Never Able to Paint What I Wanted to Paint

Road in Maine

Try as we might, and with all of our heart, isn’t it interesting that very often we feel as though we never quite manage to get the results, which we so desperately seek to impart in our artwork?

How ever did art come to the place where a simple landscape has become less than acceptable in the world of intellectual and critical thinking? Are we less sophisticated or falteringly sloppy in our intellectual duties when we stop and take the time to admire an exquisite and (heaven help me for saying this) truly comforting landscape painting? Sounds like the entrapment of pedantic entertainment and the pleasure of soaking up something simple and lovely; sounds like fun. Oh dear, am I slipping?

As I sit here writing and looking out upon an unobstructed and truly magnificent view of the Catalina Mountains in Tucson Arizona, I have to wonder what has happened to the validity of simple landscape painting. Back in the days of medieval technologies and such rustic means of accomplishing any task of major proportions (which we now so blithely take for granted), we know that landscape painting used to be a functional venue for recording travels to faraway and infrequently visited “other worlds” in times when exploration travel was a task of great courage, danger and torture rather that a luxury. Artists often bravely went along as chroniclers, putting themselves in harm’s way and creating valuable account of exotic unknowns.

As a great fan of the work of the painter Edward Hopper in respectful regard to his role in the evolution of modern art, I read the following recently and wanted to share


Blackhead, Mohegan

"Hopper's pictures truly seem to be located in a twilight zone, an interim condition. They reveal a world that is no longer in a state of innocence, but has not yet reached the point of self-destruction. His imagery is marked by a tremendous balance that is not yet equilibrium. It evokes no idyllic pre- industrial state, nor does it celebrate mechanization. Hopper shows us a situation that no other American artist captured in quite this way...This ambiguity, even indifference, made Hopper a forerunner of American Pop Art. Not so much a reliance on tradition as his conscious use of American set pieces from the environment made him a quintessentially American Painter...

"Hardly a trace of (faith in the blessings of technology) is found in Hopper. Once the diffuse religious feeling present in the earlier works had dissipated, nothing new replaced it. Only emptiness, a vacuum, remained. Again, it was not so much Hopper's themes that were typically American, as it was his pictorial inventory, the actual things he depicted. Besides railroads, these included train stations and gas stations. As Pop artists pointed out, Hopper was likely the first painter ever to dignify the latter feature of American landscape by using it as a motif in art...

"We know that Hopper was a great admirer of Ernest Hemingway. In 1927 Scribner's Magazine, for which Hopper worked as an illustrator, published Hemingway's story The Killers. Hopper wrote a letter to the editors, saying how refreshing it was to find such an honest piece of work in an American magazine, after wading through the endless, sugar- coated mush that was usually published. And, he added, the story made no concessions to mass taste, contained no divagations from reality, and had no spurious resolutions at the end...

"His ideal, which he knew to be unachievable, was to make his (paintings) 'with such simple honesty and effacement of the mechanics of art as to give almost the shock of reality itself.'

" 'I was never able to paint what I wanted to paint.' "

Interior Scenes
Street Scenes
from Ivo Kranzfelder, Hopper, Taschen, 2006, pp. 75, 70, 92, 98, 44


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sfmichel said...

hopper is a fav of mine too...it is acceptable to enjoy the beauty of a landscape, particularly for those of us in urban settings...
take in some of those gorgeous Catalina-scapes in for me too darling...

marseille misses you said...

a man who bridged the "art" gap and helped us along into modern thinking... we should appreciate his contributions to art history and also to aesthetic pleasures... go ahead and indulge... it is the holiday after all!

richard the worst said...

enjoyable to look at the street scenes and other images from the Paris Web Museum.
Good blogging!

clay new mexico said...

So glad you have come back to the southwest.
Love it all... the beaty and the spledor of its' incredible desert landscapes, as much as you like and in any form that pleases you. Who cares?
BTW, when will we be able to visit the brick and mortar version of your Griffonage Studios?
Lots of gooey and sandy material from which to build your new studio in this neck of the woods.
No pressure, still we await more from you!

sophie said...

So difficult to put ideas into physical / tangible formats. I like your thinking... a dilemma for all artists, to be sure. Landscapes are, as we know, the source for much of ocntemporary paiting and art that has ventured far beyond. Secretly, if they are spectacular... and many still are... I love them too.
Best wishes for your continued success!

anika from france said...

darling, when you get to my age, you could care less about what the critics say: if you like a painting, a clay pot, a sculpture, a performance, a composition, a song, a poem --- whatever it might be --- then you like it.

i know what i like
you know what you like
good for us

charlie-who-u-luv said...

now you are commnenting on cacti?
east coast types?

roger walker said...

i enjoy reading your blog... good stuff!