Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Morning Walk
30 x 32   Oil on Linen

Artists are liars. Botticelli was a liar. So was Renoir. Poussin, El Greco, Corregio, Gainsborough and Eakins were liars. The little Dutchmen, the Hudson River School and the Impressionists were all liars. They all showed you a flat canvas and told you it was not flat. They tried to make you believe you could see fruit and flowers in the round, pastures receding in space dotted with cattle and trees, human figures and groups of human figures, engaged in real, even mythological, activities. It was all a big lie. No matter how real, or spacious, or tactile, or vivid the image seems to you the canvas is still flat. You can lay your hand on the canvas but you can’t pick up the fruit and your hand will not be able to enter the space you think you perceive. It's all an illusion. Perhaps artists are not really liars but illusionist. Magicians. Claesz was certainly a magician. Not only your eyes but your nostrils and tastebuds are set in motion when you look at his still lifes. Corot too. You can feel the breeze and hear the rustling of the leaves in his paintings. Tiepolo was a great magician. He could make you think you were looking though the ceiling of a church and gazing right into the heavens. Rembrandt was an astonishing magician. His portraits not only make you believe you are standing in front of another person, but that you can look the person in the eye and know their character. Each time you view the painting you feel like are visiting a friend. Magic. It can make you believe you are seeing a landscape where two friends are taking a morning stroll, where sunlight floods a distant field and a gentle breeze brushes against the tall grasses in the foreground.....

View of Rupert Mountain
30 x 36   Oil on Linen

In the early '90s, when we were still living in New York, Elizabeth and I decided to spend the summer painting landscapes. After a few unsuccessful attempts to find a suitable place to rent in upstate NY we ventured into southern VT and found a place near the NY state border about an hour north of Bennington. It was an old farmhouse at the end of a dirt road, nestled in a valley with fields gently sloping up on the east and west sides. It had stopped being a working farm many years ago but the current owner still leased out the fields to neighboring farmers who used it mainly as a place for their sheep or cattle to graze or to grow a little extra hay or corn. There was a field that went up behind the house that became a favorite place for me to explore. It hadn't been tilled for years and consequently was full of lush grasses and a dazzling array of wildflowers. If you climbed all the way to the top you could look out over the valley to the mountains on the far side. It was always quiet up there, always peaceful, a great place to think, to dream. I did a lovely little study there that hung in my studio for many years. I was reluctant to show the piece, reluctant to let anyone else stand on that hillside. As time passed, however, I gradually became aware that I did indeed want to share my hilltop. I painted a larger version and sold the study. Now anyone can stand on my quiet, peaceful hillside, look out over the valley, and think and dream.....