Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More on the French Impressionists

Thanks to Em Klement for recommending the BBC miniseries "The Impressionists." You can probably find it at your local library - but here's a preview on YouTube:

They've faithfully represented a time in Western art that ushered in more changes than the artists would ever have expected, seen through the eyes of Claude Monet ("only an eye - but what an eye," as Paul Cezanne said of him).

Calistoga Art Center Students Spring Art Show

The Calistoga Art Center will hold its spring student art show and potluck on Thursday, May 21st, from 5:30 to 7:30, for current and prospective students. It's a great opportunity to see what many of the students are doing in the Acrylic and Plein Air Painting, Drawing, and Ceramic classes offered through Napa Valley College's Community Education program. You can also talk to the teachers (like me - I teach Acrylic Painting) and find out if they and their teaching would be a good fit for you.

You can also find out about new classes offered for summer, including Papermaking classes taught by Sequoia Buck and my new Mixed Media Acrylic Painting class.

The student art show will also be open for viewing during the First Thursday Artwalk on Thursday, June 4th, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

French Academic Painting in the 19th century

Comerre, The Annunciation to the Shepherds,
Winner of the Prix de Rome, 1875

Because the work of the French Impressionists is so familiar to us today, it is hard to imagine their artwork being considered shocking or revolutionary without looking at the kind of painting most of their contemporaries were familiar with. 

Now we are used to the landscapes painted en plein aire by Claude Monet. But to the painters of the French Academy, landscape painting was less well regarded, by far, than paintings depicting classical history or mythology or Biblical subjects. The paintings themselves had smooth surfaces, painted with layers of thin paints and glazes, to minimize the brushwork. Figures in the paintings were idealized, and were often meant to be allegorical.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The First Kiss

If you compare Comerre's painting above, the 1875 winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome, and the painting by Bouguereau, with Monet's 1873 painting Impression:Sunrise, it is a little easier to see why the newer style shocked people. Its loose, sketchy brushwork was completely foreign to eyes used to the academic style.

Claude Monet, Impression: Sunrise, 1873

A critic, in his disparaging review, referred to all of the paintings in the exhibit as "Impressionist," derived from the title of this painting. While he intended the name as an insult, it seems a compliment today....

Blogging about art and art teaching

This blog has two purposes: to present resources, information, and images for my students about things we talk about in art classes, and to talk about art and art instruction where I live, in and around Calistoga, California, at the northern end of the Napa Valley. 

I paint, and I teach painting, through Napa Valley College's Community Education program, at the Calistoga Art Center; and privately, both in individual lessons and to groups in workshops. I have a new session of NVC classes coming up at the beginning of June, both Acrylic Painting and Mixed Media Painting with Acrylics. I'll post more about both soon, but you can also find more information about classes offered at