“The Morvan converses with the soul. It speaks of peace, silence, life that is neither a matter of detachment or withdrawal but rather one of promise and opening.”
— Jean Serevin, Academy of the Morvan
“Change presents opportunity...the door opens cautiously. Winter’s biting chill vanishes...promising a new season. Crossing the threshold...spring appears. Buds blossom then bloom...new life thrives."
Thirty days in la Bourgogne / le Parc Naturel Régional du Morvan.
This journey began January 13, 1997 as I drove from Paris to “Le Château de Lesvault” in Onlay, France located in the center of Burgundy, to participate in an Artists Retreat. The landscape was stunning and dramatically different during that four hour drive. Sunlight and the weather conditions were key elements in what I viewed. It was bitter cold. The trees and shrubs between Auxerre and Clamey were totally ice encrusted. Chilling fog hovered over the fields and vineyards near Corbigny. Ascending the winding drive to the Château, my immediate impression was one of ease with it’s natural beauty and peace with the spiritual ambience of this elegant residence.
As a painter I focus on the the contrasts and relationships of color, light, shadow and form. Chambre n°4 / Studio provided three sets of 19th century French six-paned glass windows from which to paint. Each glass pane provided a cropped image view of the landscape. I concentrated on two views:
1. 'Le Fleuve La Dragne Sud'
2. 'Le Jardin Ouest'
At first I saw the whole interior, including the window frame, the landscape was secondary (panels # 4-11). As I lived in the space and within le Morvan, I began to see the subtle layers of the landscape and the windows no longer existed (panels # 19-52). I was one with the landscape. My tools also varied during this process. I began with monochromatic ink washes for the first five days. Timidly, I explored the landscape, walking trails, grounds of the Château and the villages of Onlay and Moulins Engilbert. Within a few days the temperature reached 50° degrees, presenting the opportunity to paint "En Plein Air" (panels # 4-6). Having recovered from jet lag, the adventurous spirit within me awakened...I began painting in color. Watercolor washes were the medium for the following five days, then I incorporated charcoal and pastels into the series. I explored the remarkable surrounding areas and really discovered the magic of le Morvan, la Bourgogne and la Côte d’Or.
My daily walks increased to one and one half hours as I studied the hills, mysterious forests, farmland and spectacular panoramic views from le Mont, Lesvaux, Poiseux, les Champs des Clés and la Campagne. I felt the spiritual life that exists there and connected with my Celtic roots and could hear the echo of galloping Connemara ponies over the fields and hills of this timeless place. My imagination had been inspired by visiting the archaeological dig at le Mont Beuvray, the memory of Julius Ceasar who had made his headquarters for the Gaelic Wars there, the ancient Roman in Autun and the healing waters which were rediscovered by Napoleon III at Saint-Honoré-Les-Bains. The grounds of the Château became alive with budding Forsythia, Hortensia and Perceneige. Simultaneously, my color began to bloom as I worked with pastels and charcoal. I bravely introduced gouache on paper and board (panels #35-52). Adding color was exhilarating.
A momentum grew from the method of subject selection. I varied each image by painting two panels of the six paned windows until all views were completed. Then I began moving my painting surface in 25° degree increments to create new views of the landscape to study. At this juncture I had completed forty-four panels. All the creature comforts and "la gastronomie" locale had been provided at “Le Château de Lesvault”. I was engulfed and renewed by the silent peaceful spirit of le Morvan, it’s simple life, glorious views and the joy of creating, subtly changing what I had seen to paint. The last two images (8 panels # 45-53) were completed after a sojourn to the Val de Loire. I savored every detail as I travelled from Blois, Chambord, Cheverny, Beauregard, Chenonceau, Amboise, Saumur, Chinon, Azay le Rideau and Montbazon. Impressed by the size of the Châteaux of the French Renaissance, gourmet foods and superb wines, these paintings were developed from a bravado perspective which emerged during this journey.
All pieces are painted in watercolor/gouache/pastel on archival paper