What do you think about this comment by Whistler? For its time it was very controversial not that he was a stranger to controversy. Back then nature was treated as ‘sublime’ and could not and should not be altered. It was the duty of the artist to try and faithfully reproduce what was in front of him. Inevitably Whistler’s approach to his art brought him into conflict with the establishment. Particularly one John Ruskin who was the most celebrated art critic of the time and a guardian of nature’s perfection. He gave a vitriolic review of one of Whistler’s works so Whistler sued him for libel. After a long drawn out and very public trial, Whistler finally won his case. But the judge was also part of the establishment so he only awarded Whistler the sum of one farthing in damages. Whistler was left bankrupt so took himself off to Paris and built up a successful career there. Interestingly when the Impressionists were preparing to hold their first controversial exhibition Monet and Pissarro invited Whistler to join them. Perhaps not wanting to take on the art establishment yet again Whistler declined the invitation. Ironic then that this most unconventional artist is best remembered for a portrait of his mother!
Let’s go back to the comment though. Obviously he is correct especially these days when everybody has instant access to a camera to faithfully record what’s in front of them. So the artist has to add something extra to his painting – his interpretation of what’s in front of him (or her). He has to imbue it with his own unique vision. Normally I take my time over a painting building it up layer by layer and adding more and more detail as I think necessary…sometimes too much detail. So I decided to try something a little different with this one. I allowed myself just thirty minutes to finish the painting. I did a quick pencil sketch based on one of my own watercolours and set to work. I had to paint very wet onto wet just allowing the colours to do their own thing. I found it exhilarating. It was the same excitement I used to feel when I first started painting simply because I had no idea how it would turn out. It took me a just a bit longer than the allotted time mainly due to having to wait patiently while it dried a little. Luckily the sun was out so it didn’t take too long. So after 35 minutes I was left with “Country Lane in Bright Sunlight.” I really enjoyed it and think it captures the excitement. I shall certainly be doing a lot more of these quick paintings. One thing I hope not to do again is paint the dog. Dilly had been lying down beside me in the warm sun and at some point she had acquired a yellow back! It’s only watercolour though so a quick wipe with wet kitchen towel and she was restored to normal. Don’t tell Merice though.