I’ve spent quite some time in the virtual company of these artists, when I was reading their diaries or letters or biographies and studying their paintings. So this latest work, which I have called “Best Companions” is a painting I simply had to make to express my appreciation.
Oil on fine linen, 90 cm x 60 cm, 2018
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo are, I believe, a must read for every painter. Vincent van Gogh’s sister-in-law Johanna van Gogh-Bonger obviously took great pains to collect them all and she herself published them in 1914. Depicted here are these original publications. The letters have now been translated into English and they form the core of an impressive six volume work that was published by the Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum from 2009 onward.
One of the greatest of the painting artists which our world has ever had the pleasure of welcoming onto its surface, Eugène Delacroix has left us much more than only the oil-on-canvas masterpieces which are now in the Louvre and the other great museums in the world. In fact, I would say that his highly readable Journal is a masterpiece in its own right, and another must read for artists regardless of métier or medium.
This journal, as well as Vincent’s letters, convey profound messages about what their art is about. What we can learn from these books –about irresistible motivation to create certain art works, and about struggling with rejection– far surpasses that which can be taught in art schools.
The dark brown coloured book is a catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition “Chardin” in the year 2000, containing various articles and introduced by art historian and former director of the Musée du Louvre, the Chardin expert Pierre Rosenberg.
I think that most if not all who work in our chosen profession of Still Life painting, know of the works of Jean-Siméon Chardin, and their timeless beauty and appeal. I would encourage anyone to find a museum which displays (one of) his paintings, and have a long look. The Scots are especially fortunate in this regards, as the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow has two marvellous works by Chardin, and the admission is free.
The Glasgow Boys
This is the definitive book on the Glasgow Boys. It was written by Roger Billcliffe, who owns his renowned Art Gallery on Blythswood Street, just off Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow, and who is also publishing some authoritative books on Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
The Glasgow Boys are a group of young painters from the latter part of the 19th century. Most of them were based in Glasgow and they eventually went on the become recognised internationally for their realism and en-plein-air landscape painting.
Among them were James Guthrie, John Lavery, Arthur Melville, George Henry, and E. A. Hornel (whose studio in Kirkcudbright is still open for visitors).
I think that I am just as much influenced by the Glasgow Boys as by Chardin, and it is a particular pleasure to me that I am currently living in Scotland again, and able to simply walk in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum whenever I am in Glasgow, and walk up to their paintings.
David Hockney is the only contemporary artist in this painting. The book here is Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters which describes how Hockney believes that the progress which old master painters have made is in part due to their use of optical instruments, such as the camera obscura, which many now believe that Johannes Vermeer has used.
The theory is disputed by various scientists, but such is only to be expected and not of any concern. I cherish the belief that the works of people such as Hockney will endure, but that most ‘scientific’ opinions about those artists will be quickly forgotten.
Jackie Wullschlager opened my eyes to Marc Chagall. An amazing life. I was duly impressed by his stained-glass windows in the Cathedral of Reims, but the occasion his works really touched me was –apart from reading this book– when I attended the opening of an exhibition with original lithographs of his Drawings for the Bible in a synagogue in Osnabrück.
I don’t think that his style of painting has had an impression on my own work, but his life certainly has on me.
The book on Henri Fantin-Latour was published in 1982 by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux. Fantin-Latour, maybe not so well-known outside the circles of artists and art historians, was a masterful painter of floral still life’s, which is, obviously, why I became interested in his work.
Later I discovered that he also became known for the large group portraits of contemporary artists. So it seems fitting that he, too, should feature in this painting, which is, after all also a kind of a group portrait, albeit of the legacies of some of non-contemporary artists.
The City of Glasgow
I am thrilled that this ‘homage’ to the painters who most inspired me has been entered in the an exhibition in Roger Billcliffe’s Gallery of Fine Art. I would love for it to find a permanent home in Glasgow.