"Laemantus Longpipes" Mary Alice Wimmer
"Gilding the Lily" Susan Dorothea White
I love to receive my ArtMilwaukee emails (although they don't come as regularly as I'd like each Wednesday), which profile local artists from the Milwaukee area. The one that I found in my inbox today is a painting by Mary Alice Wimmer called "Laemantus Longpipes." Interesting name, isn't it?! Of course, I had to see what that could possibly be a picture of! Well, it was, I though, GORGEOUS!!! The lines, shapes and vivid colors of the gourds in the gravevine basket pop on the black background, the bright blue gourd on the white tabletop is a surprise, and then there is the charming bright green lizard, that at first isn't quite apparent, because he is so close to the base of the basket.
According to her bio, Mary Alice Wimmer finds her inspiration in Victorian curiosity cabinets and the natural world. This watercolor and its use of the rich colors on the black background is reminiscent of old Dutch portraits. I'm reminded of a very large still life that is on display in the Milwaukee Art Museum (I don't know the artist or if he was Dutch) - the background was very dark and the painting was a profusion of fruit and flowers in a bowl on a table. The colors undoubtedly had, at one time, been more vibrant but had faded with age.
Ms. Wimmer is what is known as a silverpoint artist. Of course, I had no idea what silverpoint was, so I did a bit of research and found that this is drawing technique that was used by Medieval scribes to decorate manuscripts (per Wikipedia). Historically, for artistic purposes such as drawing, lead and tin were used in addition to silver. Because these metals are soft, the were ideal as drawing tools. Silverpoint was especially favored in Florence and in Dutch workshops because it didn't blunt as easily and it allowed the creation of meticulous detail. Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer, and Raphael among others used this technique. In creating silverpoint today, a silver rod or wire is dragged across a surface such as a canvas that has been prepared with either primer or gesso. The second picture I've included is a painting by Susan Dorothea White (2005) called "Gilding the Lily" which was actually done using goldpoing instead of silverpoing, along with black and white chalk on sandpaper.