Renoir

Choices in an Artist's Life by Jeannine Cook

Friend of many of the prominent Impressionist painters, as well of being in Edouard Manet's circle, artist Norbert Goeneutte was a discovery for me when I saw one of his paintings recently at the National Gallery in London.  His career choices were interesting.

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Perfumes, sound and light by Jeannine Cook

I have just spent time in my other home in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. There, it is a green and beautiful spring after bountiful rains this year, and the island is celebrating with exuberant growth on mountain slopes and down stony valleys.

I had some time to paint and draw, and once again, my sense of place was expanded and extended. I know that wherever one is working outdoors as an artist, you become conscious of all your surroundings. It seemed to be especially the case this spring in Spain: the perfume of orange blossom, lemon blossom, jasmine and roses floated everywhere on the air.

Citrus sinensis   Osbeck painting by  Mary E. Eaton  from a 1917 issue of   National Geographic

Citrus sinensis Osbeck painting by Mary E. Eaton from a 1917 issue of National Geographic

As the sun warmed, each morning, and the sky became brilliant, the perfumes intensified and became intoxicating. The light grew more brilliant - oh, that Mediterranean light! And as I sat quietly, totally enraptured with all this light and drunk on these exquisite perfumes, I was serenaded by blackbirds singing their wondrous melodies, or tiny serins buzzing excitedly high in the trees above.

I was soothed and inspired. As the light changed and the flowers I was depicting opened, moved and faded, I was enveloped in this world in which I was sitting. I felt a bond and a sense of kinship with all the wonderful artists who have worked in the Mediterranean region down the ages - Italian masters like Botticelli or Guercino, Corot, Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Cezanne or Raoul Dufy in France, even Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, just to name one Spanish artist who celebrated so superbly the brilliant light of Spain (go to this site if you speak Spanish or this one for English). They all responded to the same light, perfumes and sounds. From the flowers painted on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs to the frescoes on walls of opulent homes in Pompeii, artists have always gloried in the beauties of flowers growing in the Mediterranean world. I felt it was a great privilege to be immersed in this world of brilliant light, intoxicating perfume and liquid bird song, as I celebrated Mallorca's spring flowers in silverpoint and watercolour.

The energy of art by Jeannine Cook

During a visit to South Carolina to see the recently-opened exhibition from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales, Turner to Cezanne, at the Columbia Museum of Art, I was struck afresh at the energy and magic created by art.

Not only was the exhibit a delight, with small canvases of great interest and often great beauty, but the whole experience of seeing the show was fascinating. The exhibition galleries were thronged with excited, but well behaved school children being taken around by docents. Their energy and fresh reactions to the art were a delight to be a part of as one looked at the art more slowly than they were able to. In amongst the school groups were numerous adults, clearly enjoying and appreciating the exhibition too. Why did I find this so striking ? Well, apparently this is the the most important show the Columbia Museum of Art and its supporters have brought to the city, and despite the current economy, the response from the public has been massive. In the first week already, the museum has seen huge numbers of visitors, both local and from elsewhere.

To me, the public excitement generated by this exhibition reminds one again how art brings people together and strengthens communities. By the time my husband and I had emerged from the museum, we had talked to countless people and even exchanged addresses with new friends. Each painting in the exhibition, from France mainly, but also from England, Wales, Belgium and Holland, quietly or dramatically "spoke" of different landscapes and places, different people and their mores, diverse optics on life in general - all a wonderfully subtle and beguiling way of learning of other lands, their history and culture. Each artist, whether it was Turner, Monet, Van Gogh, Manet, Pissarro, Whistler, Renoir or Cezanne, passionately told of their experiences and convictions, beauties and visions.

Jospeh Mallord William Turner Margate Jetty, National Museum of Wales

Jospeh Mallord William Turner Margate Jetty, National Museum of Wales

People were smiling, obviously interested and learning, marvelling at different aspects of the art. In other words, the visit to the exhibition moved visitors, made them feel better and made their day special.

What a perfect prescription - go to see an art exhibition to make one feel energetic, inspired and even joyous!