Perspective & townscapes (part 1)

Part 3, Projects 4 & 5 focus on perspective and urban landscapes... I really struggle with urban landscapes.When I attempt them, they seem to call out for detail... receding lines, parallel lines, architectural details... tiny details which drive me crazy... don't know why, I just find depicting small detail goes against my character... I don't think it's because I can't, it's more subtle and difficult to identify... I become tense, I hold my breath, I feel impatient, bored, frustrated; I don't like crowds or people looking at what I'm doing.

I'm fine with rural and I like wide open spaces, big places, wilderness if I can get to it, but if not, the bucolic Oxfordshire countryside will do. Receding hills, trees and farms into the distance, and no one looking at what I'm drawing... this works for me.

Perhaps I need to begin with the big picture and add detail as I progress. This feels easier than starting with perhaps outlines and detail. I'm also not that turned on by 'urban'; I don't like crowds and really not built-up places when it's hot - and we're having the best summer for years, so it's really hot and humid.

However, in an attempt to tackle this section of the course, I decide to re-think my approach: I'm looking at how other artists tackled it, focusing less on photo-realistic and more on expressive and abstract artists.

I visited Tate Britain to look at Turner: although he created those magnificent, epic oils of Carthage and the like, I find I prefer his discreet water colour sketches such as this one of Venice:

Venice looking East towards San Pietro di Castello - Early Morning (1819).

He captures the sense of distance so well with so little: the diminished scale, silhouettes of buildings fading into the sky, large scale and darker tones for objects 'closer' to the viewer, and placed lower down the sheet of paper. His attention to detail is still astonishing.

Then there are the impressionists and pointillists: I took these photos in the Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France, several years ago (and didn't record the artists names). They capture aerial perspective beautifully: this first one, both with linea perspective of the road and the diminishing size of the trees, but also the diminishing detail, the distant hills depicted in mauve which fades to the left and the hills recede even further.

Below, a detail of the right-hand of the two paintings showing a French landscape running off to hills in the 'distance': in close-up, you can see how the artist gradually reduces detail from the foreground which distinguishes different plants in rich greens with clear highlights and shadows, to the back: trees and shrubs become abstract shapes, the colours more blue and tones less distinguished until at the horizon is a single tone and hue and on the right edge, another hill, slightly lighter again.

Frédéric Bazille ( Montpellier, 1841 - Beaune-la-Rolande 1870 ), 'Etude pour une vendange'

OK, back to townscapes:

Albert Lebourg 'La-seine-a-marly'

Stunning impressionist oil of the riverside on a hazy summer afternoon: perspective created again through the linea perspective of the river bank & footpath, diminishing size of figures and colours fading into blues and mauves, reduced tonal contrast.

Still looking for alternative ways to depict not only perspective, which is straight forward enough, but townscapes, which I find so challenging:

Achille Emile Othon Friez (1879-1949) 'La fête foraine à Rouen'

The Scottish Colourists, S. J. Peploe (1871-1935):

'Kirkcudbright', c1910

'Boats at Royan', c1910

'The Luxembourg Gardens', c1910

'Street scene, France' c1910

and J. D. Furgusson (1874-1961)

'In Paris-Plage, Night', (1904)

'Paris' (1907)

G. L. Hunter (1877-1931)

'Juan-les-Pins' (c1927)

'The Café, Cassis' (c1927)

So it's still possible to retain elements like perspective, to keep some form and structure but with (what is for me) a more exciting, vibrant image and energetic lines. Not getting caught up in detail like a fly in a web, but capturing form, depth, light and shadow.

And then, moving further into abstract, the French/Russian artist Nicolas de Stael (1914-1955). The following are just two screen shots of images by de Stael that Google threw up, I liked too many to be selective:


And then there's Frank Auerbach:

'To the studios' (1977)

and John Virtue:

London No. 10, (2006), Monotype

So, here goes for some more attempts at both perspective and urban or at least as urban as I can get from where I live.

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