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Showing posts from 2014

Composition is Not a Formula or Rule

Pierre Subleyras,Christ at the House of Simon the Pharisee, 1737



In this post I'd like to tackle a subject that I have been thinking of for a long time. As a photographer for nearly 30 years I devoured many books on how to take better photos and wasted numerous rolls of film trying to develop an innate sense of framing and "finding the shot" before I take it. And it works. Photography is great experience in honing your eye for what to include and exclude in the frame, and even what to enhance or focus on. But when it came to applying what I learned toward my art, I realized I still had much to learn. Indeed.


One of the most misunderstood yet fundamentally important elements of art is composition. Incredible, but true. Many believe it's their signature or choice of color palette, or their artist statement that will garner more sales and gallery representation, not giving much of a second thought to the very element that literally holds their painting together visually…

Rejuvenating a Tepid Market for Old Masters

A 1620s Anthony van Dyck portrait
of the musician Hendrick Liberti sold at
Christie’s on Tuesday for £2.9 million.
from the New York Times


Read this article from the New York Times on how the art market is beginning to change for the Old Masters, despite a popularity of the contemporary art scene.



Stanhope Forbes, Irish Poet of the Brush

The Health of the Bride, 1889

Irish painter Stanhope Alexander Forbes was born in Dublin on November 18, 1857. He was a founding member of the Newlyn School, which was an art colony of British artists in southwestern England that became very popular in the 1880's. They painted primarily en plein air to capture the majestic light and interesting characters of this small, modest fishing community—a theme that would recur throughout Forbes' career. What distinguishes Forbes from the rest of his artist colleagues was his naturalism, and a strong sense of narrative reminiscent of Joaquín Sorolla in being able to understand people and body language with an innate sense of group composition.

I was fortunate enough to see The Health of the Bride above in Tate Britain in September and I was awed by its simple power and drama. Off to the right a sailor raises his glass to the bride and groom seated at the table while friends and family around the table are poised to sip from their glass…

Marià Fortuny, The Wandering Spanish Eye

Viejo desnudo al sol, 1863



Born on June 11, 1838 in Reus, Spain, Marià Fortuny (Mariano José María* Bernardo Fortuny y Marsal) was a Romantic Catalan Spanish painter. He was known for his loose, distinctive brushwork, strong colors and a rich breadth of subject matter such as Academic drawings, military, portraiture and Orientalism. At a time when many painters of his era were taking more lucrative portraiture commissions while balancing their own individual styles, Fortuny's Romantic independence gave him a fresh eye, no matter where he pointed his brush. And while France was in the beginnings of breaking from the Salon and rising toward Impressionism, Fortuny seems to have absorbed outside influences from Paris and Rome into his own uniquely Spanish style. Sadly, his characteristic genius—like some notably great artists before him—was cut short and Fortuny passed away at the very young age of 36. One can only wonder what direction he would have taken had he lived another twenty …

An American in Paris

Elegante au sofa, 1895

Continuing on this series of sensual artists of French background is Julius Leblanc Stewart, born on September 6, 1855. He was a Philadelphia-born artist who lived and painted most of his life in Paris, earning him the nickname "the Parisian from Philadelphia." Stewart's family had moved there when he was only 10 years old, and from the wealth of his father's Cuban sugar plantation Stewart lived and painted to his heart's content. One teacher who had considerable impact on him was Gérôme. His father's wide influence as businessman and prominent art collector helped to secure Stewart's place in the Parisian art world within a relatively short period of time. Stewart's breadth of work ranges from the social life of the belle epoque to sensuous yet fun outdoor female nudes.

Elegante au sofa above is an sophisticated yet natural portrait of a woman seated in a warm room with simple furnishings. I love the contrast in texture of her …

Jules Joseph Lefebvre

La Vérité, 1870

Born on March 14, 1836 in Tournan-en-Brie, France, Jules Lefebvre was a French figure painter and respected teacher, whose students include names such as Kenyan Cox, Edmund C. Tarbell, and Paul Cornoyer. Lefebvre is well-known for his highly sensual female nudes, yet looking deeper into his work we see a keen insight into personality and character, creating mood and atmosphere as an essential ingredient in all of his paintings. A contemporary of William Bouguereau, Lefebvre approached the feminine form unabashedly and without the sentimentality of children nor the predictable satyrs and nymphs prancing about in lush landscapes. Lefebvre's women are unique and charming, as he was more keen on capturing who they were first and their physical beauty second.

La Vérité above, was modelled after a famous actress of the time, Sophie Croizette:








La Vérité reveals an aesthetic visual manifesto of sorts on the superiority of beauty and Classicism. Although many believe this pa…

Back from Europe!

Last week I returned from an amazing two week journey through London, France, Belgium and Spain that was life-changing. Last year I was awed and overwhelmed by Paris and London, whereas this year it felt like something more. It felt like home.

Above is a small sample of some original drawings I had the honour to hold in my hands and study from, thanks to the fine collections of the print rooms at Windsor Castle and the Louvre. Over the course of my travels and various new museums I discovered in Belgium and Spain I was reminded of the importance we have as artists to simply make time for our art and do it! And do it to the best of your ability. Because the rich legacy we have available to us and what we can learn from it, how it can inspire us today is invaluable. Those drawings have a freshness that seems like they were drawn yesterday, and yet every stroke, every line taught me something. Art is about discovery and expression, something that we need to share with the world because …

Jules Worms, a French Story-Teller

Sortie Du Maitre, 1914




Born December 16, 1832 in Paris, Jules Worms was an illustrator, lithographer and painter. Worms is considered a relatively obscure artist by today's standards—he has no Wikipedia article in English—but his craft nonetheless deserves merit for its freshness and spontaneity, attention to background detail, and his particular use of color and light.

In Sortie Du Maitre above, translated as the Exit of the Master, infidelity was a recurring motif in his paintings and as we see here the wife helping her husband with his coat while turning to admire a more handsome man—possibly the landlord or boss—who is coming down the stairs making an exit. Note the incredible body language and storytelling ability of Worms here in how natural the figures are, not posed at all. The expression on her face is as natural as real life. Note the indignation and jealousy in her husband's face, in contrast to the admiring glance of the "master" at his wife. This narrati…

3 Rebels Born in July

Marten Looten, 1632 by Rembrandt van Rijn



July is a month in art history that has produced some of the most idiosyncratic, passionate, sensitive and rebellious artists of all time. If you don't believe me, consider these names: Rembrandt, Artemisia Gentileschi (and her father Orazio), Camille Pissarro, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Edgar Degas, Salvator Rosa...all born in July. All rebellious in their own particular way. All brilliant. Let's explore a few of these great painters and find out why...




Marten Looten was a wealthy Dutch merchant from Leiden who commissioned this portrait. Although understated compared to some of his less formal portraiture, Rembrandt creates here a likeness that is painted with such sensitivity and depth that those penetrating eyes, tight lips, and thick hands convey a person who breathes through the paint. Normally Rembrandt loved using texture in his sitter's clothing to describe and identify their very soul, yet here the man appears very au…