Tapestry Into Painting

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In Vienna toward the close of the 19th century artists like Gustav Klimt found decorative patterns as a new muse. Eventually, this fascination blossomed into the Jugenstil, or new style (the art nouveau).  For source materials Klimt looked to the decorative arts like tapestries, Roman mosaics from Ravenna, stained glass, medieval painting patterns and, patterns found in nature from seashells to, micro patterns illustrated by Ernst Haeckel (see my earlier  August 17 blogpost on origins of art nouveau), to the peacock’s tail.  Look at Klimt’s famous “Kiss” painting and the flat decorative patterning is abundant. See examples 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Example 1. Gustav Klimt, The Kiss, oil,

Example 2. Gustav Klimt, The Kiss, a detail view,

Example 3. Seashell with pattern shifts,

Example 4, microscopic view of patterns in slime mold,

Klimt and his peers and followers,  Carl Moll,  Egon Schiele, Fernand Khnopff, and others pursued expressive brushwork patterns which flattened the picture plane. These rhythmic decorative ideas were being developed in France by Van Gogh and other Pointillists.

In fashioning his landscapes Klimt continued to rely on flattened and decorative brushwork. Consider one of his many landscapes painted along Austria’s Lake Attersee. Examples 5 and 6 illustrate his brushwork.  He would paint 50 landscapes, all of them in squares.

Example 5. Villa on the Attersee III, 1910,

Example 6. Detail from Villa on the lake,

Klimt also converted the form of the 15th century altarpiece triptych into the new style.  He placed erotic and romantic themes into the center panel and offered decorative floral patterns in the side panels (example 7). Part of his new venture was to pose naked and clothed bodies in erotic contexts.

Example 7. “Love” by Gustav Klimt,

I continue to use sources such as, stained glass, mosaics, tapestries and jewelry to inspire my work.  Example 8 presents an early stage for my painting which covertly assembles three columns into a single image while also using the idea of decorative patterns as found in mosaics or tapestries.

Example 8, Leaves on Water, an early stage in this painting, oil on brushed silver laminated aluminum,

Example 9 borrows from other sources such as glaze patterns found on ceramics as well as the decorative patterns from water reflections. Like Klimt and Monet, I exploited the opportunities for color shifting patterns in still water.

Example 9. Patterns floating in a Mountain pool.

The idea of tapestries with their interweaving weft and warp contributed to my example 10.  Like Klimt I found lakeside flora an opportune prospect for decorative patterning.  I Inserted flecks of lighter colors as the grassy area rises to meet the lake.

Example 8, Lakeside patterns, oil on laminated aluminum,

My last two examples illustrate both process and patterning which can co-exist with abstract content, realistic illusion, and flat decorative patterning.  Represented here are steps one and two of the process (examples 11 & 12).

Example 11. Step one, oil on brushed silver laminated aluminum,

Example 12. Step two, of this painting of reflections and translucence in a stream,

5 Responses

  1. Barbara Joan Smith

    Please keep me on your email list. I am thrilled by what I have just seen and read. Is there a published archive of this type of art history in print or online?

    I was an art history major at Occidental College, Eagle Rock, in the fifties. Commercial art was my profession while raising a family. Later in the 80’s my husband and I spent two years in a Christian seminary and had a twenty year career in ministry together. I am now living in a nice senior living community and have taken up watercolors as my medium. Now that my professional and personal lives have narrowed, I have time to turn my attention back to my first love: fine art.

    Barbara J. Smith

  2. Ginny Moffitt


    Wow! Example 8, Lakeside Patterns, is so vibrant and exciting I can’t stop looking at it.

    The bright turquoise in the background commands attention and the gold and blue flecks on the foreground grasses are also riveting. Stunning composition and color!

  3. Janet Visser

    I have followed your work for a long time, I just bought a aluminum panel unprimed could you what do you use for a primer on the aluminum if I am using oil

    • Jennifer Richard-Morrow

      On his FB page, David said just paint on it. No primer neccessary.

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