If find it a little strange that the type of art that I love isn’t necessarily the kind of art that I paint. Mainly that’s because what I love in art are the scenes that no longer exist in our current time. However, I do tend to paint the scenes I love about my own surroundings in the here and now. In this way, what I create and what I love are not so dissimilar. It’s the art of the past that draws me fascinated with subjects I don’t normally cover in my own work.
While there are certainly 20th century and contemporary artists who produce work I love, this post focuses on the art of ages past. One day later on I’ll do a post to highlight the more recent paintings that I love.
The Art That I Love
I love images from places I’d like to have traveled, and those I have seen – but depicted as they looked long ago, and sometimes not as long ago.
In summary, I love any art that depicts the daily life of people in faraway places and distant times that uses a bit of realism in technique and colors.
If space and the money were no constraints, these are the types of works that I would collect.
Art from the 19th Century (and a little before and after)
Several art periods converge in the 19th century, and I like art from all of it, but not all of the art for each period. There was Realism, Impressionism (think Monet), Post Impressionism (Van Gough). It is the Realism I love most of all.
There is a tremendous amount of art I love created during this time period. For example, I love the landscapes of 19th century English landscape painter Alfred Augustus Glendening.
I love the snippets of life captured by the flemish painter Gustave Léonard de Jonghe. I love all the details of the setting. The deep, dark colors, the textures in her dress. I could spend many minutes looking at the furniture, and all the accoutrements that go into this scene. This is also a prime example of art that I love that is not the kind of art that I create. This kind of scene, while I love looking at it, is not the sort of thing I feel motivated to create.
There is an English artist named Henry John Yeend King who lived from 1855 to 1924 (the year my great-grandfather was born). I think this artist is the one who captures my fancy more than any of the others. I absolutely love the images from the European countryside, although I’ve never seen any of the landscapes he painted. If I could collect all of his works I would, but I’d be happy with even one. These and plenty more are all on exhibit in a virtual gallery at Rehs Galleries, Inc.
Ooops! Almost forgot one!
I nearly forgot about one artist who created work during this period who did paint subjects I also enjoy painting. Can you guess which one? John James Audubon, of course. He was born in 1785 and died in 1851. I got to see an exhibit of some of his work once in St. Francisville, Louisiana. While I dabbled in drawing at that time, I was full-time employed in the chemical laboratories and hadn’t even begun to dream of becoming an artist myself.
A funny little note about Audubon. He commonly killed birds he wanted to study, so he could get close enough to see the details. When I first learned about this I was horrified. Now that I’ve painted a few birds of my own, I totally get it! But while I might like to make one ‘be still’ long enough to get a good look, I’m unlikely to resort to killing them. But I do empathize with the desire to do so now.
Here’s one of my favorites of Audubon’s paintings. I painted a brown pelican, too, but it doesn’t look very much like his.
The Baroque (1600–1750)
There’s a lot of art from this period that I love. But I don’t like the religious art. Johannes Vermeer, the artist who painted Girl With The Pearl Earring is from this period, and is an example of the kind of portraits I like.
I spent a good bit of time in this section at the Louvre back when we went in 2013, dragging poor Rob along with me, but I could have spent many more days. And I still would not have finished looking at all I wanted to see. I didn’t get to see all of the art from all of the time periods, but I saw as much as we could squeeze in for two full days. It’s such a huge museum. Had I known then what I know now, I would have gone into it with an agenda if I only had the couple of days to look instead of an entire week.
Some examples of Baroque artwork
Here’s one by Rembrandt that I like a lot. It’s the colors, the emotions, and the motion, and the details that I love about this. I believe it may only be possible to do this sort of work in oils, and most of the works I really love the most are in oils. One day I’d like to try myself a set of them so I can see if I like painting with them as much as watercolors. But I doubt I can ever achieve the level of expertise of a Rembrandt! I’d still like to try it.
The Art that I Love from the High Renaissance Period
There’s a lot of art from this period I don’t necessarily like, but still I love the history captured within the images. A lot of art from the Renaissance period show religious scenes, which I don’t really like much at all. I just find it ugly and some of it downright frightening.
However, the great names you might recognize, like daVinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo, are from this period too. Here’s one by Raphael that I like because it shows the culture of students of philosophy flocking around Aristotle and Plato (modeled after daVinci). To look at it is to see a snapshot of history, and that’s what I love about it.
An Art History Timeline
I didn’t really pay attention to dates and histories in school, even though I loved my art history classes in college. If you’re curious about the kinds and styles of paintings produced throughout the ages, here’s a nice website that lays it out in an easy to see format: https://www.dummies.com/education/art-appreciation/art-history-timeline/
Why Do I Love the Art That I Love?
Sometimes it’s a mystery why I’m drawn to certain works of art. Have you ever tried to pinpoint why you love art that you love? It’s not always easy. It could be as simple as how it makes me feel when I look at it. But most of the time, I think it’s the colors that attracts me first. After that, it’s the details. And apart from that it is the story I can glean or imagine from all the things that I see within the painting.
I like the colors of the art from the realism period. I’m okay with a bright color as accent, but I don’t like scenes made up of mostly or only bright colors. I love the muted tones of earth pigments, and the rich shades of greens and blues from mineral or metal sources. Most of those colors from metal sources, like cadmium, arsenic, copper, all have modern synthetic substitutions that offer more benefits and less of the dangers, though I’m still drawn to know the real thing. Some of the mineral sources that are expensive or rare, like lapis, have substitutes that work as well or better, too. And yet for this one, too, I’m drawn to the real thing. To see the real colors from the original sources, it’s often necessary to go back to the 18th century.
Second, it’s the moments in time long past, the history of daily life in the art that I love most. It’s fascinating to see how people lived way back when, and I really like the art that depicts the life of ordinary people as well as the aristocratic lives. When I look at one of those old paintings set in a kitchen, for example, I like seeing all of the things on the shelves in the back of rooms painted in meticulous detail. I wonder how much of it really was there, and how much was added by the artist to balance out the scene.
For some odd reason, most of the art I love by other artists involves people. I generally try to avoid doing people in my own art.
What are Your Favorites?
So what is your favorite artist or works of art from 19th century or before? Did you take an art appreciation class in school, and did you enjoy the subject? Have you been able to see any of the artworks you studied in real life? I’ve gotten to see works by Monet, Van Gough, da Vinci, Michelangelo, and many others in real life and it is a memory I won’t forget. The size of the Mona Lisa surprised me!
Madison Woods is a self-taught artist who moved to the Ozarks from south Louisiana in 2005. In 2018 she began experimenting with watercolor painting, using her local pigments. She calls them Paleo Paints, and her artwork features exclusively the lightfast pigments foraged from Madison county, Arkansas. Her inspiration is nature – the beauty, and the inherent cycle of life and death, destruction and regeneration.
Her online portfolio is at www.MadisonWoods.art.
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