Whitbeck  Notes
Winter 2022/3
Floral in Chinese Bowl
14" x 17"   oil on panel
   Welcome to the winter 2022/3 Whitbeck Notes, and Happy New Year! Thus far our Massachusetts winter has been mighty disappointing and the snow pretty much nonexistent, there are still a few months to go so I have fingers crossed. And with this, at times, spring-like weather I had been tempted to go out for some long runs. But I was able to keep my focus and put in some nice long days in the studio instead, creating some really interesting paintings with new objects and some new ideas.
   For a while now I have been wanting to mention one of my favorite books on still life painting from the Dutch Golden Age, one that  has, since 2009, been a great inspiration for me and a font of information about the Dutch Republic at that time and how and why it produced so many avant-garde paintings and innovative artists. The title is Still Life and Trade in the Dutch Golden Age by Julie Berger Hoochstrasser from Yale University Press.
   Besides having many close-up images of paintings in the book (which is great for me and my studies) Hoochstrasser really dives deep into what it really meant to have and display some of the objects you find in still life paintings of the day, weather it be Chinese porcelain, Turkish carpets or exotic spices like nutmeg and cloves. We see all these things so artfully arranged and deftly painted but how did they get there and why would some wealthy middleclass burgher want it prominently displayed in the main room of their canal-side home? What transpired from country of origin to its final destination in the towns and cities along the North Sea coast, and, importantly, what did this mean for the people who were manufacturing, growing or harvesting all of these desired and costly items? So intriguing! Hoochstrasser covers all the facets that went into bringing these trade goods into the studios of Dutch and Flemish painters, the good, the bad and the ugly. Its a pricy little book but is very much a treasure for the library and I highly recommend reading it.
   One other book I quickly wanted to mention is Dutch Flower Painting 1600-1720 by Paul Taylor, also from Yale University Press.. This book touches upon the the early origins of floral painting in the 1500s with the bulk of its pages covering 1600 to 1720, the height of, what I think, is the golden age of flower painting. Taylor goes into the meaning of certain flowers and why certain ones were grouped together, as well as the symbolism of colors. It is fascinating as you go through the book to see the change of lay-out in the paintings as well as change of aesthetics as you move from one decade to another. I know I have touched on 17th century floral painting in a previous Whitbeck Notes, but it is fascinating and worth mentioning here how the early florals seemed more like scientific studies and guides to the natural world than a pretty painting to hang in your home. Each flower has center stage and the insects are painted with such attention to detail. What an interesting time! And what a time to be an artist! Both Hoochstrassers and Taylors books I recommend reading for a better understanding of the world in which these paintings were created. Your next visit to the European Paintings section of your favorite museum will be a new experience after reading these books.

Henry's Favorite
18" x 24"   oil on panel
   Spring will be here before we know it and the 2023 art show season will get rolling. I am happy to announce that I have been accepted into the Vero Beach and Winter Park art shows in Florida, and I very much look forward to heading south in March! Even though, as I had said, our winter has not been so bad so far, packing up the van and driving out of the late, gray winter of Massachusetts and into the tee-shirt and shorts weather of Florida will be great, I'll do my long runs then! Click here for the dates and websites for these shows, both of which are in March. I still have a couple months left of studio time till then, so new paintings will be coming.  Click here to visit the Paintings page of my website to see what is available thus far. I am very happy with what new work has been coming out of the studio, so take a look a see for yourself.
Brass Vase
12" x 9"   oil on panel
All my best and Happy New Year!
James Whitbeck
(413) 695-3937