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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Georg Friedrich Kersting

View of Rostock Gertrude square,  1809, Georg Friedrich Kersting
Georg Friedrich Kersting,
Self-portrait, 1814
For twenty-six years, I taught impudent young Ohio brats kids what art was all about. Although I've always enjoyed helping others learn (adults and children), that was only one part of my decision to major in art education in college and obtain a teaching certificate. The other factor was, I enjoy eating, and better yet, not having to worry about where my next meal might be coming from--security. Tenure is a wonderful thing. There was also the fact that I love to travel, enjoy long vacations, and liked the short summers when I was free to paint and sell (or try to) the fruits of my easel. The work was fun, though stressful, and when it was neither it was boring, but everyone has to make sacrifices. I paid my dues. Had I chosen a full-time career as a painter, I might have become rich and famous or, more likely, poor and obscure. Teaching allowed me a place somewhere in the middle of both, the best of the worst, the worst of the best, you might say. The German painter, Georg Friedrich Kersting was in the same situation. He painted quiet interiors with lovely ladies, as well as passable portraits, but he also had a day job. Kersting, well, for lack of a simpler job description...painted pottery.


Some of Kersting's dinner plate designs for Biedermeir.
In all fairness, while he probably applied his hand to quite a number of dinner plates, it's more likely he simply created various designs (or patterns as we'd call them today, above) then trained and directed other, somewhat less-talented artisans in reproducing them onto the Biedermeier porcelain made in the town of Meissen, Germany (the far eastern part Germany near the Polish border). Kersting began working there in 1818 and continued until his death in 1847 at the age of sixty-two. An artist friend, Louise Seidler, referred to him as "an altogether splendid and comical fellow."

The Embroiderer, 1811,
Georg Kersting
Caspar David Friedrich in his Studio,
1811, Georg Kersting
If one is known by the company they keep, then Kersting was in good company. His best friend was the German Romantic artist, Caspar David Friedrich (above, left), who introduced him to the German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who introduced him to the Grand Duke Charles Augustus of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (one of several Prussian duchies dating back to medieval times). Keep in mind, Kersting, was born in 1785 and lived at a time when Germany had not yet coalesced into a single nation, awaiting the arrival of Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1871. Goethe recommended the duke purchase Kersting's The Embroiderer, (above, right) painted in 1811. There's no indication the duke took his advice. Despite knowing all the right people, and being a somewhat better than average artist, Kersting's work never sold well during his lifetime.

Moonrise by the Sea, 1822, Caspar David Friedrich.
By 1822 he was probably painting his own "staffage."
Faust in his Study, 1829,
Georg Kersting.
Though he often accompanied Friedrich on painting "hikes" into the mountains and is even said to have painted "staffage" (human figures and decorations) into some of his friend's early Romantic, landscapes, and was undoubtedly influenced by Friedrich, his academic training came from the Copenhagen Academy. Moreover, his style tend toward the Dutch tradition, along with his fascination for everyday-life genre painting (also a Dutch trait)--not exactly the type of work to interest a grand duke. Kersting tried moving to Dresden where he painted for a time before resorting to joining the all-volunteer, Lützow Free Corps of the Prussian Army in 1813. A year later he moved to Poland where he tried his hand at being a drawing instructor. That didn't work out either. Kersting's Faust in his Study (left), from 1829 may have been an attempt to sell Goethe a portrait of his most famous character. Despite a career that seemed to be going nowhere, Kersting married in 1818. During the next thirty years, as his family grew to include four children, his unglamorous position as chief artist at Biedermeier Porcelain must have come as something of a comforting relief from the arduous and unsuccessful effort to become a famous artist like his friend Caspar David Friedrich.

Young Woman at a Spinning Wheel and Boy with Swords and Drum,
1828, Georg Kersting, possibly his wife and son.







 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Depression Art--PWAP

Drought Stricken Area, 1934, Alexandre Hogue, PWAP Social Realism.                   
Apple Vendor, 1933-34, Barbara Stevenson,
the iconic symbol of the Great Depression. 
A couple years ago I wrote on the Roosevelt Administration's WPA and the tremendous impact it had on the struggling art and artists in the U.S. during the 1930s, and the lasting legacy such artists eventually left us in return. At that time, however, I dealt more with the bureaucracy, the privation, and the sheer numbers the WPA eventually came to help. But before there was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) or its artists' branch, the Federal Arts Project (FAP), there was PWAP. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of it (I hadn't either). The Public Works of Art Project was pretty short-lived, December, 1933 to June, 1934, sort of a dry run, an experiment to see if a broader, long-term federal effort to employ "starving artists" of that era, could succeed. The "experiment" was not only brief but relatively small by today's standards, even by later WPA-FAP standards. PWAP hired 3,749 artists who created some 15,663 paintings while earning $36 to $46 per week. That's a little over four paintings per artist for which each artist earned an average total of $936 or roughly $234 per painting.
 
 Golden Gate Bridge, 1934, Ray Strong, building a new American optimism.
Griffith Observatory Astronomer's
Monument, signed: PWAP, 1934
There were few restrictions. The those participating had to be professional artists. Their paintings had to reflect the "American Scene." Their work would belong to the federal government for exhibition and to decorate federal buildings from the White House to the halls of Congress, and local post offices. The project was run by the U.S. Treasury department. Over five-hundred resulting works were displayed at Washington's Corcoran Gallery in April, 1934 attended by hundreds of Washington politicians and bureaucrats. President Roosevelt and the first lady, Eleanor, chose thirty-three paintings for the White House. Congressmen, Senators, and department heads were left to scrap over the rest. The whole project cost around $15-million. Despite what would seem to be a rather frivolous endeavor during the height of the Great Depression, the PWAP proved popular enough to spawn the WPA's various, short-lived FAPs during the next eight years, 1935-1943. There were changes though. The more than 10,000 WPA artists employed at various times during that period earned a mere $23.50 per week, with the FAP serving roughly three-times the number of artists, but costing just $35-million over its entire eight-year lifespan. If nothing else, PWAP proved artists could be gotten cheaply.

Festival, 1934, Daniel Calentano, dancing in the streets. Depression? What Depression?
Abstract #2, 1934, Paul Kelpe
As might be expected, there was a broad representation of the various styles of the time from the prevailing Social Realism of an earlier generation to a few mild abstractions such as the work of Paul Kelpe and his Machinery Abstract #2 (right, which was abstract only in a formal sense in that it didn't depict a traditional scene). Some where somewhat expressionist in style while others clung to a staunchly hard-edged, no-nonsense narrative art. Surprisingly, there were few "big names" among the 3,749. PWAP was a quickly organized, short-term pilot project, its needy artists taken from local lists of the unemployed with some degree of art training. The PWAP was responsible for murals in San Francisco's Coit Tower, and the Astronomer's Monument at the Los Angeles Griffith Observatory (above, left, sculptors and crafts people also were enrolled). Unlike later WPA FAP works, PWAP art was strictly for government buildings. Schools would have to wait; drab, disheartening post offices were in immediate need of decorating.

Connecticut Barns in Landscape, 1934, Charles Sheeler--symbolic realism.
Somewhere in America, 1934,
Robert Brackman
Under the very broad theme of the "American Scene," two major areas of content dominated--agriculture and heavy industry. Not unexpectedly, some of this "Depression Art" was quite depressing. Some of it, downright ugly in its effort to capture the troublesome times. For months, the politicians in Washington sat waiting, hoping that the artists' efforts would be uplifting, raising the spirits of the masses who were unemployed (upwards to 25%) and providing hope for a brighter tomorrow. In many instances, their goals were met. For the most part though, artists were apolitical, recording the life and times, neither unduly pessimistic not wildly optimistic. There is a profound element of honesty and truth in what they painted. Local streets and landmarks were preserved for posterity. Scenes of daily life and normalcy were deemed important. Images of people having fun, even dancing in the streets or racing sailboats brought sparkle to the collection. American artists celebrated being America, from many points of view and viewing points. Robert Brackman painted the people, Charles Sheeler (above) painted their barns. Reginald Marsh (below) painted America's urban industrial might.

Locomotives, Jersey City, 1934,Reginald Marsh, America chugging ahead.
Tenement Flats, 1934, Millard Sheets
As a New Deal back-to-work project, PWAP made little impact. Even the larger and longer WPA and its FAPs had a negligible effect on the unemployment rate, except perhaps among artists. Coming within less than a year after FDR's inauguration, PWAP was seen as a feel-good tonic, a banner run up the proverbial flagpole to see who would salute. Government social activism was new ground. No one knew what would work and what wouldn't, much less how to manage such endeavors. Edward Bruce, PWAP director, and later Holger Cahill and Audrey McMahon (WPA arts administrators) were learning by doing. Some would claim (with some validity) that the war put an end to such foolishness; but in fact, the federal, state, and even local governments have been involved in promoting the arts and employing artists ever since. And despite various eruptions of controversy from time to time, our American culture is the richer for it.

Draught Stricken Land, 1934, Alexandre Hogue.
PWAP was not big on nudes, but some artists were more clever than others.






 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mike Nichols' The Graduate

"Mrs. Robinson, you just seduced me."
Sometimes it's difficult to decided whether to write about the artist or their art. Do you write about Michelangelo or his ceiling? Do you expound upon Leonardo or Mona? Were it not for the art, the artist would never be remembered, yet were it not for the artist, the art would never have been created. Chicken and eggs anyone? That's the quandary I found myself in as I realized that among the American Film Institute's (AFI) revised list of the top 100 movies of all time, I'd written about every one of the top ten except number seven--Mike Nichols' The Graduate. This 1967 movie starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, and Katharine Ross was the second of the award-winning film director's twenty-two lifetime film efforts. It had been pegged at number seven on the AFI's original Top 100 List in 1998, then slipped to number seventeen on their 2007 list only to return to number seven on the AFI's most recent rankings. Although it's often considered Nichol's best and most memorable movie, I've never been particularly fond of it. But then, when your first directorial effort wins five Academy Awards, the question is, what do you do for an encore?
 
Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman, very much looking their age today.
1966, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf--
Nichols, Burton, and Taylor at their best.
Nichols first film was, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (right) starring Richard Burton and his wife, the inimitable Elizabeth Taylor in the role of Martha, for which she won her second Oscar as Best Actress. Nichol's version of Edward Albee's Broadway hit was hardcore, ground-breaking, profanity-laced drama, so powerful it was instrumental in triggering Jack Valenti's MPAA rating system two years later. Had the system been in place at the time, the film would easily have earned an "X" rating. Today, it's "R" rated. By way of contrast, The Graduate was a light, angst-ridden coming of age comedy casting actors either too old (Hoffman was thirty playing a twenty-year-old Benjamin) or too young for their roles. (Bancroft was thirty-six playing a forty-something Mrs. Robinson.) Even Katharine Ross was five years older than the character (Elaine) she played. The two films had in common the fact that neither could have been made as little as five years earlier--Woolf because of the language, and The Graduate because of its theme and content. Prior to Mrs. Robinson, middle-aged mothers weren't allowed to seduce their daughter's boyfriends, even in the movies.

Mike Nichols, 1967,
filming The Graduate.
The comedy team of Elaine May
and Mike Nichols, 1958
Born in 1931, Mike Nichols was born and bred for television, his improvisational nightclub act with Elaine May in 1958 morphing first into radio, then a recording deal resulting in three hit LPs (records), followed by TV guest appearances. In 1960, the two opened a Broadway show, An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May. By 1961 however, the stress of performing together nightly caused them to split up, though they later collaborated on two movies and other projects. Contrary to popular belief, they were never married. Following the split, Nichols turned to directing, his return to Broadway, debuting as director of the hit comedy, Barefoot in the Park, which ran for 1,530 performances and won him a Tony Award. He went on to direct a second Neil Simon hit, The Odd Couple with Walter Matthau and Art Carney, winning the second of six Tonys for directing.
 
Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, Dustin Hoffman,
the  big climax...get me from the church in time.
Pretty well sums up the entire movie.
When the film mogul, Jack Warner, called him to Hollywood in 1966, Mike Nichols caught the first wave of a new morality as the first wave of adult baby-boomers (I was one of them) hit the movie theaters. Lucy and Desi's twin beds were laughable. Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson's bed was enticing, her iconic, stocking-clad leg so erotic as to become trite today (notice there's no picture of it here). The plot, set in the early 1950s, was based upon a 1963 novel by the same title written by Charles Webb, with a screenplay by Calder Willingham and comedian, Buck Henry (whom Nichols cast as a hotel clerk in the film). Aside from Benjamin's "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me" (it was never a question), perhaps the most memorable line from the movie, spoken by an actor not even listed in the credits, was a single word: "Plastics." Far more memorable than all the dialogue in the whole film were the words set to music by Paul Simon, among them: The Sound of Silence, Scarborough Fair, and Mrs. Robinson (which had originally been titled "Mrs. Roosevelt" and had not been intended for the film). The Graduate won a single Academy Award, an Oscar for Best Direction, a prize Mike Nichols been denied the year before when nominated for Virginia Woolf.
 
Spoiler alert--the clip below contains the final scene in the movie so if you've not seen the film, you might want to skip it.

 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

John Keane

John Keane with his painting, The Moment, (1990-91)
--the dying-color, blood and guts version of Picasso's Guernica.
Warfare brought to the pristine, white walls of the art gallery.
In writing daily about "Art Now and Then" I don't often spent much time writing about the "now" part past the first or second paragraph. There are several good reasons for this, but chief among them is the fact that "art now" is a moving target, important to relate to, but a minefield when it comes to separating the "wheat" from the "chaff." John Keane knows a lot about minefields. He's often painted among them, or their symbolic equivalent. John Keane is (not was) a British Social Realist painter. When we talk about Social Realism as an art movement we are usually referring to the Americans Robert Henri, George Luks, the Ashcan School or John Sloan and his "Group of Eight" from the first decades of the 20th-century. All of which is fine, though it barely scratches the surface. There were Social Realists in virtually every country on earth before the "Great War," even stretching far to the East where Stalin made the style (if not its political ends) the official style of Mother Russia until his death in 1953.
 
A John Keane war photo: decimated palms like wounded warriors
among pristine streetlamps.
The Lie Cafe, 1989, John Keane
Insofar as painting goes, conventional wisdom would suggest that Stalin's death pretty much closed the book on the Social Realism movement in art. It didn't. So long as there is social injustice and those high-minded (or naive) artists who think they can combat it through there work, Social Realism art will persist, though probably not so much using canvas and paint as through other, more valid media such as photography in much the same manner as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, or Lewis Hine aroused the Great Depression era to action. Though John Keane is quite handy with a camera (above), especially in the high-stress world of war, terrorism, and civil insurrection ripped from the the social media headlines of military conflict "now"; he still knows how to sling paint (literally) as his style sometimes suggests. He's not a photo-journalist, not even an art-journalist. His work is relevant, vibrant, and fresh, but not that fresh. He was an history painting artist covering the Gulf War in 1990-91, but without the deadlines of his mass media cohorts.
 
The Other Cheek, 1989, John Keane
John Keane is sixty years old, which means he was born in 1954. Born in Hertfordshire, England, he was educated at Wellington College and Camberwell School of Art. Trained as a painter, Keane finished college in 1976 and has always been a political activist in the traditional, Social Realist sense of the word. He was of the British baby-boomer generation out to change the world, in his case, one brushstroke at a time. His early work depicted the violence of 1980s Northern Ireland in all its grizzly detail as seen in his 1989 The Other Cheek (above). But it wasn't until the 1990s that he made much of a dent in that goal, and even at that, the anti-war pacifist found what would seem a strange employer--the British Imperial War Museum. They sent him to the Mid-East to cover the relatively short prologue to the continuous unrest, death, and destruction we see there today. Judging from his work sent home (or created afterwards) they got their money's worth, and likely a good deal more than they bargained for. Keane, in his The Moment (top) depicted at close range the horrendous, unsurvivable instant a bomb explodes in Jerusalem's The Moment Cafe jettisoning mangled limbs, internal organs, and the massive spray of body fluids normally encountered only by those wearing red crosses or red crescents.

Ramallah, Ramallah , 2003, John Keane
Hopeless in Gaza 2, 2003, John Keane
Keane's Ramallah, Ramallah (above), is equally telling, though in a more symbolic manner, depicting two bloodstained hands in the window of the Ramallah police station where two Israeli reservists were torn to pieces by a mob. Keane did not stop with the end of the first Gulf War. He returned twice to document the plight of the Palestinians, this time bringing with him more than just his camera in using video, his laptop, and inkjet printers as he digitally composed, collaged, and painted his images. Even though there was no active fighting in the area, the footprints and hand prints of war were everywhere, especially in the war-torn Gaza area whence came his Hopeless in Gaza 2 (left), a nativity as deeply moving as any ever painted by Giotto, Correggio, or El Greco.

Children in Conflict, 2006, John Keane
More than a painting.
In more recent years, Keane has worked with Greenpeace, while also turning his multi-media paintings into traveling shows, such as "57 Hours in the House of Culture," dealing with the Chechen war, "Children in Conflict," (above) and "The Inconvenience of History," (below) dealing with the West Bank and Gaza, and most recently, "Guantanamerica" dealing with representation and dehumanization of detainees at Guantánamo Bay. Thanks to John Keane, Social Realism is not dead, only its original artists. Though dealing incessantly with death, and employing a style and working techniques far removed from Sloan, Henri, or Luks, in many ways, his form of "realism" is more powerful than anything these first "art socialists" could ever have imagined in their worst nightmares.

The Inconvenience of History, 2003, John Keane





 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Otis Kaye

 D'-jia-vu? The Stock Market, 1937, Otis Kaye
Copyright, Jim Lane
Memories in Bits and Pieces, 1999, Jim Lane
Artists are no different from anyone else in that we like to make money. Some of us have even painted money a few times. Take it from one who knows, it's tricky. People are so familiar with the appearance of currency, especially smaller bills, that the eye can instantly spot a crudely painted image or any errors the artist may have made. My Memories in Bits and Pieces (left) contains a small portion of a dollar bill along with similar parts of two foreign currencies leftover from one of our memories abroad. That tiny section took three or four hours to paint. I still have the painting so while I may have painted money, I've yet too make any money from it. I have that in common with Otis Kaye. Otis painted little else but money, but in that he never even tried to sell his work, he, too, never made any monrey from it.

Chicago Theater Scene in Winter, 1928, Otis Kaye,
one of only two or three of his urban landscapes.
The One Key to It All, Otis Kaye
Very rarely, if ever, have I spotlighted an amateur artist in this space. There are too many excellent, virtually unknown artist "now and then" for me to get involved with amateurs. Otis Kaye, however in that he always considered his painting as a hobby, would seem to fall into this classification. In terms of his painting skills, though, and creative twists and depth, few professionals could match his efforts. Joseph Peto and William Harnett both painting similar, "fool the eye" stilll-lifes, but neither in any way surpassed the efforts of this exceptional "amateur." His D'-jia-vu? The Stock Market (top), dating from 1937, charts in "real" dollars the ups and downs of the stock market in the years following the crash in 1929. Notice the items included in his object lesson saga besides the cash.

Hidden Assets, Otis Kaye. Items were painted life-size.
Coin Collection, Otis Kaye
Otis Kaye was born in Dresden, Germany, in 1885. His parents moved to Neemah, Michigan, when he was just three years old (other sources have him being born in Neemah). At the age of nineteen, Kaye spent several months studying art in New York, but as so often happened back then, his family insisted he take up a "real" profession, so he and his mother moved back to Germany in 1905 where he studied engineering. They returned to the U.S. shortly before the war. Kaye married and found work as an engineer until 1929 when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression greatly depressed the market for engineers. Otis Kaye was also greatly depressed so he began painting the one thing he had little of--money.

A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine..., 1953, Otis Kaye.
Due to federal legal restrictions, Kaye often painted outdated currency.
Rembrandt Etching The Goldsmith
with Gold Coin (illusionary), Otis Kaye.
Kaye painted both cash and coins. But because of a 1909 law making it illegal to paint money, Kay would not, and probably could not sell his work. Moreover, the feds got on his case, harrassing him even though he didn't sell his paintings. Instead he gave them away to friends and relatives. As time went on, Kaye broadened his painting content beyond money to include urban street scenes, paintings and drawings of Rembrandt edtchings (left), and other still-life subjects. Yet his specialty, his obsession even, remained money. Kaye moved back to Germany about eight years before his death in 1974 at the age of eighty-nine. During his lifetime he never exhibited his work, though he may actually have sold as many as two (but don't tell the treasury department). Since his death, his work has gradually come on the market as friends and relatives have cashed in on his "monetary" gifts. An Otis Kaye painting titled The American Dream (below), was recently sold by Christie's in New York for $16,250. Check your attics.


The American Dream, Otis Kaye,






 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Painting Clouds

The Cloud, 1901, Arthur Hacker
Women with Umbrella, 1875,
Claude Monet
Ever since I was a kid I've always enjoyed looking up at big, fluffy, cumulus clouds trying to imagine various human or animal shapes, watching them morph into other shapes, or simply drift by to be replaced by new shapes like an endless Disney parade. Most people have probably done that at one time or another. Never however, even in my wildest imaginative binge, did I ever imagine anything as fantasmagorical or erotic as Arthur Hacker's The Cloud (above). In any case, such daydreams were about the only time I've ever "studied" clouds. Only when faced with the prospect of a painting having a large, uninteresting sky a few years ago, had I ever thought much about painting clouds. It's only then that I realize too, how few clouds I've ever painted and the fact that I really don't know how to paint clouds, at least not in the sense of John Constable (below), Jacob van Ruisdael, or Claude Monet (right). 

Cloud Study, 1822, John Constable, often considered the grand master of clouds.
Oh, I can paint a reasonably authentic, atmospheric blue sky and then streak and daub in some titanium white, swirl it a bit, and call what I get clouds, but that's little more than "decorating" the sky. In one case, frustrated by my meager efforts, I hit the Internet looking for clouds. Needless to say, it's pretty cloudy on the Internet. But what I found was either way too much, or simply as boring as what I could do just by playing around with the paint. Photographers like to shoot the unusual, yet if an artist paints the unusual, the sky will simply take over the entire landscape, stealing the show from whatever lies below. Moreover, unbelievably beautiful cloud photos translate to the simply unbelievable when painted. I seldom paint landscapes for their own sake so when I want clouds in order to add a little interest to the sky, I have to be careful they don't become too interesting. 
 

Cypress Trees Clouds Hills, 1889, Vincent van Gogh
Clouds, Rene Magritte.
There have been quite a number of outstanding artist who have become especially known for having their "heads in the clouds." I mentioned three above. I could also add Vincent van Gogh, who seems to almost "frolick" with his clouds in the sky as seen in his 1889 Cypress Trees Clouds Hills (above). Tradition contends that Michelangelo derived the inspiration for his famous ceiling by imagining various scenes from Genesis in a clouded sky--the "ceiling" of the earth, the gateway to Heaven. Rene Magritte (left) used clouds repeatedly in his Surrealist paintings, though usually in a symbolic sense, rather than any attempt at naturalism. Indeed, any number of 20th century artists took great liberties in painting clouds for their many meanings, real or imagined, rather than their appearance.

The Seine at Saint Cloud, 1877, Alfred Sisley
As a painter of realism, what little attention I've paid to painting clouds has been more technical than symbolic, with special emphasis on form and color. Form tends to be relatively simple inasmuch as clouds come in any and all shapes, though usually flatter on the bottom than toward the top. Because of the rules involving light and shadow, they are often darker toward their lower extremities except when the light falls behind the clouds as in a sunset/sunrise, in which all bets are off. Virtually anything can happen (bottom). Color, however, is another matter. Amateur painters tend to think of clouds as some combination of white or gray, which is fine if you're satisfied with "shorthand" clouds, but way oversimplified in terms of the real essence of cloud painting. I've seen realistic paintings with clouds utilizing just about every color in the rainbow, which is more than just a figure of speech inasmuch as both have similar optical origins. Notice the impressionist color Alfred Sisley employed in his heavily clouded The Seine at Saint Cloud, from 1877. There are some blues and whites, but gray (bitumen black) was considered an anathema to impressionists, seeing as how they had a whole palette of much more beautiful colors that could be made to work just as well.

Wheat Fields, ca. 1670, Jacob van Ruisdael
The Impressionists caused artists to see landscapes differently, especially clouds. Impressionism flew in the face of everything artists had ever come to assume about painting nature and that which hung above it, influencing the colors below. Local color was replaced by ambient color. Grass was no longer green but some combination of blue, yellow, or even more distant color relationships. Color was translated as light waves striking the eyes rather than pigment on canvas. To understand this break from the past we need only look at the work of Dutch artist Jacob van Ruisdael. Quite the exact opposite Sisley's or Monet's cloudy visions were those of van Ruisdael as seen in his Wheat Fields (above) from around 1670. Though quite striking in their complex enormity (they, in fact, completely dominate the painting), the old black-and-white-makes-gray formula prevailed. Even Constable, a hundred years later, was only beginning to see the color possibilities inherent in clouds. Yet color can be an extremely powerful force in painting. Never is this more the case than with the old landscape staple, the clouded sunrise (or sunset). As I suggested before, in painting such works, there are few rules (as seen below). Maybe there should be some though.

Clouds with color run amok.