Friday, 27 June 2014

Paintings which speak to me


How convenient it is to have definitions for everything. How comforting too, to know, or seem to know the what-why-how behind most things that surround us or make us. To have an instruction manual for a do-it-yourself, or even a pure white line of social conventions to tow. But this is what the "usual" side is made of, of a coin the other side of which reads "different".

To me, and particularly in art, "different" is a stimulus which challenges my brain's synapses into re-thinking and re-visiting all definitions which I have either imbibed or invented before the prick, pinch or as most like to call it, the spark of novelty brushes against my soul. It is the beginning of not just love then, but of an unending relationship with that art form.

In music, Jazz touched me for the "rebellion" that it stood for, and for ways it re-wrote its own notes in the book; pure noise to those who love it not enough. In Literature, the subjectivity of Modernism-Post Modernism made me reject reality itself as limited and limiting. And in painting, nothing has caught my eye as much as Impressionism did and the ripple-effect it had on other art forms, including on the love-of-my-life Literature.

Here, I show you some of my favourite pieces from this art movement which began in France, setting such unconventional precedents for things to come that in 1874,  at the first exhibition of Impressionist paintings, most observers reacted with sneers. An expected reaction by the keepers of all things 'classic' but later made popular by those who welcome what I call "different".      

Impressionism perpetuated the idea of painting 'sensory-impressions'. The artists worked mainly out of doors and in natural lighting, for a new aesthetic based on light and colour was being born. Sunbeams, shimmering radiance, elusive tricks of light and daring colour combinations were the ambiance in which the Impressionists bathe their landscapes and city views, their scenes from everyday life, and their still lifes and portraits. They (and the neo-impressionists who followed them) were revolutionaries and trail blazers: they opened the way to modern art.

I speak here of three important impressionist painters - Monet, Degas, and Renoir. All had their own unique way of conveying reality - Monet's landscapes, Degas's dancers and Renoir's portraits being their specialities.


~ Claude Monet ~

Monet succeeded in capturing fleeting impression neglected by his predecessors or deemed by them to be impossible to depict with a brush, by no longer merely painting the immobile and unchanging landscape but also the fleeting sensory impressions conveyed to him by its atmosphere and mood. Monet, thus, creates an incredibly powerful impression of the observed scene.

Impression: Sunrise
The name of this style derived from Monet's painting's title 'Impression: Sunrise'. The sunrise was depicted as an impression rather than a landscape. In fact, the old school refused to even call these paintings 'landscapes'.

View of the Tuileries Gardens


Notice the detachment from the factual world of stabilizing lines in favour of pure colour in the above picture.
Poppy Field at Argenteuil
In 'Poppy Field at Argenteuil', Monet dispenses almost completely with outlines. For instance, notice the poppies closely. He was, after all, concerned primarily with conveying a visual impression.


Waterlilies
There is no fixity of perspective here. No structure and not even a horizon you can see and hold on to. A seamlessness reminiscent of impressions.

Boulevard des Capucines
Graphic elements in 'Boulevard des Capucines' play a subsidiary role, while unmixed colours comprise the main means of pictorial organisation. The further away you stand and look at the picture, the clearer it seems.



~ Edgar Degas ~

Degas was known for his preference for surprising perspectives, and that makes him one of the most interesting painters for me. He positioned his observer so close to the self-absorbed subjects, it was like a peeping Tom painting them.
The Star/Dancer on Stage
Degas shunned artificial poses, letting the women follow natural movements - appearing so natural that critics surmised the artist was observing models through key holes. Don't ask about the theories that the rumour mill churned connecting his bachelorhood to his style of painting!



~ Pierre-Auguste Renoir ~   

Renoir was a celebrator of beauty, especially feminine sensuality. But I have picked here two paintings in keeping with the above-mentioned paintings.

Venice Grand Canal
'Venice Grand Canal' is flooded with light. You can see it reflected on the water, the canal front and the cloud flecked sky. Look how they shimmer! 

Dance at the Moulin de la Galette
Renoir allowed himself to be carried away with the surroundings he found himself in. He lived around this cafe for six months, spoke to residents, and in the midst of it all produced the wild movements of this popular dance cafe. Notice how his figures softly fuse with one another and their surroundings.

No other style of painting comes as close to my idea of reality-fused-with-subjectivity as Impressionist Paintings do. By giving form to impressions, they give importance to the painter's thoughts and visions, even as they invite the on-lookers' ideas. A looking within and reflecting it without. As a person who has always enjoyed understanding not just various art forms but the minds behind them too, the paintings above speak to me at myriad levels. Interestingly, if you show me a photograph and then an impressionist painting, chances are I will find the latter more real. The fluidity, the motion in the water, the movement of bodies, the light and the flux that they signify is what reality is, isn't it? Changing and becoming all the time. 

Post-Script: These are photographs of pictures of these paintings from a book called 'Impressionism' that I have. As Plato would say, four times removed from reality, before banishing me from his Republic. If it interests you despite the banishment, turn to Google for more. In the mean time, click on individual paintings for an enlarged view.      


[Written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts. The prompt for today was - The artist’s eye - Is there a painting or sculpture you’re drawn to? What does it say to you? Describe the experience. (Or, if art doesn’t speak to you, tell us why.)]



38 comments:

  1. all of them are amazing! But I loved that Venice one by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
    , the colour and light play is superb! I think i should get this book too! Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. I've come away from home on a holiday. I will send you the exact name and editor of the book in case you want it too.
      I would love to see these paintings in real life. Prints and photos of prints must be nowhere close.

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  2. I have a copy of a copy - (10 removed) of the Renoir 'outside the cafe' and was told by someone who knows and loves his paintings that the people in the foreground are his friends. They used to dress up every Sunday afternoon in defiance of the German army that occupied France and dance both inside and outside the cafe. I think my friend said their faces were sad for that very reason but am not sure.

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    1. Yes, Khoty. What you are told is right. The people in the foreground are indeed some of his friends. But I did not know the rest that you mention. Very interesting!

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  3. I hope that someday, you get to visit all the museums where these paintings are displayed. Insha Allah.

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  4. Monet is someone I quite enjoy. Got a chance to see some of his works on display once...what a lovely treat for the eyes and soul it was :) And I share your love for Jazz too! This was quite an enjoyable read, Sakshi :)

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    1. Thanks, Beloo. Not a post with popular appeal, but glad I "found you" through this. :)

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  5. Love it and the favourite is Poppy Fields by Argenteuil. Your intricate observations surely would make any artist proud!!!

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    1. :) My observations are of an illiterate person, Red. But I hardly miss art exhibitions in Delhi just so I can go and endow a handful of paintings with my own meanings and feelings. :D
      Thanks a lot!

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  6. Very scholarly understanding of these painters. I love all three of them. For me, when I see poppies I think of Monet. Interesting how he has made these flowers so symbolic of his work.

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    1. Barely scholarly, Kalpanaa. I have read this book 200 times and I can repeat the material inside it with mouth closed now. :D Thank you for stopping by! :)

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  7. Ah this post took me back to my college textbooks. I'm a painter by academics. Sadly I haven't been painting for a long time now. But after revisiting these soulful pieces I'm tempted to get my paints and brushes out!
    My personal favorite from Impressionism has been Monet's Waterlilies. Movement and technique apart, it is so refreshing and soothing to the eyes and senses.

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    1. Oh, you are a painter? Vinodini, get those paints out by all means and share the beauty with us.
      'Waterlilies' is my favourite too. :)

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  8. They are beautiful! I had the good fortune of seeing several originals at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and especially loved Monet's waterlilies and Van Gogh's Starry Night. It was rather surreal, in fact, to be in front of the actual paintings, after having seen reproductions of them all my life!

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    1. Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' is painted along similar principle of movement and shifting reality too, Dipali. All I can say with envy is Lucky You!

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    2. Yes, that is why I love his work. There were absolutely humungous Monets, the size of a large wall, and then this small little masterpiece. I managed this trip when I was over fifty- you have many many years in which to do a great deal, my dear!

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  9. A thorough study you have presented Sakshi. Enjoyed it.

    Though I like impressionism, I am more in favour of realistic paintings and portraits. I admire that ability in painters like Leonardo Da Vinci and Rembrant.

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    1. Yes, the painters who presented still life and portraits as if they were a ditto copy of the real objects are fascinating too.
      Thanks a lot ofr reading, Preethi.

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  10. I love visiting art exhibition, and am awed by the sheer brilliance exhibited by so many talented painters who could bring life to colors. Truly, they are blessed with a divine power :-)

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  11. I've always loved his poppy fields and the various dancer paintings. Thanks for this post.

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  12. Hi Sakshi! Great post. I got quickly connected to just one from the above and I loved it a lot. It's Poppy Field from Argenteuil. Thanks for sharing your favs. :)

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  13. An interesting posts, art is not my choice or interest but then as usual the in detail writing got me interested.

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  14. make a plan to come to uk.. the museums here have the best collection of Monet and other great artists ..
    although I am not a fan of visiting art exhibitions and museums..
    Bikram

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    1. So on the one hand you invite me to visit UK, and the next moment tell me you won't take me around to the museums for they are not your cup of tea. :D

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    2. no no no I did not say that .. I am sure you don't want me following you around with a blank face... while you are enjoying the art.. I will make myself busy at the Cafe next to the museum in london .. it has yummy food :) while you enjoy the ART :) how about that ...


      Bikram

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    3. :D Sounds okay, I guess. You could baby sit my kiddo there. :D

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  15. Venice always appears sumptuous. I don't know what exactly about that place brings about this scintilla of aura, but it never fails to impress. :)

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    1. I have only seen it in movies or in paintings. Hopefully, one day I will get to see it for real. Then I will be able to confirm what you say. :)
      Thanks for reading, Tushar.

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  16. I find them fascinating. I love watercolours and recently started painting (Though I'm bad at this stage)
    Thanks for sharing! A star dancer on stage is my favourite! :)

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    1. I am sure you are not so bad. Wishing you luck with your new hobby.
      I love the Star Dancer. Look at that pose!
      Many thanks for coming by, Tarang.

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  17. Art for arts sake:) Enticing and deep visuals that fulfil the soul needs. Thanks for sharing:)

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