Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre, Paris

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The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Montmartre , Paris

 

This has always been a favourite area of Paris. I have wandered around many times taking pictures, and have used them for paintings afterwards. The artist’s quarter, the steps, the views over the roof tops and the Consulat have all featured in my paintings and have been popular at exhibitions, but for some reason, I have never painted the basilica itself

The basilica was planned or started about 1870, and was part of a Catholic revival in France. It was said to be partly a penance following defeat by the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian war, and partly to expiate the sins of the Communards during the Commune which followed the exile of Napoleon 111.

Napoleon III was captured by the Prussians after the battle of Sedan. His son, the Prince Imperial Louis Napoleon, a boy of fourteen, present at the battle, was spirited away to Ostende and thence to England by boat. His mother the Empress Eugenie, dropped everything and fled to England to join her son. In fairness, all was up with the imperial rule. her husband Napoleon III  was released by the Prussians and allowed to travel to England. Already a sick man, he died in exile in 1873.

The Commune , following the fall of Paris, saw much anti-church rhetoric and atrocities. The building of the Sacre-Coeur on the hill of Montmartre, a scene of much insurrection, was intended to heal the divisions in France, and create a church come-back. Certainly this was  a significant building

Using various photographs, I have made this pencil sketch on which to base a painting. I just haven’t worked out colours yet, although something sunlit I suspect. No doubt my favourite warm shadows using Sennelier Transparent Brown mixed with Violet will be present.

I have the task now of moving the sketch in very basic terms onto watercolour paper and then finishing a drawing ready for painting. So, as always we shall see.

The Basilica of la Sagrada Familia

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The Basilica of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. An amazing structure, quite, or perhaps almost, unique

We have been staying in Sitges for the last five days, enjoying the sun and the warmth, although as our perverse climate would have it, the temperature in southern England shot up to 25c, whilst in Spain only 20c but nevertheless very agreeable.

We took the train into Barcelona, which proved very straightforward, not to mention cheap in comparison to the steep fares charged around the London area. The journey took about forty minutes. I had already bought timed tickets for the Sagrada Familia on line before I left home. What a boon that proved to be as the crowds queuing for tickets when we arrived were formidable

We were, of course, very early, so time for a coffee, and a stroll round the outside of the building, taking in the details. We were last here twenty years ago, and the place, even inside, was a construction site. High up in the heavens magnificent cranes are working with the sensitivity and lightness of touch that you might expect from an artist.

After lunch and another stroll, our tickets allowed us to enter and we went inside. I don’t often use the word “breath taking” but we were looking at a masterpiece.

We associate this building, sometimes called the third cathedral, with Antoni Gaudi, the incredible architect in the Art Nouveau style, who adapted Gothic architecture to produce this wonderful building. He took over the project in 1883, and stayed with it until his untimely death in 1926. During all this time he is also completing other large projects for the Guell family and also for the Church.

So much has been achieved since our last visit. The nave with its paraboloid arches which seem to reach up into the heavens, will be my enduring memory. Colour is everywhere, as the light streams through stained glass. Detail is everywhere, small animals, leaves, vegetation as well as so many human figures representing the Nativity and other stories. Gaudi was devoted to nature. He was also extremely devout, and his interpretations of the liturgy, I found moving. So much detail, too much to record here.

In the cloister which surrounds the building, is situated the museum, now open, which records the timeline of the whole construction period. Gaudi’s models are on show and his drawings, which enabled successive craftsmen to carry on his work. Still much to do, with a projected finish date of 2026. I wonder if I will get back to see that. Could do, I certainly hope so

Venice Painting Completed

Venice Painting Completed

The finished painting with San Giorgio Maggiore in the background, which I enjoyed doing, although trying to hit the right colours was testing to say the least

I have already mentioned the mooring posts. In the photograph they looked red in the evening light. This turned into a glazing exercise, wet on dry, although nothing like as tricky as the hull of the gondola which I will come to in a minute

For the posts I started with a Burnt Sienna wash which is pretty safe. When the paint had dried, the pigment had disappeared. I applied another coat of the same colour, followed by a coat of Permanent Rose which should have given these posts a nice evening red glow, but still pasty. I had been waiting to use quinacridone red, of which I have a fairly limited experience, so perhaps risky. The colour worked well, I thought, giving me what I wanted. I used Indigo for the strips of bark hanging onto the wood. Indigo makes an alternative to black which I avoid if I can

Now the real challenge, to use that overworked word, was how to treat the hull of the gondola. I may have said before that gondolas are black by regulation. The finish is of a very high gloss, the sort one sometimes gets on pianos, in fact it used to be called piano finish. I think polyurethane was involved which may have been universally banned by now because of health risks.

Black gloss in certain lights obviously won’t look black, because of the other bright colours it picks up in this mirror like shine. If you remember the original photograph that I worked from, the vessel looked a sort of bright copper colour.

Again this was a long and drawn out glazing exercise. At least five coats as I remember and twenty four hours natural drying in between each coat. I used Quinacradone Gold, Burnt Sienna, Van Dyke Brown, Transparent Brown and Permanent Rose

I looked at it in the morning from a distance. I think it worked but I will have to put it away and get it out again another time, before I can make an objective view

As always comments are welcome