Okay, here is my exculpatory confession: I did it purely for shock value. You may cuff me now, Hercule Poirot.
Not that what I painted was particularly shocking – after all, we all happen to be nude under our clothes, right? But nudity can be disruptive in the present plein air scene because no one has tried to hang it in a major show for as long as I can remember. And I wanted to be the first.
Historically, there is far more to the genre of plein air than boats and barns, trees and landscapes, and intimate street scenes or floral vignettes. In fact, there is a long run of famous artists taking the nude outdoors. So the following quote explains my intention perfectly:
"If you consider for a moment, you will perceive that painting the figure in the open involves a simultaneous attack on nearly every problem in the wide domain of art. You have first of all the out-door questions of atmospheric vibration and refraction, and the consideration of the color-scale and value-scale; then, in addition to these, you have practically all the in-door problems, which include figure-composition and arrangement, in addition to the usual problems of drawing and modeling - the latter presented in a reversed and unfamiliar form, owing to the new and unexpected color-reflections from the sky and surrounding sunlit landscape."
-Birge Harrison, Landscape Painting, 1909
I couldn't put it better than that.
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Whoa there, partner. If nakedness offends you then stop right here!
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There is, for example, "Luncheon on the Grass" (Eduard Manet)
"Eclogue" (Kenyon Cox)
"Illusions" (Henry Brown Fuller)
"Pomona" (Childe Hassam)
"The Bather" (Jean-Francios Millet)
"Diana" (early Auguste Renoir)
"Au Bord de la Mer" (Frederich Carl Frieseke)
"Jollen" (Anders Zorn)
"Reclining Nude" (Berthe Morisot)
"The Bathers, Javea" (Joaquim Sorolla y Bastida)
And of course, the well known contemporary
figurative painter, Jeremy Lipking.
In truth, from the 19th century on it can be difficult to find a major artist who didn't paint the nude outdoors at some point. So when the folks who organize and run Plein Air Easton saw my figurative portfolio last year challenged me to paint a couple for this year I said yes. Since they were on board (as was the museum venue) how could I not? I love the figure and the landscape with equal passion and am constantly looking for an opportunity to integrate them in some way.
So here are my two paintings. Given the fact I was working at a large size outside, with a maximum of six hours to execute each painting, I am happy with the results. Both nudes are now on display in Easton, MD and will remain so indefinitely.
The Red Parasol
24 x 30 | oil | en plein air
30 x 24 | oil | en plein air
Of course, I also painted the customary boats, barns, trees and landscapes as well since I didn't expect to sell nudes at the gala soiree. Doing so was never my intention. The nudes were hung as a statement, and hopefully to create some buzz – which they did. The Eastern Shore is a conservative place, a very conservative place actually, and my goal was to remind anyone who showed up there is a long and great tradition being overlooked at these competitions and invitationals. A worthy tradition I hope others will pursue as well.
I'll post the rest of the work from Easton soon...