Landscape at Le Cannet by Pierre Bonnard
“Draw your pleasure, paint your pleasure, and express your pleasure strongly.” – Pierre Bonnard
In my opinion, the above painting by Pierre Bonnard is perfect. I don’t like all of Bonnard’s paintings, but I like many of them. In every case, the paintings that I like most of Bonnard’s are colorful, and the brush strokes are expressive. They have what, in the art world, is called bravura.
When an artist paints with bravura, his brush strokes have an energy all their own and segments of a painting can be enjoyed simply because of the way that they are painted, irrespective of the subject matter of the painting.
John Singer Sargent – Detail of a Portrait
John Singer Sargent was one of the most famous portrait painters in history. He was commissioned to paint many famous and wealthy people; therefore, he did have an ability to capture a likeness. Yet, he did not press all of the energy from his work to do so. In the above painting, look at Sargent’s brush strokes in painting the girl’s pinafore.
John Singer Sargent – Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, 1882
When viewed from a distance, the viewer’s eyes pull the strokes together, but upon closer observation, one becomes aware of Sargent’s energy and his absolute joy in painting. Sargent’s work is alive. From a distance, we can see that the youngest daughter is holding her doll, but up close, there appears to be no doll at all. The youngest child is actually just holding slashes of paint.
Here is another portrait by John Singer Sargent. Notice how the stripes of white dance across the page. Contrast the slabs of color in the hair to the softness of the girl’s face. Sargent painted with bravura only where he could do so and not sacrifice the delicacy that was needed in other spots.
John Singer Sargent – Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
Detail – Essence of a Lily – Compare how few strokes it took for Sargent to capture the essence of a lily. This is an example of capturing an impression of something, as opposed to painting it in perfect realism. In other words, this is an example of impressionism, which is one of my favorite eras of art.
Detail – Essence of Roses
John Singer Sargent did not invent bravura in brush work.
The Dutch painters Rembrandt and Frans Hals were masters of bravura 200 years before Sargent, and I encourage people to examine all of the artists who painted with bravura. It should become apparent that joy in painting is much more than the reproduction of an image. Cameras can copy. Painters should interpret, and the best way to capture vitality and life is to let your pencil and your brush run free. We should merely skip along behind our brushes as they paint. That is where we’ll find the joy in making art.
©Jacki Kellum July 1, 2016