Other Treasures from D.C.
I wrote a post a little while ago about my early November trip to see the Sargent and Spain show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. I shared a bunch of images, but only of Sargent. So I figured I'd share some other goodies here (and maybe one more Sargent..)
The photos are all captioned with where and what they are. The Vermeers were stunning, the Zorn was great and I'm always a big fan of Cecilia Beaux. Definitely check out these works if you're in D.C. And I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving if I don't write in the meantime.
I was recently in need of a paint box and decided to go with a vintage Jullian box. The box was constructed back when the company still was made in France so I knew the quality would be great. And as an added bonus, it came with the original solid wood palette, which is another rarity these days.
I've been collecting and using vintage supplies for a long time now and the quality of these items never ceases to impress me. It's sad that the majority of artist's tools (and pretty much everything) made nowadays is disposable. I bought a new Jullian Rexy watercolor easel a while ago and the quality is terrible; the wood is cheap and it doesn't even fit into the carrying case properly. It's clear to me that the quality between the old Jullian easels and the new ones is night and day.
I know that I'm fighting against the modern tide, but using these quality tools bring me joy. And it's not just painting, but everything involved with general day-to-day living. Even the way we communicate with one another is low-quality. It's hard to describe the feeling, but I'm often left with a hollow feeling when my friends text me instead of calling me or writing me a letter. And I have this same hollow feeling when I use cheap quality materials to create my paintings. However, I see glimmers of a resurgence in handmade items and I'll keep doing my best to promote quality craftsmanship. In the meantime, I'll keep buying vintage.
I paint en plein air all year round, but it's definitely tougher when I feel the air getting colder as we approach winter. Cold weather and watercolor don't mix because it doesn't dry on the paper and it also freezes on the palette.
I started today by painting a beautiful grave monument at Valleau. My other painting is of a salt storage area; I pass by the structure a lot and always think it would be cool to paint. The huge mound of salt looks like a mini dessert. There were some guys working at the salt storage and they came over to see my painting; it's always fun to talk to people while I'm en plein air.
I returned today from a 3 day adventure to Washington, D.C. with my friend, Mr. Asem Ahmed. We had a fantastic time, great food, night life and of course - Sargent! The pilgrimage that we made was to see the exhibition: Sargent and Spain.
My friends and students know how I feel about Sargent; I believe he's one of the greatest painters of all time. This exhibition runs until January and I highly recommend seeing it. Asem and I saw it 3 times over 3 days and I wish I could go back for more. The first day that we saw it, we arrived with 20 minutes before the museum closed so we ran through the exhibition, which was sort of like being a kid and running through Willy Wonka's factory without getting to taste anything.
I took some photos along with many detail shots to share, but photographing these works struck a wrong chord, taking away from the beauty that must be seen in person. Regardless, I hope fellow painters can glean some information about his paintings from these photos. The texture of the paper, canvas, paint and brushwork comes through in the detail shots.
What I love about Sargent is that he was a swiss army knife style artist, painting portraits, figures, landscapes, still lifes in oil and watercolor. Underpinning these energetic paintings is the careful eye of an experienced draftsman; many of his watercolors show an architectural-style layout (almost a blueprint) beneath the paint surface.
The NGA has other great Sargents in their permanent collection (see below) and it has an all-around solid collection. However, I wasn't thrilled when we tried to see the Vermeer collection and encountered a "virtual line", which required a smart phone in order to access it but c'est la vie..
A few things that left an impression on me: Sargent painted many works on a large-scale with their own sense of magnitude. He used a range of paint textures from thin and washy to very thick impasto, but always with a deliberate sensitivity. He really had complete control over his media and most importantly: he wasn't afraid.
I also picked up the exhibition catalogue, but haven't had the chance to review it fully. The whole trip was like a beautiful dream and I want to do some larger works now after seeing Sargent's work; even Sargent's watercolors were larger than I expected! I must grab my own brushes and get back to work.
Other Sargent works at the National Gallery