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The Artists and Poets at Marmore

 

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Jacob Hackert

For over two millennia the Cascata delle Marmore has been a source of inspiration and wonder to many. Artists, poets and engineers have all paid a visit to this man-made waterfall and marvelled at its spectacle.

Originally constructed in 271 BC to drain the stagnant waters in the Riete Valley which, were believed to harbour malaria and caused death and destruction in the local area. The waterfalls are comprised of three drops over which the Velino River plunges into the wooded basin below and joins the River Nera.

Roman beginings

From its earliest days the falls have held a fascination for creative spirits and in the 19 century BC, the famous Roman poet, Virgil mentions Marmore, in his epic poem The Aeneid. 
“A valley of dark woodland and in the trees,
a river that roars and falls over big rocks.”
 
Dante Alighieri, poet and proclaimed father of Modern Italian, talks about the Cascata delle Marmore in song XX of Paradise, where he says
“Udir seemed to me a river mormorar – that came down clear stone, stone down –
that showing the uberta of his cacume.”
 
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F Towne

Romantic views

The waterfalls at Marmore were a great source to the Romantic poets and painters, with the likes of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Wordsworth all paying visits to them during their Grand Tours.
In his poem the “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage“, Bryon writes –
” The roar of the waters – from the headlong height 
Velino cleaves the wave torn precipice,
The fall of waters! where they howl and hiss and boil in endless torture,
while the sweat of their great agony wrung out from this
Their Phlegethon, curls round the rocket of jet
that gird the gulph around the pitiless horror set.”
 
Talking in a letter, of his time at the falls, Shelley says –
“I saw the Cascata del Marmore of Terni twice, at different periods. Once from the summit of the precipice and again from the valley below. The lower view is fat to be preferred.”
 
DavinciMarmore

Leonardo da Vinci 1473

Renaissance painters

Painters also came to the luscious countryside around Terni to capture the verdant beauty of Valle Nera.  One of the first being the great Leonardo da Vinci, who sketched the area in 1473.  In the mid-17th century, the Neapolitan artist, Salvator Rosa set up his easel at the base of the waterfall as did the early English Impressionist painter, JMW Turner, who traveled through Umbria in 1819 and took time out at Marmore.
Others who, with their pallet and brushes in hand, have explored and recorded the area include Camille Corot in 1826, Joseph Anton Koch, Giuseppe Vasi, Jacob Hackert, Abraham Teerlink, Thomas Patch in 1745 and Rosa da Tivoli.
Cascade of Terni 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

JMW Turner sketch 1819

Classic authors

The author, Charles Dickens recalled his time at the falls in 1846 in his book “Pictures of Italy”. Architect and theorist, Eugene Viollet le Duc commented that “the waterfall is wonderful“.
While children’s story book writer Hans Christian Anderson said that
“the huge mass of water rushed from the top of the mountain to the rock“.
This dark, roaring and rugged landscape has been the focus of many an artists hue and poets turn of phrase. Over the years it has brought out the creative spirit in many and should you find yourself in Umbria, I urge you to take advantage of the chance and visit this inspirational wonder.

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The Geometry of Gothic Stained Glass

Gothic ArchWhile preparing for the new series of stained glass courses I got to thinking about the design work that went into Gothic cathedral tracery. These stone pillars support and divide the leaded lights and so wonderfully illuminate, both physically and metaphorically, these old buildings.

Medieval stained glass

Looking over photographs of Chartres and York Minster cathedrals my mind wandered back to my mathematics and technical drawing classes at school. After all, much of the beauty in these old windows owes itself to the mathematical principles of the golden mean and the sacred geometry.

GothicWindowWhether you believe in Divine design or not, there is much satisfaction, to be gained in observing how the craftsmen of old put these windows together. Look at any Gothic stained glass window and you will see an array of equilateral triangles, circles and squares all delicately put together to form perfect symmetry.

 

Window geometry

 

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These simple shapes are flipped, rotated and reversed in a complicated format to produce the awe inspiring lights we see in churches across the globe. It is fascinating how with nothing more than a compass and straight edge you can copy these designs and create your own Gothic, Norman or Tudor arches.

GothicTracery

Strike an arc, join the intersecting points and you’ve got an arch Rotate a circle three or four times and you have perfect trefoils and cinquefoils. The repetition of of our most earliest geometric exercises at school allow us to accurately replicate the stained glass windows of the Medieval artisans.

Next time you find yourself beneath a perfectly constructed rose window, have a look at the way the shapes were constructed. A marvelous combination of straightforward geometrical shapes, creatively assembled.

If you would be interested in finding out more about stained glass courses in Italy please email me at:  travellingcontent@gmail.com

 

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Swedish Furniture in Medieval Manuscript

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IKEA Medieval Bedroom – watercolor and ink, 21 cm x 29 cm (For Sale)

SpaDayI’ve always loved the works of the International Gothic period. A time when conventions were being broken and new techniques explored. Artists in this era were busy exploring ways to represent three dimensions, trying out different ways of painting trees and attempting to understand the nature of water.

Modern Medieval

The thought behind this current crop of works is to take the idea of these magnificent rooms and fill them with modern furniture. I found it amusing

IKEA lamp

IKEA Dudero lamp

playing with how someone like Simone Martini might paint a modern IKEA chair or see how his bed spreads would look on a Hemnes bed.

Using a typical palette of the day and acrylic gold paint gives these watercolours a wonderful sense of a Medieval artist’s take on the modern world. Living in Italy it’s not difficult to find 700 year old buildings so the only garish thing is to fill their ancient rooms with cheap, modern furniture. This I’m sure happens all over the country, not everyone can afford or will like antique furnishings.

Swedish furniture

The aim is to continue in this way, creating bathrooms, sitting rooms, kitchens and dining rooms, all featuring IKEA furniture within a medieval surrounding. Each will have bold, bright colours and dark or golden backgrounds, giving them a dramatic effect. Obviously if people want their own lounges recreated in a period fashion, I’d happily look at that too.

Fingers crossed for a fun time. 🙂

Watercolour of Italian Castles

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Niccone Valley Castles – Watercolour and ink 38 cm x 58 cm (Sold)

The Niccone Valley watercolor painting features the Umbrian and Tuscan castles that have stared out at each other for centuries. This trip takes you past the bar at Sorbello and below its castle, then across the fields and over the border into Umbria, passed Reschio Castle and on up  into the hills.

Tuscan Umbria countryside

The area around the Castles and Altabella

Houses on the hill

The drive ends in the wooded clearing at the top of the hills where you come to the houses of Altabella, La Quercia with its monolithic sculpture and the villas of Pietra and Casa Piccolo with their beautiful views of the valley below.

Umbrian art

Wooden Sculpture

The olive tree in the foreground is where Paul and Anne, who commissioned the painting, placed a plaque dedicated to Grace their dog.

The rays of the rising sun converge on the house at La Quercia, drawing the eye to where Paul and Anne spend their winters.

Colours of central Italy

The area is a luscious green, full of woodlands and trees, fields of sunflowers, olive groves and vineyards. Peeking out among the trees you can make out the occasional farm or villa in its distinctive yellow ocher or cream coloured walls.

I decided to paint the castles in the colours that represented their origins. Therefore, Sorbello’s Tuscan stone walls are in raw sienna and the Umbrian castle of Reschio is a rich burnt umber. The trees vary from a sap green foreground to a dark blue/green wooded background giving the painting a nice sense of depth. 🙂

 

 

 

Painting Montone by Moonlight

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Montone by Moonlight – watercolour and ink 32cm x 64cm

Painting Montone

I returned once more to paint the lovely hill town of Montone in Umbria. This time I decided to take a different approach and looked at it from afar. Montone up close is difficult to make out. It is hidden behind woodlands, nestling in the hills, so this view from a couple of miles away gave me the perfect position.

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Super Moon

As I was driving home the other night and thinking about what sky to paint I realised it was one of the super moon nights. I quickly developed the idea that a dark blue backdrop with the moon in would make a nice change.

Sign of the zodiac

Add to this the constellations for the sign of the zodiac the person the painting was destined for, in this case, Cancer and you’ve got a nice pre-dawn sky.  Not everyone is a star gazer so to make the appropriate stars stand out I painted them in yellow, so it’s possible to them pick out.

The foreground features a collection of olive trees as the area is full of groves and my clients properties, the houses to the right of the painting is surrounded by trees but the picture ran out of space. So just put a series of stylized trees up front instead.

 

Wine and Oil Town – Torgiano

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Torgiano – Watercolour and ink, 45cm x 27cm (For Sale)

 

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of being invited to exhibit at the ArtinPiazza show in Collazzone. The Torgiano painting was meant to be a part of the body of work I took along but time conspired against me and I didn’t get it finished in time.

Torgiano views

PosterOh well! it’s ready now. Torgiano is a beautiful little town, perched high up on a hill and surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. The area is famous for its DOC wine and delicious oil and there are museums dedicated to both in the centro storico.

The beautiful little town is pictured from the valley below with its vineyards in the foreground. As f Simone Martini’s work can be seen, just up the road in the Basillica San Francesco in Assisi, the two large trees are stylised representations of his work.

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Collazzone alley

 

Torgiano’s landmarks

The two iconic points of the village are its thirteenth century, Torre di Guardia and the Church of St Bartholomew. The luscious, countryside is typically Umbrian with swathes of trees all around, distant villages and towns on the nearby hills. It is also not far from Deruta, famous for Majolica pottery.

 

Nice Painting Nice

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Nice, France  – Watercolour & ink 74cm X 24 cm (Sold)

I’ve finally finished my Nice painting and it’s turned out well, nice. This is the largest townscape I’ve undertaken and my first in France, so it was quite a challenge. The image concentrates on the promenade, highlighting some of the most interesting buildings that fill the street. The centre has the Colline du Chateau, with the old castle tower and stairway that leads up to the gardens, and the harbour behind.

The town has a gallery dedicated to Mondrian, so I thought, why not have a Mondrianesque sky. The other option was Chagall but I’m not sure a violin playing goat in the sky would have worked. Perhaps next time.

Bright liners and speed boats

Mont Boron on the right has some really interesting, strange shaped and exotic buildings on its slopes. Below is where the bright liners also leave giving the area a splash of colour, in their yellow livery.

The Prom at Nice is covered with rows of palm trees and to include these essential elements I decided to raise them up so that they didn’t obstruct the buildings along the foreshore. This seems to have worked out okay. To cap it all off there are two boats bobbing about in the foreground.

Nice, I hope you like it.