Impressions of Impressionists

I recently sat through a webinar with author and art historian Kristine Hardeberg. She’s from Norway and has an easy approach to helping students understand art. In fact, she believes in understanding art on an intellectual level but encourages simply viewing and feeling what you feel as well.

This webinar gave a 10,000 foot view of thousands of years of fine art. She talked about what was happening in the world and what to look for in the art of the period. She focused some on the Impressionists as a preview to a paying course she is selling right now.

After lingering near Impressionistic paintings in museums for years, I still never really knew much about their origins so I was delighted for her insight.

The rise of this style of painting actually accompanied the rise of photography. Cameras made it possible to capture realistic images, particularly portraits of wealthy people who had long been patrons of the arts. Since this new technology could capture a realistic scene, some artists were inspired to experiment. Rather than duplicate what they saw, they wanted to create an impression of what they saw and used light, motion and color to do so.

In a nutshell, these early painters of this late nineteenth century movement were renegades and rule breakers. They stepped away from the traditional rules of academic painting and constructed their paintings freely, allowing color to take precedence over lines and contours.

The critics hated it.

This movement began in Paris where artists like Claude Monet abandoned stuffy studios to paint outside. Kristine said that they wanted to get outside, breathe the air and capture the light as it illuminated the world quickly and before it faded.

“They wanted to paint the world as it is right now,” she said.

That meant they worked quickly and focused on the present in a way that had not been done before. She showed us paintings of the sea that evoked all the senses. I could almost smell the salt air and feel it on my face. I could hear the lapping waves and feel the sand in my toes. It was a taste of a summer day captured 150 years ago.

No one wanted to show these artists’ work because they thought it was silly and rudimentary. One critic compared it to a child’s work.

This painting “Impression, Sunrise“ by Monet actually inspired the name Impressionists.

Kristine said a critic actually began calling these painters Impressionists as a criticism, a taunt. He was making fun of them but they loved it and the name stuck.

If you are fortunate enough to stand before one of these paintings in a museum, stand close and study what you see. It’s all color and globs of paint.

Now take a step back. Close your eyes and open them slowly.

Kristine encouraged us to play pretend.

Pretend that you’re just waking up. You know that moment when you’re still drowsy and slowly opening your eyes? The world is a bit blurry but your senses are still absorbing sound, smell and light.

That’s what the Impressionists are all about. It’s a glimpse of an instant and it’s lovely.

Ironically, the Impressionists have gained steam over the decades and are among the most sought after works in most museums. I snapped this picture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington while tourists were lining up for pictures. It’s incredible seeing people so excited about art.

It’s Never Too Late

Van Gogh only painted for the last ten years is his life. He started at the age of 27 and painted over 2,000 pieces including some of the world’s great masterpieces

You know what that means?

It’s never too late to embrace your passion. We clearly can’t all be Van Gogh but we can start a new hobby, peruse a better career and get to work on what matters.

If not today, then when?

Around Here

Around here, it has been cold and snowy. I have been enjoying hibernation, trying to balance relaxation with tending to my own health and wellness.

I have been taking the easy way out where dinner is concerned. This bag of stir fry is a step up from the egg sandwich and fistful of chocolate I would rather be eating when I’m cold and tired.

This book has been keeping my mind engaged.

As always, Scout keeps me on my toes.

I joined in a free art history webinar the other day and got a nice overview of the progression of early art through the Impressionists who happen to be my favorite artists.

This is a famous Claude Monet painting that I was lucky to see in Washington DC last year.

The webinar instructor had a down to earth approach to art and a wonderful ability to simplify big topics. If I had hundreds of extra dollars I would sign up for a paying course she offers on the Impressionists. She gave voice to what I have long felt but didn’t understand about these lovely works of art. I’ll talk about that another day.

For now, I’m trying to find a balance between work and home, self care and doing as I please, healthy skepticism and unhealthy mental ruts.

Winter is a time of hibernation. We recede into our homes as animals take to their dens. Even the hardiest of plants conserve their energy and rest in anticipation of brighter days ahead. Aside from a few walks, I have been happily hibernating and wondering what kind of rebirth might accompany the arrival of spring.

Around here, life is pretty good these days

Historic Park Theater

I’m a sucker for an old theater. When my friend Johnna and I were in Estes Park, Colorado last year I whined until she pulled over so I could get a closer look at this beauty. It’s not like any other theater I’ve seen before.

The historic Park Theater was built in 1913 but the landmark neon outlined 80 foot tower wasn’t added until 1926. In addition to being one of the coolest theaters you’ll ever see, it’s the oldest operating cinema that was built to be a movie theater in the western United States.

And yes, it is a wood building.

It was locked up tight the day I stood there gaping in the snow and wind so strong it would knock you down.

According to the theater’s website, the construction was begun by J.L. Jackson but completed by C.H. Bond in 1913. It was Ralph Gwinn who added the tower thirteen years later. He dubbed it “the Tower of Love” because he built it to represent the beautiful love of his life.

How many gals can say they have a tower built in their honor?

This theater changed owners a couple of times before landing in the capable hands of experienced theater operators Mickey and Ola Stranger in 1968. They leased the theater until purchasing it in 1982. Mickey and Ola passed away in the early 2000s but their descendants continue to operate the theater as a family business today.

Estes Park actually has an ordinance banning neon lights but an exception was made for the theater and their neon has been restored. I imagine it is magnificent after dark but I missed the nighttime view because we got out of dodge before the roads got bad in this mountain town.

The current flick they’re showing? Casablanca.

Can you imagine seeing a classic film in a 1913 movie theater? Be still my heart. I’ll add that to my bucket list.

What A Difference

What a difference a day makes! The top picture was made at Lake Alma Saturday. It was 26 degrees and windy but the sunshine and blue skies made an outstanding backdrop for pictures and for a brisk walk.

The next photo was made at about the same time on Sunday. It was 35 degrees and calm. Snow was moving in to the area and the sky was positively white. Luckily, the extra nine degrees made it seem almost pleasant.

I couldn’t help but think how nice all my pictures would look in black and white. They’re not nice so much as a bit haunting.

Here’s one more for good measure.

This is your friendly reminder that life is a series of trade offs. Some days are beautiful but so cold it chills you to the bone. Some days are much kinder despite the gloom and grey.

Whether the skies are brilliant blue or washed out white, find a way to enjoy it all.

Yesterday

Yesterday was sunny and beautiful with blue skies and 26 degree temperatures that the weather app said felt like 19. Luckily, that little chill in the air didn’t deter me from heading out for a walk at a local state park.

I mean, what’s a little cold when it’s such a pretty day?

The wind off the lake was frigid and it was mostly me, the Canada Geese and a few other hardy souls out soaking up as much Vitamin D as you can absorb through a hat and three layers of clothing.

If I were working from the office, I would likely be swinging by the lake after work at least some nights to squeeze in a walk. Unfortunately, in my work from home routine, it’s hard to pry me out of the house on a cold day save for feeding the birds. That’s only because they sit on their empty feeder and stare at me sitting at my desk until I do something about it.

While I didn’t cherish the thought of going out in the freezing cold, I relished every moment of my three mile walk and realized that I haven’t smiled so much in ages.

I need to do that more often.

Do more of what makes you smile, friends. I promise you won’t regret it.