Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Gruppe painting discussed

As long as Emile Gruppe has surfaced I think I will talk about a couple of them. Emile is one of the artists who from about the 1920's through the late 70's was one of the most sucessful and well known painters of the Cape Ann school. The other "big guy" was Aldro Hibbard. Although I like Gruppe well enough, he is eclipsed for me by Hibbard. The Gruppes seem a little "quick" for my taste. But that is what they were about, and people who like Gruppe like him for that reason.

Gruppe was a splendid designer and pattern maker. The autumn scene is of the Congregational Church in Rockport, sometimes called "Old Sloop" church. The big dark tree on the right is balanced by three or four lighter birch trees leaning away from it at the opposite angle, on the left. These trees include a pattern of darks against the brightly colored midground. Gruppe has used counterchange all over this picture, setting the dark parts of the trees against the light parts of the sky and on the left darkening the sky so the white birches are boldly relieved against it. The strong darks make the colors "pop". A strong shadow is usually called for in order to get a strong light. It is the contrast between the light and the shadow that makes the picture "pop. This pattern of darks is liked together into a web like net thrown over the midtones of the distance.

The strongest and biggest dark (on the right hand tree) is placed next to the church, which gets our attention to that area. Sometimes artists call that a tonal climax, the darkest dark and the lightest light are placed together at the subject. It is a useful device sometimes.

The foreground and the base of the tree look to be painted in the mixed "umbers" that I mentioned last night. They contain all three primaries. The foreground grass looks like it was painted with ocher, but Gruppe used no earth colors, so it was mixed from chromatic color.

I wish Gruppe had taken a ruler to that steeple though. Gruppe lovers don't care, but that would bother me if I owned the painting. Its lean would haunt me. The bottom left corner of the lantern (that part of a steeple) needs to be kicked out a little to look "square". Gruppe was an excellent draftsman, I just think it wasn't important to him. It is that sort of thing that puts me off Gruppe sometimes. I never have that problem with a Hibbard, he adhered to a higher standard in his drawing.

Notice the repeating gables of the buildings across the middle ground. They have a relationship to one another that is rhythmic. The repeated shapes differing in size and perspective give a jaunty bebop sort of a feel.

One of the advantages of painting loosely as this is that you can get away with a lot of arranging. The more literal you are, the less poetic your arrangements will be.


In order to have rhythm and design in your painting it is necessary to push it around so it has those things. They will not mysteriously appear , they have to be consciously installed. A meticulously rendered highly accurate rendition is often arrhythmic.


Mary Byrom said...

Stapleton, Congratulations on the Plein Air article!

Mary Byrom said...

This painting has a nice fresh feeling. Look how he handled fall foliage. Painting bright colored New England trees isn't easy. I like what he did with the distant color. said...

Yeah...what a difference a design makes!

Kevin Beck said...

Powerful painting. I had the pleasure of seeing this in the flesh at a show in Gloucester in the 90s. He is one of my painting gods. I think he did let a lot of work out of the studio that shouldn't have "made the cut". But as often he nailed it with great design and bold color. As a result of the Gloucester show I threw out the 20 colors that had worked there way onto my palette and went back to the basics. Hibbard is definitely a god too!

billspaintingmn said...

This painting has a fresh fall feeling. The color evokes a crisp cool sunny day.
It has a spontaneity that adds to the freshness of the painting.
This artist could juggle design very well.

Marian Fortunati said...

I really enjoyed this post, Stape.... I like Gruppe's work and the steeple doesn't bother me so much... The color, the rhythm... all of that is what makes ME smile!!!

willek said...

I know I have a lot to learn, but this keeps happening to me. today's nice Grupppe is a good example. I would have passed this scene by because the trees obscured the view!or I would have made the church the main subject and omitted the trees. Or, I might have painted the foreground trees and edited out the church and other buildings. But I recently had a discussion with another painter friend lately who was looking for obscured or semi masked subject matter. What is with that?
However I do like buildings that are partially blocked my a hill or a mid ground field, but not totally vielled.

Susan said...

Hi Stapleton,
Still making my way through your blog, one post at a time. I'm at your posts where your talk about trees and the branching out of them. Couldn't help but notice these birch trees painted by Gruppe and the similar birch trees you talk about in the tree posts.
Your blog is a joy to read and I'm taking my time extracting every bit of info I can from it. It's been so helpful to me to help understand landscape painting and I even look at paintings differently now than I ever did before. Huge thanks to you!

George Perdue said...

Great painting and analysis. For me the activation of the steeple adds to the dynamic design. Much more interesting. Installed, not observed as you say.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Mary Byrom ;
Thank you Mary.

Stapleton Kearns said...;
Why would anyone go without?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Kevin Beck;
I saw it too.
I still have lots of colors though.

Stapleton Kearns said...

billspaintingmn ;
He sure could. Thats is the thing about Gruppe, they do work well most of the time.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Marian Fortunati ;
I am still irked by it a little.Not a lot but.....

Stapleton Kearns said...

willek ;
Gruppe fooled with stuff so much that he could veil or unveil stuff at will. Who knows what was actually there.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Susan ;
You are welcome!

Stapleton Kearns said...

George Perdue;
No no one else seems to mind it either.