Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Chance Meeting

Browsing through some upscale gallery websites recently, I started feeling like someone at a gourmet restaurant receiving course after course of delicious rarities. Inundated with a surfeit of gorgeous imagery, I was wondering how one proceeds as an artist beyond simply adding to the already immense smorgasbord of gorgeousness, when I stumbled on this work by minor 19th century German artist, Johann Jungblut.

Johan Jungblut, Gathering on a Frozen Waterway, 1890

Gathering on a Frozen Waterway stopped me, because the vision of humanity that it conveys is one that I myself feel deeply. It doesn't matter that Jungblut was and is obscure, nor that I've never been in Bruges in January hunkering down against the wind in a beaver-fur hat. I respond immediately to the tableaux, which places small anonymous figures (as I read them in this setting, representative of the human) between a larger expanse of reflective, impenetrable ice, under a wide, dense sky diffusing what light there is through a crystalline, icy atmosphere. This, Jungblut seems to imply, is the condition of humanity on this earth.

Jungblut seems to have painted practically the same painting over and over again: people gathering (often walking home) amid snow and frozen rivers beneath a low horizon with the orb of obscured sun or moon central to the composition.

I just want to say to him, "Yes, my friend, I know what you mean."

Johan Jungblut was a solitary figure who lived alone; he made frequent trips to Holland to paint, specialising in Winter scenes infused with tranquil light. Today the museums of Brooklyn and Mayence (in France) display his work. (bio from a gallery Website)