 1906 in Paris and shocked the dove-gray spats off the critics. Surely civilization as they knew it was coming to an end.  Well, it hasn’t and in my opinion has gotten a whole lot better in the past century.  One thing that’s improved, seems to me, is our love of color.

Charlene’s  landscape looks as if it were on fire.  Photosynthesis gives us the color green in vegetation, granted.  But in the larger picture, the oxygen that photosynthesis produces will become part of some combustion somewhere, maybe in your body—and your brain.  In your retina.  In your optic nerve.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.




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