Friday, February 8, 2013

The Gallery- Art and Nature

During the depths of winter a gardener can find himself with too much time on his hands.  And if you don't believe me... well, you will after you read this post.  But let me back up a bit. The other day I was looking at a painting by Braque that reminded me of an image I saw just a day earlier on Flickr's Horticultural Art photostream.  Do you know about Flickr's Horticultural Art?  If not, you need to take a look at some of the beautiful natural images there.

The painting on the left, by Georges Braque, is Trees At Estaque and the photo on the right, that I saw earlier, is of Syringa vulgaris (Lilac) leaves from Horticultural Art.  I was struck by the similarities I saw in these two images--one a painting from 1908 and the other a photograph from 2011.  Both, of course, are works of art but the common thread that holds them together is clearly the attempt to depict nature in a new and different way.

Friends of mine are fed up to their transcendental back teeth with me quoting Thoreau but it seems appropriate here so I'll do it one more time.  Thoreau once said that..."Art is not tame, and Nature is not wild, in the ordinary sense. A perfect work of man's art would also be wild or natural in a good sense."  With Thoreau's quote in mind, and the lilac leaves reminding me of the Braque painting, I wondered what some of the most famous artists felt about the relationship between art and nature and so I went digging for a few of their thoughts.  I also went back to the Horticultural Art photostream to see if I could come up with a few more examples of "nature's art" that I thought might resonate with some of the artist's "fine art," like the lilac leaves did for me with the Braque painting. And so, a few of the pairings I put together, along with some artist's musings on art and nature, appear below.  I hope you enjoy them.  You can click on any of the images to see a slide-show of all of them in larger format.

Nature is a mere pretext for a decorative composition, plus sentiment. It suggests emotion, and I translate that emotion into art. ~ Georges Braque

Painting Left: River Coast by Paul Cezanne  Photo Right: Pyrus callery (Callery Pear) leaves

I have not tried to reproduce nature: I have represented it. ~ Paul Cezanne

You come to nature with all your theories, and she knocks them all flat. ~ Pierre-Auguste Renoir 

I used to lie down on the grass and draw the blades as they grew - until every square foot of meadow, or mossy bank, became a possession to me. ~ John Ruskin  

Painting Left: Water Lilies by Claude Monet  Photo Right: Assorted leaves

I am following Nature without being able to grasp her... I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers. ~ Claude Monet

I don't paint nature. I am nature. ~ Jackson Pollock

Painting Left: Melancholy by Edvard Munch  Photo Right: Epimedium leaves

Nature is not only what is visible to the eye – it also shows the inner images of the soul – the images on the back side of the eyes. ~ Edvard Munch

When I look at nature I feel as if I'll be able to paint it all, note it all down, and then you might as well forget it once you're working... ~ Claude Monet

Painting Left: Laveuses a Arles (Washerwomen in Arles) by Paul Gaugain  Photo Right: Pyrus calleryana (Callery pear) leaves

A bit of advice, don't copy nature too closely. Art is an abstraction; as you dream amid nature, extrapolate art from it and concentrate on what you will create as a result. ~ Paul Gauguin 

A painter must not only be of necessity an imitator of the works of nature... but he must be as necessarily an imitator of the works of other painters. This appears more humiliating, but is equally true; and no man can be an artist, whatever he may suppose, upon any other terms. ~ Sir Joshua Reynolds

Painting Left: The House of Pere Lacroix in Auvers by Paul Cezanne  Photo Right: Assorted Leaves

But where do they find these lines in nature? I can only see luminous or obscure masses, planes that advance or planes that recede, reliefs or background. My eye never catches lines or details. ~ Francisco de Goya

To the artist there is never anything ugly in nature. ~ Auguste Rodin  

He who despises painting has no love for the philosophy in nature. ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Painting Left: The Guitar Player by Pablo Picasso  Photo Right: Platanus occidentalis (American Sycamore) leaves

If I paint a wild horse, you might not see the horse... but surely you will see the wildness!
~ Pablo Picasso 

An artist must possess Nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language. ~ Henri Matisse

Painting Left: Wheat Field With Crows by Vincent van Gogh  Photo Right: Acer negundo (box elder) seeds and Cichorium intybus (Chicory)

I devour nature ceaselessly. I exaggerate, sometimes I make changes in the subject; but still I don't invent the whole picture. On the contrary, I find it already there. It's a question of picking out what one wants from nature. ~ Vincent van Gogh 

When I go out into the countryside and see the sun and the green and everything flowering, I say to myself, Yes indeed, all that belongs to me! ~ Henri Rousseau

Painting Left: Three Women by Pablo Picasso  Photo Right: Pyrus (Pear), Rhododendron, Clethra (Summersweet), and Stewartia leaves.

There has never been a painting that was more beautiful than nature. The model does not unfold herself to you, you must rise to her. She should be the inspiration for your painting. No man has ever over-appreciated a human being. ~ Robert Henri

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web. ~ Pablo Picasso


  1. The image and collage that draws me most is Cezanne’s “House” and assorted leaves. The texture, not just color, of the foliage really evokes the drama of light and shadow for me. Thanks for the show. Lovely and thoughtful all round.

    1. Thank you, Marian! I'm glad you enjoyed it. And, thanks for connecting me to your blog. It will be fun to keep up on gardening activities in SC. Loved the post on the goats and the photos of Dixter! Cheers, ~Joe

  2. I love them all. From cubism to Cezanne. Your interpretation using leaves, color and pattern


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