Claude and Constable in Connecticut

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Claude Lorrain makes his way to Rome in the early 1600s where he develops designs and atmosphere which will become a standard for landscape painting for the next 200 years through  American art of the Hudson River School. He influences Turner and Constable in early 19th century England. His proportions, his compositional framing which relies on a theatrical side-curtain or coulisse to showcase the dramatically lit distance and, his dissolving atmospheres extend his influence to the present day.

Claude’s process included sketches and studies usually in pen and ink with washes in the field. These would later be expanded in his studio in oil. The process was similar to later 19th century artists like Turner and Constable. They however, would sketch in a greater variety of media using pencil, watercolor as well as oil.

Example 1 presents one of Claude’s pen and ink-wash sketches before he more formally redesigned the work in his studio in oil. Example 2 presents one of Claude’s later finished landscapes. Observe his design and even color influence over Constable’s examples 3 and 4.  Note the low rolling hills, the silhouetted shapes (especially the tree shapes), the way the design curves a zig-zag or serpentine shape into the landscape and, how the darkened tree forms frame one side of the painting keeping the viewer within the image.

Example 1. Claude Lorrain’s pen and ink wash sketch.

Example 2. A finished studio work of Claude’s.

Example 3. B&W Oil sketch of John Constable’s, one of a series, “Summer Morning”.

Example 4. A more finished oil-studio work of Constable’s of Hempstead Heath.

In my examples 5 and 6, “Descending Meadow” I also use soft rolling hills with back-lit trees and a design to carry the viewer down to a broadening valley.  My horizon is higher than Claude’s or Constable’s but, compositionally there is much that is informed by their designs. Example 5 presents an earlier step in the process while example 6 shows the image in its current state.

Example 5. Step one of “Descending Meadow” 36×36″ oil on enameled laminated aluminum.

Example 6. Step two showing the image in its current state.

Examples 7, 8, and 9 follow a different path. I still will borrow from the historical design motifs and traditions of Constable and Claude but, I use a previous painting of mine as a substrate and, I  will use some of its colors to affect the appearance of my new image. Example 7 presents the original substrate painting. I cut down a 24×48” painting to 24×36” as you see here.  Example 8 shows the first step in the over-painting process.  Example 9 shows the painting as it currently appears.

Example 7. Step one, substrate painting after being cut down.

Example 8. Step two, substrate painting and new over-painting.

Example 9. Step three of “Harkness Lagoon” in its current state.

I thought you might be interested to see a photo of the location used for my two paintings. It is represented in example 11.

Example 11. Photo of location used.

Visit me this Sunday at the Adam Cave Gallery in Raleigh 2009 Progress Court. There will be a reception from 5 to 7 PM.919 838 6692

If you have not yet caught my extensive show at Susan Powell Fine Art then please visit the gallery  at 679 Boston Post Road in Madison, Ct. tel:203 318 0616




7 Responses

  1. Nancy Harris

    Your “lessons” are a great help and inspiration. At last I’ve found a “living” painter whose techniques meet what I need and have been looking for. Striving to paint light is a journey I continually travel — and it’s a bumpy road! Impressionism seems to be not in as much favor these days?

  2. Connie Plessman

    David, I am already truly enjoying your blog which you informed me about during your Lyme Art Association class recently. Not only do I love returning to painting after 40 years, but having taken a break to focus on my college teaching career; I now want to learn wealth of information about painting and I value the vast bank of information that you share…I find your blog (and instruction) to be fascinating! It was great to meet you and benefit from your class. I have a lot to learn but I will return to a class with you when it works out. Thanks SO much!

  3. connie

    Beautiful paintings and fascinating post, David! I always learn so much – thank you for your generosity! xox, Connie

  4. Lindy

    My husband & I love your DVD’s & PBS show! We enjoy how you integrate art history in an understandable way with painting techniques. We have 2 questions; 1) Can you explain how you varnish watercolor paper with gloss medium WITHOUT leaving streaks & ridges and 2) When are you coming to Texas to teach?

  5. Irela Rodriguez

    i love to watch your videos. You are the best teacher and I am learning a lot from you. You are really a master. Thank you!

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