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.
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.
Wonder of the nude
by Michael Epp, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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?
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Memories of Argentina
by Veronica Cluett, Picton, ON, Canada
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.
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Blackberries of old?
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA
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
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.
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Anders Zorn books
by Steve Clement, Colorado Springs, CO, USA
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.
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Scandinavia’s golden age of painting
by Robin Shillcock, Groningen, Netherlands
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.
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oil painting, 20 x 30 inches
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.”