Tag Archives: Italy

Orvieto Painting – The Wine of Popes

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Orvieto – The wine of the Popes

 

 

Planning Orvieto

Orvieto drawing

Orvieto sketch

I’m working on a painting of Orvieto in the southern part of Umbria. This ancient town stands on top of a tuff outcrop, which are the remains of a long extinct volcano.  This already dramatic sight is made all the more so by the  magnificent duomo that proudly highlights the town.

Orvieto-braun_hogenberg

They started erecting the cathedral in 1290 and it features frescoes by Fra Angelica and Luca Signorelli‘s masterpiece, “The Last Judgement”, painted around 1449.

For this Signorelli was paid 800 ducats, lodgings and two measures of wine each month.  Now I like that idea, especially as Orvieto is famous for its pale yellow wine, favoured by popes and princes alike.

OrvietoG2The soft tuffa rock beneath Orvieto, makes tunnelling easy and along with a 65 metre well there are numerous caverns, rooms and secret passage  ways. These are also prone to collapsing and from time to time there are the odd landslides . Lets hope the erosion doesn’t cause the same fate as nearby Civita di Bagnoregio, which these days is all but abandoned.

The painting shows off the town’s sheer cliff face with its ramps and walls with the sprawling collection of woodland, olive groves and of course vineyards around the base. We’ve had a couple of days of impressive, stormy weather recently, so the sky will most likely reflect this. Lots of orange, yellow and pinks with rays of light piercing the scene.

 

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.

 

JMW Turner in Umbria

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Turner Self-portrait

By 1819, Europe had returned to relative peace, Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo and tourists were once again travelling the continent. This was the year the painter, Joseph Mallord William Turner first journeyed into Italy. At the age of 44 he created a collection of images detailing his travels as he meandered his way to Naples.

 

Turner’s sketchbooks

Upon his death in 1851, Turner gave his sketchbooks to the British people and some of these are now available to look through online, while you can thumb through others, under supervision, at the Tate Britain Gallery. Upon discovering this I sought out the books relating to his tours of Italy and have had fun tracking his route though Umbria, where I now live.

Turner’s skill in conveying, in very simple lines, the complexities of the Italian countryside cannot be understated. Using these small sketches and with the aid of my own knowledge of the area and Google maps, I have been able to follow his tour along Umbria’s eastern borders.

Crossing the Alps

PiazzaRepubliccoFolignoJMW, like many before, crossed the Alps at Mont Cenis through the Simplon pass and travelled down through Milan to Florence. Then making his way over to the Adriatic coast, visiting Ancona and negotiating the Apennines, into Umbria. Passing through Macerata, Coliferito and Pale, his first major destination in the green, landlocked province was Foligno.

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Piazza della Repubblica, Foligno

Wandering around Umbria in the 1800s was much like driving around the countryside today in a well-worn Fiat Panda with a dodgy suspension over rough terrain. The ride was very rickety, which is evident from some of the drawings that he did along the way. Sadly, in Umbria, the intervening 200 years have not seen much in the way of highway progress and the state of many of its roads still leave much to be desired. Potholes, landslides and large muddy puddles were as much a part of travel then, as they are now.

 

Visiting Foligno

RoadBtwFolignoTreviThe coach didn’t stop in Foligno but by following the order and pictures, it seems the travellers simply skirted the town walls and headed on out along the via Flaminio in the direction of Terni. Here the trip takes Turner along the foothills of the Apennines through the village of Sant Eracole, the Torre di Matigge and passed the towering vistas of Trevi.

It looks likely that one of the stops was at the

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Torre di Matigge

Roman temple of Clitumnus, where he made a number of sketches of the scenery and a detailed study of the building. After this break the bumpy ride continued on to Spoleto and here again it looks like Turner just rode around the town walls, making notes of the town as he went.

Spoleto sights

He did manage to catch some views of the ViaRomaViewSpoletoRocca that dominates the skyline and an interesting drawing below the Torre d’Olio, a view that has changed quite a bit over time. Leaving Spoleto, he recorded the Ponte della Torri and the castle, a picturesque spot that is still a popular photo opportunity with today’s visitors.

Carrying on along the via Roma and over

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View leaving Spoleto

the Somma pass he sketched the village of Palazzaccio di Strettura with what was then a ruined castle nestled in the valley. Today this ancient fortification is a modern, refurbished hotel and makes a great resting point on the way to Rome.

Terni and the waterfalls

Reaching Terni, Turner jotted down a few of the town’s Baroque buildings and made sketches of the town’s inhabitants Papigno_001as he relaxed. The Terni of today is a different place from the one he visited. After his time there the industrial revolution changed much of the landscape as it became a thriving steel centre. This was further altered when 80% of the town was bombed during the Second World War. Sadly many of the drawings from this time show places long lost to development and war.

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Papigno

While in the area, Turner, like many artists and poets before him, took a detour into the hills above the town to visit the magnificent, 2,000 year old, man-made waterfalls at Marmore, the village of Papigno and tranquil waters of Lake Piediluco. He spent a good many hours around the area, chronicling the landscape and making notes of the hills and villages, before heading off to Narni.

The magical land of Narni

NarniWestNarni, dominated by its formidable castle, is one of those hill towns that is visible for miles around. Turner recorded his progress towards the town gates with a series of drawings. Judging by the quantity of sketches he made, it’s fair to suggest he spent at least the night here.

Narni is famous for its Augustinian Roman bridge, much ruined, as you’d expect after

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Narni

2,000 years but still with sufficient structure to be of interest. Here he drew various views around this landmark, as well as the interesting looking medieval bridge with its own tower at one end. Unfortunately in an attempt to slow the Nazi’s retreat during WWII the Allies saw fit to bomb this old monument. While an arch and three pillars of the roman bridge can still be found, you can now only imagine the other pretty bridge.

On to Rome

RomanArchNarni_001Continuing south down the slopes of the Narni hills he finally left Umbria and entered the province of Lazio. At this point the coach wound its way along the River Tiber in the wide open plains of the Tiber Valley. Passing through the villages of Borghetto, Otricoli and Castello Formiche, drawing as he travelled until finally reaching the town of Civita Castellana. Where it looks like he spent another day exploring.

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Roman Arch, Narni

From here Turner bounced on to Rome where he made a series of sketches of the ancient monuments along with a number of paintings. After the eternal city he went on to the culturally diverse Naples and like many tourists both then and now he took in the spectacle of Pompeii. Again producing a number of watercolours from the resulting drawings he made on his trip.

Returning to Umbria

?Borghetto; and Another Sketch 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Turner made his return journey in the winter, which is perhaps why he appears to have drawn less. He retraced his path through Rome and back up to Umbria, passed Borghetto, Narni, Terni and Trevi once more, making a few sketches as he drove by. At Foligno this time the coach went on to Assisi and probably below Perugia before skirting Lake Trasimeno, leaving Umbria then heading towards Cortona. As this part of his journey is

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Borghetto Castle remains

not documented, it can only be assumed that this is the route he took. This is a flatter road with bigger towns to stop.

Despite spending roughly two weeks travelling around Umbria, all that remains are his sketches. The draw of Venice, Rome, Naples and Pompeii seemed to have been greater subjects for his paintings. The diaries of his journey do make interesting viewing and while some areas have suffered destruction and heavy industrialisation there are many parts that have hardly altered at all over the last 200 years.

Turner’s Tour Map

The Wedding Gift

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Citta di Castello South Wall  – Watercolour and ink 74cm x 32cm (Sold)

 

When Lucia and Leo decided to get married, Lucia’s sister Beatrice asked me to do them a painting of Citta di Castello. This I was delighted to do as I’d been teaching them English for the last two years and know the three very well.

Town wall

LuciaLeoSo we’d decided on the town and just needed the layout. This time I decided to paint Castello’s south wall, which features the impressive gateway, the Pinocoteca decorated by Versari and a half-hidden view of the bell tower and duomo.

Painting tall trees

The length of the wall is cloaked in trees so I chose to paint them in a similar way to Citerna and Nice. Raising them above the scene to give uninterrupted views of the town but keeping the verdant look.

As the painting was for a wedding I put a dawn sky in, with lovely and pinks and purple, the start of a new beginning etc. This spiritual undercurrent was completed with the “Angel fingers” sun rays peeping out through the cloud and covering the town.

Noteable buildings

CdiC Wall (37).JPGCitta di Castello is flanked by hills with the outstanding Belvedere sanctuary on one side and the former Montessori, educational institute, Montesca on the other. The scene is completed with the bell towers that grace the skyline and the modern roundabout on the left.

Secret surprise

As it was for a special occasion the lovely couple’s initials “LB LF” were also inscribed as graffiti on one of the doors and the scoreboards on the Bocce ball court feature the date of their wedding “0206”.

The wedding itself was a wonderful event, the service was held at Canoscio and afterwards we retired to the hills above Sansepolcro for a wonderfully typical Italian reception. I was happy to have been asked to play a small part in their memorable day.  Tanti auguri tutti.

The Back of Santa Maria Tiberina

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Monte Santa Maria Tiberina – Watercolour and ink, 74cm x 32 cm (Sold)

Painting Monte

Monte Santa Maria Tiberina is an Umbrian, hill top village that is visible from just about anywhere on the Umbrian, Tuscan border. From it’s lofty perch it looks down on the Upper Tiber Valley, Citta di Castello, all the way down to Umbertide and up as far as Sansepolcro.

Painting Umbrian village

Monterchi – Watercolour and ink 36 cm x 36 cm (Sold)

Piero’s influence

This version was commissioned as a sister painting to the Monterchi study and so they share many similar features. MSMT’s location meant a Piero della Francesca sky was an essential element, while the large feature trees are reminiscent of the masters own style.

The view in reality, mainly, consists of wooded slopes but if you travel along the road from Prato to Monte you find yourself weaving your way around the hills. Climbing ever upwards, past small farms, olive groves and vineyards.

The painting shows the change in the vegetation, which culminates in the cluster of fir trees on top of the hill and the blockhouse structure of the ancient village.

The Stranger Shows

DSCN1165The visione di uno straniero mostra, (The Foreigner’s Viewpoint Exhibition) was held between the 9th and 24th January 2016, in Citta di Castello, Umbria. It proved to be a great success with a number of works selling, works commissioned and a good quantity of art prints sold.

Show in the snow

What was so very heartening was the sheer number of people who, on a chilly, snowy winter’s evening, made the effort to go out into the town centre. It was estimated that around 80 people come to the cosy surroundings of the ARTe Gallery to eat, drink and amiably talk.

DSCN1158During the week, several events were also arranged to encourage visitors to the show. These included a poetry reading by psychiatrists Tina Lepri and Helen Schick, with a lovely piano arrangement by Alison le Porta. Again there was a good turn out and those who came along had an entertaining evening.

Afternoon tea

Sunday, 17th January, myself and Mrs W hosted an afternoon tea gathering where we explained the history, culture and quirks of tea drinking in Britain. I was rightly assured that Italians are very interested in this strange British behaviour. It ended up as an apt event for a tea room, in which ARTe is established.

DSCN1193My initial skepticism was ill founded as around 30 people came in from the cold to hear me wax lyrical about Britain’s favourite herb and how it came to be so popular. Mrs W had also baked a range of traditional cakes and biscuits beloved by tea drinkers all over the U.K.

Lessons learnt

What I discovered from the exhibiting at ARTe, was that it’s a good idea to arrange other events to coincide with the show. This enables you to get more people through the door, gives additional reasons for promoting the art show and creates further conversations around the art work.

DSCN1202A simple selection of nibbles is guaranteed to bring the public in and something to entertain will keep the interest going. While you hope to sell the paintings, having small reproductions is also a good idea, as not everyone can afford the real thing but would like a memento of your work.

Grazie tutti

I would like to thank to all those who attended the event and especially, Daniela and Nicoletta from ARTe, Roberta from Lingua Piu, as well as Tina, Helen and Alison for their contributions, and Suzanne (Mrs W) for her unwavering support and enthusiasm.