In the middle of the 19th century, the “proper” nature of art was dictated by the French Académie des Beaux-Arts. Because France had tremendous influence in all of the arts world-wide at the time, the decrees of the Academy tended to be followed elsewhere. Thus, when some inventive and unconventional French artists started to break away from the highly representational styles approved by the Academy, it created quite a stir.
These iconoclastic artists, that came to be called the Impressionists, wanted to get away from the very controlled and precise style of that had been traditional up to that time. Claude Monet was one of those leading the way of artists who wanted to paint things they actually saw in daily life instead of the more staged and dramatic works that referenced mythology and history. Additionally, the artists wanted to capture a sense of how light plays on objects, rather than the nature of the object itself. They were less concerned about the details of a thing than they were about how colors combined to create shadows which the eye never quite sees as a flat black.
The concept of using color to indicate shadow instead of blacks and greys came from the observation of shadows on snow, which frequently look blue. This was perceived as a reflection of the blue of the sky, and so the Impressionists began using that color for the snow-shadows.
The Impressionists were, basically, abstracting from reality their impression of how color worked in our perception of the world. They explored the possibilities of unadulterated, or mixed, color when used in small strokes or daubs side by side. The results brought a new vibrancy of image to the art world, and prepared the way for other artists to venture further away from the traditional molds.
By the time these steps of exploration reach the introduction of Abstract Art, viewers were becoming more accepting of “strange” explorations. But whatever the visual experience of an abstract work is, it does begin with an artist who wants to express something they have experienced. Abstract art is not constructed in a slap-dash fashion without thought.
In Diana Hobson’s “Winter’s Eve” a chilly pale blue shape comes swooshing toward the viewer, working around warmer colored blocks. One can almost feel a hard-edged wind blowing around buildings. But that is not what you see in the work, until you think about it.
If you want to explore more of Diana’s works, you can find them at her studio on Abbot Kinney in Venice. Housed with the Tech Studio, you can see examples of her abstract artwork at any time during business hours.
“The Magpie” by Claude Monet, from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; image used under Fair Use Practices for instruction
“Winter’s Eve” by Diana Hobson, copyright by Diana Hobson, used by permission.