Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Paris - Fluctuat nec Mergitur

by Gregg Chadwick

Gregg Chadwick
Bookseller's Night
oil on linen 2018
After the Notre Dame Cathedral Fire - in the light of day- Our Lady is scarred but standing resiliently!
Angela Merkel’s spokesperson responded with the Parisian motto: a Latin phrase that personifies Paris and Notre Dame as a ship: “Fluctuat nec mergitur”—“she is tossed by the waves but does not sink.” The saying has been Paris’ motto since the 14th century, about the time when Notre Dame was completed.
With grateful feelings about Notre Dame and Paris, I am pleased to let you know that my Parisian inspired painting "Bookseller's Night" has been chosen by Rebecca Wilson, Chief Curator and VP, Art Advisory at Saatchi Art, for the New This Week collection. 

My oil on linen painting "Bookseller's Night" was inspired by a sojourn in Paris near Montmartre. That summer the light hung on late into the evening until the sky rolled into a blue hour. While walking the Parisian streets under those deep blue skies, I would often stop to glance at books spread out like magical treatises on art and life. We lived that summer in the shadow of Monet, Manet, and Caillebotte. Two of Manet's last studios were on our street and nearby on the Place de Dublin, Caillebotte set his magical painting "Paris Street; Rainy Day" ("Rue de Paris, temps de pluie"). Nearby was the Gare Saint-Lazare which inspired Monet to create Turneresque images of trains and steam.
I carried those memories with me as I painted "Bookseller's Night" along with time traveling thoughts of San Francisco and New York.
A few years ago, I stood outside in a clearing of a Monterey, California forest near the coast in the middle of the night with my brother and RenĂ© Boitelle, a painting conservator at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Unlike the skies in Los Angeles, we were able to see the stars in the night sky and of course thought of Vincent Van Gogh’s painterly evocations of the glittering night. Van Gogh was able to capture the night in his paintings with his skillful use of midnight blue and starry yellow. Gazing at a Van Gogh painting of a star filled sky, it seems as if he knew that the lights he saw in the dark night sky had traveled from the deepest reaches of time. According to physicists, as we gaze at the stars, in essence we are looking back towards the beginning of time.
Later that week, I stood with RenĂ© and another conservator, Devi Ormond, before a Van Gogh painting of a weaver; the painting was laid out like a patient on a table in the Getty Museum’s conservation lab. The work seemed so fragile, yet at the same time sturdy and timeless hearkening back to an era of firelight, candlelight, and moonlight. Soon after Van Gogh painted his weavers, the advent of electricity would completely alter the character of the night. Perhaps in every painting of the night there is a hint of this loss, echoing the shadowed forms in the artwork. I am reminded of the nights many years ago when, before painting, I would put Miles Davis on the record player. I would drop the needle on the first track and listen to the hiss and crackle as ‘Round Midnight began to play– the music always muted, blurred as if it emerged from a smoke filled room.

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