Artists of the Spanish “golden age” in the 17th century seemed to delight in manipulating paint on the canvas to create dazzlingly realistic effects, such as the light shimmering on silk gowns in Velázquez’s “Las Meninas,” or the churning clouds in the apricot-and-lavender skies of El Greco. Spanish ‘naturalism’ — painting objects and people as they actually appear [my emphasis] — can have a deeper emotional impact, as seen in the candor and humanity of Velázquez’s portraits of buffoons….
(Andrew Ferren, “A 7-Hour, 6-Mile, Round-the-Museum Tour of the Prado,” NYTimes, 3-18-19)
How things “actually appear” is elusive. I don’t see correctly. My sketches for painting are labored, with much overriding of mistaken perception. The painting phase involves much mixing and discarding of pigment that looked right until it touched the canvas. I don’t want to paint this way, but I have to.
It’s not just me. Our brains foist perceptual baggage onto us. Some people overcome the handicap. Most art I admire goes beyond naturalism. It lights me up with a devil-may-care attitude. I like to imagine that even a so-called realistic painting is really an infinitude of tiny abstractions rendered and assembled just so.
(c) 2019 JMN.