Forest with a Mountain Stream

Forest with a Mountain Stream by Ferdinand Hodler (1902)

I took a look at several of Hodler’s works. He’s a careful artist, systematic, and his faces often look like his landscapes. Maybe his landscapes look like his faces. I like his color scheme; really quite colorful when you examine a single rock, but also unified and calm when you examine the entire picture.

I’d like someday to look back at my life and see unity and calm (maybe composure is the better word). Right now I am a crazy rock, all sorts of colors, many planes, carefully drawn (by God) but not a detail I’d want to pull out and display as an entire composition of its own. I’m glad I don’t stop here.


Landscape with Stars

Henri-Edmond Cross, Landscape with Stars, ca. 1905–1908

A million different thoughts running through my head. A million things I’d love to write here. Some nights my thoughts form constellations, recognizable patterns, and I can pull out from them a story, an anecdote, a synthesis of my day. Other nights my brain beams bright, but each star is its own self, competing for the honor to be written down.

Tonight I’ll let the most praiseworthy star win: I’m thankful for peace, the lack of despair, the smoothed out edges of a jagged summer. God cares for me, and my mind, and He really wants me to tell Him about all those many things I think of. He made me to think, and I’m happy about that.

Lady in a Green Jacket

Lady in a Green Jacket by Auguste Macke, 1913

I searched for a calming work of art, and ended up looking at German expressionist, Auguste Macke’s paintings. Even with the bright colors, the texture of this painting is soft, not harsh. While there is something mysterious about the lady with her face turned away from us, it is a gentle mystery. She seems alone and quiet compared to the two couples in front of her. I like her beauty. I like that she is important enough to the artist to be the central object, and also the artist respects her privacy by not painting her face.

A Winter’s Day in Charlottenlund

A Winter's Day in Charlottenlund by Peder Mork Monsted, 1918
A Winter’s Day in Charlottenlund by Peder Mork Monsted, 1918

If the weather had cooperated the kids and I would have gone owling this evening with some people from the Horicon Marsh. But the wind picked up and the roads drifted over. We didn’t go.

This painting captures that trick of late afternoon winter sun. Monsted is a Danish artist and worth looking at. His paintings are crisp and bright. He paints trees as he sees them – no generalizing or trying to make them pretty. I think it must be his love of nature that shows through each painting, infusing it with beauty. Art is not just a pretty picture. It’s a message, a worldview, a special interpretation. It says, “Look at me,” but it also says, “Look the way my artist looked.” The viewer brings something to the interpretation, too, some associations or memories. But I think the thing that draws us into a work of art is the invitation to look through someone else’s eyes. Even if the painting is so realistic it looks photographic, it is still a painting, still a product of an artist. The artist cannot paint something, disappear, and then everyone can pretend it was made by divine means. Look at real nature for that. A painting is a look into humanity, even if it is a landscape.

Through the Calm and Frosty Air

Through the Calm and Frosty Air by Joseph Farquharson, 1908
Through the Calm and Frosty Air by Joseph Farquharson, 1908

Here’s a beautiful painting by a Scottish artist I never heard of before. I don’t have sheep, but I do have outdoor cats, and I enjoy walking out to the shed to feed them, especially when the snow is powdery and the air is clear. The sounds of the calves huffing in the nearby pen and the distant snowplow on the road are so completely different and welcome from the sounds of my children fussing and the sounds of myself scolding them. Sometimes I envy my husband for having an outdoor, solitary sort of life. Except that he gets lonely. I wouldn’t. God knows best, of course, but it often seems like we get the wrong jobs. Or too much of the right ones. Maybe the shepherd in this painting doesn’t want to walk quite so far. But from the right perspective, his life is beautiful.

Renoir’s Gabrielle

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gabrielle Mending, 1908
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gabrielle Mending, 1908

I’m reading a book about Renoir, which you’ll likely hear more about in a later post. It is interesting to learn who the people in the paintings are. Gabrielle, for instance, is a cousin of Aline (Renoir’s wife) who came to live with the Renoir family to be a nanny. She later did some modeling for Renoir, and there are many paintings of Gabrielle. According to the book I am reading, Gabrielle was quite the spirited girl. Knowing some of the stories about the people in Renoir’s paintings adds a new spin to appreciating his art. These are real people–family members, friends, admirers, fellow artists. They are not anonymous models, all face and no history. As much as the Impressionists wanted to portray an impression of the moment, their paintings still have background, weight, and shadows of the past.

Farm Near Duivendrecht

Piet Mondrian, Farm Near Duivendrecht, 1916
Piet Mondrian, Farm Near Duivendrecht, 1916

The window above my kitchen sink looks out to the patch of woods behind our house. I often find myself staring at the bare tree branches. I love those black etchings against a blue-gray sky. It is so complicated and intricate. Because I like to draw, I stand at the sink and wonder how I would draw that. Would I simplify it? I would have to; there are far too many details for a two-dimensional drawing. But would I simplify it A LOT, or would it still be very complex and time-consuming? At this point I generally remind myself that I don’t have the time to do a very complex drawing, and then I remind myself that I live here and I can stare out my windows whenever I want. I don’t really need a drawing of it on my wall. And that leads me to contemplate the reason why people create art at all.

I have not come to any definitive answers on any of these things I wonder about. However, I notice that Mondrian loved bare tree branches, too. This is a more realistic rendering of them. In other paintings he simplifies, abstracts, breaks things down. He thought about things a lot, too, and he has complex theories that go with his artwork. I don’t know what they are; I just know I once tried to paint like Mondrian and my art professor said, “Yes, but he had theories to go with his paintings…” Well, theories or no theories, I like his tree branches.