Howdy! On a visit to the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, last month, I “rediscovered” an Italian artist named Sebastiano Ricci. Inspiring and intimidating other artists can be and I know that I must learn how to work faster. I cannot keep up with my brain! I have so many ideas in my head about art and mathematics in composition that I seem to be finding more and more examples of thoughtfully designed shapes, especially with the figure. Seek and ye shall find . . . an idea as old as mankind.
125.3 cm x 153.7 cm (49 5/16 in. x 60 1/2 in.)
Oil on canvas, circa 1712-1716
Part of the Suida-Manning Collection
In Ricci's “Flora” (shown here) I noticed that the angelic figures in the painting surrounded the main figure of the woman in a circular pattern, the positions of their bodies and limbs leading the eye around her and thereby emphasizing her as the subject of the painting. The sign at the Blanton explained what is going on:
"In Ovid's Fasti, the nymph Chloris is seduced by the West Wind, Zephirus, and renamed Flora, goddess of flowers and spring. An important Roman deity, she was associated with voluptuousness. This painting renders the moment before her seduction: as Flora flirts with one putto and suggestively grasps the stem of an iris, Zephirus approaches from behind, indicating his quarry and cautioning silence to another putto. At the right, a vessel spills over with blossoms that portend the result of their union and celebrate their namesake. The design is so equilibrated, the rhythm so elegant, and the handling so rich that a quotation from antique statuary -- the Kneeling Venus -- appears seamless. The painting recalls the great mythological works of sixteenth-century Venice."
Another oil painting that I really enjoy on a much simpler arrangement of shapes is “Venus and Cupid” painted by Ricci in 1700. I like the giant sweeping “S” curve of the gesture of Venus, especially that long and slow-curving leg. It makes me want to ride a sled over snow! And I like the lighting with just enough shadow shapes to keep me interested. But one of my favorite parts is how seemingly natural the “modesty device” comes across -- that lovely white bird whose wing tones are light enough to do the job while the interaction between the two doves hardly makes you notice the function of the one.
If you would like to see more of Sebastiano Ricci’s paintings and read more about attributing art to dead artists, please read my my latest art newsletter
For a while now, I have been working almost every morning and again in the evenings for as many hours as I can stand to be outdoors on my marble sculpture “Gymnast.”. While I have written about various parts of my progress, I have been working here and there on other parts as well, such as her hair, her hands, and refining that difficult-to-reach inner area between her piked torso and legs. My students and colleagues have often heard me say that we tend to draw, paint, or sculpt ourselves. This is not a bad thing, in my view, it is simply part of our individuality. We see the faces and shapes of our family members more than anyone else’s. I suspect these shapes are imprinted into our memories before we even become aware of such things.
I have been fighting this a bit in my marble carving. She keeps having a short torso and she’s got some pretty ambitious hips for the size of the rest of her figure. So, while I work the rest of the composition, I am still trying to carve away the abdomen area and shape the forms there.
Unfortunately, I now have cat-sitting duty away from my studio and while I will take some art with me, I will be using this other home to withdraw a bit and focus on finishing the book I am writing on my life as a streetpainter in Florence, Italy.
So, I am taking a holiday from this blog for the next two weeks or so. I hope you get to swim in an ocean, sea, or river and enjoy this summer heat. I am looking forward to doing that next summer, but for now, I have too much work to do!
Take care and do not give up on me -- I will finish this stone carving in 2011 before I go back to Italy!