Andrejs and I spent a couple of days in Washington DC, It was good to leave the studio and get out of my own head – to recharge my batteries so to speak. The goal of the trip was to see the Diebenkorn retrospective at the Corcoran which will close very soon, but side benefits were a great George Bellows retrospective at the National Gallery, and several hours at the National Portrait Gallery.
Bellows’ work at the National Gallery was extensive, and included his early works, and portraits. I had not known the full range of his work:. New York harbor scenes, and the excavation of Grand Central Station, compositions of massive forms, a study in scale; NYC crowds and mischievous street urchins; sedate traditional portraits – from the painter of bloody boxing scenes?
The Diebenkorn collection was impressive. There were a tremendous number of paintings, drawings and prints, ranging from huge to tiny. They were equally impressive in whatever medium or size. It is one thing to see paintings in books or on the web, another experience entirely in person.
After a couple of hours in the National Portrait gallery and American Museum I begin to understand and appreciate the tremendous range of choices that artists have today. I browsed room after room of portraits that, with minor variations, pretty much had the same range of tone and color, and the same three quarters (7/8?) perspective. Then in the late 19th and early 20th C there was an explosion of different styles, choices of color, ways of breaking up the space.
Back at home again, and ready to face the impasse with the Jillian portrait. Suddenly it is clear what color needs to surround the eyes, how the tone in the dark side of the face needs to deepen. The joy of getting close to the resolution of a painting, Then, the question of what to do next.