Category Archives: história del arte

história del arte

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This time: The making of Tessa’s Portrait, Art–The whole story, Galería artelibre “20 years, in 20×20” , and News.

Portret van Tessa Tempera-olie

Portret van Tessa Tempera-olie-linnen 80x40cm

The making of Tessa’s Portrait

Once I started on Tessa’s portrait. I was struck by her pose and charisma, and the small chair from Honduras fitted in very well. Still, whatever I tried, I didn’t like the colors.

first designs portrait

First designs of Tessa’s portrait

I took a different approach and found a photo with lavender flowers on a mountain top in the Pyrenees, with beautiful violets and greens. Using Photoshop I filled in the background. All of a sudden I let that go on into the dress. Gotche! Sketching with Photoshop is so much quicker and it brings you all kinds of new ideas.
I didn’t want the lavender look like flowery wallpaper to continue into the dress, which I had seen somewhere. It should look ‘real’, spatial. Flowering, life, the pleasure of youth, a world that is open to you. Just as she stands there, with that smile.

Gezien van de Riet designs

Gezien van de Riet More designs

What had I got in to! Two differrent kinds of perspective had to be joined! The lavender plants themselves stood in the direction of an invisible horizon. But I didn’t want it to look like Tessa was standing among the lavender on that mountain. The dress with the lavender also made that impossible, because it made a standing plain surface. This whole idea turned out to go irritatingly slow, without any clue whatsoever for a happy turn out. Why oh why, you ms. Quixote! Only at the end would I know if I had succeeded. And if not: all those hours of work thrown away? But in my phantasy  it still looked phantastic. Giddy up, Rocinante! It turned out to be a two years quest.

Artbook forgot modern realism

stokpaardje

My hobbyhorse. Gezien van de Riet

Recently I was given a Dutch translation of the book: Art – The whole story (editor: Stephen Farthing; first published in 2010).
Beautiful pictures, handy time bars. I can’t judge the quality, but the Dutch title and subtitle promise to tell “the whole story” and “the right perspective”. At once I look up the last chapters: does it include contemporary realism? No! No? No! Well, Lucian Freud is included. He is mentioned under European figurative painting, which according tot the time bar lasted from 1945 till 1966. What? Freud wasn’t dead then and went on painting with gusto and realism. Just as figurative art (also called realism) is going till this day.

What else?
Oh yes, hyper realism is included, dated 1968 till today. But, but, modern realism is so much more. This omission can be blamed on the taboo on realism. Well, let’s do something about that. We’ve got the internet, where you can see wonderful contemporary realist works of art. Just a handful:

Joke Frima Eternal Return

Joke Frima Eternal Return Oil-linen 19,6×35,4

Grietje Postma Kleurenhoutsnede

Grietje Postma Kleurenhoutsnede 2014-I 40x50cm

Art historian Peter Trippi, among many things curator of the exposition of Lawrence Alma-Tadema in the Fries Museum and Waterhouse in the Groninger Museum, once pointed out a significant and curious phenomenon. On the one hand we see long queues at the museums featuring 19th-century realist art. Quite a few spectators would love to have a Breitner or Mary Cassatt on their own wall. Well, we can’t afford those, can we?

Aurelio Rodriguez En busca de la memoria crayon-wood MEAM

Aurelio Rodriguez Lopez En busca de la memoria crayon-wood 50x50cm MEAM

Rob Møhlmann Droog staan olieverf-paneel

Rob Møhlmann Droog staan olieverf-paneel 40x40cm Museum Møhlmann

Ricky Mujica Proud oil-canvas

Ricky Mujica Proud oil-canvas 91,94×121,92

Wait,
because on the other hand there is affordable top-quality contemporary realist art. We can buy those! Only, because of the taboo, this art is not prominent in the media. The potential buyer doesn’t know it. Or is reluctant because of this taboo.

Teresa Oaxaca The Pierrot

Teresa Oaxaca The Pierrot

Lorena Kloosterboer Tempus ad Requiem XXV

Lorena Kloosterboer Tempus ad Requiem XXV 80x40cm

Vincent Desiderio Theseus

Vincent Desiderio Theseus

Kenne Gregoire Voyeur

Kenne Gregoire Voyeur Acryl-olie-paneel 34x31cm

Nevertheless modern realism is alive and kicking – so much so that it is quite a movement nowadays in the US. It was already well established in the Netherlands. And now look at Spain. And Japan. And.. and..

Grzgorz Gwiazda Sitting man Resin MEAM

Grzgorz Gwiazda Sitting man Resin 150x100x100cm MEAM

Golucho Retrato de insomnios MEAM

Golucho Retrato de insomnios 120x170cm MEAM

My thanks to all artists who permitted to post their images:
Vincent Desiderio, Joke Frima, Lorena Kloosterboer, Kenne Grégoire, Ricky Mujica, Teresa Oaxaca, Grietje Postma, Museum Møhlmann (Rob Møhlmann), MEAM (Aurelio Rodriguez Lopez, Grzgorz Gwiazda, Golucho).

Galería artelibre, “20 years, in 20×20”

20 years, in 20x20cm

20 years, in 20x20cm

Galería artelibre in Zaragoza, Spain, exists for 20 years as an on-line art gallery. Founder and director is  José Enrique González. He is promoting modern realism thru all kinds of activities, especially the internationally renowned portrait competition ‘Modportrait’ – in co-operation with MEAM (Museu Europeo de Arte Moderno in Barcelona). He writes:

“From the very beginning we decided to create one of the first virtual galleries that would strongly support the figurative, realistic and hyper-realistic art.

Times were far from easy for this artistic current which was vilified, neglected and even forgotten by both, gallery owners and official bodies.

(…) Even though there is still a long way to go on this, this is the beginning of an unstoppable era.”

The “20 years” are being celebrated extensively, with works of art of 20×20 cms by 165 artists from all over the world. All framed in the same way, they are being exposed in beautiful rooms, shining like stars in the sky.

To be seen in Zaragoza in the beautiful Palacio Bantierra,
from March 7 till Apil 5.
In Barcelona in the swinging MEAM Museum, from July 9 till September 1st.

Gezien van de Riet Our Gingko in Autumn Tempera-oil-panel

Gezien van de Riet Our Gingko in Autumn Tempera-oil-panel 20x20cm

I am happy and proud that it includes my work “Our gingko in autumn”. And that I am part of Galería Artelibre, under “Grandes Autores”. https://www.artelibre.net/

News

Kunstzaal Van Heijningen
This art gallery in The Hague has created an on-line art platform, where my work is to be found as well.

Art Gallery Clatia
I was invited to participate on this on-line art platform from China. It includes internationally acclaimed artists, it looks real good! My page will come on-line shortly.

Bolivia
I was invited by the Fundación Cultural del Banco Central de Bolivia to expose in the Museo Nacional de Arte in La Paz, Bolivia, and the Centro de la Cultura Plurinacional in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. A great honor!

Gezien van de Riet Watercolor

Gezien van de Riet Watercolor for video

This is wonderful, because I lost my heart to Bolivia, where I worked for many years with lots of love as a sociologist, especially in developing educational material, and where I was able to study at the Escuela de Bellas Artes, the classical art academy in La Paz.

 

Translation NL-EN: Jeroen Strengers


 

Imitation and Imagination. Hidden distortions. Naturalism in art history

News: Visit to Galería Artelibre, after Imitation and Imagination


Imitation and Imagination 4

Dürer-imitate-figures

Dürer, A Draftsman Making a Perspective Drawing of a Woman

Before

This is the last part of the lecture I gave in may 2018, Imitation and Imagination, at TRAC2018 (The Representational Art Conference) in The Netherlands. The lecture was on naturalistic realism, the area of tension between imitation and imagination in the classical art, including the contemporary variant. Naturalism is one of many expressions of representational art, one with a very high degree of imitation. See for example a comment with regard to a pretty realistic painting, on facebook (28-10-2014):

Huysman. Street in Utrecht i

Gerard Huysman. Utrecht, street in backlight, oil on panel, 2013

“I can’t understand why an artist would work so hard to make a painting like this that is so much like a photo. That’s what cameras are for. I can see the artist’s skill, but not the soul.”

This prejudice is often heard. Because really: isn’t imitation getting in the way of imagination? Exactly! No soul, no artistic creativity. And that’s what this discussion is all about.
I will contest the opinion that naturalism lacks imagination.

 

Part 1 in blog august 2017 (see archive).
Part 2 in blog august 2018 (see archive).
Part 3 in blog october 2018 (see archive).
Part 4, the last part, is following now.

19th-century Realism

Two centuries after the Dutch Golden Age, in 1855, Courbet’s painting The Stone Breakers was rejected as too vulgar by the Paris Salon. This sounds familiar, denk aan de Hollandse Gouden Eeuw (see Archive October 2018).
Courbet thereupon rented a wooden shed, baptized it with the name Pavillon du Réalisme and there showed his work during the Paris World Exhibition. Courbet then wrote his Realist Manifesto. He minted the term realism, true to nature, by form and by content.

Courbet The Stone Breakers realism

Gustave Courbet. The Stone Breakers, oil on canvas, 1849, 160x259cm

“No myths”, said Courbet, “Angels? I’ve never seen them.” Look at everyday reality, at ordinary people. There’s no need for fabrication.
Courbet was not a dogmatic, he did invent things. But he really did make a breach in the classical tradition where ‘Invention’ still stood for exhalted subject matter and idealization. Where the Dutch still saw the divine in nature, Courbet did away completely with the metaphysical dimension.

At the end of the nineteenth century there were all sorts of realisms; think of Lepage, Bougueraux, Sargent, Waterhouse, Alma Tadema, Zorn, Repin. They were famous in their day, but afterwards disappeared from the official art history. However, realism can be ‘fantastic’ and in no way inferior to the so much appreciated impressionism of that age.
See the American Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900).

Church. Twilight,

Frederic Edwin Church. Twilight, ‘Short Arbiter ‘Twixt Day and Night’, oil on canvas, 1850, 81,3×121,9cm.

Or the Russian Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898), an eminently naturalistic painter. His Winter is overwhelming by its greatness and realness. Extremely refined color and tone nuances in the snow. A wealth of details in the tree bark. That way, Shishkin enhanced the degree of reality in his painting.

Shishkin. Winter

Ivan Shishkin. Winter, oil on canvas, 1890, 125,5x204cm.

Some collegues called him a ‘bookkeeper of leaves’.12) Also nowadays art teachers often shrink away from painting many details, for understandable reasons. But if done rightly, you can compare detailing to music in which every note is clearly played without loosing the melody, where variation in repetition only enriches. Greatness does not exclude attention to detail.

And his ‘own handwriting’? In Van Mander’s words: “no fabrication, no ornamentation”. He lets Nature speak its own language. Do nothing more! For that, great skill is required.
However successful he was, some critics thought his work too naturalistic because it was so much like reality itself. Where was the imagination? Shishkin succeeded in hiding it in his art. More about that later.
He painted in this naturalistic manner to capture the observed qualities, the breathtakingly beautiful. “Just like the real thing”, the public says, while getting a feeling of the artist’s original experience. What is it that makes these paintings so touching? It can’t be just Imitation, can it?

Observing, experiencing and representing

Gezien van de Riet. Observing

Gezien van de Riet. Observing

Obviously I wouldn’t dare to put myself at the level of these masters, but I found that the painting process starts in my head the moment that beauty in the outside world hits my eye:… it must be this color… that pattern… this should be in… that should be left out…
Atmosphere and experience imprint themselves in my memory. I see more and more of that what hits me: the architecture of the tree, nuances, gradations, peculiarities. A selection of course, because it’s impossible to paint every tiny branch. That selection stems also from my personality. An image is formed in my mind.

During the painting process the original feeling or experience works as a propelling force and as a severe critic: is the atmosphere still there? Then let me grab this brush, select that color. Feeling, experience, joins with technique. That’s the way feeling comes in the artwork.

Gezien van de Riet. The Beech of Kijkuit-2

Gezien van de Riet. The Beech of Kijkuit-2, alkyd/oil on panel, 60x90cm

All manner of problems must be solved. Form and color work differently on a panel than in reality. Picture yourselves an infinite space in which a tree extends its bare branches. The painting has to make do with only a small square. I must make up for that. Because I want to evoke just that infinite space, that defines the atmosphere.
A difficulty here is that the paint of the represented sky reflects the real phyisical light, while in reality space becomes perceptible partly through the light in the air, through dust particles that catch the light.

Gezien van de Riet. Sketch for Beech of Kijkuit-2

Gezien van de Riet. Sketch for Beech of Kijkuit-2, pencil on paper

Roaming through the representation, the eye of the beholder should be able to enjoy itself unhindered. That is why there is a harmonious abstract pattern laid (as it were) under the representation; attention being paid to directions, light and dark, balance, etc.
That pattern can force you to remove branches or to bend them. I sometimes make a photo of the painting in progress and manipulate it in Photoshop; that can be quicker than sketching. The illusion of space on a flat surface can force you to change colors further away, even though that’s not the way they were seen.

Inconspicuous distortions

In short, in naturalistic realism the painter consciously applies distortions, but as inconspicuously as possible. It must be hidden. The greater the skill, the more poignantly the experience is represented. Inconspicuous distortions can be found in many classical works of art. Personal feelings? Yes, very personal, but in the sense of total involvement. What is really added by the artist is the enchantment that was in the original experience, the beauty, the thrill, guided by her (or his) artistic talent.

Conclusion

Seeing A Street in Utrecht in Backlight you may think : “Oh, I know this already”. Then you will move straight on and miss the beauty of it. That will be reserved to the attentive viewer. She will walk in her mind through that street, with that nice atmosphere. How was that achieved? By all sorts of choices made by the artist. He managed to hide them.

Is Imitation just virtuosity? It is more than that. Because how can it be that the art of the Dutch Golden Age still enchants millions of people? The painters themselves were enchanted by beauty and skilfully expressed that in their work.

Gezien van de Riet. Reaching for the Sky

Gezien van de Riet. Reaching for the Sky, watercolour/pastel on paper, 60x40cm

Dennis Dutton states in The Art Instinct 13) that love for beauty is inborn. As long as that instinct is not weeded out, there will always be people gripped by beauty and artists driven to re-create the beauty found in reality.
Please, no dogmas. There are many ways towards beauty; contemporary naturalism is entitled to its own place in art and art history.

Notes

12) Henk van Os, Voor het eerst: Russische landschappen, p.39. In: Patty Wageman & David Jackson (ed.), Het Russisch Landschap. Groninger Museum, Groningen & The National Gallery, London, s.d.
13) Dennis Dutton, The Art Instict. Beauty, Pleasure & Human Evolution. New York 2009.


News

Galería Artelibre

Besides the book ‘Leonardo. Guía de arte y artistas’ Galería Artelibre publishes every year ‘Arte y Libertad’ with about one hundred artists from all over the world. It appeared at the end of 2018 and my work is in it too!

My pages in Arte y Libertad XIII

My pages in Arte y Libertad XIII

This art gallery is based in Zaragoza, Spain, and wants to be a window for artists from all points of the compass. It is a virtual gallery and has a website featuring a great many artists: www.artelibre.net. My page is: http://www.artelibre.net/en/node/27050. They display a great range of other activities, like book publishing, organizing a yearly portrait competition called Modportrait (together with MEAM), teaching art classes in the gallery workshop in Zaragoza, organizing exhibitions in other locations.
When you are talking about this gallery, you are talking about José Enrique González.

My husband J and I visited Galería Artelibre in November last year to hand in my work ‘Our Gingko in Autumn’ for the exhibition ‘20 años, en 20×20’, celebrating the gallery’s twentieth aniversary, 150 artist are going to take part, all of them with a work of 20×20 cm. You can say that 20 stands for 20 years of promoting realist art. That warms my heart. Just like the efforts of Museum Møhlmann in Appingedam (Holland) or MEAM in Barcelona.

‘Our Gingko’ on the easel

‘Our Gingko’; Arantxa Lobera (left near easel) put it on the easel to show it to visitors

José Enrique González, Tetuán II, Dry oil

José Enrique González, Tetuán II, Dry oil on paper, 50x40cm

José Enrique González was very hospitable and showed us around in the gallery’s premises, harbouring a great many works of art. He gave a demonstration of ‘dry oil’ technique. It is like drawing: you must dip your brush with oil paint just as long as to make the tip feel dry to the touch; then you can apply it to paper; see Tetuán II.

We were able to attend the opening of the wonderful international exhibition ‘Algo más que realismo’ (‘Something more than realism’) in Zaragoza. That is also a yearly happening.
In short, our visit to Galería Artelibre was heartwarming and inspiring!

Translation NL_EN
: Jeroen Strengers

 

Pedro del Toro, ¿Sí? Oil on canvass

Pedro del Toro, ¿Sí? Oil on canvass, 116x114cm

Opening ‘Algo más que realismo’

Opening ‘Algo más que realismo’

José Enrique González (center) at ‘Algo más que realismo’

José Enrique González (center) at ‘Algo más que realismo’

 

Imitation and Imagination 3. Disclosure of Dutch Golden Age art theory

Imitation and Imagination 3. Disclosure of Dutch Golden Age art theory

Dürer-imitate-figures

Dürer, A Draftsman Making a Perspective Drawing of a Woman

 

Before

In May 2018 I gave a lecture, Imitation and Imagination, at TRAC2018 (The Representational Art Conference) in The Netherlands. The lecture was on naturalistic realism, the area of tension between imitation and imagination. Naturalism has a very high degree of imitation. See for example a comment with regard to a pretty realistic painting, on Facebook (28-10-2014):

Huysman. Street in Utrecht i

Gerard Huysman. Utrecht, street in backlight, oil on panel, 2013

“I can’t understand why an artist would work so hard to make a painting like this that is so much like a photo. That’s what cameras are for. I can see the artist’s skill, but not the soul.”

Because really: isn’t imitation getting in the way of imagination? It is a widespread idea: naturalism lacks imagination. But, I will contest that opinion.
Part 1 of the lecture: earlier blog (archive, August 2017)
Part 2 in blog, August 2018
Part 3 is following now (elaborated)

Forgotten Dutch Golden Age art theories disclosed

Let us jump to the year 2000. Rembrandt. The Painter at Work is published. It’s a real art treasure from the Dutch Golden Age, expertly and fascinatingly revealed by Ernst van de Wetering. It is nothing less than the forgotten art theories about realism. These had been overlooked for about three centuries. The artists of those days proved to be theoretically very well grounded. This had sharpened their skills and insights. Their world fame was’t for nothing!
This was especially true for Rembrandt, who pondered, investigated and experimented a lot and developed new insights himself.

Rembrandt. The Painter at Work & Rembrandt. The Painter Thinking. Art theory Dutch Golden Age

Rembrandt. The Painter at Work & Rembrandt. The Painter Thinking.

That was an awareness that came to me when I read the book with increasing amazement. How could it be that those ideas weren’t known to us? I wrote to Ernst van de Wetering that I would very much like to learn more about those theories, but didn’t have the time to read the original texts in Old Dutch. I didn’t have to: he sent me more unpublished texts until he published Rembrandt. The Painter Thinking in 2016. Again, I was stunned: what a rich source for the visual arts, so many intelligent ideas in treatises on art theory were brought to light!
Professor Van de Wetering said to me that many people came to tell him that his books were a revelation to them, even if they believed themselves to be well versed in Rembrandt and seventeenth century art. Just like me!
Now let us jump back to that age, the seventeenth century.

Art treasure of the Dutch Golden Age

A new realism originated in Dutch painting, already in the sixteenth century, but especially in the seventeenth century, known as the Dutch Golden Age.
The artists of that age stressed the importance of imitation and observation. Of course they included classical elements such as perspective or anatomy.

Karel-van-Mander-Het-Schilder-Boeck

Karel van Mander, Het Schilder-Boeck, 1604

Painter-author Karel van Mander described a great many natural phenomena in Het Schilder-boeck. 3)

Samuel van Hoogstraeten: Art History Dutch Golgen Age

Samuel van Hoogstraeten: Art History Dutch Golgen Age

Rembrandt’s former pupil Samuel van Hoogstraeten also wrote an important manual, Inleyding tot de hooge schoole der schilderkonst: anders de zichtbaere werelt. 4) These books belonged to the cultural baggage of every self-respecting painter.
It makes for fascinating reading, certainly also for contemporary realists. It stimulates awareness of many aspects of observation and representation. You can read all about it in Rembrandt. The Painter at Work, and Rembrandt. The Painter Thinking, and other publications by Ernst van de Wetering.

Essential was to create space in order to get the illusion of reality.

Rembrandt, details Nightwatch

Rembrandt, details Nightwatch

Besides perspective, an important element was the ‘perceptibility’. It was found that putting a piece of sky-blue paper against a sky of the same color, you would still notice that the piece of paper is close to you, and the blue sky infinitely distant because of the relative roughness of the paper. The application of the discovery of perceptibility would contribute to three-dimensionality. 5) Imagine painters pondering that! The idea that air has substance, that it forms a body over a short distance, and that its presence should be suggested around every object to create spatiality is wonderful.

Rembrandt-Anatomy Lesson

Rembrandt, detail The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp

Van de Wetering: “The young Rembrandt had already applied this insight with great subtlety in the ‘Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp”. He argues:

“It is only when one consciously takes notice of these extremely refined modulations of light and tone from one head and collar to the other, from front to back, that it becomes clear that this is one of the main reasons for the strikingly atmospheric effect of Rembrandt’s paintings.” 6)

Rembrandt applied this phenomenon quite often, see the details of his Night Watch. You can see it comparing when you compare his Night Watch with similar paintings nearby it, in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Vermeer-Art-Painting

Vermeer, The Art of Painting

There was also a treatise on the degrees of shadows and what pigments should be used in painting them. Or the theory of the numerical diminution of a light beam falling into a room. 7) Vermeer was probably familiar with it, as is witnessed by the interior light in his paintings. He created a genial combination of spaciousness and intimacy.
These examples show the exceptional level of knowledge among the painters of that age. I don’t mean that we should copy these theories, but we can learn from them, and even improve our art.

Realism, banal, vulgar

Another writer on this period is Boudewijn Bakker. He tells that the extreme realism of the Dutch invited criticism by the Italians: imitation, okay, but what about imagination? After all, art should lift reality to a higher level, creating perfect beauty, idealize. The Dutch subject matter was deemed banal, vulgar.

Hals-Laughing-Boy

Hals, Laughing Boy

How this Dutch realism was seen even in the 18th century is shown in this caricature by the English artist Thomas Rowlandson: A Dutch Academy.

Rowlandson, Dutch Academy

Rowlandson, Dutch Academy

Classical art theory taught that students should draw after antique statues, since these had perfect proportions. Samuel Van Hoogstraten, who later turned to a more classicist style, complained that Rembrandt brought ugly models into his studio.

“Indeed, I bemoan my lot when I look over my old Academy drawings, that we were taught these so sparingly in our youth; since it is no more labor to imitate a graceful posture than an unpleasant and disgusting one.” 8)

Rembrandt really went far… In one of his self-portraits I detected a pimple on his left cheek. He must have had fun painting that ‘truth’.

Rembrandt-Self-Portrait-1659

Rembrandt Self Portrait, 1659, detail

 

I told this to my dear teacher Diederik Kraaijpoel. ‘Without style there is no art’, he had written in one of his books; that makes sense: reality itself has no style. So, such a pimple, such far-reaching realism, I asked, isn’t that going beyond style? Well, he could not believe that Rembrandt had actually painted a pimple on his cheek… And about this far-reaching naturalism he said: it’s never a copy, the artist always makes a selection, it is impossible to paint all.

Answer: a ‘find’

Karel van Mander answered the Italian criticism by stating: “In life one finds all”, there is no better textbook. In the ‘book of nature’ the visible creation is seen as the second or even first ‘book’ of divine revelation, next to the Holy Scriptures.

Intensive-Looking

Intensive Looking

Inventio, Imagination, can also be seen as ‘a find ‘, something that is found in nature after long and sharp observation. Intensive looking is the entrance key to beauty. Beauty is enclosed in reality. Reality is created by God. 9)

 

 

As soon as possible the painter should start to work after nature. And what about style, maniera? His advice: don’t make things up, “go from ornamentation towards truth!”. Fabrications could affect the illusion of reality. The painter should not stylize or idealize, but characterize. 10)

For Rembrandt, ‘truth’ was life, to be captured in its ‘most natural liveliness’.

Rembrandt-Girl-Pictureframe

Rembrandt, Girl in a Pictureframe

Van de Wetering remarks that the painting Young woman in a picture frame gives the impression that the young woman is about to place her right hand on the frame, even the earring seems to be moving, life is caught in the act.11)

Well, the Dutch diverged from current art theory. Imitation was highly appreciated. But invention or imagination was never far away. Beauty in truth, intensely observed by the artist, was transferred into the work of art.
For me, it was like homecoming. I had always felt that way.

Notes

1) Roodnat, Joyce. “Met drift geschilderde ‘kleine onderwerpen’ “. NRC, 2018-02-28.
2) Vasari, Giorgio. Lives of the Artists. Volume 1. Introduction by George Bull. London, 1987. p. 19-20.
3) Mander, Karel van. Het Schilder-Boeck. Haarlem,1604.
4) Hoogstraten, Samuel van. Inleyding tot de hooge schoole der schilderkonst: anders de zichtbaere werelt. Davaco Publishers, s.l., 1969.
5) Wetering, Ernst van de. Rembrandt. The Painter at Work. Amsterdam, 2000. p. 183.
6) Id., p.187.
7) Wetering, Ernst van de. Rembrandt. The Painter Thinking. Amsterdam, 2016. p.157.
8) Emmens,  J.A.. Rembrandt en de regels van de kunst. Amsterdam, 1979. p.220.
9) Bakker, Boudewijn. “Natuur of kunst? Rembrandts esthetica en de Nederlandse traditie.” In: Christiaan Vogelaar e.a., Rembrandts landschappen. Zwolle, 2006. p.163.
10) Id., p.167, 166.
11) Wetering, Ernst van de. Rembrandt. The Painter Thinking. Amsterdam, 2016. p.263.

Translation NL-EN by Jeroen Strengers

Imitation and Imagination 2, TRAC2018. News.

 

Imitation and Imagination 2, TRAC2018

Dürer, how to imitate complex figures

Dürer, A Draftsman Making a Perspective Drawing of a Woman.jpg

In May 2018 I gave a lecture, Imitation and Imagination, at TRAC2018 (The Representational Art Conference) in The Netherlands, together with Ernst van de Wetering, the world’s foremost authority on Rembrandt. His contribution was about Rembrandt and assessing quality. He compared works of Rembrandt with works of his pupils. His lecture  was  based  on:

A  CORPUS  OF  REMBRANDT  PAINTINGS  Volume  V  Chapter  IV  with  the  title:  On  quality:  Comparative  remarks  on  the  function  of  Rembrandt’s  pictorial  mind  (pp.  283  –  310).  Freely  accessible  in  The  Rembrandt  Database:

http://rembrandtdatabase.org/literature/corpus?tmpl=pdf&pdf=/images/corpus/CorpusRembrandt_5.pdf

Rembrandt, Abraham's sacrifice and Unknown, Abraham's sacrifice

Rembrandt, Abraham’s sacrifice and
Unknown, Abraham’s sacrifice

My lecture was on naturalistic realism, the area of tension between imitation and imagination in the classical art, including the contemporary variant.
Naturalism is one of many expressions of representational art, one with a very high degree of imitation.
See for example a comment with regard to a pretty realistic painting, on facebook (28-10-2014):

Huysman. Street in Utrecht i

Gerard Huysman. Utrecht, street in backlight, oil on panel, 2013

“I can’t understand why an artist would work so hard to make a painting like this that is so much like a photo. That’s what cameras are for. I can see the artist’s skill, but not the soul.”

 

This prejudice is often heard. Because really: isn’t imitation getting in the way of imagination? Exactly! No soul, no artistic creativity. And that’s what this discussion is all about.
I will contest the opinion that naturalism lacks imagination.

Part 1 of the lecture is in my earlier blog (see archive, august 2017).
Part 2 of Imitation and Imagination is following now.

However, the criticism does fit in with my doubts about my own work. For years I was haunted by questions:
● Is naturalistic realism actually the same as copying?
● Is it a lower form of art? Boring?
● A lot of people enjoy this kind of work, but that doesn’t mean it is relevant art.
● Does it add something? After all, reality, the real world, is already there. You should do something to it, with it.
● Shouldn’t you put your personal feelings into your art?

drawing I don't know any more

I don’t know any more, pencil-eraser-paper

Good art, who judges?

Contemporary realism in the Netherlands has been flourishing for about thirty years now. This is exceptional in Europe. Nevertheless the official art institutions and the media mostly neglect its existence. After thirty years this is strange. The wider public is deprived of a cultural treasure.
Recently a journalist wrote in a prestigious Dutch newspaper that realism can be dangerous, in the context of great skill. Yes, virtuosity is a must, she writes, but the comment ‘It looks like a photo’ is not a compliment. ‘It looks like the real thing’ even less. The artist has to expose himself, otherwise his painting will be only an illustration, not more than a picture. She mentions Henk Helmantel, who said not to be in search for expressing his personal feelings.1 In her interpretation he is doomed to produce mere illustrations, far from high art.

Henk Helmantel. Stillife with Cheese and Eggs

Henk Helmantel. Stillife with Cheese and Eggs, oil on panel, 1987, Collection Museum MORE. Photo Art Revisited.

Nothing against personal feelings in art. It is a romantic concept and we have seen great romantic art. But there seems to be a consensus that the personality, the feelings of the artist are primordial, while other approaches are excluded or rejected.
Although it’s not quite the same, this reminds me of Giorgio Vasari who pointed out that besides imitation and invention, good art should possess style and maniera, a personal artistic elegant style.2 True, a style of one’s own will add something to the art.

Well, you could say that my development until now just seems to have taken the wrong direction. Some twenty years ago I made The painter and her model, see the picture on the left. On the right a recent work: Daphne. It went from a loose touch, free colors and free imagination to naturalism.
And naturalism is less focussed on style and handwriting.

Van de Riet, Drawing Model and Daphne

Gezien van de Riet. Left: Drawing her model, acryl/oil on linnen, 1996, and right: Daphne, oil on canvas, 2016

Yes, in my beginner’s years I experimented a lot and I often had a personal spontaneous handwriting. The works of that period will never be dubbed copies or photos. Why on earth did I choose a more naturalistic way of painting? It only complicated things!
The crazy thing was: I couldn’t help myself. More and more I wanted to celebrate the beauty I had seen, to make it my own.

Ancient Greeks

Could it be that the history of art had witnessed earlier discussions about this question? I started on a search.
The Ancient Greeks had a great appreciation of the naturalistic detail. Birds should see painted grapes as real and try to pick them. An anecdote about Apelles clearly illustrates their admiration for imitation. The horse he painted was so life-like, that it is said that the horse of Alexander the Great started whinnying spontaneously on seeing it.

The Greeks had clear views on imagination. The artist should have in mind the Platonic Idea, the perfect form, the supernatural beauty of the object he wanted to portray. This did not come about automatically, because models were only ordinary mortals. Even the most beautiful human body could have fat ankles. Well, in that case you would take somebody else’s ankles!
Idealizing thus, the artist would transcend pure imitation.
So there we have it: Imitation and Imagination…

Aphrodite and Alexander as Hunter.jpg

After Praxiteles. Aphrodite, and After Lysippus. Alexander as hunter, both 4th century BC

But suddenly I jumped up. I read about the sculptor Lysippus, who worked at Alexander’s court. He wanted to convey what he saw in a naturalistic manner! Not following the current rules for perfect beauty, developed by the old masters, but his own observation.
We don’t know much for sure about Lysippus. But the sculpture attributed to him, Alexander the hunter, clearly shows a naturalistic realism. Whoever made it, this artist was capable of far-reaching imitation.
I was happy about this Lysippus.

1) Roodnat, Joyce. “Met drift geschilderde ‘kleine onderwerpen’ “. NRC, 2018-02-28.
2) Vasari, Giorgio. Lives of the Artists. Volume 1. Introduction by George Bull. London, 1987. p. 19-20.
Imitation and Imagination will continue in the coming blogs.

Galería Artelibre ’20 years, in 20×20’

Galería Artelibre

Galería Artelibre

Galería Artelibre invited me to participate in its virtual gallery, in the category of Grandes Autores. This Spanish gallery has artists on its site like Anders Zorn, Natalie Holland, David Kassan.

Galería Artelibre Artistas del mes

Galería Artelibre Artistas del mes

It is promoting realism internationally, already for twenty years, and that is heart-warming, I think! A special exhibition will celebrate their twenty years anniversary, “20 years, in 20×20” (all works will be 20x20cm). It will travel through Spain, and also visit MEAM, Museo Europeo de Arte Moderno, in Barcelona. My work will be part of it!

Link: http://artelibre.net/autor/27050

Calendar, diary, cards

Art editor Bekking&Blitz has published art diaries and calendars for 2019. A work of mine figures between artists like Sorolla, Sargent, Kenne Grégoire.

Kunst weekalender en aganda's Bekking&Blitz

Kunst weekalender en aganda’s Bekking&Blitz

In Brugues I saw an art card of my work in the Groeningemuseum, but it was forbidden to take a photo of it. I explained that it was a work of mine, but no way. Still, I disobeyed and the officer kindly pretended not to see it.

Groeninge en Drents Museum cards and book Gezien van de Riet

Groeninge en Drents Museum cards and book

In the Drents Museum of Assen there was another art card, and my book. Stimulating! This helps the brand awareness. It’s the small things that count!

Translation NL-ES: Jeroen Strengers

Art history: A new chapter

By Gezien van de Riet
With a contribution by Joke Frima about the Da Vinci Initiative

FACE-TRAC 2017
FACE: Figurative Art Convention and Expo, together with
TRAC: The Representational Art Conference,
Miami, November, 8-11, 2017

FACE TRAC MIAMI

FACE TRAC 2017 opening

Continuum, my dream
A movement! Classical tradition cast in a modern mould, high notes for craftmanship, thinking about what you make –content and form– about your contribution to culture. Becoming stronger together. Moored in official art history. That was my dream, ever since the early 80’s, when I seriously started out drawing and painting.
The classical tradition has known many currents, ever since the Greek Antiquity. Now, a contemporary one is being added to it. Daniel Graves, founder of the Florence Academy of Art, also speaks of a continuum, in stead of a tradition. What all these currents have in common is the representation of the visual reality. That requires a great deal of craftmanship; only think of painting the sky or space: paint is something else… bronze is not the same as flesh…
Beauty, including that of the awe-inspiring or dramatic sort, is also part of that continuum. Not just technique, not just content, but a mutual influencing of both was and is the goal. Art with a capital A, why not?

Max Ginsburg

Max Ginsburg: Bus stop

TRAC2014 in California
In 2014 I first glimpsed that that dream could become reality. I saw a message on Facebook about TRAC2014 in California, The Representational Art Conference, aimed at laying a theoretical foundation for the contemporary classical tradition. I had to go there! Words like ‘Renaissance’ and ‘movement’ floated thru an enchanted conference room with more than 300 enthusiasts. Some-one next to me burst into tears spontaneously. Finally out of the isolation that so many had experienced, finally a broad appreciation for the figurative, for realism! Internationally. At the time it was already called ‘the most important movement in today’s art world’. Would it last?
Back in Holland I passed on the message to as many interested people as possible. Read more in my earlier blog ‘TRAC2014. Movement!’ I longed for a TRAC in the Netherlands, in Europe.

Steven Assael

Steven Assael

TRAC2015 in California
The message resounded among several colleagues. But tickets and hotel didn’t come cheap. It was great that Tom Hageman, Director of the Classical Academy in Groningen, and artist Joke Frima could attend TRAC in 2015. I was supposed to give a lecture on true to nature realism, but unfortunately I fell ill.
It was a pity that in 2016 TRAC couldn’t continue in the same way. A critical moment.

FACE-TRAC-2017 in Miami
But now there’s FACE, the world’s first Figurative Art Convention & Expo! The dream of a movement has come true, the founders say. FACE aims at the corner stones of representational (or figurative, or realist) art. During the event you could participate in model drawing and painting, under the guidance of internationally famed artists, like Max Ginsburg, Steven Assael or Daniel Gerhartz, who also gave demonstrations. And there were lectures.
I had a strange feeling sometimes. On the one hand the focus was on endeavor for quality and vision in connexion with the past, the grand masters of the classical tradition – a strengthening of your own endeavor. On the other hand there was a view at the future: how to connect to a younger generation with a completely different cultural luggage; what does it mean for art that the future human being will be much more artificial, that the latest reproduction techniques make ‘slow art’ obsolete.

Max Ginsburg and Juliette Aristides

Demo painting portrait Max Ginsburg and drawing model Juliette Aristides

Daniel Gerhartz

Demo painting portrait Daniel Gerhartz

What was interesting: FACE invites TRAC to be part of this event. TRAC can continue to build at the theoretical foundation of representational art.
Again there were more than 300 participants, among those Joke Frima and myself from Holland, who now may carry the honorary title of ‘Founding Members’.
It is not just painters and sculptors who participate in the movement. Especially in the U.S. there are all kinds of initiatives of art lovers and art historians, aimed at spreading and deepening the classical tradition, basing it in society and institutions, spreading consciousness to a broader audience, because –let’s face it– artists themselves just don’t have the time for all that!
FACE will be a yearly event now.

Founding fathers: Eric Rhoads, Peter Trippi and Michael Pearce

Eric Rhoads, Peter Trippi, Michael Pearce

Eric Rhoads, Peter Trippi, Michael Pearce

Eric Rhoads with me and my book

Eric Rhoads with me and my book

Eric Rhoads, founder of FACE, CEO of art magazines like Fine Art Connoisseur, Plein Air magazines, yearly Plein Air Conventions & Expos, and more. FACE selects the best artists who also have the gift to encourage and inspire others thru their demonstrations and lessons. See also Fine Art Connoisseur of December 2017.

Peter Trippi, co-founder of FACE, editor-in-chief of Fine Art Connoisseur and co-curator of the Alma Tadema exhibition earlier this year in the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, and later in London and Vienna; curator of ‘The American Dream’ in the Drents Museum in Assen, the Netherlands, and more.

They started the magazine Fine Art Connoisseur in 2005. In 2011 they took the initiative for a movement. Some twenty-odd influential artist of world renown were invited to a secret meeting. Sadly enough it could not exceed the level of individual interests. Disappointed, Eric and Peter concluded that the time was not yet ripe.
Nonetheless, the idea trickled thru to:

Michael Pearce, painter and professor at the art faculty of the California Lutheran University. In 2012 he started TRAC, together with Michael Lynn Adams, who quit after 2015.
Pearce described the reason for producing the conference: “Until we did TRAC, there were literally no conferences at all about representational art – which is a strange absence, because there was then and is now a huge amount of representational art, and a very large community of people who are interested in representational art. It seemed like a big gap that needed filling.”

Themes at TRAC
Of the many themes touched upon by TRAC, I mention here: post-modernism and the contemporary classical tradition; the importance of beauty; neuro-esthetics; connexion to the younger generation; ethno-centrism in art critic; art education at school.

#FACE17

Our team had a fantastic time at the Figurative Art Convention & Expo and we can't wait until next year! Thank you to all of the faculty and attendees for making this possible. It was a memorable experience. 🙂 #FACE17

Geplaatst door Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine op Dinsdag 14 november 2017

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The Da Vinci Initiative: Changing the Culture of Art Education
A report of the lecture by Amanda Theis, TRAC2017

Joke Frima

Amanda Theis tells us passionately about her work at the Da Vinci Initiative (DVI), that aims at skill-based education. DVI makes up educuation programmes and the idea is to share and use these in secondary schools. It is aimed at the U.S. school system.

Da Vinci Initiative

Da Vinci Initiative

DVI has a YouTube channel with 30 movies of 5 minutes.
Free to watch at: http://www.davinciinitiative.org/

egg cup 1

egg cup 1

egg cup 2

egg cup 2

A Bargue drawing

A Bargue drawing

In Amanda’s experience, most art and manual skills teachers believe that drawing, if it has to do with art, cannot be taught. She gathered this wide-spread idea during weekend refreshment courses and summer schools (compulsory for U.S. teachers).
The most important criticism on DVI’s view is that skill-based education kills creativity. But Amanda points out that skills are just tools at the servicie of creativity.
She believes it’s prudent not to talk about modernism during work shops and courses. After being exposed to skill-based education, people are able to draw their own conclusions. Many people actually are visually illiterate, and skill-based eduction opens a new dimension for them.

Drawing perspective from life (self made robots)

Drawing perspective from life (self made robots)

Self-portrait by Ray Wanda Totanes, 15 year old

Self-portrait by Ray Wanda Totanes, 15 year old

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To parents of children who want to study this kind of art, and who may be concerned that there is no future in it, she says: “Skill-based education will not give you a degree, but it wil give you jobs.” Amanda herself has undergone training by Juliette Aristides in Seattle. These kind of ateliers don’t provide a teaching license in America. That can only be obtained at university. The problem is, that art faculties in universities don’t provide for skill-based education. Amanda would like to hear from the participants where she can refer children and young people to for a good atelier training.

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TRAC2018 in Leeuwarden

TRAC2018 in Leeuwarden

TRAC2018

TRAC2018 in the Netherlands, first country in Europe!
May 1-4, 2018, in Leeuwarden.
Website: www.trac2018.com
Follow also on internet and my blog.

 

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Next blog will continue with ‘Imitatio et Inventio’.

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Translation NL-EN by Jeroen Strengers