I’m moving to a new place, and I’m going to live completely on my own for the first time in my life. I moved away from home eight years ago, but there have always been girlfriends and roommates and suchlike, so now I’m going to do precisely what I want to do with my new home.
One of the things I’m going to do is get some art for the walls. Unfortunately, I’m not very knowledgeable, so I’m going to ask the bright bulbs here for some advice.
So what am I looking for? Well, I want the painting to be nice looking, for starters. It is meant to be decoration, after all. If it is a piece with history behind it without being one of those paintings absolutely everyone has seen a million times (the Mona Lisa is the posterchild for this group), that’s great.
What do I like? Realism and impressionism, mainly. I don’t enjoy abstract art, and while closely examining a Dali to see all the hidden details can be enjoyable, it’s not the kind of thing I’d want on my walls. My favourite painting of all time is probably Christina’s World. Not very original, but hey, I may not know much about art but I know what I like.
I have several favorites, all of which I’m sure you can find in the library or on the Web before buying anything.
Sabra Field is a very talented contemporary printmaker. She has a way with landscapes, particularly the Green Mountains of Vermont (where she lives), and a remarkable skill at depicting natural light at different times and seasons.
Howard Chandler Christie and John Singer Sargent both had a gift for portraiture that’s wonderful to see, and very evocative of their subjects. I particularly like Christie’s “Signing of the Constitution,” a massive piece that hangs in the U.S. Capitol and has been widely reproduced.
Mary Cassatt had a gift for painting mothers and their children in natural, seemingly-unposed ways that draw you in and make you want to be part of her quiet, loving scenes of domestic life.
I’ve always liked Gilbert Stuart’s and Benjamin West’s portraits of the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Howard Pyle was an extremely talented illustrator and engraver. Just about anything of his will grab your attention.
I’m a big fan of original works and would strongly encourage you to at least look at some galleries. Not suggesting you buy an original Wyeth, but there are many very fine painters out there whose works are affordable. For instance, I have a couple of original William Matthews that I paid less than a thousand each for and they’re magnificent. He was a student of Wyeth, paints in his style, and they’d be a treasured addition to anyone’s walls. I collected for years when I first got out on my own, have a beautiful collection of interesting work, and not one is a print.
Why not invest the time into searching for something you can purchase direct from an artist, rather than aiming for a mass-produced reproduction of a classic? Surf eBay. Haunt small galleries and art fairs. Contact a local art guild. Check out nearby antique stores.
Look for something that speaks to you. Doesn’t matter whether anyone else likes it, or thinks it is good art. You’re the one who will live with it. During your hunt, you’ll see a lot of crappy pieces. You’ll see some not-crappy pieces that you can’t possibly afford. You’ll wonder if any piece is worth the time spent looking. (Think of it this way: not only are you looking for something you’ll hopefully want live with for a long time, you’ll be improving your eye and refining your sense of what you like at the same time). Suddenly, you’ll see The Piece. You’ll know almost immediately that you can’t live without it. Then you’ll know that it was worth every minute. The search will make its acquisition that much more meaningful. Not only will you have a distinctive piece that you love, you’ll have acquired good stories along with it.
Caillebotte is also a favorite of mine. We have a big print of The Floor Scrapers in our house (look at the light in that painting). Oddly enough, when we were having our floors scraped, the floor scrapers broke the glass and tore the print of The Floor Scrapers (they paid for the replacement). We also saw the original at, IIRC, Le Musee D’Orsay in Paris about a year ago.
To the OP. . .if you’re looking for a $20 print, that’s one thing. A nice frame and matte job will run you a lot more.
Personally, I’d recommend finding an opening of a local artist near you, or attending a local craft show. You can find lots of different painters (and photographers, adn people who make random shit for your walls) at a craft show who sell their originals and lots and lots of prints.
You can look at hundreds of prints in a day and have something for your walls that no one else has. You should be able to find something that is already matted in a standard size, so all you’d have to do is get a frame off the rack at a “Michaels” or something.
And, you’ll get to meet and talk to the person who made it, and support a living artist, not the publishing house with the rights to Monet’s estate. And you’ll have a little story to go with your print. . .and you’ll be able to establish a relationship with the artist and maybe get something from them the next time they’re in town.
You might try the museums, especially if one near you has an Impressionist exhibit any time soon. I’ve found that many also have excellent gift shops with a very decent selection. Recently we went to a Hobby Lobby style store to do some photo framing instead of a custom frame shop. It was amazing what we got out of there for, an excellent way to keep in check what can otherwise be a significant expense.
As for artists, boy, where to start… another Caillebote fan here. You already know of Wyeth and Van Gogh, there’s Goya and El Greco, Turner does excellent water work and John Constable does nice landscapes. There’s so many but the thumbnails in the link will provide you with some representative works.
For the most bang for your buck, you might wana try the art department of a local university or art school. They often have shows, and you will be surprised what $100 can buy. Plus, one day your art may appreciate considerably. Years ago I purchased a charcoal sketch from an artist at the local community college. Friends constantly assume it to be a well known artist, and I often stop and look at it even though I’ve seen it every day for years.
Oh, and Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Night Cafe in the Place Lamartine in Arles are two other favorites.
I’ll be dammed… E. Thorp, I just came back in here to post that very picture and see that you’ve saved me the trouble. Awesome composition, isn’t it? A contemporary replica of it was one of the first major pieces I bought. Set in New York, homeless people replace the hunters and a shining city the hamlet. Within one apartment you can see a waiter serving a meal to a matron and his manner is replicated by a homeless person below dining from a garbage can. The title is Julia Child’s Garbage Can, she being the matron in the window. Dogs as Renaissance emblems and the faint image of Christ on the cross on the apartment side are all intertwined in the work. The point being that, as mentioned above, many originals will have stories behind them and my dinner with the artist and the gallery owner to discuss the painting was one of the most enjoyable evenings of my life.
I saw A Bar at the Folies-Bergere by Edouard Manet on loan in a musem (I can’t recall if it was the Dallas museum or the American museum of art, I’ve been to both at different times in my life.) years ago. The Seine at Chatou by Pierre-Auguste Renior is nice. I’ve also seen a painting by (IIRC) Winston Churchill, I think it was called “Trees” or something like that, I’m uncertain if it was the politician who made that work or not.
I cannot find it online, but I do find mention that he painted, and even wrote a book about painting as a past-time. He was an amateur painter, but there are also other painters by the name Churchill. Here is a painting titled “Orange Tree” by Churchill for example. (No, the trees in the painting I speak of were pine.) Maybe San Giorgio Maggiore, Twilight by Claude Monet? I also like his Les Iris Mauves
and Garden at Giverny, 1902.
Janet Chui has made a name for herself. I find her work ‘The Moon is a Mask’ compelling. I like a good deal of the paintings on this site, but I bet they are pricey. The idea of checking out your college gallery and other local galleries is a good one, you might find something appealing to you without breaking the bank. There are quite a few online galleries by artists who haven’t hit the bigtime yet, which have nice works as well. Hope you find the right painting.
Priceguy, first is my recommendation. Hemingway used to study this one by Cezanne. He said that it, and others by the artist, taught him how to write better. Apples and Oranges. (This says that it’s at the Louvre, but I remember that it was elsewhere in Paris.) A good print that recreates the brushwork would be worthwhile, but still affordable. Be sure to view it larger than just the thumbprint size.
I am also a fan of Andrew Wyeth. The house where Christina’s World and many other paintings were done is still standing and open to the public. I believe it is outside of Thomaston, Maine. When we were there, Andrew Wyeth’s brother-in-law showed us around the place known as the Olsen house.
At at variety of places in the house where A. Wyeth painted, you will find a copy of the painting and are able to compare it to what he actually saw.
The story of Christina is fascinating.
I recommend a visit to the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine first and then an afternoon at the house.
And as long as you are going to be in that part of the country, treat yourself to staying in Camden which is ten miles north. Be sure to climb Mt. Battie and make your own painting.