25 November 2013

High in the Karlskirche

In which we get a great opportunity to see a Baroque masterpiece up close!
a moment in the dome of the Karlskirche, Vienna
During our most recent stay in Vienna, I met Karl Groissenberger and his gorgeous family for a quick visit.  Karl, a fine muralist and fellow ornamentalist, suggested I go see the Karlskirche, whose interior has just been completely restored.   Visitors were being allowed up a "Panormalift" to a scaffold which climbs to the very top of the 70 metre high dome.  Karl was really enthusiastic about it, so of course the very next day we went to see it.
In 1713, in celebration of the end of the Great Plague of Vienna, Karl VI, Holy Roman Emperor,  pledged to build a church for his namesake patron saint, Charles Borromeo.  The prestigious  commission went to architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, and is widely considered the most outstanding baroque cathedral North of the Alps, and Fischer von Erlach's greatest achievement.
The design of the Karlskirche makes some reference to Roman architecture. photo by Gryffindor via Wikipedia
I have seen this church a number of times in the past, learned about the effect of its elongated ellipsoid dome, and the symbolic details of its architecture in art history class, enjoyed a view of it from the Secessionist Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station,  but I confess I had never been all that impressed with the interior before, maybe because it seemed so dull with age and filth; I just never thought much of it. 
scaffolding in the dome for visitor access
However, seeing it clean and sparkling after its 7 year restoration project,  I finally realized the joy and conviction that suffuses every aspect of its design.  It's bright and pink! It's light and lively!  It's like an Osterei made of sugar!  Not that I don't like to see the age of something, but in this case the intent of the artists needed to be seen in bright color.
The lower part of the interior is clad in beautiful stucmarmor,  a finish that uses a special pigmented plaster technique to mimic marble. In this case it's used to great advantage to make gorgeous rose marble pilasters which create a support for the action in the ceiling.
Are the angels holding up that upper scaffolding?  Let's hope so.
The interior of the enormous dome is painted with an exuberant fresco by Johann Michael Rottmayr (1656 –1730) who is perhaps most famous for his work in the enormous Abbey at Melk.   Rottmayr trained in Venice, and it shows.
Charity, one of the Virtues, as seen from the scaffold.
Now, you'd think after 25+ years of working on scaffold I could scamper up any old 200+ foot scaffold with ease, but I made it up the first two levels and then I remembered that acrophobia thing I have.  Erling and Juliet went all the way up into the lantern while I stayed frozen at about 180 feet.  Eventually I regained the use of my hands enough to operate the camera.
The quadratura architectural elements seem distorted when seen at eye level
Seen from inside the dome, the perspective of figures painted di sotto in sù makes them look oddly distorted. The same is true of the  architectural elements (painted by Gaetano Fauti) that frame the mural, which further enhance the feeling of height. 
Speaking of height, I met a couple from Holland climbing up the stairs. They wanted to know if I was ok. Dutch people are so nice.
gilt enhancements on a cartouche in the dome
I find fascinating the gilt highlights on the painted statuary.  In addition to the illusionistic painting that makes the urns and statues look like metal, they have tiny  highlights of gold leaf  which really enhance the effect and tend to appear and disappear as you move around.
no really, look how this is done!
I usually refer to this highlight as rehaussé (French for "enhanced")  or assiste (the tiny rays of gold in icon paintings),  but I am not sure of the Italian or German term for it.
Painting like this makes me squeal, sometimes audibly.
Counter-reformation churches weren't built just to be glorious.  In this mural is a warning to those protestant hooligans:
An angel sets fire to German bible and expels Martin Luther and the devil from the scene.
perspective is everything
I look forward to my next visit to Vienna and to seeing this fantastic ceiling mural in its entirety, from the floor. It will be that much more thrilling having seen the actual brushstrokes that created it.
trompe l'oeil detail in one of the oval windows

Virtual tour at the Karslkirche official website  

quadratura, di sotto in sù, rehaussé  
are all in the glossary! 

all photos by Lynne Rutter, Vienna, December 2012
unless otherwise noted


24 November 2013

The Language of Cloth: Winter Show and Sale

detail of a mid-century Japanese kimono
In December my friend Dan Gundlach has this amazing pop-up shop in San Francisco, to showcase the textiles he gathers from Indonesia and Asia during the year.    The work showcased is a fantastic mix of traditional weaving and batik, using classic and contemporary designs.
Some of the offerings at the Language of Cloth pop-up gallery and shop
This year the shop will   feature  a selection of scarves, shawls, clothing, and accessories from Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, and Japan, as well as a special exhibition of Japanese mid-century modern textile design,  kimono, haori, and obi from the collection of David Morrison Pike, a ceramic artist and antique dealer who has lived in Japan for the past 20 years.
Here is a glimpse of this year's special show:
mid-century Japanese kimono in silk
Detail of an haori with water motif
good morning!
The Language of Cloth shop will be open December 13th - December 24th everyday from 10 to 6 at 650-A Guerrero St., San Francisco.               
detail of a Nagoya obi, woven design
Kimono, meisen

More information is available at the Language of Cloth website.

28 August 2013

Choosing Paint Colors

Peter B's inspiring collection of paint samples
Visiting Peter B's home-in-progress, I found this gorgeous display of samples he had collected prior to meeting with me.  This vignette told me so much about his preferences --by what was there as well as what was not there - it made the color consultation for his house much easier.   The people I work with are often so inspiring!

Choosing colors can be frustrating and subjective (how do you know when you have it "right?") because colors can affect us emotionally.  Don't feel bad if you need help navigating this!  There is a science to creating a pleasing palette that works in architecture; just as in designing a palette for a mural or a work of art;  the skills involved are very similar.

Color Consulting by Lynne Rutter  415-282-8820

20 August 2013

Featured in Traditional Building Magazine

This month I am featured in Nancy A. Ruhling's article for Traditional Building Magazine entitled "The ABCs of Decorative Ornament: The experts agree Decorative ornament is a big plus in commercial buildings. "

A rooster mural by Lynne Rutter crows cockily at Gilberth's Rotisserie and Grill in San Francisco, CA. The hand-painted oil on copper leaf diptych adds down-home warmth to the industrial-chic interior of the restaurant, which is built in an old cannery in the city's Dogpatch neighborhood. Photo: David Papas
Clem Labine's Traditional Building Magazine is a trade publication which provides resources to architects, designers, and builders involved in preservation and design for public architecture.  It's an honor for me to be interviewed alongside such veteran studios as Canning Studios, EverGreene, and the brilliant muralist Russ Elliot. The article drives home the message that decorative painting is an intrinsic part of a commercial interior that adds to its interaction with the public as well as its overall value.

" ... San Francisco artist Lynne Rutter, who has made murals for restaurants, casinos and hotels, sees her work as art. "People think of decorative painting as being somehow less about expressing oneself and more about decoration, but this is not true of many of us in the field," she says.
The award-winning muralist and colorist is passionate about historic projects. "On the West Coast, there is a lot of creative reuse of our older buildings, so even if the project isn't a 'restoration' per se," she says, "the period detail of a building can be celebrated in its new incarnation, and decorative painting is an excellent way to achieve that sense of history."
Rutter, who is inspired by the works of masters like Vermeer, Fra Angelico and Max Beckmann, travels extensively, picking up ideas along the way. "I collect images of ornament, or moments of great old murals and beautiful surfaces," she says. "Recently, I submitted a design for a dome based on something I saw in a beautiful place I visited in Bulgaria."
Murals are an ideal medium for Rutter, who studied architecture and design at the University of California at Berkeley before she opened her boutique atelier in 1990. Typically, she paints the murals on canvas in her studio and installs them on site. "This process — marouflage — is an excellent technique for saving valuable time and allows for more detailed work to be done in advance," she says. In some projects, like the 900-sq.ft. ornamental ceiling mural created for the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, only the stenciling was done on site "instead of working weeks on site, my team and I were only there for four days."

Rutter points out that decorative painting serves no one style, and that's what makes the work interesting to her. "I have been doing this since the mid-1980s and the popularity of decorative painting has gone up and down over the years, but mainly what I see is a change in the design of the work," she says. "The skills and techniques used are similar even as the definition of 'contemporary' changes from year to year.  "

read the full article at Traditional Building Magazine

08 August 2013

Studio Visit: Adrian Card

Harpsichord soundboard painted by Adrian Card  * 
This week I visited the studio of a great artist closer to home, the San Francisco atelier of my good friend Adrian Card.  Adrian is one of those amazing fellows who is expert at so many esoteric things I can't help but wonder if he was transported here directly from the 17th Century. Or maybe he is possessed by the ghost of some Flemish harpsichord decorator, which would of course be a good thing if you had a harpsichord needing ornamenting, as this just happens to be Adrian Card's specialty.

Flemish harpsichord with strapwork ornament painted by Adrian Card *
Adrian Card at his drafting table, designing Delft-style ornamentation for a guitar.
Adrian comes from an old Dutch-American family:   "My father's ancestors all came over here in the early 17th and 18th centuries, mostly of English and Dutch extraction. They settled in Northern New Jersey in the late 17th century after getting tired of the city life in Manhattan (New Amsterdam). My family has been in the same place ever since. My father was baptized in a church whose graveyard contains the remains of his ancestors who fought in the American Revolution - it's about 5 minutes from where my parents live now and where I grew up." 

Adrian became fluent in Dutch, which he learned by and for studying antique books on painting techniques.

A corner of Adrian Card's Studio, filled with design books and inspiring what's-its.
"I had been fascinated with 17th century Dutch painting since the 6th grade"  Adrian says, "when an art teacher (aptly named Mrs. Farber) showed us slides of some Vermeer paintings... it was like an epiphany. I got interested in how they did it, and started to learn Dutch when I realized how much had been written about technique and whatnot in Dutch, that had never been translated into English."

Reprint of De Hooge Schoole der Schilderkonst anders De Zichtbaere Wereld  by Samuel van Hoogstraeten, 1678
Not long after that Adrian painted his first harpsichord soundboard.  "Getting involved in harpsichord decoration only solidified my drive to learn Dutch."

gilt and painted ornament for the inside of a harpsichord, painted by Adrian Card
Adrian studied at the Philadelphia College of Art, and after a brief flirtation with the idea of going to the Hochschule Der Kunste in Berlin, he came to San Francisco where he earned a degree in printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute
"I have long been fascinated with historic ornament. A fellow-student and friend at SFAI and I both shared a passion for ornamental borders, which was something we needed to keep to ourselves, or risk the ridicule of our neo-neo-neo-expressionist fellow students."

Historic woodblock-printed papers reproduced by Adrian Card for a harpsichord restoration.
hand carved woodblocks for printing harpsichord papers

After graduating from SFAI,  Adrian began to do some historic ornament work for a variety of applications, but when the opportunity to work for a prestigious animation company presented itself, he pursued it. He worked in animation for a number of years before returning to the world of ornament, starting his own business in 1999.

Adrian credits other harpsichord painters for helping him with his career:  "... notably Janine Johnson and Sheridan Germann, who were generous with their time and knowledge, and instrument maker Kevin Fryer, who also taught me a lot." 
His printmaking skills have been useful for creating the hand-printed papers for Flemish harpsichords, "a practice that dates back to the 1500s, when they were employed as an inexpensive way to imitate the expensive Italian custom of ebony and ivory inlay work."  
samples for the decoration of harpsichord and other furniture in Adrian Card's studio
Skills used in harpsichord decoration are also applicable to furniture and murals, and Adrian has completed a number of fantastic commissions using historic ornament of many different periods and styles.

design in progress for a harpsichord case using strapwork ornament
The soundboards of harpsichords (and other instruments) must be painted with particular water-based materials to preserve the sound of the instrument. This means making the paint from raw pigments and materials using historic recipes.

Pigment collection at Adrian Card's studio
The studio is like a walk-in Wunderkammer, filled with inspiring objects, old broken things, old working things, drawers full of designs and past work, as well as collected bits of tiles, insects, minerals and wallpapers.

Historic Avocado Green.
I met Adrian Card some years ago when he joined my guild, Artistic License.  We have since collaborated on some projects as as well as become great friends through our shared love of ornament, collecting, martinis, flea markets, books, and the search for the perfect Victorian light fixture.
During a recent meeting several kindred spirits discussed which animal's urine had the strongest ammonia content needed for making bluest Verdigris pigment.  Ok well, maybe you had to be there.

Adrian Card's studio Wunderkammer includes fluorescent rocks collected near his home town.
Now you can imagine how thrilled I am to be hosting Adrian Card at my own studio in San Francisco,  September 11-13, 2013 
for a fantastic workshop on Strapwork Ornament, 
a favorite of Flemish designers and a great trompe l'oeil device for any number of uses.
Class panel for Adrian Card's Strapwork Ornament workshop

Please have a look at more of Adrian Card fantastic work on his website:  AdrianCard.com
pigments, and tiny bug art
And here are some of Adrian Card's favorite influential books:

In Dutch:
De Hooge Schoole der Schilderkonst anders De Zichtbaere Wereld   (The Esteemed School of Painting or, The Visible World)   by Samuel van Hoogstraeten, 1678

Hoe Schilder Je Een Druif  (How Does One Paint a Grape)  by Karel van Mander, 1604   and yes, the title is a reference to Parrhasius

Verlichterie-Kunde of Het Regt Gebruik der Water-Verwen   (Illumination or the Right Use of Water Colors) by Willem Goeree, 1697

In English:
A Treatise Concerning the Art of Limning by Nicholas Hilliard, circa 1600

Miniatura or the Art of Limning by Edward Norgate, circa 1627

Medieval & Renaissance Treatises on the Arts of Painting, edited by Mary P. Merrifield, originally published in 1849, now available as Dover reprint

Images in this post by Lynne Rutter except * ©Adrian Card
click on images to view larger

Limner is in the glossary!  of course it is.

02 July 2013

Albertina Gold

The Goldkabinett of Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen

The Albertina Museum in Vienna is famous for its fine print collection and artworks on paper, notably those of Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt, but the former palace of Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen (1728-1822),  the noble art collector for whom the Albertina is named, is also worth visiting for its grand state rooms, which have been recently restored. 
Most of these rooms are decorated in an elegant Neoclassical style dating from the 1820s but there are one or two spaces that still sport the late Baroque décor of Duke Albert's era.  In particular this tiny chamber called the Goldkabinett "Gold Cabinet."

Goldkabinett at the Albertina, Vienna

I adore tiny jewel box rooms like this, and it seems to me that every Baroque palace or hôtel particulier just had to have one of these special, intimate, breathtaking little chambers.  A perfect spot for a private discussion,  collecting one's thoughts, or  just basking alone in the glow of a room created solely for the sake of beauty.

detail of the floral ornament painted onto the gilt paneling

The Goldkabinett is mirrored on four walls including the doors;  a marvelous effect for full gilt immersion; and features a some beautifully painted rose decorations along with a sweet little cloud ceiling mural and frieze panels with frolicking putti. 

The unusually rosy effulgence of this room is due to the special gold leaf used to gild it: an alloy consisting of 23-karat gold, 1/2-karat silver and 1/2-karat copper, and is still known today as "Albertina Gold."

large mirrors on each wall reflect more of the gilt splendor

More about the Albertina at Wikipedia
Another Golden Room

all images in this post by Lynne Rutter Vienna, 2012
click to view larger

01 July 2013


Well I waited until the last possible minute to do this!
Since the demise of Google Reader I have started using a simple basic reader called  BlogLovin

Still not sure about it but here is the required link if you are interested in following this blog with a reader: 
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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23 June 2013

Studio Visit: Masao Hanawa | Salon Tokyo!

Masao Hanawa stands in front of his mural "Seven Samurai" painted for Toho Studios, Tokyo*

I recently returned from a trip to Tokyo where I participated in a unique event known as "the Salon."  Each year in a different city,  decorative painters and muralists from all over the world gather to exhibit their work, demonstrate techniques for each other and the public, exchange ideas, and of course, party.  Salon Tokyo 2013 was brilliantly hosted by the fabulous Yaeko Kurimata, my friend and colleague on the other side of the Pacific, whose studio I visited in 2009.
my exhibit panels for Salon Tokyo featured a Yomuiri Giants (Tokyo) baseball player and Toshiro Mifune from the Kurasawa film "Seven Samurai" painted on copper-gilt canvas.
Though I have not attended Salon in some years, I do credit this annual event with having introduced me to some great comrades-in-paint, among them Pascal Amblard, Alison Woolley, Lucretia Moroni, Karl GroissenbergerNiels Jongdahl and so many others!

East Meets West in Niels Jongdahl's' masterful trompe l'oeil painting.

In a business that can be terribly competitive, closed, and often lonely and demoralizing, Salon participants tend to be open, appreciative, happy to share, willing to argue, and above all supportive of each others art practice,  which I believe comes from the assured confidence of someone who really knows their craft and loves their work.
So here I have just hung my panels at the Salon exhibition space, feeling generally humbled, when I caught sight of this painting:

Masao Hanawa's monumental self-portrait. The beautiful ornamental panels to the left are by Jean-Luc Sablé

and fell instantly and desperately in art-love with it, and incidentally with whomever is responsible for painting it.  This is my kind of painting:  surreal-scaled, detailed, a bit unconventional, and beautifully painted. I was stunned and elated while fellow painters gathered around it, arguing about how it was painted and with what medium or tools.
Masao Hanawa demonstrating at Salon Tokyo

Then behind me I heard Masao Hanawa speaking, in fluent Italian, with Stefano Luca (another fantastic painter, beyond all belief) at which point I basically sputtered some complimenti and ran outside to calm down.  (Understand for an agoraphobic person such as myself that I am already on threat level orange in a frenetic city like Tokyo, so I must run and hide fairly frequently.)

The next day I found Masao-san painting a  Boucher-esque panel of cherubs and worked up the nerve to talk to him. He showed me his portfolio which features a gigantic ~80 foot high mural (see above) of the Seven Samurai painted on an exterior wall of Toho Studios,  (are you sensing a theme here?) and from there we had a very easy conversation which continued throughout the week and revealed many other shared interests.    
After Salon ended and the participants reluctantly parted ways, I had an extra day in town and was able to make a short visit to the Atelier Hanawa.
Large scale trompe l'œil by Masao Hanawa at Tokyo DisneySea Resort *
work in progress, tools, and light fill the large shop of Atelier-Hanawa, Tokyo
grisaille sample for the 7 Samurai mural repurposed as a screen

I like visiting the studios of other muralists when I travel- I find it gives me some insight into the process; what do we have in common (storage issues!) and what space-saving or cool tips can I pick up - or share?

Masao-san has painted enormous amounts of trompe l'œil and fresco-style murals for Tokyo DisneySea and many other commercial spaces as well as a masterful oil paintings in the Northern European tradition.  He also spent several years living in Genoa, Italy, painting and  restoring mural work there, and furthering his skills in classical European style painting.     
You should visit m-hanawa.com for many more stunning examples of his accomplished painting style.    

Trompe l'œil murals and grottesche ornament by Masao Hanawa *
some moments in the studio of Masao Hanawa, Tokyo
Masao Hanawa in his studio

further reading - more pictures:

Salon Forever

Atelier Hanawa website

Akira Kurasawa

Toshiro Mifune

SalonTokyo2013 @Flickr  more pictures from this amazing event

Lynne's previous posts about Japan
jib door is in the glossary!

images in this post by Lynne Rutter,  May 2013
except *  ©Masao Hanawa
click on images to view larger