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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Corot: Figurative Works

Self-Portrait with Palette - 1835

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875) is one of history's greatest landscape painters. He attained that honored position, and public acceptance, rather late in life. In fact he was in his fifties before he began to make a living from painting.

Woman with a Pearl - 1868

Portraiture and figurative studies were important to him throughout his career. It is documented that even on his first trip to Italy in the 1820's, he executed a number of fine studies of the local people.
There is no confusion that these are the works of Corot. This is what one would expect his figurative works to look like. There is the same restrained palette with strong emphasis on value rather than color. There is the same sense of perfect balance and solidity as found in his landscapes...and just as his landscapes are enveloped with a great sense of calm and melancholy, so are his figurative works.

Woman Reading in a Landscape

In 1869 at the Paris Salon, Corot exhibited "Woman Reading in a Landscape". Amazingly, during his 79 years, it was the only figurative work he ever exhibited...and even it was not well received or appreciated by the critics. These works were painted entirely for himself, and, although they are today highly esteemed, they were virtually unknown during his lifetime.

Old Man in Corot's Studio, Rome - 1826

Corot greatly admired the work of Rembrandt and also found inspiration in Dutch seventeenth-century genre painting.
There is a sculptural quality about his work, aided by his economy of color and densely applied paint. Picasso's early work finds its roots in Corot. Degas, Renoir, Delacroix, Cezanne, Monet, Manet, Millet...the list goes on and on...all influenced by and greatly admired Corot's figurative works.

The Artist's Studio - 1865

It's interesting how tastes change. What was fashionable in Corot's day, what made him a wealthy man, the paintings most prized by collectors...the poetic, are the least admired.

Lady in Blue - 1874

Totally unappreciated were his figurative works, and to a lesser degree, his landscapes painted directly from nature.
Today, they are regarded to be among his best works.

Upcoming Workshops:
Three important workshops are scehduled for 2011. The focus of each will be Value and Color. I hope you will make plans to attend at least one of them. Click on the links below for details:
2-4 March - Dallas, TX
13-16 April - Pontotoc, MS
2-4 June - Wichita, KS -


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Corot: Later Landscapes

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875) was one of the most important artists of his generation.
Many art historians consider him an obvious bridge between Neoclassicism, prominent during the early part of his career, and Impressionism, which began to have an impact on the art world during the latter part of his career.

Historians liked the fact that Corot did so much of his paintings en plein air. The paintings were authentic. They captured the true landscape as it was, not a contrived idealism so reminiscent of Neoclassicism. The field studies were more richly textured and less refined, predating Impressionism. They appealed to the young artists who were ready for something new and were tired of the stranglehold academic art had over everything else.
Although Corot never considered his outdoor work as anything other than studies for the important studio creations, nevertheless, they had a big influence on many of the future Impressionists.

By 1850, Corot was extremely popular. Now in his mid-fifties, he became less concerned with the exact depiction of things and more interested in what the motif meant to him, and what he could extract from it. His paintings were about to take on a considerably different look. They became less direct and more suggestive...some would say, more poetic.

Many of Corot's early studies did not originally include figures, these were added later. He came to feel that a human element in his landscapes was essential. The figures were always represented in their leisure moments, never working, and were sometimes accompanied by farm animals. Their garments provided an opportunity to add brighter notes of color to the composition.

Although Corot sought to conscientiously capture a scene, he considered it extremely important not to lose sight of the feeling that had taken hold of him. So, while aiming for truth and accuracy, he also made sure to get into each painting that initial impression. "Let us trust our first impression," he said.
Corot's paintings are restrained in color. It was obviously his personal taste and vision that he saw the world in this way, but I also think it's because of utmost importance to him were, drawing and values.
In his later works, he pretty much shed the Neoclassicism influence of his early works. However, I still sense a slight influence here. No, he didn't paint Greek or Roman ruins in idyllic settings, but his paintings are perfectly balanced in pastoral type settings while exuding an enveloping calm in a beautifully harmonized limpid atmosphere.

All photos courtesy of

Corot's legacy is secure. He has influenced generations of artists including the Hudson River School, the Tonalists and the Impressionists. He became a household name in his day. He is truly one of the world's great landscape painters.
You can learn even more about Corot by clicking on, Newsletter.
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Workshops: Three important workshops are scheduled for 2011. The focus of each will be Value and Color. I hope you will make plans to attend at least one of these. Click on links below for details:
2-4 March - Dallas, TX -
13-16 April - Pontotoc, MS -
2-4 June - Wichita, KS -


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Corot: Early landscapes

View of the Farnese Gardens in Rome - 1826

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875) in his day was considered one of the premier landscape painters of all time. Claude Monet said of him, "There is only one master here - Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing". Because of his popularity, there are probably more forgeries of his work than of any other artist. As the story goes...of the 3000 or so paintings Corot produced, 10000 of them are in the United States.
Many art historians view him as a bridge between the Neoclassical and Impressionist movements. The fashionable art of Corot's early career was Neoclassicism, a rather stiff, contrived, formulaic style of painting that sought to depict the landscape as more beautiful and harmonious than nature itself. It was an idealized landscape influenced by ancient Greece and Rome that featured classical ruins in a pastoral setting. The work of Claude Lorraine is a good example of this style of painting. Corot's early work shows his influence.

Corot: Sketch from nature

Until Corot's time, artists seldom painted en plein air. Instead they worked from sketches done on location. These were used to create their large paintings. This technique was also employed by Corot, but additionally he created hundreds of small color studies before the motif. This is what sets him apart from his predecessors. Still, Corot viewed these as merely studies for the important studio paintings to follow.
Below is a good example of how Corot used his field studies as source material for the creation of "The Bridge of Narni". This painting was prepared for the 1827 Paris Salon and was a remake along Neoclassical lines. The closeup view of the plein air work is now pushed back and submerged in an exceptionally refined pastoral setting.

The Bridge of Narni (Field study) - 13"x 18"

The Bridge of Narni (1827 Paris Salon) - 26"x 37"

Tastes in France were changing. People were tiring of the idealized, unreal depictions of the landscape. They sought something different, a more naturalistic view of things.
Corot sometimes struggled with creating easel paintings from his plein air works. "There are some passages which are treated just as I'd wish and seem to me completely successful. So much so that I can't bring myself to start work on the easel pictures for which I made these sketches." Even though Corot viewed his sketches as nothing more than raw material for his "real" is said that he showed them to friends and even lent them out to young painters. This is why they had such a wide influence in their day. However, he exhibited them only once during his lifetime, in 1849.

Church of Trinita dei Monti seen from the Villa Medici, Rome

Corot exhibited sureness of drawing and an unerring feeling for values. It is said of him that he is one of the painters who have most intently scrutinized the very face of the earth.
"We must always keep in view the mass, the whole that has caught our eye, and never lose the first impression which quickened our emotion. The design's the first thing to get: next come the values - relations of forms and values. These are our starting point, then come the colors and, lastly, the details. It's the masses and the general structure of the picture that interest me primarily. Only when I've seen it clearly as a whole do I turn my mind to subtleties of form and color."
Next time...Corot's later works.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Don Adair

One just never adjusts to the reality of death. One moment here, the next instant, there. It's probably a good thing we don't adjust for it's in those moments...on that very, very fine line between the temporal and the eternal that the most profound and important questions of life are contemplated.
My friend, Don Adair, crossed that line on the 12th of November 2010. He entered the celestial city and received his inheritance, not because he was a good guy, which he was, but because he had an unwavering faith in the propitiatory, redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

Diagnosed with a brain tumor 17 years ago, Don had surgery which brought about stability for a while, but the tumor eventually became active again and for the last ten years Don has lived with intense pain.
Don and his identical twin brother, Ron, were prominent illustrators in Dallas for many years. I shared office space with them for most of the 1970's and I grew as an artist being around them.
Don developed quite a resume:
  • Two U.S. Commemorative postage stamps for the U.S. Postal Service
  • Two Southwestern Bell telephone directory cover paintings
  • Official poster for the 1984 Republican National Convention
  • Commissioned triple portrait of President George H.W. Bush, President George W. Bush, and Governor Jeb Bush
  • Award winning book jacket illustration for Chuck Colson's book, The Body
  • Signed pencil portrait of former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher
  • 100 paintings on the history of America, commissioned by the Postal Commemorative Society
  • Many commissioned portraits of world-renowned athletes and celebrities
Don also had a great sense of humor, well sort of. The story I love most is when he worked for Channel 13 in Dallas. Don did such a great job for them that CBS, Channel 9, in Washington D.C., hired him as their art director. One day, just as the sportscaster, Warner Wolf, was about to go on-air, Don encountered him in the elevator. Now you must remember this is Washington Redskin territory. As Don greeted Warner, he slapped him on the back. What Warner didn't know is that Don had a Dallas Cowboys sticker in his hand. So, when Warner went on air with his sports cast and happened to turn his back to the camera... and to all of Washington D.C., he exposed his "true allegiance". It was shortly thereafter that Don discovered the beauty of Atlanta.

It was in Atlanta that Don began his almost 40 year career as a freelance illustrator, eventually moving to Dallas in the early 1970's. It was also in Atlanta, under the ministry of Charles Stanley, that he received Christ as his savior...and that brings us back to the beginning...Don's new home that he entered on the 12th of November.
Don was 62. He is survived by his wife Judy, sons Ryan and Mark, his brother Ron and sister Barbara.
He's going to be missed.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

1954 Pontiac Star Chief

You're My Star, Chief - 12"x 16" - Oil

Nineteen-fifty-four was the year Pontiac first introduced the Star Chief. It was promoted as their prestige model, a new standard of value...the new, big, beautiful Pontiac for 1954.
The car is a massive 214" long, almost 18 feet. It is a full 11 inches longer than the former top model, the Chieftain. It's also eight inches longer than the 2010 Ford Expedition. It has a gargantuan trunk, large enough for a family of four.
As optional equipment, a proud owner could have power steering and brakes...and for the first time, an in-dash air conditioner.
When I was a youngster, I enthusiastically awaited September when the car manufacturers would release their new models. I built lots of plastic model cars, even modified some and entered them in local hobby shop competitions. I could identify every American manufacturer's automobiles. I kept charts to determine the most popular models.
It's not unusual that I enjoy integrating cars/trucks into my paintings. Occasionally, the car itself becomes the subject.
"You're My Star, Chief" is such a painting. The painting began as a refined monochromatic painting using burnt umber (no white). I selected an isosceles triad as my palette (violet, yellow orange, yellow, yellow green). These were premixed from the three primaries: ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson and cadmium yellow pale. In addition to the triad palette, I added titanium white and ivory black.
The painting sold rather quickly and I was asked to do another just like it. Not wanting to do that, I produced the one seen below.

1954 Pontiac Star Chief - 12"x 16" - Oil