Cultured Wednesday: Giancola’s Tolkien

“Look again. There’s a lot more to see.”

J.R.R. Tolkien appears to have viewed his sub-creation as a world that others can and probably should add to.

Surely plenty of artists have tried their hand on themes from The Professor’s stories: Names such as Alan Lee, John Howe and Ted Nasmith come to mind.  Today, we were introduced to another contemporary painter who appears to love Middle-Earth: Donato Giancola.  Here is an example of his art:

The Hobbit Donato Giancola

One of the things I like particularly about Giancola’s work is that the characters from Tolkien’s books do not look like the actors that portray them in Peter Jackson’s movies.  Precisely because they have all done a terrific job portraying all those wonderful Tolkien’ian characters, they have made it quite hard to sever one’s imagination from their faces and voices.  Mr. Giancola does not seem to have this problem and I am very thankful for it.  Look at this example of Gandalf and Frodo:

Frodo and Gandalf

Now, I am no expert, so don’t take my word for anything concerning art, ask John Howe!  Here’s what he says, quoted from Mr. Giancola’s website:

“There’s more to Donato Giancola’s art than just a pretty face. Underneath the incredibly meticulous surface of his paintings is concealed a love of perspective and form, an intimate understanding of the human body, a historian’s knowledge of costume and armour, an infallible sense of implicit narrative, visual storytelling and mythical history. It’s just that you’re so rapt gazing at all the mind-blowingly pretty bits that you tend to miss it. Look again. There’s a lot more to see.”

-John Howe, concept designer, artist, historian

One last example, this time not from Tolkien’s world but from the Magic: The Gathering game cards.  It is titled ‘Amber Prison”:



Cultured Wednesday: Cropsey’s Greenwood Lake

Frank Cropsey believed that nature was a direct manifestation of God, or so they say.

Jasper Francis Cropsey (18 February 1823 to 22 June 1900), apparently called ‘Frank’, was an American landscape artist and first-generation member of the Hudson River School, so you can expect amazing paintings of great detail.  But first and foremost, he was an architect, and if you take the time to study his paintings you will find that his landscapes speak of his love for well ordered, clear forms.

We chose his 1870 painting ‘Greenwood Lake‘ as our focus of attention for this post, an interstate lake straddling the border of New York and New Jersey and the place where Cropsey met his wife Maria Cooley some time after 1843.  Today, the painting as seen below is displayed at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in the Spanish capital of Madrid.  Incidentally, this one is by no means his only painting of Greenwood Lake, and not all are exhibited overseas: One of them can be admired at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., for example.  For a larger rendering, please click on the picture.

Jasper_Francis_Cropsey_-_Greenwood_Lake 1870
Greenwood Lake, 1870

In a way, it would have been nice to see the landscape around Greenwood Lake in the spring, but for someone famous for his lavish use of colors, fall surely is most attractive.  So enjoy this somewhat untimely scenery (unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere – for you it should be quite timely!), the beautiful view across Greenwood Lake, and the moment of quiet contentment the contemplation of a painting can afford.  Or imagine living in the fisherman’s hut along the lake shore as depicted below, and sitting on a bench next to your front door of an evening, enjoying a quiet sunset.

Fisherman’s House, Greenwood Lake (New Jersey), 1877

Here’s one little detail about Frank Cropsey’s life that caught our girls’ eye: He lies buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  I guess the fall landscape fits after all.

800px-Jasper_Francis_Cropsey_Monument_2010 sleepy hollow cemetery

The featured image shows a self-portrait Cropsey included in his ‘The Narrows from Staten Island‘ painting from 1868.


Cultured Wednesday: Steele’s Ohio River

In addition to painting, T. C. Steele contributed writings, public lectures, and hours of community service on art juries. He was also involved in organizing pioneering art associations, such as the Society of Western Artists.

This is a beautiful painting of the Ohio river viewed from Logan’s Point in Hanover, IN, where the Ohio forms the border between Indiana on the northern bank and Kentucky on the southern.  Featured is a photo of the spot.

The Ohio river (1892)

Theodore Clement Steele (11 September 1847 – 24 July 1926) was an American Impressionist painter known for his Indiana landscapes, one of the most famous of Indiana’s Hoosier Group painters.

From a genealogical standpoint, Steele’s family tree has an interesting twist in it that would mess up all the automated relationship-identifiers on online trees:  After his first wife Libby had died in 1899, Steele married again in 1907.  His new wife Selma was the older sister of his son-in-law Gustave, who had married Steele’s daughter Daisy two years prior.  Good luck with that on because his daughter thus became also his sister(-in-law), and to Daisy, Steele became both father and brother(-in-law).

Regardless, T.C. Steele, whom art experts consider the state’s best-known landscape artist, surely did a lot during his life to further the arts in Indiana, and we find his painting of the Ohio river simply delightful.  Makes you want to go and visit Logan’s Point, doesn’t it?

Cultured Wednesday: Wright’s Lure of the Mountain

Mountain men were most common in the North American Rocky Mountains from about 1810 through to the 1880s.

Mr. David Wright ranks among America’s premier artists, and his deep historical sensitivities are evident in his works.  We chose a painting that reminds us of the famous mountain men like John “Liver-Eating” JohnsonJim Bridger and the like.  Come with us to the West and feel the lure of the mountain.David-Wright-Lure-of-the-Mountain

David Wright is a contemporary artist.  If you are interested in knowing more, head over to his website at The Art of David Wright.

Cultured Wednesday: Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

The title for this painting comes from the refrain of a popular song “Ye Shepherds Tell Me” by Joseph Mazzinghi, a pastoral glee for a trio of male voices, which mentions Flora wearing “A wreath around her head, around her head she wore, / Carnation, lily, lily, rose”.

Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose 1885f.jpg
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885)

John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925), American expatriate artist and the “leading portrait painter of his generation”, painted the above portrait of two little girls lighting paper lanterns in the evening light in 1885.  From the beginning of his career as a painter, Sargent’s work was characterized by remarkable technical facility, particularly in his ability to draw with a brush.  His commissioned works were consistent with the grand manner of portraiture, while his informal studies and landscape paintings displayed a familiarity with Impressionism, they say.

The two subjects of the painting are the daughters of the illustrator Frederick Barnard, Dolly on the left, 11 years old at the time, and Polly on the right, seven years old.  They were chosen for their light hair, it seems.

We like this painting for its wonderful atmosphere.  Wouldn’t you want to be there with the two little ladies, lighting lanterns and enjoying the summer evening?  We surely would.  You can practically smell the roses and lilies!


Cultured Wednesday: Hopper’s Lighthouse at Two Lights

I am not a huge fan of Hopper’s, but this painting is hauntingly beautiful.

Edward Hopper‘s trademark is light that ‘illuminates but never warms’.  In The Lighthouse at Two Lights, a painting in which Hopper combined two of his favorite subjects, architecture and the sea, the light makes the structure appear both sturdy and inaccessible, almost as if the lighthouse was more part of the sea than of the land.  Although the sea cannot actually be seen, it dominates the atmosphere of the painting.  Fascinating.

the lighthouse at Two Lights.jpeg

Edward Hopper (born on 22 July 1882 in Upper Nyack, NY, died on 15 May 1967 in Manhatten, NY) was an American realist painter.  Both in his urban and rural scenes, his spare and finely calculated renderings reflected his personal vision of modern American life, so they say.

Cultured Wednesday: Kensett’s Lake George

Lake George was a favorite with the Hudson River School painters.

Another Luminist.  We just love them.  John Frederick Kensett’s Lake George, painted in 1869, presents a subtle counterpoint of land, water, and shimmering atmosphere.  Lovely, isn’t it?

Kensett Lake George

John Frederick Kensett, born 22 March 1816 in Cheshire, CT, was an American artist and engraver.  He painted primarily landscape paintings of New England and New York State.  His early work owns much to Thomas Cole, and obviously, he is part of the Hudson River School.  He was a founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the above painting on display today.  Kensett died on 14 December 1872 in New York City.

Cultured Wednesday: Inness’ June

Poetic quality is not obtained by eschewing any truths of fact or of Nature…  Poetry is the vision of reality.

Before June is all over, we would like to introduce you to George Inness and his painting titled June.

June George Inness
June by George Inness, created around 1882

George Inness is an interesting 19th century landscape painter, influenced by all the people whose paintings we like anyway (like the Hudson River School), who ended up developing an original and uniquely American style in his 40 years of painting.  He was born in Newburgh, NY in 1825 and died in Scotland in 1894, and in between, he painted 1,000 paintings and made quite the name for himself.

In an interview published in 1878, he said: “The true use of art is, first, to cultivate the artist’s own spiritual nature.”  His abiding interest in spiritual and emotional considerations (it continues in his Wiki entry) did not preclude Inness from undertaking a scientific study of color, nor a mathematical, structural approach to composition: “The poetic quality is not obtained by eschewing any truths of fact or of Nature…  Poetry is the vision of reality.”

Let me invite you to study the painting presented above with a statement like this in mind.  Poetry, and by extension all creative art in its best form, demonstrates the “reality of the unseen” and connects the “visible upon the invisible.”

Cultured Wednesday: Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas

Who do you trust more, the critics or your own eyes?

Now, don’t you go tell me you think that Mr Kinkade’s paintings are kitsch.  That’s just what the critics say, and who listens to them?  It’s easy to criticize, much easier than to paint, so I will simply disregard the opinion of the critics.  [Note: If you want to read what the critics have to say, you can go to the Wikipedia entry on Thomas Kinkade, and you will find plenty of it.  No need to repeat it here.]

Back in the 1980s in the Metro Detroit area, we saw Thomas Kinkade paintings prominently displayed in local art galleries, and everyone ooh-ed and aah-ed and was very much impressed.  Only later, when the artist marketed himself, cutting out the middle-man thereby, did the critics start their campaign.

Yes, the marketing machine that sprang up around his paintings might have made his art a bit too available, as seeing a painting printed on everything from bed sheets to pencil cases doesn’t help, but if you look at the paintings themselves, there is nothing kitschy there, only light in just the right places, and (in many cases) only places where you just want to be, period.

So today, on the first Wednesday of Advent, I am going to post a few of Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas paintings for you to enjoy and to get into the mood of this very special time of the year, these darkest weeks that lead up to the Winter Solstice, and the return of the light.

high country christmas
High Country Christmas
sunday evening sleigh ride
Sunday Evening Sleigh Ride
christmas gate
Christmas Gate
blessings of Christmas
Blessings of Christmas
Santas workshop
Santa’s Workshop

And here again to featured image:

kinkade puzzle
Victorian Christmas

Cultured Wednesday: Frederic Edwin Church

You really cannot portray the Hudson River School painters and leave out this gentleman, can you now?

You really cannot portray the Hudson River School painters and leave out this gentleman, can you now?  So today, we shall have a closer look at Frederic Edwin Church, who was a central figure in the Hudson River School and is best known for painting large landscapes of mountains, waterfalls and sunsets, as well as his rather interesting estate Olana which I won’t mention a whole lot because it would take a separate post to do it justice.  As with all the Hudson River School painters, Church put an emphasis on realistic detail, dramatic light, and panoramic views, which is just what we like.

Before we continue with some biographic notes on Church, we want to mention a somewhat personal relation with this particular painter because in a way, our families are connected:  One of our 12th great-grandfathers, William Andrews by name, was among the founders of Hartford, CT.  He came with Thomas Hooker, who led the original journey through the wilderness from Massachusetts to what would later become Hartford, and so did Richard Church, one of Frederic Edwin Church’s direct ancestors.  It stands to reason, therefore, that we put his depiction of said journey first:

Hooker and Company Journeying through the Wilderness from Plymouth to Hartford in 1636. 1846

Frederic Edwin Church was born almost 200 years after that journey on May 4, 1826 in Hartford, CT, into a wealthy family.  Early on he was introduced to Thomas Cole and became his student, travelling a lot during that time.  Thomas Cole praised him for having “the finest eye for drawing in the world”.  By the mid-19th century, Church had settled in New York, where he raised his family before they all moved to Greenport, NY, into what is today the Olana State Historic Site, an eclectic villa which overlooks parkland and a working farm designed by the artist.  Like his wife barely a year before him, he died in New York City on April 7, 1900, and they are both buried in the family plot at Spring Grove Cemetery, Hartford, CT.

Here is another one of Church’s New England scenes.  It’s not an actual landscape he depicts in it, but what is called a “composite landscape” because he used sketches from various locations for this one.

New England Scenery 1851
New England Scenery (1851)

Here is one more from the northern parts of the country:

Niagara, 1857
Niagara (1857)

As you can probably tell already, Church liked majestic nature, the mountains, the waterfalls, and also icebergs.  The broken mast at the bottom of the painting should not be overlooked as it highlights man’s frailty in the face of nature’s grandeur.

Church's The Icebergs 1861
The Icebergs (1861)

Church had a special liking for skies.  Here is a particularly impressive example of how he combined minute details (the foliage) with the grandeur of the vast wilderness the pioneers faced on their journey ever further west (the perspective focusing on the sunset behind the mountain range), and the big skies they would have witnessed (self-evident).

Twilight in the Wilderness (1860)

Church’s paintings, they say, were more confident and on a grander scale than those of his contemporaries.  They “uniquely captured the spirit of an optimistic American people” who associated the landscape of the New World with their own Promised Land in the west.  I think that sums it up pretty nicely.

Here once more the featured image in all its beauty.

Cross in the Wilderness (1857)
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