GUEST WRITER VIKY GARDEN is seduced by the Impressionism, again

 |   |  2 min read

GUEST WRITER VIKY GARDEN is seduced by the Impressionism, again

To be honest, I was very sceptical about the forthcoming documentary The Impressionists (Sky Arts Channel, Thur April 19, 8.30)

I mean, the Impressionists – what don’t we already know?  We’ve got the apron, tea towel and placemats, and really, who by now hasn’t heard of them who’s interested in art?

What’s more, the opening shot of the uber-passionate presenter of the show – art writer, Waldemar Januszczak – standing shin deep in the resplendent waters of the Virgin Islands did somewhat deflate me.

But, again being honest, since watching this particular episode (Waldemar’s eagerness aside), various factors have stuck firmly in my mind, making me think more about the era in which the majority of early Impressionist works were produced.  

Impressionism coincided with the greatest change in social history, the industrial revolution.  Metal paint tubes, invented in 1841, allowed painters freedom from carting around minerals, oils, pigments, mortars and pestles to mix paint, and the need to store it in pig’s bladders away from light and heat – which is difficult to do if you’re trying to paint plein air.

water_lilies_1916_19_7_4297I hadn’t really thought about the importance of this simple invention, and it caused me to reconsider paintings prior to the 1840s, seeing them in a whole new light.  

Impressionism is a style of painting where light is virtually part of the medium.

In order to achieve the dappling characteristics of light, something else was invented, something so incredibly simple: the flat brush. Prior to this newly shaped brush, the standard shape was a round brush without a straight edge.

This new style of brush allowed for painterly abstraction, freeing the artist from the confines of realistic representation.  This relatively modest modification to the artist’s toolkit made an enormous difference to the history of art.

But wait, there’s more.

Keen to get out amongst nature, the artist was forced to struggle with large, rigid easels, and hired help was often required to load and unload all this bulky equipment. Portable mass produced easels with inbuilt cases for paint tubes emancipated the landscape artist forever.

Driving the great change of the industrial revolution was of course, the invention of the steam train.  What once took a day to journey from the city to the seaside was now an hour’s ride.

Voila! The Impressionist artist was born.

So, while I was initially reluctant to give my attention to a series that looked like being irritatingly populist, I have to admit that I’m now curious to know what other gems will be uncovered in future episodes.

It’ll pay to keep watching.  

Viky Garden is an Auckland artist whose work can be viewed here.

Other Voices Other Rooms is an opportunity for Elsewhere readers to contribute their ideas, passions, interests and opinions about whatever takes their fancy. Elsewhere welcomes travel stories, think pieces, essays about readers' research or hobbies etc etc. Nail it in 1000 words of fewer and contact graham.reid@elsewhere.co.nz.

See here for previous contributors' work. It is wide-ranging, huh? 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Other Voices, Other Rooms articles index

GUEST WRITER JEFFREY PAPAROA HOLMAN goes bird watching

GUEST WRITER JEFFREY PAPAROA HOLMAN goes bird watching

Everybody knows about the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers: it’s famous for sure, but far from most urban centres and off the beaten tourist track. Not so, the less well-known colony... > Read more

GUEST WRITER VIKY GARDEN is confronted by the work of painter Otto Dix

GUEST WRITER VIKY GARDEN is confronted by the work of painter Otto Dix

The paintings of Otto Dix are as unrelentingly abrasive as a mincing machine. It’s the kind of art you get when society is forced through a sieve then put under a microscope. It’s... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE 2016 APRA SILVER SCROLL AWARDS: The shortlist

THE 2016 APRA SILVER SCROLL AWARDS: The shortlist

If you pick up the Business section of the New Zealand Herald you start to wonder if there isn't anyone in those offices who hasn't been given some kind of award. The music world in New... > Read more

Fatboy Slim: You've Come a Long Way Baby

Fatboy Slim: You've Come a Long Way Baby

Slightly funny and true story: Back in the distant past Fatboy Slim -- aka famous DJ Norman Cook -- was coming to New Zealand and at the Herald we arranged for one our feature writers -- who'd... > Read more