Artists talk a lot about what inspires them to create. The musician/songwriter often has a muse of some sort, or a heartbreak that inspires a great ballad. The visual artist takes inspiration from nature, the environment, society…just about anything around them might inspire them to create a visual expression of the mood or feelings evoked.
I was a Art & Design major as an undergrad, and an Art History major in graduate school. My studies focused alot on inspiration, my own as well as that of the artists I studied. I’m not sure I could always pinpoint just what my own inspiration was (nor can I always put my finger on it now), but I was always curious about what truly inspired some of the great works we studied.
My favorite artist, hands down, has always been John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), an amazing portrait painter and watercolorist. He was an American, born in Florence, Italy. This one, Madame X, was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1884, and caused such as scandalous uproar (a woman’s bare shoulders?!? Heavens!) that he was forced to move to London to get away from the gossip. I believe he sold it to the MET a few years after this. This was the artist’s personal favorite of his works.
My personal favorite is this one, which I forget the name of right now, but I so wish I was the woman in this picture, she’s outside, in the sun, enjoying the perfect day with her companion, painting casually on her canvas, next to a fountain. The brushstrokes that make up this image are fascinating, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it in person…it is amazing.
I have a small copy of this one hanging in my home, it is named Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, and was his first major success at the Royal Academy (in England) in 1887. It is a large piece, painted on site, of two young girls lighting lanterns in an English garden. The painting was immediately purchased by the Tate Gallery in London, where I had the pleasure of viewing it in the 1990s. The colors are breathtaking.
During the greater part of Sargent’s career, he created roughly 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolours, as well as countless sketches and charcoal drawings. Now that is impressive. It makes me want to go get my paints out and start painting. It makes me want to start creating more “art quilts”, painting in fabric. It inspires me to find more time, to create something, anything…just for the sake of creating…
What inspires you?