The colors, the blue sky and multi-colored water. The outlines of the poles in the water. Very Monet-ish. Very calming. The Venice of a bygone era that is fast slipping away.
This painting is one of six versions of the Grand Canal with the Salute church in the background. The lighting, the colors, the color saturation, and sometimes even the perspective vary from version to version.
The Grand Canal, Venice
Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
I was drawn to this work in a special exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The screen was filled with magnolia blossoms. Birds graced the branches of the tree and butterflies alit on the blossoms. The beauty was stunning.
The screens evoked feelings of…anticipation of what is to come and painful longing of what was. The anticipation of what is to come because the blossoms are on the verge of opening. Any day now the blossoms would burst forth and this tree would be covered with open magnolia flowers. The painful longing of what was because flowers are so ephemeral. They open, grace us with their beauty, and then are gone.
I stumbled across Hartley a couple years ago. So it was with great delight that I unexpectedly encountered him again in a museum on western art. Hartley spent just a very short time in the American West before leaving and never returning.
The painting is an optical illusion that even when you know it is an illusion, you swear it isn’t. When I initially approached the painting, I felt a bit queasy. Then I realized it was almost three-dimensional.
Wait, was it a three-dimensional painting? No, it wasn’t. I looked at the painting from the side to confirm. No, it isn’t three-dimensional. Then I looked at the painting straight on. Parts of the painting jumped out at me, as if it was not on a single plane. I looked again at the painting from the side. Then straight on. Then from the side.
I was hooked by this piece of art. And bothered by its real flatness and unreal dimensional quality.
Julian Stanczak (American, born Polish, 1928-2017)
Indianapolis Museum of Art