Paul Cézanne's Drawings by Jeannine Cook

The exhibition, "The Hidden Cézanne; From Sketchbook to Canvas" is still on until September 24th, 2017, at the Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland. Cézanne's drawings, kept very private during his lifetime, tell of his questing, learning, thought processes in creating art or just recording for inspiration much later on.  It reminds us all that drawing is a pathway to many ways of analysing, understanding and forging an artistic identity that is unique.

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Artists' Ambitions by Jeannine Cook

Ramon Casas, an ambitious, innovative artist from Barcelona who straddled the nineteenth and early twentieth century, frequented many notable artists from France and Spain - from Toulouse-Lautrec to Jaoquin Sorolla and Pablo Picasso. Considered a modernist, he excelled in portrait drawings and paintings, as well as graphic art for art nouveau posters. His self-portrait from 1910 is revealing.

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Colour: Its Early Moral Strictures by Jeannine Cook

Learning about artists' strictures in the use of colour in antiquity and medieval times is fascinating and surprising, a far cry from today's total artistic licence in colour usage.

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Hôtel Sainte Valière - from Winegrower’s “Folly” to Artists’ Residence by Jeannine Cook

 

Light footsteps flying down the spacious stairway, sunlight flooding through the big windows, laughter and a welcome soon sealed with a glass of wine: my stay at Hotel Sainte Valière began deliciously.

Hôtel Sainte Valière,  Sainte Valière, France

Hôtel Sainte Valière,  Sainte Valière, France

I soon learned that this gracious house, one of the main homes built in this small hilltop village during the 19th century wealthy heyday of wine culture in the Languedoc Roussillon area of southern France, was originally called a “winegrower’s folly”.  The Cayla family knew how to make a home of gracious proportions, and today’s guests at Eloise Caleo’s Artist Residency are the lucky beneficiaries.  The family lives on the top floor, with wonderful views out over the Minervois area and the green, bountiful vineyards, and on the middle floor are three spacious rooms and private bathrooms for the residents. Meals, if you chose to take them with the family, are out on the terrace or in a front room warmed by a wonderful fire framed by a local marble fireplace. Needless to say, the meals are seriously delicious.

Sainte Valière

Sainte Valière

Sainte Valière, from one of the many vineyards surrounding the village

Sainte Valière, from one of the many vineyards surrounding the village

My two-week residency flashed past but it was the perfect place to get down to working really hard.  I wanted to complete two big silverpoint drawings for an upcoming exhibition and this was the ideal situation simply to push through and finish them in dogged fashion.  My quiet and privacy were respected delightfully.

So many enticing trips, nonetheless, beckoned.  Sainte Valière is in bounteous wine-growing country,  a world punctuated by blue mountain ranges, dwarfed – one has to admit – by the snow-capped Pyrenees peaks floating in the distance to the south west. Lovely golden-stone villages all have their own “caves” or wine-growers where wine-tasting is offered, plane tree avenues shade and wind along roads that invite the explorer.  The Canal du Midi, serene and winding in stately fashion though the vineyards and past small towns that have known considerable wealth from the canal transport and commerce in the past, is now bringing new economic activity to the area.  Biking, boating, small restaurants along the water – so many attractions to delight, and all close enough to hand to Sainte Valière that an artist can slip off for a while to change gears from creating to celebrating life in France.

Bridge over the Canal du Midi at nearby Le Somail (image courtesy of Peter Gugerell, Vienna, Austria)

Bridge over the Canal du Midi at nearby Le Somail (image courtesy of Peter Gugerell, Vienna, Austria)

Another wonderful side trip from Sainte Valière is the Abbey of Fontfroide, a mighty Cistercian twelfth century monastery that was restored and reinvigorated at the turn of the 20th century by Gustave Fayet. Art lovers know his name as a major late 19th century collector of Gauguin and other contemporary artists.  He was a wine grower from the area, an artist himself, painting and creating lovely ceramics and carpets.  He was also an experimenter in the astonishing stained glass windows that he and a master glazier, Richard Burghstal , created for the church and dormitory at Fontfroide.

Abbey of Fontfroide, south of Narbonne, France - the entrance

Abbey of Fontfroide, south of Narbonne, France - the entrance

Abbey of Fontfroide

Abbey of Fontfroide

Not only is the abbey itself beautiful, with its rose garden and hillside gardens framing it as it nestles the forest-clad valley in the Corbières hills, but its library hides another gem.  Gustave Fayet commissioned Odilon Redon to paint two huge canvases, each of three panels, in the vast stately library above the cloisters. Night and Day, they are considered his ultimate masterpiece.  Complex, highly allusive and full of symbols, they are a symphony of colour and lyricism.  A special guided visit to see them is well worth the effort; in truth, they are so many-layered that one could see them innumerable times and see something fresh each time.

Night, Odilon Redon, 1910-1911, one of the two paintings in the Library, Abbey of Fontfroide, France

Night, Odilon Redon, 1910-1911, one of the two paintings in the Library, Abbey of Fontfroide, France

Day, Odilon Redon, 1910-1911, one of the two paintings in the Library, Abbey of Fontfroide, France

Day, Odilon Redon, 1910-1911, one of the two paintings in the Library, Abbey of Fontfroide, France

Narbonne and Carcassonne are other visits well worth making as excursions from Sainte Valière.  But – remember –Hôtel Sainte Valière is an artist’s residency!  So, ideally, the creative juices should flow too and the side trips can be the rewards.  I certainly found that to be the case. As I rolled my two big silverpoint drawings in a tube to pack and take home, I felt I was packing far more than art.  The two weeks were a gift of gracious living, fascinating regional beauty and, best of all, the formation of new and delightful friendships.   

 

 

 

 

Plein Air Art - Looking Back (Part 5) by Jeannine Cook

When John Singer Sargent painted this scene of Claude Monet working en plein air, he recorded the heyday of the Impressionists' love of working outdoors to record and celebrate nature.  Ever since, there has been a long list of wonderful plein air artists on every continent, and we artists, living today, have a rich heritage of landscape art from which to be inspired.  This is the final Part 5 of my blog entry on Plein Air Art-  Looking Back.

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Plein Air Art - Looking Back (Part 4) by Jeannine Cook

The 19th century saw a flowering of plein air art in Europe and in this part of my blog-series on Plein Air Art - Looking Back, I had fun trying to select images that could celebrate this explosion of energies and talent. We owe a great deal to those artists as they broke with academic tradition and painted as their hearts dictated.

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Plein Air Art - Looking Back (Part 3) by Jeannine Cook

In Part 3 of Plein Air art - Looking Back, I follow the development of plein air art during the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe as so many artists paved the way for present-day interpretations of nature and the outdoors.

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Plein Air Art - Looking Back (Part 1) by Jeannine Cook

As plein air artists, we are standing on the shoulders of artists who were lovers and orbservers of nature from many centuries ago. This is a celebration of some of these artists in their depictions of the landscape.

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How Artists' Work Evolves over the Years by Jeannine Cook

Does an artist remain faithful to early visions and inspirations for art creation over the passage of twenty-five years? Measuring my own evolution, I find that I have just moved in closer to look at the nature that surrounds us, to marvel at details that often get overlooked in our busy lives.

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