Monday, August 13, 2012

Seeking Inspiration

View of La Crescenza, Claude Lorrain, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 
As I have said it before, there are times when I become creatively dry, it seems to happen often, at least once a year I go weeks without being able to work. When I seem to hit the lowest point I can always count on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my sanctuary, to pick me up. There are so many beautiful objects and paintings in this museum that it's always impossible to pick one or two favorite pieces, but guaranteed something or a number of them will catch your eye. The painting above did just that. It's not my first time seeing it, but this weekend it graved my attention longer than usual. Perhaps is that ideal afternoon light, a warmth that engulfs the landscape. Can you imagine living in such place? Well someone did, as the wall plaque states "the country house, which still stands, belonged in the seventeenth century to the Crescenzi family." I wonder if this humble country house is for sale?
Via Crucis, Juan de Valdes Leal, Hispanic Society of America, New York
Another painting that graved my attention was Juan de Valdes Leal's Via Crucis. After visiting the Met regularly over a period of eight years one gets closely acquainted with the collection and the rooms they usually hang in. This is a painting I've never seen on display, I thought thank god they brought something out from storage. As I approached the wall plaque to find out more about the piece it turns out that it is currently on loan by the Hispanic Society of America due to a collaboration with the Met to restore the painting.  
Saints Peter and Paul, Jusepe de Ribera, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Moving along through to the next gallery another beautiful painting cought my eye. This one by Jusepe de Ribera, one of my favorite painters, and this specific painting is from early in his career when he was deeply influenced by Caravaggio's style. One of my biggest art history heroes is Caravaggio, reason why seeing this painting was a special treat. I stood in front of it for a while as I sketched the head of Saint Paul, the figure on the right side of the picture. Again, thank you Met curators for bringing out this gem from storage!  
The Madonna and Child with Saints Anne and the Infant John the Baptist, Mirabello Cavalori, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The goodies kept on coming as I saw more "new" work on display. At first glance I thought this was an Andrea del Sarto painting, the style, coloring and treatment of the paint are very reminiscent of his work, but I was wrong. This painting is by the hand of Mirabello Cavalori, which the Met described as being "one of the gifted young artists who worked for the Medici Grand Duke Francesco I in the early 1570's. His paintings are rare and its is an occasion that three are currently on view" in the same gallery. 
Midas Washing at the Source of the Pactolus, Bartolomeo Manfredi, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Maybe I picked the right day, maybe I'm just lucky, or maybe both, but I came across another beautiful painting that hasn't been on display at the Met, at least not in the many times I've visited. This Manfredi painting is one of the best examples of the Caravaggisti school. I love the close range of earth tones, the dark moody background that Midas emerges from, and the dramatic light effects, but what I love most about this painting is the X composition made up mostly of diagonal lines that run from the figure's right shoulder all the way down through the left leg, and from the top of the head straight through the right hand onto the right leg covered by a deep sienna drape. This is what I call delicate and moving simplicity, something Caravaggio was a true master of. As it is suggested, Manfredi was not only a follower of Caravaggio, but he me have been an apprentice to the master. Now that's a lucky guy! 
Atalanta and Meleager, Peter Paul Rubens, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
As if my visit couldn't get any better, I came across this gorgeous Rubens painting depicting a story from Ovid's Metamorphosis. I have always admired the monumentality and the vivid flesh of Rubens' figures, as they move with grand gestures throughout his compositions. This guy could paint there is no doubt, and this large panel painting serves as one more testament to that fact. I sketched Meleager's head as I paid close attention to the different colors used in the flesh. I don't think I did a good job with the sketch, but I don't feel so bad since it's Rubens I was trying to copy from! That sketch and some others done that night will be posted on here during the week. Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

New Plein Air: WTC Under Construction

WTC Under Construction, 2012, oil on linen, 9 x 11 inches  
This is my most recent plein air painting, perhaps the most difficult I've done yet. Not sure if I'm happy with it or not, there's something not right and I can't put my finger on it. Perhaps it's the composition, regardless I'm posting it in hopes to get some feedback as to what you think it's missing. I've been in a weird funk this summer when it comes to plein air work, I can't seem to get myself to go out and paint more often. I don't have the motivation I did last year and to be honest it bums me out. Oh well, let's hope things turn around in the coming months.