Wednesday, September 1, 2010
discord, tone, George Inness and a question
This is a painting that I have struggled with for months and continue to struggle. It is a studio painting. I have painted in this particular location on the C and O canal, so many times, for so many years, that I decided to use it as my muse for this painting. I felt that it's was simply inside of me. No need to be there, no need for photos of plein air paintings as reference. The painting has gone through many metamorphoses. I question...would the water look better if it were lighter in front? What do you think?
I keep thinking about George Inness.
I read George Inness over and over again. This particular part is streaming through my head.
Once after asking his son (a painter himself), "How does it look?" George Inness Jr. (the son) says, "Fine Pop, all right beautiful. Fine tone." The senior and master George Inness answers, "Yes, it has things in it, but it's stupid. Confound it! it's too good: it's all tone. That's what's the matter with it. I've got too much detail in the foreground. That's the thing we are all running up against to tickle the buyer- to make a few dollars. Those weeds don't mean a thing. Let's take them out; they are not the picture. The picture is very good but it is all tone."
The son replies," Yes Pop, but that's what I like about it, it's beautiful in tone.." Senior George Inness replies, " Perhaps , but that is what makes it stupid. Why in thunder can't I put something in it that's out of tone? You see there's no interest in this picture. It's well drawn, yes, well constructed , well painted, and perfectly tonal; but there's no passion in it. A picture without passion has no meaning, and it would be far better it had never been painted. Imitation is worthless. Photography does it much better than you or I could. In a bar-room in New York is a painting of a barn door with hinges on it and a key-hole. It is painted so well that you would swear that the hinges were real and that you could put your finger in the key hole; but it is not real! It is not what it represents. It is a lie. Clever, yes, but it gives you no sensation of truth, before you look at it you are told that it is a lie. The only charm in this picture is deceiving you into the belief that it is a real barn door. Now in art, true art, we are not seeking to deceive. We do not pretend that this is a real tree, a real river; but we use the tree or river as a means to give you the feeling or impression that under a certain effect is being produced upon us."
His words sit firmly in the front of my mind. As I look at this one now, after writing that, I wonder..is it too "in tone" and is need a certain amount of discord? It needs changes... but what?