I have always been impressed by the delicacy and refinement of byōbu, the silk screen paintings done by Japanese masters. They make liberal use of metal foils in many of them, and the effect is beautiful and dramatic. Gustav Klimt, an artist that I also admire, was equally inspired by their use of gold leaf.
The scenes depicted in the screen paintings are beautifully composed and delicately rendered, a delight to the eye.
A few years ago I visited an exhibition of mokuhanga at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. There was a display of one of the creations of the great Hokusai. Each of the carved woodblocks for a single print was displayed in a glass case. I think there must have been 12-15 individual blocks, precisely carved and stained with the pigment that was used on that block. That single image represented the skilled work of numerous people.
I have loved the "feel" of Japanese woodblock prints, the soft pastels, the beautiful full moon night scenes, and the deep and long perspectives since childhood. Hiroshige first caught my attention, and then Hasui. They are my favorites. But many other woodblock artists have done work that enchants me and inspires my imagination.
Rajasthani and Mughal paintings, particularly of the 17th and 18th centuries are the epitome of romantic art, especially the Kishangarh school paintings. Typically they depict court life during Mughal rule. Although Mughal in style, many of the paintings depict Krishna and Radha, a favorite subject of the era's painters. The tales of Krishna and Radha are the world's greatest love story.
The Rasa Leela is represented in many paintings of the era. The romance of court life; the beauty, serenity, and peaceful love that is communicated in these paintings is the stuff dreams are made of.
I was wandering through LACMA one afternoon. I turned a corner and was confronted by a huge canvas of Monet’s Water Lilies. In fact, Water Lilies consumed my entire field of view. It was breathtaking. And, surprisingly, I wept. That is not typical of me, but that is how moved I was by that vision.
I was already mesmerized by water before I really noticed Monet’s work. In my early teen years I gained a great appreciation for his use of color and his technique, especially his paintings of his lily ponds.
O’Keeffe’s watercolors , her close-up paintings of flowers, and the desert landscapes she painted have been an enjoyment that I have returned to throughout my life. She had the knack.
O’Keeffe’s sensibilities and her expressiveness were unique. Her paintings communicate a simple and uncomplicated approach and relationship to her work; that’s what I see in her work. I think that living in New Mexico was a wise choice for her. It allowed her and her art to “flower”.
Klimt is another painter whose work I fell in love with at first sight. His paintings are so strong and bold, yet delicate and refined, also. Of course, his use of gold leaf set him apart. He tired of being asked to always include it in his commissions, but whether or not he was weary of being constrained he never failed to deliver a beautiful image.
Klimt’s figurative work with the inclusion of bold patterns makes a compelling combination. I have worked with the Neue Galerie in the publication of numerous books and catalogs. Neue represents the best of the 19th and 20th century Eastern European painters, and Klimt is one of them. The association that I have had with Neue Galerie has fanned the flames of my interest in Klimt and many other pre-WWII Eastern European artists. Woman in Gold is a fascinating movie about Klimt's painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer.
The Pacific Ocean has been a source of wonder and inspiration for my entire life. When I am far away from the ocean I miss it. When I return I can feel the ocean from a hundred miles away. It is a part of my home.
The sea is always changing. It is unpredictable; extraordinarily powerful and beautiful, both. It is best to approach the sea humbly, understanding that it, without any intent, can humble you in a moment. The sea requires respect and reminds one of his or her place.