Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Tessa Coleman, Artist of the Month, part 3

Seven Young Men in Venice

We took my in laws to Venice this week to celebrate my father in law’s eightieth birthday. The tourists had fled the floods and the rain and left Venice to the Venetians, most of whom were old and in furs so the city was quiet and slightly forlorn. I did come across seven beautiful young men as we meandered however, all called Sebastian and mostly Venetian, although one was passing through en route to Mantua. The line up tells one more about the development of the venetian renaissance than pages of writing can, have a look for yourself..


     Jacobo       Andrea da   Giovanni          Andrea           Palma         Veronese       Tintoretto
      Bellini        Murano        Bellini            Mantegna        Vecchio          1564               1587
      1464          1478              1468                   1506               1524       

A few things struck me about the gang of youths: firstly how Saint Sebastian packed on the pounds over the period. He starts looking positively skinny, is pretty perfect by the time Giovanni Bellini portrays him, but is building up the muscle, more Venice Beach than Venice, with Veronese and Tintoretto. To me the first three paintings are all about the drawing, but colour takes precedence in the final three. The pose also becomes progressively more dramatic, anguished and contorted, and by Tintoretto’s image poor old Sebastian is being skewered on the altar of mannerism.    

Lastly it struck me that, rather like Venice itself, what a close knit claustrophobic world venetian painting circles must have been. Jacobo was father to Giovanni and Gentile Bellini, father in law to Mantegna, who married Giovanni and Gentile’s sister Nicolosia, Giovanni taught Titian and Giorgione, Andrea da Murano imitated Giovanni, Titian briefly taught Tintoretto, Tintoretto and Veronese were arch rivals on  several big commissions, Palma Vecchio trained Boniface Veronese who trained Tintoretto after he fell out with Titian. I wish someone would make a painters tree out of the tangle of connections…  

Monday, 19 November 2012

Part 2. Tessa Coleman, Artist of the Month

Did Seurat ever meet Vermeer?

I was looking at a book of Seurat’s tonal drawings the other day and came across the wonderful drawing he did of his mother stitching her embroidery. The atmosphere of quiet concentration, the self containment, the beautiful subtlety and delicacy of the tonal values and the complete absence of line all reminded me forcibly of another much younger woman also hard at work with her stitching.

It turns out that the Lacemaker arrived in Paris to take up residence at her current home in the Louvre a few years before Seurat drew his mother in 1882. Piero Della Francesca is the name that more often springs to mind when looking at Seurat’s large paintings and he did spend time studying Piero as a student at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, but I feel sure he stood in front of the Vermeer’s Lacemaker now and again too.  

The Lacemaker                                                  

Seurat's Mother
Seurat (right)   

Both historic works of art are located at the Musee du Louvre


Monday, 5 November 2012

Artist of the Month November - Tessa Coleman

Enthusiastic Starts

As a painter I am insatiably curious about how fellow painters do their thing, how they work, how they avoid falling into the trap of practicing avoidance tactics, how they get down to the serious business of concentrating! So I thought I would start this blog by a quick tour of my studio and show you what is going on there at the moment.

Looking around I see with a sinking heart that it is littered with enthusiastic starts that have on the whole been abandoned for another more interesting idea once the going gets tough. There are always a few of these knocking about but they seem to have proliferated recently. There’s my current preoccupation with Piero Della Francesca’s Flagellation going on in one corner, to date two unfinished paintings, three books-worth of reading and still no sign of any resolution.

                                          stag head blocking in                                        


Then there’s the fine stag skull hanging precariously on a picture hook that I have been drawing for a while and thinking about painting for over a year. I finally made a start on it a couple of weeks ago, setting it up with two light sources and sets of shadows that make the most fantastic abstract patterns, and dived straight into the blocking in stages of the painting. It was a really good start as I had spent so much time drawing the skull I felt I knew where I was going with it. However I am now struggling to capture the terribly thin slice of tone that I have restricted myself to and to still the make the picture read coherently.                                   

                                                   but still too dark..

                                           getting there on the tones…  

In the corner by the window is a jar of forlorn dying flowers, vestiges of a painting that left for an exhibition recently in a bit of a hurry. I find it difficult sometimes to move the setup on even when the painting has long departed, because I know perfectly well the painting is not finished even though the deadline has well and truly passed! 

Leant against the wall is the most protracted enthusiastic start of all, a portrait of my daughter Oonagh lost in one of the first big novels she started to read aged nine. She is now fourteen, has grown ten inches,  no longer fits into the chair she was curled up in with that book five years ago, and I am still not happy with the painting. 

There are a few more starts lurking in the shadows that I am not going to ‘fess up to because I can’t even face them myself at the moment. Now I need to go make a cup of tea, eat a chocolate biscuit, and finish a few paintings….