16th century, Northern renaissance painter Albert Durer produced a really interesting series of water colour, goche, and pen and ink studies from a quarry in Milan, Italy. Sadly I can’t track down any more info than that about Durer’s experience at the Quarry. However I can make some guesses from amount of drawings and the colours and style used what his response to this area may have been.
Here in what I assume is the accommodation of the Quarry miners, a black cloud hangs in the sky oppressively above ramshackle huts in shades of dank drowns and insipid yellows and oranges that reflect form a tired looking sun set in to a river. In the for ground two large green trees dominate the right had side of the drawing. Here Durer show us, though the unfinished drawing, how he builds up the block shape in one tone then adds detail to the object over the top with intricate marks. The buildings look so small and powerless against the giant forces of nature shown here in the trees, sky and still river.
He seemed quite fascinated with the contrast between the rock laid bare throughout the pursuit of its mineral content and the earth above still with plant life clinging to its surface. He produces a sires of quick sketches which verge on the abstract. Often using yellows – reds which perhaps tells use the bare rock was of an orange hue which means they were probably digging for iron ore. The most striking of this series uses negative space so that the rock face from a distance looks as if it could be a splodge of paint. Closer inspections show bluish seems running through the apposing orange cliff face with black line drawings indicating the presence of trees clinging to its face.
I was pleasantly surprised by these and other Durer landscapes. They have a modern feel to them with mood being suggested with colour and an artistic license present rather than an attempt at a carbon copy of the scene. Some of them would not look out of place in an impressionist exhibition.
French Baroque painter Claude Lorrain lived and worked in the 17th century. This style is more what I expected to see with Durer and what I tend to think of as post impressionist landscapes (bar for Turner). One thing I find quite interesting with these is a sense of a circular composition which we see in lots of Turners works. This occurs through a setting or rising sun centre back ground with trees clouds and hills seeming to radiate out all in a slight arc around the sun. Both Turner and Constable took there lead from Lorrain.
Lorrain’s paintings are highly idealised and where produced for wealthy patrons who wanted to gaze upon idilic scenes. His skill as a draftsman is undeniable as we see herein this etching.
Lowry (1887-1976) was born and lived in Salford, Lancashire. He took his subject from what he saw from day to day leaving a record of and industrial town and the people in it going about there ever day life’s. Although often criticised in his life time for painting depressing stick men scenes he is now well regarded and in my opinion rightly so. For me Lowry is one of those very rear artists like Van Gogh who’s work holds so much honesty about the artist and the subject. His style is truly unique. Thought the paintings we see the man in both cases.
The muted earth tone pallet which is part of his signature helps to describe the smoggy air of the time caused by the industrial chimneys churning out black smoke which are also ever present in the paintings. The buildings quite often take on an oppressive nature. Towering over the people with windows that seem to be watching every move.
Often the focal point ends up a street as the eye follows along the perspective lines. The focus is usually central to the paintings. Lowry is well known for stuffing his paintings to the brim with little simply described people. Each with its own story to tell. Although naively drawn they have such life to them as they go about their day. When I look at them I can here the hum of the chatter of the crowed.
It is well documented Lowry was a lonely man who’s mother who he live with was his only companion for decades of his life. The paintings he made showing the contrasting stillness he found when in the country are fascinating. These paintings are bleak and drained of colour. They evoke a feeling of loneliness and hopelessness. A sharp contrast form he painting from the city where not a square inch is left unfilled with people or buildings that he must have spent hours observing.