"The true painter strives to paint what can only be seen through his world." ~André Malraux

After a year of intermittant "painter's block"  I am working again in my studio, and feeling in a tentative positive state. Painting is a solitary activity, and as artists, we are often working in a vacuum. Unless we have a show hanging, reaction to the work is minimal. With several pieces underway, I decided that perhaps if I write about what I am doing or am attempting to do, it might act somewhat as a muse for me as well as give me some feedback on the work I am creating -- hence the establishment of this blog. 

As for the blog title, traditional, representational painting is a language for expressing what’s visible. But I feel my work is the most successful, and most interesting, when focused on things not entirely visible. I paint what I see but also what I sense and feel by utilizing my interior and unseen world --- in other words, the invisible world. Plein air work or  studio work from photographs are only touchstones or landmarks which guide me to other inner spaces. By so doing, I find that I am pushing the boundaries between representational and abstract work.

You can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.

Jul 14, 2011

Venice: A Work of Art Unto Itself

Photo by Bob Buzas (son-in-law)
The start of our two week trip to Italy to celebrate my husband’s and my 70th birthdays was our two days in Venice, undeniably one of the world’s most glorious cities. I had not been to Venice since 1962, and it was my husband’s first trip to the magical city -- with it's glorious blend of water, art and romance situated so close to the Adriatic Sea. Created more than 1,000 years ago by men who thumbed their noses at the sea, and built their splendid Venetian Gothic palaces and churches on mud banks in a swampy and treacherous lagoon, it’s a true treasure of architecture, art and atmosphere. We reveled in the unique atmosphere of the canals and boats, the panoply of museums, bridges, churches and sunlit squares and everywhere, flowers. 
Photo by Bob Buzas
 The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world's greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others.

 With only two days there, and with four grandchildren between the ages of 5 and 10 in our group, we obviously did not see and do everything. While the others climbed the Basilica di San Marco, John and I took the slow vaporetto #1 down the length of the Grand Canal enjoying long, extended view of the major waterway of the city, and took in the wonderful ambiance of Venetian life unfolding on the Grand Canal.

We stopped off at the Accademia Gallery which houses the most magnificent collection of Venetian art in the world. Over the centuries, the great masters of Venetian painting adorned the city with wonderful works imbued with light and color, a quality that has distinguished the Venetian school of painting since its origins, I am sure because the city itself is so light splashed and luminous. The collection at the Accademia Gallery illustrates the evolution and characteristics of Venetian art, including the fourteenth century Byzantine-style Madonnas and the great canvasses by Gentile Bellini and Carpaccio that record fifteenth century Venice.  As my 10 year old grandson later remarked when in one of the Italian art museums, “…there are a lot of Marys and Jesuses there.”

Feast in the House of Levi by Paolo Veronese
One of the most interesting works of arts at the Accedemia is Veronese’s painting which is now known as the Feast in the House of Levi, completed originally for the rear wall of the refectory of the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo in 1573. The painting was originally intended as a depiction of The Last Supper, and was titled thusly, designed to replace a canvas by Titian that had been lost in a fire. It measured more than five meters high and over twelve meters wide (at 42 feet long, one of the largest canvases of the 16th century), and was a culmination of Veronese's banquet scenes, which this time included not only the standard characters of The Last Supper, but also German soldiers, comic dwarves, and a variety of animals. 

When Paolo Veronese unveiled this enormous painting, it was shocking not only for its size, but also for its rather raunchy depiction of the Savior and his pals. But as Veronese's use of color attained greater intensity and luminosity, also his attention to a narrative interplay and emotion among his beautifully rendered figures was becoming tantamount to his creations. And here, the artist had portrayed one of the holiest of moments in the bible as a drunken banquet that conjured up, to some, paintings of Roman orgies!

So, because the subject, and title, of this rather racy painting was The Last Supper, it was noticed by the increasingly Puritanistic powers-that-be in the Inquisition which was exerting its influence in Venice at this time. Quite simply, they had a fit over the painting, and very speedily in July of 1573, Veronese was summoned to explain the inclusion of “extraneous and indecorous details” in the painting. The church charged the painter with irreverence—and threatened to indict him on the very serious charge of heresy. Veronese explained that "we painters take the same liberties as poets and madmen."House of Levi". 

The inquisitors suggested several changes to the painting, probably relating to the removal of Germans and buffoons etc, but in the end nothing at all was changed and a very Italian solution was negotiated - the work was retitled The Feast at the House of Levi. The scene still had Jesus in it, but a Jesus surrounded by guests who were free to engage in acts of secular glee and gluttony—and the mollified censors let it pass!

We also, all ten of us, visited the Doges Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, an extravagant Gothic Renaissance palace that symbolizes the glory days of Venice.  The Doge’s Palace, created of white limestone and pink marble, was softened by porticos, finely wrought loggias, a crenellated roof and a series of balconies by Pier Paolo and Jacobello Dalle Masegne,  was the seat of the government of Venice for centuries. It looks like dessert! The system of elected doges was as singular as everything else about this very singular city, and lasted for 1000 years. As well as being the home of the Doge (the elected ruler of Venice) it was the venue for its law courts, its civil administration and bureaucracy and — until its relocation across the Bridge of Sighs — the city jail. In spite of the heat, we marveled at the Golden Staircase and ornately decorated walls and ceilings covered by works of great artists including the world’s largest oil painting, the 23x75 foot Paradise by Jacopo Tintoretto.

Upstairs we walked through the doge’s private rooms to the Anticollegio, where the doge and council would meet foreign dignitaries. The Anticollegio is decorated with four Tintorettos; his work and Titian’s  dominate the walls, although the Sala del Consiglio dei Dieci has works by our old friend the almost-heretic, Veronese; and the Sala dell’Armamento has the remains of Guariento’s fresco, Paradise, wrecked in the fire.

The kids loved walking out over the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs, constructed 1602) to the city’s ‘new’ prison. 
My grandchildren looking out over The Bridge of Sighs--- their father who took the photo says : "We need one of these at home!"

 Before it was built, prisoners were kept in the eaves of the doge’s palace, (the Piombi or ‘leads’) or in the cellars (the Pozzi or ‘wells). Wherever, it must have been horrible, and the kids loved hearing about it.

The rest of our short time in Venice, we fed the pigeons in San Marco Square, walked over the picturesque bridges, had a drink at water’s edge, and took our grandchildren for a gondola ride down the back lagoons and canals of the city, which everyone enjoyed. John and I enjoyed an elegant dinner at the Hotel Danieli, but otherwise we ate the delicious food in everyday places.

Eloise with the pigeons, Photo by Bob Buzas

View from Gondola, photo by John Reese

Grandson Aidan wearing Gondolier's hat. Photo, John Reese

          If ever a city itself was a work of art, this is it.

Arrivi Derci Venezia! GranddaughtersLily and Eloise carting their suitcases to the water taxi, causing quite a stir wearing their souvenir masks. Photo, Michael Reese


  1. Judith PettingellJuly 14, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    What a wonderful adventure you had!! Thank you for the wonderful historical commentary and terrific photos. James Kettlewell (art history professor at Skidmore) couldn't have done it better!!

  2. I am highly flattered to be compared in any way to Professor Kettlewell!

  3. I love all the pictures and narative. The family will have wonderful memories of this fabulous trip. Thank you for sharing.