Eugenio Zampighi — First Step (1900)

November 29: MousterWork #48

My Changes:

Lightened it a touch (I wanted to ensure this important step feels as bright as the moment!), improvised on a few colors, and added a pattern to the mother’s dress.

Things I thought/Questions I asked:

This scene resonated with me the moment I saw it. First off, who doesn’t get excited to watch a baby take the first step? (Well okay, some parents don’t look forward to whatever mischief will ensue. But still.) And this family looks as ideally joyful as I would hope for any family, complete with a cute baby happy to progress toward the next stage, a proud mother fully engaged in this important step, and an encouraging older brother eager to help out. Oh, and a pet chicken scavenging for food completely oblivious to what’s about to happen.

Other things I love about this painting are its wonderful details: the Flagstone floor, the laundry basket set to the side, and the many wall scars. It almost looks like there had been a fire? And why are the remnants of a torn piece of paper still stuck to the wall? My son also wonders if the upside-down basket is where they keep the hen when they need her out of the way?

What I noticed or learned from Zampighi’s techniques:

The joyful moment and the details are probably what I love most about this scene. That and the fact that it depicts an ordinary, idyllic Italian family—something that Zampighi focused on throughout his work. These paintings resonated so much with tourists that he just kept on going. I also found it interesting that he recreated scenes of rural families to photograph and then paint—just like Norman Rockwell (another of my favorite painters).

Edward Mitchell Banister — Sad Memories

November 22: MousterWork #47

My Changes:

Added digital paint (instead of keeping it just charcoal) with sepia shades and gave details more definition.

Things I thought/Questions I asked:

Why is this poor woman so sad? And it feels like the little boy is angry. Why? The storyline I derived comes from linking the painting of a ship on the wall and the toy ship the boy is playing with. Perhaps the father is lost at sea or has died?

I absolutely love the feeling this piece evokes. But though it feels so sad, that sadness is mixed with warmth from the fire. I also like that I can hear the quiet of the night and the popping of the fire. And I can feel the sorrow and the warmth of the fire.

What I noticed or learned from Bannister’s techniques:

I appreciate Bannister’s use of texture and value to create so much feeling. His loose scribbles imply form beautifully, and he says only as much as he needs to then stops knowing he’s achieved that.

Edward Mitchell Bannister — The Salute (1895)

November 15: MousterWork #46

My Changes:

I made the adults kids and took liberty to interpret the foliage in a more stylized way.

Things I thought/Questions I asked:

I think this location would be a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. (Though it’s probably humid and buggy.) I love the time of day—which adds to the sentimentality of the piece. I also love the almost hidden path of trampled grass, the sweeping trees, and the wisps of grass. It’s all so very beautiful.

The title for this painting is The Salute, but when I sidle the title beside the painting I’m not sure what Bannister was trying to say. Is this a salute of love, friendship, honor, or respect? Are these people friends? They obviously know each other somehow, but to what extent? It feels like there’s a deeper connection between them since one girl is standing and waving her handkerchief, while the girl on the left has bowed her head. (Is she sad?) The original boy in the distance looks white (I made mine African American) while the women in the mid-ground feel African American—which is, perhaps, what confuses me so much. With our sad history of unjust racial treatment, I can’t just look at this painting and say this a group of friends saying hello or goodbye. Although the intent of the original isn’t clear to me, I opted to make mine a melancholy goodbye.

What I noticed or learned from Bannister’s techniques:

When I found this painting, the emotion spoke to me first. I love how Bannister portrayed the women. Although they are small within the huge landscape and I can’t see their features, the girls feel large since Bannister stands them beside that massive, dark clump of trees. I’ll admit that this painting also overwhelmed me with the amount of implied detail that I had to interpret—and I’m not sure I did it due justice. (Landscapes aren’t easy for me!)

Speaking of justice, as I learned about Bannister I came across an infuriating story. Since he was African American, not only did he not get much help learning how to paint, but for years he wasn’t allowed to participate in art shows. At one point he managed to get a painting into a juried show where it won first place—until the judges learned he was African American. After that, they rescinded the award. Fortunately, other painters in the competition argued against this until the judges relented and offered Bannister 3rd place. Which is still infuriating—but it did make Bannister the first African American to win an award for a painting.

William Merritt Chase — Idle Hours (1894)

November 8: MousterWork #45

My Changes:

I took a less impressionist approach. I also substituted a boy for one of the grownups (Chase’s wife) since most of my latest MousterWorks are filled with girls . . . You may also notice a few other differences if you examine the characters up close.

Things I thought/Questions I asked:

What a wonderful place to enjoy an afternoon! Just looking at the original makes me take a deep breath. I can hear the waves licking the shoreline, the breeze rustling the grasses, and the seagulls speaking in the distance. I can feel that wonderful sun on my face . . . and the scratchy grass. How can you sit comfortably if the grass makes you itch? Which makes me wonder when people started bringing blankets outside to sit on?

This painting really challenged me. I can spend forever on anatomy and expression and barely notice the time, but I find landscapes so tedious (as may be evidenced here). I think what makes them hard is that I don’t know when to stop or continue with detail. There’s always another twig, another leaf, another pebble . . . It’s especially difficult to turn an impressionistic painting into something with detail and I’m scratching my head to guess what each plant is. Some artists do landscapes so well, but this painting definitely points out room for improvement!

What I noticed or learned from Chase’s techniques:

My favorite aspect of Idle Hours is how Chase captures the relaxed mood of a friendly group on a beautiful afternoon. He painted this at a time when he did a lot of plein air painting, and on this afternoon he brought his family along. Even though he doesn’t emphasize details like eyes or fingers, there is still quite a lot of detail in places that might escape your notice—the reds and yellows in the grasses, greens in the water, and in his brush strokes he used to create texture—the waves, the various grass textures, etc. Because of this, I think for my rendition to feel finished with enough of that detail I think I’d need another day or two.

Cecilia Beaux — Ernesta (Child with Nurse) (1894)

November 1: MousterWork #44

My Changes:

Amped up the color, added in a storyline, changed the girl’s race, and played around with the textures.

Things I thought/Questions I asked:

This painting poses lots of questions for me. Who is this little girl? Is she getting ready for bed? a party? the morning? If I’d have to guess, I’d say it was a party, though I’ve opted to portray her getting ready for bed. Who is her nurse? How long has the nurse attended to her? They obviously have a good relationship since the girl is holding her hand so trustfully. I like that we can’t see the nurse’s face; it lets me imagine who she is. Judging by the age of her hand, I’d guess she’s probably in her late 40s or 50s. Who are the parents? Are they much involved in their daughter’s life or do they mostly leave it to the nurse? They are obviously a family of wealth to afford a nurse and such a beautiful dress.

What I noticed or learned from Beaux’s techniques:

Between this MousterWork and the last, I’ve especially enjoyed Beaux’s backgrounds. Though sparce, her grungy application of paint creates movement and energy that points us right where she wants us to look. I also appreciate being able to clearly see the little girl’s face and anatomy.

Missed my October MousterWorks? Find them here.

About Me

My name is Angela, and I love how Masterpieces make me think about people painted in time. Hopefully MousterWorks will get you thinking too!

All original images © Angela C. Hawkins


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