WikiArt “Artwork of the Day”

Here’s something to go along with the daily APOD, if you like.  WikiArt Visual Encyclopedia has an Artwork of the Day.  If the day’s offering is lovely, I set it as my desktop picture, maybe read up a little, and moon about  during the ensuing hours about how the thing looks, who the person was who created it and how he lived, how blind I am generally to what is about me (on account of mooning about,) and what poor consolation I can dredge up in the form of such paltry skills as I do have.

I am spared this exercise if the daily offering is some specimen of Bug-Ugly Post-Modernism or the like.  In such case the thing to do is snort derisively and look around elsewhere on the site for the day’s esthetic inspiration.

Recently it was Winslow Homer, a favorite and kind of a homeboy.  Many of his works are of the Adirondack wilds; others feature New Hampshire, or State of Maine fishermen.  The one above was new to me:  Sunset Fires, 1880 watercolor.

Like it?  It blows me away; multiple strains of thought start out immediately in multiple directions.  It will be days before I settle properly to my leaf-raking again.

Here is The Bridal Path, 1868, set in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Canoe in the Rapids, 1897, looks to me like an Adirondack river scene.

This time of year the neighbors are gearing up for the deer hunt; happily a couple of them aim to hunt our woods and pastureland, which is all to the good, of course. I know nothing of limits and do not inquire.  Winslow Homer’s painting of an Adirondack hunting shanty from a century and a half ago catches for us the way it was, in terms of camping style and the way it all looked in the big woods at night.

Our local art museum, the Hyde Collection, has a small Homer very similar to this one of an Adirondack guide.

Then don’t skip the fishermen paintings.  Nebelwarnung (“Fog Warning”) from 1885 always gives me the shivers.  Boston MFA has it.  Does anybody there appreciate it?  But check out the codfish in the man’s dory.  Will he make it back to the mother ship before the fog closes around him?  Did you know that cod fishermen, for centuries, went out in their dories in the morning, fished with long hand-lines all day, filled their dories to the swamping point with big codfish, heard the horn blast from the mother ship, rowed back, and were hauled up alongside – the dory fully laden?  It was a horrifically dangerous operation to play out every evening after the day’s work.  Sometimes they swamped; sometimes they were lost, just during that.

Princeton has Eastern Point Light, of 1880.  Good thing for the internet, as I am not driving to Princeton or dropping any money in that town.

Then there’s – oh, I’ll just have to stop.  Homer seemingly turned out thousands of pictures.

If you see something you like on Art of the Day, I hope you will post about it so we will not miss it.

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10 thoughts on “WikiArt “Artwork of the Day””

  1. All beauties. I love the binary-ness of Sunset Fires – all you really need in paint is just warms & cools. Looks like the paper had high rag content, lots of tooth, that’s what causes those jagged gashes of bare white paper, the artist lets the brush skip over them, giving the painting its sparkle.

    His sea pictures positively sway with the rolling waves, but of course he composed them that way – with Canoe in the Rapids your eye starts top left along the treeline, swings down the horizon and back up far right to the top of that pine, then slopes diagonally down through the boat to the white wave peak at left, then skids back to the lowest white crest on the right – urp! Fog Warning likewise is an orchestrated mass of diagonals, your eye zings right, left, loop-de-loop – masterful. And to bring the most critical shapes into high relief he sets the darkest darks by the lightest lights – the fisherman’s profile against those luminous clouds, and the glistening fish scales by the black-umber of the boat’s stern.

    I didn’t know about the cod fishermen’s dangerous, hard work. Fascinating – thank you for the background!

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  2. Beautiful.

    Sky, water, and a boat in between is the perfect arrangement and he did so many variations!

    ”…set the white sail between the grey sky and the bitter sea…”

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  3. Pencilvania:
    All beauties. I love the binary-ness of Sunset Fires – all you really need in paint is just warms & cools.

    Thank you for opening my eyes to this, @Pencilvania!  So these are warms and cools in pretty pure form.  The sun is so low that all the other colors have gone to black; hence this is just the moment for capturing some realistic binary-ness.

    Looks like the paper had high rag content, lots of tooth, that’s what causes those jagged gashes of bare white paper, the artist lets the brush skip over them, giving the painting its sparkle.

    Oh!  It appears he did that in the dark sky as well, indicating just right the series of breaks in the heavy nimbus.

    The more you write, the more I see; I thank you for writing.

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  4. Pencilvania:
    His sea pictures positively sway with the rolling waves, but of course he composed them that way – with Canoe in the Rapids your eye starts top left along the treeline, swings down the horizon and back up far right to the top of that pine, then slopes diagonally down through the boat to the white wave peak at left, then skids back to the lowest white crest on the right – urp!

    The picture sways.  Now that you mention it, yep it sure does.  I always sit in the bow, which means that my focus is constantly steadily on something:  signs on the water of hidden rocks or snags, the stern of the canoe ahead, or the curve of the river the farthest ahead I can see.  Consequently, the old visual cortex does not show me much in the way of motion, swaying or otherwise.  Did Homer paddle a canoe, I wonder, or did he loll about in an ADK guideboat, looking about him, while the guide, rowing in the center, took care of the navigation?

    Fog Warning likewise is an orchestrated mass of diagonals, your eye zings right, left, loop-de-loop – masterful. And to bring the most critical shapes into high relief he sets the darkest darks by the lightest lights – the fisherman’s profile against those luminous clouds, and the glistening fish scales by the black-umber of the boat’s stern.

    I completely missed the orchestrated mass of diagonals, and am glad to have it pointed out.  It is satisfying to learn how skilled composition contributes to the beauty of the thing.  Triangles, now, I had heard about: the classic example being the group of figures in Pieta forming in aggregate outline a triangle pointing upwards.  Right?

    In the hunting camp painting I see five nested triangles:  the shelter and the big leaning tree trunk;  the two rooflines of the shelter; some building detail at the back of the interior of the shelter; the upraised knee of the man lying down; the head and upper body of the man sitting outside the shelter.  Then the fire itself is another triangle set in front of them all.  Order is drawn from chaos! – here by means of geometry rather than words.

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  5. Pencilvania:
    Fog Warning likewise is an orchestrated mass of diagonals, your eye zings right, left, loop-de-loop – masterful.

    On thinking about this for a while, @Pencilvania, it occurs to me that in this painting one set of diagonals belongs to the forces arrayed for the man’s destruction.  Look at the swell, highest top left and declining towards bottom right (this is not the same as the line of the wave-tops; it is the swell.) His dory tips the same way as the swell. On the same diagonal are the whitecap in the top right quadrant of the scene, and most threatening, the colossal fingers of fog pointing the way up and across to toward the top left.

    And where is the ship, in relation to the man? Exactly across all of those vectors.  To survive, he must row on a line from bottom left toward top right.  He must defeat all the elements arrayed, literally, against him.  And his velocity must be greater than the velocity of the fog bank.  Otherwise he will likely die.  Nebelwarnung.

    I see these things in the painting. They’re there.  How much of this did Winslow Homer place here with deliberate intent?

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  6. jzdro:
    In the hunting camp painting I see five nested triangles:  the shelter and the big leaning tree trunk;  the two rooflines of the shelter; some building detail at the back of the interior of the shelter; the upraised knee of the man lying down; the head and upper body of the man sitting outside the shelter.  Then the fire itself is another triangle set in front of them all.  Order is drawn from chaos! – here by means of geometry rather than words.

    Hey that’s very cool, I didn’t notice that but there it is.

    jzdro:
    On thinking about this for a while, @Pencilvania, it occurs to me that in this painting one set of diagonals belongs to the forces arrayed for the man’s destruction.  Look at the swell, highest top left and declining towards bottom right (this is not the same as the line of the wave-tops; it is the swell.) His dory tips the same way as the swell. On the same diagonal are the whitecap in the top right quadrant of the scene, and most threatening, the colossal fingers of fog pointing the way up and across to toward the top left. And where is the ship, in relation to the man? Exactly across all of those vectors.  To survive, he must row on a line from bottom left toward top right.  He must defeat all the elements arrayed, literally, against him.  And his velocity must be greater than the velocity of the fog bank.  Otherwise he will likely die.  Nebelwarnung. I see these things in the painting. They’re there.  How much of this did Winslow Homer place here with deliberate intent?

    I love that interpretation, that one set of diagonals fights against the other, and that echoes the man’s battle against the elements. I know painters often set up ‘echoing’ shapes – like you say, the angle of the boat, echoing the angle of the whitecap, echoing the angle of the fingers of fog jutting out. I feel certain he saw this actual scene in real life but then pushed and pulled some elements in reality to sort of force the painting to 110% of reality – the echoing shapes, conflicting angles, heightened contrast between the darks & brights. Colors on a canvas can never be real flesh, blood and water, but when an artist pushes the paint to 110% you get a painting that feels as real as life.

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