In 1888-89 Van Gogh experimented with color contrasts applied in a pattern of touches (example 1) versus large continuous blended areas that had been the tradition in landscape painting. He was not alone. In Italy since the 1860s Macchiaioli landscape painters were also creating images through patterns of touch and color contrasts (example 2). The word macchia means to spot with color touches. And, in the United States in the late 19th century artists like George Inness used vibrating paint touches but, with fuzzy edges. As a follower of Swedenborg he was influenced by current romantic, pantheistic theories of divine energy permeating and reverberating through nature (example 3).
In each case artists espoused an idea of presenting the vibrating, living pulse of unified nature. Van Gogh and Inness sensed this reverberation was a spiritual force. Artists like Bonnard (example 4) and the Macchiaioli of Italy also sensed the biological condition of vision could be better expressed through vibrating patterns. Neuroscience has confirmed that our frequently refocusing eyes (3 to 4 times per second) and our fluctuating perception of color intensities (color depends on our cones in the small focused illuminated center of our vision) that we do see fuzzily and with fluttering imagery which gets stilled and fixed in our cortex.
The following examples present artists’ works with color contrasting reverberating effects as a part of their painterly intention.
Example 1. Van Gogh, 1888, Sower, an experiment with vibrations. Van Gogh was anxious that this was not a successful experiment.
Example 2. Macchiaioli painter, Guilia Bandini, small landscape, 1887.
Example 3.George Inness, Indian summer, 1894,
Example 4. Pierre Bonnard, a neo-impressionist of the late 19th century who continued until the mid-20th century with this landscape of Le Cannet 1945,
What follows are two new paintings of mine which both aspire to present vibrating surfaces suggestive of how we see and how reflective surfaces in nature flutter in our perceptions. Examples 5 and 6 present a shallow vernal pool perforated by shoots of grasses, natural flotsam, and notes of reflected sky.
Example 5. Step one of Randall’s Farm Vernal Pool,
Example 6. Step two of Randall’s Farm Vernal Pool goes brighter with more vivid contrasts and stronger reverberations.
The next painting (examples 7 and 8) of a farm’s shallow field pond progressively simplifies the subject matter while increasing the variety of surface activity to stimulate a feeling of subtle motion.
Example 7. Step one of a shallow farm pond with too many large distracting elements dividing the surface.
Example 8. Step two with more surface energy and cross patterns and, with some vertical plants reduced or eliminated.