Friday, February 28, 2014


As I mentioned in a post a while back, I was able to see the Van Gogh exhibition at the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. called "Repetitions," which examined several series of Van Gogh paintings where he completed the same composition multiple times.

It was enlightening to see multiple versions of the same composition and to note the changes that he made in subsequent versions. In general, I found that I preferred the earliest versions of his "Repetitions" because they seemed fresher and more energetic.

My friends Roger and Clare took me the Van Gogh exhibition, and at one point while we were looking at a piece Clare asked if I had ever done multiple versions of the same composition. I replied that I had, but usually it was because I felt that the first attempt was a failure, and that I wanted to try again and improve upon it.

Well -  little did I know that I would have a chance to emulate the great Van Gogh -- and not because I thought my first painting was a failure.


The painting I did before Christmas, "Winter Whites," was done in a single day (amazing) and I really liked how subtle, yet colorful, the painting was. My winter scenes are often very neutral or cool (all that ultramarine blue and burnt sienna!). This painting had wonderful touches of piney greens and hazy purples....I really enjoyed looking at it. I liked it so much that I used it on my Christmas cards.

"Winter Whites" - 12x12
On Christmas Eve, I returned from work to find a message on my answering machine from my friend Mary. She had received one of my cards, and she wanted to buy the painting.

This welcome news had a downside, however. I am working on paintings for my solo show this summer, and this was to be one of the pieces for the exhibit. But I also did not want to disappoint Mary, so I decided that I would do a second painting of the scene, at a different size, so she could have the first version, and I would still have a painting for my show.

Thus was born "Snowfall," which turned out to be a very different painting, and that divide intrigues me.

"Snowfall" - 15x15
Overall, I think this painting is much more lightly valued and cooler in tone. There is also a higher degree of finish in parts of the foreground, particularly in the foliage around the house.

I made a point of not looking at the first painting while working on the second. I wanted it to stand on its own merits, but the act of having painted the scene once before certainly affected me.

As was the case in the Van Gogh exhibit, I like the first version better. I think it's fresher and takes advantage of the impetuous and unexpected characteristics of the watercolor medium. The second feels more measured and quiet. I like it as well, but in style and atmosphere and mood it bears little resemblance to the first.

I would be interested to know what others think in comparing the two. And does anyone else engage in "Repetitions"?

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