If Youve Been House Hunting, You Know What I Mean

Have you ever been looking for a new place to live, visiting different apartments or houses, and every time you experience a new reaction to a place and its spaces? It always happens to me. Either I love the architecture and light in this one, or the landscaping and interiors really make me anxious in that one, or I can't get myself oriented to a layout and I walk around confused in another.

Environments are affecting and interior spaces, incredibly so. When putting oil on canvas an artist should be aware of this. There are several oil painting techniques that can evoke different reactions in viewers if the artist is inclined to employ them.

For example, a fine art oil painting from Adolph Menzel always makes me sigh with pleasure because of the appealing warmth the space never fails to evoke. One of my absolute favorite paintings is The Artist's Sitting Room in Ritterstrasse. The light is so lovely, almost warm and cool at the same time, and it is a dappled, diffuse light that makes the whole space seem even cozier. The warm reds and golds of curtains are contrasted to the blues and greens of the walls, so there's a visual balance that is inviting.

The Artist's Sitting Room in Ritterstrasse by Adolph Menzel, oil painting, 1851.
The Artist's Sitting Room in Ritterstrasse
by Adolph Menzel, oil painting, 1851.

Vuillard was a master of making spaces that seem very truncated. I can't seem to find a way out of them visually speaking. In Green Interior, there's certainly a live-wire energy about it, but the space almost seems too imposing, maybe even a little threatening. I look at the figure and I wonder what he's doing and if he can concentrate in such an environment. I know I'd have a hard time doing so, and yet the composition is laid out in such a way that it feels like there's no way out.

The Green Interior by Edouard Vuillard, oil painting, 1891.
The Green Interior by Edouard Vuillard, oil painting, 1891.

I found Leon Kroll's work, featured in current March/April issue of American Artist, very much loaded with a sense of anticipation. Interiors like The Conversation almost make me hold my breath, anticipating the drama that it is to come for the figures in the works. I think this has to do with the relatively shallow sense of space in the painting—the lack of the depth makes the unknown event loom that much more.

The Conversation by Leon Kroll, oil painting, 1938.
The Conversation by Leon Kroll, oil painting, 1938.

In every issue of American Artist, you'll find paintings with narratives and compositions that evoke different reactions in you with every turn of the page. That's the most exciting part of art—that it can always pull something new out of you, which is why American Artist is one of my artistic essentials. Without it, I'd feel like I wasn't feeling and seeing all the art that is out there. And that's just not an option! So consider your own subscription to American Artist and enjoy!

P.S. What paintings of interiors evoke a strong response in you? Leave a comment and let me know!


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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.   

5 thoughts on “If Youve Been House Hunting, You Know What I Mean

  1. Courtney, thanks so much for posting that wonderful Menzel painting (one I’d never seen before). You are right about the light sneaking in under the curtain. Restrained and brightly shimmering at the same time.

    There’s a long and marvelous tradition of artists focusing on the special moods interior spaces can summon up in us from Vermeer up through Edward Hopper. It’s ironic you posted this “House Hunting” blog today- even though I’m a landscape painter, I’m finishing up a half dozen small interior paintings right now I’ve done over the years of the interior of Edward Hopper’s former painting studio on Cape Cod where I’ve been privileged to have had 13 residencies since the 1980’s. They’ll be on display in Nyack, NY at Hopper’s birthplace and boyhood home, the Edward Hopper Art Center 3/31- 5/13.

  2. Courtney: Thanks for answering my last comment. It was great to make a connection. I have downloaded the Rose Franzen material and she is my new mentor for letting go! Totally changed my grip on the brush. AS for the Green/lime painting, I believe the woman is threading a needle. My favorite interior remains Van Gogh’s bedroom at Arles. I keep seeeing a Van Gogh chair – in blue or yellow, but I can’t seem to find it. Thanks again for your interest and knowledge. I am beginning to feel like an artist again. Lori Secouler

  3. 75043-5365
    A favorite of mine is “Chop Suey” by Edward Hopper. Actually anything by hopper is a favorite of mine. Also “Night Hawks” is super great, I guess it is an interior.