Thursday, September 18, 2008
Fishing Boats, Collioure. 1905.
Oil on canvas, 15 1/8 x 18 1/4"
Sometimes more fascinating is what a painter chooses to leave out.
Take the Fauvist painters for example. I never liked the paintings with the raw canvas peeking through - to my eye they were unfinished, unbearably muddy. These days I find myself drawn to works that are sparsely covered or have spaces that are deliberately left exposed.
The Fauvists, particularly Mattise, Derain and Dufy just to name a few, have a delicious touch - sometimes brilliant hues are dabbed and scraped onto the brown or white raw canvas ground. For the Fauvists this was a radical technique - particularly as it seemed to some as a sacrilegious departure from the divisionist techniques of the day.
Instinctively it feels like they had found a way to reduce the intensity of colour - as though even they acknowledged their wild unpredictable brushstrokes needed to be tamed.
But the picture above likely came as a result of Derain's desire to capture the landscape, utilizing blank space with only hints of colour to express sunlight on water.
It takes courage to allow a colour to hum above the bare surface, to resist the urge to fuss and tighten or cool colour with heavy doses of muted greys, browns and whites. Even Morandi, famous for fastidiously finishing a canvas with an all over skin of paint, left some sections untouched or just lightly scumbled. And this is why his paintings breathe.
Raw ground makes me wonder what's underneath, behind and through.
What isn't there creates passages for the eye, provides resting places, or defines a broad flat shape, energizing rather than flattening the space. The eye is unsettled until it adjusts and learns to see it with a fresh vision.
Fauvist painters did it. This painter and this painter does it. My most favourite Bonnard does it, (though you have to see it in the flesh to appreciate it)