Sunday, January 30, 2011

!00 paintings artists should know Unit 6

Nothing but the hits! Proceeding with my list in no logical order we have:

15) The hunters in the snow, by Pieter the elder Breugel 1525-1569
The first of the three Breugels in Flemish painting, Pieter was father to Jan and Pieter the younger. This painting is a haunting vision of life in medieval times. Influenced by Hieronymus Bosch Breugel did many paintings of peasant life. He actually dressed as a peasant in order to study their taverns and weddings, and daily life. There is a charm and sometimes almost Rockwellian coziness in his paintings.

16) The Arnolfini portrait Jan van Eyck before 1395 - 1441
This is a very early oil painting. Sometimes Van Eyck has been credited with inventing oil painting, however that is not so. However he perfected the art and helped to popularize its use. This painting has been analyzed many times, and every few years its interpretations are revised.
It has been suggested that the bride looks pregnant and more recently that she died just before or during the time the picture was painted. This is a rather small painting and the level of finish and detail is amazing.

17) Woman holding a balance, Johannes Vermeer 1632?- 1675
Vermeer was rediscovered in the 19th century. So little was know about him that he was called the Sphinx of Delft. Recently scholarship has revealed more. The natural look of his paintings and his close observation of the actual appearance of form in the play of light gives these paintings a look of quiet perfection. I could have selected any of a number of Vermeers including one or two that are better known, but I have always liked this one. There has been much talk in recent years about his possible use of a camera obscura, a device like a camera containing no film, to make his paintings. Other art historians disagree. This has been presented in the press as a sort of scandal. Even if he used the device it still doesn't explain his paintings. Anyone can acquire one, but no one else seems to be able to make anything of the quality of Vermeer using one.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

100 paintings artists should know

Here I am returned to my writing. I was unable to write last night. A rock and roll concert was enjoyed and hard decisions were made.

13) La Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres 1780-1867 I have departed from the great Italians and am skipping forward a couple of centuries to Ingres. I am putting him in next, not because of a ranking of historical importance but because he was so strongly influenced by the Italians of the renaissance . Compare this figure with the Titian "Venus of Urbino that I posted about a week ago.I have always found this piece bewitchingly beautiful. Much has been made of the elongation of the figure and I suppose that she has about thirty extra vertebra, but fashion drawings are often elongated and runway models often have preposterously attenuated figures. The clarity and elegant style of this painting are what I like.

Here is an example of a drawing by Ingres. The confident outline and suppressed modeling are part of a deliberately "retro" style that he developed based on his study of Raphael, who he revered.

14) The death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)

As long as we are in French classicist neighborhood lets get David in here too. Born with a facial tumor that affected his speech David lived through tumultuous times. As an active participant in the French revolution David was one of the national convention and voted for the execution of the king. His wife, a loyalist left him over that.

This painting is in the met in New York and represents Socrates who was ordered after a trial on trumped up charges to drink poison which he did with defiance and dignity in 390 B.C.

(14) The death of Marat, also by David
Marat was another French revolutionary stabbed to death in his bath. He was immortalized by David. The figure is influenced again by renaissance art. I am showing these two not because they are more important that some other paintings but because I want to highlight the enduring legacy of the great Italian painters.

I am going to have to post sometime later today. I am unable to generate a post tonight Too late,I must sleep.

Friday, January 28, 2011

100 paintings an artist should know episode 4

10) The Madonna of the Chair. Raphael 1483-1520
I keep posting paintings by Raphael because he is "The prince of painters" his influence was enormous, at least before our own time.

Orphaned at age eleven he served an apprenticeship with Pietro Perugino. He was fabulously talented. He, Leonardo Da Vinci and Michaelangelo formed the great trinity of High Renaissance artists. Raphael was younger than the other two and was disliked by Michelangelo, probably for his ferocious talent. Raphael kept a large workshop and produced an enormous amount of work before his death at age thirty seven.

Raphael never married but the love of his life was La Fornarina (Margharita Luti). According to Vasari the art historian of the era Raphael contracted a fever after a night of impassioned lovemaking with Ms. Luti. The primitive medicine given to him as a remedy, killed him instead.

11 Galetea, also Raphael

The figures are influenced by the massive anatomy of Michelangelo. The drawing below illustrates Raphael's abilities as a draftsman. He has been revered by artists ever since as the finest draftsman who ever lived. Many of the great draftsmen of subsequent history have based their technique on his, David, Ingres Degas and Bouguereau, and even Picasso emulated Raphael.

12) Cecilia Galleranni by Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)

I chose this lovely woman holding a disgusting mustalid because the obvious choice would have been the Mona Lisa. I assume you already know that and the Last Supper too. You know many things about Leonardo but did you know that
  • in 1476 he was tried and acquitted of sodomy with a male prostitute?
  • he was originally brought into the court as a musician and not as an artist?
  • He also painted a nude version of the Mona Lisa?
  • that he was a vegetarian?
  • He was described as incredibly beautiful ?
  • He was strong enough to bend a horseshoe with one hand, his left, as he was left handed.
  • That he said "The act of procreation and anything that has any relation to it is so disgusting that human beings would soon die out if there were no pretty faces and sensuous dispositions"?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

100 Paintings artists should know

7) Jacopo Tintoretto, the finding of the body of St. Mark 1518-1594 This painting is a tour de force of perspective and has the great color that distinguishes Venetian painting of this era, like Titian. Notice the figure on the left echoed by tat on the right. The bold sunlight that beams across the lower part of the painting and illuminates the corpse on the floor is exciting and very effective. Squint and see the strange bright abstract shapes that are arrayed across the lower part of the painting. Tintoretto was very good at light effects. This is before Caravaggio or Rembrandt later carried this kind of thing further.

Tintoretto was the oldest in a Venetian family of twenty one children. His father was a dyer, hence the name Tintoretto, a dyer works with tints or colors.

Above is a picture of the Scuola grande di San Rocco, in Venice. Tintoretto did ceiling decorations for this fabulous coffered ceiling. It is awe inspiring. Evidently they have been badly retouched but they sure impressed me.

8) Tintoretto, Paradise 1588 and I ask you to click on the image below to see the enormous reproduction. This painting on canvas is 74 feet by 30 feet and may be the largest oil on canvas ever done. I am sure some joker has made something larger, but I guarantee it is not competition for this behemoth. This is a work of mad genius.

This grand painting is also in Venice.

9) Another Titian The man with Gloves from the Louvre

As I do this list I am beginning to realize how subjective this all is. I should call it 100 paintings artists should know (in the opinion of Stapleton Kearns). It is unknown who the sitter was but he was certainly an aristocrat, Titian was sometimes called the "painter of princes" This is a beautiful and subtly arranged pattern of lights and darks. The bright shirt leads your eye from the head down to the pointing hand, that directs your eye to the right, to the other hand, from whence your eye is carried in a circular fashion back to the head..You are carried through the painting and then returned to the head by this emphatic wedge of bright value. This painting is in the same room of the Louvre with the Mona Lisa and held my attention longer. It must I suppose be seen to really be appreciated. It is a glowing and almost living presence in there behinds it's frame.

Tintoretto Paradise, courtesy of the web gallery of art
Titian from

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Paintings artists should know 2

Continuing with my list, I will stay with the Italians of the renaissance for about the first ten or so........

4) The birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli 1445-1510
An early renaissance Florentine painter. Botticelli was trained as an apprentice starting at age fourteen. Simonetta Vespucci is rumored to have been the model for this painting. The wife of Marco Vepucci she was heralded as the most beautiful woman in Florence. Artists adored her, all Florence adored her. Botticelli was besotted with her as well. When she died, at age twenty two of tuberculosis, Botticelli expressed a wish to be buried at her feet. Upon his death, the never married Botticelli was indeed interred at her feet, thirty four years later. I guess you take what you can get.

Botticelli was nearly forgotten until the late 19th century when his reputation was revived.

5) The Lamentation of Christ by Giotto 1268? - 1337

Giotto represents the line where Byzantine or medieval style painting ends and the earliest hints of the Renaissance style begins. There is a naturalism about his work that is an advancement over the stiff stylization of the medieval painting from before him. He pioneered the use of light to create form.

Another Florentine, Giotto was reputedly a very tiny and spectacularly ugly man. Giotto was however, known for his quick sense of humor. There is a story that Dante spying his equally ugly children asked Giotto how a maker of such beautiful paintings could have sired such homely children? Giotto replied "I made them in the dark"

6) The Libyan Sybyl by Michelangelo 1475-1564

I could have chosen better known or almost anything from the Sistine Chapel but I have always liked this one. The graceful twist of the figure as she takes the enormous volume from the shelf is graceful and full of rhythmic lines. A sibyl is a prophetess, she was actually named Phemonoe. She one was consulted by Alexander the great. She was reputed to have continued her trade after death and animals who grazed on the grass above her grave were then slaughtered, as their entrails provided a sure means of divining the future. Perhaps I could be buries at HER feet.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

!00 paintings that painters should know. 1-3

I have several ideas for series of posts, I will begin with 100 paintings an artist should know. I will choose representative samples by an artist even though that artist might put 10 into the top one hundred. I will also err towards the American. This is not a scholarly list and I am sure to forget your favorite, let me know if I do. They are going to be arranged from the most important to the the lesser (sort of). I also have a series in mind called THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DUMB DESIGN IDEAS. I will interweave those with whatever else jumps into my mind day to day. OK here we go..................................

Raphael 1483- 1520 Raphael is called the prince of painters. This is

1)The school of Athens, painted in 1509. I could have used a number of different Raphaels but this will do. This is a fresco, which is painted into wet plaster on the wall and done in sections that can be covered in a day, before the plaster dries.. A masterpiece of drawing and perspective from the Vatican. It contains an assemblage of the great philosophers of history. Below is a detail. This is probably Euclid with his students.

The perspecting lines of the piece lead to Plato and Aristotle. Here they are.

Below is
2) Titian"s Venus of Urbino. Titian 1490?-1576

This glowing nude was painted in oil. Titian lived in Venice and made fortunes there. His work is known for its color and relaxed naturalism. Painted in Rome this was one of several similar pictures. It is a nod to classical sculpture.

3) The assumption of the Virgin is considered his masterpiece. So lets count two for Titian, sacred and profane.

Titian was killed by the plague and his magnificent mansion was plundered by thieves.
images from

I have a spot left in the second snowcamp. if you want it go here

Monday, January 24, 2011

A corbeled arch and cyclopian stonework

Off on a little tangent tonight!

Euleutherna bridge, Greece, built about three hundred BC. It is a false, or corbeled arch bridge. Corbeled arches were a forerunner of arched bridges and unlike an true arch distributed only part of the weight through their structure. Rather than being a round arch they are pryamidoidal in shape. Corbeled arches had to be surrounded by heavy masonry in order to stand. Below is an example of a far older bridge built in a style called cyclopian.

Arkadiko bridge built about 1300 BC. is also a corbeled arch bridge. Built as part of a highway for chariots by the Mycenaean culture ( bronze age Greece) near Epidauros, Greece. The enormous stone work is called cyclopian, after the mythological cyclops who had the strength to hurl heavy stones.The later "ancient" Greeks attributed some of this work to the cyclops. Cyclopian stonework is made of huge uncut stones laid without mortar. Often the rough undressed stones are chinked with smaller stones. If the stones have been dressed, or squared it is not cyclopian architecture. This type of massive construction is typical of Mycenaean architecture. This bridge is still in use and is one of four in the area.
Below an example of fortifications from Mycenae featuring cyclopian stonework

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Some questions asked, answered, and avoided

Dufaux 5

Hi Stape.

Do you have any words of wisdom on traveling with oil painting supplies? I'm flying to CA from MA next week for a workshop and plan to check all gear in a separate suitcase. I'm leaving all flammables behind, but am still a little worried that a young TSA agent will pull a nutty at the gate and confiscate my paints.--------------- Gustave Whitehead

I think I have written about this before, I don't remember, but here is what you need to know. You can fly with your paints, but not with volatile solvents. That would include painting medium also. You CANNOT however carry them on, you must check them in your luggage. This is not a maybe, if you try to carry them on, they will be disallowed.

I think their are now so many plein air painters traveling about that the security personnel see paint all the time. But to be extra safe you might want to include MSDS information sheets that are made available by Gambin, you can put that in with your paints. You can find them here Click on the color you want, and at the bottom of the description is a link for each color.

There is another way too, that I have used. I go online to Jerrys or one of the other suppliers and buy everything I think I will need upon arrival at my destination, but instead of giving my home address I give them one at my destination, a friend, dealer or the hotel where I am staying. If you do this well before your trip, when you arrive everything you need will be there in its little box, waiting for you. At the end of your trip you throw it all back in its box and mail it to yourself at your home address. That works real well. You will, still have to pack your easel and brushes for the flight but that is all...............................Stape:

Dear Stape

Gruppe used Rose Madder (deep) I think. What is that color most like today?

Pierre-Jean Robiquet

Dear PJ;

It is most like Winsor Newton Rose madder genuine. The Winsor Newton from Jerrys costs 35.69 for a 38 ml. tube, that is very expensive paint. I used it for several years and it has a lovely roseate color. I know of nothing with the same sweet glowing look. Some companies make a rose madder hue. I have never found one I liked. Perhaps a permanent rose is as close as you can get, that would be Quinacridone of course. You would never mistake it for the real thing though. Alizarin crimson is close also but lacks the subtlety and warm glow of the real thing. Rose Madder is NOT a permanent color.

madder plant, above

Rose madder is extracted from the root of the madder plant, it contains both the colors alizarin and purpurin. Purpurin is the more orange of the two and gives genuine rose madder its pleasing warm undertone. In the late 19th century alizarin was produced synthetically. It was in use until fairly recently. it was traditionally thought to be permanent but recent scholarship has disproved that. Today it has been largely replaced by quinacridone, developed in the late 1950's by Dupont, which is a cleaner, more permanent pigment. Quinacridone is a lightfast extremely durable red to violet color and comes in many shades across that range. When you buy permanent Alizarin, (and you should) quinacridone is what you get...Stape

Dear Stape:
Whats the deal with Alex Katz?

I have no idea.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cleaning brushes

On the last painting trip I took, discussion turned to "how best to clean brushes?" One of the women on the trip suggested that Murphy oil soap was the best way. So I tried it when I returned home. It does seem to work really well, it cleans them quickly and leaves them soft, it doesn't seem to dry them out so they will become brittle.

I am murder on brushes, I don't often wash them, I scrub with them and abuse them with my paper towel. I only use a few. Some day when I am really rich and famous I will just throw them away at the end of every painting day. I do like them sharp and when they lose their edge, out they go.

When paint dries in my brushes, I use professional house painters brush cleaner, but that has to be done outdoors as it is nasty stuff. I used to use Ivory bar soap until I was turned on to the Murphy"s soap.

The procedure is this:
  • Pour a dot of the Murphy soap directly onto the brush from the bottle.
  • Run it around and around on the palm of your hand ( I wear gloves most of the time and it would seem like a good idea for this too, I was taught to do it barehanded years ago, but it is probably smarter not to grind pigments into the skin of your palms.
  • Keep that going until the lather comes out white, indicating no pigment is left in the brush, try to get the paint out of the ferule too (that's the shiny part between the hair and the wood).
  • Shape the brush when you have finished so it will dry into a shape that it is supposed to be. NEVER point a brush with your mouth, or hold a brush in your mouth either. Even the little residue of paint in your brush is toxic.
  • Often in workshops I have students whose brushes are totally worn out. They are useless, when your brushes get worn, replace them. A brush needs to be able to make a clean mark not a fuzzy one. The cost of painting is your time and education, not the materials or brushes. Go ski for a day if you disagree, then get back to me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter fashion wear, Polar Fleece


Polar fleece is a modern synthetic first developed at Malden Mills in Lawrence Massachusetts in the late seventies. It is really a man made wool. Unlike wool though it is very light and in hydrophobic, that is it doesn't absorb moisture. It washes well and dries quickly. It can be made partially from recycled plastic bottles and can itself be recycled into Polar fleece garments after use.

I wear polar fleece (now marketed under the name (Polartec) every day in the fall and winter, head to toe. When I paint outside in the winter it is the mainstay of my insulation. Polartec is a wonder product. There is an interesting story that goes along with it too.

The third generation owner of Malden Mills Aaron Feurstein developed the fabric and decided not to patent it so that others could make it too. This was an early sign of the kind of guy Mr Feurstein was.

On December 11, 1995, the mill burned down. Aaron then did an heroic thing, cashing the fire insurance check, he used the money not just to rebuild, but to keep all 3,000 workers on the payroll for the six months it took to reopen the factory. That cost him millions. He said that his lifelong study of the Talmud made him believe it was the right thing to do.

Ultimately the action cost him the company in bankruptcy court. The company was bought by another entity though who relieved him of his position as CEO. But the company and its workers still exist making not only Polartec used in many different manufacturers like LL Bean and Northface but producing weird high tech fabrics for the military. He was given the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award on March 13, 1998 for his commitment to his workers and Lawrence, Massachusetts. Lawrence is a pretty hard bitten town, throwing 3000 workers out of their jobs would have been a catastrophe for Lawrence. It didn't happen because Aaron made sure it didn't happen, and was willing to suffer the consequences. A company formed of former employees still markets the material from Lawrence and their web site is here.

A little more about winter fashion

Lucia Deleiris , pictured above wrote in to my comments page to tell what layers she had on she said "In the picture you see only the top layer, but I also have on merino wool long underwear, expedition weight poly pro pants, then work coverall windbreaking pants over that, merino wool top, part wool shirt, fleece jacket, down vest, then two jackets over that. wool scarf, and two hats, and heat packs inside gloves and in my trans-Alaska III Cabella boots!"

Lucia is an experienced winter survival painter having made numerous painting trips to both the Antarctic and to the arctic documenting in paint the wildlife under the auspices of the National Science Foundation. Below is a picture of her wearing that same coat in the arctic.
One night on this trip she tested out a new sleeping bag by sleeping in her car overnight. It was about zero , she looked OK at breakfast. Tough girl. Here is her web site

Chemical hand warmers are a nice thing to have when it is super cold. When you pull the disposable warmers out of their protective packets a chemical reaction begins involving iron and salt and activated charcoal all sealed up in little polypropylene bags. They rapidly heat up and stay that way for hours. Toe warmers are also available. If you put a pair in your gloves or boots they will keep them warm all day. I only use them when it is super cold, but they are a nice luxury then. You can buy them inexpensively here or at Amazon .

I was also asked about snowblindness and how that can be avoided. Snow blindness is essentially a sunburn of the eyes. The snow reflects a lot of UV waves into your eyes. One way to cut it down is to wear ordinary glasses. The plastic lenses cut the UV rays by a lot and the high density polycarbonite lenses that I wear cut them even more. As always when painting outside, a hat with a brim will also provide some protection for your eyes. Perhaps because I wear thick polycarbonite lenses I am never bothered by the glare from the snow.

I also wear lots of Polar fleece. Tomorrow I will tell you the story of that

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter fashionwear

I drove through a blizzard and an ice storm and am lived to tell the tale. Above is an artists wedding from a number of years ago, the bride is on the right. The marriage was, however, never consummated, due to an equipment failure.

One artist on the trip was surprised to find out how many layers of clothing some of us were wearing. We were all sitting around and counting how many layers of clothing we had on. Layering is the trick to staying warm when painting outside. T.M. on the right, said he had on eight layers of clothing . I am marching along in my handsome new pantsuit on the right. I have on a set of Cabela's polar weight long underwear, a shirt, bluejeans, the pantsuit, a heavy plaid fleece jacket, a down vest and three hats.

Over top of that I have an arctic weight jacket. That weighs about five pounds it has so much insulation in it. The hats are a brimmed baseball cap, a "Turtlefur" ( a proprietary synthetic) hat and the peculiarly warm orange stocking cap that looks so good on me. I am wearing a pair of ski gloves with a chemical handwarmer packet in each.

Here is Suzy wearing an overall style work suit. When she paints she adds a jacket to the ensemble. The hat has special ears, I don't know exactly why. I have no idea what she has on underneath. Notice the boots on the guy to the right of her, those are the Cabela's trans Alaskas. T.M. is wearing a Carhart winter insulated worksuit with all those layers beneath. As I said yesterday, it was 13 degrees below zero when this shot was taken.

Lucia is modeling a more restrained outfit with snowboard style pants and lots of layers underneath. She is actually a rather small person, but all of those clothes give her a stylish and enlarged appearance. There are lots of modern synthetics that are really warm, Polar fleece and underarmor to name a few. Any outdoor shop can sell you lots of different varieties, even Walmart has a selection. They don't need to be expensive or fancy to work well. My orange hat cost three dollars and is the warmest hat I have ever owned, other than a bomber hat.

Here is Barrett wearing a set of insulated overalls and a bomber hat. Those are real good when there is a wind, the flaps protect your face from freezing, somewhat.

Here are a pair of the Cabelas "superboots" modeled by the lovely Lucia.

It is possible to be completely comfortable if you have enough layers on and good boots, providing you are out of the wind. The wind will freeze any exposed flesh and put you out of business, so you have to set up facing away from it, or paint down in the woods or in the lee of a building for shelter.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Painting trip 2

Plenty of snow here. We got out before first light.

Here we are meeting in the parking lot of a convenience store at 7:00. It is 13 degrees below zero.

Here I am painting That is a frozen Moxie in the back of my box. I have new Realtree camo pantsuit on.

Here are T.M Nicholas and I, T.M. is painting a 40" by 40". Outside in minus 10 degree weather, that is a herculean feat, very physical, that's a lot of canvas to cover.

Here we are all strung out in a line. This is only some of us, the rest are on another location down the road. We had ten on this trip. This is not Snowcamp, by the way, it is just friends painting together.

Here is my days effort. This is a 24"by 30". I will work this up in the studio, if I don't crash it, I will show you the finished picture.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A painting day in the snow

I am on a painting trip in Vermont with a big group of artists. We have been out today and it is real cold and continues to snow on us. There is Renee Lammers and Barrett McDevitt.

When it is snowing it is pretty hard to paint outside. It turns your paint mixtures on your palette into something Barrett compares to grated Parmesan cheese. Here is Mike Graves working from the deck of an unused covered bridge. You have to find a shelter like an awning or a bandstand or picnic shelter in order to work.

Here is T.M. Nicholas working on a big canvas. It quit snowing so we moved to a hilltop overlooking some barns and houses and went to work. There was a cold wind blowing and it was gray, occasionally we got some light but it was pretty severe.

But within an hour or so, it turned into this. For the next couple of hours we worked from snow covered palettes and kept blowing the snow off of our paint. It is real difficult to control paint when it is like this, it turns into glue. We were determined to get something for our efforts so we cursed and worked and cursed some more until our boxes were filled with snow and we were painting with as much snow as paint.

I made this. Not my finest hour by any means, but I did manage to get the canvas covered. I will probably use this 18 by 24 inch sketch to make a painting in the studio. I have some information and an idea, but I don't like the design well enough to continue without redesigning the thing.

Here we are back at our cabin in the evening. That's T.M. Nicholas with Katherine Raynes.

This is from front to back Paul Goodnow, painter and master framer, John Caggiano, Barrett McDevitt, and Barbara Lussier.
Tomorrow, we hear the sun is going to shine. Perhaps I won't have to fight so hard to make a painting. Today was very trying indeed.