Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Part Two: Project 3 - Stage 6

Combining Textures and Colour Effects

Stage 6 looks at the work of the impressionist painters and their use of a technique called Pointillism.
This system is the basis of colour printing where dots or colours seem to merge to make new colours.

I went to see impressionist paintings at the Fitzwilliam Museum when I lived near Cambridge. 
I was amazed to see paintings that I recognised from postcards and prints, being available on walls and within touching distance (and no I didn't).
Gallery 5 of the Fitzwilliam Museum has just undergone a full renovation and reinstallation, if you click on the link you will see a full description of the work carried out and the pieces they have included in their collection.

It is a beautiful museum, the atmosphere they create there is similar to wandering around a large stately home, it was one of my favourite destinations when I was able to visit that beautiful city. 
My other favourite art destination in Cambridge is Kettle's Yard

I had always loved the work of the impressionist painters, but never understood why people and art critics at the time just did not "get it", until I saw the paintings for myself.

In Seurat's study for A Sunday on the Island of la Grande Jatte: couple walking
you can see clearly the daubs of colour that have been painted on the canvas, you can only wonder what people thought when they saw these works for the first time.

There is colour, but it has not been mixed. 
There are large unpainted areas of canvas showing through the colour.
There are no clear outlines - it is an impression of a painting.

You really do have to walk across to the other side of the gallery to see the picture that these dots create.
If you click on this link you will see "Grand Jatte" and the "Circus"by Georges Seurat.
The page shows the paintings in full, and a close detail of the work. This is followed by an enlargement of a section so clear that you can see the detail of the dots of colour.

This painting by Seurat makes use of contrasts and the use of complementary colours.
The red jacket is seen against the green grass, the orange dress of the young girl has a blueish shadow.
Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte

This section of the painting clearly shows that the grass is not green!
The sunlit area of grass is predominantly yellow, and the area in shadow is almost black.
Many colours have been dabbed and dotted on the canvas to make an overall effect of the grass.
Detail of the Grand Jatte, above the dog

This is followed by an enlargement of a section so clear that you can see the detail of the dots of colour.
Detail  of the paint on the canvas

I am beginning to understand the principles of Pointillism now, and as an OCA (Open College of Arts) student I am preparing to create stitched samples based on these principles.
The level of detail shown in the pictures was amazing to see, and the links provided a great insight into the technique that we will be using in Stage 6.

I am also currently reading Colour: Travels through the Paintbox by Victoria Finlay.
A history of colour
In the chapter Black and Brown we are given a fantastic description about why the Impressionist painters stopped using black pigments in favour of mixtures of red, yellow and blue.
They used the theory that 'black' occurs when an object absorbs all the coloured wavelengths.
On this basis, by painting the correct balance of the primary colours the result should be the colour black.

This is the painting of Claude Monet's The Gare Saint-Lazare, Arrival of a Train
The Gare Saint-Lazare, Arrival of a Train
In this painting, the dark images of the trains are made up of bright reds, blues and greens, there is hardly any black at all.

The next two exercises use and test the Impressionist theory, along with the Pointillist technique in stitch. 
Again it is about observation and the creation of illusion and deception through colour.

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