Sleep: Henri Rousseau

Henri Rousseau (French, b. 1844-1910) worked as a toll collector, painting as a hobby until retirement. He painted in a flat, primitive style that invited much ridicule during his lifetime; his work was seen as unserious. The younger Pablo Picasso was one of the first people to recognize Rousseau's talent, when he found one his canvases on sale as a surface to be painted over, and then went to meet him.

Today even small children recognize the beauty and narrative power of his dream-like images:

The Sleeping Gypsy oil on canvas 51"x 6' 7" 1897

 Here is Rousseau's description of this painting:
"A wandering Negress, a mandolin player, lies with her jar beside her (a vase with drinking water), overcome by fatigue in a deep sleep. A lion chances to pass by, picks up her scent yet does not devour her. There is a moonlight effect, very poetic."


Seascapes: Caspar David Friedrich

Caspar David Friedrich's (German, 1774- 1840) paintings usually intimate a sense of the earth's vastness, and are essentially metaphors for our deep and complex spiritual path through life.

The public regard for Friedrich's style of romantic mysticism has risen and fallen a few times, both during his lifetime and after. In 1945 art historian Kenneth Clark found his style "frigid", and wondered if his intentions might be better expressed in poetry, but now his visionary work is held in the highest regard.

Sea of Ice oil on canvas 38"x 49.9" 1823-24

 Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog oil on canvas 37.3" × 29.4" 1818

Stages of Life oil on canvas 28.5" x 37" 1835

Northern Sea in the Moonlight oil on canvas 12.2"x8.7" 1823-24

Fog oil on canvas 1807
"The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees in himself."

"I must stay alone and know that I am alone to contemplate and feel nature in full; I have to surrender myself to what encircles me, I have to merge with my clouds and rocks in order to be what I am. Solitude is indispensible for my dialogue with nature."

"The divine is everywhere, even in a grain of sand."- Caspar David Friedrich


Seascapes: John Marin

John Marin (American, 1870-1953) is known as one of the first American modernists and a major influence on Abstract Expressionism. Alfred Stieglitz recognised his importance early on, showing his work in his 291 Gallery nearly every year from 1909 until 1946. 

Marin worked primarily in watercolor, but later in his career began to work in oils as well. Marin first painted the rocky coast of Maine in 1914, and continued to interpret the subject throughout his life. Here are seven of his Maine seascapes, and one of the waters around the Brooklyn Bridge:

Cape Split 1935

Grey Ledges, Blue Breaking Sea watercolor 1937

The Sea, Maine watercolor and charcoal on paper 1921

Seascape oil on canvas 22" × 28.5" 1932

Fell Plummer's Wharf, Cape Split watercolor 14 3/4" × 20.5" 1933

The Bathers 1933

Headland, Cape Split, Maine watercolor, chalk and graphite 15 3/8" x 20 3/4" 1933

Brooklyn Bridge watercolor 1912
"Give paint a chance to show itself entirely as paint."
"Painting is like golf; the fewer strokes I take, the better the picture."

"What a life, seeing!"- John Marin
John Marin 1922 (Alfred Stieglitz, Photographer)


Seascapes: Fairfield Porter

Fairfield Porter (American, 1907-1975) grew up in an intellectual household, and attended both Harvard and the Art Students' League. He became a well-respected art critic, but had to learn to set aside his educational background in order to paint freely and expressively.

Porter's family had a home on Great Spruce Head Island, Maine, where he painted many seascapes.

Surf on Windy Day oil on paper mounted on board 10¾" x 14" 1974

A Sudden Change of Wind 

Calm Morning 1961

Wild Roses oil on canvas 24"x 28" 1961

Low Tide 1962

View from Bear Island oil on panel 14"x15" 1968

Ocean, State I  color lithograph 1973
"The right use of color can make any composition work."

"Order seems to come from searching for disorder, and awkwardness from searching for harmony or likeness, or the following of a system. The truest order is what you already find there, or that will be given if you don't try for it. When you arrange, you fail."
"When I paint, I think that what would satisfy me is to express what Bonnard said Renoir told him: make everything more beautiful."- Fairfield Porter


Seascapes: April Gornik

April Gornik (American, b. 1953) has painted landscapes since the 1980s, at first working primarily from her imagination. After a trip to the American Southwest, she decided that some of the desert environments around her were stranger and more compelling than anything she could imagine on her own. She now uses her own photos as reference material, but always interpreted through her unique sense of dramatic surrealism. 

Sea After Storm oil on linen 74" x 77.5" 2010

Tide at Night oil on linen 24" x 32" 2011

Light After the Storm oil on linen 78" x 104" 2012

Storm Above Sea oil on linen 80" x 71" 2005

Sunset in Fog oil on linen 31" x 24" 2006
"I've dreamed landscapes for years, and my dreams play an enormous role in my work. In fact, when I first started doing landscapes I felt insecure about painting in this style, and the dreams were like positive omens for me, and I've done a few paintings that were exact replicas of images that came to me in dreams."

"My work is about the underbelly of the beauty of nature - and the dark side of nature is its indifference. Nature isn't friendly, nor is it unfriendly - it's the perfect embodiment of the Other."- April Gornik
 photo by Eric Fischl 


Seascapes: Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter (German, b. 1932- ) has long been fascinated with the relationship between photographic images and painting. In using photography as his primary reference, he says he can make a painting out of almost any subject, "not having to invent anything anymore...color, composition, space." While news story images, military aircraft, and family portraits have been recurring themes for Richter, in the late 60s he tended to focus on more natural scenes such as seascapes. 

In these four paintings of sea and sky, Richter has used extreme detail and a mechanized blur to create worlds in which the human element has no place, but struck through with a breathtaking sense of eternal calm.

Seascape with Bird 170 cm x 170 cm oil on canvas 1970

Seascape (Cloudy) 200 cm x 200 cm oil on canvas 1969

Seascape (Sea-Sea) oil on canvas 200 cm x 200 cm 1970

 Seascape oil on canvas 290 cm x 290 cm 1998
"The photograph is the most perfect picture. It does not change; it is absolute, and therefore autonomous, unconditional, devoid of style. Both in its way of informing, and in what it informs of, it is my source."
"I see countless landscapes, photograph barely one in 100,000, and paint barely 1 in 100 of those that I photograph."
"One has to believe in what one is doing, one has to commit oneself inwardly, in order to do painting. Once obsessed, one ultimately carries it to the point of believing that one might change human beings through painting. But if one lacks this passionate commitment, there is nothing left to do. Then it is best to leave it alone. For basically painting is idiocy."- Gerhard Richter
Gerhard Richter photographed by Benjamin Katz in Köln, 1984


Seascapes: Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer (American, 1836—1910) is best known for his marine paintings, so it's fitting that the new theme of "The Sea" begins with several of his works. His intense interest in the subject began in the 1880s, when he moved to a cottage just 75 feet from the sea, in Prout's Neck, Maine.

Some of Homer's sea paintings include figures and dramatic narrative, but these paintings focus exclusively on the drama of nature:

Eastern Point oil on canvas 30.2" × 48.5" 1900

Weatherbeaten oil on canvas 28.5" x 48 3/8" 1894

 Summer Squall oil on canvas 24.25"x30.25" 1904

Prout's Neck, Evening watercolor 359 x 536 mm 1883/1890

Glass Windows watercolor 13 15/16" x 20 1/16" 1885
"I prefer every time a picture composed and painted outdoors. The thing is done without your knowing it."

"It is wonderful how much depends upon the relations of black and white... A black and white, if properly balanced, suggests color."

"When you paint, try to put down exactly what you see. Whatever else you have to offer will come out anyway."- Winslow Homer


Cityscapes: Yvonne Jacquette

Yvonne Jacquette (American, b.1934) grew up in a large family, and remembers looking up at the ceiling and down at the ground as a kind of escape from the chaos.  She first became interested in painting aerial views when she took an airplane trip to visit her parents in California. Later she began to charter helicopters to circle above New York and other cities, taking photographs and sketching with pastels with the helicopter door open. She says that the noise would be so terrific that communication with the pilot was almost impossible.

Jacquette isn't after atmospheric effects, and says her sense of bold and flat design is partially derived from her interest in Japanese woodcuts. Her compositions seem very sectioned off, the cropping sometimes harsh- we are always aware that there is much more to a view than she shows.

There is a storybook quality to her work, an intentional naivety in the lack of atmosphere and in flattened forms- but the charm is balanced with a sophisticated sense of composition and color.

Yvonne Jacquette was married to the photographer Rudy Burckhardt for 40 years, both of them finding their main inspiration from New York City. While Burckhardt would try and minimize the scale of the buildings and emphasize the life of the people on the streets, the buildings themselves have always held the most interest for Jacquette.

East River with Brooklyn Bridge oil on canvas 96"x128" 1983

Whitney Museum Under Construction oil on linen 49"x71" 2013 

Dusk Descending, 2000 color lithograph 2000

Filaments of Light woodcut  2000

Vertiginous World Financial Center III  oil on canvas 53"x 58" 2007

6th Ave Night, with Traffic II 
oil on canvas, 65 1/2" x 50 3/8" 2008

Galaxy of Night Lights oil on canvas  33" x 44" 2008
I’ve been a Buddhist for a long time and there’s a lot of teaching about emptiness, which isn’t nothingness, but fullness.

 I’ve always felt very involved with landscape, even as a child. It started to seem like the only real subject matter for me with a kind of absolute finality.- Yvonne Jaquette


Cityscapes: Oswaldo Guayasamín

Roger Brown has recommended that we look at the work of Oswaldo Guayasamín (Ecuadorian, 1919-1999) for the current theme of the cityscape. Guayasamín's paintings often capture the political oppression and severe divisions between the classes in Ecuador as well as in the rest of South America. In discussing Guayasamín's series of paintings of his native Quito, Roger says:
I find some of Guayasamin's work to be heavy and unsubtle but I do like these long-view Quito landscapes. I think he captures the impressive atmosphere of the jagged mountains surrounding the city. I think he was better earlier in his career before he became famous.

I remember seeing a photo of Guayasamín working on "Bloody Quito" in National Geographic when I was in 8th grade. He was on the side of a mountain road looking down on the city. I think there was a miliary government in Ecuador at the time and he was protesting them by showing the city streets running with blood. Ecuador is usually a democracy but because of poor literacy in the past people often elected someone president who was not really competant to do the job.  
There is not much reliable information online regarding these works by Guayasamín, so only the titles are listed here, without sizes or dates.

Quito Sangriente (Bloody Quito)

Paisage de Quito (Quito Landscape)

Quito Noir (Black Quito)

Joel Day, a professional photographer (and my brother), recently went on a six-month sabbatical trip around the world, and Quito was one of his destinations. His photograph of Quito, with its orange rooftops and surrounding mountains, makes an interesting counterpoint to Oswaldo Guayasamín's views of the same city:

(photo credit Joel Day)

  Oswaldo Guayasamín 1990