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May 21 / Gemma Insinna

Ordinary Everyday Scenes, Extroardinary Paintings

The simple things of ordinary life have always been captured in art throughout history.
Even on the walls inside the tombs in ancient Egypt, or the ruins of Pompeii, there are everyday scenes, glorifying these moments for posterity. They give us a glimpse of what the customs were, the food, the clothes, and the activities.
The most remarkable ones are those depicting a simple everyday scene .

In the above painting by Michael Insinna, the figures are doing nothing but talking on a street corner, in front of an ordinary apartment building in New York. Yet it is a wonderful look back in time, and in mood.  A recollection that came through to us today, an ordinary street scene .

This particular scene is from the 1950’s , but you can still see pretty much the same thing going on in every city everywhere.

Robert Henri was one of the teachers at the turn of the century that brought out the importance of drawing the everyday scenes and people that his students saw throughout the day.

His followers at the Art Students League in New York continued in this tradition, and Michael was part of that in the 1940’s and 1950’s,  studying with Henri’s disciple, Robert Brackman.
He told them of the importance of keeping a note pad always handy for capturing a particularly picturesque place or moment, to then go back to and develop a painting later.

This is what was developing in New York, from the 1900’s on through the 1920’s and then on through the 1950’s. Early on it became known as the Ash Can School, because they were accused of painting the most banal of subjects.

Edward Hopper was another artist that really captured those plain and simple places, and figures, doing nothing but living a moment captured and sketched. He filled books and books with his notes, even with details on the color and the light! You can see some of his art and info here on Artsy.

Of course Leonardo Da Vinci also noted to his assistants many times the importance of drawing everywhere, and he himself filled many notebooks, called codexes, and kept a leatherbound pad of paper on a chain on his belt when he went about the towns and cities searching for just the right face for his paintings. Or simply to draw figures doing some everyday chore.

I myself had the good fortune to capture with my 35mm camera four men talking on the street in the Bowery, in Manhattan. It was back in the early 1980’s.
In the midst of a very animated conversation, I passed by them in a cab and snapped the photo. The interesting thing I think is that one guy is looking right at me as I whizzed by in that split second.

The resulting painting is below.

Ordinary street life, with the benefit of the camera, I think is easier than a note pad , but Robert Henri and daVinci did very well without it!

Thanks for reading this,


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