Impressionism began in France in the mid 1800s. The Impressionists were not very popular because they had a different approach to painting. At this time, many artists painted in a very traditional way that involved spending hours in a studio, painstakingly creating detailed paintings. These paintings were sometimes of people, landscapes, or historical events. The Impressionists however often painted out of doors and wanted to show the immediate effect of light and colour at particular times of the day. Their works are sometimes described as 'captured moments' and are characterized by short quick brushstrokes of colour which, when viewed up close looks quite messy and unreal. If you step back from an Impressionist painting, however, the colours are blended together by our eyes, and we you able to see the painter's subject which often showed colourful landscapes, sunlight on water as well as people engaged in outdoor activities and enjoyment. Paintings by Impressionist artists have become some of the most popular artworks of all time. This is probably because their subjects were usually pleasing and uncomplicated. For the purpose of this essay, I shall compare and contrast three artists who have been inspired by and whose works are based on the natural environment.
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The first artist I looked at was George Leslie Hunter (7 August 1877 - 6 December 1931) he was born inÂ RothesayÂ on theÂ Isle of Bute. His family emigrated to CaliforniaÂ when he was 13. His early work was destroyed in theÂ 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and he returned to Scotland shortly afterwards, living in Glasgow. He held his first one-man exhibition at the Reid GalleryÂ in Glasgow in 1916. During the 1920s, he became part of a group of artists who came to be known as the Scottish Colourists. All were influenced, by the purity, bright colour and brushwork technique of the French Impressionists, Hunter is best known for scenes painted inÂ FifeÂ and in the South of France. He died in Glasgow in 1931. He belonged to the Impressionism movement.
In 1930 Hunter painted "Reflections, Balloch", it was painted in oils. The work is quite bright and representative of the subject, it looks rather like a photo or postcard. The painting is light and colourful, with a lot of detail; the boats are well painted and there is definitely a lot more detail gone into painting the water and that does show in the painting with the reflection seeming far more important. It has a light feel to it. The trees frame the houses and add depth to the painting. He painted the water in a very rich way so it looks shiny and reflective but deep and cold at the same time.
The composition of the painting is very orderly with the background mostly taken up by the houses and trees, the middle ground a strong presence of the boats and the foreground is filled by the water, with the reflections of the boats and trees shimmering on the top of the glistening water. The colours are mostly primary with white being prominent as it is used to describe the light reflecting on the surface of the water. There is a distinct line between the land and water, the riverbank and boats being a strong divide. There is a patchwork feel to the colours, which shows in the texture of the brushstrokes. There is an older style feel to the subjects, as the houses and boats are period, but the painting could have been painted today as it has freshness. The water appears to be thinning towards the edge of the painting as Hunter is trying to show the light reflecting, but the strong presence of the boats and houses make me feel that these were his main aim, yet I feel not as much attention was given to the painting of them, the buildings and boats do not include such fine detail. The trees are very detailed and have a strong presence.
The second artist to look at was Claude Monet (1840 - 1926)Â Â he was born in Paris, but raised on the Normandy coast. He began his art career as a caricaturist. In 1858, painter, Eugene Boudin, introduced Monet to landscape. In 1873,Â MonetÂ set up a floating studio on the Seine and began to paint landscapes in the Impressionist style. Monet's family lived in LeHavre near the sea in Northern France where he spent a lot of time painting out-of-doors scenes. About 1890, he began to paint pictures in series, showing the same subject under various conditions of light and atmosphere. He bought a house at Giverney and for approx 40 yrs; he worked on pictures of his water garden.
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Claude Monet's work "Sunset on the Seine, winter 1880" which was painted in oils, is a delicate painting that is full of colour, the light seems to be the artists main focus as the main part of the painting seems to be the reflections, It seems to be painted with just a couple of colours that vary in depth. The sky also has a vibrant orange and red glow to it making it look like it is a scene from an Australian bush fire more than a sunset on the river Seine. There is not much of a difference between the sky and the water it can only be distinguished by the ripples and small waves painted on the water top.There are some bushes seen either side of the picture, they lead your eyes into the painting and you can see fishermen on boats in minute detail. The colours are one of the strengths of this painting, heightened by the texture of the paint, which is rough like sandpaper. The two bushes either side of the painting are in the foreground, with the boats in the middle, and a vague outline of the shore in the background. There are hidden in the sunset some more mottled tones that appear to be trees and bushes in the distance. The main subject of the painting is the sunset and its reflection on the water.
My final artist to research was Winslow Homer an American artist, 1836-1910 he was a realist painter, and painted confrontations between humans and nature. Homer was an illustrator for magazines such as Harper's Weekly. During the Civil War, he visited the front as an illustrator and documented military camp life. After the war he studied painting in New York and Paris. In the 1870s and 1880s, Homer started painting rural scenes and worked in both oil and watercolour. He travelled a lot and painted in Canada, Bermuda, Florida, and the Caribbean.
Winslow Homer painted "Deer Drinking" in 1892, It was in watercolours. It is a painting of a Deer drinking from a stream, the deer is looking at its reflection and is laying across a tree, the reflection is so good that it is hard to see which is real, the deer or the reflection It sort of looks like in this painting the deer is kissing itself through the water or it is like two deer stuck together, one on land one under the water. It has a much darker background with the forest behind, but the light and water is where you want to look mostly. The colours used are very earthy, giving you a great sense of the forest. The body of the deer is captured with the lighter colours giving you a sense of sunshine landing on it. The texture of the water is captured by his heavy brushwork, with a lot of movement seen in the use of white implying light, as it makes you feel the water is moving with the deer's drinking. The deer in the foreground of the painting takes up most of the canvas, the log he rests on leads your eye towards the forest in the background.
I think the three paintings are very different, each one looking at a different part of the natural environment, Hunters painting Reflections, Balloch is showing a modern picture of houses and boats, man living and doing things in the environment. Claude Monet's work "Sunset on the Seine, winter 1880" seems more as if he is trying to capture something from the past, memories of life that was, it has an atmosphere that is moody, warm, reflective, of an environment that had gone. Winslow Homer's painting "Deer Drinking" seemed far more real, a lot more natural for an interpretation of the natural environment it also seemed a lot more creative and far more easier and nicer to look at.
My personal opinion of the first painting by George Leslie Hunter is that it is a really pretty rural scene of a river boat going along a very reflective well painted river. The reflections in the river are very good especially of the trees overall, I like this painting a lot. The painting "Sunset on the Seine" by Claude Monet this is also a water scene but the sky stands out far more then the water for me. In this painting, I really like the warm glow. Its marvellous rich fiery colours are a feast for the eye and great to look at overall. I also really liked this painting. The third painting "Deer Drinking" by Homer Winslow has amazing detail and beautiful range and tone of colours making it look more like a photograph instead of a painting and for this I also really like this painting.
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Although I think, the three paintings are very different, all these artists were interested in capturing nature in the moment, and did by bringing painting - traditionally an indoor activity - outdoors where they could observe their subject directly. By using various methods used in impressionists style, loose brushwork and suggestive lines, opposing colours and tonal values, sometimes a suggestion of form as opposed to an illustrated approach, they have all captured a moment, that might have gone unnoticed, for the viewer to enjoy for many years to come.
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