I hit the point of full vaccination last week and have been doing a few cautious things the last few days. I've been wanting all spring to go to Dixon and see the American Impressionism show there, so Tuesday morning I went right as they opened and had the exhibition to myself. It was gorgeous and thought provoking and interesting, and I got a lovely chat with Kevin Sharp who saw me there and talked about the Prendergast piece and also Euphemia Fortune's chickens. They were one of my favorites, and he said he loved that she lived just near the big, craggy ocean shore but chose to paint daily life, and beautifully. I loved that too. Although I hated that she felt she had to disguise her name and go by a first initial to be able to exhibit.
There was a bench by the William Wendt (sadly not by the chicken piece, though I may still go back), and I loved the upright composition of this one, with the brown creek at the center falling out from underneath the viewer. I loved the tiny line of sky at the top and the dark masses of trees. I had taken my Inktense pencils (my watercolor brush pen, fine in Europe, is not allowed in the local museums), and I drew very quickly in the almost dark. The painting is lovely, and the sketch is chicken scratch, but it reminds me of the composition, and spending enough time looking at a painting to draw it is always a good exercise.
I also wrote down the quote from fellow Texas painter Edward Eisnlohr: "If you can't find a landscape worth painting within ten miles of where you are, then you shouldn't be a painter." This reminded me strongly of John Constable and Walter Anderson and all my art heroes who painted their own places instead of rushing off for the grand and fashionable scenery of the day.
The next day I went to Brooks to see the French posters exhibition, which I also had to myself for the first hour. They have enormous Mucha, Steinlen, and Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs. Fantastic. I love Mucha for detail and fun, but I must admit that the Toulouse-Lautrec ones had the most arresting compositions. I sketched this one, partly for the wonderful design, and partly for the bass player at the bottom. It's been wonderful just to stand in the presence of art again. I have missed that so very much this last year. And I love sketching from it as well. I learn so much every time.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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