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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hark! The angels are singing

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

That pretty much says it
May you have a blessed Christ -mas


Sunday, December 11, 2011

R.H. Ives Gammell

R.H. Ives Gammell

I want to briefly introduce you to Robert Hale Ives Gammell. You will be hearing much more of him in future blogs as I intend to share with you insights from his book, "Twilight of Painting", a painter's book about painting.
Gammell was one of the last American artists to receive a classical training in art. That's important because in his 35 years of active teaching, he imparted that knowledge to more than 80 students. From that group several have gone on to teach others, notably Richard Lack, Alan Banks and Stapleton Kearns. I think Gammell is indirectly responsible for the current explosion of the atelier system and the return to a serious, methodical course of study for would be artists. The art produced under the reestablished atelier system created a new art movement termed Classical Realism.

Paintings done from plaster casts at Atelier Stockholm
An atelier is basically an artist's workshop. Richard Lack created the model used by all present day ateliers when he established Atelier Lack in 1969. The Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, where I attended briefly in 1993, is based on the same model. The goal of these schools is to revitalize art education by reintroducing rigorous training in traditional drawing and painting techniques, employing teaching methodologies that were used in the famous French academies. Under the atelier model, art students study in the studio of an established master to learn how to draw and paint with realistic accuracy and an emphasis on rendering form convincingly. The foundation of these programs rests on an intensive study of the human figure, renderings of plaster casts of classical sculpture and the emulation of their instructors. The goal is to make students adept at observation, theory, and craft while absorbing classical ideals of beauty.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

R.H. Ives Gammell - "The Seamstress"

So, back to Ives Gammell (1893-1981). He was trained primarily by William Paxton, and Paxton was trained in Paris under the incredible Jean-Leon Gerome. You may remember that I mentioned him in last week's blog..."The Clark Museum".

Leon-Jean Gerome - "The Grey Cardinal"

William McGregor Paxton - "The String of Pearls"

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Gammell grew up in a privileged environment. By the age of 10 he knew he wanted to be a painter. His training was in sharp contrast to what he later called, "the quagmire of modern art".
He was totally out of step with his times and became increasingly isolated from the existing critical and artistic establishment. He was ridiculed and told his work was of no consequence. In 1939, due to the stress of the impending war in Europe, and the realization that there was little acceptance for his type of work, he suffered a nervous breakdown. It was during those war years, while slowly recovering from those dark days, that he wrote the insightful "Twilight of Painting"...which I intend to share with you over time.


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Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Clark Museum

The Clark Art Institute - Williamstown, MA

I first became acquainted with the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (now just The Clark) in 1993 while a student at the Lyme Academy of Fine Art in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
It was in March of that year that I drove to Williamstown to see this amazing museum. Nestled in the Berkshire Hills of far northwestern Massachusetts on 140 acres of woodlands, meadows, and hiking trails, the museum features some of the greatest names in 19th and early 20th century European and American art...Monet, Renoir, Turner, Homer, Sargent, Inness, Degas, Cassatt, Corot, Pissarro, Millet, Remington, Bouguereau, Gerome, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema...and on-and-on.

John Singer Sargent - "Fumee d'Ambre Gris (Smoke of Ambergris)" -  55"x 36" - Oil - 1880
This is one of the first paintings purchased by the Clark's

Winslow Homer - "Undertow" - 30"x 48" - Oil - 1886
This is one of Homer's largest paintings and for many reasons considered one of the pivotal paintings of his career . Homer was a master of strong, dramatic design and for that reason one of my favorite painters. The painting is undoubtedly masterful and was recognized as such by the critics of his day. The painting does however bring a smile to my face for a number of reasons...two "damsels" in distress being rescued by two heroic, virile men. One of them actually seems to be striking a contemporary manly pose. According to experts, he is in reality shielding his eyes from the bright reflective light off the water, but I think it is still very humorous. Also, this painting has a sculptural , posed quality to it. The heroic figures really don't seem to be straining nearly enough to actually be hauling two lifeless bodies to shore...and the beautiful woman doesn't at all appear near death but is actually having a sweet dream. Just saying.

William Adolphe Bouguereau - "Nymphes et Satyre" - 102"x 71" - Oil -  1873

Jean-Leon Gerome - "The Serpent Charmer" - 33"x 48" - Oil - 1880

Sterling Clark was a wealthy New Yorker, being heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune. He married Francine, a French actress, and together they quietly and often anonymously assembled their brilliant collection. They collected to please themselves and to bring beauty into their lives. They were not guided by experts or advisors, nor did they devote their attention to a single artist or period. "I like all kinds of art, if it is good of its kind", Sterling once said.
The Clark's were private people, so when the museum opened in 1955, the art world was shocked to discover the quality and breadth of their collection. Sterling did not like or seek publicity and wrote to a friend shortly before the Institute's opening: "Do not mention the opening of the Institute to anyone as you will treat me to a cloud of newspapermen to the detriment of my health."

Charles Francois Daubigny - "The Bridge Between Persan and Beaumont-sur-Oise" - 15"x 26" - Oil - 1867

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema - "The Women of Amphissa" - 48"x 72" - Oil - 1887
This is one stunning, amazing, unbelievable painting

George Inness - "The Wood Gatherers: An Autumn Afternoon" - 30"x 45" - Oil - 1891

The Clark's had developed excellent taste. I'm sure Francine's French background greatly influenced their choice to collect so many works of the French Impressionists. Sterling was his own advisor and followed the advice he gave to others. "Look, look, and look again, and don't be influenced by anyone in...likes and dislikes", he said.
Since the museum's opening, the collection has grown to more than 8000 objects. It has become only one of a few institutions in the country that is both a public art museum and a research and academic center supporting a library of over 200,000 volumes.

The 140 acres surrounding The Clark offer spectacular views. Here you can see the extensive expansion of the museum currently underway.

Clark considered John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer as America's best artists...and they are both well represented in the museum. The most prized artist, however, seems to be the French Impressionist, Pierre Auguste Renoir, with more than 30 representative works.
The Clark has so many phenomenal works, stunning works of genius. It all makes one stand back in awe and amazement that God endowed humans with the ability to conceive and execute such beautiful and meaningful works.
If you have not experienced  this great museum in northwest Massachusetts, you surely know by now that I strongly recommend it.

Brian T. Allen - "Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute" - American Art Review Vol. XVI No. 3 2004
Margaret C. Conrads - "American Paintings and Sculpture" - Hudson Hills Press

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