The Peninsula Gallery, 520 E. Savannah Rd., Lewes, will begin its 2013 exhibition season with a show titled A Stillness of Light, a celebration of still life painting. The exhibit will begin with a reception open to the public from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 2. The three artists presenting new work include Susan Budash of Amherst, N.Y.; Victor Letonoff of Lewes; and John Schisler of Georgetown.
Still life painting provides the artist with an opportunity to patiently experiment with the presentation of a three-dimensional set of objects on a two-dimensional surface. It is a deliberative pursuit. Perhaps one of the oldest forms of two-dimensional art, still life art can be found as far back the Egyptian civilization. Roman artists competed to present the most realistic still life images in a variety of media, and several artists of the pre-Renaissance used still life images as religious allegory, while later painters of the Renaissance celebrated the bounty of nature and the activities of daily of life.
Today’s still life artists often make use of the artistic techniques of the old masters. Budash, for example, has studied the methods of Venetian painters of the 1400s. In each work, she uses a process of applying multiple successive layers of paint, known as indirect painting. The first layer is a drawing of the image in a burnt umber pigment on a prepared linen canvas.
The second layer is a detailed under-painting known as a grisaille (gri-zai), a gray scale image in lead-based white paint that establishes the light and dark scale and shadows of the painting. When the grisaille underpainting is dry, multiple layers of colored glazes are thinly applied. These are often translucent. The result is a luminous, depth-filled image that appears to reflect light from deep within the painting.
Indirect painting has its origins in the 1400s just prior to the Renaissance and was widely used by artists until 19th century when the time-consuming methods were largely abandoned by modernist painters, who desired a more expedient way of painting, as seen with impressionist and plein air works. Budash has exhibited widely thoughout the eastern United States and has been recognized with several awards. A recent article in American Art Collector focused on her work. Budash has shown in the Peninsula Gallery as a resident artist for the last several years.
Letonoff, a well-known Lewes artist, says while he always has been a recorder of life’s images in diaries and journals, his first artistic work was guided by the technical demands of his background in engineering and map making. After a highly decorated career in the United States military, Letonoff studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy and the Ecole Des Beaux Arts in Paris, France. Detailed and representational, his painting technique is focused on capturing the effects of light falling on his subject. In handling light, Letonoff makes use of chiaroscuro, the Italian term for light and dark that refers to the use of strong contrasts in light and dark in a painting.
The technique provides a sense of volume as well as adding drama or tension to the work. When well executed in a still life, the use of contrasts of light and dark focus the image and draw the viewer into the painting. Letonoff is the recipient of several awards for his work, including several juried shows at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and awards from the Rehoboth Art League.
Schisler, a native of Baltimore, Md., and now of Georgetown, studied art and painting at the Conrad Miller Studio in Fells Point, Md. At the Conrad Miller Studio, Schisler studied the techniques of the Dutch Masters. Today he continues to use these techniques in his work, making use of age-old mixtures to create his colors from powdered pigments. In addition to presenting traditional subjects in his paintings, Schisler also expresses a whimsical side in some of his paintings, bringing together items from contemporary scenes such as a modern-day seaside picnic.
In addition to painting, Schisler offers classes in his studio. He has received several awards locally and regionally, with recognition by several local galleries including the Art Gallery and Institute, Salisbury, Md.; the Mispillion Art Gallery; and the Millsboro Art Gallery.
The exhibition A Stillness in Light will extend through March 31. The Peninsula Gallery is currently in its 17th year of operation and offers fine art by more than 20 local, regional and international artists; fine art conservation and contemporary framing; and fine art restoration. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday. Framing consultations are available Tuesday to Saturday. The gallery is closed Mondays. The gallery can be reached at 302-645-0551 or at www.peninsula-gallery.com.