A Sunday Afternoon with The Office

Georges Seurat – “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”.

You know it from 1986 comedy film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

And The Office version.


Claude Monet

Monet has been described as “the driving force behind Impressionism”.

Crucial to the art of the Impressionist painters was the understanding of the effects of light on the local colour of objects, and the effects of the juxtaposition of colours with each other. …

… a series of oil paintings … between 1899 and 1904, they depict a misty, impressionistic Charing Cross Bridge in London.

Charing Cross Bridge

St. Louis collection

Another I like is this of Monet’s son and wife … who died age-32.

van Gogh – Village Street and Steps in Auvers with Figures

I went twice to the St. Louis Art Gallery. They have several van Gogh works. This was my favourite.

I don’t know or appreciate Art. But I know what I like. And I pretty much always like van Gogh at first glance. Mad genius.

The location of this painting is literally around the corner from Vincent’s room in the attic of the Ravoux Inn on the Rue de la Sansonne in Auvers Sur Oise.

You get the feeling he walked out in the morning and was captured, for some reason, by this scene.

Gateway Arch – St. Louis

One of those attractions everyone wants to see in person.

I went twice. The museum inside closed both times.

The Gateway Arch is a 630-foot (192 m) monument in St. LouisMissouri …

… the world’s tallest arch, the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere 

Built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States

The monument opened to the public on June 10, 1967 …

The reality is better than the images.

Lovely green, clean walking, running, cycling pathways on the banks of the mighty Mississippi right downtown.

Like many of the great monuments around the world at any given time, it was under renovation.

Would it be better if it had crossed the river?

I like Impressionism

In Paris April 1874 thirty artists participated in an exhibition.

The critical response was mixed.

Monet and Cézanne received the harshest attacks.

Critic and humorist Louis Leroy wrote a scathing review in the newspaper Le Charivari in which, making wordplay with the title of Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), he gave the artists the name by which they became known.

Derisively titling his article The Exhibition of the Impressionists, Leroy declared that Monet’s painting was at most, a sketch, and could hardly be termed a finished work. …

The term Impressionist quickly gained favour with the public. It was also accepted by the artists themselves, even though they were a diverse group …

These techniques include:

  • Short, thick strokes of paint quickly capture the essence of the subject, rather than its details. The paint is often applied impasto.

  • Colours are applied side-by-side with as little mixing as possible, a technique that exploits the principle of simultaneous contrast to make the colour appear more vivid to the viewer.

  • Grays and dark tones are produced by mixing complementary colours. Pure impressionism avoids the use of black paint.

  • Wet paint is placed into wet paint without waiting for successive applications to dry, producing softer edges and intermingling of colour.

  • Impressionist paintings do not exploit the transparency of thin paint films (glazes), which earlier artists manipulated carefully to produce effects. The impressionist painting surface is typically opaque.

  • The paint is applied to a white or light-coloured ground. Previously, painters often used dark grey or strongly coloured grounds.

  • The play of natural light is emphasized. Close attention is paid to the reflection of colours from object to object. Painters often worked in the evening to produce effets de soir—the shadowy effects of evening or twilight.

  • In paintings made en plein air (outdoors), shadows are boldly painted with the blue of the sky as it is reflected onto surfaces, giving a sense of freshness previously not represented in painting. (Blue shadows on snow inspired the technique.)

Paul Cézanne: The pool at Jas de Bouffan

Impressionists took advantage of the mid-century introduction of premixed paints in tin tubes (resembling modern toothpaste tubes), which allowed artists to work more spontaneously, both outdoors and indoors. …

Many vivid synthetic pigments became commercially available to artists for the first time …

The central figures in the development of Impressionism in France, listed alphabetically, were:

  • Frédéric Bazille (who only posthumously participated in the Impressionist exhibitions) (1841–1870)
  • Gustave Caillebotte (who, younger than the others, joined forces with them in the mid-1870s) (1848–1894)
  • Mary Cassatt (American-born, she lived in Paris and participated in four Impressionist exhibitions) (1844–1926)
  • Paul Cézanne (although he later broke away from the Impressionists) (1839–1906)
  • Edgar Degas (who despised the term Impressionist) (1834–1917)
  • Armand Guillaumin (1841–1927)
  • Édouard Manet (who did not participate in any of the Impressionist exhibitions) (1832–1883)[31]
  • Claude Monet (the most prolific of the Impressionists and the one who embodies their aesthetic most obviously)[32] (1840–1926)
  • Berthe Morisot (who participated in all Impressionist exhibitions except in 1879) (1841–1895)
  • Camille Pissarro (1830–1903)
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir (who participated in Impressionist exhibitions in 1874, 1876, 1877 and 1882) (1841–1919)
  • Alfred Sisley (1839–1899)

My favourite, van Gough, is considered a post-Impressionist. They favored an emphasis on more symbolic content, formal order and structure.

Leonardo da Vinci: The Biography by Walter Isaacson

What do you know about Leonardo da Vinci?

  • he painted The Last Supper and Mona Lisa
  • he drew Vitruvian Man
  • he was left-handed
  • he wrote right to left on the page in mirror script
  • he was hundreds of years ahead of his time in some scientific disciplines

Mike Sissons, the young artist, was a fan. He was first to tell me those facts.

I loved Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography. For me Leonardo was not as riveting as the Jobs book. But I still recommend it. Leonardo’s life story is very interesting and entertaining.

I was surprised to learn Leonardo finished very few projects over his long career. He died carrying Mona Lisa and other paintings around with him as he simply could never decided they were finished.

He was more interested in studying the tongue of the woodpecker than in working on his paintings.

At times he hated the paint brush. Studying nature to satisfy his own curiosity was more compelling, especially near the end of his life.

His last words:

The soup is getting cold. 

I bought the audio version but Kindle would be better. The book comes with 144 illustrations.

Blake Morrison review:

Flamboyant, illegitimate and self taught, he was unreliable and an unashamed self-publicist. He was also one of the most gifted and inventive men in history

Leonardo da Vinci: The Biography by Walter Isaacson review – unparalleled creative genius