Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Paintings I've Not Done Yet--Allhambra

Copyright, Jim Lane
My best shot of Alhambra...rather bleak...nothing a good landscape architect or talented painter couldn't fix, I suppose.
Alhambra was not what I expected. I visited the ancient Moorish palace, located in Granada, Spain, two years ago (2014) as the first stop following a transatlantic crossing aboard Royal Caribbean's magnificent Allure of the Seas. The ship docked at the bustling port city of Malaga on the Mediterranean coast, about an hour-and-a-half by bus from Granada (83 miles or 134 kilometers). This makes the visit it a day-long excursion with a total of some three hours of travel. For the septuagenarian traveler like myself, that's not all bad. It allows a sixty-mile-per-hour view of the Spanish countryside, as well as lunch and a sampling of the local cuisine, followed by a nice amount of nap time on the way back to the ship.
Copyright, Jim Lane
A forest of slender columns and lacy details but not ideal
painting content. It's so...disorganized.
When I say Alhambra was not what I expected, I'm speaking photographically. Insofar as the palace was concerned, I knew exactly what to expect. I'd done my homework, though that's not to say there weren't some surprises. Those involve the immense size of the walled enclosure and the surprising variety of architectural trappings resulting from more than a thousand years of royal and military wear and tear on the place. Alhambra is literally a museum of European architecture from virtually every era of that time period. I guess what I was expecting photographically was a palace much more lavishly beautiful. Yes, there are areas fitting that description, but none could compare with what I'd seen in Russia, or those I later saw in Paris. The impression one takes away in visiting Alhambra is that it's old. That, and the various sultans' architects worked with a different set of aesthetic values than those of their European counterparts. I'm not sure this is the case, but it seemed to me that they might have designed instinctively, on location, with minimal images on paper. If one looks closely, there are several "errors" and irregularities visible today which would suggest this conclusion.
Copyright, Jim Lane
Yes, there were some flowers, but they had more the appearance
of what I'd term "wild flowers" than a carefully manicured garden.
I expected to see dozens and dozens of views just begging to be painted. What I found was a palace full of lavish, almost infinite detailing, but that does not photograph well for the artist like myself in search of architectural source material. Whereas other (albeit younger) such architectural landmarks force the photographer to pick and choose only the best while "leaving the rest," with Alhambra, I found myself having to search for views, angles, and content that were merely "good." I was there in late April, perhaps a little early to find the flowery beauty I later encountered at Monet's Giverny outside Paris, but having said that, this was the warm, sunny Mediterranean area of southern Spain after all).
Copyright, Jim Lane
Fountaineering appears to have come a long way since
those of Alhambra first spurted their glistening flow.
I was familiar with the numerous courtyards and fountains to be found at Alhambra, but quite frankly, both were less than I expected. I guess I was expecting Versailles and what I saw was little more than a series of modest aquatic arcs (above). I've seen malfunctioning school drinking fountains with more powerful spurts. Once more I'm uncertain whether this was because of the era in which the major portions of the palace were built, a lack of Moorish imagination, more subdued tastes, or perhaps the antiquarian plumbing involved (maybe even a shortage of water now or then).
Copyright, Jim Lane
The best that can be said as to Alhambra's fountains
is that they are "quiet and restful."
To put the best light on it, one comes away from Alhambra with the impression that the Moorish architects may have been "pioneers" in the ornamental use of reflective pools and the exciting splash of decorative airborne water. The Romans, of course, had dabbled in such art centuries before, but such efforts were, in fact, centuries before, allowing such "fountaineering" to become a lost art following the fall of that civilization. The Moorish designers at Alhambra may have simply rediscovered its rudiments. Did Alhambra influence the landscape architects of Louis XIV's Versailles, thus causing my expectations to become jaded. It's possible. They're only about nine-hundred miles and five centuries apart.

As the eleventh group in this series, like the others, these photos are available free of charge for use by painters as source material for their own work on an individual basis. Simply e-mail me with a request to do so at and indicate which photo you would like to use as well as your full name (no nicknames) and geographic location. If you have a website, include the URL. And please, when finished, e-mail me a photo of your painting. These images are not for publication as photos (except on a royalty basis) nor are they in the public domain.

No comments:

Post a Comment