I have long enjoyed and been influenced by Dutch painting and by the Belgian Surrealists, Magritte and Delveaux.
The Nieuwe Kerk in Harlem by Pieter Saenredam.
Looking at this painting and the 2 landscapes below, what strikes me is that they are ostensibly 3 dimensional yet appear quite flat. Their perspective has been rendered geometrically but not realistically. In Saenredam’s painting I suspect this is to emphasise the grandeur of the church space. Depicting the people at an unrealistically small scale adds to this effect.
This 2-dimensional look appeals to me. Why?
Jacob van Ruisdael
These landscapes also have a flat rather than realistic perspective. In both cases it gives the impression of the horizon being the end of the world. The sky is just a backdrop that sets mood and scale for the scene by hanging just beyond the edge of the earth.
There is a formality and narrative, rather than realism, in these paintings. They are about evoking emotions and telling stories rather than accurately recording a scene.
Dutch Still Life paintings are far more realistic (albeit, that they are completely contrived) but, as with the landscapes, there is little visual depth. Everything of interest is lined up on a narrow stage with the horizon (the edge of the earth?) close behind.Willem Claez Heda Floris Gerritsz. van Schooten
Is there a connection between the flat field, edge of the world impression given by Dutch landscapes and the lack of depth in these still life paintings?
Looking a Magritte and Delvaux I see further evidence of the flattened perspective. In this painting by Magritte even the narrative, or a significant part of it, is about an absence of depth to the perspective.
Delvaux’s paintings (below), like Saenredam’s church interior, have visual evidence of perspective depth (strong lead-lines and reductions of scale) but they also appear very flat and 2-dimensional, with the figures looking like paper cut-outs.
All of these works have quite subdued colour palettes and their overall effect is of calm, silence and stillness. These are attributes that I am attempting to convey with my images as well.
Edward Hopper is another strong influence.People in the Sun House by the Railroad
As with the Dutch paintings these have a very flat feel, a sense of calm, silence and stillness.
This flatness again results in an edge of the earth feel. However, with the House by the Railroad, this effect is doubled as the railroad, cutting horizontally across the scene. This is a viewer’s, impossible to cross, barrier as well as the house appearing to be on a further edge, having only the sky behind it.
All the above paintings convey a mood that appeals to me and one I try to emulate. This is achieved with:
- Subdued colour palettes
- Lighting that is sometimes bright but often subdued and always of quite low contrast and never spectacular itself.
- A very flat perspective. Images that may have evidence of 3-dimensions but where the depth is somehow suppressed. They can easily read as 2-dimensional.
- Apart from the Still-Life paintings they all have a great sense of space beyond, even if that space is not accessible to the viewer.