Eric G. Thompson‘s new series of contemporary realist paintings arrived yesterday. As we pulled them from the box one by one, silenced by their cool gravitas, we saw them in a whole new way. First came a solitary bird in a tree, silhouetted against a pale sky. Was he watching the pensive girl strolling through the field that emerged from the package next? Perhaps she was headed to the barn in the following image, where she’d sit and munch on the late-summer pear in the still life. It was as though we were opening an intricate matryoshka doll, with each picture adding a new layer of details to the story.
Light flows across Thompson’s canvases and panels like meditative thoughts, revealing an endless array of materials with diverse textures and reflective qualities. As a self-taught artist, Thompson learned to capture all of these effects through looking, painting and looking again. When you come to the opening reception for Eric G. Thompson: New Works at Matthews Gallery this Friday, August 14 from 5-7 pm, make sure to take just as much care as you ponder each composition (and perhaps find connections between them). Here’s a special preview:
A sun bleached rocking chair, the wind weathered facade of an old house, and a pair of muddy gardening clogs. To the average viewer, these objects warrant little more than a casual glance. Utah artist Eric G. Thompson captures them in stunning detail with oil, watercolor and egg tempera paint, guided by a centuries-old Japanese aesthetic.
“Objects have spirit. An old cup is like a person,” says Eric. Like the characters of the objects, figures and houses he paints, Eric’s technique was refined through life experience. He is completely self-taught, and believes this process has led him to find a unique voice and vision, through perseverance, trial and error. A painter since 1989, he now resides in Salt Lake City, Utah and has been selling his work professionally since 2002. He paints from his travels and the treasures discovered along the way, deftly switching mediums depending on the mood he wishes to convey.
Eric’s artwork possesses an elegant serenity that often stops our visitors in their tracks. The allure lies in the way he plays with light, illuminating beautiful details but also revealing hints of entropy and decay. This careful balance between order and chaos is drawn from the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, a major influence on Thompson’s work. The tradition encourages appreciation of imperfection, age and patina, often referred to as “flawed beauty.”
Eric and Hilary Thompson’s daughters dash around Matthews Gallery, exploring their father’s new solo exhibition ‘The Boundless Moment.’ They’ve just finished a long car ride from Salt Lake City but they’re bursting with energy.
Over the past year the children have grown alongside these canvases and panels, watching as thousands of brushstrokes transformed intorolling landscapes and rosy skin. Now these familiar images have magically appeared in our lofty, brightly lit space, sparking the girls’ curiosity. They stop before each work, craning their necks to get a good look.
The girls’ vivacity matches Hilary’s temperament. She keeps an eye on them as she chats and laughs with us. Eric is a quieter presence. He strolls around the gallery, analyzing the arrangement of the work and reading thelegendary poems we paired with them. Eric likes to think of his paintings as ‘visual haikus,’ which inspired us to select writings by Frost, Dickinson, Lowell and others to display during the show.
‘The Boundless Moment’ is something of a family act. Hilary was Eric’s model for the painting ‘Morning Cup,’ and wrote an accompanying poem that will debut at the opening reception. ‘The Chiseled Mother’ is a passionate meditation on parenthood and aging. As Eric cradles one of his daughters in his arms, you can tell that he’s just as inspired by the radiant spirit of his children.
Read Hilary’s poem below, and make sure to attend Eric’s artist reception on Friday, August 15 from 5-7 pm.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of our Facebook fans recently drew a line between our artist Eric G. Thompson and revered American realist painter Andrew Wyeth. That’s a common observation among visitors to the Matthews Gallery: both artists have muted palettes, a reverence for the even glow of the early morning and late afternoon sun, and, of course, a keen eye for the smallest of details.
Perhaps the element that best ties the two men together is their approach to the portrait. Their subjects stare pensively into the distance, lost in bittersweet memories as they lounge about in windswept landscapes. You can enter Eric’s Wyethian worlds this Friday from 5-7 pm at the opening for his new show “Breaking Through with Light“. Scroll down for a preview of the works in the exhibition, with accompanying quotes by Thompson and Wyeth:
“As a child, I would search out a patch of light entering the room and sit there forever in total bliss”
-Eric G. Thompson
Lunch Break, Eric G. Thompson
“It’s a moment that I’m after, a fleeting moment, but not a frozen moment.”
“In a world of pop culture that seems to be anti-silence, people seek the stillness they need without even realizing it.”
-Eric G. Thompson
“I search for the realness, the real feeling of a subject, all the texture around it… I always want to see the third dimension of something… I want to come alive with the object.”
“I feel that every one of my paintings is essentially a study of light or lack thereof—light coming into a room, light hitting an object, stretching a shadow, lighting an edge. All of this can be very powerful and moving in a painting,”
-Eric G. Thompson
Learn more about Eric G. Thompson’s “Breaking Through with Light” here, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for updates on his show.
We all know that Vincent Van Gogh left this world with 1.5 ears and a (probably) self-inflicted gunshot wound in his chest, but when you go on a hunt for the craziest artistic geniuses, the fou-rouxstarts seeming positively rational.
After all, Michelangelo was so averse to bathing or changing his clothes that his long-suffering assistant once wrote, “He has sometimes gone so long without taking (his shoes) off that then the skin came away, like a snake’s, with the boots.” The Renaissance master would wander off in the middle of conversations and refused to attend his brother’s funeral.
Gustave Courbet went a little nuts after he tangled with the French government and exiled himself to Switzerland, painting several “self-portraits” of bleeding, mangled fish. You surely have to be a bit bonkers to drive so many lovers insane, so Pablo Picasso deserves a spot in the art sanitarium as well. Then there’s Paul Gauguin, who made up romantic, insanely elaborate lies about his dismal trips to Tahiti.
Lesser-known prodigies only suffer more, it seems. French painter Leon Bonvin was found dangling from a tree after a dealer refused to show his paintings. Dutch artist Abraham van der Doort, who was Charles I’s art conservationist, thought he’d lost one of the king’s favorite pieces and offed himself. Dutch painter Herman Kruyder ended it all in a psychiatric ward, and Polish writer Stanislaw Ignacy Witkierwicz fed his lover poison and slit his wrists after the Second Army invaded Poland.
Does true artistic brilliance come hand in hand with insanity? Perhaps to see things in revolutionary ways, you have to take a trip off the edge. What do you think? Join the discussion on our Facebook and Twitter pages, or in the comments section below.
Over the next two weeks, we’re paying tribute to 10 painters who changed the course of art history. Our first five picks range from Il Divino to the “painter of light”. Who do you think we missed? Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to join the discussion, and click here to read part 2!
1. Giotto (1266/7-1337)
The Italian painter and architect was most likely born in Florence, the city where he would live and work for his entire life. Legend has it that the young Giotto was herding sheep and stopped to sketch the animals on a rock when famous Tuscan painter Cimabue strolled by and took him as an apprentice. One of art history’s most passionate debates centers on whether Giotto completed parts of Cimabue’s frescoes at Assisi. Regardless, it was Giotto’s break from the traditions of Cimabue and his contemporaries that helped spark the Italian Renaissance.
In Giotto’s frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel, the stylized Byzantine figures that were popular at the time are nowhere in sight. His figures are solid and sculptural, their robes draping naturally from their frames. This is a painter who drew inspiration from what his eyes could see. 16th century biographer Giorgio Vasari wrote that Giotto started “the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years.”
In contrast with Giotto, this prolific sculptor, painter, architect, poet and engineer left behind a paper trail that makes him one of the most well-documented artists of his time. Michelangelo completed the Pieta and David before he turned 30 and redesigned part of St. Peter’s Basilica at 74. In between, he completed the ceiling frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, spent 40 years creating Pope Julius II’s tomb and worked on a multitude of other projects. Even in his time he was known as Il Divino, “the divine one”.
The Last Judgment fresco on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, one of Michelangelo’s final works, is the fulfillment of Giotto’s artistic legacy. His massive figures seem to press from the wall with all of the terriblita (awe-inspiring grandeur) of living giants. Giorgio Vasari, who wrote a biography of Michelangelo during his lifetime, called the artist’s works the apex of the Renaissance. They also inspired Mannerism, the movement that proceeded the Renaissance in Western art.
3. Caravaggio (1571-1610)
It’s no secret that Caravaggio was an unpleasant guy. A public notice from 1604 accused him of crashing gatherings armed with a sword, “ever ready to engage in a fight or an argument, so that it is most awkward to get along with him.” Perhaps that’s why he was swiftly forgotten after his death in 1610 and wasn’t recognized for his great influence on art history until three centuries later.
The artist was born in Milan and grew up in the city of Caravaggio. His parents were both dead by his teen years so he started an apprenticeship with painter Simone Peterzano, who was Titian’s pupil. He moved to Rome in 1592 and rose to fame as he developed the style that would come to define Baroque painting. His figures were incredibly realistic, their skin pocked, their feet dirty and their faces full of emotion. They were illuminated by high key chiaroscuro lighting. Caravaggio fearlessly placed the common people in the spotlight, a coup that would serve the Counter-Reformation well.
4. Velazquez(1599- 1660)
Diego Velazquez’ oeuvre mostly consists of pompous portraits of the Spanish royal family and other powerful and privileged Europeans. It was a twisty play on this genre that would secure his place in art history. Velazquez was born in Seville and educated well. He worked his way up the ranks of painters in his hometown and then hopped to Madrid, where a connection with the king’s chaplain and the timely death of the Spanish royal court painter helped him land the coveted position in 1624.
Four years before his death, Velazquez painted his masterpiece Las Meninas. The painting shows Spanish princess Margaret Theresa standing next to the painter himself, who’s working on a large canvas. In a mirror behind them are the faces of the king and queen. The sophisticated work’s bifurcating viewpoints throw its true subject into question and place Velazquez far ahead of his time. More than two hundred years later the painter’s work would inspire the Realists, the Impressionists and the Modernists.
5. Turner (baptized 1775-1851)
JMW Turner was known as the “painter of light”, but the artist with the ethereal subject matter had a very solid impact on art history. The Romantic landscape painter was born in London to a barber and wig maker. He showed his drawings in his father’s shop as a young boy, and studied under architects and a draftsman before enrolling in the Royal Academy of Art as a 14-year-old. His reputation swiftly grew, and he had his own studio by 18. However, when he verged away from picturesque landscapes in favor of stormier subject matter, Protestant society was shocked.
In his famous oil Rain, Steam and Speed, Turner depicts a locomotive as a surging pillar of tumbling air with a black smokestack as its only identifying characteristic. As details melted away and Turner focused on the continuous flux of air and light, critics started turning against the artist. An 1802 review called his works “too indeterminate and wild”, and writers were keen to tie his chaotic paintings to radical new political and social movements. Turner became increasingly isolated from society and often refused to sell his paintings, but his work had an undeniable influence across Europe, inspiring Claude Monet and other French artists in their steps toward Impressionism.