I Am Torn Between Two Men

Granted, this story gets a lot less steamy when I tell you that I’m torn between the work of two oil painting artists, Adolph Menzel and Jonas Lie. I’ve studied the work of both of these artists on my own for quite a while, trying to puzzle out why I like each of them.

Menzel’s oil painting art is all clarity and light. His genre scenes like The Balcony Room are testimonies to seeing a scene and filtering out the details so that the essential beauty of it shines through. Menzel was a master at turning small things–like a curtain hung over a door or a pool of light on a floor–into extraordinary moments.

The Balcony Room by Adolph Menzel, oil on canvas, 1845.
The Balcony Room by Adolph Menzel, oil on canvas, 1845.
Adolph Menzel (German, Breslau 1815–1905 Berlin) The Artist's Sitting Room in Ritterstrasse, 1851 Oil on cardboard; 12 5/8 x 10 5/8 in. (32.1 x 27 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Nineteenth-Century, Modern and Contemporary Funds, Leonora Brenauer Bequest, in memory of her father, Joseph B. Brenauer, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, and Paul L. and Marlene A. Herring and John D. Herring Gift, 2009 (2009.64) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/440726
The Artist’s Sitting Room in Ritterstrasse, 1851 by Adolph Menzel
Church Interior by Adolph Menzel.
Seascape by Jonas Lie.

Jonas Lie [Norwegian-born American painter, 1880-1940]
Seascape by Jonas Lie
With Lie, I just wish I could watch him work. The oil painting techniques he used to build color and paint water show some serious skill. When you look at his oil painting pieces of the sea, like The Old Ships Draw to Home Again, you can almost feel the cold wind on your face because the artist’s color choices convey the chilly air and early morning light so well.

The Old Ships Draw to Home Again by Jonas Lie, c. 1920, oil on canvas.
The Old Ships Draw to Home Again by Jonas Lie, c. 1920, oil on canvas.

I think what I am drawn to in both of these oil painting artists is the honest quietude and simple grace they bring to their work. Neither added needless drama to the scenes they depicted. Such bombast wasn’t necessary when your colors are so interesting and your compositions so strong. So instead of “choosing” between these two artists, I think I am content to realize they both hold a place in my art-loving heart because they are two peas in a pod.

More than anything though, I think I am drawn to the art of Menzel and Lie because of how the work is built from underpainting to final strokes. I want to carry through the process with the same dedication and skill, which is why I seek out resources that allow me to watch a painter’s process. Composition & Design for Landscape Painting with Richard McKinley is a digital download that offers painting lessons broken down to their essential steps. It’s an eye-opener if you love to see the landscape painting process unfold. Enjoy!


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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

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