A few years ago, I asked some of the Manhattan Arts International members “What artist from the past would you most like to spend a day with and what would you do together? This has always been among my favorite articles because their imaginative answers take you inside their hearts and minds to reveal more about them and their art. Click on the artists’ names to view more of their remarkable art and read about them. Please share the article and leave a comment!
Anne Hyatt Huntington and I would start the day having breakfast at a N.Y. cafe before heading off to her studio with Brenda Putnam, who shares the studio with her. The three of us would borrow a N.Y. city carriage horse to sculpt. Anne would fill me in on all the things a good equine sculptor should know about sculpting dynamic animals in motion. Anne would also give me tips on how a woman can open doors to creating powerful monumental sculpture. We three would be fierce, sculpting well into the evening while conversing about life, art and future possibilities. The day would end with wine, laughter and a promise of doing this again in the future.
Knowing his penchant for high, scenic vistas, I invite Frederick Edwin Church for a drive along a short segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our destination is Waterrock Knob for an outdoor picnic and tea. Setting up his easel for sketching, he surveys the Appalachian mountain ranges, valleys and waterfalls below and admires the panoramic view of five states. As the afternoon sun starts to set, we enjoy tea and share mutual interests in travel, cottages, local/sustainable farming, and Persian architecture. What a treat to listen to his stories of his family, his travels at home and abroad, and how he captures the beauty of landscapes and luminous light in his paintings.
It is June, 1978 and I am in Madrid with Joan Miro. He is 85 years old and we are viewing a collection of his works prior to his first Spanish retrospective exhibition. He smiles at me and says: “This show is a good summing up of my life. I’m moved at coming among my children, even the most rebellious of them like this. We stop before his Still Life with Rabbit (1920) and I ask him about the strangely coloured bird. He smiles wistfully and says: “That rooster was torture. There was absolutely no way to keep him quiet. Finally, he just fell into place and there he is.” “Just like you.” I commented. He grins and whispers: “Tal es el progreso del arte.” (Such is the progress of art.)
The artist from the past that I would like to spend some time with is Georgia O’Keeffe. I am always amazed at how soothing and comforting her works affects me. She has influenced my Floral Abstracts series and Blossoms on Black Abstract series. We would take a long walk around her Adobe home in New Mexico. She and I would discuss which subject matter has the most meaning for each of us, which rules in art should not be broken and the rules she has consciously broken. Later in the afternoon I would ask if I could watch as she painted and just engulf myself in her work.
Degas, the master of light, arrives to view sunrise over the mountains. At breakfast we share easy conversation about mutual passions — sculpting and painting. During the studio visit he notes with pleasure impressionistic brush marks on my recent oil painting. He runs his hands over my bronze horses that received a valued critique. We speak of our shared love of horses and figures in motion. We visit the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA. As he enters the large Impressionistic gallery he is overcome with joy to see his large presence, an array of small bronze horses, a large dancer, and his paintings like fresh sunshine, juxtaposed colors sparkling as fresh as the day he painted them. It was a fine day.
I would love to spend time with Repin, Kandinsky and Klee. They all are my friends from history even though I’m sure that we would not agree on many things. I just know that I would connect with them. Of course, time travel isn’t possible; however, imagine if you will, one day in the very distant future there will be artists reading about you in art history books and fantasize about spending time with you.
When I visit The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, Peter Paul Rubens’ art takes my breath away. His paintings are so alive that you feel as if you are in them. The details, the colors, and composition are phenomenal. On my fantasy day with Mr. Rubens I would just watch him create his masterpieces… see how he prepares his paintings and where he gets his inspiration. Then we would have a glass of wine.
I join Joseph Mallord William Turner in London after the Royal Academy Exhibition in 1840. His head is hanging in disarray after his painting “The Slave Ship” was labelled an absurdity. Leaning towards me he whispers in his coarse voice “I meant to make people weep, to show the tragic truth.” Then he sighed. Like two old friends we spend the rest of the afternoon in a small café discussing how the mind is enriched when one understands the whole existence of oneself and one’s relationship to the world at large.
Roaming the cafes with Picasso in Paris in the early part of the century comes to mind. We might have even gotten some painting done! Given the choice, though, I would have enjoyed spending a day with Henri Matisse on the French Riviera. Just watching him work, viewing his studio, and sharing dinner and a glass or two of wine with the great man would have been special. My favorite artist and one of my favorite places; what could be better than that?
Because of our mutual connection with Nature, I would ask Vincent van Gogh to accompany me to his native Netherlands’ countryside where he fell in love with light and solace. I will ask Vincent about his color intuition, rhythmic brushstrokes and line work. Are the colors and strokes a result of his fervent observations and intense emotions? Are the lines a mark of his personality or are they an aspect of control? It would give me the greatest joy to be able to sit close to Vincent on a large rock in a clearing. Armed with my paints and sketchbook, and he with his, I will immerse myself in Nature’s silence and beauty, absorb Vincent’s heightened energy and create my own expression on the canvas.
I would go back to New York in 1950 and spend a day painting with Joan Mitchell in her West Tenth Street studio. Afterwards, we’d go to an art opening at the Betty Parsons Gallery on East 57th Street and then wrap up the evening at the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village, hanging out with other Abstract Expressionists like Franz Kline, de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.
Soul of the Rose, oil on canvas with gold leaf, 60″ x 38”.
Claude Monet graciously grasps my hand as we go out on the veranda to see life in all its beauty… waterlilies waking with the light of morning, vibrant poppies dancing, graceful willow trees shimmering. We visit with old friends Renoir, Degas, and Lidia Cabot Perry. I recall that Monet once advised, “every leaf on the tree is as important as the features on your models.” This meeting with Monet compels me to suggest, “Let’s collaborate. You paint the background with floating lilies on the pond and I will add people…”
Fog Induction, photograph, 16″ x 24″.
I would join Georgia O’Keeffe on the train to Taos, NM. We talk about her technique of acquiring smooth surfaces in her paintings. She tells me there is photographic influence on her paintings, specifically cropping which is evident in her flowers. I’m from Wisconsin too, I tell her. She describes the rural influence on her paintings and most specifically how she longs to find vast subjects in the open west. Between the photographic influence and painting from her current environment, I sense her spirit and felt kindred.