Here in California, I am working on landscapes in a series called Water Landscape in Orange County. In these paintings, I have broadened my subject of nature. Rather than close-up painting, I am changing my perspective, moving farther away from my subject, now seeing things from a distance. This of course moves me to what is traditionally accepted as Landscape Painting.
I was able to attend a fascinating lecture series on Landscape at the Laguna Museum of Art by the art professional Dr. Julia Friedman. In five sessions, she covered the history of landscape: from classical, traditional through impressionism to contemporary. To see the evolutionary arc of this major section in fine art painting affirmed to all of us that landscape is still very viable and important.
We see landscape every day in our walk through life; urban, artificial, water, constructed and natural landscapes. Landscape is also present in traditional portraits and allegorical paintings. In the rare Getty exposition of Manet’s last paintings, landscape hardly appears in his backgrounds. Interestingly enough at the end of his life, he went back to painting bouquets in vases. I saw these as broken landscapes: leaves and flowers removed from their habitat and brought into intimate interiors.
In the outstanding exhibition of the long eschewed 19th French salon painter William A. Bouguereau at the San Diego Museum in Balboa Park (until March 15), the presence of landscape was evident. With the exception of commissioned portraits, all of his allegorical pieces had constructed Arcadian landscapes, idyllic, to invite the viewer into the themes in a dream-like way. Although secondary to the subject matter, his landscapes set a backdrop of emotion for the viewer’s experience. This exhibit was an exceptional gathering of Bouguereau paintings collected by Americans during the Gilded Age, many from very small museums.
Ms. Friedman recommended a book on contemporary landscape: Landscape Painting Now by Barry Schwabsky. This remarkable work has works selected “From Pop Abstraction to New Romanticism” and shows us that landscape which invites the viewer into a new experience of viewing the world is still very much alive today.
Until next time and bon fin d’hiver,
P.S. I was fortunate to be in a group show at the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center called “A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words.” The show is up until March 12. My selection is from a residency in Cabo San Lucas.