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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Outside the Walls of Lucca

One Smaller, One Larger

Lucca’s walls make an ideal subject for an artist interested in the juxtaposition of clear, almost abstract, manmade forms and an ordered Nature. Built to resist cannon fire, they resisted demolition in the nineteenth century when many other cities, like Florence, pulled down their medieval curtain walls and replaced them with viali—allowing the city to spread (or sprawl) outward in modern periferie. Lucca’s walls instead became a raised promenade, and their compelling exterior image almost demanded that the city maintain a greenbelt around them, isolating them from the inevitable sprawling development beyond. It is this rapport with Nature that the walls represent, as much as their image as crown to the city, that I celebrated in my Palio for this year’s feast of S. Paolino. And it is a subject I happily return to, in various seasons, to watch the light change and the forms assert themselves against their green frame.

These are two images, the first a smaller sketch, the second larger, painted on successive summer days (note the grass was being mowed in patches from one day to the next) at around the same time, 6–8pm. The photos show the work in progress. I’m outside the northern mural circuit, looking toward the church of S. Frediano.

Bella Lucca, quanto mi manca!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Some Sites in Rome

 August 2012 Reprise 

Columns en ressault at the Forum of
 Nerva along the via dei Fori Imperiali
LAST YEAR I posted an image of a painting of the Forum of Nerva in progress on my easel; having finally varnished that painting (oil on canvas board), and another from last August as well (oil on paper), I thought it would be opportune to post those two works as a spur to some thoughts on painting in Rome (a topic I’ve addressed before).

While the Eternal City seems to most eyes to be an intact relic of the past, in reality much has changed there in relatively modern (for Rome at least) times: the via dei Fori Imperiali, Piazza Venezia, and so much else of the centro storico felt the impact first of the unification of Italy and the creation of Rome as the capitol, and then Fascist planning, particularly under Mussolini. For me, at least, it is no small challenge to find the Rome of Corot or Valenciennes (and little had changed between the middle of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th). Some spots that still evoke that pre-Modern Rome include this site behind the church of Ss. Giovanni e Paolo on the Celio (at my back, however, was a rather grotesque outdoor bar); and focused views of the Imperial Fora can be timeless. It is good news to me that the new mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, seriously intends to close the via dei Fori Imperiali to traffic, making of it a vast archeological park (still not clear whether it will be an open, public park, or a pay-as-you-go museum). Rome takes some work to discover, and if one is seeking out plein air sites without the visual clutter of the modern city, it takes an attentive eye and a sense of how the city used to be.

Ss. Giovanni e Paolo