In making studies of clouds I am constantly surprised and awed by
what I see. Nature truly is the most influential of all the artists,
full of shocking and inspiring colors and compositions. I have
learned so much about color just watching the sky change over the
course of an hour.
As a muralist I often look at the work of the master artists who came
before me, for technical advice as well as inspiration. Some are known
for their wonderful figurative murals or portraits, others for
brilliant trompe l’oeil. To whom do you look for the best clouds?
|Giambattisa Tiepolo: oil sketch for Perseus and Andromeda (1730) The Frick Collection, New York|
Artists like Andrea Pozzo
and Daniel Gran
both are so famous for their illusionistic painting, that maybe they
don’t get enough credit for composing really beautiful clouds: clouds
that break out of the “sky” and jump into the room; clouds that are
carrying groups of figures and yet still managing to fly up, create
depth, and add color to dramatically designed scenes. To my mind no one
paints cloudscapes better than Giambattista Tiepolo
. The virtuosic star of 18th
century Venetian art, he painted larger-than-life goddesses and
substantial allegorical figures seated in clouds that look as
comfortable as down-filled cushions and light as a single feather.
Tiepolo's murals are filled with light, and the most beautiful color
Join me here on a tour of some of my favorite clouds murals.
|Andrea Mantegna “Camera degli Sposi” fresco 1465-1474 (ceiling detail) Palazzo Ducale, Mantua. image: Wikipedia|
The center of the ceiling in the spectacularly painted Camera degli Sposi
is one of the earliest examples of the di sotto in sù
effect. While the cloudscape in this ceiling is extremely simple, it’s
effective because the scale of the clouds is consistent with what one
could possibly view through an oculus of this size.
|Ceiling of the Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza 1585 (detail). image: Lynne Rutter|
The oldest surviving fully enclosed theater in the world, the Teatro Olimpico
has the feeling of an open amphitheater in ancient Rome, thanks to this
spectacular painted cloud mural over the cavea (seating area). This
theater was designed by the great Renaissance architect Palladio and
seeing it was one of the top ten experiences of my artistic life. When
I took this picture I could barely operate the camera as my eyes were
filled with tears.
|Andrea Pozzo “Apotheosis of Sant’Ignazio” fresco 1688-90 (detail),
Sant' Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio, Rome. image: Lynne Rutter|
The surrounding quadratura and the famous anamorphic dome get a lot more attention, but the action of Andrea Pozzo
famous ceiling mural takes place in its center- St. Ignatius of Loyola
carried up to heaven by clouds that have reached into the church to
scoop him up, assisted by angels. The clouds are composed as
strategically as the rest of the painting. Tip:
take a mirror to this
church with you. Have a seat, look down into the mirror at the
reflection of the ceiling. You will see a lot of different things this
way (as well as spare your neck!)
|Daniel Gran "Allegory of War and Law" fresco 1730 Prunksaal, Vienna. image: Wikipedia|
More about the overall decoration than about reality, the colors of Daniel Gran
clouds play right into the décor of the rest of the interior, taking
the room into its composition and the viewer along with it. The Prunksaal
(Austrian National Library) in Vienna is one of those amazing over-the-top Baroque libraries.
Martin Johann Schmidt
|Kremserschmidt, chapel ceiling in Gruber Palace, oil on canvas 1780 Ljubljana, Slovenia|
colorful cloudscape whirls around the figures and spirals upward,
enhancing the foreshortening of the figures and creating a soaring
effect. I love how the angel is holding up the lantern, drawing the
room into the mural, and visa-versa!
|Giovanni Battista Tiepolo “Apollo and Diana” fresco 1757 (detail) Villa Valmarana, Vicenza. image: Wikipedia|
How do you support larger than life figures and still manage to make the
clouds airy and filled with light? Watch and learn as Tiepolo does this
|Giovanni Battista Tiepolo "The Triumph of Virtue and Nobility Over
Ignorance" 1740 Oil on canvas, painted for the Palazzo Manin, Venice.
image: Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA |
Multiple levels of clouds and strong contrast in Tiepolo’s Manin
ceiling mural create depth and support the action in this allegorical
tale in which sorority sisters Virtue and Nobility send out their posse
of cherubs to put Ignorance in her place once and for all. Behind the
hair-pulling drama, a bright yellow cloud juxtaposed over a deep purple
|Dome ceiling fresco, 1749 Schloss Charlottenburg , Berlin. image: Lynne Rutter|
This simple cloud mural creates a sense of elegant calm as you ascend
the ornate white plaster staircase of the beautiful Rococo wing of the
|Clouds over Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierra range of California, one hour before sunset. image: Lynne Rutter|
Real clouds do the most amazing and beautiful things. My best
compositional references come from nature. Flickr and google images
have thousands of unbelievable pictures of amazing clouds. Do you take
cloud pictures too? If so, consider joining the flickr pool “Painterly Clouds”
and add your inspiring shots.
|Lynne Rutter "Cloupscape" acrylic on plaster 18' diameter, Private Residence, CA|
Nature inspired the composition of this dome cloud mural but I looked to
maestro Tiepolo to inspire the painting technique, and for “permission”
to make the sky purple and orange.
Visit the Gallery
for more cloud ceiling murals painted by Lynne Rutter
di sotto in sù
is in the Glossary
Lynne will be teaching her cloud painting techniques in a special one-day workshop July 28, 2012 at the IDAL Convention in Reno, Nevada~~ ask for class # S203