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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Predominantly Pink Paintings

Pink Marilyn,  1967, Andy Warhol
Woman with a Pearl Necklace
in a Loge, 1879, Mary Cassatt
I'd dare say everyone has a favorite color. Artists are no exception, and inasmuch as most painters in the past were men, pink is probably not an all-time favorite. You might expect that a female impressionist of the 19th-century would find the tint of red we call pink to be most appealing. You'd be wrong. I had to search far and wide, long and hard, to come up with even one "predominantly pink painting," Mary Cassatt's Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge (left), from 1879. On the other hand, the first predominantly pink painting to pop up when I began looking for images for this posting was Andy Warhol's 1978 Pink Marilyn (top). It would appear he really loved the color. Of course I'd be remiss in not pointing out that Warhol rendered Marilyn in virtually every color in God's rainbow and probably a few God rejected (or should have).

Tints and shades of pink.
Before I go on I think I should remind the poor, unfortunate folks who have never picked up a paintbrush, a tube of lipstick, or a bottle of fingernail polish, that pink is a "tint" as opposed to a shade. Tints are lighter (not brighter) version of a primary or secondary color while a "shade" is a color darkened with black or some other very dark (usually complementary) hue. The greater the difference in value between the basic color and white, the greater the number of discernible tints. Yellow, for instanced, is woefully low as to the number of tints, while blue or black (if you're willing to think of black as a color) would have the greatest number of tints. We get into trouble in defining grays because they are both a tint of black and a shade of white. And if you really want to open up a can of worms, consider what to call a pinkish (warm) gray.

Mondrian in Pinks (my title), S.A. Fairless
So, having gotten the academic stuff out of the way, I hope you'll allow me some leeway in defining and choosing the pinks of this presentation, with the operative word of the title being "predominantly." With the exception of the amateur tribute to Piet Mondrian (above) by S.A. Fairless (if I read the signature correctly), few artist would go so far as to not include other colors as a means of contrasting and emphasizing the predominance of their pinks. In Monet's garden painting (below) he also includes variations of burnt sienna, yellow ochre, earth green, and whites all of which give his pink irises a run for their money.

Irises In Monet's Garden, Claude Monet,
(probably not the original title).
Portrait of Jeanne Samary, 1878,
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
One of the most common usages of pink is in flesh tones, usually of the feminine variety. Pink is, in fact, most often thought of as a feminine color (or worse, an effeminate color) especially as applied to flesh tones. Monet's friend, Edgar Degas, in painting his patented ballerina's goes nearly to the point of redefining pink with his flirtations with tans and various other earth tones. His Pink Dancer (below), from 1900, is a perfect example. Even the slightest bit of added yellow instantly turns pink into a fine flesh tone. We can see this most exquisitely in Renoir's Portrait of Jeanne Samary (right) from 1878.

Pink Dancer, 1900, Edgar Degas
In 1794, the British painter Sir Thomas Lawrence painted a portrait of the daughter of a wealthy landowner in Jamaica, Sarah Goodin Barrett Moulton (below). He (or others since) called the painting "Pinkie." Unfortunately, she died a year after Lawrence painted her. She was twelve years old. Today Pinkie hangs opposite Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy (1779) at the Huntington Museum, San Marino, California.

Pinkie, 1794,  Thomas Lawrence
I'm not certain if pink was Georgia O'Keeffe's favorite color, but judging from the frequency in which it appears in her work, it would likely rank as at least one of her favorites. Of course, being a painter of flowers on an up-close and personal basis, the color pink would seem unavoidable. In any case, when she uses it, she does so unabashedly, often with an intensity few other artists would dare to employ. Her Hibiscus with Plumeria (below), from 1939, stops just short of being gaudy through her use of powerful white masses and delicate tints of blue and yellows elsewhere.

Hibiscus with Plumeria, 1939, Georgia O'Keeffe
My own use of pinks has been largely limited
to an extended series of paintings called
The Hands of Love, during the 1970s.


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