To me, paintings are windows to other worlds – worlds we would never get to visit except through the imaginations of the artists. I love looking at their worlds, as I do at any new discovery. And the longer I look, the more I find, usually. That’s the first reason I love painting.
Art takes many forms, painting being only one, and so far, I have enjoyed all of them, in one way or another. I don’t like every example of art that I find. But that is another great thing about art: it is completely subjective. I don’t have to like it and neither does anyone else. Art is an end unto itself. When it is finished, it has served its primary purpose. Whether or not anyone likes it is irrelevant. I know there are artists who hope that their work is appreciated, whose livelihood may depend on it being appreciated, but if that is the sum of what they hope to achieve, I would think something is missing.
Every piece of art has a story to tell. I love the stories. When I was young, I was in love with Pablo Picasso’s work. This is Blue Guitar. What is the story here, do you think? It left me a bit unsettled, sad, and wondering.
Along the same time, I fell deeply in love with the Impressionists. Their works were so colorful and alive, full of light and promise. As I’ve aged, I find the abstracts are sometimes a bit too fractured for me (or maybe I’m too fractured for them), but my love of the Impressionists has never waned.
From the first time I saw his work, I have loved Claude Monet. With his haystacks and water lilies and the famous Impression, Sunrise (1873), the seminal work which gave the art movement its name.
I wish I had been there. And this one: The Cliff Walk, Pourville (1882) :
I would rather have been on one of the boats, but watching from the cliff walk would have been very nice, too.
I feel the same about Pissarro. Wouldn’t you love to stroll through this village? (L’Hermitage, 1868).
And Gustave Caillebotte. Isn’t this a beauty? It’s called Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877).
And, of course, there’s Alfred Sisley! Here is Snow at Louvciennes, one of my all-time favorites. Can you feel the cold?
Europe produced a number of great Impressionists, but so did America, artists like Theodore Robinson, Willard Metcalf, John Singer Sargent, and the phenomenal Childe Hassam, who shared with us life in New York City in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s. Two of his many works are Rain Storm, Union Square (1890) and The Water Garden (1909): I think he did as well as his European counterparts, don’t you?
These are only a few examples, but they show us that history isn’t really dead. We can, if only for the one moment the painting has captured, still find it in the works of these great artists who recorded the things that arrested their attention. It’s amazing to me that we even get the opportunity to see their worlds, so many years after they are gone. I love art for many reasons, but especially for the chance to see things as they once were, worlds away.
Here are a few more of my favorites, just for fun:
James McNeill Whistler : Nocturne in Black and Gold (1874)
Willard Metcalf: Cornish Hills
William Meritt Chase: A Friendly Call (1895)
Frederick Childe Hassam: The Flower Garden (1888)
Frederick Childe Hassam : Late Afternoon, Winter, New York (1900)
Frank Weston Benson: Rainy Day (1906)
And these are some books you can explore at your local library:
Arthur, John. Realists at Work. It’s like looking at photographs, only more fun, because you know they aren’t.
Baumann, Gustave. Nearer to Art. There has never been another printmaker like this one.
Dean, Catherine. Klimt. Fantastical works of shadow and surprising bursts of gold that draw you in.
Hoopes, Donelson F. The American Impressionists. And more light.
Hopper, Edward. Edward Hopper. Vignettes pulled from everyday life. I know these people.
Lloyd, Christopher. Pissarro. His world 150 years ago or so.
Ludwig, Coy. Maxfield Parrish. Wistful and charming – like a fairy tale.
Seckel, Al. Masters of Deception. Smoke and mirrors and optical illusions.
Shone, Richard. Sisley. Includes one of my all-time favorites: Snow at Louvciennes.
Wineberg, H. Barbara. Childe Hassam, American Impressionist. An amazingly talented chronicler.