FOUR CENTURIES: Monnoyer’s Mark

Still life attributed to Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer- Matthews Gallery blog

We discovered this still life at the preview of a Santa Fe estate sale. It was tucked in a dark upstairs corner of the house, far from the Picasso print and treasure trove of art books on prominent display in the living room. Lawrence lingered for a while to take in the flamboyant bouquet with its rich rosy tones. There was an excited glint in his eye.

A few months later, the painting has found a home under the glowing lights of our European art room. We know a lot more about it now than when it first caught Lawrence’s fancy. It’s attributed to Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1636-1699), a 17th century Franco-Flemish painter who wielded his brush for Louis XIV. Its siblings hang in some of France and England’s most famous estates.

Our adobe art abode is a very different venue, but this 300-year-old artwork gives us the opportunity to transport gallery visitors across the sea and through the ages. Look below to chase Monnoyer through the palaces where he left his mark, and don’t miss the painting’s debut at our opening for FOUR CENTURIES: European Art from 1600 to 1950 on Friday, June 13 from 5-7 pm.

Hôtel Lambert- Site of artwork by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer- Matthews Gallery Blog

Our first stop is the Hotel Lambert on the Ile Saint-Louis, site of Monnoyer’s first Parisian commission in 1650. The artist grew up in Lille, France and trained in Antwerp, but it was the lavish estates in and around Paris that claimed his considerable interior decorating talents. Monnoyer’s floral designs in the grand mansion would delight its many owners and guests for centuries to come, from a famous Polish political salon to Voltaire, Chopin, Balzac, Delacroix and Dali. Unfortunately, the Hotel Lambert was badly damaged in a 2013 fire and is under renovation.

Chateau de Marly- Site of artwork by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer-  Matthews Gallery Blog

 

Artist Charles Le Brun, who painted a series of renowned ceiling frescoes at the Hotel Lambert, brought Monnoyer along for a commission at Louis XIV’s Chateau de Marly. The (relatively) small country estate was the king’s escape from the more rigid world of Versailles, and aristocrats fiercely battled for a chance to stay there. Alas, the twelve pavilions that flanked the water and their intricately adorned interiors are long gone, but the commission launched Monnoyer into a new stratosphere.

Palace of Versailles- Site of artwork by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer- Matthews Gallery Blog

Monnoyer worked with Le Brun once again on the ornamentation of the Palace of Versailles. For this and other high profile royal projects, he developed a style that was far removed from his training in the subdued still life painting techniques of the Low Countries. The bold, ornamental approach is in full force in our still life, recalling the spectacular garlands of flowers he painted on the ceiling of the Queen’s pavilion at the Chateau de Vincennes. Monnoyer also made reference sketches and etchings for French tapestry workshops, greatly influencing European decorative styles for years to come.

Boughton House- Site of artwork by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer- Matthews Gallery Blog

A commission from the Montagu House in London drew Monnoyer away from Paris in 1690. He adorned dozens of panels with fruits and vegetables and painted several portraits, some of which now reside in the state rooms of Northamptonshire’s Boughton House. The artist remained in England until his death in 1699, but his distinctly French style lived on in the artwork of two of his sons.

Make sure to attend the opening of our FOUR CENTURIES exhibition on Friday, June 13 from 5-7 pm, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr for daily gallery news.

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Diane White: Magical Realism

Diane White- Magical Realism- Matthews Gallery

As the reception for Diane White’s “Magical Realism” show begins, the artist stands alone in the middle of the Matthews Gallery’s front room, her shoulders squared and her hands clasped together. She looks around at the paintings she’s created over the past year and gives a little smile, but her posture doesn’t waver. She’s ready to greet her visitors.

One of the first folks through the door is Diane’s husband Steve, who’s just taken a stroll along Canyon Road and has something clutched in his hand. He presents it to Diane and she looks down inquisitively. It’s a small grey rock in the shape of a heart.

“Oh, thank you! Oh, that’s wonderful,” she says, beaming and leaning back to rest for a minute in Steve’s arms. “He’s my man.”

The moment reminds me of Diane’s work, which is imbued with equal measures of brave composure and romantic tenderness. The classically trained painter is inspired by magical realism, a literary genre that is rooted in the real world but incorporates magical characters and occurrences. In her impeccably detailed still lifes, glowing flowers hover above ceramic pots and ghostly birds rise from empty nests. The objects’ histories unfold around them, at first as subtle as a distant memories and then as vivid as a dreams.

With the heart rock pressed to her chest, Diane answered some questions about her new work, her process and her message:

White Majesty, Diane White, Matthews Gallery

What drew you to magical realism? 

I had a traditional still life that I was working on, and I was struck with the desire to do something else with it. It was steam coming out of a teapot with a dragon on it, and I made the steam into a dragon as well. Larry and Linda went, ‘What’s that?’ And I said, ‘Well, it just happened.’ That was five or six years ago.

White Ruffled Tulips, Diane White, Magical Realism

What were you thinking about while you were working on this show? 

I don’t start with one thought process, I start with one piece that I’m painting and I focus on that. I don’t concentrate on a body of work. When you look at my work, they’re all very different. Some of them are aggressive with warriors in the background, and others have some angels. I just take it one painting at a time, and try to have them tell a story. Usually it’s an uplifting story—a lot of flight, a lot of action.

Dreams of Flying, Diane White, Matthews Gallery

Several of the paintings show intricate nests. What inspired you to use them in your work? 

I have done nests before, but probably not for three years.  I have horses now at my farm in Vermont, and I was out in this area with huge pine trees where they hang out when I found a nest that was made of horse hair. It had twigs and things too, but inside I could see the hair of the different horses. I thought, “I have to paint a nest.” It was so magical for me to find that.

Spirit of the Red Box, Diane White, Matthews Gallery

 How do you strike a balance between the real elements in your paintings and the magical ones? 

I don’t want it to hit people in the face. I don’t want it to be Salvador Dali with a melting clock. I want it to be fairly subtle, and maybe something that the person looking at the painting discovers. On second glance you say, “Well, wait a minute. That’s not just steam. There’s something in there.” You kind of get involved with the painting.

Order of the Rose, Diane White, Matthews Gallery

 Sometimes you paint groups of figures in the backgrounds of your still lifes. Who are they? 

They’re the warriors in all of us, the strength. There’s usually beauty in my paintings—perhaps a flower—and there’s strength. I don’t make it try to be pretty, but I want it to be strong. They’re warriors, and that’s what we all have in us, this strength.

Learn more about Diane White’s August 16-29 “Magical Realism” exhibition here, and check out more photos from the opening reception here. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for more art news.