Seeking the pre-Nineteenth-century Landscape
|watercolor and gouache on Arches grain fin |
|1910 postcard view from the citadel; |
the sprawl has already begun
Nice has grown exponentially as beach-going became a big thing over the last century; indeed, standing on the hill overlooking the city it’s hard to discern where it ends—the sprawl is particularly unfortunate here, where the surrounding hills would have otherwise evoked a quintessential Riviera landscape. The hill itself, once a citadel, then a cemetery, and for roughly a century mostly a park, offers enough of an escape from the town, if not its weekend crowds (who flock there as well). But while I found the Place Garibaldi one of the most successful nineteenth-century squares I’ve seen, I find the nineteenth-century landscape rather over-designed and manicured—not the lushly shabby landscape I mostly seek out to paint in Italy.
For me the hardest part of plein air work is the choosing of a subject. I know watercolorists who can plop themselves down almost anywhere and crank out a passable image. I’m always looking for a composition with some structure: not all beautiful scenes make a beautiful drawing or painting. I spent an hour or more on a first excursion onto the hill of the citadel in the morning, to scout out some subjects; and then another hour in the afternoon to finally find a place to work, as the sun was slowly sinking. I found this compelling spot, on the flank of the cemetery, looking from the gate of the Jewish cemetery down a long ivy-covered wall toward the cemetery chapel. Color and structure brought me there, and if the image (done in a little over an hour) has any merit, it’s owed to these.