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« Ferdinand Bardamu Guest Post | Main | The Olympics: A Modest Proposal »

October 01, 2009

Satisfying Paintings

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Not all paintings need be Significant or Provocative, Disturbing, Edgy or other criteria of Importance that might come to mind. As the title of this piece suggests, paintings might be satisfying -- and I see nothing intrinsically wrong with that role.

Given their content, still life paintings have an opportunity to be satisfying (however, objects portrayed might conform to the overtly Provocative-Disturbing-Edgy categories noted above).

Even more likely to result in soothing, satisfying results are landscape paintings. I'm not a huge landscape fan, but I've been noticing that contemporary artists are cranking out works that I would be tempted to buy (if I had the money) and hang on my wall.

Overpass (print) - Marc Bohne

Above is an image of a commercial print taken from a painting by Marc Bohne. It seems that his studio is about four miles from where I live, in a converted elementary school where my mother once taught. As it happens, I've never met Bohne, whose web site is here.

The above image does no justice even to the poster, let alone the painting. Some objects appear to be painted in a hard-edge style but in fact are a little fuzzy and painterly; you'll just have to track down a full-sized version to discover what I'm talking about.

I discovered the print in the waiting area of the eye clinic I go to. Admittedly, waiting for 15 or 20 minutes after your appointment time to be called in for your examination can put your mind in semi-suspended animation, a dreamy state. Nevertheless, the print never fails to fascinate me. The version I see has the caption at the bottom as well as border areas of the image cropped off (the sky cropping improves the result, I think). The coloring is realistic as are details such as the partly-submerged furrows in the foreground -- something common in the fall here in western Washington.

The composition is strong, yet intriguing. Much of it converges towards a focal point, yet there is no special focal object -- just a dark clump of trees.

Arques-la-Bataille - John Henry Twachtman - 1885

In some respect, it reminds me of the Twachtman painting above, which hangs (well, it did the last time I was there) in the Metropolitan Museum or Art in New York. Although it doesn't show well in the reproduction, this painting has (for Twachtman) a strong composition using horizontals and slants. In those respects, Bohne's painting echoes it.

Another artist whose work I've noticed recently is Romona Youngquist whose paintings can be found in an Eastside gallery hereabouts and elsewhere. Her page on the gallery's site is here; scroll to the bottom for biographical information.

Below are example paintings also shown in the above link. The titles are ho-hum, but the works themselves are -- guess what? -- satisfying when seen in person.

Sweet Summertime

Endless Summer

Changing Season

What I find a little bit interesting is the similarity of results by various painters. Perhaps it's simply an "in" style of the early 21st century just as were the hard-edge, geometry-inspired American Regionalist landscapes of the early 1930s (think Grant Wood).



posted by Donald at October 1, 2009


Is the Twachtman piece a water color?
It reminds Pupu of Japanese ink landscapes:

Posted by: Pupu on October 1, 2009 10:15 PM

Pupu -- The Twachtman is an oil painting, as this link indicates.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on October 1, 2009 10:22 PM

It occurred to me that you might like the illustrations used on this Youtube. As it happens, I like the music too.

Posted by: dearieme on October 2, 2009 4:48 AM

Beautiful paintings, Donald. Thanks.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on October 2, 2009 9:34 AM

The Twachtman is a great painting. The others shown are not. What is the difference? I wish I had a pat answer but I don't. My hunch is that the Twachtman escapes the generic look of the other paintings based on the pains taken by Twachtman that it not be generic. A tautology? Maybe. But the old definition of genius: taking pains, is particularly apposite in differentiating the Twachtman from the rest.

Posted by: ricpic on October 2, 2009 11:21 AM

I've always considered edgy or provocative subject matter to be an artistic cop-out--a distraction. To me, real artistic competence is making mundane subject matter interesting through, color, lighting, and composition. Of course, provocative subject matter can still be composed and well lit, etc. However, when any subject is composed and well lit, the subject matter is always secondary and sometimes irrelevant--to me at least.


Posted by: Steve-O on October 2, 2009 2:08 PM


That is a terrific video! Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: Pupu on October 3, 2009 11:58 AM

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