The Bridge

On the glassy surface of the water float lilies, those extraordinary aquatic plants whose large leaves spread wide and whose exotic blossoms are curiously unsettling.
– Maurice Guillemot

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1903; Faience Wall Tiles; Fractured Blond by Ken Holden, 2008
Handmade items to buy: Studs by Juliane Blank; Scarf by Hartig Originals; Scarf by Kitten Whiskers Knits; Monet Bag by Marilynn; Vase by Art Seymour; Tote by Marieke Jacobs; Napkin by Rasa; Mug by Becca Grogan

When Maurice Guillemot came to visit Monet’s home in Giverny in August 1897, he spent the morning in his floating studio on the Seine and the afternoon relaxing near the water lily pond. His remark that the “colors are fluid, with marvelous nuances, ephemeral as a dream” articulates Monet’s interest in painting the same landscape elements multiple times. His brushwork floated between the tangible and evanescent, the morning mist or play of light that seems too fleeting to be real. In a broader context, his work floats between the Impressionist occupation with the observable landscape and the move towards abstraction.

Claude Monet, Morning on the Seine, Giverny, 1897; Eventide by Michael Abrams; Obstructed View (Boulderstone) by Axel Antas;
Handmade items to buy: Wide Open Spaces by Tara Sinclair; Nunofelt Scarf by Pure Silk; Scarf by Klara; Back to You by Blue Algae; Scarf by Ksavera; Ghosts of Yellowstone by Victor; Landscape by Amy Theiss Giese; Scarf by Ayelet Iontef

Guillemot’s comment on the mutability of Monet’s world is, oddly enough, fitting for these faience wall tiles that date back to the third millennium B.C. What could be more different than morning mist and material kept in a pyramid for thousands of years? And yet the tiles could be little snapshots of Monet’s paintings. Both have a nuanced surface of green, blue, and specks of white. Faience was made by applying glazes to crushed quartz, a complex process of layering much like Monet’s own brushwork. The funerary apartments these tiles inhabited lay between this world and the afterlife – a bridge, so to speak.

Sunshine Coolin’

We hate using umbrellas for practical purposes, like rain or sun protection. Why not explore these other, more useless, options?

• Alfred Lombard’s Marthe et Pauline à la Terrasse looks like a rainbow of colorful popsicles melting under the summer heat. The brushstrokes give the impression of looking through a haze and seeing the patterns of their clothing loosen up under the golden sunlight. These women are made of color, not flesh. Why isn’t Lombard more well-known? Marthe and Pauline are the worthy sisters of Matisse’s Woman with a Hat. Lombard exhibited this work in 1910, five years after the Fauves had caused their scandal. He must have seen that exhibition; look at how Pauline’s hat approaches abstraction just as Madame Matisse’s? Cubism was the new rage in 1910, and Lombard may have just missed the boat.

• In the Portuguese town of Agueda, Umbrella Sky was a Marry Poppins dream come true. The colorful umbrellas caught the sun in mid-air, floating above a street like a canopy of stained glass.

• Luke Jerram’s Just Sometimes floated one thousand umbrellas upside down in the waterways of Rotterdam. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone started spontaneously whistling the tune of Singin’ in the Rain.

• Takekasa has a wide array of exquisite parasols. Her Red Parasol has silk strings wrapped around the bamboo spokes. Her Yellow Parasol has a golden center and stripes of brown, peach, and pale blue along the outer edge.

• This iPhone Case by Sew Posh Designs is padded with a pattern of colorful parasols.

• Jordani Sarreal’s Travel Pouch keeps all of your essentials together for, perhaps, a trip to Japan.

• Allison Patrick’s Pendant Light is made from interlocking cocktail umbrellas that create a watercolor glow.

• Nichole’s Paris Graffiti prints capture corners of the city hiding bits of wit and whimsy.

• Claudia’s Parasol is hand painted with pink, green, and orange swirls, allowing the brushwork to show through. It would fit perfectly in Lombard’s painting.

• Marabara’s Bag is made of deep red canvas with a graphic pattern of white parasols.

Luxury Goods

The Met’s Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit is a feast of paintings and fashion we wouldn’t miss. Here is a small selection of taupey items inspired by one of Monet’s portraits on view.

• Claude Monet’s Madame Louis Joachim Gaudibert is really about how her Indian paisley shawl wraps around her gray silk faille day dress. Monet deliberately focuses on the pattern and texture of clothing to avoid the convention of the face in portraiture as a “window into the soul.” This is a moment in 1868, and that shawl would soon fall out of fashion. Monet’s efforts to systematically eliminate narrative content in favor of the everyday and ephemeral carried on into his later work. The silk folds trail off the edge of the canvas, just as his water lilies knew no boundaries.

• Sara Byrne’s Portraits are multiple exposure photographs that fill up the face with clouds, fir trees, roses, and other impressions from nature.

• Pani Jurek’s Test Tube Chandelier is a Duchampian mix of nature and science which allows you to experiment with different plant configurations.

• Kim’s Cuff is made of solid brass etched with flowers and painted with a royal palette of red and blue.

• The Isabeau Necklace by the Snowshoe Rabbit suspends an antique skeleton key, wrapped with pearls, from a handwoven cord dotted with sterling silver beads.

• Diane Flanagan’s Antique Brass depicts the rich patina of a pot in a manner reminiscent of Chardin’s quiet still-lifes.

• Mikel Grant’s Cuff is made of oxidized brass with a rippling, feathery pattern.

• Aklia Chinn’s Asyk Pendant is a kind of necklace traditionally given to Turkmen women for good luck.

• Tammy Ward’s Flower has petals made of chocolatey-taupe silk.

• This Pillow has a stylized floral pattern in pumpkin, gray, and cream.

• Anna’s Favy Necklace suspends a brass pendant, inspired by the cellular structure of plants, from a sterling silver chain.

Small Dancer

• When Degas debuted his Small Dancer Aged Fourteen at the Impressionist Exhibition of 1881, the sculpture caused a small scandal. Critics were appalled by the exactitude of her expression. She looks self-absorbed and does not invite or inspire the viewer’s attention. Degas had bought the tutu and attached it to the bronze sculpture, thereby putting an industrially produced object onto a material associated with high art and monumental tributes to generals. She is too real, too close to what a dancer in deep concentration looks like. We don’t get a performance. Paradoxically, critics accused her of not being human, but Degas continued to depict dancers and entertainers in their most human moments.

• Valentino’s Resort 2013 Collection combined delicate lace and delicious pastels, like this bananas-and-cream yellow.

• Sarah’s Hair Clip has ivory petals, velvet leaves, and a crystal snowflake at the center.

• Mirela’s Champagne Gold Tutu is made from of layers of champagne tulle and finished with a pale yellow sash.

• Eleonora’s Gold Flats are hand-made from soft, Italian leather and shimmer ever so slightly.

Water Without Horizon

• For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life – the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value. Claude Monet

• Renate’s Freeform Crochet Handbag was inspired by the deep waters of the Sunshine coast in Australia.

• Lecrochet’s Cyan Crochet Dress looks more like the cross-section of a mineral than intricate knit ware.

• Lynn’s Silky Blue Green Scarf is handwoven with a lustrous finish that mimics rippling water hit by the sun.

• Nancy Heikkila’s Monet Scarf draws from the artist’s landscape paintings.

• Jessi’s Stud Earrings feature a vivid blue apatite set in yellow gold.

• Laura’s Italian Made Custom Shoes are hand painted in shades of turquoise, teal and green.

Girl With A Fan

There is something a little too nice about Renoir. No violence, no politics, no poverty, just Impressionism in its most gentle, sugary-sweet interpretation. His work was once shocking because he dared to represent reality with a few dabs of paint. The hazy brushstrokes captured moments that looked like they were never fully-formed to begin with. Once he had found his style, he didn’t continue to push the envelope, and it paid off, in a sense. His paintings sold well and he lived to see them exhibited in national museums around the world. He painted portraits of well-to-do families, giving him a reputation and an income. Was he a sell-out? Perhaps, considering that the more experimental painters of the day are now worth more. Renoir was radical in the sense that he painted the surface of everyday bourgeois life. Girl with a Fan (1879) is just a rich girl with nice jewelry, flowers, and an oriental fan.

• Pillow Cover by Arianna
• Classic Round Gold Earrings by Mariam-Kanoku
• Necklace by Jeanie Schlegel
• Crocheted bracelet by Desislava Dimitrova

Dream of a Curious Man

• Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863
Choker by Aster Sandler
Coral Ring by Betsy Bensen
Cuff Bracelet by Marva and Anette

I was like a child eager for the play, 
Hating the curtain as one hates an obstacle…
Finally the cold truth revealed itself:
I had died and was not surprised; the awful dawn 
Enveloped me. — What! is that all there is to it? 
The curtain had risen and I was still waiting.

Charles Baudelaire, The Dream of a Curious Man from Fleurs du Mal

Manet took us backstage. He lifted the curtain that stood between a painting and how it was made, so that the backstage area was open for all to see. When he submitted Olympia to the Salon of 1865, the painting caused a national scandal. Manet denied the depth, shading and modeling of paint that transformed flat images into fantasies. What shocked critics the most was that the woman was obviously a prostitute, looking and judging the viewer with a direct gaze. It was uncomfortable. Manet had revealed three truths about painting. One, it was an illusion. Two, the men who gazed at vapid Venuses in the Salons also paid to see prostitutes. Three, painting, like prostitution, is a business rather than detached experience.

• Édouard Manet, Moss Roses in a Vase, 1882
Sea Glass and Silver Necklace by Shelley Weber
Custom Wedding Shoes by Kate Friedman
Lace Top by Stacy Leigh

Moss Roses in a Vase did not cause a scandal, but it distills Manet’s achievement of lifting the curtain on traditional painting. The stems and leaves submerged in the vase are just as prominent as the bouquet on top. The flowers have no ornate vase to hide behind. As Baudelaire’s curious man asks in his dream, “What! is that all there is to it?”

Impressionist Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, through September 23rd

Revive and Reinvent

Degas’ bathers were revolutionary in their stylistic and conceptual approach to the female form, following a long tradition of nudes in Western art history. Degas strips them of the recognizable characteristics of sensuality, which are even more glaring in their absence, because the women do not seek invite the viewers attention and are not surrounded by props that enhance their seductive qualities. Instead, Degas chooses to depict bathing as an ordinary activity, where the viewer is “looking through the keyhole.” Ironically, he was often accused of misogyny because he didn’t give women the sex appeal they were used to. Although his bathers exhibit a highly personal style and an innovative compositional sense, Degas took his inspiration from a wide variety of sources, including the realistic lines of Ingres, japanese woodblock prints, and the emerging art of photography.

Suzuki Kiitsu’s gilded folding screen comes from the Rinpa school tradition that emerged during Edo Japan, seeking to revive the traditional painting style of earlier times. Many Rinpa artists were also involved in the textile industry, so their work has a highly decorative quality that could be applied to an emerging mass market. The Rinpa school was never closely united and continued to extend to the 19th century, when Kiitsu developed an even more stylized approach.

Take me to the River

Caillebotte eventually gave up painting entirely to pursue his passion for boating, but, for a time, the two merged to create a unique world of innovative color and ambiguous perspective. His family owned property in the Yerres region, where the river provided a setting for socializing and the development of boating as a popular pastime. Boating was actually one of the traditions that the French adopted from the English during a time when Anglomania was sweeping across France.
An essay about Callebotte’s oarsmen: >>>

Sumac Walking Stick • Hotei by Mokuan Reien • Three Lizards Walking Stick

Mokuan Reien is one of the most respected early Zen painters, and his work is distinct in both style and subject matter compared to later Zen works. He was trained near Kamakura, the capital that had the support of the shogunate, and he traveled through China for more than twenty years. Unlike other painters who were influenced by Chinese texts and paintings that hung on the walls of the monasteries, Mokuan was invariably immersed in Chan belief and culture, and, as a result, transmitted this influence through his work. In his Hotei paintings, he depicts the Chinese monk of the tenth century who gained legendary status after his death and became a popular subject for Zen painters. Mokuan is often associated with the Chinese painter Muqi because of their strikingly similar painting style: dry brushstrokes counterbalanced with a few strong ink lines that echo Southern Song “apparition painting.”

Zen Stone Earrings • Hotei by Fūgai • Oval Moon Loops-Stone

Fūgai, a Zen painter who lived during the early Edo period, represents a different lifestyle and approach to painting. Instead of traveling through China, Fūgai spent most of his life wandering around the Japanese countryside, and spent many years living in a cave near a remote village. He did not display his paintings on the walls of temples, but left them outside his cave for villagers to take in exchange for rice. His Hotei Wading a Stream still depicts the same strong outline of Mokuan’s stick, but the rest of the brushstrokes are clearly meant to be seen as marks of ink. Fūgai displays these marks as though they are solely responsible for conveying his message, and offers a view into his own visualization, while Mokuan relies on the conviction of past masters to legitimize his work.



In honor of the 100th entry, I’m offering a prize to one person who comments on this entry, chosen at random. The prize is the Starter Kit from Adagio Teas that includes a teapot and four tea samples. You can view it here
Please post by Friday, March 20th at midnight EST.

In Luncheon of the Boating Party, Renoir’s circle of friends sit on the balcony of the riverside restaurant Fournaise, where many boaters, writers, models, and art enthusiasts gathered in the summer. The group looks so homogenous that it’s hard to discern the different classes and occupations, from the proprietor, Alphonse Fournaise, to Gustave Caillebotte, who both wear the straw hats and white shirts attributed to boaters. Caillebotte was not only a well-known painter in his own right but an avid boater as well. Ironically, Renoir creates the tigh-knit and festive atmosphere by giving each member a different line of vision, and as individuals they seem to be absorbed in their own thoughts.
Identification of each member of the party: >>>

Caillebotte presents a different kind of occasion in Luncheon, where his mother and brother René dine in silence, attended by their butler. The Caillebotte family was well-off, but, at this point, had to sort out their finances after the death of Gustave’s father. René was particularly good at reckless spending. Caillebotte always creates an unusual perspective that makes the viewer’s involvement ambiguous, and, here, the plate in the foreground suggests that he himself sits at the table. Callebotte’s paintings seem to grow out of that play in perspective, making it hard to judge whether family tensions are involved in Luncheon. The colors may not be as bright and flashy as Renoir’s, but the dynamics and perspective are no less innovative.

Bazille and Camille is a study for Monet’s Luncheon on the Grass, which was less successful than its provocative counterpart and was left unfinished. The study, on the other hand, could be a painting on its own, as Monet’s brushwork and composition bears none of the stiffness that characterizes his intended product.