A beautiful flaring and flaming sky to open the day... but the warmth ended there. The thermometer never rose above -16 C and the windchill weighed in with a feel of -26C throughout the entire day. The forecast for tomorrow promises between 15 and 25 cm of snow. Not good news for this plein air painter. Just the few minutes it took to kindle up this evening's fireplace supply told me that today was at best a studio operation. No more frozen digits... and besides, I had anticipated that such days would most certainly arise sometime during February and that it was best to have a "Plan B" to keep my Challenge moving along.
On my walk down Old River Road on my way down to The Lighthouse Variety Store for Deb's newspaper, I happened to notice a really cool mailbox. I collect digital images of such oddities. I stopped to look at it carefully and was intrigued with the detail and craftsmanship that had been given to this mailbox. It was obviously important to the maker to have spent so much time and energy in its creation. It was quite simply... a veritable work of Art... capital "A" very much deserved!
I immediately wondered who it was that made it... and if it might have been commissioned. Glancing across the road ... the answer was immediately obvious. The white frame house that my eyes now rested upon... was exact in every detail to this mailbox. What pride this owner must have for his home to have a mailbox unmistakeably mimic it... even to the dual aluminum chimneys on either side. I was so captivated by this find that I immediately grabbed my camera when I returned home with the paper and went back to record this piece of Canadiana.
As I stood there... sizing up my shots of the mailbox, a Baroque "idea"... "Silly ol' bear!... shot through my head.A very strong memory from my university days. The art history course spanning the Baroque period was highly interesting to me. It was a golden age for Western painting, sculpture and architecture... an age of highly ornate interests and wild accomplishment and embellishment. One painting of that period, "Las Meninas" (The Maids of Honour), painted by Diego Velazquez really captivated me. Velazquez was the court portrait painter for the Spanish King Felipe IV. Though he created numerous portrait masterpieces of court members, this one was a group painting of the entire royal family.
Las Meninas (The Maids of Honour) by Diego Velazquez in 1659 (From the Prado Museum Collection in Madrid, Spain)
Mail's in!.... Sun's out!
A Rockport "Baroque" moment... for "Me" at least!
What captivated me about this one painting was that it was a "triple portrait"- three portrait settings within one painting. One level of this single portrait records the children of the King and Queen looking out at you, the viewer. In the same portrait, one can see a self-portrait of Velazquez palette and brushes in hand, engaging you as well. And in a mirror on the back wall is registered the portrait image of the King and Queen together... giving the feeling that they are standing with you viewing this portrait session. It is a coup in the world of portrait painting and has been repeated by many painters after Velazquez. This morning... looking from behind the mail box directly at its inspiration... the white clapboard home and at my shadow on the road, I smiled at the Baroque notion that had been summoned up from my past experience... to Rockport. How strange!
So my challenge for the 7th Day came out of this totally unexpected and "chance" discovery on a walk. Sometimes... "ideas" for paintings are all around us... if we get out... pay attention... or simply use our imaginations. As well, when we raise the bar and extend ourselves by creating our own unique challenges and projects, we open up new paths and directions for our painting. I hope that my challenge offers each of you food for thought and perhaps motivates you to reach out beyond the everyday. I hope you enjoy today's studio painting... sent from my studio to yours!
"Triple Portrait... A Baroque Moment in Rockport"- Oil painting on 10x8 inch panel
This perhaps could be considered a quadruple portrait... if you add in the painting itself as a portrait of "The Group of Three"... together! HA HA!!
A Post Script... Nature.... adding to "The Baroque"
This was the fireworks which ushered in our day this morning. Brief though it might always be... it never fails to conjure up awe and wonder within "Me." Later in the day... while painting and preparing the post... and revisiting my Baroque memories I came across this quote. All of the Arts flourished ... though floridly in the Baroque. Great masters arose and created monuments... markers upon which future Western Art would revolve. Painters included Velazquez, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Reubens and Caracci... just to name a handful. And then there was Bernini... master sculptor, architect and painter... successor in the 17th Century to Michelangelo. His emotive "Ecstasy of St Theresa" and his St Peter's Square and Baldachin in Rome attest to his greatness and the power of his creative genius.
Literature in the period flourished as well... and still to this day drives our thought and our preoccupation with the same metaphysical interests. Most art forms demonstrated a great preoccupation with the reoccurring theme of "illusion vs reality" in Baroque culture as a whole. "Don Quixote" is such an example which ewe all have met in some fashion along our journeys. A lesser known example from Calderon de la Barca is his "Life Is A Dream." I found this quote interesting... thought-provoking and worth leaving to end my Baroque "babbling."
What is life? A frenzy. What is Life?
A shadow; an illusion, and a sham.
The greatest goodwill is small, it seems
Is just a dream,
And even dreams are dreams.
Sweet dreams !...All...
And Good Painting!!
PPSS It would be a sham(e)... if one viewed Life as a sham. I share no view of Life in that way! Life is a precious blessing for "Me"...I go out to it... embrace it and celebrate it each and every day... even in its very coldest times! I love Life fully... and am deeply blessed...