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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Michael Flohr

Beautiful Venice, Michael Flohr
When we think of Impressionism, we tend to bring to mind breezy, wide-open spaces dotted with flowers, seashores, lush gardens, flowing streams, and finely dressed ladies with their children enjoying any and all of the above. What we don't tend to picture is a busy street in Paris, a festive holiday parade, landmark laden skylines, or rivers laden with boats and barges transporting the daily commerce of a bustling city. However, some of these latter images often made up the pictorial content of many of the earliest Impressionist paintings from that era. Don't forget, the painting from which Impressionism derived its name, Monet's 1873 Impression, Sunrise, was not one of a windblown poppy field, but a painting of a his hometown, the Normandy port city of Le Havre.
Paris Street, rainy day, 1877, Gustave Caillebotte
Rue Montorgueil, Paris,
Festival of June 30, 1878.
Claude Monet
There are any number of ways to break down Impressionist content, but one of the simplest is to see it as being of two types, provincial (rural), and urban (cities and towns). From the earliest years of the Impressionist movement, in addition to Mon-et, artists such as Gustave Caillebotte (ab-ove), Camille Pissarro, Paul Signac, Renoir, Degas, and several other lesser names, each painted the Paris environs they all knew so well. The same can be said for San Diego artist, Michael Flohr. Born in 1975, Flohr was diagnosed as dyslexic when he was five years old. His parents arranged special tutoring which, oddly enough, included art classes. By the time Michael turned eight, he was painting in oils. In later years, he went to work at a casino, but never lost his love for the heady smell of turpentine and linseed oil. Flohr went on to attend the San Francisco Academy of Art University where he gained broad experience in a number of media and painting styles.

Michael Flohr has been a professional artist since 2001.
Michael Flohr graduated in 2000. In the following year he began selling his work. Though his studio is in San Diego, Flohr has also traveled to various cities in Europe in search of the unique urban environments he loves to paint. Michael Flohr's painting style can be, loosely defined as “Urban Impressionism”, which has itself been described as a combination of avant-garde, Abstract Expressionism, and Impressionism. Besides the impressionists mentioned before, Flohr claims to have also been inspired by Manet and a wide range of Post-impressionists including Cezanne and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Beautiful Florence, Michael Flohr
Michael Flohr does not work with models. He prefers to sketch in charcoal on location in search of "moments" as a scene unfolds. Many times, these sketches will become works of art in themselves, because they capture a different mood. Sometimes he works from photographs, always looking for visual clues as to the overwhelming choices of color in creating his interpretation of an image. He seeks a combination of small, square strokes of premeditated color, which creates a rhythm throughout the painting. At that point he combines them with broad brushstrokes which serve to ‘marry’ the elements together.

N.O.L.A (New Orleans), Michael Flohr--no shortage of rain here.
Much of what passes for urban Impressionism today I'm not particularly fond of. There tends to be a bothersome sameness to such work which invariably involve night scenes in the pouring rain reflecting a multitude of city lights in gaudy colors on the glimmering wet streets. If these cities ever suffered a drought such artists would instantly have to move elsewhere. Moreover, there is that element within some of Flohr's work as seen in his N.O.L.A. (above). Living in drought ridden southern California, perhaps that's why Flohr travels to wetter cities around the world.

Tribute to Bravery, 2002, Michael Flohr
However, as often as not, Flohr breaks with this stereotype. From time to time, he even paints city streets during dry mornings. His Tribute to Bravery (above) commemorates one particularly dry morning, that of the 9-11 attack on New York's World Trade Center. Flohr also goes beyond the stereotypical depiction, choosing to commemorate the "lost forever" pleasant moments before the tragedy.

Times Square, Michael Flohr--note the absence of moisture.
Like every successful artist, Michael
Flohr has a book out.


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