Monday, October 26, 2009

Eduards Kalnins

The contemporaries of Eduards Kalnins (1904 -1988) gave his art the stamp of "classic" while he was still alive. The "Kalnins legend" is a combination of many notions – talented landscapist, pupil of Vilhelms Purvītis, the first winner of the Latvian Academy of Art Rome Prize, grand master of marine painting, consistent advocate of the principles of plein air and tonal painting, long standing teacher at the Academy of Art, a professional who demanded much of himself and others, influential figure in art circles, a sovreign, lively and wise personality. The hazy grey Baltic Sea marine paintings and the celebrated figural works "Raftsmen", "The New Sails" and "Latvian Fishermen in the Atlantic" have become the centenarian’s unmistakable signs of recognition.

The literary portrait of the artist by Jānis Melbarzdis in his book "Ciesi pie veja"1 (Close to the Wind) brings alive the legend of the old master, just like the racily related episodes of "individual mythology" – the bohemian escapades and the exciting sporting and travel stories. Despite the large amount of 20th century publications on the artist, there has yet to be a serious work of research on the phenomenon of Kalnins’s art and his generation’s relationship with the complicated times.

Behind the openly visible facade of official publicity and the well-known frame of biographical facts, the artist had his personal "territory" dominated by two passions – painting and the sea. With the former he carried on a constant dialogue throughout his long creative career circling around the changes in his individual style, setting himself difficult professional tasks, observing the set rituals of his craft, enjoying and living the painting process itself as well as the concentration required for plein air studies or the long hours of loneliness in the studio. In an interview Kalnins once concluded: "And what is painting itself? It’s probably a kind of meditation when a person frees himself from all that is superfluous and remains alone with his thoughts and feelings."2 His other fateful passion, the sea, gradually became the basic subject matter of the artist’s work.

Certain character traits have united at the core of Kalnins’s artistic individuality: the features of a realist and a romantic, emotional and rational origins, respect for the traditions of the national school and openness to innovation, the ability and will to change flexibly in following the demands dictated by his inner self or by the age. His views on painting honed by long experience and observations of nature help us to understand his feeling for art and his working methods. The dream of his youth, to become a virtuoso painter, was, over time, substituted by a consciously formulated desire to free himself from his acquired dexterity in the frozen-in-time manner.

In his work Kalnins progressed from the intuitive capture of the visible world to self-defined more complicated professional aims. He strove to achieve absolute spatial illusion in the plane of the canvas and to depict the visually imperceptible – the impression of silence and the presence of the infinite in the everyday. His most outstanding successes combine a trained eye and a deft hand – an amazingly precise tonal and sophisticated perception of colour; his perfected brushwork recreates an observation of nature that can be felt in the mood and he fascinates with his ability to transform thematic realities into the appearance of a painting.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Art and Science join to make Awareness of Louisiana's Coastal Wetlands

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)'s National Wetlands Research Center (NWRC) in Lafayette, Louisiana, is always looking for new ways to expand its education and outreach efforts in the community. So, when art-gallery director Roger Laurent called USGS outreach contractor Susan Horton (IAP World Services, Inc.) to ask NWRC to be part of an exhibit of paintings and photographs of Louisiana's barrier islands and coastal wetlands, the answer was "yes." Connecting the science and mapping to the art was easy.

The exhibit, shown at Gallery 912 from late July through August, was titled "Hell and High Water" and featured 45 pieces of artwork from Southeastern Louisiana University's chairman of visual arts, Dennis Sipiorski, and professor of graphic design Karin Eberhardt. A Wisconsin native, Sipiorski showed acrylic paintings inspired by his trips to the barrier islands in the 27 years that he's lived in Louisiana. Since 2004, Eberhardt has been visiting and photographing the barrier islands and using a computer to digitally manipulate her images and present them as collages.

While the artists were documenting and recording their impressions of these fragile habitats along the Gulf Coast, USGS scientists and geographers were interpreting and mapping changes in Louisiana wetland habitats—including barrier islands, such as the Chandeleur Islands, Isles Dernieres, and Timbalier Islands—using aerial photography and satellite imagery.

USGS maps displayed at Gallery 912 to complement the art exhibit included a map of Raccoon Island (in the Isles Dernieres chain) and another map showing 50 years of changes in Louisiana's coastal zone, including changes in the land/water ratio caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Even more striking changes were visible on a historical map of the Louisiana coast, surveyed by George Gauld in 1778. This map, "A Plan of the Coast of Part of West Florida & Louisiana," which was found on the Web site of the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress (URL, was contributed by NWRC photo interpreter Jason Dugas (IAP World Services contractor).

The exhibit opened July 27 with an artists' reception attended by Horton and Joy Merino, a coastal ecologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service, who shared information about efforts to restore some of the barrier islands through the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA; URL

Several hundred visitors to the "Hell and High Water" exhibit now have a new perspective on the importance of Louisiana's coastal wetlands and what's happening to them as seen through the eyes of an artist, a photographer, and those scientists and geographers at NWRC who study and map these disappearing habitats.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fine Art compilations

'Lifeboat going to a vessel in distress' by William Joy (1803-1859)

The Waterfall by John Sell Cotman

Saxthorpe Church by Rev James Bulwer

Norwich River: Afternoon by John Crome

The earliest collection of paintings to be acquired by the Norwich Museum was in 1841 when Captain William Manby, the inventor of early effective life saving equipment at sea, presented a unique collection of seventeen seascapes in oil and watercolour, originally commissioned by him to illustrate and promote his invention. Manby, who lived at Great Yarmouth, was the patron of William and John Cantiloe Joy and set them upon their careers as successful marine artists. The gift includes works by other notable marine painters of the day, including two by F. L. T. Francia, the only oil paintings known by this internationally recognised watercolourist.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Wheelock’s best

Hendrick Ter Brugghen, Bagpipe player in Profile, 1624

Ludolf Backhuysen, Ships in Distress off a Rocky Coast, 1667

Willem Claesz Heda, Banquet Piece with Mince Pie, 1635

Johannes Cornelisz Verspronck, Andries Stilte as a Standard Bearer, 1640