In a time like no other

Dear Artist, In this part of my journey, in a cathedral of eucalyptus, I’m suddenly interrupted by a flock of noisy parrots, like agitated angels shifting high above in the canopy. Out on the lake, black-necked swans glide against a reflection of the Andes. Surprisingly, in this corner of Patagonia, there’s a pretty good signal on my Blackberry. Linda Kulhanek of Hechingen in the Swabian Hills of southern Germany just dropped a note to say she is driving north to see the Anders Zorn show in Lubeck. Referring to our recent interest in the work of Italian master Antonio Mancini, she mentioned that Anders Zorn “is also finally getting the attention he deserves.” She adds, “I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve seen the show.” I shot off a note to Sam, who’s back in Canada, to put up a selection of Zorn’s work. Several Argentine subscribers have written or phoned their welcomes. The Berry also jingles from time to time with friends from home who didn’t know I’d left. We live in a time like no other. The brotherhood and sisterhood of artists form a worldwide congregation that stands before beauty and shares in a common struggle and understanding. In our solitudes we are part of a greater community. One of the intriguing byproducts of the twice-weekly letter is that readers, by mistake or by plan, often copy to me messages that are meant for one another. This morning, for example, I found out that Albert was meeting Fred for a day of plein air near Port Carling, Muskoka, Ontario. Barb from a place unknown also contacted Stef to say, “That was so much fun today even though Karen couldn’t make it. Your enthusiasm is infectious — I feel like creating.” We don’t always need help or guidance in our quiet studios or shady bowers. It’s that we’re all here and present to reinforce one another’s belief. Not in a “rah rah” sort of way, but just in the knowledge that it’s all good. By being in high-tech connection we selectively jog our higher selves into what author and journalist Daniel Pink calls “high concept” and “high touch.” By common consensus we know that what we are doing, and where we are going, are worthwhile. Right now I’m thinking those angels in the canopy may be members of the brotherhood and sisterhood that have gone before. But then again, maybe I’m just a bit beguiled by it all. Best regards, Robert PS: “It’s nothing short of a whole new brain… animated by a different form of thinking and a new approach to life.” (Daniel Pink) Esoterica: Anders Zorn (1860-1920) was born in Sweden and became one of the most celebrated and successful painters of his time. Zorn travelled extensively in Europe and America, painting and exhibiting in watercolour and oils. Noted particularly for his nudes, Zorn painted in a broad, forceful style that is still emulated. Zorn and his wife, Emma, after a lifetime of wanderlust, returned to Mora in Sweden and enlarged the old family cottage into what is now the Zorn Museum, Zorngarden. Wherever we may happen to be on our blue and precious planet, we look forward to hearing what Linda Kulhanek of Hechingen has to say about Zorn’s Lubeck show.   Anders Zorn

“Badande kullor i bastun (Women bathing in the sauna)”
oil painting 1906


oil painting 1919


“Summer Fun”
oil painting 1886


oil painting

              Wonder of the nude by Michael Epp, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

“Looking out looking over”
original painting
by Michael Epp

Looking at Zorn’s women makes me think that the ‘obesity epidemic’ may be nothing new. Or were those lush bodies aesthetically preferable to the typical woman’s body of the time, I wonder?         There are 5 comments for Wonder of the nude by Michael Epp
From: Anonymous — Jan 26, 2012

Those lush bodies were Swedish!!!! Ib

From: Helen Howes — Jan 27, 2012

And by no means Obese, even by today’s standards of fragile waifery..

From: Jackie Knott — Jan 27, 2012

Obese?? My God man, my first thought was, “How nice to see someone paint real women instead of Vargas fantasies.”

From: Anonymous — Jan 27, 2012

You have a point – in this time like no other, some women have the time/money for boot camps, marathons, diet programs and similar things that make them look the way you like. I am happy for them.

From: mesu — Jan 27, 2012

In Zorns time “Olive Oil bodies” would have not enticed him to paint nudes.

  Memories of Argentina by Veronica Cluett, Picton, ON, Canada  

by José Fioravanti

Imagine my surprise when I received the first e-mail, after joining the twice-weekly letter, written from Argentina the country of my birth. Such a coincidence, especially as it referred to the monuments, which Argentines love (especially of their national heroes). You see we lived next door to a fairly famous Argentine sculptor called Jose de Fioravanti who sculpted national themes and heroes. He and his Russian artist wife were our neighbours during my early years. Senor Fioravanti was commissioned by my parents to sculpt a bust of my older sister, so while she posed I would play with the clay that Senor Fioravanti gave me to entertain me and keep me busy and out of the way. Had we not left for a new life in Canada, I am sure I would have become a sculptor, as Mr. Fioravanti who had no children, offered to instruct me in the art of sculpting. Your second e-mail referencing eucalyptus and parrots just kept the memories flowing. There is 1 comment for Memories of Argentina by Veronica Cluett
From: Anonymous — Jan 27, 2012

They would probably love the on line banking.

  Blackberries of old? by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

oil painting
by Rick Rotante

Imagine the masters of old with blackberries?? What would their conversations be about? Michelangelo conferring on what colors he is considering for the Sistine ceiling perhaps. Or DaVinci sending pictures of his war machines out for construction. Do you think they would have been distracted from work by incessant emails? I’ve always considered the phone a good thing, though it took away much of my privacy until someone invented the answering machine. The Internet brings the world to my screen in seconds and allows me contact to anyone, anywhere at anytime of the day or night. Time travel is — after all — possible. I think I’ll email Einstein and tell him he was correct.     Political art turn-off by Silvina Day, Los Angeles, CA, USA  


“Steve’s Shirt”
oil painting, 14 x 11 inches
by Silvina Day

I am thrilled that you are in Argentina, the country where I was born. I see that you have visited Buenos Aires, where I lived until 10 years of age, and had my first exposure to fine art in the Capital’s museums. I do remember the military statues in every public square. I can only assume it was government propaganda. The private citizens were very opinionated and inclined to long, hostile political discussions that made no sense to me as a child. I just remember that everybody was ticked-off. When I attended grade school in Buenos Aires, there were antique oil paintings, portraits of political figures, hanging on the walls of each class room, including an original of Napoleon Bonaparte. I may have been looking at the paintings more than the teacher. So glad there weren’t portraits of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Regan hanging on the walls when I attended school in California! More “political art” might have turned me off to painting altogether. There are 2 comments for Political art turn-off by Silvina Day
From: Laurel Alanna McBrine — Jan 26, 2012

Nice painting1

From: Laurel Alanna McBrine — Jan 26, 2012

Oops, that l was supposed to be an exclamation point!!

  Anders Zorn books by Steve Clement, Colorado Springs, CO, USA  

“Mount Yale Evening”
original painting
by Steve Clement

A good source for excellent books about Anders Zorn is the site of the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. Also, if your readers wish, they can order directly from the Zorn Museum in Sweden. I have ordered books from both, and they are great people. I do love his work, though I do not paint in his style. The books from both sources are first class.   There are 2 comments for Anders Zorn books by Steve Clement
From: Carol Reynolds — Jan 30, 2012

Wonderful painting! The clouds are perfection.

From: Brian Bastedo — Feb 22, 2012

WOW!Steve, this painting ROCKS!! I was initially struck by the clouds, then my eyes scrolled downwards to the details in the mountains, the midground, then I took in the composition and the colours. Don’t know what else to say,it’s a gorgeous painting!

  Scandinavia’s golden age of painting by Robin Shillcock, Groningen, Netherlands  

oil painting
by Robin Shillcock

The Argentinean portraits you feed us with look pretty stiff when compared to what Zorn produced at the height of his powers. He is renowned for his nude buxom lasses and fluid brushwork, but I prefer his earlier oils and large watercolours that brought the sharper edges of village life in Sweden in focus. He also painted very poetic images full of longing and anticipation, and powerful portraits. Once, when visiting the White House in Washington, I stood in awe of a forceful portrait of Howard Taft; I knew nothing about Taft but was struck by the liveliness of the painting — and I was ten at the time. Much later, while a student in art school, I discovered that Taft (quite buxom himself) had been portrayed by Zorn’s portraits — can compare to the work of other great portraitists of the “juste milieu” (the filthy rich) like Sargent, Sorolla and Boldini. Interest in Zorn never flagged, at least, not in Scandinavia. In 1989 there was a big Zorn show in München, Germany. The Zorn Museum in Mora is well worth the pilgrimage, as is his robust, viking-inspired studio next door. I too, will be driving east with some painter friends to Lubeck, and we intend to meet up with some German realists to see the show. Scandinavia has other great painters on offer besides Zorn: Bruno Liljefors, Carl Larsson, Eero Järnefelt, Prins Eugen, Vilhelm Hammershøi, Axel Gallen-Kallela, Anna Ancher, P.S. Krøyer, Helene Sjerfbeck, Gustaf Fjaestad and many others. So much talent, such beautiful paintings. The years 1880-1910 were Scandinavia’s golden age of painting in the realist & impressionist tradition. I think we tend to overemphasize our Era of Communication, however vast our opportunities of swapping info are. We forget that people travelled often and well a hundred years ago, when travel was much more of a hassle. Exchange of views was slower, but took place nonetheless. Any self-respecting artist subscribed to the International Studio, which presented art from all over the world. In fact, these magazines are still of great interest to me today; I cherish the modest stack I have at home, and try to keep them out of sight from my colleagues.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for In a time like no other

From: Daniela — Jan 23, 2012

There are two, for me, special websites, that keep me “in high tech connection”, one of them of course is yours. I find myself once again racking my brain as to what it is that makes a painting or artists style endearing or not, irrespective of the level of accomplishment of technique, etc…you know the sort of thing, your eyes see the excellence yet sometimes and you don’t feel anything, that sort of thing…I wish, Robert, you would write about this, or probably you have, (?) many a time.

From: Tom Semmes — Jan 24, 2012

One of the great benefits of your site, Robert, is that I hear about artists that I have not heard of before. I am developing a new appreciation for classical artists that are not getting the recognition they deserve. Today it was Anders Zorn. Last week it was Antonio Mancini. And there have been many others, mentioned only briefly in passing, that I have googled and enjoyed.

From: Carolynn Doan — Jan 24, 2012

Zorn’s work seems a little Degas-esk. Do you know if he happened to cavort with the impressionists while painting in Europe?

From: Luige Luis — Jan 24, 2012

I want to thank you Robert for the connected you have for us in these letters. Yes, we are in extraordinary time. I don’t know you, but you are somewhere in my country Argentina and I love it that you are here as am I. It is my country. The artists who take part in this website make me happy and glad that I am in this arte.

From: Wendy Kennedy — Jan 25, 2012

Today’s letter was just what I needed for the bleak mid-winter doldrums in the Ottawa valley. I’m going out to find some way to feel connected again!

From: Ron Wilson — Jan 25, 2012

I am a jeweler. Technically, by the people who determine such things a, “craft”. I am many things. I do miniature sculpture in wax and stone and the jewelry. I really feel a kindred spirit in your twice-weekly letters.

From: Laurel Alanna McBrine — Jan 26, 2012

Love Zorn, the Swedish Sargent, and all those other brushy, painterly realists!!

From: vonnie — Jan 27, 2012

Zorn and Monet were great friends – I recall reading that they painted together in Norway where Monet had his first ever exhibition – a sellout.

From: David — Jan 27, 2012

Where have all the lush nudes gone? (long time passing) Can’t remember the last time I saw a gallery show with many nudes, and even though I’ve painted a couple they get the equivalent of nasty looks/comments. What the heck? Where do you ever see a nude painting in public? Porn and sex is everywhere today, so why are paintings of nudes still in the closet???

From: Rodrica Tilley — Jan 27, 2012

These are the last days of the exhibit Degas and the Nude at Museum of Fine Art Boston. Saw it yesterday and it is fabulous…and yes, there are some dancers – unclothed sculptures. It closes Feb 5.

From: Louise — Jan 27, 2012

David, great comment. I was once told not to exhibit a nude (male) painting because the gallery has to “respect family values”. This was a gallery of a national art organization in Canada. Prudes are alive and well here.

From: Guillermo Sanchez — Jan 28, 2012

Here in the southern hemisphere we circulate in our paintings differently than you do up north.

From: Donna Veeder — Jan 30, 2012

I’d like to respond to the fellow who thought Zorn’s women were sort of large. I would say, yes, that was the style and size of women back then. They did not like bones. They liked WOMEN! I look at the old photos of my Grandmother who was quite plump and my mother who was less so and then of us, in the ’50’s and we were also thinner and now the style for women is to be bone-y. But it is way more fun to paint plump women and probably also even plump men than skinny ones. When there are so many bones, it is more difficult to find form. My first nude was a young man who was quite well built but he was really difficult to paint because I could see all his ribs. But those women by Zorn were full in form and of form. Blossoming. Look at some old masters. Their women are portrayed heavy with cellulite. Reubens? Lots of form, lots of pink flesh and the people loved them. Maybe it is more healthy to be skinny but it is more beautiful, in paint, to be a bit fleshy.

From: Eustace Empalme — Jan 30, 2012

We are a world wide congregation who tolerates all manner of accomplishment, dead and alive. We must, for we know it is so difficult to reach the sainthood of the great. Art is a meritocracy where even the humble and meek can get in. Argentina

     Featured Workshop: Robin d’Arcy Shillcock
012712_robert-genn   Robin d’Arcy Shillcock workshops   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

Jogi Baba

oil painting, 20 x 30 inches by Mohammad Ali Bhatti, Jamshoro, Pakistan

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Frances Stilwell of Corvallis, OR, USA, who wrote, “Anders Zorn? Another fine painter like Frank Duvenek (Cincinnati) in early 1900’s. Where can we see more of Mancini?” And also Marvin Humphrey of Napa Valley, CA, USA, who wrote, “In your first paragraph, I conjured up a magical scene in my mind’s eye. You also paint beautiful pictures with words. Zorn was a true master; like Franz Hals. He kept it simple with a 4-color palette: black, white, yellow ochre and vermillion.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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