Moonlight Night in Boulogne – Gouache Study After Theo van Rysselberghe

One of the totally fun things about studying a school of painting is exploring its members! Who is this person? Oh, I like that painting! And then, off on a trail of discovery. I am finding a lot of painters I like, many from the post-Impressionist schools of Pointillism. These same painters move not only into Pointillism, but other ways, or schools, of painting that appeal to me in their composition and their colors.

Still, sticking with Pointillism, today’s study is from a painting by Theo van Rysselberghe, a Belgian painter who does lovely work. Here, a study of a moonlit night of a harbor. Boats, sails, reflections, silhouettes, lights, and even a few human beings. Van Rysselberghe’s interpretation of the night, the light of the moon, and the colors used to express the night are so interesting. The lack of light, artificial light, and moonlight all create an atmosphere at once pleasing and rather mysterious. My own agenda has learning to paint the night effectively a high priority.

My own painting is nowhere as good as van Rysselberghe’s, but that is not the point. The focus is on the colors of the night, the blues, the darks – purple? black? phthalo blue? mixtures of all kinds? There is a luminescent quality to even the darkest colors, as well as a brilliance to the lightest that is not quite white, but a pale, pale yellow.

The dots are also more than dots. Brushwork is not only circular dabs of color, but also horizontal lines that are done perhaps with the side of a round brush (mine were!). When I copy a painting, I try to see the brushwork. Gouache does a decent job for copying paintings, but the paintings I have been copying are in oil and certainly oil paintings are much larger than my 9×12 studies, and consequently more subtle.

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