Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The genius inch -- Monet and Messi

Lionel Messi, Argentina

Claude Monet
Four Trees
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

I'll show you the line (less than an inch wide)
that I love the most in my portrait of my family
that I did a few years ago. I'm not saying this
is anything like genius, but on Monet's
landscape a blurred line is genius.

Here's a detail from that portrait
showing Sam in blue and Christopher
in dark blue and white. I do love
their expressions -- somewhat
sulky as they'd sometimes be if asked
to pose back then
and the part of the painting I like the best
is the totally loose red line that
defines my son Sam's right arm.
Both of my sons are soccer fans.
Barbara Muir © 2010

Toronto is a soccer town and as the World Cup begins in
South Africa cars are appearing with flags of their favorite
countries out the window. In the grocery store people
pick up the dinner groceries wearing soccer T-shirts.
Soccer means a lot to me for sentimental reasons even
though I've never seen a pro game.

When my oldest was born it was a World Cup year, and
the shouts and boos in our neighbourhood as the games
progressed were both disturbing and seemingly appropriate
(especially the cheers) to a young mother. Someone gave
my son his first soccer T-shirt for a team unrelated to
either of his parents' heritage.

In 2006 Steven and I were in Germany for the World
Cup, in Stuttgart where some of the games were played.
It was wildly exciting. We didn't have tickets to the games,
but the energy in the city was wonderful. There were
soccer balls worked into flower gardens, on the plane
the butter and the chocolates were in the shape of soccer
balls. People from all over the world gathered there in
fantastic costumes and face paint in their national
colours. We bought our sons the orange T-shirts of the
Dutch team when we moved on to Sweden. In
Stockholm one of the main streets was decorated
with ribbons high above the traffic with all the flags of
the countries in the World Cup.

I saw first hand how excited everyone can get about it,
and what an air of camaraderie surrounds the games.

Apparently the favoured team in these games is Spain
because they have won the most games, but yesterday
I heard that Argentina could win it because
of the "genius inch" his ability to manuvre in tight

Now where is this taking us in terms of art. When I
was in Stuttgart, I left the glory of the World Cup outside,
the shouts and cheers, people carrying around
foot and a half tall glasses of beer on the street, the
cafés whose patios looked like giant parking lots of fans
in front of huge TVs, even the silly humour on TV
in the hotel room, with Reality show people playing
soccer blindfolded, to see the most wonderful show
of Monet's poplars at the gorgeous Staatsgalerie.

At the time I noticed that on each of the paintings
displayed in the gallery Monet had applied very
thick paint, but during the process, perhaps at the
end had rubbed the paint on the horizon, frequently
with a completelym different colour from the rest
of the piece with his hand or a cloth, and I could
feel the action of Monet painting. I will always
associate my profound feeling of being in the
artist's immediate presence, of his genius in that
horizontal blurred line across his canvasses with
soccer. Call it synesthesia. And I will always associate
Christopher's birth with the game.

We can expect a wild city, especially in the coffee
bars on Sr. Clair just south of us during the games,
and I'm looking forward to the hubbub. My sons
cheer for Holland because their father's parents
were Dutch, I have no favorite, but would cheer for
Italy if I did. I just love the excitement.

Have a getting-ready-for-cheering-on-your-country day


eldon said...

Nice line Barbara. :) Weird isn't it what we like best about the work we do. Normally it isn't the stuff that's right up front and in your face. It's the smaller things that give us a little charge after it's been done.

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Eldon,

You are right. Sometimes an entire painting astounds you after you're finished, but sometimes little bits of it blow you away. Now I've got to say Monet just straight up impresses me every time.

And you do too!

Take care,


eldon said...

And I say Barbara impresses me every time. Straight up!

Liza Hirst said...

I sure like your line!
But I like the shirt that's around it, too.
Karen Appleton cites Alfred Sisley on her blog:
"Every painting shows a spot with which the artist has fallen in love"....Alfred Sisley
I might have mentioned this to you before, but I thought it was just so appropriate to what you wrote, that I have to mention it again.

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Liza,

Thank you. I like the shirt too, and the boy in it who is gone now, because he turned into a young man. I just like the daring. The portrait is a bit raw, but I like that quality too. I love the Sisley quote.


Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!