Monday, September 14, 2015

Jenny Monthly Challenge - September Edition

For this month's challenge, I'm tapping into my Art History roots. 

I'm going to make jewelry inspired by a painter.

Now, my first thought was to use Rembrandt as my inspiration... He is one of my favorite artists--definitely my most studied--and his painting of the Prodigal Son is quite possibly my favorite work of art ever. I even had a giant poster of it in my dorm room while I was in college. (I never made a pretense about knowing much about current popular culture--but art from the Dutch Golden Age? Sign me up! Heh.)

The Prodigal Son
Not my picture! Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

However! That is for another month. 

This month's artist is not as famous as Rembrandt--or Van Gogh, or Monet, or Michelangelo. However, he is one of my original favorites. My mum and I went to see an exhibit of his work while I was in high school (middle school?), and I was quite taken with what I saw. I even bought the exhibition catalogue! (That was quite expensive for my age bracket.)  

So, without further ado... This month's artist is James McNeill Whistler.

Whistler was quite an interesting character.... An advocate of "art for art's sake," his paintings are filled with subtle delicacy; he built subtle layer upon layer, until the final picture took form. Yet his personality was quite combative and bitingly witty; he even turned a friendship with Oscar Wilde into a sour rivalry. This duality between his personality and his painting is best exemplified in the shape that he used as his signature in his paintings--the emblem of a butterfly with a long stinger as a tail.

Now, if you're not sure who this guy is, perhaps you'll recognize this... It's the painting that he's probably most well known for:

Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1
Not my picture! Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Often called "Whistler's Mother," the proper title of that painting is "Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1." Whistler was fascinated by music and found many similarities between it and painting... he named most of his paintings using musical terminology.

However, that's not my favorite piece by him. 

In fact, two pieces share that honor--and, interestingly, they both were the brunt of controversy at the time. First up:

The Peacock Room
Not my picture! 
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ah, the Peacock Room. Whistler was originally commissioned to make subtle revisions to the room's decor--painting some leather, adding a wave pattern... And ending up redoing the entire thing. 

This led to a huge quarrel between the artist and the patron; Whistler was not paid for his work, and his important work relation was terminated. The two fighting peacocks there are actually a later addition--Whistler snuck into the room later, and painted them to represent the artist's fight with his patron. For more juicy details, read about this here

My other favorite piece is this:

Nocturne in Black and Gold -- The Falling Rocket
Not my picture! Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This one also led to some controversy... Its subject matter is simple enough: it shows fireworks over a city park. Instead of painting an exact representation, however, Whistler was attempting to capture a scene or moment, and using his restricted color palette to create a physical sensation in the viewer.

The art critic John Ruskin was not impressed. Indeed, he called this painting "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face." His career on the line, Whistler sued Ruskin for libel. While Whistler won the trial, he was only awarded a farthing and had to declare bankruptcy as a result. You can read more about it here.

Another view of the Peacock Room.
Not my picture! Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

Why do I like these particular two pieces?

While the painting style of each is different--more stylized and oriental for the peacocks (Whistler was greatly influenced by Japanese artists), more impressionistic and painterly for the Nocturne--I love how Whistler uses color. I love the rich, gilded juxtaposition of green and gold in the Peacock room, I love the contrast between the dark hues and the cascading embers in the Nocturne. 

So... why give you this long (but hopefully not boring) art history lesson? 

My challenge this month is to make a piece inspired by one of the above Whistler paintings. (Well, at least one of them... Knowing me, I may get carried away and do more!) Particularly I'm going to be focusing on those colors, and see if I can somehow duplicate the feel in the jewelry I make. 

...No small task, but we'll see how it goes!

Come back on Wednesday, the 30th, to see what I end up making!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! :)