Tag Archives: houses

Georgia O’Keeffe – Morning Sky with Houses

5 Oct

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”

(Georgia O’Keeffe)

Georgia O’Keeffe, Morning Sky with Houses, 1916, watercolour and graphite on paper 22.5 x 30.4 cm

From time to time I enjoy feasting my eyes on the art of the American painter Georgia O’Keeffe. The paintings or large, closely-cropped flowers and plants are surely some of the most popular artworks that O’Keeffe has created, but my personal favourites are, of course, her watercolours which are always painted in a vibrant and free-spirited manner and have that lyrical playfulness and simplicity which keep luring me back to gaze at them some more. O’Keefe decided to become an artist at the age of ten and she, along with two of her sisters, took art lessons from a watercolour artist Sara Mann. It is no surprise then that O’Keeffe kept coming back to this versatile medium all throughout her life and career. “Morning Sky with Houses” was painted in 1916 when O’Keeffe was eighteen or nineteen years old. O’Keeffe opposed painting directly from nature in a realistic manner and preferred to paint in a style that always borders with abstraction. In her own words: “Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.”

This watercolour shows the way Georgia implemented her art philosophy in the creation of her art. The watercolour shows a simple scene; two houses, meadow and sky in the morning, but all the elements in the scene are more suggested than strictly defined. We know these are houses by their contours alone and we assume the space under them is a meadow or a garden, but on paper everything is a playful harmony of different shades of purple, burgundy,blue, yellow and orange; a proper autumnal colour palette perftctly fitting for this time of the year. I love the white space between the roofs of the houses and the sky. The only other details in this almost-abstract watercolour are the fence on the left and a smoke coming out of the chimney on the house on the right. And yet, devoid of all details, this watercolour doesn’t cease to be less interesting, quite the opposite, it excites the eyes beyond belief. Exluding the details, O’Keeffe only gives more power to the colour and this is something beautiful. The colours of this painting are, in my view, a perfect way to start October on the blog!

Charles Burchfield: Catalogue of Tattered Dreams

5 Jul

“Burchfield’s paintings in the years between the wars are a catalogue of tattered dreams: abandoned towns with their false-fronted ramshackle facades, sitting on the edge of vast prairies, decrepit Victorian rowhouses, resembling tooth-less old women, the barren wastes left by industries once robust.”

(American Encounters: Art, History and Cultural Identity)

Charles Burchfield, Promenade, 1927-28, watercolour on paper, 31 5/8 x 42 1/2 inches (80.33 x 107.95 cm)

Charles Burchfield’s watercolours of streets, houses, lonely barns and fields all have a particularly haunting and captivating lyrical beauty, but his watercolour “Promenade” painted in 1927-28 seems to be my favourite because it is at once so whimsical and poetic and tinged with a certain melancholy of grey and brown shades. Abandonment and decay are motives which linger throughout Burchfield’s artworks. He gave a new life to motifs that Modernism had ignored; in times when other painters, such as Charles Sheeler, George Ault and Max Weber, glorified speed and modern architecture, Burchfield returned to the past, in a poetic and not sentimental way and portrayed all the lonely, forgotten corners of the town. This watercolour may not be the best example of Burchfield’s fascination with the motif of decay and abandonment that linger throughout his work, but it is incredibly poetic and shows how Burchfield gave personalities and unique quirks to buildings and places rather than people.

His watercolours such as “Promenade” look as if they arose from a puddle of rain; watery, grey and dipped in wistfulness and nostalgia. My eye wanders from one corner of the painting to the other and every bit of this artwork delights my eyes; the gloomy and mysterious houses have windows which resemble eye sockets, like something from Edgar Allan Poe, and so are the almost bare treetops with grey masses of leaves and long, dark and thin branches which stretch out like long shadowy arms ready to snatch you and take you down to the underworld. You can imagine the sad autumnal wind playing its mournful tunes and making the leaves dance between the street lanterns, wooden fences and trees. Once shining roofs and freshly painted facades now appear as if the whirlwind of change and decay had left its irreparable mark. The melancholy appeal of trees and houses is broken by the action in the street; cars are driving up and down the street, a plump old lady is walking her dog and three other dog are running after it, and this really adds a touch of liveliness to the mood. Still, the liveliness in the street doesn’t reflect itself on the old Victorian facades.

Watercolour “In a Deserted House” is a better example of Burchfield’s poetic enthusiasm for decaying places where spiders weave their webs in the corners of once dear and sunlight rooms, once cheerful wallpapers are now flaking, old fireplace is now cold, laughter is heard no more, and who lived there, no one knows any more. You can really feel that Burchfield felt the beauty and sadness of those places.

Charles Burchfield, In a Deserted House, ca. 1918-1939

Charles Burchfield, The Abandoned House, 1959