Grabone’s Landscape

The great number of existing beautiful landscape images with distinct artistic forces seems to contradict to the fact that traditional landscape painters have little variety of arsenal to use: Light and shade, the nearly opaque forest and the translucent aerial perspectives. Arnold Grabone had even less means because of his exclusive use of palette knife. On the one hand, the texture of his landscape paintings shows a psychological map of his thought process, thus adding an extra layer to the visual pleasure; one the other hand, neither the luministic haze through glazing nor the vibrant chalk-like brushstroke can be easily obtained through knife blade.

For Grabone, some subjects with irregular terrain and rough texture, provide certain advantages to his style. In those Alps mountain views, the pressing, wiping and scratching of paint creates clashes and joins of different facets, engendering giant rocks and cliffs with scintillating radiance. The paint, sometimes so thick that it retains the relative stiff form, are in the primal forms of different directions, burliness, vigor and characters. In short, the paint comes alive.

If Alpine’s towering ridges and summarily grandeur makes the use of palette knife technique a natural artistic instinct, Grabone’s landscape of a pond and boat shows his deft skills freed him from subject limitation and he could paint any scenes that spoke to him.

The intimacy in this landscape painting lies in the painter’s reflection of picturesque attractiveness and his absorption of geographic accuracy. But it is overall less textural in natural and more harmonious in light and tonality. The pond is neither tranquil like a mirror nor rippling and glistering. While the opaque paint gives the volumn of the forest, the subtle light which is diffused through branches and bounced from the water surface provides a technical challenge to the in general heavy-handed palette-knife style.

Grabone's landscape
Grabone's landscape

Grabone responded it with a variety of methodologies that were different from his more typical Alpine scenery. The impasto at the foreground is so light that the warm brown underpaint can be seen at certain area of the water surface. The freshness of the foreground trees comes from his confidence use of blade to paint and blend raw paint directly. It is joyful to observe yellow, ochre and olive green paint to superpose, juxtapose, and twist with each other like playful spirits. The reflection on the far side of the pond is suggested with shorter and harder strokes. Patches of opaque colors form naturally with smooth edges since the painter probably finished the whole painting in one plein-air session and wet-on-wet was the only choice.

Cloudy sky is typical in Grabone’s seascape paintings. It not only reduces the contrast but also justifies the choice of richer tonality of the picture. The boat, the center point of the picture, seems greener than anything else. Perhaps, in Grabone’s mind, the utmost serenity lies in nature when humanized.

About Hui

Wang Hui lived from 1632 - 1717 and followed in the footprints of his great grandfathers, grandfather, father and uncles and learned painting at a very early age. He was later taught by two contemporary masters, Zhang Ke and Wang Shimin, who taught him to work in the tradition of copying famous Chinese paintings. This is most likely the reason why critics claim that his work is conservative and reflects the Yuan and Song traditions. One critic claimed that "his landscape paintings reflect his nostalgic attachment to classical Chinese aesthetics. Along with the other Wangs, Wang Hui helped to perpetuate the tradition of copying the ancient masters rather than creating original work.

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