The light in the south of France is legendary for its pull on many artists whose first visit was often prompted by health needs to leave a crowded, dank, polluted north for fresher air and warmer climes. For some artists like Matisse and Bonnard the southern exposure can clearly be seen in their work. Strong contrasts simplify shapes. Intense, bright colors communicate the sensation of sun, sea, flora, and the Provincial culture.
”Man has painted in the region since he began to paint,” writes Nicholas Delbanco in his book “Running in Place-Scenes from the South of France” (an autobiographical account of his many trips to the area). ”If there is something in the air of Vienna that renders its citizens musical, something in the drink of Dublin that confers agility in speech upon its populace, then surely there is something in the light of France.”
Interestingly, however, artists such as Braque, Giacometti, Stael and Picasso, who also resided there, responded to the light by exploring neutrals as much as, or in the case of Giacometti and Braque, more than color.
This week we will look at value vs. color; we’ll paint from images of the south of France with strong contrast using neutrals in order to study value. Then we’ll consider an injection of color to see how that affects the whole. This exercise has a lot in common with our Matisse exercise from last month, but we will concentrate on contrast. Once you investigate the contrast, add a pinch of color, then take the painting wherever it leads you. Fresh paper, of course.