Resources : References and Inspiration
Challenge & Techniques : Joe's Projects
June 2020

When I was  looking at how Post Impressionism and how it’s ideas influenced the Bloomsbury Group I started rereading  the Hillary Spurling book about Henri Matisse. The book describes ’Divisionism’ and how the ideas surrounding it influenced him and his circle of post impressionists. The Tate Gallery’s description of  Divisionism is  very concise ‘Divisionism is a late nineteenth century painting technique that involved using tiny adjacent dabs of primary colour to create the effect of light.’


A fuller description so that we don’t confuse it with  Pointillism is as follows:


Divisionism, in painting, the practice of separating colour into individual dots or strokes of pigment. It formed the technical basis for Neo-Impressionism. Following the rules of contemporary colour theory, Neo-Impressionist artists such as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac applied contrasting dots of colour side by side so that, when seen from a distance, these dots would blend and be perceived by the retina as a luminous whole. Whereas the term divisionism refers to this separation of colour and its optical effects, the term pointillism refers specifically to the technique of applying dots.

I attach, for inspiration,  a wonderful painting by Derain from 1905 when he was working with Matisse in Collioure in the South of France.

As you walk around the town itself there are empty frames set up, to look through, to see the composition and the landscape and buildings that inspired the artists who worked there at the start of the last century.


I have been looking further at the work of Andre Derain as the focus for our continuing theme around ‘Divisionism.’ I have attached two of his works from early in his artistic career. Both pictures were painted in Collioure in the South of France around the same time, 1905. The first picture is quite remarkable in terms of its simplicity and the way that colour is used as pattern and shapes - have a look at how the diagonal masts work compositionally set against the angle of the boats at the bottom of the composition.

The second picture looks more radical even though it was painted around the same time as the first picture - the light ground of the canvas is used negatively as a drawing component which tends to flatten the pictorial space so that we focus on the shapes and patterns of the colours as they move across the composition.

It has been great seeing the results of your labours on our Facebook and WhatsApp pages. We conclude our divisionism theme this week by looking at the work of Jean Metzinger. He is better known for his cubist work, but I really like the work he produced  influenced by the ideas of post Impressionism. 


The second painting is a beautiful landscape  - painted a year later in 1907 - it is much more fluid in its construction and very decorative in terms of outcome. It benefits greatly from close scrutiny - it looks so contemporary.

The Bloomsbury Group

We concluded our ‘sunshine’ theme this week, and the results that I’ve seen have been marvellous! - well done to all. For our next theme we will be looking at the Bloomsbury Group of artists and writers based in London at the beginning of the last century. I’m keeping the theme very broad so that you can choose and identify any aspect of the work produced by a member or members of a group that might influence your painting. So you could use a landscape, still life, or portrait painting to stimulate your thinking.

Members of the group included Virginia Woolf, Duncan Grant, Roger Fry, Clive Bell and Vanessa Bell. It has been said of the group that they ‘lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles.’ (Dorothy Parker). Here is a link that provides a generic overview of their work and achievements.

Firstly I have included a landscape by Duncan Grant where I think that you can see clearly by his use of colour, the influence of the Post Impressionist.

The second painting is a wonderful still life by Vanessa Bell. I like the composition and the use of colour and pattern.

Continuing our ‘Bloomsbury Group’ theme  - the first painting is by Duncan Grant. It’s a portrait of Vanessa Bell painted in a post impressionIstic style. The use of heightened chromatic colour for the lights and darks is a key feature of post Impressionism - as well as ‘Divisionism’ which we will come to in a couple of weeks. 

Bell began to work with Grant, a younger painter, whose work she admired, from around 1913 and they subsequently fell in love. Its use of rich, vibrant colour and pattern demonstrates Grant's adoption of a Post-Impressionist style. At the time the portrait was painted, Bell was also experimenting with bold colour and simplified form in her own painting.’ (National Portrait Gallery commentary)

The second painting is by Vanessa Bell. The work was painted in 1915 so it is a relatively early picture quite clearly influenced by post impressionism.

In many ways it is quite a radical painting. There is no attempt to portray the scene in a conventional sense, for example perspective has been flattened, and the space within the painting is quite shallow. Indeed, the picture can be read in a purely abstract sense with shapes and colours working their way across the surface of the painting.

As we come to the end of our Bloomsbury Group theme I have added another couple of paintings by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell. The first painting is by Vanessa Bell - again it includes Duncan Grant seated to the right of the composition. It’s  a very atmospheric painting - the light gently falls through the room picking out objects on the mantelpiece and its surroundings. The colour is quite subdued with green / blue and red / orange hues set against each other. 

The second painting is by Duncan Grant. It is a view through a door with the light cascading through the room so that the interior and exterior aspects of the painting are mixed together through light pattern and colour. Note the colour of the fabric over the chair in the right of the composition and how the orange/ sienna colour occurs through the rest of the painting - uniting the composition. 

May 2020
Sun Light

As we are enjoying some lovely sunshine I thought it might be appropriate for a next project to be about ‘ sunlight.’ This could mean a painting simply about sunlight on a wall - either inside or outside or a combination of both. 

I have included  a painting by Anna Ancher who was a Danish artist working at the beginning of the last century. Her work has a lovely sense of light and her use of colour explores both mood and atmosphere. I like the way the colour blue has been handled,  especially the shadow of the plant or foliage on the far wall. 

I also include a painting by Albert Marquet - again the sunlight in this work is remarkably well observed. Have a look at the way all the shadows have been very colourfully painted, and how the figures and activity in the painting is subservient to the light cascading across the scene.

We continue our ’sunlight’ theme this week and I have included a wonderful painting by Edward Hopper to inspire us. It is deceptively simple and yet it conveys a particular atmosphere and mood. Compositionally it is quite dramatic, in an abstract sense, and the contrast of shape, tone, and shallow space adds to the overall ambience of the work. I find it quite a melancholy work - in the sense that it reminds me of that feeling on a Sunday evening when I was very young dreading going back to school on a Monday morning!

Here is some more information about the Hopper painting.

I’ve also included another deceptively simple painting by Anna Ancher -  I think that it also captures our theme very well. I like the the way that brush marks have been used as an equivalent of the light passing through the rooms. 

I have included another painting by Edward Hopper. The light in the picture is extremely compelling and the contrast between the orange light on the building and the blue sky is dramatic. However, when I look at the figures in the painting, particularly their expressions, I am slightly troubled about how they have been rendered.

I have also included a painting by an American artist called Charles Sovek. The painting is tiny - postcard size - and the brushmarks are bold and simplistic and yet the sense of light and drama of the beach scene is conveyed very well. I particularly like the colour used for the sky set against the sand and the beach umbrella.

April 2020

During our enforced lockdown I’ve unusually been having quite vivid dreams! So I thought that our  next project could revolve around the theme of ‘dream’ - this is obviously a theme that could include a wide range of approaches - the project could include work that has a dreamlike quality or it could be about people, objects or a place that is much more tangible. I would recommend that you find actual photos or objects that match the experience of your dream and reinterpret it from this standpoint. 

I have attached a couple of Chagall pictures for inspiration! 

I like the way that both paintings use drawing to tie everything together and the way that the colour expands over the drawing and across the canvases lyrically, creating a  sense of mood and atmosphere - colour is not always tied to a particular shape it expands and moves across the surface.

I have attached a couple of paintings to stimulate our thinking during our current project ‘dream’ 

The first painting is by Salvador Dali - it describes a powerful dream with lots of religious and psychological references - here is a link that provides more details about it -


I’m not sure I ‘like’ the painting - I appreciate the concept and the painting skills to render the images so strongly - perhaps the image has too much disturbing information! 

The second painting is a completely different approach - it’s a painting by Wladyslaw Slewinski who is a Polish painter associated with the Pont Aven school - the painting was competed in 1896

I like the contemplative ‘dreamy’ quality of the work and the composition with the cat’s tail tying the green and the black areas of the panting together. Here is a little more information about the artist.

It looks like it is painted over a burnt sienna ground - you can see traces of this surface throughout the painting it gives the painting a certain warmth. Note too the position of the light on the head and hand towards the right of the picture contrasting with the darker shape of the body as it drifts down through the composition.

The painting depicted is a most frightening image to conclude our project. 

The painting depicted is a most frightening image to conclude our project.

March 2020

Our next theme - given that we are stuck at home - is ‘ Home’ - what is your idea of home? Is it where you are now or somewhere that you have been previously? Is it a view or a room or a special place that amalgamates a number of elements. It is a very open brief. If you need any further clarification please let me know.


I’ve  included a link to an artist called Chris Liberti - I’m grateful to Emma for signposting  his work  - he is an American artist very much influenced by Diebenkorn that might be of interest to you as a lot of his work details intimate interiors. 

(you will need to click either side of the first image to see the rest of his paintings)


Our project is about reinterpreting a painting from an ‘Old Master’ - by this I mean a painting from around 1500 to 1800. It could contain a biblical scene, a still life, a portrait - or any other subject that might be of interest to you to reinterpret in your own way.

 I have added a couple of images that might interest you - the first is the Francis Bacon painting inspired by the Velazquez painting of Pope Innocent X. The second is the Freud copy of the Chardin painting The Young Schoolmistress. This is an interesting painting because it is a copy but in his own style - using impasto paint to almost sculpt the form of the figure. 

I’ve included another video - about Glen Brown 

His work is primarily concerned with the ‘transmutation’ of works from the past. The figure painting that he is in the process of making  in the video links quite nicely to our current area of interest - using line and tone to delineate form.


I like the way that he describes using three elements within his drawing of the Rembrandt figure - namely the tone of the background surface, black drawing,  and the linear white over painting. We are using grey paper, black chalk or pencil, and white charcoal. We continue our theme next week.‘In Situ with artist Glenn Brown for his first solo museum exhibition in the United States, on view at the Contemporary Arts Center from September 9, 2016 through January 15, 2017.

Glenn was interviewed  about his early and current inspirations, his impressions of the CAC Zaha Hadid building and his latest projects.

In the background is his panoramic painting MOTHER, a work from 2014.’