Friday, March 21, 2014

Gallery Route One: Art that is Personal and Universal


This is an article I wrote about a show that opened on March 30, 2014 at the collaborative gallery I belong to.

Gallery Route One (GRO) in Point Reyes Station presents an exhibition of the works of three artists: “The Vickisa Experience,” Lauri Sturdivant, “Applied Junk Art,” and Jessica Eastburn, “Mutatis Mutandis.” The opening reception will be on Sunday, March 30, 2014, from 3:00 – 5:00, and a closing salon will be held on Sunday, May 4, 2014, from 4:00 – 5:00. Each of the artists presents an intense, but very different, personal response to the world, food enough for many exciting conversations

Center Gallery: Vickisa
Diaries. Journals. Sketchbooks. Paintings. Self-portraits. The artist Vickisa throws herself into her life and art. “These are my personal things,” the artist says, speaking about her center-gallery show at GRO. This series began, the artist says, when she received a gift in that signature blue box from Tiffany’s. “I started thinking about what I really wished could be in that box.” One answer might be the work called “Precious Things,” with that pure Tiffany-turquoise blue as sky and frame, imagining and enclosing her own personal world: three Cézannian bathers wading in deep blue reflecting pools, a welcoming red cottage, whales offshore, a dog in the foreground (who seems to hear the birds in the rosebushes), all of this painted into the West Marin coastal hills. The moment is quiet, quiet enough to hear those birds and the waves. Vickisa says it became a challenge, to show that art does not have to come from angst, but from joy and quiet contentment.

Vickisa’s work often re-presents her visits to Maui, New Orleans or to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. “I have a secret,” Vickisa says, “so that I can stand right where I need to be. I give people last year’s books to look at, and that keeps them busy long enough for me to complete my sketches.” She paints on site, chooses her own words or those of musicians and poets, and then cuts and places the final images into fold-out books. Each musician is named and the experience of being at a formal – or a sidewalk – concert is described. Some images work their way into hand-made books, and others into full paintings. “Endure, Survive and Thrive” portrays members of The Wild Tchoupitoulas, a group formed from a Mardi Gras Indian tribe”(celebrants dress in Native American ceremonial robes and wear elaborate beaded and feathered head-dress). Three figures pictured in brilliant reds and pinks and oranges  -- “I love color, and use it with abandon,” the artist says -- seem to float majestically over a field of deep blue ribbons. The group reappears in an accordion book, mid-performance, with their nephew, Aaron Neville at the microphone. Vickisa practices a different kind of plein-air painting; she does not picture a landscape, but rather people and the landscapes they create together. The artist sometimes includes her rescued cattle dog mix, Rosebud, as muse: Rosebud appears in one book to say “I just don’t know why where I sit is so important to me.” Other books and paintings offer up self-portraits that center on Vickisa’s hard-won contentment; she is “really pretty happy now” and has found the time to appreciate her life and her re-vamped studio. “I love looking [out the window] at my birds, I love my brushes, and making my art.” Together, these works form a generous invitation to catch sight of one woman’s very “precious things."



 Project Space: Lauri Sturdivant
“Applied Junk Art,” the Project Space show by Lauri Sturdivant, began, she says, as her work tends to begin, “with the material first, so the material determines what happens.”  Sturdivant picks up objects, pieces, parts, papers, anything that appeals to her that other people have discarded. “What we throw on the ground stays there,” she says, “it isn’t going anywhere.” And she wants her audience to think about what is discarded and what might be kept. So, Sturdivant picks up whatever comes her way, often re-working it or re-attaching it to something new, and begins to find a place for it in her art. One piece, “Scraps,” is nine feet tall and three feet wide, a series of hangings, made up of pendular shapes about an inch wide, in whites and ivories and neutral colors. Despite the fact that each artwork is made of litter, Sturdivant says, “the work is clean ... [and yet] I am not interested in people thinking my work is beautiful. I am interested in people finding time to stand in front of it. The word ‘quiet’ suits what I am trying to do.” Her studio, she says, is filled with rolled and completed artworks, with stacks of fabrics, boxes of buttons, boxes of litter that has happened to come her way. Sturdivant began as a two-dimensional collage artist and says that “the truth is that, even then, people kept wondering what I was doing, and that gave me the freedom” to try something out of the ordinary. The objects and constructions that motivate her, Studivant hopes, will similarly motivate her audience to think about what we label as “junk.” The heaviest piece in this exhibition, “litter from 4 states,” includes “everything under the sun ... a Spanish-language CD, stickers for piano keys, but perhaps the most unusual piece is a slab of tire that had been lying in the road for awhile. “I kept thinking, ‘I should pick that up,’” she says, “and then the road crew painted a yellow line over the top of the tire scrap, “and then I picked it up.” The work is encased in plastic, “to honor the things that are littered.”  Maybe we throw things away when we are moving too fast. This work asks that we slow down and look.


Annex: Jessica Eastburn
Jessica Eastburn is Gallery Route One’s first recipient of the Fellowship for Young Artists Award; she was first among a very strong applicant pool. Eastburn will be a Fellow at GRO for 18 months, and will present a center gallery show in 2015. Her exhibition is titled “Mutatis Mutandis.”  That title is her reaction to growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s with both consumer and digital overload. Advertising promised everything, and yet...even when we replace one object in our lives with a newer, shinier object, the big picture remains the same. Eastburn began to ask a series of questions: “Is everything replaceable, even artists and their work? Do I really need to have more?” She says she underwent a change: “All these things I took as fact, I’m going back and questioning basic beliefs: what’s actually important? what should culture be?”  Eastburn began to pull all the familiar images, the “useless ...  arbitrary and incongruous information ... snippets of patterns and motifs, and layers of pop culture” together, creating her own labor-intensive (and nearly stream-of consciousness) process. She began to draw with ruler and compass and then added gouache, cel-vinyl inking, airbrush and spray paint. There isn’t a pixel in sight. Her work brings to mind fleeting images of Roy Lichtenstein, bits of Japanese kimonos, colorful cartoon explosions and graffiti, for starters. Recently, Eastburn went back to early MTV, to videos like Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing,” and examined the straightforward geometry and simple color gradations that represented the best in computer visuals of that era. She combined the results, along with other icons and images into a central piece for this show, called “Trouble with the Sweet Stuff.” This painting became a catalyst for Eastburn’s newest, most personal work; the disparate elements arose from memories of her childhood. These works reward close examination, as they are perfectly executed and, by turns, funny, absorbing, quixotic, and strangely familiar. 



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Phillip Hua: "The Secret of the Picture"


It’s a little risky, judging paintings.  And Marin MOCA has presented one of the trickiest types of exhibitions: emerging artists (“Emerging Artists of the Bay Area,” through April 13, 2014). 

Sometimes emerging means only “new,” new technical discoveries, digital wizardry, explosions (akin to those in many of the newest movies).  Kenneth Baker has chosen five artists (Justine Frischmann, Al Grumet, Carl Heyward, Phillip Hua, and Jennifer Kaufman) who are each accomplished in their chosen media. But it is a combination of discovery and ... something harder to describe... that draws me to the art of Philip Hua.

Let’s talk about the technical bits first. Hua teaches Digital Media at the Academy of Art University (he has a BFA from AAU, from 2003).  On his website, Hua explains that he begins each work with a digital composition.  But it’s what he ends up with that takes your breath away.

Here is “Preparing for the Long Term,” one of the walls at Marin MOCA:


This is the picture as you see it from across the room. It coalesces into something that looks traditional, brushstrokes creating a natural world: a bird, blossoms, a branch, pale sky. But that isn’t exactly the first experience. We round the corner, and we see a detail:


We see the “branch” and the “blossom”;  close-to, these patches of color are not re-presenting the natural world at all. There is a beautiful sheen, and a mysterious grouping of soft colors; the picture changes as you move around it. This work does what every artist I have ever known wants their work to do: it stops you in your tracks. The labels tell us that these paintings are all composed of “pigmented ink and packaging tape on The Wall Street Journal newspapers, mounted on Dibond.”   These are simple materials, brought together, mastered. The work, Hua says, begins digitally, and then he prints that composition, and then paints onto the selected newspaper pages and pieces, and then covers that over painstakingly with packing tape (sometimes vertically, sometimes horizontally).  The bright white of the pages is meant to change into varying yellows, over time, the colors of the stock market graphs will shift to lighter shades. Art and commerce, ars longa, vita brevis: guess which Hua is betting on?

Hua has truly found a way of making art that is new.  But it isn’t just this, it isn’t merely the process, which is enough, by itself, it would seem.  It’s the way the results make you feel.  
And that’s what I mean, about it being risky to judge paintings.  So take a step back, for a minute from the technical to that less-easily defined “secret of the picture.” What is it, exactly, that makes us pause, that we cannot quite define? Is there such a thing, if we can’t define it? A terrific article published in The New Yorker in October 2012 --“Priceless: How Art Became Commerce,” by Rachel Cohen (10/8/12, pp. 64-71, and there is a new biography by Cohen too) begins to answer the question.  The connoisseur Bernard Berenson guided Isabella Stewart Gardner and other early twentieth-century collectors towards “authentic” works.  There were technical points, Cohen writes, but it’s that other thing that fascinates her (and now, me):

The reason Berenson was so good at authenticating pictures was that he knew their secret lives as well as their public ones .... In a letter from Florence, he described spending two hours before Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’: ‘It seemed so much greater than ever, and an everlasting rebuke to people who want to submit art to [trial by headlines?] newspaperology .... You can say that it is beautiful of course, you can call people’s attention to the transparency of color, to the half tints of golden cherry and olive green, to the flowers painted in low relief ... and a thousand other things, but you can’t “give away” the secret of the picture.


Cohen says that the “secret” of a painting, for Berenson, was that indescribable “aesthetic” value. The “feel of a Leonardo, what Berenson called ‘the vitality and vibrant energy of a Da Vinci,’” was the kind of thing Berenson would call attention to: it was his strength but, as x-rays and other pigment tests came into being, his weakness.  His eye was that indefinable “something” that the modern world increasingly de-valued. But feeling, and sensibility, do matter, don’t they? Look at this detail of Hua’s “Growth versus Income”:


And I guess that is what I would like to leave you with, here: go and see these works.  That “secret” of the painting will come to you, I know, when you are standing in front of Hua’s works.  Take the risk.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Space as the Object as Object: Damien Flood at Green on Red Gallery, Dublin, Ireland


“In art there is only one thing that matters: what cannot be explained.”
from the notebooks, Georges Braque

We were visiting Dublin in January. Green on Red is a fine experimental art gallery there, with a terrific curator and a great space, and I have written about it before: (http://artistinanaframe.blogspot.com/2012/08/anything-is-mirror-vexed-endings-at.html).  Through February 22nd, their newest show, Damien Flood’s Interior Sun,” is on view. The largest paintings, works such as “Interior Sun,” (150 x 125cm), will pull you in immediately,


and become your true love (at least, for the moment that you stand before them) offering clean, stark, fore-grounded heroic strokes of movement against quietly  complex backgrounds. The space is clear, the brushstrokes objects in themselves. The nobility reaches back to an Abstract Expressionist core. These paintings are the sons and daughters of Motherwell and Twombly. Flood calls these resolved works “‘pop songs’ “ (interview with James Merrigan, Afterworlds, 2013, published by Green on Red Gallery, Dublin; from here on, Afterworlds).  Flood on the “pop song” process: “when that painting happened, it was ‘bang!’ “ But he also says, “I know the pop songs work too well, and I know that curators will usually love them. I don’t get anything from them” (Afterworld).

Now, to be fair, Flood hasn’t said this about any of the works in this show. But I am going to go on record and say that the term “pop song” does indeed include “Interior Sun.”  So I am now going to break with “Interior Sun,” get the lovely, catchy, so-familiar, so-deep melody out of my head, and go for the Miles Davises and Keith Jarretts of the show.

I want to visit with the smaller, noisier paintings, the ones that are still moving and growing and changing, like living organisms.  Flood mentions that “the paintings that really work for me are the ones I really struggle with”  (Afterworld).  A painter’s hardest moments, I have always thought, are those where the painting is going along very nicely, behaving, it’s working, and then, suddenly, the damned thing rises up and resists the painter’s every move. When I am painting, this resistance, this sudden awkwardness on the part of the painting, can make me think “it’s over.”  But looking at Damien Flood’s show, I realized that, no, that’s when it’s all beginning!  Take a look at “Slouch” (90 x 75 cm):

In the notes for this show, the gallery tells us that we can see “the jostle of marks and strokes and lines” here. Just as we are often pulled in to paintings that are resolved, noble and clear, we should also be ready to be pulled into this kind of layered ambiguity. Here, there is a lovely little patch of blue a little north of center, falling lines of paint enclosing it, a just-a-bit-off grid upper left, a few drops of paint left, drips, a field of muddy green paint below.  This painting is an utterly lovely mess.  It shifts... it won’t be caught.... fighting the reasoned sense of space is that pattern in the back,  and the drips, and the colors, and the sheer effort the painting expends to reduce all your attempts at solving it ... to nothing. It won’t be catalogued, or boxed-in, or reduced to a mere thing. This painting has been given its own life. Because, as the show’s publicity says, “there is an unpredictability and courage here that is nerve tingling and alive.”  Yes.

So if this work isn’t the child of Abstract Expressionism, what is it? A new direction,  
a new voice. Pieces from art history, yes, but, as Ezra Pound wrote, “Art is a departure 
from fixed positions, felicitous departure from a norm....” 
 
I have thought about the felicity of clogged and unresolved and still-moving-in-space 
paintings, and I came up with two names...

The first is Elizabeth Murray, someone whose lithographs are on show at Stanford University’s Cantor Art Center.  In an interview several years ago, Murray said that abstract work is always difficult to see:

You’re confronted when you are looking at a painting where you don’t have specific images .... You’re confronted with something that you are challenged to resolve and unify in some way, because there is a unity there. I keep harping on this – and that’s what has to work. What has to work is it has to resolve in secret almost.  --pbs.org/art21/artists/murray/clip1
                                                 
Murray has it right. The viewer needs to be presented with an unresolved work to keep thinking about; otherwise, we may as well all be painting daisies in vases, something to walk by quickly on one’s way to lunch. Take a look at “Down Dog,” a lithograph from 1988, 41” x 50 3/4 “:


Murray has been dismissed (without any analysis or reasoned interpretation, as here with Hilton Kramer: http://observer.com/2005/10/caution-to-viewers-murrays-paintings-may-induce-vertigo/#axzz2t2DjBJwJ) but she has been ably defended by Jerry Salz.  Why isn’t she accorded the respect due her? Salz writes that it could be due to several things:

First, her idea of beauty, while juicy, is dissonant, deviant, and brash. It is an unsettling, tempestuous beauty .... [and] There’s very little visual letup in her art, which can make looking at her paintings vexing .... Her iconography is domestic ...  [but] the vibe is cosmic .... Everything is replicating, shattering or turning into other things .... Her space is orgiastic and overflowing .... Murray has pulled painting apart, moved it around, made it physical.
                                    “Relentless Tempest,” www.artnet.com/magazines/features/Salz

Murray herself has said that, when she went to Chicago for art school, she was no longer under pressure to be “ladylike” or conventional. She loved the students she met:  “As much as I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to be different the way they were different, because it felt like freedom!”   --pbs clip, as above
                                                                                         
I find Murray’s work uplifting and brave, and I think she reaches out to her audience with a fresh, new iconography and a new eye for color. She and Flood are very close in their daring and their unexpected lack-of-exact imagery.  It’s about painting, but it’s also about living, fighting past the pop song to the stillness between the notes behind.

The second artist with a straight line to Damien Flood’s work at Green on Red is Georges Braque.  Flood admires him, as the conversation in Afterworlds shows. Flood’s Braque’s is not the man of the early Cubist discoveries, chained to Picasso. I think Braque’s later work, with its confounding inclusion of the “everyday” object (just given a glancing blow) is far more powerful. Flood’s objects float in the same kind of space as Braque’s and, while Braque’s everyday painted world gives us more recognizable, tactile “things,” there is a shared shadowy light and bent solidity in both artists’ work. Here is Braque’s “Billiard Table,” from 1944:


The corner of the room is almost three-dimensional, but shut off, in real representation, by a dense line that opens that corner like a book, with the billiard table springing out of it.  And just when the viewer sees that, the front-most pool cue resists it, because it is straight...

Now look at Flood’s “Armature,” 30 x 40 cm:

One could perhaps say that the title of this painting, one of Flood’s most descriptive (!), means framework, something to hang onto... but, no. The painted (apparently foregrounded) “object” here is uncertain, hovering, its colors muted, with an overlayer of hesitant blue and yellowed strokes. The longer one looks, the more the “object” recedes ... and then comes forward.  It is open, it is closed, it is floating, it then becomes deadly solid and pulled down by gravity. It won’t be readily resolved. The painting has won.

(Thanks to Jerome O Drisceoil and Martin Rochford!)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Inside Confined Spaces and Breaking Free

We drove into Milan... its historic, winding vortex of streets was pretty tough to navigate... and difficult to fully appreciate until we parked our car and walked the cobblestones and piazzas.

My eye kept moving towards the fitted-together, the deliberate, artistic urge to design even the simplest thing. A parking lot, where each stone was fitted into the cement:


The wall of the caffé LARTE (these are real books!):



An even more apparent frame, the Duomo, is pulled together with thousands of figures:

We came to Lyon with this mind-set and... find the same compulsion to repeat and confine and build:
And, a well-protected tree:

So I drew "Bubble Breaking Free," playing with the ways the water breaks the flat patterns of the paper:


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wild Geese and Fairy Tales


We drove from Macon to see family who live between Annecy and Geneva. We drove up into the Alps in Haute-Savoie for a day of seeing goats, cross-country-skiers, and to eat in a small and friendly restaurant. It was very friendly, that is, until the table next to ours was set on fire (by the meats-over-coals dish the couple had ordered). The customers were not worried... as the waiter was putting out the fire, their only remark was “more sauce, please.”

After our two days there, we left for Freiburg, a city that was re-built (after WWII) according to its original city plan. The streets are narrow and lovely, the store- and hotel-fronts blend old with new, and there is a canal running down one side of all the walking and biking streets. Our hotel has been running on Oberlinden for (roughly) 700 years. Here was the view:


The city’s people are very friendly, and the shops very interesting      do you need an umbrella store?

or a lovely restaurant?

Moving north, farther into Germany, we noticed that the houses became more concerned with rooflines... that is, each house and barn seemed hugely roof, against the snow to come. And there seems to be some interest in trapping the sun through solar panels:


We had planned to visit more cities, but, on finding that our next hotel had lied to us (they were not in Heidelberg, so it was impossible to find them there), we decided to change our plans. The autobahn is awe-inspiring; if there are no work-stations or problems, the speed limit is up to the driver, who can go as fast as desired, as long as s/he maintains control of the car. We were also seeing that cities seem more alike, from one country to the next, than countryside, and we thought the German countryside utterly gorgeous, so, why not slow down and see the landscape?

As we drove, we saw geese and swans and hawks, and chased down hotels (that we sometimes could not find) and small and interesting villages. “It’s a wild goose chase!” my husband said, and, yes, that’s what we have begun.
Logs are being harvested and stacked for pick-up. These smaller roads are accompanied by walking and biking paths. It is late in December, but the fields are still green, or ploughed up for the next crop. Vineyards are stacked up on careful hillside shelving. We pass a glassblower’s huge compound, an Audi factory, a “polizei” speed trap (cars here blink their lights, too). Someone has died along this road and her family has left candles and a white marble angel. We stay in two hotels in a row run by families; one speaks English, the other does not.

We drive by the town of Speilberg. It is 7 degrees Celsius. We stay in another hotel and leave the window open. The church bells ring all night. When it is 2:00 in the morning, the louder bell rings four times for the hour, then a smaller bell rings twice, then the louder bell rings once to say it is the quarter hour, then twice for the half hour, then three times for three-quarters of the hour, then at 3:00 the whole cycle begins again.

A covered bridge: “Did you think they started in Vermont?” my husband asks. We are driving in and out of the Schwarzwald, the Black Forest. Woodpiles become very important:

Two shaggy cows. Muddy sheep by a beautiful stream. We drive higher into the mountains, and see snow, ravines, waterfalls, and our car tells us “Risque de verglas” (black ice). The woods are dark and deep... again, Robert Frost didn’t invent these forests... these are fairy-tale forests, thick with moss... and dragons. I start reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

We stop for a Renaissance castle, WasserSchloss Glatt, with moat and timbered buildings:

And a town, later, on the Bodensee, called Meersburg, with defensive walls:

This is a fairy tale. Charley looks at the orchards, bare branches now, with a few scattered apples left:


and he says the apples seem to have given way, over the years, to decorated shiny balls and the Christmas tree.

I start a drawing:

And we head for another lake-side town.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The autoroute in winter

We left Paris and drove the A6 past Fontainebleu... the forest goes on forever. The shadows of the trees lengthened as we drove. It was 2 degrees centigrade when we started in. We saw turned-up fields with frost settled into the lines of the tractor's tires. Just outside the péage (toll gates) at Fleury-en-Biére, we saw a huge abstract painting-- something along the lines of a Joan Mitchell. Just there. We headed deeper into Burgundy, and the road is now called The Autoroute du Soleil (the highway of the sun). A church with a pitched slate roof tells us we are still pretty far north. Clustered village and two distant farms, a yellow "la Poste" truck on the parallel little road.

Mistletoe clusters in bare trees... the mistletoe is green against the greys and browns. More frost, now on the grasses near the highway. A fat French hawk on a fence. The greens in the field sparkle... melting frost? Shadows of trees stretching down their hill.

Then, a "Pays de Charolais" sign, and up come the white cattle against the brown and green grassy hills. We see two more hawks.

Then the "Côte d'Or."  Tidy little (trimmed?) hedgerows around planted fields, and more white cattle. Two trees, nearly disappearing under the mistletoe. Then we see our first field of rolled hay bales.

Molly and Bloom... two people, in one. Molly, in James Joyce's Ulysses, stays at the center of Bloom's moving world. One part of us moves, one part of us stays. This is the time when we are moving, and loving the moving.

It is so beautiful here. Charley sees a hawk hunting.

Fifth hawk, passing the Chateau d'Eguilly. A broken, but still imposing, fort/castle. A village behind, still protected. A hillside, all snow. Clumps of grass sticking together, iced and green all at once.

"Chateauneuf" village off to our left. The canal de Bourgogneon our right. Then, the valley of the Ouche River, all white hills.

"Alert Meteo: Nuit Prochaine Verglas" the sign says, warning that the roads will freeze tonight.

All of a sudden, everything is mist. Like a fairy tale. Then, at the Beaune exit, grapevines covered in white frost. It is now -2 degrees centigrade outside. Sixth hawk. Department: Saône et Loire. Seventh hawk, huge and shaggy. 8th hawk, then birches, with some yellow and some frosted leaves.  -1 degree centigrade. A row of farmed poplars.

Now it is 0 degrees. The grass is green again, but anything standing up in the air is white: bushes, vines, straggly grass, trees, fences. The houses remain grey and beige. Ninth and tenth hawks.

Our diesel Citroen C3 has used 1/4 of its little tank in 4 hours.

11th hawk. 12th hawk. Charley says they are watching the cars.

13the hawk. 14th hawk, wings spread, looking down at his claws.

Fifteenth and final hawk.

We arrive in Maçon. We fall, somehow, into the best, smallest, warmest restaurant in town.


This is lapin en gelée with mâche salad and onion confit at "le Carafé: Les Vins en Liberté," a bistro-cave in Maçon. There are three choices of first course, three choices of second, three desserts. The wines of the night were Minervois and Morgon. A man came in from his vineyard with a bottle of Volnay and gave us a taste... we then talked with some of the customers about wines and Maçon.

Today, we were wanderers.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Monuments and Archways: Constable and Pissarro


I have this idea that the world of art divides into monuments and archways. I think of a monument as something created at the peak of an artist’s desire to solidify every artistic achievement that has occurred up to the moment of signing the art work. Up against monumental art work comes the archway piece, the one that an artist makes as s/he looks towards an un-realized artistic future.

I’m going to take two small works, both in London’s National Gallery, as examples. John Constable’s “Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds, erected in the grounds of Coleorton Hall, Leicestershire” (from 1833-36) helps my theory by being a painting of a monument,


but that’s not why I chose it. Constable has put everything he knows into this painting, everything about every leaf, the way light falls within a cluster of trees, the way dead leaves blow onto stones... it’s a memoriam to everything he would have us know that Reynolds means to him, but, more than that, it is everything, down to the stag, pictured in an almost photographic perfection.It is letting us know that a painting of a landscape deserves the same recognition as a painting of a battle.

The second painting, my archway painting, is Camille Pissarro’s “Fox Hill, Upper Norwood,” from 1870:


It, too, is a landscape, but something is different. There is a tree, but it is sketched in, a fence, caught in a few brushstrokes, dirty lines of snow where the carriages have come, a man meeting women... nothing is firmly placed. This is not aiming at grandeur. Blink and it’s gone.

Even though the Constable places us in the center of his personal artistic debt, and it’s a beautiful and arresting work, the Pissarro feels more personal to me. The viewer is invited to walk down that same road, in that same contented mood, crossing through the archway that links us (impossibly, but artistically) to a country road in 1870.