It is a common idea that as painters age they gain in wisdom and depth which makes their late works more resonant and moving. This idea was key to Simon Schama’s latest program on the late Rembrandt. I enjoyed the program but it was an extremely orthodox view which I am tempted to question. If you look at the great man’s paintings they actually in my opinion fall off a great deal in quality. I suspect some problems with his vision as Titian and Turner show much the same retreat into inchoate yellow orange tones. With Rembrandt of course falling off in quality is a relative term, he was in my opinion one of the all time greats. What I dislike is the hijacking of this change in quality, probably brought about by diminuition of sight, as a harbinger of modernism. This was the final line of Shama’s spiel. I have heard this argument and commented on it in relation to Turner in earlier posts. In my opinion to take this view is deeply silly. None of these artists as far as I can see could have had any understanding or sympathy with what we call modernism. What we see in their works is physical decline not a new visionary conceptual direction.
This is well illustrated by this quote from a letter from Monet to Marc Elder, in 1922 He wrote, “in the end I was forced to recognize that I was spoiling them [the paintings], that I was no longer capable of doing anything good. So I destroyed several of my panels. Now I’m almost blind and I’m having to abandon work altogether. It’s hard but that’s the way it is: a sad end despite my good health!” . Yet these same canvasses are now held up as the artist making a bold step forwards towards abstraction. For Monet however they were a desparate struggle against increasing blindness. Why abstraction should so often be regarded as a step forward in this road to Damascus manner rather irritates me as abstraction has always been with us in one form or another and cannot really seen as step toward nirvana. There it is though, we are constantly assured that moving from representation to abstraction is like gaining adulthood and leaving the whimsy and the toys of childhood behind.
I have been rather distracted by building a studio in my new garden and the general hassle of relocating a hundred miles from London. It has been very frustrating seeing the countryside of Dorset looking very paintable while I was doomed to be wheeling barrows of concrete for foundations. Still I have managed a few bits and bobs. Also I have a fair few pictures in this exhibition at Bankside with the United society of Artists.
A tiny oil I snatched the time to paint, it is going to take a little while to adapt fully to doing pure landscape. The relative lack of people will be one of the greatest changes.
I did this in about 15 min on a damp foggy morning. Walking through the village to get my morning pint of milk was so magical that I had do rush out and try to catch it.
Briefly back in London to paint with the Brass monkeys. I am experimenting with different primes on my boards, this is wuite a rough one with marble dust in the acrylic gesso. Unusually I took this to a finish on site. oils 10in by 14in.
After making a mess of two looking down Whitehall I settled to paint Admiralty Arch, only about 45min for this little sketch but I was pleased with the feel. 8in by 10in oils.
I managed another quick excursion before heading back to the country. This is looking down Surrey St from Mary Le Strand. 10in by 14in oils.
I got up to London for a single day but just took my drawing stuff. It was a fantastic day around Parsons Green in Fulham, the low winter light is fantastic and you can draw or paint all day really. This is the New Kings Rd .
A very quick sketch on the way back to the station. This is the North end of Parsons Green. Pen and ink.
As my train wasn’t until 8pm I sat on the Thames South Bank and drew the Carousel. After doing a very rough pencil outline I got the figures in first, some are just sketched from passers by, and others cribbed from snaps on my iPhone. Much of the sky hatching I did on the train home! That’s it Posts will be a bit few and far between for a while but I shall still be snatching the odd chance to paint and draw.