artist review

Friday Inspiration: George Bellows @ NGA


I had always been aware of the graphically strong paintings of boxers by George Bellows, but I did not know that these masciline scenes of strength and violence were only a small part of his portfolio. This point of view changed on Monday when I had a change to visit the special exhibit of George Bellows at the NGA in Washington, DC.

The exhibit brings together the different genres of Bellows work, all in one place, where it is possible to move from room to room, being delighted and surprised by his mastery of all subjects, be they be landscapes or figurative work. Bellows as a student of Robert Henri and was influenced by Henri’s belief that art should be a reflection of the times, that imitation of nature is not the goal instead the artist should strive to express the idea that captured his imagination.

Each man must take the material that he finds at hand, see that in it there are the big truths of life, the fundamentally big forces, and then express in his art whatever is the cause of his pleasure. ~Robert Henri

In the first room of the exhibition that are several drawings and early paintings that depict different gritty street scenes fo New York city in the early 19th century. Then you move into a room dedicated to landscapes, all compositionally strong, while also recording the rapidly changing environment of NYC. I think the most vivid representation of the changing times are the series on the excavation of Penn Station.

the Penn Station excavation

Later in the exhibition a softer side is presented in his portraits of women and his family.

Overall I was struck by the versatility of his skills and the ability to adapt his technique depending on what he was striving to convey. Despite this variation of application there is a unifying theme in all of his work, a sense of emotive reaction to the world around him. He seemed to FEEL his subject. The energy and desire to convey his thoughts are present in each piece.

You will never draw the sense of a thing unless you are feeling it at the time you work. ~Robert Henri

I came away from the show inspired to think more about how I can impart the energy and emotion I feel towards a particular scene. And I hope this post inspires you to look around your world and think about how all the aspects of it add color and interest to your life.

Friday Inspiration: Brilliant Light

abbott fuller graves1.jpg

I wanted to end the week with these paintings by Abbott Fuller Graves.  The artist was masterful at capturing the quality of brilliant sunlight.  I especially love the above painting with all the hollyhocks and how the light shining through the flower petals creates a dappled effect of intense color and highlight.

And this second painting with a view of roses in a back garden and a cat perched high on the lean-to shed is magical, I feel like I have been taken away to another time and place.  Somewhere I have never been but at the same time I feel as if it could be my home.
I hope you have a magical weekend filled with sunny vistas and cheerful scenes.
Thank you for stopping by and reading,

Laura Coombs Hills

laura coombs hills 041.jpg
Larkspur, Peonies and Canterbury Bells
pastel on paperboard, 72.39 x 60.01 cm (28 1/2 x 23 5/8 in.)

For today's inspiration I want to share an extraordinary still-life artist, Laura Coombs Hills.

I think her work speaks for itself, however I found this quote to be an apt description of her work. In the November 23rd, 1939 Boston Herald an editorial stated: “Somehow she manages to bring dancing sunlight and vibrant atmosphere within the four walls and to soak her flowers in it."

So true, her work just sizzles with the warm glow of sunshine.

Her career as a floral still-life artist started after a successful career as a miniture portaitist, and was very successful with having annual exhibitions that were well attended.

If you are interested in reading more about her life and art check out this link to a catalog preview, it has some great introductory essays. And here is a link to exhibition catalogues available for sale.

Bowl of Pansies
Pastel on paper/board, sight size 9 1/2 x 11 in
Pastel, 10 5/8" x 11 3/8"
Pink Dahlias
Still Life of Flowers
Pastel on Paper,14 x 12 in.

Friday Inspiration: Thomas Hart Benton


Are you a fan of Thomas Hart Benton?

I am.

{People of Chilmark - 1920}

It started when my family moved to Columbia, Mo. I was going into the 6th grade. While living in Missouri, I visited the state capitol in Jefferson City and first encountered the art of Thomas Hart Benton(THB). At the time I did not understand it, but I was drawn in and riveted by his use of colors - a rainbow of colors, figures, and features…

Yesterday while framing some work for an upcoming show, I had the fantastic documentaryabout his life and work playing in the background. I wanted to share a bit of it with you…

For more than seventy years he painted
its cities and small towns, its farms and backwoods.
He painted its people, too: faith healers and lovers,
politicians and soda jerks, farmers and movie stars

Watch Earl Bennent on Benton's work on PBS. See more from Ken Burns.

He was trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, then went to Paris to study, spending hours in the Louvre and cutting the classes he was there for. Then he returned to New York City.  While in NYC, he tried just about every painting style and school, dabbled in politics, and overall stirred things up.

THB said he spent 15 years exploring ...

"...rocked by every wave that came along,
I floundered without a compass in every direction..."

{Self- Portrait with Rita - 1922}

He often said that the artis's life was the best kind of life, if you could get through the first forty years...

My favorite quote of his is:

"The only way an artist can personally fail, is to quit"

So my friends, NEVER quit, always keep at it, think about the grand design, and dedicate your life blood to the craft of art.

Georgia O'Keeffe, catalogue raisonne

Several years ago, like close to seven, I read Full Bloom,a wonderful biography about Georgia O'Keeffe. For several months after finishing the book I was mesmerized by how prolific, how dedicated, and how determined she was to become an accomplished artist.

Then in 2010 the Phillips Collection had a wonderful exhibition that focused on her abstractions. Again I came away from the experience of seeing the exhibit with awe and wonder.

As an artist myself, I tried to view the exhibition as an admirer and also as a technician, disecting how she applied paint and worked. Though I do not paint many abstract compositions, I admire her skill in compositions and I own two books that focus on the compositional concept notan that was so important in Georgia O'Keeffe's work, they are:

. Notan . Composition by Arthur W. Dow

Sometimes I will flip through the pages of these books to get ideas and to learn a bit more about compositional design. And when I am really stumped about coming up with some painting ideas I will flip through the catalogue raisonne of Georgia O'Keeffe's works.

Here are a few spreads I photographed to share with you today.

Georgia O'Keeffe : Catalogue Raisonne And I thought I would leave you with a few of my favorite quotes by Georgia O'Keeffe

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for. "

"Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they may say something."

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.”

The last quote is my favorite, and really sums up the drive of why I paint, the journey of art making is the most important.

Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful weekend, Liz

Artist Review: Gustave Caillebotte


G Caillebotte Paris Rainy Day
La Place de l'Europe, temps de pluie (1877)
Art Institute of Chicago

Today while going through this week's Economist issue I read an article in the Books and Arts section about an exhibit in Paris on Gustave Caillebotte's paintings and his brother's photography.

This article got me thinking about his paintings and how much I like his work. There is something quiet and thoughtful in his compositions, how he organizes the picture frame and uses perspective to guide the viewers eye. I also admire his use of color and tone.

I feel that some of his most influential paintings are the ones that are predominantly made up of grays and earth tones, with only the slightest hints of saturated color.

G Caillebotte rooftops under snow
Vue toits, effet de neige (1878)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

G Caillebotte Le pont de europe
Le pont de l'Europe (1876)
Petit Palais, Geneva

G Caillebotte Floor Scrapers
Les raboteurs de parquet (The Floor Scrapers), (1875)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

However proficient he was with using muted colors and values to present a sense of space, Caillebotte was also an Impressionist in how he could also use vivid color, such as his painting of a fruit stand.

G Caillebotte fruit display
Fruits sur un étalage (1882)
Museum of Fine Art, Boston

For more information and images of his work:

And the Art Institute of Chicago has Paris Street; Rainy Day in their collection and seeing this painting in person was the highlight of my visit to Chicago several years ago!