As cities rose in density and prosperity so did the market for images city life. Ancient Rome was the first to live in cramped 5 and 6 story buildings. Roman artists obliged their market with micro-mosaics and frescos of Roman urban architecture. The point of view of the artist rose with the buildings in an effort to depict the extent of urban architecture. Within 1000 years Chinese artists followed suit with elevated perspectives of their cities. Ruins of the ancient Roman six story highrise can be visited in Ostia Antica today (Near Leonardo Da Vinci Airport, Rome).
As the height of Roman buildings grew so did the artists access to elevated observation posts within the city (example 1). In earlier blogposts I previously neglected some of this history. Artists came to painting elevated city views over time. It is a learned tradition with learned skills and, it is an evolving tradition. Its evolution interests me here.
If we race forward into the 1600s we find Jacob Van Ruisdael climbing windmills and clock towers to find his new observation post (example 2). By the 1600s artists employed not only the principles of linear perspective but optical machines like the camera obscura as well to help them make more natural images. His contemporary Jan Vermeer gives an example in his view of Delft (example3).
In the late 19th century Pissarro’s view over the avenues of Paris gave a more sensuous effect. Now, the enumerated buildings and other details were of less interest than a momentary experience of colored atmospherics (example 4)
Throughout the 20th century modernists would look up and down at their urban settings. Georgia O’Keeffe painted elevated views of New York from her high rise apartment. This distillation and graphic simplification became part of the new fashions and goals for modern artists like O’Keeffe. (Example 5)
Matisse and others would continue to abstract the city from an elevated point of view. By the mid20th century through today artists like Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud experimented with abstracting, exaggerating and distilling the city from an elevated point of view (example 6).
Last week I gave an example of an elevated and semi-abstracted view of Milwaukee. I return to a similar theme today with an image which is in its beginning stage (example 7). Next, I moved my venue to the top of Rockefeller Center looking south over Manhattan. With a set of squeegees and brushes I conjured the intense crowding of forms and edges I experienced as I looked down and across Manhattan. This image is also in a preliminary stage.
Because I often present images in earlier stages of development I now can offer you an updated image along with its previous appearance (examples 9 and 10).
I invite you to join me in a two day workshop at the West Hartford Art League on January 14 and 15, 2017. The Workshop is: ”Techniques of the Masters, Past and Present”. Visit their website westhartfordart.org or call 860 231 8019.
Please join me in my classes at the Silvermine School of Art. Registration for the winter semester (Mid January through March) begins Wednesday, December 14th at 9 AM. Call the school at 203 966 6668 ext 2 to register. I look forward to working with you. Note, that I previously and incorrectly stated that registration began on December15; my apologies.