One shows a young artist with a determined look in his eyes, and the other an older gentleman at the opening of an 80-year retrospective of his artwork. What happened in the span between the shots?
Sometimes art by Picasso or Gauguin finds its way to our gallery, but other times we get our hands on an exquisite work that bears a name we’ve never heard before. Such was the case with this lovely 1940’s painting by a man named Jean-Pierre Jouffroy, which reminded us of the artwork of James Brooks and other lyrical abstractionists.
Thank goodness for Google. An image search of the artist’s name brought up these two photos, and some French-to-English translating revealed the fascinating story behind them.
Jean-Pierre Jouffroy was born in Paris in 1933. When he was 11 years old, he saw the work of Wassily Kandinsky and Nicolas de Staël in a gallery and fell in love with modernism. “As a young boy, I dreamed of covering the surface of the earth in paint,” Jouffroy recalls.
Early in his career, the artist created purely abstract work that was heavily influenced by Staël. Then, in the late 1950’s, Jouffroy had an artistic epiphany.
“An abstract painting always shows something, like it or not,” he explains. “The painting is the image of an internal battle. This fight is itself a metaphor for our relationships in the social sphere.” Based on this realization, Jouffroy decided to incorporate the visual vocabulary of abstraction into representational work.
The shift sent the artist on a journey that traced the innovations of modernists like Picasso and Cezanne in reverse. Just like those artists, Jouffroy was experimenting with abstracted figures and landscapes, but he was coming from a wholly nonrepresentational world that his predecessors never explored. In tributes to Cezanne, Gauguin, Manet and Braque, he brought great artists of the past into harmony with a movement they all, in one way or another, helped to inspire.
Jouffroy’s new explorations caught the eye of the art world, and he exhibited at Paris’ Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and other renowned institutions. Though he was focused on figurative work, he was often associated with lyrical abstraction (as we suspected) because of his background, his loose brushwork and his inventive use of color.
Our Jouffroy painting represents an interesting phase in the artist’s evolution. Though it predates his representational work, it has undeniable elements of landscape. Perhaps it’s the first sign of the transformation that would send Jouffroy’s career in a spectacular new direction. You can see echoes of the work’s palette and brushwork throughout the artist’s retrospective at the Place du Colonel Fabien that opened in November.
When Charles Partridge Adams moved from Vermont to Denver in 1876, it had nothing to do with art. The 18-year-old’s family hoped Colorado’s arid climate could save his sister from tuberculosis. The girl died, but Adams discovered unexpected beauty in the tragic situation.
The teen fell in love with the Rocky Mountains, enrolling in art classes a year after his arrival so he could learn to capture their majesty. It was his first and last formal training. For the rest of his days, Adams developed his skills on intrepid painting expeditions across Colorado and the American West.
“I saw the Rocky Mountains as I had dreamed of them before I came West,” Adams wrote of a horseback ride in Estes Park in 1881. “Towering above a great valley filled with afternoon mists, their summits glistening with the pure white of winter snows. They formed an entrancing sight that I can never forget.”
Adams started out as a realist, but by the 1890s he was removing details and loosening his brushstrokes. He developed a bright, impressionistic style and took cues from tonalism, carefully detailing the thin mists that cleave to the foothills of the Rockies in the morning and the almost opaque storm clouds that crown their peaks in the afternoon.
The artist’s influences are clear in “Untitled (Landscape)”, a serene watercolor of a still lake under a sunset sky. Splashy clusters of brushstrokes form wild foliage that contrasts with the crystalline water, and the sky above fills the air with a rosy haze. Adams was known for his bold palette, but here he used muted colors in thin layers to mimic the atmospheric effects of dusk. His touch is so delicate that the lightest ribbon of color in the sky isn’t paint but bare white paper.
“He was… sophisticated in his use of watercolor,” says Thomas Smith, director of the Denver Art Museum’s Petrie Institute of Western American Art, which organized an exhibition of Adams’ work last year. “This was a self-taught artist, but he really grew up and he really taught himself things about the medium.”
“Untitled (Landscape)” may measure just 6 1/2 by 10 1/4 inches, but Adams had the loftiest intentions no matter the size of the paper. “At his best, the landscapist is able through the grandest, as well as the humblest forms of earth and sky and sea, to at least suggest the grandeur, poetry, mystery and beauty of this natural world,” he wrote. It was with these noble ambitions that Adams would become one of Colorado’s most beloved landscape painters of all time.
Come see Charles Partridge Adams’ “Untitled (Landscape)” in our NEW HORIZONS: Focus on Landscapes show. If you’d like to inquire about the piece, don’t hesitate to call the Matthews Gallery at 505-992-2882 or connect with us through Facebook or Twitter.
David Grossmann always knew he wanted to be an artist. Even before his first painting lessons with his grandmother at 10 years old, he was an avid sketcher, filling notebooks with intricate drawings of dragons and the floor plans of medieval castles. By 16, David was taking portrait commissions and doing book illustrations for a publishing company. Still, he couldn’t quite discern a path that would turn his passion into something more.
“I didn’t know how to get there as far as making a living as a professional artist,” the 29-year-old says. Finding that bridge would take a while, but it’s safe to say that he’s officially crossed it. We’re proud to be the first gallery to represent David and his work. It’s just the latest high point in an already impressive artistic career.
David was born in the United States and moved to Chile when he was two years old. It’s a place of stunning, harsh natural beauty that would inspire in David a lifelong passion for the outdoors. His grandmother was a landscape painter who lived in El Paso, Texas. When they saw each other, she would teach him oil painting techniques with a brush and palette knife.
When David was 14, the family decided to relocate to Colorado. It was a move that the teenager fiercely resisted.
“When we left, I didn’t say goodbye because I hadn’t accepted that we weren’t going back,” he says. “I’m sure for anyone, being 14 is probably a tough age. On top of that, adjusting to a new culture and new everything was really difficult.”
The move marked a big shift in David’s art. Not long after he arrived the young artist started receiving requests for commissions, and he enrolled in his first formal drawing classes with artist Valorie Snyder. His grandmother was an art director of a Christian publishing company and gave him a job illustrating Bible study curriculums.
“It became more of an outlet for me than it had been before,” David says. “It was a lot more serious, a lot more figurative works. I also started drawing more landscapes at that point.”
Despite his early success, David still didn’t see art as a viable career. In college he studied business and Spanish, focusing primarily on his studies instead of his artwork. During his last year at university, struck by the fear of being trapped in a cubicle, he finally committed to giving art school a shot.
At the Colorado Academy of Art, David learned classical painting techniques and took his first plein air painting class.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors, but until I took that class I felt like I couldn’t contain the landscape. It’s so huge, and I didn’t know how to make it into a composition,” he says. After he learned how to capture the beauty of nature on canvas, he knew that he’d be doing little else in his work. “That combination of being outdoors and painting, which were two of my favorite things, were just perfect for me,” he says.
Three years after David enrolled at the art academy, it abruptly closed. The artist once again found himself full of doubt; he’d learned a lot about painting, but he wasn’t sure how to sell his work. That’s when he started an apprenticeship with artist Jay Moore.
“In art school, my training was very much based on technique but not a lot on the professional side of things,” David says. Being in Moore’s studio gave him a window into the life of a working artist, and showed him that a fine art career was possible. “I didn’t know how long it would take to get there, but I knew that I could get there,” he says. “I remember being so excited. I’d been thinking about and dreaming about this for most of my life.”
Since then, David has developed a unique style that the artist calls “visual poetry”. Using a gentle, glowing palette, he paints abstracted visions of forests that are melodic in their focus on rhythm and symmetry. Sprawling swaths of landscape transform into flat, smooth planes while scattered trees lend a profound sense of depth. These contrasting perspectives set the works slightly off-balance, sending the eye on an endless quest to consolidate them. The compositions may seem serene, but they contain the same mysterious kinetic energy that tugs our eye from one stanza of a poem to the next.
“I think both poetry and paintings can capture an essence of something and stir emotion and imagination at a very deep level,” David says. “In some ways it’s very simplified and thought out, but hopefully it reaches to that level that connects with someone’s heart.”
David has since shown his work in many exhibitions, including national shows sponsored by Oil Painters of America, the American Impressionist Society, and Salon International. Southwest Art Magazine featured him as an “Artist to Watch” and his work has been featured in Plein Air Magazine and American Art Collector Magazine.
The artist is also an avid traveler, and has journeyed with sketchbook in hand through the Western United States, Eastern Europe, Africa and Central America. In 2011, he finally had the chance to return to Chile. He saw old friends and spent 11 days backpacking through Patagonia in Southern Chile. It was the first time he’d brought along a full painting set on a trip.
“It’s very rugged country and I was carrying a backpack that weighed over 60 pounds,” David says. “Having to paint under those circumstances where there’s just forceful gusts of wind nonstop, it really made me appreciate that every painting is a miracle. It brought out a new level of confidence in my work.”
David had come full circle. He left Chile as a child and returned as an artist.