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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February Paintings

February Stillness, Nikolai Anokhin
February, Olga Vorobiova
A month ago, January 1, 2017, I began a series of twelve posts highlighting paintings which represent a particular month of the year. Each month has a stereotype. In some ways that's good in that it provides a basic structure upon which to hang the visual adornments of that month. However, every artists should strive to break somewhat from stereotypes by presenting either unique representat-ions of them, or exceptionally high quality depictions based upon them. February Stillness (above) by the Russian painter, Nikolai Anokhin, is one of the latter. Nobody paints winter scenes like the Russians (of course, they have a lot of winter to paint). Olga Vorobiova (left, another Russian painter, I think) takes on the more difficult task of presenting February in a manner which relates to the stereotype but manages to do so in a fresh manner--the feline wishing it were outside to pursue the bird while the bird, despite the cat, envies the warmth of an indoors.
February, Fill Dyke, 1881, Benjamin Williams Leader
February, Très riches heures,
(Very Rich Hours), Limbourg Brothers
The French Limbourg Brothers were probably the first to paint the month of February (left). They were illustrating a year-long prayer book for the nob-leman, John, Duke of Berry, between the years 1412 and 1416. When the three painters and their sponsor died in 1416, (possibly victims of plague), the manuscript was left unfinished. Titled Très Riches Heures, (Very Rich Hours) it consisting of a total of 206 leaves of very fine quality parchment, and included 66 large miniature illustrations and 65 small ones. The British landscape painter has captured the month of February both visually and in his title, February, Fill Dyke which refers to the characteristics of the weather, which gives the epithet of “fill dyke” to the month of February in depicting the overflowing ponds, splashy roads, and the pale, streaked evening sky. The title of the painting comes from an old country rhyme:
February fill the dyke,
Be it black or be it white;
But if it be white,
It’s the better to like.

Another February stereotype, much more difficult to handle in any way approaching a fresh manner, sf February 14th--Valentines Day. In most cases what we get are all manner of hearts and flowers (good, bad, and ugly). Perhaps one of the few contemporary painters who managed to avoid, or overcome the pitfalls of this holiday was the Pop Artist (educated at my alma mater, Ohio University), Jim Dine. Dine, rather than avoiding the ubiquitous heart shape, wholeheartedly embraced it in numerous works such as the one seen below (I could find no title for it). Yet, even he soon found it becoming tiresome and passé. He abandoned such works of the heart in the 1970s.
The bleeding heart--Dine bled it for all it was worth.
Notwithstanding Jim Dine's hearts, the quintessential February painter would have to be the American regionalist artist, Grant Wood. Not only was he born in February (13th, 1891) but he also died on the same date in 1942. Moreover, his Parson Weems' Fable (below) takes note of the father of our country, George Washington (born on February 22, 1732) and his fabled cherry tree. Few presidents since have had such legendary truthfulness as a part of their legacy.

One legend depicting another.
Speaking of presidents, February is also the month we "celebrate" Presidents Day. It's not a painting but a Photoshop creation I put together for another topic a year or so ago, but the image of Mt. Rushmore with an additional eighteen carved presidential visages seemed appropriate for reposting. The caption says it all.

Copyright, Jim Lane
As a former elementary art instructor, this
is much more in keeping with my thoughts
regarding February art.


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