Friday, October 16, 2009

Old Dutch - Painting, not the potato chips...

When it comes to photo realism painting, no one holds a candle to the old Dutch masters.  When I went to The Netherlands a year and a half ago and went to Den Hague's Mauritshuis Museum, I finally saw Johannes Vermeer's "Girl with the Pearl Earring," Paulus Potter's giant animals, and Willem van Aelst's still lifes, I definitely fell in love even more.  It's always been a technique I've idolized.  Usually when I see a painting in person, I can finally see the flaws, the brushstrokes, the layers of color.  This is the best thing, I believe, about going to museums.  When I finally saw my first Frida Kahlo painting, I realized that she made some major mistakes or changes when painting.  Seeing the process, decisions made, and errors in ones you look up to is pretty cool.  Not so much for the Dutch.  Basically they're perfect, smooth, flawless.  In Vermeer's paintings, you can see brushstrokes up close, but from afar, it looks like a photo.  The above photo is an example of this technique.  A less famous version of the Dutch masters, this Jan Anthonisz van Ravensteyn painting was hanging in the Snite Gallery at Notre Dame University.  Those beautiful collars, although quite the fashion statement, would be a pain to paint.  The textures from fabric to frizzy beard hairs are so perfect.  The repetition and patterns that those painters achieved are so meticulously executed.  Seeing the paintings of the best of the best can be very discouraging.  However, seeing this paiting gave me a different outlook.  This is a style of painting that is reserved for the few these days.  It is popular to be gestural and abstract.  The days of photorealistic portraits may be long gone, but it is something I would like to explore even further.  Let's be Dutch and make ourselves go crazy by attempting perfection!   

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