Churchill the Impressionist.

I follow The Crown. In doing so, I learned that Winston Churchill painted. Curious, I looked into some of his work. He was quite an Impressionist and his works were really vibrant. He began late in life, too – at forty.

However, he made up for it by creating over 500 oil paintings in the 48 years. He exhibited in France and at the Royal Academy in London, often using pseudonyms.

Though his artwork now sells for over a million dollars, he himself never made money on his work. He always gave his paintings away.

Winter sunshine, Chartwell – 1925

This bright, colorful depiction of his Kentish home is one of Churchill’s earlier paintings. It won him first prize at an amateur exhibition.

In fact, on its reverse, there’s a handwritten note that says it was awarded to him by Oswald Birley (a painter), Sir Joseph Duveen (an art dealer) and Kenneth Clark (art historian), which I find pretty interesting!


Sunset over the Atlas Mountains – 1935

Churchill’s balcony at the Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech overlooked this gorgeous scene. Churchill loved it so much that he not only painted it, he invited President Roosevelt to travel with him to Marrakech so he too could experience the view.

On a separate note, Churchill bestowed another painting, Marrakech, to President Truman in 1951.

Goldfish pool at Chartwell – 1962

There was a tender scene on the Crown that mentions this pool. That’s what made me so curious about Churchill’s artwork.

Though this piece has the vibrancy characteristic of Churchill’s work, what I find intriguing is that it’s almost an abstract. It also seems to be viewed from right in the water itself.

This, by the way, is one of Churchill’s last paintings. He died about three years later.

his painting is unusual in zooming right into the water itself taking in the luscious foliage along the water side. It is an exemplary essay in tonality and near-abstraction, combining multiple hues of greens and browns to striking effect with the golden orfe brought to life through vivid flashes of orange impasto.

A bit about Picasso’s collages.

I mentioned the influence Braque had on collage in my previous blog. Picasso, who worked closely with Braque, also took it up around the same time. In fact, it’s a tossup in terms of who was first.

What we do know is that using tangible materials to create third dimensions afforded Picasso a great deal of freedom, which he used enthusiastically.

Newspaper cuttings, parts of musical instruments, music score, tobacco boxes, fabrics, metal – he loved to experiment!

Here are three of his famous “pieced together” pieces:

Still Life with Chair Caning – 1912

Though Picasso experimented with materials prior to this piece, it’s considered his first true work of collage fine art.

What’s most creative here is that Picasso used a piece of oilcloth printed with a cane chair pattern, as well as thick textured rope as a frame. In doing so, he creates reality without using the kind of illusionism used throughout art’s history. In fact, it challenges the false sense of reality that traditional artists created.

This was revolutionary at the time.

Three letters above the cloth are torn from the word “journal” which, along with the pipe, glass, lemon, oyster, suggest a café setting.

Guitar, Sheet music and Wine glass – 1912

Here Picasso assembled newspaper, sheet music, colored paper, paper, and hand-painted faux bois paper, charcoal, and gouache over wallpaper on paperboard.

Each piece of paper is one discrete element within the whole. Together, they represent a guitar hanging on a wall. …

You may not see the shape of the guitar immediately because, in fact, it’s been suggested through the use of negative space.

Look at the white circle first. It’s the sound hole. Once you see that, you can perceive the guitar more easily.

Maquette for Guitar – 1912

Picasso’s experiments with collage inspired him to innovate with sculptures as well.
Maquette for Guitar is a three-dimensional collaged sculpture made up of cardboard, paper, string, and wire, which are folded, threaded, and glued together.
Picasso managed to take the Cubist approach of presented a number of perspectives and geometric form into a three-dimensional medium. Plus he did so using non-traditional art materials.
It’s just such a brilliant and complex piece!

By the way, when Braque and Picasso began incorporating industrially-produced objects (“low” commercial culture) into the realm of fine art (“high” culture), it was both revolutionary and excitingly defiant.

A rare Friday December 15th.

December 15 is the 349th day of the year (350th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 16 days remaining until the end of the year. This date is slightly more likely to fall on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday (58 in 400 years each) than on Sunday or Monday (57), and slightly less likely to occur on a Wednesday or Friday (56).

It’s rare that December 15th falls on a Friday. It only happens 56 times every 400 years according to…ummm…something I read.

Anyway, the rare quality of this day has inspired me to write about Nazca drawings (or lines).

The lines are in southern Peru just over 200 miles southeast of Lima, near the town of Nasca. They boast over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures, 70 animal shapes (birds, fish, llamas, jaguars, and monkeys) and plant designs – some up to 1,200 feet long (as large as the Empire State building).

They were likely created by the Nazca culture between 500 BC and 500 AD. The lines are actually called geoglyphs, which are produced by removing rocks and earth to create a “negative” image.

Because the location’s isolation and dry, windless climate is pretty stable, the distinct white lines are relatively unchanged. However, interestingly, they can only be seen from the high surrounding foothills and from planes.

This boggles the mind. Imagine being able to create something so complex – but you can only see your work from above? I can’t even imagine that. The lines are a mystery to many and have been depicted in various movies Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, among them.

On a final note, they were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

The art of dance.

On this day in 1977, Saturday Night Fever opened at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. We have it to thank for platform shoes and satin pants (ugh), not to mention a dance craze that electrified clubs the world over.

To celebrate, the theme today is “dance” and we’ll look back over three famous paintings that capture the subject beautifully.

Sargent – El Jaleo (1882)

John Singer Sargent is an American born painter who produced portraits during late 1800’s and early 1900’s. El Jaleo is a large painting over 7 feet by 11 feet, but it’s the actual scene that gives it such awesome presence.

Here the energy and passion of a Spanish dancer is captured in dazzling light thanks to moody silhouettes and stark contrasts. It’s truly magnificent.

Matisse – Danse (1910)

Matisse was a leading figure in Modern Art and is known for amazing use of color. This painting, with its strong contrast of warm red and cool green complimentary colors, is a good example.

Matisse was fascinated with primitive art and we see that, not only in the style of painting, but also in the dance and the nudes themselves. There’s a lack of formality and decorum. Rather there’s a natural freedom.

Degas – Ballet Rehearsal on Stage (1874)

No dance theme is complete without mention of Degas. Though he painted a number of subjects, he’s best known for his stunning ballet series.

This one is my favorite. The detail is masterful – you can practically feel the fabric of the skirts and the graceful rhythm of the dancers.