Monday, June 18, 2012

Picchetti winery and Arles

Picchetti winery with Gauguin's red-leafed tree
16"×20", Oil on canvas panel, 2008-2011
This is a story of a time-space tunnel that I seem to have discovered at
Picchetti winery in Cupertino; it leads to Arles of 1888.

This landscape started in December 2008 as a plein air study at Picchetti winery.

Some landscape studies fully resolve themselves right there en plein air; you bring them home, look at them some time later, and they seem to retain all the freshness and strength of the experience. It's always a joy to see it,  but it doesn't
happen all the time, and it didn't happen with this one. It looked bleak, chalky, its color weak and nearly dead, not even close to what I had seen and hoped to convey: you can see it for yourself on the earlier photo of the same panel to the left.

I haven't discarded it right away, though, because there seemed to be some life in it, some unfulfilled promise
Paul Gauguin. Lane at Alchamps, Arles (1888)
 – yet I didn't have the slightest idea of how to revive it. The solution came to me only three years later, as a part of my "Structures and Quotes" series: it turned out that what the landscape needed was an injection of Paul Gauguin.

The most directly quoted work by Gauguin here is "Lane at Alchamps, Arles" (1888), but the quote endowed the whole painting with the power of color it's been so pitifully lacking.



Quite independently, a very similar story happened to another plein air study almost from the same spot (although looking in another direction, and dated a year later). The photo on the left shows how the study looked right after the plein air: the colors are bright and vivid, yet there is something distinctly lacking in composition and overall harmony. 




Vincent Van Gogh “View of Arles with Irises” (1888)
 It needed something else in the foreground, and it was saved with a quote from Vincent Van Gogh's "View of Arles with Irises" (1988), which seamlessly connected to the spiral movement of the path in the original study and completed the composition. A quote from the same time and place, from Van Gogh's and Gauguin's time together in Arles, when for better or for worse, they were painting back to back.

I had not even noticed the coincidences till we hung the paintings side by side and I've accurately written down their sources, but here they are together.

The "green" member of the accidental red/green diptych is shown below.     
Picchetti winery barrels with Van Gogh's irises in the foreground.
16"×20", Oil on canvas panel. 2009-2011.

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