Painting in the snow; what is the colour of white?
I am painting in oil, a great medium for the brilliance of the colours of the snow and sky, although John Singer Sargent made watercolour look like the only way to approach it. This is Mountain Fire, (1903, John Singer Sargent, Brooklyn Museum)
Sargent’s fluid, semi abstract approach almost suggests automatism – that kind of painting that celebrates the subconscious mind and which was popular after Freud and Jung’s theories became widely known. But leveraging the unconscious mastery of a medium in response to a visual motif is entirely different from the purely personal image which automatism championed. The untutored hand was at that time thought to be superior, and this idea still infects art training. Sargent’s facility has often been held against him, seeming at times to be an end in itself, but in his watercolours skill and vision add up to perfection. If you want to see more, don’t waste your time with images on line, get hold of a copy of John Singer Sargent Watercolours, by Boston’s Musuem of Fine Arts. The excellent reproductions can tell you much more.
Alfred Sisley’s works are, like mine, in oil and I find myself wondering how he managed the technical aspects – what to carry? how to stay warm? I can only suppose that for him, snow was a fact of life on his doorstep, not a novelty as it is for me. A short visit is all I have to study the nuances of light on snow under sun, fog or cloud. Yes, I am letting myself off the hook a bit. This one above is his Snow at Louveciennes (1878, Alfred Sisley, 61 x 50.5cm, Musee d’Orsay) an exquisite study in the colours of white that reminds me of Whistler’s subtle essays in harmony like this one below, Symphony in White No. 1: The White Girl. (1862, James Whistler, Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC ),
The world is full of wonders.